Love Your Neighbor As Yourself

Matthew 22:39 
A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself

It has been said many times in many circles – you can’t give away what you yourself don’t have.

How can I truly love my neighbor if I don’t first truly love myself?

Bernard of Clairvaux (AD 1090-1153), the abbot of a Cistercian monastery in France was perhaps the greatest Christian leader and writer of his day. In his great work entitle Loving God, Bernard describes four degrees of love:
  1. Loving ourselves for our own sake
  2. Loving God for his gifts and blessings
  3. Loving God for himself alone
  4. Loving ourselves for the sake of God
The highest degree of love, for Bernard, was simply that we love ourselves as God loves us – in the same degree, in the same manner, and with the very same love. We love the self that God loves, the essential image and likeness of God in us that has been damaged by sin
Quoted from Peter Scazzerro – Emotionally Healthy Spirituality – Day by Day page 44-45

It has been a long road for the last several months. I became ill from working 18-hour days and 70 hour weeks, and that is just my day job. That doesn’t account for the ministry hours, the time spent with family and friends, and other personal endeavors.

Workaholism is a serious ailment and is often driven by a need for validation and escape. I’ve written on the topic before so I won’t go into detail now, but clearly, a heavily imbalanced lifestyle that drives one into the hospital or a sick-bed on a not so irregular basis shows a complete lack of self-care and a critical warning that a healthy self-love is not present.

I’ve known I’ve personally had a problem with this for many years, I preach and blog about it often because it is one of the self-induced thorns that I can’t seem to give up.

On August 10, 2018, everything changed. I found myself again in the hospital, this time with internal bleeding. Gratefully that symptom proved not to be serious however once I was down, I went down hard.  I spent the next 2 months in bed sleeping almost around the clock.

This time I had pushed too far 

There was no cause the doctors could find for the extended recovery time needed, and believe me they tested. I likely gave gallons of blood, MRIs, CT Scans, brain scans, ultrasound… something was taking me out, but we never found anything.

Then came the diagnosis – CFS

I was happy there was a name for it and it matched everything I was experiencing, until I started to research what it is, or isn’t. It’s almost a purely shamed condition, the “I don’t want to go to work” flu.

Everyone experiences exhaustion and fatigue, and most everyone recovers with rest. I know I always have. But this time was different. The exhaustion never went away, the relentless brain fog and almost confusion with simple tasks, the hot sweats then cold chills, body aches that just come and go.

If you haven’t experienced that, you simply can’t understand it.

I’m not surprised it is shaming, you should be inside my head, the enemy loves to tell me how I’m less of a man for “giving in” to this… as if I have a choice. My Christian family tells me it’s spiritual warfare, doctors say it’s in my head, friends and family seem to imply I’m making this up and need to just “get over it”.

The doctors are telling me it doesn’t have a cure, but we know our God is bigger so I know I’m already healed and I’m just waiting to be released from this.

I am told however it can be managed. The key to living with ME/CFS is knowing our boundaries. I can no longer live in the extreme push/crash lifestyle that I have been doing for a very long time, my body and mind simply can’t take it any longer… it is forced self-care.

I’ve got to tell you, a workaholic man who gets validation from his career being pinned down in bed for months, being diagnosed with a “lazy man’s disease”, and being told there is nothing I can do about it is a freight train to crazy town, or at least it has often felt like that, and still does at times.

And even better, when you can’t use busyness to escape you are left in the desert, just you, God and your demons. What a gloriously miserable place to be, and if you’ve been there you know what I mean. A true dross-burning truth exposing experience if I’ve ever had one.

So as I’ve gained a little strength over the last month I’ve started to move around more, and on the advice that my doctor gave me the last time this happened, I went camping.

It was supposed to be just two days at a close location so my energy output would remain at a minimum; this was basically the first time I’ve been out of the house in nearly 3 months for anything significant.

We had a good time, and on day two my buddy left with his motorhome as planned. I packed up my gear and drove off behind him. But after stopping at a nearby town I believe the Holy Spirit put on my heart the desire, no, the need to go back and set up camp again and stay a while longer… He wasn’t done with me yet.

In fact, God was just getting started

I will save the details of what happened over the next 11 days and 6 separate campgrounds with just me and God. It was powerful beyond words. Most places didn’t have cell service and I had an arsenal of healing books (such as Emotionally Healthy Spirituality – Scazzero, Adam’s Return – Rohr, AA – Daily Reflections), journaling materials, devotionals and of course the Bible to keep me thoroughly engaged for the entire time.

Sorry, I know this is a long buildup and if you are still with me, you must be asking by now…

…what does all this have to do with loving your neighbor as yourself?

Well, I’m excited to tell you!

In those almost 2 weeks of nearly complete solitude in what I would call the deepest communion and dependence on God that I’ve ever experienced since my conversion on January 3, 2011 (at one of the campgrounds I just revisited!), I began to experience visions in dreams and have callings and direction placed upon my heart and mind like never before.

I believe it took the months of complete rest and separation from the lifetime of busyness and weeks of nothing but communion with God before I got my first small taste of what it looks like to love God and love myself.

And in that place, His still small voice put on my heart how I could love my neighbor.

Although the Holy Spirit moments are too numerous to articulate, one of the most impactful things that happened to me over and over was I met people at nearly every campground that shared their story with me.

One was a young married couple struggling to get through their masters teaching degrees and paying $3000 per month for a tiny one bedroom outside of San Francisco in a place with paper-thin walls and rude neighbors. They are full of hope for the future and would love to move, but they can’t afford it. 

Another was a French-born artist, designer, and chef with a lifetime of hardship and reliance on Christ. Her story was both painful and inspirational as she recounts how God has seen her through the best and worst of times. She now has a dream to open an Airbnb back in her hometown in France but she can’t afford it.

Another was an elderly couple – the sweetest people with the most heart-wrenching stories I’ve ever heard. From losing a teenage daughter to being disabled and yet having to care for their 82-year-old mother with dementia and cancer. They need medical aid but they can’t afford it.

What evolved through those very personal connections was a new ministry idea that I believe came straight from God.

I can create a new website which highlights the people, places, and things that I experience in my own healing journey and for those people and causes that could be blessed with financial support I will create and sponsor GoFundMe campaigns for them all.

And so it was born out of the ashes of my own poor choices and a relentlessly patient and loving God

Journey of Redemption – Healing   JORHEALING.COM.

I got home a couple days ago from this extensive time away exhausted but in a better place. My body and mind are still worn but my soul for the first time in a long time is motived again, filled with energy from the Holy Spirit and the creative juices have been flowing. I started creating the various moving pieces of this new ministry opportunity the minute I got home.

So, I’m reaching out to you, my regular readers, and any who may stumble on this blog to please go check out my new endeavor.

It is very young and there are no donation opportunities available yet, but you can get an idea of the entire concept with the seeding of stuff I already have on there and I’d love to hear any feedback.

And if you would toss in some gratuitous likes and follows that would help too (shameless plug)

Father God, I thank you for the current illness that has forced me to my knees, forced me into solitude and silence, forced me into repentance and communion. The weakness instills concern in me Lord but please let this season do the work it needs to do above all else. I have felt you nearly laugh at me when I say “I’m all in”, responding only that I have no idea what all in looks like. I do believe Lord this is next level stuff you have placed on my heart and imagination. I would love to break my financial dependence on the overbearing workloads and stress of my existing job, but as you know fear drives me more than faith. Help us all Father to experience first hand the joy of resting at your feet more than our need to be doing dishes. Help us to love ourselves better and in that learn how you want to use us to truly love our neighbors as you would, all of them. We pray these things in the mighty and precious name of Jesus…

Posted in conviction, encouragement, faith, God's story, hope, Jesus, my story, trials | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Search For Peace

Romans 8:5  Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.


Peace comes up so often in the bible. It is truly one of the greatest desires and gifts the Father has for us. So why is it so elusive?

What parent doesn’t enjoy watching their child being fully content. Whether they are building something with Legos (do kids still do that), having a tea party with their dolls (are dolls even still a thing?) or reading a book (ok, now I’m really pushing it)… a child at rest or recreation.

The point is, a parent hopefully isn’t grinding constantly on “do your homework, clean up your room, take out the trash, do the dishes”. There is a time for service to the family but how much MORE joy is there when watching a child take a nap, or having a fun conversation with a friend on the phone laughing and joking, to know our child is fully at peace.

It’s like the point of this is elusive in my own heart. It feels so much like I need to be “doing” for God to make Him happy, but yet how much more does He find great joy in me when I am simply experiencing great joy and peace.

I’ve found this concept of PEACE (or lack there of) has been coming up more and more lately.  So this morning I ask myself;

Am I truly experiencing peace?

After some time of reflection, I’ve come to the conclusion the honest answer is rarely.

I have moments of accomplishment, moments of laughter, moments of worship, moments of prayer & meditation… at times I believe I do authentically experience God.

But all too often I feel driven more than peaceful. I actually feel guilty when trying to embrace a sabbath and rest, or worrying about those who are suffering hardship or persecution while I’m “having fun” at some social or recreational outing, or even feeling shame when being forced to rest, as is the case the last 2 weeks while being out of work for medical reasons.

So what does God say about peace?

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peacebut now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. 16 Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God.
Blessed are the peace-makers, for they will be called children of God.
There is so much more to be extracted from the Word of God on the subject, but the message is becoming more clear.
What then are the ingredients of peace?
  • Discipline, Obedience and Righteousness
  • Faith
  • God’s Favor
  • Joy and Unity in the Spirit
  • Living as the New Creation
  • Being a peace-maker

It is so easy for me to get wrapped up in the world, in the pressures of family, work and ministry. The things I worry about I believe are good things, but I am not supposed to worry at all!

Provided I’m am doing my part through faith and obedience to the the Word of God, the outcomes are ALWAYS up to GOD.

And as is always the case, God’s Word simplifies this topic so much better than I ever could.

Philippians 4:6-8
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Father God I confess I so often focus on the wrong things. I am judging what I do for You instead of just rejoicing in who I am in You. Yes we are to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling”, but does that mean my salvation hangs in the balance of my works or holiness? I come to you this morning humbled and somewhat surprised that after all these years of reading Your Word, especially these passages in Romans and Philippians, that I have continued to search for and question why peace and rest is so elusive. Let not this message of being transformed by the renewal of our minds fall on numbed hearts or deaf ears, mine most of all Lord. 
Posted in bible study, encouragement, God's story, hope, Jesus, my story | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

The Best Divine Appointment Ever

Challenge Accepted!

An amazingly creative and inspirational fellow blogger over at Fractured Faith posted a Flash Fiction Challenge. Fiction is not something I write so I felt this would be a fun and challenging way to stretch my imagination and writing.

fractured faith blog

I have no clue where this will go but thanks for the challenge!

Her Name is Helena

When I hike I like to be at the trailhead before sunrise, today that is 5:15am and I’m on the Cliffs of Fairhead.

belfast cliff

Cliffs of Fairhead

The cliffs have been around forever, truly one of the most iconic locations of Northern Ireland. Access to some of it hasn’t always been easy until a little more than a year ago when a new hiking trail was created near Ballycastle.  It quickly became one of my favorite walks with breathtakingly beautiful views from the top of Ballycastle, Murlough Bay, Rathlin Island and the Scottish isles

I love this time of day for many reasons and often find myself at sunrise visiting trails around my hometown of Dunmurry, just outside of Belfast.

I usually hike alone. Not because I’m a loner, but because nature is the place where I truly feel closest to God. To smell the fresh air and feel the crispness of the pre-dawn dew on my skin; to witness the magnitude of his creation and hear the sounds of the birds and the scurry of the badgers, rabbits, and hedgehogs or maybe even catch a glimpse of a small Red Fox in the brush or the wild goats on the cliffs below.


Red Fox

Some of my favorites hikes have been the Mourne Mountains in early winter when the first dusting of snow sticks to the highest peaks yet the warmth of the morning sun quickly silences the bitter chill of pre-dawn.

Mourne Mountains

Mourne Mountains

Or the Tollymore Forest Walk in early summer when the temperatures rise and the river is at full flow.

Tollymore Forest

Tollymore Forest Park Walk

Or the Polygonal Basalt Columns along the Causeway Coastal Walk. Some days it’s only the 2-mile walk from Windy Gap but if you can afford the 2-days off work during mid-week you must try the longer 33-mile treck from Portrush to Carrick-a-Rede to Ballycastle.


polygonal basalt columns in Northern Irish Coast

And along the way, a highlight for me is a must-see stop at the Dunluce Castle.

Dunluce Castle

Dunluce Castle

But I digress, this day was to be something special, something different. This day I believe God Himself introduced His beauty of creation to me in a very personal and extraordinary way. This day I would meet Helena.

This trek started as most others. A short uphill climb gets the heart pumping and muscles attuned to their task ahead. This is another reason why I like early morning solitude, I always find myself breathing a bit labored (ok, gasping for air) in the first mile.

As I crested the first hill I saw the silhouette of what appeared to be a woman or young man in the distance walking the same direction I was toward the cliffs. I remember thinking that was odd being that I didn’t see another car parked at the trailhead.

Due to the distance between us, I lost sight of him/her as the trail rounded a bend up ahead. And anyway, my pace slowed as I once again connected with the peacefulness and majesty of God’s handiwork.

I distinctly remember feeling expectant this day as I had earlier petitioned God for a Divine Encounter. Whether it be witnessing something spectacular or rare in nature, or working out some pressing problem that incessantly rattles around in my head. I was even open to having the opportunity of sharing Jesus Christ with someone.

Mind you I’m not an outwardly Evangelical kind of person, but my story is a very crooked path and I am truly grateful to be just a broken man plucked from the ashes by a gracious Savior, so any opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus is welcomed.

As I resumed my journey up the hill and around the corner I could now clearly make out that the person ahead was a woman. She was standing on the bluff and I recall thinking to myself how much she must be enjoying the spectacular view.

As I drew closer however something didn’t seem right. She was standing alarmingly close to the cliff’s edge. Mind you these are rocky and crumbly cliffs and not considered the most stable; enjoying the view from a safe distance is always the best plan.

And she didn’t seem to be looking out at the horizon, or up and down the coastline, but instead staring, somewhat intently, down at the crashing surf some 120 meters below.

As the trail neared her location it made a sharp right turn into the valley. She hadn’t noticed me yet and I realized I had a decision to make; go toward her or move on.

“Clearly, she wants her solitude,” I thought to myself. But something was drawing me to her. A feeling, a sense of urgency, a calling if you will. It’s that voice that tells you to do something far outside your comfort zone, the one that urges you to stick your nose in places that it many times doesn’t seem to belong. I hate that voice oftentimes, however, I recalled praying for a Divine Appointment earlier that morning and clearly, this had His earmark all over it.

As I left the trail and move towards her I remained almost shocked at just how close to the cliff’s edge she was standing. I actually felt afraid that if I startled her the slight jump and turn would be enough to send her plummeting over the edge to her untimely demise.

I was also close enough now to see that she appeared to be a beautiful woman, well, in my estimation anyway. Long flowing auburn hair wearing a sundress and cowboy boots; neither of which seemed appropriate for a sunrise trail hike.

As I neared her I made an intentional effort to drag my feet, scuff a rock, clear my throat… anything to let her know she wasn’t alone up here before I got too close to be considered a space invader.

She did eventually hear me and thankfully safely turned toward me. I could tell she had been crying and I stopped my forward progress about 10 meters from her and called out “good morning”.

She replied, “if you say so”.

It didn’t take a spiritually tuned psychologist to put the pieces together, this was a woman who was out of place and clearly hurting.

“Well” I said cautiously, “by the looks of the scenery and weather this morning it seems like a good morning”. She replied, “I hadn’t noticed”.

Without thinking (I do that allot btw) I blurted out “how could you not notice?”

She gave a half-hearted smile and paused as if to consider whether to end this conversation or sacrifice a few minutes in pleasantries.

I have become very accustomed to this situation of waiting on another person’s decision to engage in conversation or not. And as I always did at this moment I simply prayed silently to myself “God, if you have something for her then open her heart and ears and take control of my thoughts and words”.

To my somewhat surprise (I don’t know why I am often surprised by God’s intervention) her entire body seemed to soften; her shoulders dropped and she took a deep breath and let it out in an almost ghostly sigh.

“I suppose you are right” she responded, “it is a beautiful morning and I do love this place”. “That is why I came up here I suppose, I’ve come up here often in happier times and I guess I went on autopilot when I got the news”.

Cautiously I replied, not wanting to give the impression I was wanting to pry into her personal life “what news is that if I may ask”.

She again paused, clearly mulling over the reality that her decision to engage in small-talk has quickly run its course and now is her last opportunity to reply that she would rather not talk about it and go back to the solitude she came up here for.

I again silently prayed,  “Your will not mine be done Father” and I was at peace with the silence that filled the space between us.

It felt like something out of a Star Trek episode, her scanners were looking me up and down, assumably checking the expression on my face, the posture of my body, who knows maybe the clothes I was wearing and the wrinkles at the corners of my eyes and leathery brown skin; she had to quickly discern, friend or foe.

She then softly replied in a voice that was barely audible “I was given the news yesterday afternoon that I have cancer”. I remained silent, just looking at her with a pain in my heart. I understood what she was going through, I lost my mom to cancer, it is a horribly vicious disease and everything about her being here made sense at that moment.

She continued, “I left the doctors office yesterday and just began to drive, and drive and drive. No specific destination in mind, I just needed to not sit still. I ran out of gas somewhere and then just began to walk, and walk, and walk”.

She again paused, gave me another glance and then continued returning her gaze downward at the ground. “I believe God has a plan for us all, but this was not anything I was prepared for” she confided. “I didn’t set out to do anything drastic but to be perfectly honest, just before you walked up I was considering how much easier it would be to just take one small step of faith off this cliff and not have to go through whatever lies ahead”.

All I could muster through my welling up eyes and crackling voice was a mutter, hardly audible, the words: “I totally understand”.

We locked eyes at that moment, she was all-in. She wasn’t going to have to share this burden alone, at least not in this moment. She began to cry and I moved closer and she fell into my arms sobbing.

We cried together for what seemed like an eternity. I was reliving the heartache of the loss of my mother and I’m sure she was painting a picture of the worse to come in her mind.

It became clear to me at that moment why I was there; why God had me hiking that trail on that day.

I asked her if she had family in the area and she shared that she was an only child and that her dad passed away many years ago. And that her mother married a not-so-nice man several years back and they were living in Manchester England but that they don’t speak much anymore. “I couldn’t call her with this news out of the blue” she said, “it would tear her apart”.

“How about friends,” I asked. “I have a couple girlfriends but their work has them traveling all over the world at times, neither of them are home at the moment and I haven’t wanted to say anything to them yet”.

There was a breeze coming up over the cliffs as the sun got higher in the sky and the prevailing ocean winds began to pick up. I took off my windbreaker and placed it over her bare shoulders. She looked at me appreciatively and snuggled into the jacket.

By this time we moved to a log a few feet back from the cliff’s edge. There were seabirds souring along the tradewinds looking for breakfast and we just sat there watching them for a while, not saying a word.

I broke the silence by commenting that I didn’t see her car in the parking lot. She said she didn’t even recall where she had run out of gas. “It was probably 3 am and I was walking for a couple hours prior to noticing I was close to this place, so I just headed here”.

“Would you like help to find your car” I inquired and she responded, “if it is OK with you, can we just sit here a while longer”.  “Of course,” I said, and we sat.

In the silence, I had the opportunity to converse some more with God. I have been a single man for quite a while. Being in my 50’s I’ve pretty much given up on actively dating so meeting women outside of church or work isn’t a regular occurrence. At that moment I assured God that I was VERY aware of her vulnerable position, that I would be there for her for as much or as little as she (or He) needed that day but that I won’t even consider anything beyond that… even though I found her very well spoken and attractive.

I could have sworn I heard God reply, “don’t put limits on what I am doing here”.

My heart literally skipped a beat at the thought of dating her but I quickly put that thought aside believing it to be my own wishful thinking and incredibly selfish considering what she is going through and concluded it clearly couldn’t have been God’s voice.

Looking at my watch I commented that it was 6:30 and inquired if she wanted to find her car and maybe get something to eat. She looked at me with kind soft eyes and said yes, she was ready to go.

It wasn’t a long hike back to my car and being the gentleman I am I unlocked her side first and closed the door. As I walked around the car my head was spinning with what had transpired in the last hour. Life can change in the blink of an eye, we never know what God has in store for us at any given moment.

As we left the parking lot she wasn’t even sure which direction she came in from. We drove around for a few minutes but no matter which direction we went none of it seemed familiar. She then said she had a doctors appoint that morning back in Belfast and asked if I wouldn’t mind giving her a ride. I almost excitedly replied, “I live just outside of Belfast in Dunmurry”. She equally excitedly said one of her girlfriends lives in Dunmurry”. A coincidence?

So we abandoned the hunt for her car and headed southward. It was over an hour drive but conversation came easily as we spoke about jobs, places we lived, the hobbies we enjoy and the pets we have owned. We spoke of past relationships both good and bad. We then both seemingly at the exact same time realized we didn’t know each other’s name. She told me her’s was Helena, what a beautiful name I thought. I replied “my name is Roger, nice to meet you” and we shook hands with a giggle.

It was nice to see that it appeared her mind was taken off her condition for at least a brief moment anyway. Gratefully doctors had discovered her cancer early on, and the prognosis was very good that treatments and a healthy mind, body and spiritual lifestyle could have a great impact on overcoming this.

As we entered the city at rush hour around 8am she commented that her stomach was upset and that she hadn’t eaten since getting the news yesterday afternoon. I asked if she would like to stop at a restaurant but she assured me she wasn’t that hungry.

So I pulled into a local Tesco and asked if she would like to get something small like some fruit and rice. She looked at me almost apologetically and said: “I left my purse in the car” and we both laughed at the notion that it was now nearly 100km away.

I told her that was no problem at all and we went inside. She playfully said that since I’m paying for her that this was officially our “first date”. I was shocked and thrilled at the comment, not even believing I heard her correctly but when I looked at her I knew she was very intentional with her comment. I offered her my arm and she took it and moved in close, and we walked into the store.

This all took place several days ago.

I’m happy to report that she made it to her doctor’s appointment ok and the initial news is that she is a great candidate for biopsy and that chemo should not be necessary initially.

Later that day, we drove back to Ballycastle and found her car. In fact, ever since our fateful encounter, we have been nearly inseparable. I don’t recall ever feeling so comfortable or happy to be around another person. We have plans to continue hiking together, and I’ve committed to going with her to each of her doctor’s appointment to ensure that she doesn’t have to go this alone.

Who knows where it goes from here, but I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to spend a season with Helena.

Oh, and if you think this story sounds too fate-filled to actually be true, we even saved the receipt from our first date!

banana and rice

It may not seem like much but I have a feeling we will be sharing this gem with our kids someday 🙂

(Editor Note: inspiration and some pictures for locations mentioned in this creative writing exercise came from this website)

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How Do You Run From God?

Jonah 1:2b …But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord

Pieter Lastman – Jonah and the Whale

There is a name for the season I’m in. I’d like to think it is “dedicated”, “hard worker”, “team player”, “sacrificial”… even workaholic… call it anything but DISOBEDIENT.

I’ve been working up to 7 days and 70+ hour weeks the last year or more. Not every week but many of them, especially in the last several months.

It all began a couple of years ago when my company took me out of my 15-year salaried office  job as an IT Manager and put me in the field as an hourly technician. At the time it felt like a huge demotion. I thought “I’m an IT Manager, field technician is the grunt work that leads up to my position, I’ve got 30 years IT experience, don’t you know what I’m worth”.

I’ve always been devoted to my work. Heck, why not, a career is the easiest place to hide from real life while seemingly participating in it. It’s the perfect front for the wounded soul.

“Sorry I’ve got to work” leaves little room for others to push back. We all know how important a job or career is, it’s the centerpiece of many people’s existence. We may argue it isn’t but how many opportunities in life are missed cuz “I gotta work”.

And how many obligations are avoided cuz “I gotta work”.  It sounds altruistic on the surface, a sacrifice, a cross to bear; I’m needed for the success of the company and it puts food on the table… win-win, right?

And if the company wants to bless you with 1.5x pay for anything over 8 hours and 2x pay for anything over 12… who can resist? This is a blessing from the Lord right?

As I woke this morning and petitioned God to lead me into His word and to press on my heart His message for my soul, even before opening my bible He put Jonah’s plight front and center.

Why Jonah Lord“, I asked, “what are you implying”.

His response was immediate and so boldly hit me that it felt audible… “I DON’T IMPLY”. It felt stern and urgent, clearly a 2×4-up-the-side-of-the-head moment.

Well ok then, God says I am running. How and why are clearly the next appropriate questions. And sadly (or gratefully) both answers came very quickly.

“You are using the guise of career importance and the pursuit of money to avoid friends, family & ministry and it is costing you your self-care and distancing your heart from mine”

OUCH!!!! Way to unravel nearly my entire existence, thank you for that Lord! (yes, God understands and accepts my sarcasm)

Jonah didn’t NOT believe in God; quite the opposite. Jonah knew he was called by God to preach to a fallen land. He was called into a ministry and message that he personally didn’t “want” to do.

Jonah knew God was powerful enough to use him to bring a nation to repentance; Jonah ran from his calling and the life experiences God had for him.

Could that message apply to me?

I am over 50 yet never been married and not dating

I am a father yet only see my son once a week at best lately

I am (was?) a leader at church but rarely find (make) time for church activities outside of my men’s groups, and even those I more often lately leave to my co-leaders when I’m working 15 hour days. 

I have not served in any volunteer activities in nearly a year

I don’t pick up the phone every time someone in recovery calls me 

I rarely blog or journal anymore

Don’t get me wrong, I read my bible, pray and talk with (at?) God daily… and I rely on Him heavily to survive these physically and mentally challenging days on the job.

But emotionally and spiritually I’m disconnecting from the world and my calling to preach to and encourage the hurting and lost around me.

Case in point: I pray every morning that God open doors for me to share the Good News while on the job, to make some spiritual use out of this selfish workaholic season.

Literally, just a couple days ago a very pretty European or Middle Eastern descent young woman out of nowhere burst out “why do people keep cramming Jesus on me, I don’t even believe in him. They can’t force me to believe something that I don’t”.

I was on a ladder at the time about to squeeze into a ceiling crawlspace to run network cable and I was completely caught off guard by her comment. Nobody else was around and it was as if she was arguing with an evil spirit right in front of me.

Talk about a wide open door to engage!

But I remained silent. I immediately knew God loved this young lady and wanted her freedom and that I was Divinely placed at this exact moment to water the seeds planted by others… but I had so little in the wellspring, and she was so angry, rude to other employees, condescending to vendors and even customers.

Everything about her made the hair stand up on the back of my neck and I “chose” not to engage.

That experience has bothered me ever since it happened. I don’t think God is upset that I didn’t engage, I believe He knew I wouldn’t and orchestrated that to reveal where my heart is lately.

“George, you have been striving in the flesh for so long pursuing the lesser things”. “When are you going to stop running from the deeper ways I want to use you.”

This is not an easy lesson for me friends. As I type this I feel like this message would be better served tucked away in a private journal for reflection and not shared with my readers.

And while I’m confessing, at this point I honestly hear more arguments against change than for it.

Pressing into difficult relationships… is difficult

Sacrificing free time for volunteer work is… a sacrifice

Stepping into the messiness of other people’s brokenness… is messy

Preaching the Gospel to people who are fighting God’s pursuit of them… is a fight

Risking exposure of my mess to date again… is risky

Committing to more at church requires… more commitment

Working fewer hours means… less money

But there is hope for me

Jonah’s Prayer

Jonah 2:1-9

 Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the stomach of the fish, and he said,

“I called out of my distress to the Lord,
And He answered me.
I cried for help from the depth of Sheol;
You heard my voice.
“For You had cast me into the deep,
Into the heart of the seas,
And the current engulfed me.
All Your breakers and billows passed over me.
“So I said, ‘I have been expelled from Your sight.
Nevertheless I will look again toward Your holy temple.’
“Water encompassed me to the point of death.
The great deep engulfed me,
Weeds were wrapped around my head.
“I descended to the roots of the mountains.
The earth with its bars was around me forever,
But You have brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God.
“While I was fainting away,
I remembered the Lord,
And my prayer came to You,
Into Your holy temple.
“Those who regard vain idols
Forsake their faithfulness,
But I will sacrifice to You
With the voice of thanksgiving.
That which I have vowed I will pay.
Salvation is from the Lord.”


Have you been running from God lately? 

How do you hide in plain sight?

Addictions, avoiding meetings and gathering with other believers, excesses like food, gaming or social media binging, workaholism, something else?

Are there burdens on your heart or opportunities to make a difference in the life of another that you missed or worse, intentionally avoided?

What does repentance look like for us?

Jonah 3:3a

So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the word of the Lord…

Lord as I watched that video tears streamed down my face. I am tired of running Father. I didn’t even realize I was running but it seems so clear this morning. Work satisfies the needs of the flesh in so many ways but if it comes at the expense of pushing out deeper relationships and time spent pouring into the souls of others for Your glory then the price is too high. You did not give everything through Your life, death, and resurrection for us, for me, to spend it avoiding the deeper things of Your calling and ministry placed in our hearts. You grow us all Father in special ways through life experiences and the Holy Spirit within which uniquely equips and qualifies us to serve others right where we are. May this not be a one-time conviction that we move past easily Lord but be the foundation for true heart evolution. Let it be a call to repentance, a call to courage, a call to move toward You and stop running from You. May this come to bear under the powerful and precious name and blood of Jesus Christ…  

Revelation 12:11 And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.

I encourage anyone so moved to confide and confess to the ways you have been running from God’s calling on your life in the comment section below, who knows how God may use that to reach and inspire another! 

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Mark 8:17b-18: …Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?

rememberWhy is it faith seems so cyclic for me? Some days I wake on fire eager to meet the Divinely Appointed events that are always far outside of my control or even desire and other days I wake with a sense of dread wondering how I’m going to get through another day.

Multiply that times days, weeks, even months. Some seasons are powerfully rooted in the love of Christ being fully aware of His power and presence in my life. And others…

As our Thursday discipleship group kicks off a new book study (Beautiful Outlaw – John Eldredge) I find myself reflective of the good ole days; the early years when I first truly acknowledged Jesus as Savior on January 3, 2011. That day came after many decades of hearing about Him but never truly going all-in.

Faith seemingly came much easier in those early months. Or maybe a better way to describe it would be to say joy was more prevalent because I was much less emotionally invested in the specific outcomes of the trials and quicker to respond to Divine Opportunities.

Each day I woke with an expectation that God was fully present in EVERYTHING and that my whole purpose in life was simply to be aware of the Divine Appointments placed in my path at each moment.

For example: I recall a time when an application server crashed one morning. As the I.T. Manager I did all that I knew to do yet was forced to call the application vendor for support. The support agent I spoke with said it was a catastrophic failure and that the server needed to be reloaded and the database rebuilt. I was looking at hours if not days to bring the system back online, I was devastated and filled with anxiety.

After hanging up with that person I realized I was trying to face this situation under my own strength and stopped everything. I took several deep breaths… and prayed. I simply said “I trust you Jesus, I release my fear and anxiety and surrender this situation to you”. 

What happened next I can’t explain (well I can but not in the natural). I seem to recall having the thought “now that God is on the case let me call back support again”. I didn’t really know why I was calling them again, I already had their solution to the problem.

A new support agent answered this time and after explaining the situation he asked to remotely connect to the server. After a few minutes and a flurry of keystrokes we rebooted one last time and everything came up perfectly fine!

I have absolutely no hesitation in proclaiming it was the sovereignty of God and my properly positioned heart and attitude that resolved that situation.

Everything in life is a test – an opportunity to surrender to God and watch HIM unfold the events to His glory and purposes. 

Another example of a properly tuned heart came one day when I went to one of my favorite fast food restaurants (shameless plug – EL Pollo Loco). As I pulled into the driveway and saw the homeless man standing by the entrance my initial thought was “this is a drive thru day” and the action plan was to “not make eye contact”.

On the heels of that thought however I stopped, prayed and surrendered to whatever HE would have me do.

Again, much like the down server example above, I found myself doing the opposite of what made sense to me, I parked! “OK Lord, I guess I’m supposed to do something”,  although I had no idea what that is”.

As I approached, as if on que, the guy asked if I had any money.

Instead of throwing a couple dollars at him I asked if he wanted to come in and order lunch himself. He looked at me clearly surprised by the offer, paused for a moment as if to mull over the pros and cons of the offer, then accepted.

I could tell the patrons and employees behind the counter were immediately put off by his presence. He’s a regular that hangs around the establishment so he was not unfamiliar and didn’t seem very welcomed. We stood in line together not saying much beyond an exchange of names and me assuring him a couple times that he could order anything and as much as he wanted.

At the checkout counter he seemed to be going for the $1 items and I encouraged him to go for the meals. Once he and I both ordered, the cashier asked if this was for “here or to go”. Without hesitation (and faster than my conscious mind could respond) I replied “for here please”.

And immediately the thought came over me: What the hell was I doing, now I have to sit down across from this man with no clue of what to say or do.

After getting our food and loading up on the salsa bar we found a table and sat down. I asked him if I could say a prayer for the food and he agreed. I remember thanking God for the opportunity to eat with Russell and that God had permission to move freely throughout our time together as we enjoyed the meal HE provided us both.

We ate for a few minutes in silence. I could tell he was legitimately hungry which sent pangs of guilt through me. Most often I look at homeless in front of fast-food restaurants as scam artists wanting money only for drugs or alcohol. That may be true in some cases, but not in Russell’s case, at least not on this day.

I found myself asking God “now what”. I knew it wasn’t about me being some hero rescuing a homeless person for one meal… it had to be about something God wanted to say to this man. I knew that would be a conversation that had to be Divinely Inspired so I silently continued to surrender myself to God in the moment.

Soon after that I found myself breaking the silence with a question: So Russell, have you been on the streets long? He didn’t seem to hesitate at all in sharing his story. His family, the life he used to have, the life he has now. I saw waves of emotion wash over him as he shared great memories and sad ones. I didn’t have to say much, just the occasional acknowledgement that I heard him.

I then asked if he knew Jesus. He perked up and eagerly shared of times much worse than the times he was in now and how he truly believe God had rescued him. He spoke of the shelters he was able to stay at and how he even had an opportunity to serve for a while and he REMEMBERED how much better he felt about himself and life in those days. He also confessed how he has fallen far from those days using drugs and stealing.

I shame was calling the shots in his life now and asked if he knew that God still loved him as much today as He did back then. I could see the conversation was reminding him of how faithful God had been in the past and that it was him who stopped talking to God, not the other way around.

As we finished up lunch he seemed like a different person. He seemed greatly encouraged and motived to get back to God and the only way he knew to do that was to go back to the shelter and people that helped him before.

I asked him if I could pray for him and he again said yes. I remember asking God to simply fan the flames, reignite the passion in Russell that he may remember the joy in those days of restoration and growth in Christ. He said he was going to go there directly from lunch and I gave him $5 for the bus to get there.

If he used the $5 for the bus that day I will never know. Did our lunch have any impact beyond just the 1/2hr we spent together, I’ll never know.

But I do believe I was faithful to the calling God pressed upon me in both of those situations. Neither of those would have turned out anything like they had if I had not stopped to remember that God is faithful, God is my power-plant, God is my motivation, my hope and my strength.

And I believe He wants to use every one of us every day in every situation, but only if our hearts are tuned to His frequency. And most importantly  fueled by remembering that Christ alone is our Redeemer.

There are no situations in our life that cannot be overcome if we will only REMEMBER…

… to surrender

… what God has done for us

… His promises

… His covenant and commands

… His faithfullness

… His anointing and calling on our lives

… this world is not our Home

… (add your own here!)

After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”
Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered?
In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
You have forgotten God your Savior; you have not remembered the Rock, your fortress…
I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.


Father God I thank You for bringing my heart back to you this morning. I thank you for reminding me that with free will comes the sole obligation to pursue You above all else, that You are present in all situations and that I have the option of leaning into You for Your glory and strength or relying on my own understandings and self-will. I recognize there can be no true peace when I am the designer responsible for the outcomes of daily events. In each moment, if only I will surrender, I am then free to be a witness to Your power and glory working through me which transcends anything I could ever bring to the table on my own. May You continue to glorify yourself through your faithful servants near and far, today and forevermore. In Jesus precious name I pray…

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Self-Preservation Often Isnt…

Matthew 25:25

So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’


How many of our life decisions do we make based out of fear? For me, it’s been a lot.

The parable of the talents is not just about money… in fact far from it. The call of God, the Redemption of Christ, and the Power of the Holy Spirit is not bestowed upon people just so they can get a comfortable, easy life. Again, quite the opposite.

In God’s economy, everyone must pull their own weight. We are given the power and authority to do the things He has called us to do.

Hebrews 13:20-21 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Does that mean we are to quit our jobs and move overseas?

For some maybe, but for most, it just means do everything you do for the Glory of God.

If you aren’t familiar with this parable – in short, a man entrusts 3 servants with different sums of money. To each, he only gives what they are capable of handling (God will not call us to do what He hasn’t equipped us for). One he gives 5, another 3, and the last only one.

The man with 5 doubled his money through investments, the man with 3 doubled his money through hard work, but the man with one buried the bag in the dirt until the master’s return.

Why? Because he was afraid

A Warning: Taking the path of least resistance is the quickest way to pop up on The Enemy’s radar. Satan loves to pile on when he see’s us letting fear, laziness or selfishness choose our path.

An example in my own life that just happened recently: a group of employees (men in 30’s and 40’s) was engaged in (sadly typical) water cooler talk. How hot this girl was, making crude jokes. It was not ok but these are not self-professed Christians and Jesus doesn’t tell us to admonish the world, only other Christians.

Matthew 7:6

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

I noticed however that I (a Christian man in my 50’s) and a young college student were the only two that weren’t jumping on the bandwagon, but I also noticed the young man was actively listening.

I was OK with just ignoring the conversation but I felt a pang of responsibility to model what a real man looks like to the college kid and speak up. It didn’t have to be a preachy “your going to hell” fire and brimstone stuff, just a simple “guys, tone it down or take the conversation elsewhere, this isn’t appropriate for inside the office”.

But I didn’t say anything. Instead, I just prayed that God would run the conversation dry quickly so the ears of those being held hostage by the crude conversation would be set free.

Why didn’t I speak up? Fear of ridicule? Fear of being judged as a prude, for of not looking like a “real” man, being seen as a Bible-thumping Jesus freak?

In light of this passage, if we are burdened in a social situation is that not because the Holy Spirit has placed us in that situation then given us the discernment, authority, and strength to overcome fear and uncomfortableness and step in to offer alternative ways of relating to and loving others?

Romans 12:2 

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

And how many times in a day does stuff like this happen?

You get too much change back at the fast-food drive-through and keep it

You see a rude customer harassing an employee and just wait your turn

You let anger (fear and pride combined) get the best of you and say hurtful things to your spouse or other family members in the heat of the moment

You engage in water cooler gossip or immature banter or as I did choose to stay silent

You see bullies at school picking on weaker kids and turn the other way or worse grab your cell-phone to record it to paste on your facebook page in hopes of going viral (whole different sermon on that topic!)

God has blessed you with an income but you don’t tithe or support some kind of charity or community outreach

You love God’s word and the people at your church but leading a life-group or volunteering at church seems like “too much hassle” or “way out of the comfort zone”.

I would challenge anyone reading this to make that list personal. Spend a few minutes and think about the times when the decision to “not get involved” is justified by (typically weak) excuses fueled by fear, laziness or selfishness.

Matthew 25:26-30

26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. 28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’  [empashis added]

Clearly, there is a warning here: We are to step in, step up, get involved, use the talents and treasures our Lord has given us for the Glory of God. We are called to make our bodies a living sacrifice, Holy and Pleasing to God.


Fear is nothing more than an overly active sense of self-preservation. To avoid conflict is to condone the status-quo. Being a peace-keeper does not mean avoid righteous conflict.

Mark 8:36

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

Am I truly making a difference in the life of those God divinely appoints me too; whether it be my family, workplace, community, or the whole world?

Father God – as much as the double-edged sword stings, my prayer is that you let it cut deeply. Sanctification is Yours to purvey on our fearful and selfish souls and I want to be counted as a good and faithful servant. I thank You for the conviction that no matter how much I think I may be righteous there is always the flesh, fear and an Enemy whispering lies in an attempt to silence and sideline those whom You’ve called and equipped for the battles of the heart. Let not Your word fall on deaf ears, mine above all Father. Give me the courage to press boldly into a broken world not out of conviction or in condemnation but out of Love. Show us how to courageously shower the world with the love, mercy, kindness, and Grace that You heap on us Lord. May You be glorified here on earth as You are in heaven. In Jesus’ precious name I pray…

Bonus Video 

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Privilege is Awesome!

Romans 5:1-2

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. 2 Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

Empty Tomb

So as I continue to press deeper in rekindling the fire and passion for Christ, God wanted me to remember that this all started with His passion for me.

The book study our Thursday group has been in for nearly a year is John Eldredge “Waking the Dead”. I can’t recommend it enough, a powerful journey into the condition of our hearts, the longing God has for restoring it, and the position and role we have in Christ.


The book is (my paraphrase) an attempt to awaken (or re-awaken) the warrior inside. You know, that man-on-fire who first came to life when the Gospel became real. A time when our faith was no longer our parent’s faith, or something “those people” had. It’s a place in the heart where the Risen Christ meets our broken soul and we realized freedom was not only possible but guaranteed if only I would believe.

The life Jesus purchased for us is at the core of everything. As I’ve longed for peace for this past several months it wasn’t that I felt God was not real, but I’d have to admit the magnitude of gratitude of what He has done for me was fading.

The Gospel had become routine. Yeah God died for me, blah blah resurrection blah new life yada yada.

If God is the source of all faith and love and our intimacy with Him begins to wane, how on earth or heaven can we ever have peace, be filled with passion, have mercy and unconditional love for our “neighbors”. Without a zeal for the message of hope, redemption and restoration in and through Christ how can we ever feel truly alive?

Faith makes us right with God and gives us undeserved privilege. 

In a season where privilege is considered a bad thing, I’d like to say it is a magnificent thing! I’d like to shout it from the rooftops.

But it is also a double-edged sword. We must first acknowledge we have privilege, revel in it, let it fill us with a gratitude that is not condescending to others whom might nott have it.  Instead we must recognize it with humility that we did nothing to earn it. God and/or circumstance outside our control selected us for privilege.

And with privilege comes a burden to use it for others. Whether through preaching, teaching, sacrificing, donating, coming alongside others with every means and resource we have been given.

Privilege is not meant for us, it is meant for us to use for others.

Romans 9:4 They are the people of Israel, chosen to be God’s adopted children. God revealed his glory to them. He made covenants with them and gave them his law. He gave them the privilege of worshiping him and receiving his wonderful promises.

 Romans 12:3 Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.

Ephesians 3:8 Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ.

1 Peter 4:16 But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name!

Huge injustices are done when yielding the power of privilege and forgetting that all privilege is undeserved. Without that indescribably critical distinction, humility becomes pride and we think we earned or deserve it and nothing could be further from the Truth of Christ and what HE did for us.

Father God I thank You and You alone for the privilege of having access and opportunity to study and reflect upon Your Word this morning. I thank You and You alone for the faith and desire to even do so. May the message of humility predicate any favor that I receive this day, that even the faith that I have is from You and You alone. None of this life is about me or even for me. May You and You alone receive glory and praise and may my life be a poured out offering testifying to the Good Works you are doing in my life. Thank you Jesus, it is in Your name I pray this morning…

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