Category: Encouragement

Sharing support, courage & hope

Self care

With our latest technology advancements, you can find charging stations all over the place.

  • Electric vehicle charging stations at stores, gas stations, parking lots, transportation centers
  • Cell phone charging stations at airports, shopping centers, stores, stadiums, churches
  • Home charging stations in nearly every room and vehicle
  • Electric bike & scooter charges onboard or on street corners

Think about it. We cannot live, it seems, without our equipment being charged up and ready to go, so we have made places in our life to do just that, get them fully charged.

And yet, we often find that our life is running on empty and in need of a recharge. That recharge we need is called self care by many and is essential for our health.

It is vital that we pay attention to our body, but self care involves these areas too:

Self care is not selfish, no matter what that voice in your head is telling you. You are not being selfish when you are getting your rest, because in doing so you will become more energetic and be able to do more.

Self care is not a one time or rare experience, like going to the spa. Self care is essential maintenance to your well being and actually the well being of those around you. (Ask your spouse or a family member if they like you better rested or tired. 🙂 )

Self care in not a sign of weakness. In fact, it is wisdom at work in your life.

Self care is not only for some people. Everyone must find what it is that recharges them and get charged back up. Is it golf, sewing, alone time, a book, getting outside, a good movie? Find where your recharging station is and get plugged into it.

This has been my personal challenge these last couple of days. You can go and give and do and repeat until you feel yourself running near empty.

So when you see your charge being depleted, be brave, don’t deny and do what is needed to get that vital recharge.

Take care of yourself, you are essential.

Cheers to you.

Close the door

Sunday Sermon 8.1.20

Early this morning, this phrase came crashing into my heart and upon my mind, “Close the door”.

I hadn’t heard a door slam, nor had there been creatures invading us; the weather wasn’t threatening, neither were the circumstances. So why the imprint of this phrase on my psyche?

While pursuing its import, two main points developed before me.

We, adult humans are faced with 35,000 decisions each day with 226.7 of them alone, having to do with the food we eat (or don’t). That means, if we spend 7 hours sleeping each night, (and we assume no choices are made in our sleep, a BIG assumption) then, that means we make 2,000 decisions per hour or 1 decision every 2 seconds!

That’s alot of choosing, options, brain stress and distractions!

Many of those decisions are unconscious, but they are still decisions that the brain encodes 10 seconds before we even consciously, and with awareness make the actual decision. The brain has decided and then the conscious thoughts justify the decision. The decision is made in the neurocircuitry of our brain by predicting outcomes ahead of time. Then we actually make the choice in real time.

All of that research was published long before Covid and still remains true. But with Covid, those decisions have been confined to a smaller setting – our home, or the area we spend most our life in.

There are so many influences, voices, reports, demands, people, speaking or often yelling at us with directives. And what is spoken as truth this week, often morphs into something entirely different next week.

Our heads, hearts, and emotions are bombarded, battered and bruised with the onslaught information, (or misinformation) and in my view, these all are distractions, that must be cut off.

Close the Door point 1CLOSE THE DOOR on distractions that bring you anything but life, faith, hope, peace, and joy.

Turn off, stop listening daily, ignore notifications, stop feeding fear, don’t read it, refuse to own it. Don’t give place in your life to the endless, fearful distractions.

It is one of those 35,000 decisions you can make now, ahead of time and get your brain in the encoding process. Close the door to distractions.

In Matthew 6:6, Jesus told his disciples, to go into their room and CLOSE THE DOOR (and pray). He instructed them to close out distractions, shut themselves in with who really mattered, and focus on what was more important.

I am not saying to close yourself off from the world and only pray, that’s just weird and ineffective. I am saying, in order to be strong and effective in your mission on earth, you must learn to close the door on distractions while focusing on what is important.

Another place we see “close the door” in the Bible is in 2 Kings 4.

A widow, with two sons was facing creditor problems involving the seizing of her sons for repayment. She was desperate, so she sought out the prophet Elisha. She confessed to him she had nothing of value in her home (to sell) “except a small jar of olive oil.” 2 Kings 4:2

He told her to gather from her neighbors as many empty jars as she could and not just a few. Then she was to go inside her house and “shut the door” behind her and her sons, where they would then pour her oil into each empty jar that they had gathered.

She did as she was told – gathered, shut the door and poured into each jar. When there were no more jars to fill, her oil stopped flowing. Every jar had been filled and were now filling her home. She had plenty to sell, paid off the creditors, and lived off of what was left.

Close the door point 2You have all you need at home (your little bit of oil), you need to pour it out into empty vessels.

Your family and those who enter your home need what you have. You can fill them with your words, actions, kindness, encouragement, prayer, help, correction, insight, love. What you do behind the closed doors of your home is where the “anointing” starts. The outpouring of God’s spirit of love and favor – His anointing oil of the Spirit, starts at home, behind closed doors. Pour out your “little” oil there and see how you little becomes much.

It is my determination to ask the Lord to help me close the doors of distraction in my life, and work within me behind the closed doors of my home to fill up empty vessels.

I want His help in recoding my neurocircuitry and decision making prowess. I want to equip my brain with the positive and faith building data to allow it to predict the most favorable outcomes. This is a decision I have made!

Won’t you join me?

Close those doors, keep pouring out.

Go with God.

“Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents”

Although written in 1770 by British spokesman, orator and political thinker, Edmund Burke, that title could have come from our headlines today, and certainly reflects my heart and message for this blog.

It is Burke who is credited with one of the most popular quotes of all time, (even though his speech never specifically said the words.)

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

I’ll still take it, wont you? It is so good, JFK used it.

What Burke did say in his writing “Thoughts on the Cause…” was –

When bad men combine – good men must organize.”

Edmund Burke

I feel such an urgency for good men (mankind) to speak up, step up, step out, launch out, reach out, take action, refuse the trends, stay the “good” course, and as Burke said, maybe even organize. Why not? It is time!

In the words of President Grover Cleveland, “What is the use of being elected or re-elected unless you stand for something.”

I am not running for office, nor are you most likely, but here’s the hitch- what are we standing for? Are we standing up for anything? Or have we allowed our voices to be silenced by fear, complacency, louder voices, cancel culture and censorship?

In the days of Women’s Suffrage there were suffragists and suffragettes. Suffragists believed in peaceful, constitutional campaigns for women’s right to vote. Suffragettes were activists, willing to take direct action into the community. Their motto, “Deeds not words” often led to hunger strikes and handcuffing themselves to the White House fence.

Both believed in the same thing – that women had the right to vote but they took action in different ways. The key though, they took action. The result? The passage of the 19th Amendment allowing women the right to vote. Susan B. Anthony would have been proud, after being arrested and still voting 150 times illegally. She stood up for that right long before others jumped on board and made it legal.

Being a student and lover of American history (I hear a yawn 🙂 ) I can’t help but go to dozens of examples of those who stood up in the face of “discontents”, injustices, and hardships and joined with others of like mind to push through change.

The good people voluntarily organized and took persistent action so that the evils of their day would not triumph in their society.

What would the nation/world be without these who stood up for the cause that gripped their soul, and sacrificed their own self interests for the good of the society and future generations?

Consider the following and their causes:

  • Dorthea Dix – mistreatment of the mentally ill
  • Horance Mann – education reform
  • Frederick Douglass – anti-slavery, civil rights
  • William Lloyd Garrison – abolition
  • Ida Tarabel – investigative journalism (what’s happened to that?)
  • Jane Addams – help for the poor and immigrants
  • Booker T. Washington – black education and training (peaceful)
  • WEB Dubois – black rights, NAACP (violent if needed)
  • Sojourner Truth – abolitionist
  • Harriet Tubman – anti-slavery
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson – writer, reformer
  • Caesar Chavez – farmworkers rights
  • Malala Yousafzai – Taliban awareness, women rights
  • Florence Nightingale – nursing
  • Clara Barton – founder of the Red Cross
  • Marie Curie – medicine
  • John Muir – wildlife conservation
  • Upton Sinclair – meatpacking industry reform
  • Jackie Robinson – racial equality
  • Sally Ride – space travel

The world is a better and changed place because each of these did something with the passion they felt. They joined with others and got things changed. These good humans pressed through the evil and triumphed over it. “Overcome evil with good”.

Solomon, in Proverbs warned us:

If you do nothing in times of trouble, your strength is small.

Proverbs 24:10

So, how’s your strength? These are NOT “do nothing days”. Shame on us if we are “do nothing-ers”.

I conclude my thoughts on the cause of the present discontents.

Cheers to you.

Going through the fire?

Sunday Sermon 7.18.20

What fire does not destroy, it hardens.

Oscar Wilde

The difference between a good life and a bad life is how well you walk through the fire.

Carl Jung

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.

1 Peter 4:12

These trials have come to prove the genuineness of your faith, which is of greater worth than gold which perishes even though refined by fire…

1 Peter 1:7

So, my assumption is that you very probably ARE going though the fire, because most of us are, including myself.

The fires of today’s ever changing societal norms, the fires of pressures and stresses on strained relationships, the fires of fatigued and worn emotions, the fires of losses, challenges, faith, and apathy. We are quite literally living in a firestorm that is surrounding us and affecting us on every side.

It would be wise to accept the fires as a given in our life, with a definite purpose.

But it is also wise to accept this promise:

When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God…

Isaiah 43:2-3

Remember, Daniel’s three friends who refused to submit to the decrees of the king and were thrown into the fire? (Daniel 3) Very literally, they were thrown into a furnace heated seven times hotter than normal. And yet, they not only survived the ordeal, the king actually saw a fourth man walking around in the fire with them!

Three thrown in, four seen in the fire! That is the promise from Isaiah, that the fire will not burn us because the Lord Himself will be walking with us through the fire. What a promise, what a miracle!

In the very midst of the fire, the Lord is with you. In the most heated exchanges, in the burning and aching hearts, in the crying out of flesh, soul and spirit, the Lord, Himself is with you.

I firmly believe, these days are being used by Him to refine us, process us, and bring the best, most pure from within us.

Malachi and Zechariah both spoke of a time when the Lord would refine his people like silver and gold, when the Lord would sit as a refiner and purifier. (Malachi 3:2-3; Zechariah 13:9) Yes, this was referring to Israel and it’s historical captivity and rebuilding. But things that happened in Old Testament times happened as an example for us, too. With lessons and applications for us. 1 Corinthians 10:6

I submit to you, the purpose of the fire(s) is to refine us. To purify us.

I recently spent some time studying the process for refining silver, gold, platinum, and palladium. That process is extensive! At my count, it contains no less than 32 steps! Check out some of these words used in the refining process:

  • gun
  • dynamite
  • hauled out
  • brought to the surface
  • primary crusher
  • secondary crusher
  • cone crusher
  • water to separate
  • acid added
  • filter press
  • black powder
  • 50% silver, 50% waste
  • dried out
  • placed in oven
  • silver and waste separated
  • poured out
  • settles to bottom
  • waste skimmed off
  • sold to refinery
  • weighed
  • flux added
  • placed in crucible
  • able to take the heat
  • placed into melting furnace
  • transformed
  • molded
  • remolded
  • re-cooled
  • smaller
  • placed into acid solution
  • all impurities dissolved
  • results = 100% pure

If you and I are silver or gold and we are in the fire, then look at this amazing process. Look at the purpose of the fire. The Lord, as the refiner is processing us to be 100% pure, remolded into the image of Jesus. All impurities and waste burnt away in the crucible and only pure silver, or gold remains.

We are being tried in the fire and shouldn’t consider the ordeal we are in as some strange thing. It is the process of purification and stripping away all that is waste. He has not left us, He is with us in the process and is directing the entire operation in our life.

Check back at those words, that process, it’s an extensive and painful process.

He is making of you and me, a vessel of honor, pure and solid.

Trust Him, through the fire.

Go with God.

How big is your God

When you receive “a bad report”, when you are feeling the walls closing in on you, when circumstances go from bad to worse – how big is your God?

When you see no way possible, when funds are low and stressors are high – how big is your God?

When you have prayed and see no “answer”, when you read and see “no answer”, when your faith is all but gone – how big is your God?

How big is your God? Does your God even care? Is He listening?

Is He bigger than your situation? Bigger than your problem? Is He bigger than you can imagine? What are His limitations? How big is your God?

Is your God made by man? Ideas prescribed by human thinking? Is your God based on the philosophies of man and man’s wisdom?

What God is it that receives your praise? Your strength? Your time? How big is your God?

This is a simple call to all who will listen, how big is your God? Because in these days, the god you lean upon, should be the One you trust in, invest in and be the One who saves, strengthens and uses you. So, how big is He?

Who has scooped up the ocean in his two hands, or measured the sky between his thumb and little finger…

Isaiah 40:12

Think of it, visualize it… God, holding up his thumb and little finger in front of him and using it to measure the expanse of the skies, from one end of the universe to the other. On my hand, that span barely measures 7 inches. The God of the universe measures that very universe as a master navigator or chief contractor with his thumb and little finger.

That’s a big God!

That is a God who’s power is limitless. Who’s attention to detail never misses even the slightest change or move. That is a God who not only cares about every detail in his creation’s life but is big and powerful enough to provide the very answer to every need that his creation has.

That’s a big God. That’s our God.

“To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: who created all these? He who brings out all the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.”

Isaiah 40:25-26

That is the very God who cares for you; is able to provide for you all you need. That is the God who has the answers, wisdom, strength, and is always listening to prayers. He will never, ever leave you on your own to figure it out by yourself.

That is a big God, yet that is a personal, loving and all sufficient God, who simply asks for your devotion. That’s a deal I’ll take any day!

Our God is limitless, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and best of all loving. He will not be confined, limited, shut down, or locked up. He is the Great “I AM”, who will be there for you in every situation.

So, how big is your God?

Cheers to you

Musings on Moving

Everything in the universe is moving. It never stops.

Everything is moving because there are forces at work causing that movement; forces like gravity and electromagnetism. If there were no forces at work, there would be no motion.

The Earth itself moves through space at a rate of 30/km sec. In the time it takes you to read this sentence, it will have moved 450 km- about the width of Ohio.

Earth spins on its axis at a rate of 1,000 mph, and a jumbo jet moves at 500 mph, about half as fast as Earth spins.

Movement is fundamental to life. We move our bodies to express wants, needs, emotions, thoughts and ideas. How well we move and how much we move determines how well we engage with the world.

We are advised, for the benefit of our own health, to develop a body that moves well. Our bodies are designed for movement and we must defeat the sedentary life.

Sir Issac himself, three centuries ago, submitted 3 revolutionary ideas about the laws of motion, which as we now know are the foundation of modern physics.

Remember these?

  • Things cannot start, stop, or change directions by themselves
  • When a constant force acts on a massive body it causes it to accelerate
  • For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction

I hope I haven’t lost your attention … but this moving issue is vital to us. Let’s look at these life lessons we can glean from the facts I’ve shared above:

  • Movement is a constant in life. Things will move, change, rearrange, and relocate. Embrace it. Move with it. Adjust. Be fluid & flexible.
  • There are forces at work causing the movement. Some you support, others you don’t; pick your battles and fight courageously. Not all forces are good.
  • In the big picture, the speed of the movement isn’t the priority, it is that the movement is actually happening, albeit, often apparently slow.
  • We were designed to move and engage the world. You can and do impact, by your motions, those around you.
  • If you are an object at rest, a greater force will definitely act upon you to get you to move.
  • Don’t be surprised if your motion accelerates, that’s good! It means a constant force is acting on you!
  • Expect opposition and resistance when you move out, move on and move in. Newton told us about that too.

We need to understand, the world will not stop moving/changing. If the Earth stopped moving, the atmosphere would still be in motion at Earth’s rotational speed of 1,000 mph and the trees, soil, rocks, buildings, even your dog, would be swept into the atmosphere.

Movement/moving, changing position or thoughts over time is part of life. It will not stop.

As you feel the world swirl around you and whirlwinds blow past you, know that there is a Greater Force acting and willing to act on your behalf.

Learn to move with that Greater Force and keep on accelerating.

Cheers to you.

The Heart of the Father

Sunday Sermon 6.20.20

Everyone of us have at least one thing in common and that simple truth is we each have a biological father.

That father, his presence or absence, strengths and weaknesses; all he is and all he is not, have shaped our thoughts, ideas, expectations, confidence, predictions, trust and image of what fatherhood is and what fathers do.

In addition to the biological father, some have had the imprint of another father (or fathers). Other men, who have impacted the views, feelings, impressions and perspectives of how a father acts, speaks, relates, teaches, and loves.

Our family, that sacred place where fatherhood is modeled, is the seed bed for how we see, relate to, respect, fear, honor, and love our father. In our families we learn to anticipate with joy our father’s presence, dread and fear his presence or any number of measurable feelings in between.

Fatherhood affects childhood outcomes from infancy to adulthood; including physical, emotional, academic, social and behavioral outcomes.

Along with those outcomes, consider these statistics:

  • Father involvement using authoritative parenting with loving and clear boundaries and expectations leads to better outcomes in every way for children.
  • Children who feel close to their father are twice as likely to find stable employment after high school, less likely to have teen birth, less likely to spend time in jail, and half as likely to experience depression
  • The quality of father-child relationship matters more than the specific amount of hours spent together
  • High levels of father involvement correlate to higher levels of sociability, confidence, and self-control
  • Children with actively involved fathers are more likely to earn A’s in school, and less likely to repeat a grade in school
  • 24.7 million children live absent their biological father
  • 39% of students grades 1-12 live in homes absent their biological fathers
  • more than 1 in 4 children live without a father in their home

And of course there are the statistics regarding fatherhood from the National Fatherhood Initiative that state, children without fathers in the home are:

  • 4 x greater risk of poverty
  • 7 x more likely to become pregnant
  • more likely to have behavioral prpblems
  • 2 x greater risk of infant morality
  • more likely to commit a crime
  • more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol
  • 2 x more likely to suffer obesity
  • 2 x more likely to drop out of high school

Fathers are vitally important and how we view our father has impacted how we view our Heavenly Father. We see God, our Heavenly Father through the lens of our childhood/adolescent father awareness. Good, bad, ugly, right, wrong, our image of God has been shaped by our father image.

There is no judgment or comparison here, simply a statement of facts. That image has shaped how we see God as our Father.

But here are some valuable truths that reveal what our Heavenly Father is truly like, what his character truly is and what makes his heart pound. In Luke 15, we find these awesome insights into the Father’s heart and we see how he responded to his son:

  • when insulted and humiliated, he still distributed the inheritance to his younger son
  • his son took all and left
  • his son wasted his $$ on reckless living
  • his son was totally spent, empty and hungry
  • his son became desperate
  • in humiliation, the son wound up homeless, in a pig pen
  • alone and abandoned the son came to his senses
  • the son considered the servants at his dad’s place
  • he desired to return home as a servant and practiced his speech to dad
  • he admitted he was wrong
  • he set out to return home dirty, debased and unworthy

The Father’s reception:

  • from a long distance the father saw the son coming down the road (he was actually waiting for him to return and looking anxiously for him – after a long time)
  • with great compassion – he saw his son dressed as a beggar, but returning
  • the father raced out to meet the son, swept him up in his arms, hugged and kissed him in tender love
  • as the son started his speech, the father interrupted him and said, “Son, you’re home now”.
  • the father called for the servants to bring his very own robe and placed it on his son
  • then he called for the family ring and placed it on his finger (this allowed the son to conduct family business)
  • he then called for shoes to be placed on the sons feet (slaves went barefoot, but not his son!)
  • the son was home, now it was time to celebrate
  • a feast was prepared and celebrating began
  • the father’s heart was bursting with pride, happiness and love for his beloved son who was once dead was know was alive!

You see, the father’s heart is one of unconditional love. Always believing, hoping, loving. It is everlasting and unrelenting. The father’s heart hears our cries. The father’s heart is full of pride. The father’s heart has a plan for us. The father’s heart will provide and care for us. The father’s heart will protect us.

Your Heavenly Father is: loving, kind, compassionate, giving, faithful, merciful, strong, forgiving, good, righteousness, caring, sovereign, shepherd, ever-present, refuge, gracious, healer, powerful, one who saves, helper, and makes all things new. (I have verses for each of these if you want them.)

Our Heavenly Father shows pity, shows mercy, chastens whom he loves, loves us and is not only just but justifies us.

Our Heavenly Father gives life, loves his children, protects, provides, teaches and trains his children.

There is no man on the planet that can come close to modeling your Heavenly Father, but Jesus. But then, he wasn’t from this planet, was he?

So whether your father was a saint or a sinner, we can give thanks, this Father’s Day, for a Heavenly Father who loves us perfectly, unconditionally, and with all of his heart. He receives us, welcomes us, rejoices with us, forgives us, and celebrates with us.

God is love.

Abba Father = Daddy God, Happy Father’s Day.

Cheers to you.

What Do You See?

Sunday Sermon 6.13.20

Look at the image. What do you see?

Look at our nation, what do you see?

I’d like to suggest when looking at the events and happenings within our nation that you consider the opposite of what you see, as truth. What do I mean?

First, we must establish that the prince of this world is the devil. His is the spirit that rules this world and is at work in it. Ephesians 2:2; John 14:30; John 12:31; John 16:11; 2 Corinthians 4:4

Jesus nailed it strongly, when he said to his audience, in John 8-

“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

John 8:44

What do you see in the image above? A man? The word Liar?

What do you see in the nation? Lies from the chief liar, father of lies – the devil. All counterfeits and polluted truths stolen from our Heavenly Father. Now, what do I mean?

Just take a look at some of the things that have been imposed upon us or spoken and see the truth that is being lied about, polluted or counterfeited:

  • Lie – cover your mouth and face. Truth – this is the Hebrew year 5780, the year of the voice. Speaking out, openly.
  • Lie – lawlessness in the streets. Truth – God is bringing His Kingdom rule and order. He is the Prince of Peace.
  • Lie – lockdown and stay at home. Truth – go, share, tell, save.
  • Lie – close houses of worship. Truth – where 2 or 3 are gathered, there He is!
  • Lie – don’t hug, touch, socialize. Truth – there is power in love, hugs and human contact.
  • Lie – division. Truth – we are all made in His image.
  • Lie – I can’t breath, the life is being squeezed from us. Truth – Jesus came to bring abundant life.
  • Lie – death and destruction. Truth – resurrection life and power through Him.
  • Lie – no large gatherings. – Truth – this year many Gospel stadium rallies were planned worldwide.
  • Lie – no graduations, weddings, parties at all. Truth – He rejoices with those who are celebrating and wants us to be happy and joyous.

Getting the idea?

You can look at what is happening in the political and social world and very often see it as a counterfeit or pollution of God’s truth. That is because the prince of this world is a liar. He only knows how to lie, counterfeit, pollute, destroy, offer fake, bring delusion, destroy, steal and kill.

Apply this filter when you hear and see things and see if it doesn’t ring true. You will be amazed. Think opposites. Think opposite of what you are seeing. Discern between truth and lies.

Then remind yourself that there is One who is over, in everyway, the prince of this world and That One has conquered the prince. I once heard a pastor say, “The devil walks around like a roaring lion. But he doesn’t have any teeth, he can only roar at you but not bite you because Jesus defeated him on the cross. Jesus knocked all his teeth out.” 1 Peter 5:8

The devil is a deceiver, Revelation 12:9, and he wants to make us think his power is great; when in fact it is a LIE! He is a liar.

God, the Father, sent His only Son, Jesus to earth, to conquer sin and death. Jesus then, disarmed those spiritual powers and authorities and made a public spectacle of them by his death on the cross and subsequent resurrection, triumphing over them. Colossians 2:15

He (Jesus) is the TRUE power of this world. He reigns over every principality, authority, spirit, prince, and lie of the devil.

Jesus said, “I am the way the TRUTH and the life.” John 14:6

When faced with lies remember who’s behind them. Remember where truth comes from. Look for those opposites and flip the lies on their ear with your truth crowbar.

Recognize the liar. See the truth.

What do you see?

Go with God.

A Wineskin in Smoke

Imagine, if you will, an ancient Bedouin home, a tent made of black goat’s skin; it is made of coarse, heavy fabric and will protect the family in all seasons. The tent’s shape is somewhat oblong and inside it is divided into 2 or 3 apartments by goat’s hair curtains.

As you enter you proceed into the men’s compartment and also the place of welcoming guests. If you were to walk on, you would enter the quarters for the women and children, which is protected from view from the reception area.

Rugs are covering the grounds, and the bedding and mats are brought out only at night. Around you will see sacks of grain piled up, and over there a mortar and handmill where the grain is pounded.

A hole is dug in the earth where the fire is set and several stones are put around it; this hole is inside the tent. Outside the tent another fire is also prepared.

Hanging from the poles inside the tent you will find skin bags for water, other liquids and even cheese, butter or olive oil.

Let’s look at those bags more closely.

a bottle
or wineskin

These “bottles” were made from the goats skin, dried and tanned, having been cut in the shape of a “bota”, stitched, reversed and sealed.

These Botas (bottles) were valuable to the Bedouins, for they carried life, refreshing, and sustenance on their long days or journeys. They were used and reused and refreshed as needed if they became too hard or brittle. When the bags were empty they would be hung up on the poles inside the tent.

Because the fire was inside the tent, it affected these empty, hanging bags. The bags would loose their elasticity, become dry, brittle, cracked, and eventually covered with black soot from the smoke. This is where the idea for our title comes from, “the wineskin in smoke”, those empty skins that hung inside the tent and exposed to the fire and smoke.

” Though I am like a wineskin in smoke, I do not forget your decrees.”

Israeli Psalm 119:83

If the Bedouin, now in need of a wineskin, took one down to refill it and found it old, cracked, brittle and unable to hold what he needed, the skin would have to be “reconditioned”.

This process included cleaning it, washing off the soot, dust and dirt and soaking it in oil. The wineskin would be soaked in oil until it was rejuvenated to its supple and soft state again, ready to be used for new wine. It was never thrown away, it was reconditioned, or as they called it, made “fresh”. It was the skin that was made fresh, not always the wine.

Throughout history, much has been made about old and new wineskins. Many literary, historical, and biblical lessons and analogies have been taught regarding wineskins.

Most often, we hear of how an old wineskin cannot hold the new wine, because it has become too rigid, and is no longer flexible. So, when the new wine is placed inside, as it ferments and expands it creates pressure inside the old skin , and eventually it will burst the old skin with the new wine being sadly wasted.

New wine, we are told, belongs in new wineskins. But what is really meant is new wine belongs in an old, usable wineskin or a reconditioned wineskin. Bottom line, the bottle, bag, wineskin, or “bota” must be flexible, pliable, soft, soaked, refreshed, rejuvenated, or reconditioned and refreshed.

There are dozens of applications to draw from this story and wineskin picture. My first request is to ask you to receive from it what is meant for you- as the wineskin. Pause now, reread sections, or think about it. What’s in it for you?

What I feel to add is this –

We are living in a time when something new is being birthed. It’s powerful and expanding and we wineskins need to be flixible and not rigid in our handling of “it”. The old ways will not hold the new “thing”.

Wineskins are being filled up with this new wine and more is coming. It is not the time to be empty and hanging in the smoke of the tent all dirty and sooty and rigid, unusable.

Whether it be political, personal or biblical “new wine”, the wineskins must be reconditioned and refreshed to carry and pour out the power of the new wine.

What’s your condition?

Let’s get filled up!

Cheers to you.

A Revolution of Empathy

I woke up this morning thinking about Barabbas, an insurrectionist, revolutionary, and murderer during Jesus’ day.

“Insurrection – a violent uprising against authority or government. An act or instance of revolting against civil authority or established government.”

Webster

He sought to bring political revolution to Jerusalem which was under Roman rule and was an active participant in the political turmoil, and religious unrest of Jesus’ time. He was arrested, found guilty of murder and insurrection and was awaiting his due punishment – death.

The crowds gathered before Pilate’s judgment bench and asked for Barabbas to be released in exchange for Jesus. After thunderous exchanges, Barabbas was set free and Jesus was condemned to death.

Barabbas and Jesus…

One man wanted a political revolution, the other a revolution of love.

I believe one can work towards producing the other. I believe the latter will birth the former.

Do you know what lies at the heart of a man or woman’s deepest longings? Guess… what would you say? To be loved? To be accepted? To be wanted? Yes, those are all huge.

But one of our deepest longings is to feel heard. We each need to feel understood, to have our feelings noticed, our hurts legitimized. We find a way to handle it if people don’t agree with our feelings, but we still want them validated.

Don’t you find yourself more willing and ready to do something for someone who gave you that validation, acknowledged your hurt; the one who actually gave their ear and heart to you and your expressions?

” Empathy – the action of understanding, being aware of, sensitive to. The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”

Webster

When you empathize with someone, you have taken action. You have given your attention, time, focus, effort and heart to listen to their feelings and do your best to understand them. Whether or not you fully understand is less important than the point that you consistently make the effort to listen. For in time, you will see a clearer picture and begin to feel what they have felt. We learn to empathize and can grow in empathy.

As a matter of fact, smart people have established a category of people called HEP’s – Highly Empathic People; and have outlined 6 habits that those HEP’s have. They :

  • have a curiosity about strangers
  • challenge prejudices & discover common ground instead
  • try another person’s life
  • listen hard and open up
  • inspire action and change
  • develop an ambitious imagination

Now, more than ever, in these days of revolution, I believe we are in need of a Revolution of Empathy. A Revolution of love in action that hears and feels the hurt, feelings, and deep seated emotions. A revolution that seeks to listen, feel, and cry with others. A revolution that will indeed change society, politicians, and government.

A revolution of people committed to strangers, who will not just lay aside personal prejudices, but change them, all while seeking to hear broken hearts and try on what it’s like to be that person. Revolutionaries who will listen hard and be open in return. Revolutionaries who will inspire others to join in this Revolution of Empathy and Love and expect big and lasting changes in our world.

We are in need of the Revolution of love that Jesus demonstrated with Barabbas.

Cheers to you.