Four dimensional tribal chess

We live in a surreal time.

We just got through a G7 summit where our President treated our long-time allies like garbage; impugned their motives, hurled public charges of dishonesty, whiplashed through acceptance of the joint statement and follow up rejection of same.

We just got through a summit with North Korea where our President treated the murderous dictator of NK with profound respect and expressions of mutual trust.

Reactions to this have been brightly demarcated along tribal lines, in precise mirror-image to how the reactions would line up for the previous administration.

The four dimensional chess is getting exhausting.

Wait

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!
Psalms 27:14 ESV

Waiting is hard. I’m dealing with some things at work that have really taken their toll on me. It shouldn’t be that way, but seems I always find myself here, awaiting strength, courage and rescue.

This exhortation and promise is repeated lots of places in Scripture. Be strong, be courageous, and wait. It is hard to know how to do all three at once. In this formula you have two traits that only exhibit themselves, seemingly, in action: strength and courage. Then there’s “wait”.

I’m not particularly good at waiting, though most of the time I don’t have a choice.

Lord, make me a good waiter.

 

Be there

Back on the bus; it’s been a few days. I spent a lot of time in cars over the long weekend. Trip to Waco Friday. Unplanned trip back to Houston Friday night to deal with an attic leak. Saturday drive to Dallas to meet back up with the family. Marathon one-day road trip on Sunday with Bethany to get her car back to Chicago. Flight back home yesterday. It was a gauntlet but I made it, and there was a lot to enjoy along the way. I think I did a decent job at not missing out on the good things happening in the moments that made up what was, physically, a fairly stressful weekend. Being present in each moment doesn’t always come easy for me. I’m still learning.

There is a balance to be found between thinking only of the future or only of the past at the ends of the spectrum, versus being where you’re at, now. The past offers wisdom and experience. The future is something to press toward, but the present is where all the real action is.

Be there.

Always running

We’re flying down 290, it’s a beautiful morning, and I’m burdened with the knick knacks and spider bites of life.

I’m in a tough spot at work with a project that is significantly overdue.

I stayed up till nearly midnight last night deploying another project that is also significantly overdue.

Why can’t I catch up?

I think this feeling is common to humanity. Seems we’re always running somewhere: either chasing after something we can’t quite catch or being chased by something that’s gaining ground on us.

I had a moment a little over a year ago. It was an important moment. It happened, as a matter of fact, at high velocity 30,000 feet over the Atlantic.  I was headed to Eastern Europe for non-work activities; what I had left behind was a project that was struggling and a sharp encounter with my boss that had put me in the pit of anxiety.

I’d spent a day shifting gears, leaving the pile at work behind to fester while I prepared for some new challenges in the upcoming week and started the comfortable but still tiring grind of a modern intercontinental journey.

It was late. I was sitting in my seat and the anxiety was as heavy as the darkness around me. Then, in a moment, the burden was gone. Gone. This has only happened to me one or two other times in my life. It was almost as if a Voice had said “Bill, it’s going to be alright, and all of it will be alright.” It was the peace that passes understanding.

And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
Mark 4:39 ESV

It was kind of like that. And everything did turn out alright and better than alright.

I’m running against the wind right now. So I say to my soul, remember. Remember.

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
Psalms 46:10‭-‬11 ESV

Bigger fish to fry

I’ve been thinking recently about past controversies in the theological circles I run in. The worship wars, the Calvinist vs Arminian debates, “emerging” vs “emergent” (remember that one?), and so on.

Many of these are still going on, and others are being cooked up all the time. If you’re incensed because someone used the phrase “reckless love” in a worship song, for example, you’re still in these battles.

I’ve been in them too. Case in point, over the past fifteen years or so I inched closer to Calvinism though I never fully embraced it. For various reasons I’m now crab-walking away from that brink as fast as I can, but that’s a post for another time (and, no, my pigeonholing friends, I’m not an “arminian” either).

Things have changed. The few topics I raised above, and many others, are important and deserve to be worked out fearfully and respectfully. But they seem, to me at least, to be mainly side shows these days.

Bigger questions are looming now. For example, what is the future of the evangelical church in America? Have we learned from our unholy alliances or are we going to double down? Will the church become a leading force for good and needed change? Will we continue to automatically dismiss certain concepts, such as “justice”, as being aligned with theological liberalism? Will it continue to be impossible to blame ourselves for anything because we are GOOD PEOPLE?

A few days after the resurrection Peter and some of the disciples decided to go fishing. It’s unclear why; they may have been hungry, they might have needed some money, or maybe it’s because that’s what they always used to do. When in doubt, catch a trout.

You know the story. They didn’t catch a thing until the Lord showed up on the shore and told them to cast their nets on the other side. Then the catch came.

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” John 21:9‭-‬10 ESV

They had gone back to what they always did. Jesus showed up to, among other things, remind them that there were now bigger fish to fry. The old pursuits weren’t the main thing anymore.

I think we’re in a moment like this, and have been for a long while. In John 21 Jesus connects love for him with love for the sheep that he has entrusted to us. This echoes the greatest commandment, doesn’t it? Love God and love your neighbors.

“Feed my sheep” surely does mean to feed the people in our care (our neighbors) with the truth. But what’s needed is the whole truth, not just those truths and semi-truths that are comforting and convenient (such as “We’re GOOD PEOPLE”).

“Feed my sheep” is not an other-worldly command. It often means literal feeding. It means valuing and advocating for justice,  turning the other cheek, giving of ourselves, going the extra mile, giving up our treasures.

I wonder if, while we claim to be rich and whole, we’re sick and broken and poor.

We’ve wasted a lot of time on small distractions. There are bigger fish to fry.

Instructions

When it feels like the wheels are coming off . . .

Stop the car.

Take a deep breath.

Call in the family.

Call your closest friends.

Remember – this has happened before and you made it, all of you, intact.

Get a wrench.

Lift it to the sky.

By God’s grace, work on tightening the lug nuts. Even though you know the whole axle may yet come off. You have a duty to do that’s right before you.

Thank the Lord that you still have firm ground underneath . . .

2nd verse

2016 was a really rough year, personally. I know that many, even many close to me, had worse years. We faced death but we were rescued. Others were not.

But still it was a very hard year.

While I know the turning of man-made calendar boundaries don’t really grant a “new start”, there was a hope that 2017 might be a year of healing. I think it might still be, but we once again are facing darkness and despair. It came on quickly, striking another of our beloved ones.

But there is more intentionality and certainty in our steps this time. Swifter action. The fear is still there – the yawning abyss of fear that kept me up all night the night before last. But, dear Lord, may the endurance, peace, love, and even joy that your word promises be ours.

We need thee every hour.

2 Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. – James 1:2-4 (CSV)

Heartbreaking implications

A friend of mine posted on facebook: “Our President is new…the Great Commission is not. As our President begins his new work, it’s time for Christians to get back to their work.”

Here was my original response. The only part I left in the comment is the part in bold below but I’m posting my full thought below.

I fear for many of our American Christian brothers and sisters, the “work” they think they’re supposed to be doing is furthering political agendas, garnished with Jesus-talk to give the facade of spirituality. I came of age in the 80s and the early days of the religious right and was an enthusiastic partaker for many years. In this election the mask was finally taken off. Principles that they swore were unshakable (and that they used to bludgeon past Presidents) suddenly were discarded. So I really appreciate the sentiment, Mark. But I don’t believe it anymore. Lord, we need a generation of Kingdom-minded, not Nationalistic, Christians who will have their focus on God’s kingdom and not on political idolatry.

The Republican party is not now and never has been the answer. I repent for ever thinking it was.

Implied in your post is a heartbreaking truth – so many devoted so much time in service of a political idol while the great commission calling on their life languished,and the witness of the American church suffered greatly. Unpopular opinion, I know.

News of the day

I’m reading the various streams about the new Trump/Russia allegations. I’ve learned a few things recently.

1. If something is unverified, do your best to ignore it. It may be partially true, very doubtful it’s all the way true. Wait for verification.

2. If the tasty bit of scandal is about your “enemy”, work even harder to stand down. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Love the truth. Steer miles clear of propaganda. Bless those who persecute you.

Working hard to practice the above.

Decisions

We prayed

We talked

We laid it all out

We made plans

We adjusted plans

We prayed again

Our youngest is going to get the ball rolling and take care of what he has to take care of.

God is good. We’re believing the decision has been led by him and so I’m not going to worry about it anymore. It is done.

Determined to move forward on the new path intentionally, with courage, and to do whatever tasks fall to me.