Pilgrim Road Blog Photo

Pilgrim Road Blog Photo

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Stop Banging the Head Against the Wall and PRAY or "Yes, You ARE Your Brother's Keeper"

Dear friends,

There simply is no changing the heart of another person.  Though we are in some sense always “our brother’s keeper”, we are most assuredly not “our brother’s controller”.  Even with our children.  Perhaps especially with our children.  We long for those we love to walk uprightly, to live joyfully, to experience the death defying grace of God.  But there is no manipulating it.  We might for a time be able to force right behavior on another person, but fullness of life is strictly an inside job.  Still, there is great hope.  There is yet one productive avenue one man can have in another man’s soul.

I don’t understand how it works, but I know it does.  Jesus continually urged and commanded that we ask, seek and knock, in particular for what really matters to Him: people.  Not people en masse; but the electrician next door, the bossy boss, the cousin who is fabulous in every way, the stingy guy at the Chinese restaurant: in other word, individuals.  Prayer is the way to every man’s heart, unreachable from the outside, but unguarded and vulnerable from within.  Only One can get up under the self and penetrate that untamed, independent, addled, riddled, glorious ruin of the inner man.  Only the One who has walked in flesh and bone and Spirit can pierce the self willed drama of a human being.

I’m embarrassed to say I have flailed about in many an effort to change people in my life.  I want to make them see, to make them happy, to make them behave.  Thankfully, repeated failure has the impressive power of getting through to a first class knucklehead like me.  There’s nothing like wearing oneself out in the fruitless and futile to make one engage in looking for a better way. 

I have cried many a tear over these past weeks and months, but I have learned.  I am still frustrated when I see those near and dear goofing around with folly and that which will never satisfy.  But since I still take part in my own nonsense, I haven’t a leg to stand on from the outside. 

About 27 years ago, a young man named Ed Wiseman (an apt name as well) met a short, folly pocked, heart hungry young woman at NYU. (That was me).  Knowing from the outset there was no changing me from the outside, he began to intercede for my heart.  He followed in a long line of folks who cared enough to pray for me, including my now 87 year old aunt and a host of strategically placed people from all walks of life along my broken way.  One day, (and here’s where the semi Calvinist in me enters), in a feat of incomprehensible election, God chose to open my soul’s eyes so I could grasp His love and mercy.  It is impossible to know why He gave me that unmatched gift.  There was never a soul less deserving (and I’m not trying to be humble, believe me…)  But there is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that God’s call to other people to pray for my salvation was a crowbar to my locked up, mixed up heart.  What no one could do from the outside, the Spirit did from the inside.  And these marvelous saints played some unseen, mystifying role in the whole matter.  I have not been, and never ever will be the same again.  Blessed be His name, who will reward every push heavenward for my sake in the mystery of it all that took down the scales from my eyes.

That’s what brings me back to the prayer chair and the scriptures over and over again:  I know life will come.  I wish I didn’t have to wait.  I wish I could make all those precious gems I love avoid wasted time and heartache.  But I don’t know the Master’s time for them.  All I know is I can’t yell away, lecture away or fret away the blinders.  I do know the promises of God are sure.  I do know He instructs His disciples in the hard work of intercession.  I do know I’m not my brother’s controller, or my children’s or my coworker’s or my friend’s or my relative’s.  But I also know I am most certainly my brother’s keeper.  I am honored to do what those who loved me did for me, lo those many years ago.  I will cooperate with the Great One to crack the case from the inside out. 

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people…”

“Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.” 


Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Gotta Love Spurgeon!

"God will answer His pleading people in their anguish. He has wonders in store for them. What they have never seen, heard of, or dreamed of, He will do for them. He will invent new blessings if needful. He will ransack sea and land to feed them: He will send every angel out of heaven to succor them, if their distress requires it. He will astound us with His grace and make us feel that it was never before done in this fashion. All He asks of us is that we will call upon Him. He cannot ask less of us. Let us cheerfully render Him our prayers at once."  

Charles Spurgeon, 
Faith's Checkbook

Dear friends,

Thinking a lot today about the accident of November 8, 2009... The above quote by Sturgeon is so true.  He has ransacked sea and land to feed us with hope when we have despaired.  He has seen us through fire and flood and the unthinkable peril of a missing child.  Indeed, let us cheerfully render Him our prayers at once.  No, we do not pretend there is no pain, no sorrow.  But we believe we are small.  That so much joy and glory are now hidden, veiled by this present darkness. This present darkness, which because of the blood of Christ, will be terrorized and utterly destroyed by light and life.  These light, momentary trials are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

Because of these profound truths, joy abounds.  Because of Jesus, we live, we pilgrims.  He will - he does - astound us with his grace, here and in the life to come.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Listening, Hearing...Doing

Unexpected things happen in the most ordinary places.  There on I-90, just before exit 2 (Fuller Rd. – the never ending construction mess, but that’s another story), a prayer was answered.  Many prayers, actually.  The earth didn’t shake.  But I heard the voice of God, down in my soul, and I knew it was Him.  (I double checked with scripture later, since we fickle characters can get some wild ideas leaping about in this masterpiece of gray matter.  Everything must line up with the written word.)  There it was in the book of Jude, just about word for word, from the hearing of my heart:
“Keep yourself in the Love of God.” Jude 1:21
Day after day I have been asking to listen and hear.  On auto pilot at 65mph, my mind was wandering, probably thinking about vanilla cream filled donuts or the uncomfortable hole in my sock.  Then, when I wasn’t expecting it, the words billowed up from the depths, answering prayers cried, shouted, whispered and argued from January to April.  I needed to hear my Jesus speak, and He chose the time.  I held on like a dog with a bone.
Many of my recent blog posts have recounted my struggle with loss and suffering. Writing it down helps me sort it out, and hopefully helps some of you reading here make some sense of your own trouble. In particular, I have discovered a new term: “ambiguous loss”, the kind experienced by those who have a “missing” person in their life, without the closure normally afforded to those who grieve.  In the midst of finding my way through this uncharted territory, I have acted a lot like Job, albeit without as much cause for my wailing.  I have complained, railed and accused.  But I have also found, like Job, that what I really want, what I really need, is to hear God’s voice in the storm.  I can’t demand it.  But I can ask…He wants me to ask.  And at just the right time, when I’m ready to hear, He pulls the cork out of my ears and I know that I know it’s Him. Sadly, I am no Christian  mystic, but there are those moments when  “deep calls to deep” and for all my foolish ways He meets me.  That’s wild grace.  
So now it's onward to the business of being a doer of that word.  Believe me friends, this is tricky stuff for someone like me who forgets to take the chicken out to thaw.  Keeping yourself in the love of God requires intentionality.  On the one hand, only God can keep us in the love of God, by His own mercy and grace.  On the other hand, (there’s always another hand, isn’t there?), we’ve got something to do here.  When I asked God “HOW?” I looked back at another scripture to help me with the first steps:

 “This is the work of God; to believe in the One He has sent.”  John 6:29 

So I’ll let you know as I go along how I fare with walking this particular word out.  Believing is without a doubt the starting line.  My friend Job, in between rants, said: “I know my redeemer lives…” Job 19:25.  He exercised faith, even while he didn’t get it. And when he finally heard God he shut his mouth.  All the suffering in the world can’t muffle the sound of the voice of love.  It’s water for the soul in the desert. Now, to KEEP myself in it...
On a lighter note, (it’s not hard to get lighter than Job) here are a few news items for my friends on the pilgrim road:
1-      Smitty got a new job!  We are all cake here, frosted in gratitude.  Just in time, too…titanium man can’t be without insurance.
2-      Hannah turned 17.  She’s liking her job as a kitchen worker at the nursing home, except when she’s burning herself on hamburger grease.  We took her to the Olive Garden for her birthday and she did not finish her pasta.  That, my friends, is a first.
3-      David’s got trouble, he’s got terrible, terrible trouble, with a capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for Pool… (Only 3 weeks until my baby boy plays Harold Hill in the Our Savior’s Lutheran School production of “The Music Man”).
4-      Joseph is contemplating a haircut.  The Mayans must be right; this has to be the end of the world…
5-      Eureka!  It’s clean under my kitchen sinkJ  Gotta love Clorox Clean Up!
6-  Here's my Hercules by the ocean.  A cause for praise and gratitude...a few years ago this man was a dead man.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,