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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

God's Movement and Timing... And a Couch

I have lately been reflecting on how God and The Holy Spirit's movement are much like the wind: according to Jesus, The Holy Spirit is like the wind in the sense that you see Him by His effects--not by directly seeing Him.  I often see God in leftover signs in creation--the complex organization of life: very highly structured, interwoven, and more specific than random chance could allow for (along with the sheer beauty of nature).  He also shows in that science now indicates that there was a beginning and will be an end--unlike the steady-state universe theory that presided for a long time in opposition to a worldview that has a creator and a beginning and an end.  He even more clearly shows in answered prayers, lifestyles and personalities attuned to Him, and the simplicity and accuracy of the truth of The Way preached by Jesus; all of these and more are indirect signs that indicate a direct presence.

Now I may later in life (probably the next one, not this one) find out that I was wrong, but I felt a bit of that last Wednesday with a couch.  My wife and I were driving to The Gamers Guild, where I was going to relax on my Sabbath and play a game online with some friends who live a distance away.  For some unknown reason, I felt like our route should first stop by two friends of ours to pick up some cleaning supplies (they have recent twins and don't want certain harsh chemicals around their house) and THEN, secondarily, to grab food and head to The Gamers Guild.  On the way to The Gamers Guild with food, one of my Aikido students called about a couch that was sitting in their neighbors lawn with a free sign on it--she wanted to know if we wanted it for Common Grounds Coffee House and Free Store.  Now it just so happens that this was something that we wanted and needed--we were actively in the process of replacing a very broken, and somewhat dangerous couch.  Once we realized that we could snag it on the way there and still be more or less on time, I also realized that we were exactly one block away from where this couch was since my choice of stops left us driving on a road that we normally wouldn't be anywhere near on our way to The Gamers Guild.  Weirdly enough, that let me continue the conversation without a break and arrive to inspect the couch as I hung up.  We found it, she offered her pickup to haul it, and we had it outside its new home in a matter of minutes.  From there, we ran into some trouble getting it through the door, but we got it to fit after some substantial manipulation and a lot of heavy pushing--this delayed me a few extra minutes, which means I was about seven minutes late logging onto Skype to talk with my friends.  As I was logging on one, then immediately a second friend texted to indicate that they were all running just a bit late.  I ended up being the first one there--and the others joined within minutes.  At the end of the whole brief adventure, it timed out perfectly so that I was seated, eating, and ready to chat and hang out with good friends and minimal interruption to my Sabbath/day of rest, all with a new couch fixing a needed ministry problem.  It was a lot of great timing and good coincidences.  So for that, I thank God.  ;)

Deafness and Quiet

Last week, I had an unsettling conversation at The Gamers Guild; one of the players asked me to stay and listen while he talked.  He had some problems he wanted advice on.  It was tough to hear some of the broken family relationships, and it was actually hard to follow some of the family tree due to the complexities of how many times it had been broken and re-made, but I followed most of it and was able to let him vent, which was the most of what he needed (though he had said he wanted advice--he really just needed someone to listen to him).  It was a little unsettling seeing the reverse side of the coin of the adoption process--this individual's kids had been seized and others had adopted them; I actually knew one of the missionary couples who has one of his biological kids.  I usually know the coin from that side--the people who have adopted a kid out of a rough home; as such, I tend to understand how they don't want the biological parents to have too much to do with the kid to prevent confusion and continued negative influences.  It was strange instead to hear the anguish it called a biological father to not be able to refer to himself as a child's father if/when he ran into them, and of kids who didn't yet know they had ever even been adopted or that someone else might be their parent.

What was really unsettling, though, was how unable this individual was to listen.  Though they said they wanted advice and really needed some advice, even the simplest advice couldn't be heard.  They physically heard it, but it didn't process with them or sink in.  They were too drowned in their own perceptions of the problems and their own internal drama to even be able to consider any other advice, worldview, or perspective.  It was somewhat dumbfounding.  Though I said several simple things that should have been very logical and greatly solved 95% of some of the problems, they wouldn't sink in--couldn't sink in.  He was completely unable to hear.  After awhile, I realized that no matter what I said or how firmly, clearly, bluntly or obviously, nothing was going to get through and be heard in any way that would likely make positive life change.  This individual was actually too self-absorbed to hear it, understand it, or really to even care what I was saying because he'd already figured out that his problems were insurmountable--except maybe by extreme efforts that he'd already considered.  He wanted to see himself as the victim and as the hero, beating his insurmountable challenges...  and that's what he was going to do.  Whatever I said was just some quiet outside whisper unrelated to what he was suffering.

It was really fascinating--and disheartening.  I hope that this individual did hear some of what I said, and that he may even be able to one day hear God Himself on bigger/better levels than he currently does, but I could feel in the conversation that he won't likely be able to hear Him or listen unless God does a great miracle or continues to work on him for decades.  Maybe, just maybe, way later in life he'll finally be in a position to hear something from somebody--and hopefully from God.  This gave me great comfort in God's patient, enduring love (I'm confident that God will continue to slowly work on Him).  It also made me wonder how deaf I often am to God and how much I still clearly don't hear.  Thankfully, God is patient and loving and will continue to help me in my deafness.  I know that I hear more than I once did--but who knows how much like this young man I may still be if one takes a bigger, more Godly perspective on it.  In sincere, honest reflection of my own sinful nature and of the Holy Spirit as He refines me, I can see that I am still often deaf--that, though saved and though I possess better knowledge--that I still frequently screw up and am, in effect, partially 'deaf' to hearing God's voice or shutting out my sinful nature.  It may be that I am more like this young man than I know, though at least God continues to show me how much more I need to hear and how very much I daily need to walk with Him to be able to live for The Kingdom and true life.

Hopefully this will help me walk more humbly with God--Lord knows I need to be reminded how truly humble I should be due to all He's done and still does.  I guess, though unsettling, that the conversation ultimately left me ending with the sensation of a still small voice, loving, and working, and eroding at deafness in this young man, me, and all of us.  It also left me with a more obvious sense of the very powerful, and often quiet way that God loves.

Thursday, March 10, 2016


During the Ellis County Ministerial Alliance meeting yesterday, we all gave out prayer requests and prayed for each other, as usual.  One prayer request, however, caught me by complete surprise.  Opal--an elderly lady who represents her small rural church while it waits for an intern pastor--requested prayers for a man across the counter at a local convenience station who had surprised her by asking for prayers out of the blue.  Based on the request, I was shocked to realize that the individual must be the fellow I wrote about in my previous blog entry 'Ride Along'.

It was a slightly electrifying moment for me to realize that God was working with him on several different levels; not only has he lately begun praying for the first time and reading some of the Bible, but now he made a random prayer request that made it back to the ministerial alliance; it reminded me that, though I am in this man's life pretty heavily representing Christ, it really is God and the Holy Spirit doing all the work with him.  God's movements are real, active, and often more intricate and involved than I realize.  It is a heavy reassurance to simply remember that He is moving and that He is the active head of the body of believers, His church.  I don't have to worry too much about the bigger picture when it comes to this young man or others I love, because God loves them even more and is already working on things--I just have to enjoy working with Him as a part of the body of believers.  Happenings like this also remind me of His great love for each person out there--to see that so many parts of the body of believers and the Holy Spirit directly are working on this one man with a good heart.  It reassures me of His love for others and for me.  Thank God for who He is!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


Today was an excellent--though very long--day.  I had a good time this morning in prayer and reflection; I had some very important conversations and good opportunities to love people in my life, and I got a lot of work accomplished.  At the end of evening Aikido, I was in The Gamers Guild handling some final sales prior to the small group Bible study that I usually lead in Common Grounds Coffee House and Free Store (in between Aikido of Northwest Kansas and The Gamers Guild).  One of the members was going to be late as he was caring for his new twin girls, and three people were sitting around very bored.  My wife also wanted me to play a game with her.  I knew I had quite a few things to do work-wise, but there are ALWAYS things to do work-wise, and it felt like God's Kingdom priority would lean more towards loving my wife and helping these bored college students feel engaged and have fun.  So, I suggested we play a short board game.  The short board game went long, and the individual who showed up late for small group was even able to join in, but it was actually tremendously fun.  The game we played, Coup, was a newer game at The Gamers Guild, and three of the players hadn't ever played before.  Soon everyone was smiling, joking, and spending good time together.  At the end, we started small group late and had great discussion and prayer.

Later tonight, as we were driving home, my wife told me how very much playing that game meant to her.  She said that moments like that don't happen often enough at The Gamers Guild, but that those types of moments are one of the things that she loves the most--when we can engage people who are there because they are bored, help them learn a new game and have fun, and help them feel connected to other people.  I agree with my wife--that is one of the most important things we can do up there--and I hope to be able to do that more and more often as I continue to prayerfully change things there so that I can more easily be free to walk around and start games and conversations.  Thank God for great opportunities with good people--the harvest is plentiful, and the workers are few.  We can, even today, pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send more workers.  If YOU might be one of those people who would enjoy hanging out with (primarily) college-aged kids playing games and having conversations, feel free to contact me and let me know.  We'd love to have you there, too!

Easy to Forget

Sometimes it is easy for me to forget how much of an honor it is to be able to get to do what I get to do.  One of our Aikido youth's family told me that they were moving away.  They very nicely thanked me for my patience and work with their daughter and explained that they didn't know if they'd move back later or not.

During our final class with her, some of the usual students didn't show up, so it was just her and me.  We spent the time playing many of her favorite games and doing drills that she enjoyed; she is a very shy girl and also very quiet, but with just me there, she spoke up and answered questions that she normally wouldn't answer at all or volunteered opinions that she would often not voice.  Watching her play the games, I was amazed at just how far she has come both socially and physically.  Her improvement in comfortably interacting with me was leaps and bounds ahead of where it started--and I was honored and touched that she'd grown to trust me that much.  Her coordination was also light years ahead of where she started.  Some of the games that she was doing well now she couldn't have even attempted when she started.

As we were playing and she was smiling and I was reflecting on this growth, I was very humbled that God had placed me in a position of impact in this young girl's life.  I'm not sure how many of our moral lessons she'll remember, or how many of the physical skills, but to get to see so much positive social progress and coordination development alone made me very happy.  It also highlighted how often I can overlook the value and potential benefit that teaching kids classes can have.  Though I know in my head that each lesson can impact youth in positive ways, it is important for me to remember in my busy days just how big of a statement that is and how much more I can focus in on teaching--and enjoying teaching--my kids classes at the Dojo.  Near the end of class, some other students showed up for the second class, and I asked them to join the mats for her final request (since it required more people).  One of the new kids tried to influence this young girl to change her decision on how the last game was to be played; normally this student can influence her to do whatever this student wants.  I was again surprised--and quite proud--when she audibly, and loudly said 'no', she would do it the way she'd originally picked.  Her confidence and ability to stick to her guns was a final blessing to be able to see.  Thank God for a chance to see some fruit in a harvest field that I often can forget is even there!  It is a field that has more impact that I may even know.

Ride Along

Last week I accompanied a fellow from The Gamers Guild on a journey to try and exchange some items with his fiance who had left him.  I have been an arbiter before with couples when they can't find some other neutral party to help them resolve things peacefully, and he was concerned that he'd get too hot under the collar without me there.  On the way, he prayed one of the most interesting and honest prayers--it involved giving him the strength to not harm her and for her to see the righteous anger in his eyes based on his love and hurt.  I found the prayer to be very deep and moving because it was so heartfelt and sincere, but also because it mirrored the Old Testament and God's explained relationship with Israel.

God frequently compares Israel to a loose woman who goes off and commits adultery with other Gods, and he explains both His righteous anger and His continuing love for her.  This is very much the situation that my young friend from The Gamers Guild is in--the woman he's with has made a habit of leaving everyone she's been in relationship with previously, coming back to them, leaving, coming back to them, leaving, coming back to them, and occasionally rotating among a few guys.  For good or for ill, this gentleman had fallen for her, and though she had left him and come back twice, he felt that with a ring on her finger, things would change.  Now that she'd run off again (back to an old boyfriend), he was no longer sad and broken, but angry--and still in love.

It was a very strange experience to see his emotions so raw and real and to see how much that mimicked the emotions that God describes in the Old Testament towards Israel; you see, I've always found it somewhat hard to understand the balance between His anger and His continuing love; it seemed to rock either to harsh or too complacent--but in the attitudes and actions of this young man, I  saw the balance and understood how real and accurate that explanation is.  In fact, I feel that it helped me better understand God--and appreciate how deeply great His love for us is--even to the point that He both still loves us and is angry when we hurt ourselves or others through our sins.  Thank God for His mercy and continued love!