So much violence… so much hatred… too much. Seems like the world is falling apart. Lots of people, like me, are trying to help by recommending we all look to God and Jesus for comfort and answers, and peace. What can I add that hasn’t already been said? Nothing. So with regard to what all compassionate folk are recommending, enough writing. I’m just gonna go do it. “Dear Jesus, I’m hurting and I need your help…”
It hurts. And it sucks. What’ll we do? Well, all I can do from so far away is pray. So I guess I’ll do that. Why doesn’t it feel like enough? My faith tells me it should be.
“Evangelism” – another one of those big religious words I’m not fond of. But I really like what I think it means.
I like the idea of introducing people to God and Jesus. Just show them the truth and step back, letting them decide what they will do with the truth. Showing the truth through my writing and blog posts is easy for me. It doesn’t feel pushy (I don’t want to push anyone), and the reader can easily walk away at any time. But I’m not comfortable with the face-to-face approach.
And then I recently read the story of the Prodigal Son in chapter 15 of Luke’s gospel. I love that story. It so clearly paints a picture of the unconditional forgiveness and love of God.
Imagine this: you go up to God, tell him you wish he was dead, steal a bunch of his wealth, and leave town. You then go to Vegas and party, hard and dirty. Oh, but then you get into trouble. You loose all the money you took from God and end up sleeping in the gutter. You eventually get tired of the homeless life and decide to go ask God for help. That takes a lot on humility, doesn’t it?
Anyway, before you get within a mile of his house, you see God running towards you – pretty fast for an old guy. He runs up to you, wraps his arms around you, and kisses you, with tears of joy streaming down his cheeks. He’s overjoyed to see you. He’s so happy that he throws a welcome home party for you.
This is how Jesus described God in the story of the Prodigal Son. This is the truth of the nature of God and His love for us. And this is the story I think I’ll tell if anyone asks me what I think about God. You can call it evangelism. Maybe I’ll call it helping people out of the gutter of life… helping them see the possibilities of a new life, with God and Jesus.
You’re not far away, as some believe.
You’re not harsh and judgmental, as some preach.
You’re not aloof and proud, as some suppose.
You’re right here, within my mind and filling my heart.
Your Holy Spirit lives not on a throne,
but within each humble heart who welcomes you.
And if we let you, as my heart desires, you will fill our minds with You.
Oh, to have my mind filled and overflowing with your Spirit, dear Jesus.
Oh, to have no room for scattered thoughts of worldly junk and distraction.
To have You so filling me that the bad stuff can no longer invade my mind.
That’s my prayer today.
And on this Father’s Day that some of us celebrate,
I give to you dear God my faith, hope and love, as weak and flawed as they are.
And to my earthly dad George, I am so grateful for all your love for me.
And all your wisdom, and patience, and compassion.
Look, as my dad, you are an image of our Spiritual Father.
Okay, I know this will sound weird and irreverent. But for me, it illustrates the tangible power of having a close relationship with God. And it tells you how messed up I can be.
Starting the day without God:
My mind is all over the day ahead, but never landing on God. The anticipated day is full of challenges and tension. And that tension rushes right down to my bowels. And then reading the newspaper closes things up real tight, especially with the political circus going on in the US right now.
Starting my day WITH God:
After getting past the morning distractions, my mind finally lands on the Spirit of Jesus, living here within me. And I remember my weak and flawed surrender to Him. Yet He honors my desire and strengthens that surrender, and fortifies my minds hold onto Him. And I feel His presence here within me. And I feel His love and peace. And I feel the hope of His promise to always remain here with me. And my emotions swell with love for Him.
And I feel totally relaxed. You can figure out what happens next.
God – the best way to start the day.
The world is a stress-machine, cranking out high blood pressure, stomach acid, and emotional breakdowns. And I’m tired of it. Sometimes finding myself on the edge of an emotional cliff, looking down into the dark pit of a breakdown, I’ve decided it’s time to make my way to safer ground. So, I’ve stepped off on a journey to find a way to avoid stress, even while living in the midst of it. Do you want to join me? Well, here’s something I did yesterday that got me started:
First, I spent my early-morning coffee time with the Spirit of Jesus who hangs out with me – typical morning. But in our quiet time together, He prompted me to write a blog post that set the tone for the rest of my day (see it here).
For me, my main source of stress is work. So on my drive to work yesterday, I kept telling myself that the activities at work – all the projects and deadlines and tasks and problems and crises – they’re all meaningless, and they have no power over me. And the only thing that has true meaning is my relationships with my co-workers.
So, at work I did my tasks and dealt with my problems in a sort of detached way. I felt a bit insulated from those things that normally fill me with stress.
But what I put all my effort into was each interaction with the other people at work, even those who are often a source of my stress. Yet I wasn’t doing this alone. I kept seeing the Spirit of Jesus within me, guiding me and encouraging me.
It was awesome! Each interaction was calm and warm. I wonder if my co-workers were wondering what kind of drug I was on. (Yes, I can sometimes come across as intense at work.)
Also, I think it was my focus on others that resulted in me feeling insulated from the stressful tasks. Focus on others first, and it will put everything else into a right perspective. It was like my focus on people distracted me from the stuff that normally stresses me.
Okay, now to see if I can do this again. Here I go, stepping off into Day 2 of my journey. Come with me.
As a person who loves Jesus and thrives on His love for me, I really want to help show His love to other people. And I think the best way for me to do that is to be a light in this sometimes dark world. As Jesus said, “You are the light of the world … Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14, 16)
Well, I can’t do that when I’m all stressed out at work. When I let the stress of work pour into me, it fills me with darkness, and buries the light of Jesus under its quivering mass of dread (feeling poetic here). Anyway, when I let the stress take over, my co-workers know it. All light disappears and my mood gets dark.
But it gets better. For Jesus is gradually changing me. He’s showing me how the problems of work and life are meaningless, and that fulfillment comes from being His light, and shinning His love on other people. And He’s showing me how to let go of the things that stress me out.
It all starts with my quiet time with Him each morning. He fills me with His Spirit, pushing out all darkness. I may wake up and crawl out of bed dreading another day at work, but Jesus soon reminds me of what’s really important. It’s not success at work. It’s not accomplishments. It’s love; His love, shinning from His Spirit within me and pouring onto the people around me.
Do you dread today? Is the stress of life darkening your mood? Well, if so, then please join me on this journey to escape stress, even while living in the midst of it.
Day 1 →