wisdom

Has Anyone Seen Michael?

My pal Joe cutting my locks, ca. 1990.    My Mama took the pic.   This is my "I would prefer a beating" look.

My pal Joe cutting my locks, ca. 1990.    My Mama took the pic.   This is my "I would prefer a beating" look.

What I couldn't put into words when Joe was done was, "But I really liked my hair, long."

Joe, as always, did phenomenal work.  That wasn't the problem.   The problem was:  now even I couldn't see me.

Joe, as always, did phenomenal work.  That wasn't the problem.   The problem was:  now even I couldn't see me.

I was ineffably sad in this after-cut pic because so much of my identity was wrapped up in that hair and nobody seemed to care that I wasn't much sure who I was without it.  I was still sorting me out and no one was much helping.  In fairness, a large proportion of my people were fighting cancer for their own lives at the time.

The expressions on my face are what the befores always look like when you are paying attention.   And I'm learning as a husband, as a daddy, as a friend:  to really pay attention.  To invest my minutes in the the minute and my moments in the momentous:  or I may miss it.

Like my sister spotted one of those I-missed-it moments when she was back for a visit recently.  She heard just barely under the breath of one of our three favorites:  "Like it matters.."  That's what a hidden oucher sounds like--a little indifference, a little aggression.  

I always see it like the minimize button--it is actually a minus sign or a dash but it shuts the window down.  The problem is:  when you hit too many minimize buttons, you can actually crash your system. 

1993, I discovered this Eric Clapton song about the time I moved to Costa Rica to hide out from all the pains of dying and it was haunting because at times it felt like maybe who I was becoming.  

"Lonely Stranger"

"I must be invisible
No one knows me.
I have crawled down dead-end streets
On my hands and knees.

I was born with a ragin' thirst,
A hunger to be free,
But I've learned through the years.
Don't encourage me.

[Chorus:]
'cause I'm a lonely stranger here,
Well beyond my day.
And I don't know what's goin' on,
So I'll be on my way.

When I walk, stay behind;
Don't get close to me,
'cause it's sure to end in tears,
So just let me be.

Some will say that I'm no good;
Maybe I agree.
Take a look then walk away.
That's all right with me."

The enemy mocks us in our calling.  Anyone who knows me today:  nearly category by category, the fight of my life has been to become the opposite of this song:  surrounded by people I love and trust, genuinely known, authentic, encouraging, shooting shame zombies and their brain-leech associates in the head.

But for a long time, it was a soundtrack for me because it sounded a lot like who I thought I maybe was.

In our family system, I was "the lost boy".   "Has anyone seen Michael?" was one of the most frequent questions asked when I was little.  I would vanish for hours down by our pond and head down to the ravine and explore--by myself.

My mama was just taking pictures trying to cheer me on into this new fabulous career I wasn't at all convinced I wanted because I didn't see how it had anything to do with me.  There aren't enough terabytes of storage for the photos this lady would have taken had she made it into the digital age. But she caught two of me in old 35mm within forty-five minutes that speak loud-volumes to me about that time in my life.

I think they are pretty instructive for how we can miss loving people we want to love well sometimes, if we aren't paying close enough attention.  Oops, missed that catch; txting.  Oops, missed that question, FB.  Oops, news over you won what?

Do you have some photo albums you ought to dig out and some photos you might want to reverse engineer?  Some of them are harder to look at than others but I would encourage you--open up, open them up and try to remember or ask those who were around what was really going on in that shot.  

Ask the Holy Spirit to point a couple out to you.  It is never too late to re-sensitize a tired heart.  God redeems time.  It is His thing.

All over Daniel Chapter 7, he says, "I kept looking."  

We are all in a season right now, I believe, where there is such a deep need to be seen and to keep looking.

I don't want to take the pictures if I'm missing the moment--when the need of someone I'm here to love is quietly shrieking at me.  

The after-shot, when I'm blowing on my fingers gazing into a mirror and I can't see myself is one of the most haunting photographs of my young life.

It is in some ways, that lonesome and scared kid, surrounded by cancer and an identity crisis of epic proportion is the instigator of me learning to prioritize the "there you are" mindset.  Though, trying to get that loneliness need met sometimes has looked more like "here I am!"

In a listening prayer session once, the Holy Spirit connected for me the above-photographs to this powerful scene when I was too little to understand what was going on.  

I couldn't have been more than five and I was doing something a little naughty apparently and my Mama and Grandpa Meggison were having a little fun at my expense.

"Oh, has anyone seen Michael?"

"I right here, mama."

"Oh no, Michael is such a good boy.  That John, he is the naughty one.  John is here today."

"NoMama!  Irighthere!"

John is my middle name and He showed me that I felt like I had actually disappeared and they couldn't see me.

And she and my grandpa cut up over my little super-traumatizer.  But He arrived on the scene and held me, hands clasped over my heart.  They didn't know what was happening:  He did.

You may have noticed I'm pretty into names and I've become wildly self-aware.

And copious amounts of healing have come from various forms of listening prayer:  learning from Jesus He never leaves; He is always listening and actually knows me a thousand times better than I think I know me.

So, I keep looking.   And He keeps looking.  There is this principle in quantum physics:  the observer changes the observed.

It's how we discover stories deep.  We keep looking. 

I took this over Labor Day and man, I'm still looking...

I took this over Labor Day and man, I'm still looking...

You know what was time redemptive in the hair arena?

This green-haired girl at the ice cream shoppe in Minnesota last summer.

I told her how much I loved it when I took York on an adventure that landed us in her ice cream shoppe.

She said she was afraid old people wouldn't like it; I said we couldn't help but dig it--way too awesome not to.

Her whole body lit up:  she tangibly felt noticed.

York being York on our way to sit down outside on the bench, said, "I really like when you do that."

I said, "What's that, pal?"
He said, "The way you're always nice to people."

I said, "Why do you think I am?"
He said, "I don't know."

I said, "It doesn't cost anything but it means everything to people," and then, "Do you suppose a girl with green hair might have a little need for attention?"

He smiled, nodding.

Maybe instead of just the greys, we can start looking for the greens...

 

 

 

Is the Word boring or A.A.H.?

Drill bits... 

Drill bits... 

Bill Dew was sharing the story from Mark 1, when the leper comes to Jesus and says, "If you're willing, you can make me clean."

Jesus, being Jesus, says, "I am willing."

The Dews arrived in Brazil only to discover, their Bible doesn't say that.  Bill inquired of his translator as to the blank-stares and the translator assured him, he had translated it  just as Bill had shared it:  but their Bible doesn't say that Jesus says, "I am willing."  

It says, Jesus says, "I want to."

In Japan, later, they discovered Jesus doesn't say either "I am willing" or "I want to".

Their version says that Jesus says, "It is my heart to."  

Similar but nuanced meanings in different cultural contexts.  Like our word "heart" doesn't mean what it meant in closer-to-the-original language.  In ancient Hebrew pictograph, heart meant:  "shepherd inside".

Rabbis, like Jesus, would sometimes say something that would allude to something else in the Scriptures, to make sure their students were grasping their deeper meanings (later called "remez").   From the cross when He cries my God, my God, why have You forsaken me?  He is pointing at King David's Psalm 22.

So in our example from the Dews in Mark 1, you might want to study lepers or leprosy.  Pull up an online concordance or google how Jesus healed and bounce articles.  Or look at all the places the heart is mentioned.  Or the word `Willing'.  What else was Jesus "willing" to do.   (Leprosy, for example, is a picture of the effects of sin.  It literally numbs the body, starting with the extremities; only the person suffering from it doesn't feel a thing.)

When Jesus says go into your closet and pray, I may see the second floor master bedroom closet in our home and while they might be what He is alluding to in my life:  that isn't really what He was alluding to in the Book because that space didn't yet exist.  He is likely talking about the quiet place in our hearts where we can close out distractions.   What did He mean when He said it?   Who was He saying it to?  Where was He saying it?

Different versions of the Bible are fantastic insight catalysts.   And they can help us to dislodge from accidental prejudice, ethnocentricity or tradition which can over-inform how we comprehend what we are reading.   Remember the brain won't look for what it doesn't believe--work to stay open to His leading.

Mostly, we learn to remember to ask the Holy Spirit to help us to dig and dig into what He is saying.  

If we call it a Scripture passage, imagine a "passage" like an unexplored tunnel in a diamond mine and different versions being lamps that cast different lights to find more hidden treasures.

Same with so many tools:  lectio divina, youtube talks on subjects you find fascinating, the principle of first mention, historical or social contexts; even considering the meanings of the names of characters and the stories being told in the subtext.  (For example, Chuck Missler lays out a fun interpretation of the gospel hiding in Genesis 5's genealogy at www.khouse.org/articles/1996/44/ ).

Holy Spirit once asked me to write out Psalm 22:4, twenty-two times. 

About seven or eight copies in, scribing "the reward for humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, and honor and life",  He said, "you think it is boring, don't you?"

I said there is no fooling You, Holy Spirit--but knowing everything gives You sort of an unfair advantage.   ButYes, I do think it is a little boring.

And He dropped this picture of a gigantic, Texas-sized oil drill and I understood it to be a "boring" instrument designed to drill deep for oil in the Word for my heart and He said, "I think it is boring, too."

So, sometimes on the surface if it seems boring:  it may actually be spiritual boring. 

The key?  

A.A.H.!

Always Ask Him!

Kirk Bennett said read it, write it, say it, sing it, pray it.  Add your own:  Encourage with it, proclaim it, noodle it, own it, chat about it, hear it, delight in it.  Have fun with it.  See yourself in it.   Explore it.  Ask Him questions about it.  But mostly get in it and stay in it and, well, bore it.  

My go-to Bible is the NASB (New American Standard BIble), specifically the Zodhiates Key Word Study Bible because it has a brilliant concordance built-in.   But I bounce around like Tigger on a good day.

I spend  a lot of time on biblehub.com.  I like blueletterbible.com and biblegateway.com too.  

Skipmoen.com drills words like few I've stumbled across.  JonCourson.com has thousands of hours of teaching.  Jon was my first Bible teacher back when he was all dot cassette tapes.  Jon has a great commentary Bible, too.  

Get in a Bible study.  Start one.  I was invited to one in January of 2000 that literally changed everything for me.  We spent like eight months of Thursday nights in the side room of Wellspring discovering Romans 8.  We used to have BYOB (Bring Your Own Bible) sleepover weekends.  A few of us used to gather at 5:10 five mornings a week for a season.  One cat and I used to meet at 4 every Wed morning.  The hungrier you are the hungrier you get.

We started one a few years ago called the Lads and Dads with our eldest son and his basketball team fathers and sons where we plowed through the Gospel of John, watched  topical videos and our last study was chasing Coach Wooden's Character studies.

Not having time to get in the Word or talk to Him is honestly a pretty silly excuse:  start calling it that.

William Barclay is one of my favorite commentators.

I loved esword on the PC.  

Many of my Pastor Pals have the pricier Logos software, but like the different versions themselves, each site and program have multiple ways and means to capture nuance and help discover more.

The Amplified Bible is great to help magnify meaning.

King James is industry standard.   New King James, easier to digest than original.

The Message by Eugene Peterson, pals with Bono, brilliant way of laying it out.

The Passion version is a really lovely newer paraphrasing version.

The New Living Translation is a remarkably helpful read; our church uses this version as its pulpit standard.

Thompson Chain Reference is a classic and a favorite. 

Dakes Study Bible:  yes!

Spirit-Filled Bible.

These will at least get you started.

You will find a lot of opinions out there on Translations and versions.   

Here is my take--go with grace.  It's actually ok not to agree.  We tend to think in rights and wrongs vs just differents.  We tend to be impatient with where people are at in their process at the expense of not considering where we are in our own.  Look for fruit in the lives of people and have grace when you come across too-strong reactions to things--including your own.  

If they're in it with Him; it's likely coming out of them in love.  If they're in it flying solo, it might feel a little icky to hear about, sometimes.  Practice listening, anyway; it cultivates patience.

And enjoy Boring.

Dear President Obama, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump..?

When the late Tim Russert was still hosting Meet the Press, my wife was getting ready for church one Sunday AM and said "you're less fun to be around when you watch that, you know?"  Cue the "how rude"  voice in my head. This is BitMegs telling that voice in our political heads to shhhh and learn a little something from Daniel in an open letter to a few of our most powerful leaders.

When the late Tim Russert was still hosting Meet the Press, my wife was getting ready for church one Sunday AM and said "you're less fun to be around when you watch that, you know?"  Cue the "how rude"  voice in my head. This is BitMegs telling that voice in our political heads to shhhh and learn a little something from Daniel in an open letter to a few of our most powerful leaders.

Dear President Obama, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump,

It is confession time.   I've been wildy tempted to think and speak ill of each of you at different times in the last number of years.   (You would have been tempted to think ill of me too, I'm sure, if all the cameras and recording devices in the free world were trained on me as often as they are on you all.)

Confession means essentially to agree with God.  So, it is confession time.

I believe God will bless our America even more:   As we learn to bless and not curse our leaders.  (I know, right?  Ouch.)  

The first thing God did was speak and He said let there be light.   Light sends darkness packing.   Dear Leaders, we've not prayed first for you--as the Guidebook instructs.  We've allowed our "views"--these attack sites, feeds and ads to turn our love off.  We seem to have forgotten that eagles fly best with both the left and right wings.  

We've shamed you by seeing and saying you did this, therefore you are this.  We judged you, accused and condemned you.   We have been quick to speak, slow to listen and quick to anger.  We have not lifted you up; we have put you down.   The one who answers before he hears a matter isn't wise and yet we've so often insisted you answer us right now almost before you even have a chance to hear the question, let alone really process it.

On behalf of us, I'm sorry.   We will learn, ponder how and do better. 

You know when Daniel prayed it was on behalf of everybody in his country, for all of his people (and if I remember correctly, his various administrations were sufficiently dark, wrong and sideways).  I hope you pray for us, too.  

Daniel's heart was this rarity among men:   steadfastly he was for them and he knew he was put there to help them if they needed him.  

Dear Leaders, we don't have to agree with you to be for you, for heaven's sake.  We say we are for you.  Oh, not necessarily everything you believe:  but we are for you.  

On behalf of us, again:  we are sorry.  We will be quicker to listen, learn and do better.

My question is:  What if it is our pointing the finger and speaking wickedness is actually creating a lot of the nightly wow?   Once upon a time, the people sent a goat through the city and heaped their curses with shouts and rage upon the poor brute--until at the end of his short walk through their metro that scapegoat died from the abuse just outside the city gates.

On behalf of us, I'm sorry.  We will be slower to speak, learn and do better.

What if we've neglected the promise that the power of life is in the tongue--in favor of the guarantee that if not under His watchful eye, its power is death?   It is observable if you look closely, the cost of these offices.

What if our cursing each of you has actually amplified, exacerbated even created some of the flotsam in our nightly streams?  The tongue is said to be a fire that sets on fire the course of life, set on fire by hell.

Daniel was likely kidnapped as a youth and taken from his homeland, along with his three fiery pals.

Did you know they were likely castrated?  Their families likely killed?  They changed Daniel's name. Called him someone he wasn't.  Made him speak a language foreign to his own.

In the world of politics, you all actually know a bit of what that feels like.  And then, you're doing it, too faster than we can get to the stump and it is like a fiery whirlwind of please stop.

On behalf of us, we forgive you.  And I'm sorry.   We will all be slower to anger, learn and do better.

You know, the Guidebook actually says to pray first for our leaders--not just the ones who agree with me?  

I've started to do that--to just say, Hey, Lord, thanks for these--our leaders.  You've got them and thank You because they have a big job.  They have faults like me; but they want to help like me; so please help them.   And I'm finding that I like them.  They don't bum me out anymore.  I'm grateful for them.  But I'm also no longer looking for their faults.  They even make me smile. 

24-7 news was a tipping point in our nation but there are Daniels (and Danielles) out there. Daniel didn't want to hurt the king with God's interpretation of his nightmare but he spoke the truth to him.   Oh I pray you are surrounded with wise counsel; those who know how to speak wisdom and encouragement--how to see and how to speak to you brightly from His great heart.  You need it.  We do, too.  (Oh yeah, Daniel even told one king what his dream was before he was asked to interpret it.  At the risk of his own beheading.  Tough gig, advising kings.

Daniel's name means God is My Judge and he politely declined to eat what the king offered but asked just as politely for permission to try his diet just for a little while to see if it would work.   It worked--his face shone.  A friend shared with me this insight recently:  when the time came--the lion politely declined to eat Daniel.

On behalf of us, I'm so very sorry our leonine pride hasn't yet fully discovered Daniel's love leaders secrets.

Please:  forgive us.  We will do better.

This is my simple pledge (with John Williams immortal Olympics trumpets in the background as I type):  I will serve Respectfully the President and those in our leadership in prayer and I will bless them and not curse them.  I am for them.

On behalf of me, I am very sorry for the times that wasn't true and I hope this finds each of you blessed and rested.

Yours Sincerely,

Megs