Friday, August 21, 2009

It’s Not What You Think It Is

I sit at the top of Mount Tabor, watching the sun set over the valley, Portland bathed in shadows below me. There are only a few wispy clouds to give texture to the sky. This is not a dramatic Van Gough sunset; this is a warm and peaceful Murillo sunset.

On the hillside to my left, a man in a black and white polo holds his girlfriend, her black, curly hair falling across his chest as she reclines comfortably into his arms. Below them, a slightly older couple sits side by side on a white blanket, staring at the reflections of the sky off of the Mount Tabor reservoir.

It is not what I think it is.

Donald Miller writes in Blue Like Jazz about a conversation that he had with a friend on the roof of his home. His friend spoke about marriage as though it was the best part of life, but then he goes on to tell Don that it does not satisfy. G-d did not make man to be alone, but he also did not make man to be satisfied by anything else other than himself.

It is a hard thing for me to understand when I look around and see joyful lovers sharing a bond that I lack. As I sit on the mountainside, I think of my close friends who just announced their engagement. I think about what this sunset together would mean to them. I think about the joy and intimacy that they will share as husband and wife.

Then suddenly, God brings a different picture to my mind. He shows me a woman in her thirties, a woman that has faithfully been seeking him, and protecting her heart, but who does not yet have the companion that she prays for. I think about the anger and frustration that she had to work through when her plans and G-d’s plans were not the same.

I don’t know what God has in store for me, but I know that he has plans to prosper me and not to harm me.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I Blew It Again

As I drove down I-5 today, G-d began to bring different parts of my trip to mind. I started to think about what I had learned, and what opportunities G-d had given me to minister As I thought over the trip, I really began to get a sense of what the L-rd has been doing in my life through this journey. I began to see how I was growing, and what the Lord was teaching me. I thought about what I had learned at the ranch. I thought about the homeless man named Kevin that rode with me the other day. I thought about all that the Lord was showing me about relationships and people. I thought about the prayers that I shared with a friend recently, and the relationships that have come out of this journey.

Then I began to think about other things. I thought about the girl named Mandi, who spoke to me about trusting in the L-rd, counting on his promises to meet our needs, and how it was not irresponsible to follow G-d, even when it meant not making money. I thought about how I failed to listen like I should, because I was allowing myself to be distracted by thoughts of someone else that I wanted to speak to. I feel like I have lost part of the message that the L-rd was trying to give me, because I chose for that moment to delight myself in a girl rather than in G-d. I prayed today that he would give me that message again.

I also thought about another time when I failed on this trip. I remembered a woman in Modesto, CA who asked me if she could sing me a song for some money. I gave her some money, but I told her that I needed to be somewhere, so she did not have to worry about singing for me. I began to walk off, and she noticed that I had a lighter, so she asked me if I needed a cigarette. I told her that I only smoked a pipe and then I thanked her and left.

That may sound fairly innocuous, but the truth is that I took away that woman’s dignity. I should have taken the cigarette even though I would not smoke it. By not allowing her to somehow earn the money that I gave her, I made he into a person to be pitied. I wronged her.

It is funny to think that it was wrong for me to give that lady money when she wanted to earn it, but at the same time, G-d requires us to accept his grace without attempting to earn it. People who try to earn G-d’s grace are referred to in the scriptures as “White Washed Sepulchers.”

I do not want to be someone who tries to earn G-d’s grace, but I also do not want to be someone who misses opportunities to minister to other people.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Please Stop Me…

…If I ever try to move to Ashland, Oregon.

If there is one place where my flesh would have a blast, it is Ashland, Oregon. This city feels a little smaller than Tuscaloosa, and is completely surrounded by wilderness, and yet the downtown area has such an urban, artsy feel. The streets are lined with art shops, photo galleries, and outdoor stores. Beautiful people with athletic bodies and eclectic style are a dime a dozen in Ashland. In the heart of the small city is a huge park that is packed with people performing, making art, and enjoying nature in a setting that feels very much like a large metropolitan park.

Ashland has almost everything that would delight my flesh but not my soul, and for that very reason, I hope that I never live here.

Good News

I feel a little bit sad about leaving the ranch, but I just received news that makes my heart soar. I just found out that two people that I am very close to are getting married. I am so happy for them, and I could not imagine two people that are better suited for each other. I love them both so dearly, and I am about to go pray blessings over their marriage.

This ranks among the happiest days in my life, because I know how much they love each other and how much they both love the L-rd. It gives me hope that fairy tales can come true and that G-d has someone perfect planned for me.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Times change and people grow. This is a fact of life that I am very grateful for. I never imagined that I would return to the ranch, but what really amazes me is that I feel closer to the summer staff this year, even though I have only known them for a week, than I did to the staff of ’07 that I spent an entire summer with.

I think that the big change has been me. I have relaxed and become more relational in my old age, but on top of that, my encounter with Steven and the L-rd’s faithfulness to answer prayer has really changed the way that I relate to the people around me. I am now better equipped to love the summer staff and to receive their love.

In spite of the change in my heart, my week at the ranch was still not without its drama. The problem is women, or more specifically, my incredible attraction to women. G-d has placed a desire in my heart for companion ship, but my attempts to satisfy that desire are always futile.

It was an attempt to satisfy that desire that lead to my drama. The ranch is full of G-dly women, and by the end of my first night at the ranch, one of those women had already caught my eye. Selfishly, I decided to pursue this girl, rather than allowing her to honor her commitment to focus entirely on G-d this summer. It only took a few short days for our brief romance to degenerate into emotional turmoil, as I stole her attention from God and her friends, out of a selfish ambition to satisfy my own loneliness. I don’t know what I would have done if it had not been for the L-rd’s provision.

As I worked with various G-dly men at the ranch, the same theme kept coming up without any prompting from me. Delight yourself in the L-rd and he will give you the desires of your heart. Man after man shared these scriptures with me, until I could no longer deny that this is what the L-rd was speaking to me.

Just as my heart was changing and my desire was shifting toward the L-rd, the woman that I had pursued really began to feel that we were not good for each other and that we were dragging each other away from the L-rd. After an emotional but honest talk, we decided to part ways so that we could once again focus on G-d.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


“I sense that you sometimes have feelings that are not your own. That you feel what other people around you are feeling.”

Steven, a middle aged man with a brain to large for his skull, smiles at me on the little patio outside of the JH Ranch lodge. He has an unusually refined ability to hear from the L-rd, and now he begins to share with me some of the things that the Lord is trying to tell me.

“What can we do for you today?”

He smiles at me and then at his wife who sits in the third chair of our little triangle.

“I want to hear whatever truth the Lord has to share with me” I say with extremely well masked skepticism. I am not one to blindly believe in anyone who claims to have words from the Lord.

We begin to talk, and I soon admit that I have come to see him because of a prejudice that I have against the wealthy people, or more specifically, the culture of wealth. Whenever I meet someone from the money culture, I immediately judge them by assuming that they will judge me and that they won’t like me.

“People will often live up to your expectations,” Steven says, “so if you expect them to judge you, they will. Instead try to look for the good in everyone, and you will usually be able to find it. In fact, I believe that you have a gift for finding the good in people and that you will begin to reveal things to people about themselves that they never knew before”

We prayed for deliverance from my prejudice and, just as I was about to leave, I asked them if there was anything else that the Lord wanted to tell me. That is when they told me about my sensitivity to other peoples feelings.

I have always had a strong ability to tell how people are feeling and what they are thinking about, a characteristic that I inherited from my mother, but I had never considered that some of the feelings that I feel could be coming from other people. According to Pamela, Steven’s wife, G-d allows some people to feel the physical or emotional pain of others so that they can then intercede on behalf of that person through prayer.

I would love to hear different people’s beliefs about that, specifically any beliefs that can be backed up by scriptures.