I heard that phrase again yesterday, “…lost in the woods.” Reposting from December. I think it is worth repeating. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day all.
“The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was rosed, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers and in the night, nearly the same. I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain.”
“Getting lost in the woods” is a phrase often associated with dark or troubled times in life.
If you are lost in the woods, take a moment. Take a deep long breath. Then look around you. The trees that surround you are not your enemy or your obstacle.
Look close and you will see, God has put those trees around you. They are there to protect you, to give you sustainability. They help form and define your path. Those trees are life giving and life saving. They offer you love and joy. Those trees are your friends and family, and safe spaces.
If you ever feel lost in the woods, take a breath, look around and know, you are not alone! Trust me, I’m an Oak…
I began looking for God to show me a sign, a sign he was present and real. I began looking a long time ago; perhaps, when I was twelve or thirteen. We all ask for signs, don’t we? And, quite often we see them. Maybe you ask God to show you a sign regarding a big decision in life. You pray. Then you ask, and sure enough a butterfly appears, or a cricket chirps loudly. Or, maybe a bus honks it’s very loud horn as a car cuts it off right in front of you. BOOM! You just got your sign right?
There is a TV show I am very fond of. I never grow tired of watching each episode. I just love this show. If you don’t know, ask me and I will tell you. But for now I only wish to reference a story once told by a priest in this show. I am paraphrasing but you will get the idea:
‘A man lives on the edge of a river. His friend who is a fireman stops by to give him some alarming news. The river is going to flood and he must move further back, uphill. The man tells his friend, “I believe in God, if the river is going to flood, he will give me a sign.” And, so his friend goes away. Next the town priest comes along and says, “Friend! Come away with us. The river is going to flood! You will be washed away!” The man tells the priest, “I believe in God, he will give me a sign if I need to move. He will save me.” The priest says a prayer with the man and leaves. Sure enough, the waters began to rise. The man’s home started to flood and he climbed to his roof. Along came a helicopter and one of the crew yelled down while dropping a ladder, “Climb the ladder! We are here to rescue you. The flooding will get worse!” The man waived the helicopter off and said if he was truly in harm, God would give him a sign. “I will be fine.” He said, and was suddenly washed away and drowned. When he reached heaven, he asked the Lord, “God, I believed in you. I prayed to you. Why didn’t you give me a sign I was truly in danger? The Lord responded, “I sent you a fireman, a priest, and even a helicopter! How many signs did you need?’
I found my sign a long time ago. Street lights. Every time I see a street light flicker, go out, or come back on as I am passing, I know that is God. Maybe it’s just faulty wiring or an old bulb. But, I prefer to believe it is God letting me know he is there, watching over me. I don’t look to streetlights for answers. I learned early on it doesn’t help. That isn’t the way it works. That would be Easy Street. I don’t speak with any authority here, but in my humble opinion, God will always let us know he is with us if we ask him to. But, it is up to us to choose left or right, up or down, good or bad. If God just gave everything to us every time we asked for it, what would be the point of life? Really! What would be the point?
I am also confident in my belief that regret is a waste of time. To be clear, if I sin or if I do harm, I do regret that action, and often feel sadness or shame. What I mean is I am who I am, and you are who you are, right now, because of each and every decision or action we have experienced in our linear lives. Perhaps my thinking on this will change if we ever learn how to control time. But I doubt it.
In the meantime, I would just like to say thank you. Thank you to each and every person I know and love. Hey, thanks for some of those folks that I am not so crazy about too. Like, that nice lady in the silver Cadillac who failed to yield to the off-ramp traffic (me) and then spouted out a few colorful phrases while also providing SIGN language. I got the message…I love you too, Lady.
We are all struggling. There is always an obstacle, an unpleasant task, a heart crushing loss. There will always be pain, and there will always be sadness. The amazing part is there will also always be hope, peace, love, and joy. There is one very very simple ingredient to life that can bring all of that beauty. Just one little thing that we can share with each other so that together we can feel the warmth and light of God’s love, and love for one another…
Reset your clock peeps.
To LT. Joe and Lena, congratulations on your wedding and good luck in New Mexico.
To Lars, Dude! No, I don’t make money while you have a ten minute conversation with the back door of my car open, one foot in, one foot out. But you did apologize and Lars is a cool name so, it’s all good.
Honorable mention tonight goes to my last rider, Omar. Omar, you sir, are hilarious. For the entire 22 minute trip, I only understood two words while you spoke almost the whole ride. Son, Tequila is for grown-ups. Next time stick to beer.
So Last night, my first passenger was Mark, who needed to get to DFW Airport. Many of you may already know Mark. But, for those who do not, Mark is a member of my church and also the leader/teacher of my Sunday school class known as the Ragamuffins.
I can truly say my life changed when Mindy and I, along with our children, joined Broadway Baptist Church. All of our lives did. I never thought I would find a church where I felt fully accepted or fully respected, until Broadway. Last night Mark was describing when he and his wife Aubin found Broadway. He described a moment, being in the sanctuary for the first time for service, and having such a powerful spiritual feeling that connected them to the church. “There is no other place quite like Broadway Baptist Church.”
That is how Mindy and I felt the first time we attended Broadway. We instantly felt at home; like this is where we belong. And much of that is because of the wonderful friends we have made there, the immediate acceptance and love we received from everyone we met there. And, the incredible leadership in the church, including Mark and Aubin.
Mark is truly a kind and generous man. He doesn’t judge (unless you speak ill of the Baylor Bears:)) and he offers great leadership and support.
Thanks Mark for being a great leader, teacher, friend, and continually shining your light brightly so that others may find their way through the darkness.
Broadway Baptist Church is an incredible place of love, diversity, acceptance, and joy. Broadway challenges old ideology. It is unlike any church I have ever known or attended. And it is wonderful. Below is an excerpt from the last Ragamuffins weekly email that Mark sends out. He describes how the class got it’s name. Peace be with you.
Aubin and I had the opportunity to share our story with a class at Brite Divinity School this week. In my portion I shared about our class and the wonderful community we have become. In sharing, I recalled the source of our class name, Brennan Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel. This is from Manning’s introduction.
The Ragamuffin Gospel was written for the bedraggled, beat-up and burnt-out.
It is for the sorely burdened who are still shifting the heavy suitcase from one hand to the other.
It is for the wobbly and weak-kneed who know they don’t have it altogether and are to proud to accept the hand-out of amazing grace
It is for the inconsistent, unsteady disciples whose cheese is falling off their cracker.
It is for poor, weak, sinful men and women with hereditary faults and limited talents.
It is for earthen vessels who shuffle along on feet of clay.
It is for the bent and the bruised who feel that their lives are a grave disappointment to God.
It is for smart people who know they are stupid and honest disciples who admit they are scalawags.
The Ragamuffin Gospel is a book I wrote for myself and anyone who has grown weary and discouraged along the Way.
[“The ragamuffin church is a place of promise and possibility, of adventure and discovery, a community of compassion on the move, strangers and exiles in a foreign land enroute to the heavenly Jerusalem. Ragamuffins are a pilgrim people who have checked into the hotel of earth overnight, bags unpacked and ready to go. Regrouping and retrenching, squatting and debating, are not their poses and postures.”]
This is the basis for our class. Thank you for who you are!!
Monday morning I was fortunate to meet Virgie. She needed a ride to pickup her glasses. She was so excited she was getting them. Virgie wants to get to know the streets of Dallas better by driving around with her daughter
Virgie is a devout Christian and through her own journey to Christ has come to know the bible well. She now serves as lead teacher at Reconciliation Outreach Dallas. She is passionate about helping 4th and 5th graders develop a relationship with God and biblical teachings.
We had a great talk about God’s calling and kindness. Virgie you are doing incredible work and making a difference in the lives of those kids. Keep it up! It was such a pleasure to meet you. Good luck exploring Dallas!
Sometimes you get knocked down. No matter what you do, things beyond your control can take you down. Last weekend I was knocked down with a medical issue that had me in the hospital for 3 days. I am ok, but have. Had a lingering effect that has limited my physical activity and even kept me from driving some.
Depression doesn’t reveal itself in sorrow. It would not reveal itself at low times. Why would it need to. I was already right where it wanted me to be. No, it was in the halcyonic moments that depression found me. Even now, now that I am aware of it, now that I can control it, it still attempts to damage my calm.
A great way to control depression is to keep moving. That nasty shadow then has to chase you. Spending time in a hospital bed or even my own bed is tough. It means the shadow can catch up and start meddling again.
This is also tough because my health issues are affecting other people. It becomes harder and more stressful for Mindy. Plus at times when I can’t drive, it leaves us in a tough spot financially. It becomes difficult not to take things personally and feel like a burden. I know I am not a burden. But, the situation is still stressful.
I try not to ask for prayers for myself, with so many people out there who are struggling, so many people starving or living in war or terror. But, I sure could use some prayers. Really, not for me so much as for Mindy and the kids. I am working to overcome this recent setback and will hopefully be back to full health soon.
I firmly believe in prayer. I firmly believe God has my back. So, I am telling that shadow to shove it! This too will pass. I am back on the road tonight. I hope to have a productive evening and meet some wonderful people.
This is my friend Armando. Or as most of his friends call him, Mondo. Mondo needed a ride this morning at 3am to DFW Airport. We had a great conversation along the way about his work, his passion. He has been a teacher for over 16 years and is a strong advocate for at risk or underprivileged children. Five months ago, he accepted a position as Director for The Fellowship Initiative in Dallas. This program was created through JPMorgan Chase.
“The Fellowship Initiative (TFI) provides intensive academic and leadership training to help young men of color from economically-distressed communities complete their high school educations and better prepare them to excel in colleges and universities. TFI is part of the firm’s broader ongoing efforts to provide adults and young people with the education, skills and resources that contribute to greater economic mobility. To date, more than 200 JPMorgan Chase employees have worked with TFI Fellows as Mentors, coaches, role models, speakers, or volunteers in various capacities. Since its launch in 2010, the program has been expanded and will recruit new classes of Fellows in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and New York.”
Mondo headed up to Chicago this morning to learn more and share knowledge with the director of TFI for that area. Mondo is tasked with developing the program in Dallas and currently has 40 boys in the program.
As a long time friend of Mondo, I can tell you he is incredibly passionate about his work. He is definitely being called by God to do this. I hope you will take some time to read about the organization. I have attached a link.
Focus on love. Slow down. Let go of your anger and be joyful and kind.
“And love in thought. Love in the words. Love in the songs they sing in the church. And no hard feelings. Lord knows they haven’t done Much good for anyone. Kept me afraid and cold With so much to have and hold.”