Walking on Bare Concrete

From “The Lizard Lounge” Series on Clay

Summer is back with a vengeance — so is the need to recover from the lazy non-summer months (which in Florida, are few) and tackle long-procrastinated-on home improvement projects here at the “Lizard Lounge.” (If you’re new to “Clay,” take a second and follow that link to find out where that name came from. You can also click here for the whole series.) And whether I’m having a DIY moment inside or outside, I have a lot of time to talk to or (even better) listen to the Lord. Invariably, by the time I put down the shovel, the paint brush, or the watering hose, I have an idea for a blog post.

Below is the first one for this season. Who knew my earthly home could teach me so much about the journey toward my heavenly one…?

• • •

Time has a way of getting away from me. (Hold that thought for a moment…more to come…)

The past few weeks I’ve been making final preparations for the book I’m writing. To date, I’ve made umpteen editing passes through my manuscript. I’ve also allowed 3 times that many days to go by without writing something new for Clay. (I’m not sure what 3 x umpteen equals. A scad? An oodle? A triscuit?)

Those famous, fortunate, and affluent authors who can hand a raw book manuscript over to a publishing company and then head to the beach while waiting for a formatted proof copy to come back ready for corrections and final approval don’t know what they’re missing. Or maybe they do; maybe that’s the reason they’re at the beach: they’re celebrating all that free time under their beach umbrella, waiting for their next cold beverage to arrive. The self-publishing rest of us are forced to do our own formatting and spell-checking and reading and re-reading and re-re-reading of our fledgling books while chained to a computer wishing we’d had the foresight to buy stock in Microsoft Word back when it was affordable.

In the end, though, it’s been worth every keystroke, as I’m happy with the progress on my book manuscript. I do feel bad that I put all blog activity on hold, though. My poor Facebook followers were subjected to republished versions of former posts while waiting for something new to come out. As I hadn’t sent out one of my “A new article on Clay” emails in a “triscuit,” one of my subscribers asked me if I had dropped him from the distribution list. Another friended me on Facebook just to make sure I was still alive.

Like I said, time has a way of getting away from me.

And now for the rest of the story…

Power-aid (re-publish)

This is a re-publish of a post I wrote a year or so ago. (You’ll notice it’s a tad out of date, as I’ve since rejoined the Facebook crowd and even have my own page.)

I promise I’m working on a new post, but recently the Lord used two of my dearest friends to communicate some fresh encouragement and validation that writing the book I talk about below—and am still struggling with finishing—is definitely His will.

I wish I could say I’ve conquered all the stuff I talk about below, but… I can’t. If the Lord lays it on your heart, I would appreciate your praying for me to tap into the power the Holy Spirit makes available to us to conquer my fears.

• • •

God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 NIV

I’m finally doing it—I’m writing a book. (Cue the choir for the “Hallelujah Chorus.”) It will be a self-published paperback called “I Am the Clay” and will be a compilation of some of the things I’ve written for this blog adapted into book format. (There will also be a Kindle version.) But since I wrote them originally—or rather, God used or inspired or directed me to write them—it’s pretty much the same thing.

A real book—who’d a thought? (Some of you did—thank you for your ongoing encouragement.)

Not to dampen the “woo-hoo” moment of announcing a book-in-progress or anything (or muffle that choir), but let me linger here a moment so that I don’t blithely skip over the part about God using / inspiring / directing me to write.

And now for the rest of the story…

The *squish* wasn’t the end

From “The Lizard Lounge” Series on Clay

Below is the final installment in “The Lizard Lounge Series on Clay,” at least for this season. Quite a summer… Here is a link to the whole series, if you’re just tuning in. (And here’s a link that explains the whole “Lizard Lounge” bit.)

Who knew my earthly home could teach me so much about the journey toward my heavenly one…?

• • •

I love summer in Florida. Sunshine and beaches and the smell of orange blossoms. (And tourists who need to stay out of the sun and off the beaches.) This past summer I had planned to while away the days watering my bell peppers and tomatoes, lazing on the front porch reading, and collecting rocks for my dry creek bed. However, in Jeremiah 29:11 the Lord says:

I know the plans I have for you…

…and none of those plans included tomatoes, lazing, or collecting rocks.

And now for the rest of the story…

In the cards

“With God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

On March 14, 2012, I published my first blog post for “clay.” From the start, I felt that God’s plan for “clay” was that it would be based on my own personal experience as a fairly new Christian instead of about interpreting scripture or sermonizing. So that’s what I set out to write about.

Along about the same time, I took 40 Bible verses I had collected, printed them out on small cards, set them on the kitchen table in a stack, and started memorizing them one-by-one while I ate breakfast.

Although the blog and the memory verse project weren’t intended to be related – at least that wasn’t my plan – I learned really quickly that it was God’s plan…

The first blog post I worked on was one that I tried to write totally on my own without making sure my thoughts were in line with the Lord’s. As a result, it was awful. It was about tools and Home Depot, or something like that. I can’t recall now what personal spiritual revelation I thought I could communicate by writing about my cordless drill…

In my desperation to write something I wouldn’t be embarrassed to put my name on, I finally asked God for guidance. (More than a few people have drawn closer to the Lord through desperation.) Although asking God for guidance would have been a really good first thing to do, rather than smiting me with writer’s cramp and refusing to help me, He graciously showed me that I had just memorized a Bible verse from my stack of cards that would be the perfect inspiration for a blog post.

As a result, that inaugural post was based on the first verse in that stack of 40 cards: 2 Corinthians 4:18. It was a great verse to start with:

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

At the time, God was teaching me to turn my attention away from the selfish pursuits of my old life toward the God-centered focus of my new life. So my take-away from this verse was the importance of spending my resources – personal, financial, and spiritual – on things that would have significance in, and even beyond, this life; things like writing for “clay,” being faithful and sacrificial in my giving, and seeking to live a more holy life.

With God’s help and guidance, I wrote my next blog post on the second Bible verse from the stack of cards on the kitchen table, followed by the next, and the next. (Talk about playing the cards you’re dealt…)

I thought I had just collected 40 verses that I liked; however, it became obvious that God had directed me to each of them (a perfect example of the sometimes mysterious intersection of personal volition and divine intervention). And although I had shuffled that stack of cards before setting them on the table, that by no means meant they were in any sort of random order. As I wrote each post based on the most recent verse I had memorized, I began to see God’s sovereign omniscience at work. Instead of being 40 random Bible verses, these were actually 40 verses that, over the course of this past two-plus years, were applicable to what was going on in my life just when it came time to write about them.

Tell me that’s not amazing.

All that being said, today’s verse, Matthew 19:26, is the 40th memory verse; the last card in the stack; the perfect verse to close out phase one of the memory verse project.

There have been a couple of verses similar to this one that I’ve written about (Matthew 17:20 and Luke 1:37), but the message bears revisiting. Jesus says:

“With God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

Simple. Straight forward. Specific. The perfect reminder that He was in control of something as seemingly insignificant as that stack of Bible verse cards: the selection, the shuffle, the timing. That may not seem like a big thing to you, but that stack of verses and the resultant blog posts basically tell the story of my life as a follower of Jesus this past two years.

Sometimes it causes me to just shake my head, speechless…

So as not to miss the main focus of what Jesus is saying here in Matthew 19:26, though, I should point out what I think is the key word in this verse: all. All things are possible. All things. There’s not a thing in the world that isn’t possible with God.

Knowing a majority of the people who read “clay” are Christians, I can just hear the “Amens” and words of affirmation go up from the crowd. “That’s right – God can do it! Just look at this entire universe He created! ♫ Our God is an AWESOME God, He reigns from Heaven above… ♪ ♫”

But do you really believe that? Before you get to the second verse, I want you to think about it.

Of course, as Christians, we talk the talk when it comes to God’s almighty abilities. But do you walk the walk? Do you really believe that anything – everything – is possible with God…?

Do you believe…

…that God can actually speak to us through the Bible? That, even being written by dozens of authors over thousands of years, it’s still His Word? That His Spirit can move in our very being and direct our actions so that we are drawn to passages that speak to us at just the right time? That it’s the only source of truth?

…that God can physically heal any illness, disease, or condition? That he can eradicate cancer cells permanently, double the pumping capacity of a weak heart virtually overnight, do away with debilitating pain?

…that God can heal the heart of a mother who’s lost her son – some might say her best friend – to a slow and heart-breaking death? That He’s able to wipe away the tears she still cries every day, years later?

…that God can awaken a country that has turned its back on Him? A country that legalizes things that are contrary to the teachings of the Bible on the one hand and criminalizes things that are straight from the pages of the Bible on the other? A country that doesn’t hold life sacred, especially the lives of those who are most defenseless?

…that God can save anyone and forgive anything, even that person you know who’s up to their neck in sexual immorality? That He can save the guy who isn’t content to merely tune religion and spirituality out, but is hateful and vocal in his loathing and disdain for it, even posting sacrilegious content on Facebook on Easter Sunday? That He can forgive the girl who filmed her own abortion and said she felt “super great” about it? Can God make these people new creations?

I have to answer “yes” to all these questions and believe that all these things are possible, as they’re representative of the people and things I’ve been led to pray for by the Lord since I became a Christian.

I’ve been praying for two individuals in particular who, if there were degrees of lost-ness, would be two of the most lost people I know. One has a vehement hatred for Christians and Christianity; the other a worldly hedonistic attraction to sexual misconduct. Over the past four years, I’ve prayed for them both dutifully.

Quite often, though, I would find myself starting that prayer for their salvation with, “Lord, even though it’s unlikely that either of these two will ever turn to you…” I considered myself just being realistic, acknowledging that I was praying for them as God had led me to while still sharing a little secret between Him and me, something to the effect, “You and I both know it’s never going to happen.”

But earlier this week as their names came up during my Prayer Time, that all changed. Just as He has done time and time before, the Lord reminded me of the verse I was in the midst of writing this post about:

“With God all things are possible.”

I won’t detail that conversation (because it was long and makes me look really bad), but before it was all over, I was already envisioning the day when one of them would come to me and tell me they had surrendered their life to Jesus, thanking the Lord for His goodness and mercy and grace. I finished Prayer Time that morning soggier than a bowl of yesterday’s cereal.

I also had to admit something to God I wasn’t aware of about myself: I didn’t really believe He was able to save everyone – certainly not those two. But I guess you could say that, one morning this past week, I learned how to pray believing. And although “possible” doesn’t necessarily mean “probable,” He showed me that betting against the house definitely wasn’t His desire for me. He expects me to trust Him, to believe He is who He said He is and that He can do what He said He can do.

This isn’t new.

In the 3rd chapter of the book of Daniel, Daniel’s friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were about to be thrown into a furnace and burned alive because they wouldn’t worship anyone but God. In verses 17-18 they told the king who had commanded that they be put to death:

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not…

First and foremost, they believed God would rescue them; but the fact that He may choose not to do so didn’t challenge their faith in Him one bit. They still believed he would.

So even though God, in His sovereign wisdom, may choose not to answer my prayers for people’s salvation and healing and prayers for my country, just like those three guys in the furnace, I still have to believe He will.

I have to believe that…

…God can use His Word – the Bible – to change hearts and lives.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105

…He can heal bodies…

[Jesus said:] The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised. Matthew 11:5

…and spirits.

He heals the brokenhearted…Psalm 147:3

…He can awaken nations.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

…Most important, He can save anyone from anything.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. Titus 2:11 (emphasis mine)

Without believing that “with God all things are possible” – and doing so with no reservation, no hesitation, and no equivocation – none of us has any hope; none of us can be saved.

Without believing that God could save the most deceived, prideful, self-centered, sinful, lover of pleasure rather than lover of God through the most unlikely but beautifully orchestrated salvation experience, you wouldn’t be reading this right now – at least not typed by me on my computer. Instead of writing a blog about my spiritual life, I would have spent the past two years using this computer to pursue activities that are unsavory, activities that I’d rather not discuss in detail. (Again, ‘cause it would make me look really bad…)

But that’s not what happened. God had other plans: he made the impossible possible. And if He can do it for me, He can do it for anyone.

Even if you haven’t experienced the “impossible” in your life, believe that…

“With God all things are possible.”

…if for no other reason than because Jesus said it was true. Shuffle the cards and set them on the table and see what happens.

As for me, I’m going to take Him at His word. Thanks to His doing the impossible in my life:

  • There will be more blog posts based on all new memory verse cards.
  • There will be more prayers for lost friends and family and nations.
  • There will definitely be eternal life.

Actually, I’m already experiencing eternal life – I just haven’t gotten to the really good part, yet.

But I will one day – it’s in the cards.

Risk Free

I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. 2 Timothy 1:12

I just read an article on the various infamous circumstances for which each of our fifty nifty United States is known, based on statistics taken from America’s Health Rankings and the U.S. Census. As it turns out, we’re a strange and wondrous lot…

  • Coloradans use the most cocaine. (almost 4% of the population – the phrase “Rocky Mountain High” comes to mind…)
  • The good folks of Maine have the lowest average SAT scores, garnering them the prize for dumbest state.
  • Alaska has the highest suicide rate. (Apparently all that ice and snow eventually takes its toll.)
  • California has the most air pollution. (quelle surprise)
  • Based on the high number of auto accidents, Massachusetts boasts the worst drivers in the U.S.
  • North Dakotans rank dead last in ugliest residents. (I’m doubtful this statistic comes from the U.S. Census. I mean, what kind of census question would lead the head of the household to avow that, “Yea, we’re all ugly, including the kids – especially little Henry.”)
  • Wisconsans have the highest rate of binge drinking – almost a quarter of the population. (Thanks, Miller Brewing Company.)
  • This one surprised me: Utahns have the highest rate of online porn subscriptions. (Say it ain’t so.)

In my state, however, we have the dubious honor of being known for the highest rate of identity theft.

I’ve already faked my Facebook profile with gibberish and silly information that would be useless to a would-be ID thief and I can spot a phishing scam a mile away, but learning this statistic makes me want to totally lock up my computer and wallet in a safe and just keep rolls of quarters in my pockets to buy stuff and carry a note from my mother for identification. (“Yes, that’s him – kind of tall with those funny glasses.”)

Data breaches resulting in personal information stolen from retail and e-tail transactions are becoming a fairly common occurrence. The institutions we assume will guard the information we’ve entrusted to them can no longer promise to do so with any degree of dependability.

Other than advising you to cut up all your credit cards and bury your money in the back yard, I have no words of wisdom – at least not when it comes to safeguarding your financial well-being.

But your spiritual well-being? Now that’s another matter. I can soundly report that the Bible is filled with words of wisdom for safeguarding that. Take Paul’s second letter to Timothy (1:12):

I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.

The thing that Paul and I (and hopefully you) have entrusted is our eternal salvation; and the “whom” and “Him” we’re trusting to guard it is God. And “that day”? The one when we finally meet Him face to face, free from this life and living forever in His glorious presence in the place He’s prepared for us.

And just to add a little extra security, in 2 Corinthians 1:22 Paul tells us that, when we become followers of Jesus, God puts…

…his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

So we place our trust in God to safeguard us until He’s ready to bring us home and He places the indwelling Holy Spirit in us as a sort of “down payment.”

Sweet! It’s the only totally risk-free situation I’ve ever been involved in.

Paul was convinced he could believe everything God revealed to him – and a quick thumb through the New Testament reveals that God revealed a lot to Paul. God made it known that He is truth; that Jesus taught truth; and that the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth. That’s truthiness of the most divine magnitude.

In my personal experience, God has proven time and again that He is infinitely worthy of my trust; you only have to read a few posts on this blog to get that.

But the thing I’m learning – learning recently, actually – is that it’s important for me not to pin my hopes on anyone else. God is the only one I can trust to never fail me. It’s so tempting for us to hang our hat on someone besides the Lord – a church leader, for example, or a trusted Christian friend or family member. The Lord puts these people in our lives for us to fellowship and be in community with; and soon we learn to value and trust their walk with Him. And that’s good – we should be able to trust our Christian brothers and sisters.

But even those dear to us who lead Godly lives and preach the truth and lead us in amazing worship are still just people – fallen people, sinners saved by grace, individuals prone to struggles with pride and “issues” and human passions, folks who sometimes make less than perfect choices, guys (and girls) who put their pants on one leg at a time.

As important as they are as members of our “body of believers” posse, we can’t be thrown if they let us down. They aren’t who we should be pinning our hopes on anyway. As we learned from Isaiah 40:31:

Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.

The Lord – not a pastor, preacher, teacher, worship leader, friend, Roman, countryman – just in the Lord. He will never fail us. (And I don’t think He even wears pants.)

And you can rest assured that, if you put your hopes in God to guard what you’ve entrusted to Him, it’ll be in good hands – the very hands that created the universe. In John chapter 10 Jesus tells us that both He and God have a firm grip on anyone who belongs to them. Of Himself, He says…

“…no one can snatch them out of my hand.” (v. 28)

Of God He says…

“…no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” (v. 29)

No one. Go ahead and try, Grasshopper – I dare you.

So until “that day,” I’m entrusting all that I have to my Heavenly Father. No one can scam, phish, or bribe Him – He’s as wise and all-knowing as He is trustworthy. And as I mentioned earlier, I hope you are trusting Him, too.

If not – why not? For more information, click here.