Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Holy Smoke! The Upside to the Downside

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. Romans 8:18-21

I’ve not been in a good place for a few months now. Stressed at work and frustrated on many levels. That frustration has produced a character that resembles Jack Torrance at times. You remember Jack right? All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. I have certainly had my share of “Shining” moments of late. A couple of weeks back it sort of all came to a head and I had myself a good old fashioned blubber-fest with my wife and Heavenly Father.

I’ve been in dire need of some R&R - Righteous Rehabilitation - a close encounter of the Godly kind. I have come to embrace the reality that sometimes an encounter with God doesn’t look exactly like what we might think. Sometimes He is found in the gentle conversation between friends over a glass of Portuguese White wine (Famega) and a slow burning Churchill cigar. I know – call me crazy, but it was indeed a holy smoke. (For the record, I might I smoke a cigar once or twice a year)

We recently had a house full of family and friends just hanging out collaborating on songs and journeys and food consumption. The food was outstanding. There were 3 cheeses to sample, some olives, and a
North Coast California Pinot Noir too. Dinner consisted of orange-glazed salmon, saffron rice, and roasted asparagus. Dessert? Strawberry cheesecake of course.

The fellowship was even better. Besides having my wife Ally and all 3 of our kids at home together, we had Harrison (Whitney’s boyfriend) home from Iraq (for good), Bryan (Katie’s boyfriend) playing his guitar and singing with Fredy and me. My friend and confidant Fredy is a great man of God who patiently works with my lyrics to transform them into songs, though he's as much pastor and teacher as he is friend and musician.

Earlier in the week, Fredy had reached out with some encouragement for me on Facebook citing Psalms 91: 14-16. In fact, after my heart's cry on that Sunday, the Father blessed me with a week full of friends checking in on me: John, Clark, Christie, Pastor Ty, and Fredy, each with a tidbit of hope and joy and prayer. Interestingly, Christie’s post has proven quite prophetic as she cited the very verses I’ve used as the "scripture text" of this post. Brother Ty hooked up on the phone with me and spoke wonderful encouragement into my life as well.

Then there was Angel - a real angel with whom I work. Angel is one of those men that has the coolest Latino accent - kind of like
the Dos Equis guy (the most interesting man in the world), but Angel shaves. When he speaks he penetrates your soul as he looks you in the eye and levies truth. It's like the Holy Spirit is whispering each word into his ear as he's speaking. All the while Angel is grinning, smiling, almost laughing as if he knows something you don't.

On this particular day, Angel had just "dropped in to say "hi" and then started reading my spiritual mail to me. He reminded me of God’s goodness and grace. He spoke of great things over me and renewed my hope even more. God again heard and answered my prayer. It seemed like the Father was telling his son “look dude – it’s okay I’ve got your back.” My boss likes to use the term “I’ve got this!” or “I’m on it” when trying to reassure someone that he’s taking care of an issue. I just feel God saying “I’m on it.”

So – back to my holy smoke. Fredy and I and, later on, Bryan sat on my back porch smoking stogies. Mine was a nice thick aromatic “Churchill.” Fredy had a Brazilian, and I’m not sure what Bryan was smoking. Ha! So we sipped old wine and new. We talked about our journeys, our frustrations, and the promise. [Insert giant slow inhale here.] Oh the promise. The promise is redemption. The promise is a kingdom that will one day come to earth and reign as it is in heaven.

Fredy also reminded me of Asaph and Psalms 73. Reading there we find that Asaph almost lost his footing. He envied the arrogant and rich. He longed to be free of the burdens common to man. Sound familiar? It seemed he couldn’t understand at first how their fortunes could last unjustly. His heart was grieved and embittered.
Then as if revelation dawns he begins to enumerate their sin and prophesy their end. He began to repent of his own and entered the sanctuary of God. He confessed he was senseless and ignorant and a brute beast in the presence of God, yet he understood God was still holding his hand. Abba-Father Daddy-Redeemer. God is always present – always - even in our sin and pain...loving us.

I needed to hear that. I’ve been a brute beast in His presence. I’ve not reflected His glory but deflected His story. I’ve listened to crap and spewed a bunch of it out. Thanks be to God I am disciplined. Fredy reminded me that it makes me a legitimate son.

The Father is still a stakeholder in our journey. His glory will be revealed in us – his sons (and daughters). We groan as if giving birth to it because it is implanted in us yet struggles to come forth. It seeks to fight past our frustration and earthen limitations. Yet He tailors those struggles and pains together and turns them to our benefit. Fredy says, “that’s the upside to the downside.” He fashions those scars into garments of praise. That fragile earthen vessel carries the deposit of the Divine.

We should share it freely with all. It’s what we’re meant to do as fellow sojourners. Reach out and touch someone with hope. It will change you. It will bless them. I’m thankful for friends like Fredy and John and Clark and Christie and Ty and Angel, who listen for the voice of the Spirit and don’t hesitate to share it with others. I hear the Father saying, “y’all share. I'll be there.”

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