Firewalking…

Love NoteFirewalking is the act of walking over a bed of hot embers or stones. It is a practice that has existed for thousands of years. It was certainly a part of the broader ancient culture in Biblical times.

In Isaiah 43:2 the prophet gave the people of Israel some pointed words of encouragement. He said: “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.”

Most of us don’t relish the prospect of putting the soles of our feet on the top of smoldering red embers, but there is a certain fascination of observing someone walk through fire and emerge apparently unscathed. We wonder…how?

The expectation from the passage above is that we will pass through circumstances which threaten to make us feel as though we are being drowned and walk through situations in life which have the capacity to consume us with the fire of affliction.

But, there is a way of passing through these intrepid dangers which guarantees that the perceived assault will purify and cleanse rather than create unparalled destruction. This is the powerful promise from God which Isaiah references. God promises to be with us. God’s presence with us is the difference because it embodies all that God is. God’s wisdom, God’s protection, God’s love, God’s mercy, God’s kindness, God’s grace, God’s courage, God’s patience, God’s goodness…

However, this is an experienced reality, not simply a matter of mental acquiescence. This does up the ante a little. But when we have walked through stuff, and can look back on God’s grace, it creates in me an overwhelming sense of gratitude and humility about what it means to walk through fire and floods; knowing that there is no way that I can make it. I am simply not strong enough. But with God, all things are possible. And that is enough.

Phantom Fears, Fake Solutions and Real Answers…

iStock_000042975970MediumTurning on the news these days takes a strong constitution.   In large swaths of the country, raging floods have overtaken areas recently shrouded in deep drought and vicious forest fires. Today, hundreds of American children struggle to breath as they battle a strange virus, while on the African continent, the Ebola virus rages out of control without an effective cure or strategy in place to contain its spread.  Meanwhile ISIS and Boko Haram are seizing territory and declaring ‘statehood’ within the borders of sovereign countries in the Middle East and Africa.

From appearances, the world is in a state of convoluted chaos. There are many problems, but seemingly few effective or lasting solutions. Was this state of affairs what Jesus referenced when he said “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me.  Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world”?  John 16:33

What does Jesus see and know about trials, sorrows and how to overcome them that seems so obscure to us?   When Jesus referenced the world, he wasn’t talking about the physical world of nature, rather he was referring to the world systems; the principalities, powers and authorities  that govern the way the physical world behaves and engages with life.  World systems are the organizing mechanics which underly education, government, politics, healthcare, commerce, economics, religion and warfare. They influence thoughts, ideas and perceptions and because of their pervasiveness and powerful imagery, impact every single human being on the planet.

While systems have their place in organization and governance, they are not the answer to predicaments; that is solutions to situations which completely defy the norms and principles of what is thought to be the established order.  It is in the face of predicaments such as pandemics, terrorism and entrenched poverty that we are faced with the limitations of fake solutions;  answers which lack the power and wisdom to change and transform anything for long, if at all.  We are faced with the recognition that our arsenal of weapons to defeat horrific problems which attack without mercy is very limited.  Dread, fear and panic are instinctive responses.

As Christians, our Peace is embodied in a person.  Jesus statement in John 16:33 reminds us that he is the overcoming power.  Not an idea, principle, strategy, dogma or doctrine.   To obtain this peace, we must be connected to him in the only world which is profoundly real, the world of spirit.  The Spirit of Peace invites us to step out of the hypnotizing drama churning throughout the world system and seek respite for our troubled hearts.

Trouble doesn’t just visit the word stage, it’s an intruder which visits all of us personally and persuasively.  Jesus frankly acknowledges the inevitability of trouble and points us to the real solution.  Good cheer strengthens our hearts and calms our spirits so we have the strength to face issues without the additional burden of undue stress, anxiety and fear.  Cheer embodies comfort, encouragement and hope as well as joy and happiness. Ultimately, Jesus points us to the fact that he has overcome all the situations that create trauma to the soul and body here on earth and reminds us that the peace in him and through him, is what we must and can connect to if we hope to live an overcoming life.

Why Giving Up is Not an Option…

The strength of a flower which perfumes the hand which crushes itTwo champions, each a heavy weight legend in their own right faced off in the ring again.  It seemed like a lifetime ago that the world watched the intense spectacle of one man being so enraged at his eminent defeat that he bit into not one, but two ears of his opponent.

The stage this week, was the Oprah Winfrey show where Mike Tyson had bared his soul in an earlier interview about the mistakes and triumphs of his life & explained as best he could, what was going on in his mind during that fight.  His honesty was profoundly captivating.

As Evander Holyfield walked onto the stage, it seemed that the intervening years had been somewhat kinder to him than the tortured existence that Mike Tyson had experienced.  We all held our breath just a little…what would they do.  Afterall, it’s not everyday that one meets on a public forum, the person who undermines the integrity of a harsh and violent sport by literally sinking his teeth into your skin.

It’s easy to watch a show by merely skimming the surface.  But, in some ways, the experience of these fighters is almost impossible for most of us to begin to comprehend.

However,  we can all understand what it means to get up and keep on fighting even after you’re down for the count.  And that’s why on a primal level, many can relate to the sport of boxing.  All of us have experienced a knock-down in life.   Some of us may be there right now.  It’s not easy and never pretty.

But it’s what you do next that matters.  When Tyson recognized that he was not going to win, he struck out and bit his opponent.  His rage blinded him and demeaned his prior accomplishments and then spiraled out of control on a journey that descended into the hell of drugs and prison.

But that crazed individual was not the one on the stage of the show.  Tyson demonstrated that none of us has to stay down, we can choose to get up, own our mistakes, apologize and strive to do better.  Several times during the interview, he choked up with emotion and Oprah captured the intensity of his yearning with a question…”Can you feel the love directed towards you right now?”

It was obviously hard for Tyson to really acknowledge how powerful and affecting this new round in his life is proving to be.  And his journey has lessons for all of us.  None of us gets to exit life without failure.  We will all participate in things we are not proud of.  That’s simply the essential nature of sin.

However, we can choose to get up and keep on going.  And we may be surprised like Tyson was to find out that support may come to us from unexpected places as we humble ourselves and admit to a cry for assistance.

*