Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fizzing up, or overflowing?

Jesus finds himself on the way to the Feast of Tabernacles, an annual celebration lasting one week in duration which fell in the Fall season of the year, just after The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).  The celebration commemorated the memory of the time when Israel dwelt in tents in the wilderness - having been delivered from Egypt - but not quite ready to enter into their promised land of Canaan.  Jesus has stayed back a while, allowing his family to go on ahead.  He has been dealing with all kinds of misunderstanding on the part of his brothers - simply because they did not recognize him as the Messiah.  The journey to Jerusalem is going to be filled with some effort on the part of the religious leaders to undermine Jesus' teachings and ministry - as their opposition is escalating by the time we see him making this journey.  In fact, John tells us they were already out looking for Jesus - to accuse him publicly, to oppose his ministry, and to deny the reality of his miracles. 

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me this way, just as the Scripture says.”  (John 7:38 MSG)

We find Jesus unfazed by their opposition - teaching in the Temple, as was his custom.  The religious leaders are appalled at how much of the Law Jesus knows and how well he explains it.  In fact, they are engaged in a heavy discussion about where he received his "credentials" to preach when Jesus responds to their curiosity with a simple statement:  "I didn’t make this up. What I teach comes from the One who sent me. Anyone who wants to do his will can test this teaching and know whether it’s from God or whether I’m making it up. A person making things up tries to make himself look good. But someone trying to honor the one who sent him sticks to the facts and doesn’t tamper with reality. It was Moses, wasn’t it, who gave you God’s Law? But none of you are living it. So why are you trying to kill me?”  (vs. 16-19)  All this "banter" between the religious leaders and Jesus begins to get some in the crowd talking about Jesus' "origin" and his "ability" to be "in ministry" without any "formal teaching".  Doesn't it just seem the crowd always has to include some who will question the validity or motivation of anyone who is in public view?

Jesus is steadfast in his teaching - never wavering despite the continued and escalating opposition.  The religious leaders are jealous of him receiving the following of the crowd - a powerful opponent to humility is the devil we call pride!  Yet, in all Jesus "endures" at the hand of the crowd of onlookers, their are those "in the crowd" who he knows are on the brink of hungering and thirsting for the reality of "God with them".  To them, he begins to minister - "If ANYONE thirsts...."  This is not likely an invitation to the religious, but to the seeking hearts who long for something more than set of rules to follow and a place to gather on "church day".  

Two things Jesus tells them:  "Come to me" and "drink".  Look at the little three-letter word which begins this invitation - "let".  Jesus is saying to the religious "righteous" - "allow, permit, grant access" to the thirsty - they need what I have to offer.  It was as though he is saying to the rabble-rousers in the crowd, "Stop standing in their way and let them alone!"  He recognizes the hungry among the crowd - those who desire more.  It is these seeking hearts he desires to touch.  Jesus never sought to "convince" the religious "righteous" of his greatness - he just opened heaven to those who were willing to admit their own righteousness would never be enough to truly bring peace to their souls and right-thinking to their minds.

Come to me is the first invitation - permit these hungry among you to experience access to what it is they desire.  Then he adds the instruction to allow them to drink - the place of refreshing awaited those who would draw near enough to experience the "flow" of his grace fully.  Religious righteousness only makes people more "thirsty" for something which will truly satisfy - Jesus is simply offering himself.  The filling-up of one's thirsty soul with the presence of Jesus is the only truly satisfying position the thirsty can find - for the rivers of grace flow freest and clearest the nearer we come to the source of the "water".

Then he adds what becomes a message of hope to the thirsty among the crowd - "Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me this way".  Dry to the bone, you will be refreshed beyond your capacity to "contain" or "hold" what is offered by the infilling of his grace!  Rivers are not tiny streams which trickle along in some lazy way, following the path of the least resistance.  Rivers have currents - they cut paths right through whatever stands in their way!  Jesus tells us his grace has the power to cut paths where there is resistance - to overcome obstacles to refreshing and renewing.  Can you say, "Awesome!"

He adds the rivers will "spill out".  Ever "over-pour" a glass of soda?  You know, you just did not expect it to "fizz up" and overflow the top of the glass, pooling around the base of the glass and dribbling onto the floor.  He is not talking about this kind of "fizz up" overflow here!  In fact, he talks of it being a river which spills out - from the depths of one's being.  Soda fizzes up and then the "overflow" dissipates, doesn't it?  Nope, his "river of living water" is non-dissipating!  It flows and flows and flows.  Grace has no limits!  Grace abounds - the more we need it, the more is spills out!

I don't know about you, but I want this kind of "overflow" in my life!  I don't want an occasional "sprinkling" or "fizz up" of his presence, but the genuine flow of his grace constantly renewing me, cutting paths through the places of resistance in my life.  How about you?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

What character am I?

We make lots of excuses in life, don't we?  Yesterday, I ate a brownie, a couple of cookies and more peanut butter on my toast than I am supposed to while watching my intake!  Guess what I did?  I "excused" my excess by saying I had been "good" for the entire week!  Yes, I am "allowed" to eat "off plan" a little, but I know I can make even better selections when I put my mind to it - even if it is "off plan".  What are we doing when we offer excuses for our actions?  We are not "owning up" to the failure.  So, let me just go on record - "owning up" is hard!  When we "own up" to our behavior, we must also own up to what we know will be the next steps we need to take in obedience to get ourselves back to the place we need to be.

But that’s no life for you. You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.  (Ephesians 4:20-24 MSG)

Paul is writing to the Ephesian church - to encourage them to grow up in Christ, allowing Christ's character to become part of their being.  In so doing, he reminds them of the "old way" of living - sinful through and through, steeped with disobedience, and in no way honoring of God, let alone bringing honor to ourselves.  He infers we have been "going along with the crowd".  In terms you might find helpful, we might refer to this as the "herd mentality".  When one cow begins to wander to a little green patch of grass, the entire herd begins to move in the same direction.  Soon, the "herd" finds themselves wandering away from where they were "put".  Sound familiar?  We found ourselves wandering just a bit (the first time we did not do what we knew was right) until we come to a place of being so far from where were "put"!  Paul reminds us of the consequences of doing this long enough - we lose touch with God and with reality itself (vs. 17-19).  What we don't see as "danger" in the first place may become the very thing which "disconnects" us in the end!

Now, Paul assures us this is not the life God plans for us.  Thank goodness for grace!  As we "learn Christ", we also learn "grace".  His grace does not give us license (permission) to sin without excuse - but...when we follow disobedience's path, we know God's grace is enough to bring us back on course.  God PREFERS our obedience each and every time, but he KNOWS our hearts will misguide us on occasion.  When they do, GRACE abounds!  Look at what Paul says:  "But that's no life for you!"  I have to echo this!  Each step of disobedience is not the life God intends for us.  In reality, we have "learned better" because we have "learned Christ".  In reality, what we have learned has not perfectly connected with what we believe!  

Until such time as belief and knowledge become one, we will struggle with occasional times of disobedience.  Look at what I said there - occasional.  This is different than the rebellion of never seeking God's way, always choosing our own will over his, etc.  It is the occasional "slip up" in which we did what we knew better than to do.  Paul says this "new life" takes some time to work out in our actions what we know on the inside.  It begins on the outside and becomes evident on the outside.  Truly, when you look at one who is revealing Christ on the outside, you can say, "I know this person, inside and out!"  When there becomes a continuity between what we know and what we show, we call this wisdom!

It is God's work to reproduce his character in us.  It is our part to respond to his "nudges" in obedience.  To do what it is we know to do.  Now, this seems way too simple, but in reality, it is quite difficult.  Some say, "If you love someone enough, you do what pleases that person."  I agree, but even I know I don't do a good job at it 100% of the time!  So, what makes me think I will ALWAYS connect with God's desires in my life 100% of the time?  It is a process.  God is "working in me" what he desires to see "come out of me".  It is a life-time venture - creating his character in my every choice which then becomes evident in my every action.  Until then, all I can do is daily choose to align my thoughts with his - through time in his Word, in prayer, and in company with his children.  As I do, I am placing myself in the best position to be able to respond to his "nudges" in obedience.  Yep, I will miss it on occasion, but his grace is sufficient!

If you have read my blogs for any length of time, you will know I speak of grace quite often.  It is simply because this gal knows how much grace she has received!  It is more than I "deserved", but consistently exactly what I "needed".  There is no "license to sin", but grace makes a way for reconciliation when we do.  If you have lived with the fear of never being good enough for God's grace, then you have a wrong impression of grace.  Grace is the result of us NOT being GOOD ENOUGH.  When we bring God our "not good enough", he delights in creating his character where our "not good enough" once existed.  So, don't run from your failures, or seek to cover them up.  Instead, openly admit your "not good enough" to God - he is waiting to GRACE you with more of his character in just the right amount to make your "not good enough" excellent in every way.

Remember, God is working his character OUT in us.  It comes from the inside first - until one day it affects the outside consistently.  Just sayin...

Friday, September 28, 2012

You pushing me?

We all have moments when we feel overwhelmed by the task at hand.  The possibilities of doing what it is we are called upon to do seem daunting and we just cannot possibly see how God could have plans for us in the moment.  I imagine Paul faced a little of this - knowing full well he was "schooled" in the Law of Moses, but not at all "schooled" in the message of grace.  What he learned about grace he experienced the same as we all do - because the teacher embraced him!  Back when Paul wrote his epistle to the Ephesian church, he admits to his surprise at receiving grace.  In fact, if you read verses 7-9 you will find Paul saying, "Hey!  I now have a new life's work - helping others know what it is like to receive this surprise gift of grace!"  Paul goes on to explain his absolute lack of "qualifications" to do what it is God has him doing - but God was handling all the details.  Humbly, he admits he was the least "qualified" of any of the available Christians.  Yet, in each new step he took in obedience to God, God saw to it that he was equipped and not relying on his natural abilities.

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.  (Ephesians 3:20 MSG)

We often discount the possibilities when we weigh the task at hand.  We see the mountain as too large!  Paul says it well, "God can do anything!"  I want to add, "With anything and anyone available to his use!"  We might find it hard to "explain" grace, but we can demonstrate it through our life actions.  We know full well an example speaks volumes more than words alone.  In fact, when Paul pens the words of verse 12, I think he had this in mind:  "When we trust in him, we’re free to say whatever needs to be said, bold to go wherever we need to go."

Free to say whatever needs to be said!  Ever find yourself in a place where you know the exact thing which needs to be said, but you talk yourself out of it because you don't think the "hearer" will be open to receive it?  Paul tells us when we trust in Christ, putting our every step in his care, we become free to speak what needs to be spoken.  He is responsible for the "receiving" of the message, not us.  Now, this doesn't mean that we just blurt out anything we "think" someone needs to hear, but when we feel the prompting of the Spirit of God within, we can stand assured God will "back up" our words!

Bold to go where we need to go!  I imagine Paul had a lot of moments when he wondered if he'd ever be able to bring the gospel message to the next group of people.  Some were upper class, other middle, and still others, the outcast!  In each circumstance, he was given the boldness to declare the message he was given.  

Freedom and boldness are two tell-tale signs of the Spirit of God indwelling a believer.  Paul's words present the means by which this freedom is experienced and this boldness becomes the foundation upon which we stand - it is in the Holy Spirit working WITHIN us.  In Old Testament times, the Holy Spirit CAME UPON a man - not WITHIN.  Christ's sacrifice made it possible for God to "indwell" mankind with his Spirit - grace providing the means to experiencing God's presence again as we were designed to experience it.

Paul also gives us insight into how the Holy Spirit operates in our lives.  Some of us may think he comes with a heavy hand, strong-arming us into a position of submission.  Indeed, this is exactly the opposite.  He come in the gentleness of grace.  Ever try to be the Holy Spirit in someone's life?  You find yourself "demanding" or "insisting" they act a certain way because you know their life needs to change.  How'd that work out for you?  If you were like me, probably not too well.  People resist being "strong-armed" into a position of obedience.  Grace is the exact opposite of "strong-arming" - it is gentleness, meekness, long-suffering, peaceable, and loving.  It embraces us when we our finally ready to be embraced.

Paul reminds us the Holy Spirit doesn't push us around - he is not a bully!  He doesn't demand his own way, but yields to us until we are willing to yield to him.  Don't get me wrong, he keeps "working within", but he doesn't clobber us with grace!  He extends it to us - leaving it up to us to take it, or leave it. I have many moments in time when I have said, "I don't want it!"  Those times when my willful disobedience seemed more enjoyable and promising than any offered grace.  Oh, what a sad state of events unfolded with those determined moments of resistance!

The hope I can leave you with this morning is simply this:  God's grace is there.  His Holy Spirit is working WITHIN us - gently, peaceably, with all love and compassion.  Grace resisted leaves us wanting.  Grace embraced fills us to overflowing.  We might push God away, but he never moves so far that we cannot turn into his embrace!  Just sayin!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

How do you see me?

Have you ever felt a "bad attitude" just creeping up on you?  You are working away, living life, and almost without notice, you find yourself thinking thoughts you should not, responding curtly, or managing to "disengage" from the circumstances completely.  Get behind a slow moving car when you are late to your next appointment and see what you will imagine about the driver in front of you!  Never once do you stop to consider they may have just left the hospital where they said their last good-byes to a loved one, or that they are working hard to get the little bit of horsepower out of their overly used vehicle simply because they cannot afford anything with more "pep".  Sometimes what is at the core of the issue is "US" - not someone else!  We have allowed the wrong attitude to form - usually about US, not the other person!  When we do this, it "colors" how we interpret everything else in life.  

What you say about yourself means nothing in God’s work. It’s what God says about you that makes the difference.  (2 Corinthians 10:18 The Message)

Whenever we feel superior to another - it affects how we view the other person.  When we feel like we have less stature, value, or importance than the other person - we put ourselves down and cannot see any "value" in what it is we have to contribute.  What we "think" about ourselves affects how we deal with other people, doesn't it?  So, if we have "stinking thinking" about US, then it colors all we think about OTHERS.

We get all "attitudinal" about others when we find ourselves to be in some way more important, or superior, to another.  Playing the superiority game is dangerous business, though.  It often stems from a root of pride which we just have not dealt with in the God expects.  We haven't allowed him to help us form the right attitudes about US, so we have wrong attitudes about OTHERS.  Measure yourself against any other standard than Christ and you have a faulty measuring device!  What God gave us in the example of Christ made flesh, dwelling among mankind, is priceless.  It allowed us to "picture" the attitudes he desires, the behaviors right attitudes produce, and the heart toward others only he can give.

There are a whole lot of things which go into making us and others who we are.  For example, we have different parents.  The influence of the various parents we have makes for a variety of different values - similar, but not likely "spot on" as we "compare" one person to another, right?  Add normal mental development to parental influence in our lives (or the lack thereof), and we will find some who have creative imaginations, others with strong abilities to reason and reflect.  If this is not enough to set us all out as different, we can add such influences as how quickly, or slowly, our physical development occurs.  Some are "early bloomers", struggling with hormone "issues" way ahead of others.  Some are "late bloomers", seemingly taking forever to just show any signs of "development".  All these things, and more, add up to help us form attitudes about others and ourselves.  Anywhere along the line, we can form misguided thoughts about ourselves!

Relationships are just difficult stuff!  We cannot "disengage" from the influences of how we developed, so we bring all this "stuff" into the mix of any relationship we form.  If it is with another, we find out just how "different" two people can be.  But...when we bring all our "stuff" into the mix of relating with God, we often find we have a warped impression of what God thinks about us!  We allow what we have come to believe about ourselves, because of the influence of our own minds and the influence of others, to "color" what we believe God thinks about us.

This brings us back to our passage today.  Paul reminds us of the importance of not relying upon what we (or others) say about US - listen to what God says!  To understand what he says about us, we have been given some "tools" because we don't just sit across from God on the sofa, take his hand, and look into his eyes as we communicate with each other!  It would sometimes be so much easier if we did!  The Word of God is the primary "tool" we have been give to allow us to search out what God says about how he feel about us, what he has committed to do on our behalf, and how he manages the lives of those he loves.  If we neglect to get the "right" perspective found there, we often live with lots and lots of "wrong" perspective!

Wrong perspective colors everything we say and do.  Just as expected, getting the "right" perspective is not always easy.  We have to allow what we have come to "accept" or "believe" about ourselves to be challenged.  This is the first step toward gaining "right" perspective!  When we stop holding onto the wrong beliefs, we are open to taking on the new ones.  Sometimes we need the second "tool" God gives us in order to help us with this one - the tool of wise counsel.  I heard my pastor describe this as someone who is living by the standards laid out in scripture.  I don't expect us to find many who "live it all perfectly", but there are wise individuals who are headed in the right direction who we need to help us get perspective sometimes.  What makes them "powerful" in our quest for the right perspective is their ability to see us as we "display" ourselves.  Since we don't see ourselves very well, we need others to help us see us as we "put ourselves on display".

When we find out what scripture has to say about how God sees and values us, coupled with the wisdom of those who are walking this out with God everyday, we are accessing "tools" which will unlock the wrong beliefs we have formed.  When we submit these to God, we then are opened to receiving the truth about US.  When we start seeing ourselves as God sees us, we begin to see others as God sees them!  Just sayin....

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Running with all ya got!

Did you ever stop to think about what it means to be "spirit-begotten"?  I have taken a couple of opportunities to focus on this idea of being "begotten" and just what "family line" has to do with the type of person we are declared to be.  Notice I said "declared to be".  If we are to be the type of people we are declared to be, we have to stop walking in the old patterns and start walking in the new.  For example, if a prisoner is to be set free from a jail cell after 20 years in confinement, he must learn what it like to have freedoms of his own.  He doesn't have the same degree of restrictions his bondage kept him in.  He has new freedoms which he may pursue - not just think about.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross,scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  (Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV)

In examining this passage today, I see a call to live a different "type" of life than we did without Christ.  In fact, there is a call to live:

- Energetically - "let's run the race".  In a physical race, we need energy to keep running, don't we?  Energetic is suggestive of possessing vigor, the ability to make an effect.  It carries the idea of being active and able to be exerted to the fullest point.  Vigor is what gives the runner the intensity, or inner strength to run.  When force is exerted against the runner, such as fatigue, the runner possesses a certain ability to press beyond the exertion - putting themselves out there just a little bit more.

- Ordered - "the race that is laid out in front of us".  Seldom do you see a runner get up in the morning, don his running shoes, and then just set off in some random direction.  In fact, he has an awareness of the course he will take - probably scoping it out in advance and measuring distance, terrain, etc.  We run an ordered race - one set out for us in various ways.  First, it is set out in the Word of God.  The Word defines the course, describes the terrain, and gives us awareness of the obstacles in our path.  Second, we have an example of another "runner" to keep us focused on the track ahead - Christ.  If his example and his Word are not enough, we have the Holy Spirit as our "coach" to keep us running in an ordered, and consistent manner.  It is not a course we define on our own - it is defined by God.

- With perseverance - "run with perseverance".  The race requires the willingness to persist.  This type of willingness does not come from the mind - it comes from the inner man.  Despite the "state" we encounter, there is a stability and determination on the inside which will not be affected by what we see on the outside.  There is always opposition in a race, isn't there?  There is always some kind of obstacle in the path.  No matter the opposition or the obstacle, there is an inner determination which spurs us on.  Some call this commitment.  I'd like us to consider this to be a choice - to be actively obedient to the calling we possess.

- Focused - "fixing our eyes on Jesus".  In a race, energy waxes and wanes.  The tugs of the physical man sometimes want to outdo the commitment of the inner spiritual man.  Our bodies tire, but our spirit is committed.  Why?  Simply because of the focus we maintain.  The focus of our eye always determines the course of our life.  

- Motivated - "the pioneer and perfecter of faith".  When we see value in something, there is a motivation to pursue it, isn't there?  For example, if you go to the doctor and hear you must lose weight and control your diet because your cholesterol is at an unhealthy level, you are experiencing high blood pressures, and your blood sugars are elevated, you might be more determined than when you simply had to buy a bigger size of slacks.  If you couple this with the knowledge of both parents dying at younger ages, you might see by the example and interpret by the warning signs, you need to change!  There is a motivation created by the value we place on the example and the signs.  We are told to place Christ in front as our example.  We are told to explore scripture to interpret the signs.  Motivation comes as we keep these two in focus.

- Unencumbered - "let us throw off everything that hinders".  There are a lot of things in this life which "weigh us down" in the race, aren't there?  We have thoughts which we just cannot seem to break free of.  There are choices we make which load guilt and shame upon us.  The apathy of the years in which we remained inactive have also slowed us down.  The writer tells us to "throw these off" - they hinder, therefore, they are weights.  The hardest part of running is in knowing what to leave behind!  

The good news is the family into which we have been "begotten".  We are "begotten" into a family of "runners".  The example before us is Christ.  The runners in the race are just like us - complete with the baggage they must lay aside, struggling with getting the "values" right, and learning to commit with their entire being.  We don't run alone!  We are in a "family" of runners!  Isn't that good to know?  So, let us run with perseverance the race set out before us, not encumbered by the weights of this world, but focused on the glory set out before us.  Run with all ya got!  I hope to see you at the finish line right alongside me!  Just sayin!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A little wind from heaven!

The chapter I chose today deals with a prophesy given to Ezekial about a valley of dry bones.  He is taken to a place where there are skeletal remains all over the place, totally picked clean, dried up by the sun and time.  God leads him around the valley, then through it, experiencing the full vastness of its expanse and the multitude of bones contained there.  We probably won't experience anything like this, but there is significant meaning within this prophesy for the nation of Israel.  I also think there could be a lesson or two for us, if we look close enough!

Then God said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Listen to what they’re saying: ‘Our bones are dried up, our hope is gone, there’s nothing left of us.’  “Therefore, prophesy. Tell them, ‘God, the Master, says: I’ll dig up your graves and bring you out alive—O my people! Then I’ll take you straight to the land of Israel. When I dig up graves and bring you out as my people, you’ll realize that I am God. I’ll breathe my life into you and you’ll live. Then I’ll lead you straight back to your land and you’ll realize that I am God. I’ve said it and I’ll do it. God’s Decree.’”  (Ezekial 37:11-14 The Message)

In order to get as much out of this as possible, I am going to take you on a little "word journey", so bear with me!  

- A huge valley filled with DRY bones.  No signs of life - DRY.  If God were to look at our lives, would he see staleness, a lack of freshness - people no longer communicating warmth, enthusiasm, or tender feelings?  

- Bones without FLESH. They may have rotted away by time, circumstance, or the lack of no longer being fed.  I wonder what the impact of time has done to us?  Or perhaps the involvement in circumstances spinning beyond our control, or the simple lack of taking time to feed upon that which maintains life?  These bones may have been picked clean - by the predators all around them.  How many of us suffer the impact of "predators" without even realize we are being "picked clean"?

- No APPEARANCE of hope for resuscitation.  In the eyes of man, there seems to be little hope.  They are dead by all of man's estimation and human understanding.  But...when God sees them, his estimation and understanding see life.  Perspective is everything!

- Hear the WORD of the Lord!  The word of God will always bring a commotion, a stirring, and a rattling of our "dry bones".  Sometimes this stirring is not enough - we still are nothing more than revived corpses!  We might have "new flesh", but just looking "new" on the outside is no assurance there is something "new" on the inside!  

- BREATHE that they may live!  It is the breathe of God which brings them alive on the INSIDE!  They rise as a multitude - an army of warriors.  Alive because of the moving of the Holy Spirit over their lives.  We are made alive in the same manner - through his movement.  It is his "giving of breath" which revives.

Sometimes we are no more than unrelated parts - dry bones scattered to the far corners of the earth.  We can remain as dry bones - disconnected, unrelated, scattered.  When we do, we live "disconnected" lives.  As a result, we lack the strength and capacity of "corporate" unity.  In this state, we are prey to the predators of our lives - sin, evil, distraction, deception, etc.  The winds of adversity will take us down.  The circumstances of life will drain us further.  The trials will leave us defenseless.  We are open to being carried off by our predators because we aren't connected and alive!

We can settle for a week-to-week existence.  You know the kind I mean - come to church each week, get a touch of life, then be drained by the time the week is even over!  Or we can know the vitality of life - as God intends it - a living, breathing organism of grace.  

Some things I want us to see about the wind:

- It rattles - rousing us from our slumber.  Sometimes we don't even know we have lost our alertness to the things of God.  It is the breath of God's Spirit, moving over our lives, which rouses us.  Maybe we need a little "wind" in our sails again!

- It shakes - stirring again feelings long left untouched.  The wind has a way of stirring what it touches.  In fact, this is how we know the wind is actually there - we see and feel its movement across our lives.  There are areas of our lives which have not been "moved upon" in a long time.  Maybe today is the day for God to "move us" - opening us to new possibilities in him.

- It moves - causing us to change our position.  Watch the wind sometime and what you see is the effect of it upon that which it touches.  There is much to be said about the wind bringing a change of position.  Sometimes it is the movement which uncovers that which has been hidden for a long, long time!

- It draws - pulling us out of the "crannies" of apathy.  Things get stuck from time to time.  We get apathetic to the stuff we become the most familiar with, don't we?  It is the wind of the Spirit which "unsticks" us.

- It drives - moving us forward when nothing else will.  Sometimes the influence of the wind is to move what has been stationary for far too long.  Things which have been rigid and unchanging.  We all need a little "nudging" sometimes, don't we?

The Spirit is what gives dead bones new life.  The purpose of the bones was in the formation of a vast army - not a solitary existence.  The army was not sparse, weak, or ill-equipped.  In fact, it was vast - numberless, large, great in number!  This type of army will make its presence known.  It is not easy to hide an army such as this!  Just sayin!

Monday, September 24, 2012

You listening?

When I took my business classes in school, one of the things I was taught was how to write a formal business letter all the way through an informal memorandum.  You learned the various components of each because you never knew what you'd be called upon to draft.  In a formal letter, there is a structure to it - the heading, inside address, salutation or greeting, introduction (or purpose), the body, the conclusion or complimentary close, and the signature line.  In essence, the introduction gave you a synopsis of what the body would elaborate upon.  The complimentary close was just a short ending to the letter, often thanking the reader for their consideration, and driving to some action.  One of the things I have observed in the epistles (or letters to the believers at the churches of the First Century) which make up our New Testament is the opening comments which outline the purpose of writing and the concluding comments which summarize the information outlined.  

My purpose in writing is simply this: that you who believe in God’s Son will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life, the reality and not the illusion. And how bold and free we then become in his presence, freely asking according to his will, sure that he’s listening. And if we’re confident that he’s listening, we know that what we’ve asked for is as good as ours.  (I John 5:13-15 The Message)

John is concluding his epistle to the churches.  He opened the letter with an introduction which outlined several things:

- We were witnesses of the great stuff that happened while Christ walked this earth.  We saw it with our own eyes and verified it with our own hands.  Now, this is speaks to the reliability of the testimony which we are about to receive in the body of the letter.

- God took shape right before our eyes.  Their testimony will confirm the fact Christ was indeed God made flesh.  No doubts, arguments, or contradictions - he was the real deal!

- We want our testimony of what we saw and heard to affect our readers.  The purpose for writing is very evident in this introductory statement.  The hope of the witness was to persuade the readers to experience all they have experienced by being touched by the life of Christ.  

Now, John is concluding his letter.  In a short synopsis, he lays out the purpose for his having written these short five chapters.  His intention has been to give us enough evidence of the reality of Christ's birth, death, and resurrection so we come to the place of absolute certainty in our own belief that Christ was made flesh, dwelt among us, died for our sins, rose on the third day, and is now seated at the right hand of God the Father.  No bones about it - - Christ is real!  

In fact, he wants his readers to be assured of what this means for them.  It secured forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God the Father.  No more is there a barrier between us and God.  No longer is there a need for an atoning sacrifice - it has been offered and fully accepted by the sacrifice of his only begotten Son.  

As he concludes this letter, several points are left with us - to assure us, challenge us to take a stand, and to open us to the possibilities we have in our position IN Christ.

*  We have eternal life - not eternal hell, but eternal life.  All will experience some type of eternal life - but not all will experience it at the feet of Jesus.  This eternal existence with Christ is based upon his redemptive work on the cross - his overcoming work over death, hell, and the grave.  Hell no longer beckons us.  The grave no longer can hold us bound.  Death has no sting or victory.  Christ has seen to this!

*  There is a freedom and a boldness in God's presence because of the work of Christ.  Let me begin with the idea of freedom.  When a person feels "free", they behave differently than they might when their "freedom" is questionable. For example, a wild animal may be "caged" inside a habitat created by man as a "display" within a zoo.  The animal would normally "run free", but even in the wild, they have certain "territorial markings" which act as boundaries for them.  They stay within these boundaries, knowing full well they might not fair well when they leave those boundaries.  Sometimes these boundaries are because of the provision within them - such as a watering hole and a source of food.  Sometimes they are imposed by others, such as when a male marks the boundaries of their territory so no other male takes control of the herd.

Freedom is both a belief and a fact.  It is a belief as it applies to as much as what we "feel" about our boundaries influences our actions.  We stay within boundaries we "feel" are safe for us.  We avoid boundaries which we "feel" may not be as "safe".  The facts of our freedom have to be understood in order for them to influence our feelings.  Once the facts and feelings coexist on the same plane, there is a liberty which is produced.  It is this liberty that John turns our attention to today.  We have a liberty to enter freely into the presence of God.  This liberty gives us the boldly ask of God the tough things we do.  

*  We can be assured he is listening.  No amount of exerted effort on our part gets him to listen any better!  I know I only "half-listen" sometimes to what is being said in conversation with others.  If something catches my attention, I focus in a little harder.  We all do this.  Yet, God acts differently - he is an "all-the-time" listener!  

*  When we realize he is listening, we ask differently, don't we?  If we know we have the ear of someone, we might just ask for something we might not have been bold enough to ask for otherwise, right?  The good news is - we ALWAYS have God's ear!  The liberty we enjoy is evident in his listening ear!

Just a few final thoughts from the epistle of I John.  Hope you were listening!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Mock me no more!

Conflict is all around us, is it not?  The evening news is riddled with reports of conflict at its extreme - war, bombings, the taking of lives, and riots.  In a sense, we live in a world which is escalating in conflict more and more.  The chances of being railed upon by an angry shopper, or shot at in a random drive-by is greater today than it was thirty years ago.  Conflict is a state of being attacked, ridiculed, or derided - not always for a reason we understand or can justify.  Perhaps it is for our way of dressing, our spiritual beliefs, or our physical traits.  Regardless of the "source" of or "reason" for the conflict, it exists.  We run the chances of living WITH and IN conflict, don't we?

Remove the mocker and conflict disappears;
  judgment and shame also stop. (Proverbs 22:10 CEB)
Solomon gives us insight into conflict - it carries with it two close companions: Judgment and Shame.  This makes sense when we understand mocking is the action of "making fun of" or ridiculing the other person's beliefs or actions.  When we mock someone we are "passing judgment" on their beliefs or actions - saying they are not right for some reason.  We are creating a sense of "shame" when we mock these beliefs or actions long enough - because what is heard long enough becomes the basis upon which people form their opinions of themselves and others.  

Conflict disappears when we remove the source of it.  Solomon tells us to remove the mocker - the one bringing the conflict.  In so doing, we see the companions (judgment and shame) take a hike!  We often see the evidence of the "companions" before we recognize their "leader".  What happens when we feel shame?  For some, we attempt to justify our actions.  When judgment is "passed" on some action on our part, we find it only natural to respond to it by justifying our actions.  It is the "Yeah, but..." phenomenon.  You know what I am speaking about - the moment we find ourselves in conflict and we respond, "Yeah, but if YOU hadn't .... then I wouldn't have .... "

There was a comedian years ago who's favorite catchphrase was, "The devil made me do it!"  Flip Wilson had a character he portrayed known as Geraldine Jones.  She was always getting into some mess, then quickly justifying the actions with this catchphrase he was so popular for.  As far back as I can see, mankind has been trying to justify their actions by blaming them on anyone else, including the devil!  

The message of our passage is clear - remove the mocker.  Sometimes this means we remove ourselves from the presence of those whose sole purpose in life seems to be bringing shame and passing judgment.  At other times, we may be the one who needs a little reality check - because we have been the ones mocking!  Neither place is a comfortable place to be - as the one being attacked, or the one who will be set apart because they have been the attacker.  

If we maintain company with the mockers, we will surely know conflict.  Mockers find it thrilling to "contend" with another.  It is a contest of the wills. They thrive on being "contradictory" in words and deeds.  In another translation of this verse, the idea of the mocker is equated to bullying anger.  In a society riddled with all kinds of "bullies", it is almost impossible not to run into them in one setting or another.  But...choosing to MAINTAIN company with them is really only inviting heaping doses of unwelcome judgment and shame.

Although it is not always easy to remove oneself from the company of the mocker, it may be the wisest.  Just sayin....

Saturday, September 22, 2012 I belong?

The idea of "belonging" to something or someone is an age-old concept.  When we say we "belong" we are saying we are in some type of relationship - one in which the members have something in common.  When we "belong", we  possess the "proper" qualifications to be part of the group, don't we?  Back in the day, it was popular to "belong" to the country club, hanging out on Friday nights or Saturdays as the big bands played dance music and enjoying the fine foods prepared by the chefs for their members.  You associated "belonging" with a sense of some "status", did you not?  By "belonging" to the country club, you were somehow set apart from those who could neither afford to belong, or who simply had no idea how to play golf or tennis!  We might "belong" to the Chamber of Commerce, the local women's society, or an elite biker's club who travel the highways on their shiny, well-equipped motorcycles on the weekends.  We "belong" to all kinds of things - but only one relationship really brings us into a place of "true status"!  

This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.  (Ephesians 2:19-22 MSG)

Belonging brings us into a position of having some "right" we did not possess prior to belonging.  As Paul puts it, it is our "privilege" to enjoy some new "rights" as a member of the Kingdom of God.  We are no longer outsiders - strangers to the truths of God, his ways, or his provision.  Instead, we enjoy the privileges of "belonging" - being adherent to - a new way of living.  Paul uses that tiny three-letter word "now" again!  This kingdom of faith is NOW our home country - we are no longer sojourners in a foreign land, but NOW enjoy the full rights and privileges of being in the family of God.  We "belong".

When we "belong" to some organization on this earth, such as the Chamber of  Commerce or the Red Cross, we have some mission to fulfill, don't we?  In belonging to the Chamber of Commerce, we might be seeking to promote the businesses of our community, or renovate run-down sections of our town.  As a member of the Red Cross, we respond to disasters, providing food, shelter, and assistance to those displaced from their homes by some form of tragedy. We have a mission!  As a "member" of God's kingdom, we also have a mission.  As my pastor so aptly puts it - we are ON mission WITH Christ.  It is not just a "thing" we belong to - it is a LIFE we embrace!

Look at what Paul says - God is building a home.  This excites me because I equate all kinds of things with a home.  It is a place of shelter - granting its inhabitants some sense of security from adverse conditions on the streets.  It is a place of refuge - offering its inhabitants the deserved respite from the cares of the day they leave behind when they enter its security.  Some people never associate "home" with a place of shelter or refuge - because their image of home has been "colored" by the negativity and abuse of someone who made "home" a place of terror and oppression.  For these individuals, understanding what God is asking of us, and providing for us, is a little more difficult task.  Yet, if you will follow along with me, maybe God will open you up to the possibilities of what he designs for "home" to be.

A home is built - it doesn't just sprout up one day from the earth!  It is in the building process - the days of it taking form before your eyes - that excitement is built.  Anticipation of what all the pieces may become when they are completely put together - assembled and useful for the purpose they were created - is building excitement within us as each piece comes together.  

The concrete was created to give a strong base upon which to build.  The pipe was created to be a conduit by which refreshment and cleansing could occur.  The 2x4 studs were created to give definition to the various "parts" of the home, such as the room we will see become the place where we take nourishment, and the ones which will provide us rest.  The insulation was created to provide a "temperate" environment for us to enjoy.  The flooring was not created to "conceal" the concrete foundation, but to enhance its usefulness.  The windows provide light and allow us to look beyond the walls. The various drawers and cabinets provide every nook and cranny we need for the optimum organization of every "tool" we use in our home.  You getting the idea yet?

The "pieces" make up the whole.  No piece is without purpose.  No piece is less useful than another.  Some will eventually be "less visible" than others - such as the 2x4 stud which is securely behind the plaster-board.  It serves its purpose by providing the form upon which the plaster-board is allowed to become a "wall".  The pipes aren't seen - and seldom even thought of as they provide their "service" to the home.  Yet, without the pipe, all the plumbing fixtures in the world would have no purpose!  No matter how "beautiful" the plumbing fixture is - without the pipe, its purpose is never realized!

Paul's purpose in writing is in getting us to understand we all have a "fit" in God's kingdom.  When we leave the kingdom of our self-directed life and enter into the kingdom of God's protection and provision, we take on the purpose for which we were originally created!  Some of us are pipes!  Others of us are faucets!  We need each other.  Some of us will be seemingly "hidden" from view, but without you, the "walls" are hollow!

There are times in life when we encounter individuals or groups which seem a little "exclusionary" in their focus.  In other words, we just don't "belong" in the group because we don't "fulfill" some purpose THEY see as valuable to the group.  In modern day vernacular, we call this a "clique".  The most unfortunate thing about this focus of "excluding" or "including" someone is in the purpose the group thinks the other may fulfill for the group.  In looking at our scripture, Paul puts it plainly - we may not always see the value of the one God brings into our midst, but he does!  He knows exactly why he is "fitting" this individual with the other!  His purpose is being fulfilled in the relationship of bringing this building piece together with the other - each serving their created purpose.

The focus is not on whether we "belong" to a particular "group" or "church".  It is in our fulfilling the purpose for which we were created.  We are being made a "home" into which many will seek shelter and refuge.  We are being made - we may not be there yet - but when we begin to fulfill the purpose we are created to fulfill, we are being used in the hands of the one doing the making!

Just sayin!

Friday, September 21, 2012

NOW is the time

Paul is one of my favorite New Testament people - his teachings are so down to earth and genuine.  He is not afraid to confront issues head on and he is compassionate in his efforts.  As he writes to the Church as Ephesus, he come to this idea of comparing the "old" life we lived "before Christ" and the "new" life we now live "after Christ".  In his opening words of this chapter, Paul lays out his premise for writing - the old way of life was stagnant.  Now, if you have ever tried to get clean in stagnant water, let me tell you, it leaves you feeling every bit as dirty as you did when you got in it!  You just don't might not realize it until you "dry out" a bit!  Then you realize how "ripe" you are!  Really, Paul wants us to recognize the "old way" of living as one of constantly "doing what we wanted to do".  We pursued the stuff we wanted to pursue - not really conscious of how much it was polluting us even further.  The new life is one of direct contrast - "dead lives", polluted beyond our ability to clean up, made new in Christ.  

Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.   (Ephesians 2:7-10 The Message)

Paul reminds us this new life "puts us" in a new place - in the company of Jesus!  Our "associations" changed the moment we came to Christ.  We were taken from the place which "pollutes" into the place which not only promotes purity, but provides the means of purity!  Paul then goes on to use a very descriptive three-letter word most of us would skip over:  NOW.  Why is it we miss these little words with such significant impact?  I think we just rush on past them because we don't pause long enough to consider them.

Paul says, "NOW" God has us where he wants us.  It is not in the future we are finally where God wants us - you know, that day in eternity when we finally reach some form of "perfection" in our lives.  Nope, it is NOW.  This is the basis upon which he builds his next statements - we cannot miss it.  It is for the PRESENT - not the past or the future, but NOW.  Since we finally understand this, we can move on to explore what he tells us next.

Since God has us where he wants us - all by his actions on our behalf, I may add - he is free to do WITHIN us what he desires most.  The thing he desires most is to shower us with his grace.  NOW is the moment of GRACE.  NOW is the day of his KINDNESS.  Woohoo!  This should cause us to pause in order to consider just how awesome it is to be exactly where God has placed us!  He has us where he wants us in order to do what it is he wants to do within us!  Now, you may not think this place or time in your life is "exactly where God wants you", but if we read this passage correctly, we will see NO PLACE and NO TIME is without God's presence and purpose when we are brought into this new life with Christ!  

In moving on with this passage, we find that NOW is the time to TRUST.  It is not the time to fret, or to try to figure out your way out of the mess of your past.  It is the time to trust in the GRACE of the present.  It is God's joy to have us in a place where his grace can permeate every fiber of our being - making us "feel" the way he SEES us.  It takes a while for our feelings to catch up with God's image of us, doesn't it?  For a while we "feel" unworthy of his grace.  We struggle with the "pollution" of our past - feeling shame for past wrong deeds, dealing with guilt over missed opportunities, and just not associating anything of worth within us that would "warrant" God's grace.  This is the most amazing thing - GRACE is ALWAYS undeserved!  It is our part to TRUST God with his GRACE.  

NOW is the time to recognize God's purpose in moving us from our "polluted" old life into the "purity" of this new life.  It is to be on mission with him!  It is to allow him to do IN us what we could never do with any amount of effort on our own behalf.  It is to transform us until GRACE becomes not only what is showered UPON us, but that which oozes out of us in every interaction with others in this life.  NOW is the moment of allowing God's GRACE to to create within us what no amount of self-help can accomplish.  This little word has purpose - it is to focus us on the possibilities of this very moment, of this very next breath, of our very next interaction.  Couple NOW with GRACE and you will never be far from experiencing God's heart!

I cannot tell you how many times EACH and every day I need to experience God's GRACE.  The grace I allow to come within my life, creating in me the freshness and purity of his character within, will be that which is there to "give out" when the NOW produces challenges.  Paul tells us God has all the time in THIS world and the NEXT to continue to shower us with his GRACE.  Hmmmm....I find this a little interesting to consider we might continue to need his grace in the next!  Did you see this when you read the passage?  Or did you skip over it, too?  God knows we will continue to need his grace throughout all of eternity - because we cannot possibly stand in his presence without it!  What this tells me is that we are NEVER outside of the "NOW".  

Grace is not a thing of the past, or a mere hope of the future.  It is a reality of the present.  NOW is the moment of his grace.  The next moment of his grace may come in your next breath - who knows?  If we learn to live in the NOW, we will never be outside of his GRACE.  Just sayin....

Thursday, September 20, 2012

This, your darkest of hours

One of the "darkest" places to be is in the place of rejection.  By the very nature of rejecting someone, the one being rejected is being said to be useless or unsatisfactory.  They have no purpose in our lives - therefore, we discard them, refusing to accept them and what they bring into our lives.  One of the toughest things to learn to do with people who treat others as though they are "rejects" in this earth is to NOT reject them because of their "actions" of intolerance or judgment!  It is only natural to want to reject those who hurt others, abuse us, or treat some as though their sins are too great.  It is also a very dangerous place to tread - because we move into a place of judge in their lives - a place ONLY God can occupy.  Today, I don't want to focus on the one who rejects so much as on the one who has been rejected. The place of darkness this rejection creates in the lives of those who suffer at the hands of those who reject them is almost insurmountable.

Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit?  to be out of your sight?  If I climb to the sky, you’re there!  If I go underground, you’re there!  If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, you’d find me in a minute—you’re already there waiting!  Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!  At night I’m immersed in the light!”  It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.  (Psalm 139:7-12 The Message)

What does an individual who is being rejected experience?  Aren't the gamut of emotions ranging from being angry at those who reject them to feeling immensely useless and hopeless common to those who have been rejected?  In fact, the list of emotional ups and downs is probably too large to even begin to consider.  Suffice it to say, rejection wreaks havoc on our emotions - and in turn, on our self-image, our ability to relate to others in the future, and the desire to ever trust again.  Why?  Trust has been violated.  We placed some element of trust in the one who rejected us - now it is difficult to want to trust again.  Relationships become a thing we fear rather than embrace.  How we see ourselves is "shaded" by the impression the rejection has left - much like a hand print in wet cement hardens in time, always reflecting the impression left behind by the influence of the pressure exerted when the cement was at its most "form-able" phase.

David cried out to God one day in prayer.  His heart obviously knowing some of the anguish of rejection - for he had been hurt by his closest of friends, wounded by children who just did not seem to understand the importance of his wisdom, and guilt-ridden in his own shame over sins he had committed.  Sound like anyone we might know?  I know his "experiences" in life hit close to home for me - this is probably why I associate so closely with David's teachings, and those of his son, Solomon.  The heart of David constantly cried out to God for mercy - the heart of this gal constantly cries out to God for more grace, more mercy, more of Christ in me.

Look at our passage - David is eloquent in describing just how one who experiences rejection "feels".  They want to escape the pain, don't they?  They look for a place to curl up, hiding from the anguish of the rejection.  There is an attempt to flee the pain - looking high and low for the thing which will cover over the intense sting rejection leaves.  One who has been rejected by another wants to be out of sight - for even seeing themselves hurts!

David's revelation speaks volumes.  We can try to escape God's Spirit, but where can we actually "go" to flee from God's compassion and his grace?  The answer:  NOWHERE!  Why is it we are trying to escape God's Spirit anyway?  Isn't it because we don't even think God loves us at the point we are experiencing such rejection from others?  Does it come as any surprise to you of Satan's "design" in the actions of rejection?  His goal is to get us AWAY (and keep us away) from the very thing which we need the most!  His greatest joy comes when we flee from God!  His greatest fear is when we run to God!

David lays it all out there - we cannot avoid the Spirit of God.  He is there when we attempt to avoid him.  We might purposefully attempt to avoid encountering him, but he purposefully pursues us anyway!  We try to cover up or hide - not because we ARE unworthy, but because we FEEL unworthy.  We believe the lie rejection brings - no one, not even God, wants us.  The furthest thing is true - even when NO ONE wants us, God loves us deeply, embraces us closely, and believes in us immensely.  When we feel the sting of rejection, it is natural to want to do one of two things.  Either we begin to live a lie - falsely escalating in joyful cheer, making the others think all is well with us, or we attempt to flee underground, trying to escape without further "damages" being experienced.

The most amazing part of this passage is in God's "position".  He is THERE.  Not by accident, but because he has determined to be waiting for us wherever we attempt to flee!  In David's most eloquent manner of speaking, he utters these words:  Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!  At night I’m immersed in the light!”  It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.  Even in our darkest place, God immerses us in his light!  Darkness isn't darkness to God!  In fact, no darkness dwells where God is - and David reminds us God is everywhere we are!

I don't know the havoc rejection has brought into your life, but here's the hope I want you to find - God is not the author of this rejection!  He is the author of YOU.  As the author, he can re-write anything in your life which causes you pain.  Sometimes it is in the actions of forgiving the one who rejected you.  At other times, it is in the actions of coming out of hiding, learning to be comfortable with who you are and how God made you - all your quirks and hang-ups included.  No "chapter" of your life is written in stone - except the Chapter of Grace!  The author has seen to it that GRACE will always be a part of your life!  First, grace to you - then, grace through you!  

What am I "just sayin" today?  Plain and simple:  God's grace is waiting to embrace you in this your most darkest of hours!  Reach out - take his hand - he is already there waiting!  Just sayin!