“Let the Word Do the Work” Day

busToday has been “let the Word do the work” day.

There just comes a point when you’ve done everything you can do and you just have to leave the rest up to God. I mean, there seems to be a fine line between what we’re responsible for and what He takes complete ownership of, like, say, who your kid’s gonna marry and what you’re gonna be like when you’re really old, or if diabetes just runs in your family, you know? We don’t get to choose our parents, after all.

There’s a saying that goes, “Pray to catch the bus, then run like hell.” But Paul wrote in Ephesians 6, “Having done all to stand, just stand…” So do I stand or do I run? If I miss this bus is another one coming soon? I want to think I’ve done my best in everything, but there’s always that nagging question, “What if I didn’t?” I’m praying, I’m running, I’m standing, too, but sometimes it still feels like I just missed the bus no matter which way I look at it.

We should pray. We should do all the “right things” like get up at 4:30 a.m. to read the entire Book of Psalms, fast until breakfast, and then serve in a soup kitchen til noon. But, sometimes, even if we’ve checked off all the boxes of all the shoulds, things still don’t seem to be moving in the direction we would hope. What then?

Maybe that’s the time to “let go and Let God,” to take it “one day at a time,” and just trust that the Word is working in us and for us in ways we can’t see or even know. Psalm 139 (that I read about 4:57 this morning) says that God “knit me together” in my mother’s womb. If He’s smart enough to do that, He’s probably smart enough to take care of the rest of my life, right?

The field goal kicker for Auburn just missed a 27′ field goal. I’m sure he’s practiced a lot and has done a lot of “right” things, but he’s not having a great day. I’m sure he’s just kicking himself right now. Maybe later when the team looks at the reels or he’s laying in bed feeling horrible, he’ll realize his self-esteem isn’t hinged to his performance. Maybe he’ll be okay with having prayed, run, and still missed the bus. Or, maybe he’ll just hurt a lot and trust that God is there with him on the curb as the bus zooms away and he re-lives that missed kick over and over.

Today is “let the Word do the work” day.

If that’s true, then God still loves me. He’s not mad at me for anything and He’s got some good things ahead. Maybe I missed the field goal, or maybe I’ve not done all I could do to do things “right.” It seems to me that if things are ultimately up to me, I’m screwed already because and I could never do enough”right” things to earn His love.

So, I choose now to let the Word work for me.

Whatever buses I’ve missed, whatever I’ve done right or wrong, whatever I can or cannot do, it’s all ultimately in God’s hands now. He’s the One who set life in motion. He’s the One who’s led me through it all, from the womb on. He’s the One who is faithful and who has decided to “work all things together for my good” (Romans 8). He’s the One who’s made the heavens, the earth, the sun, the moon, the stars, and all the stuff that goes into making cars and trucks and buses.

In fact, I think I can see Him at the wheel of another one turning the corner right now.

 

 

 

 

 

“Kick the Devil to the Curb” Day

devil

Today is “kick the devil to the curb” day.

You might not believe in a “personal devil” but he believes in you. He knows more about you and how to get to you than you’ve ever give him credit for, probably. He shows up in myriad ways, usually as thoughts that undermine God’s authority in your life, but sometimes as outright temptations to compromise your integrity and love for God.

In Genesis 3:1 he asks Eve a simple, yet deceptive question, “Did God really say you can’t eat of any tree in the garden?” Funny how just a slight twist in meaning can make all the difference. God had said they could freely enjoy any fruit from any tree except for one, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Theologians have argued for centuries over the meaning of this particular tree, but it certainly was the one that would alter their spiritual state from pure and pristine to something that no longer reflected their original creation, should they choose to eat from it. And eat they did. First Eve, who was deceived, and then Adam who was close enough to see what was going down and ate in direct disobedience to God anyway (1 Timothy 2:14).

There’ve been times in my own life that I knew I was being tempted of the devil and yet, like Adam, I chose to follow him into sin instead of resisting it and choosing what was right before God to do. If anyone could’ve worn out 1 John 1:9 that says God forgives us when we sin it would’ve been me! I’m so thankful that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us”!

Every time I have disobeyed God, especially deliberately, something has “died” inside me that takes a while to regain, some spiritual ground that is lost, if only temporarily, that has to be regained as I live into the love and grace of Jesus again. Needless to say, sin is a joy-stealer and needs to be avoided at all costs.

Today is “kick the devil to the curb” day.

If he’s questioning God’s authority and Word in your mind, and he surely tries, take a hard stand against him now and shoo him away like a fly. The prophet Isaiah said we’ll one day look at him and ask, “Are YOU the one that caused all this trouble?”(Isaiah 14:16). The devil is NOT an equal with God–he is a created being with limited authority to run around trying to deceive us like he did Eve.

Recognize his tactics (Ephesians 6:11) and just kick him to the curb.

Looking for A City

Hebrews 11:10

Hebrews 11:10

In Genesis 12:1 God called a wealthy man named Abram to leave his own home, the “land of his fathers and mothers,” to follow Him to place he’d never been before. In effect, God was asking him to leave everything he knew as “home” and everything that was comfortable and familiar to go someplace new–someplace God wasn’t even revealing to him yet.

“Faith” had never been a sermon topic or the premise of a book back then. No one studied it or even knew what “faith in God” was. There were no preachers on television offering “the five steps to greater faith” and no radio programs helping people “grow” their faith. There was, of course, lots of pagan ritual back then as there is today and Abram himself was known as someone who actually worshiped the moon for the special powers he thought it had.

And then GOD showed up.

Among several unique visitations Abram would have throughout his life from God, the first one recorded in Genesis 12 would cause him to become known as “the father of faith” throughout the rest of recorded history just because he was willing to follow God’s directions without having to control the results. I guess that makes him the first “faith evangelist!”

Abram’s willingness to step out and follow God to a place he didn’t know can still speak to us today. Have you sensed God talking to you about greater obedience to Him, even though you don’t know what that might mean? Have you felt a tug on your heart to finally write that book or go on that mission trip or even just speak to a neighbor even though you don’t know what the results may be?

In both big and small ways we all have an “Abrahamic call” on our lives to follow God wherever He leads. It starts with the simple willingness to follow and grows from there. Abram didn’t become the “father of faith” overnight, but watched as each single step of obedient trust became a lifetime and legacy of faith that still encourages us today.

What simple step of trust will you take today?

Courage to Praise God Anyway

I’ve just finished up three days with some awesome worshipers at The Calvin Institute of Worship. Thirty-five people of all stripes and backgrounds were gathered for a conversation on pop-rock worship and the future of the church, some very well-known names and some not-so-well-known folks. We sang ONE song as our benediction at the end of the last session – it rocked!

What i came away with was more courage to praise God in the midst of what often feels like a discouraging religious climate. With all the religious and preferential lines drawn in the sand, I’ve been a little low lately. This event helped me take courage again and to praise God anyway.

I know that sounds childish, but I suspect many of you have wearied of the same hymn versus modern song battles, or any other stylistic issues you’ve faced as clergy or lay person. It just gets old, especially for those of us dealing with it week after week.

Paul wrote that we are to give thanks always and in all things. May you join me in giving thanks for the goodness of God to us today, regardless of what others do or don’t do!
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A Prodigal’s Lament

I’ve been following Jesus for over 35 years now. It’s not getting easier. Funny, I thought it would, but it doesn’t. It seems to me that the more I want to love Him and serve Him the more my flesh rebels. The more I want to pray or worship, the less I seem to do it.

I know I’m not alone. Paul wrote in Romans 7 that he felt very similar to this when he said, “The things I want to do, I don’t. And the things I don’t want to do, I do.” Well, that’s comforting, at least a little.

I wrote a song this past week for all of us who are willing to admit that we stray in our hearts from the One we love the most, like the story of the prodigal son Jesus talked about. I can be a prodigal for minutes, hours, or days. I look back on my life and see entire seasons I just wanted my own way. Maybe this life of following Jesus is sometimes about being honest that we struggle to really do it.

Hope you enjoy the song – I wrote the last verse after I made the recording, but I hope to get fiddle on this next week and will repost. I’ve posted the lyric below and the MP3.

Happy Easter, saints and sinners!

Chiz

Prodigal’s Lament
(The Sound of the Wind Through the Trees)

I’ve lived my life on the edge of the storm
And I’ve walked through the valley of death
I’ve huddled my soul in the shadows so cold
And I’ve cradled some lasting regrets

I’ve walked away from my lover’s sweet arms
And I’ve crushed all my loved ones with pain
I’ve traded my heart for a prison so dark
And I’ve given my life up to shame

REFRAIN:
But Love, O Love, You’re calling me
It brings me to my knees
I hear Your voice in the air tonight
In the sound of the wind through the trees

I’ve cried alone in the depths of the night
And I’ve felt burning tears on my face
I’ve cherished my sins and I’d do it again
If it weren’t for Your sweet loving grace

FIDDLE SOLO

Now I see You there at the end of the road
With Your heart and Your arms open wide
I could never deserve half the love that You give
Or count half the tears that You’ve cried

REFRAIN x 2

John Chisum
April 14, 2014
© Copyright 2014 by John Chisum. All Rights Reserved.

Ashes

I blink
Gape-eyed in the mirror
Of fun-house humanity
And see the smudge

I wipe
Scrub-faced and sanitized
In pine-scent religion
And smear the coals

I run
Bare-assed into hiding
In fig-leaved denial
And hear the voice of one calling
Who put the ashes of a sinner on my head

1996

 

Note: This poem was published in Mars Hill Review in 1997 to celebrate Ash Wednesday

Cornelius and Julia (God Sees)

I sit among the dead to ponder living.

Julia (b. 1896 – d. 1973) lays beside her beloved Cornelius (b. 1891 – d. 1977) in death’s long sleep. They neither hold hands nor kiss. Where once flourished fond affection, love, children, and laughter, is only silence and finality. Their sole, prone lookout is the under-sod, the dim other-side of green sprigging Zoysia. They do not feel the cordial breeze nudging my elbow and rippling my shirtsleeve as I sit beside their marble headstone, the sun glinting on the granite nameplate, the teeming brightness of this shining May afternoon kissing the glossy names of ghosts.

Julia and Cornelius, my newly-adopted-but-long-departed friends, can’t hear the humming traffic or the burring lawnmower nearby. They are deaf to the chirping baby robins and the jetliner I hear overhead. They can’t see the whopping black ant tracing the outline of my note-binder or reach out to crush it with an unmerciful finger. Their eyelids, stitched tightly over long-empty sockets, will never see children or grand children or great grandchildren playing ball or eating chicken salad.

But, I am breathing now, sucking in and blowing out my borrowed breaths. Each inhalation-exhalation takes me closer to Jules and “Corny” —see how fond we’ve become! The “living” and the “not-so-living” in communion, the sympathy of souls, as I sit hunched over their grassy beds like a hungry graveyard vulture.

Their secrets long misplaced, who now knows the flushed face or shy swooning Julia felt the first time she saw Cornelius so many years ago or if he was faithful to her his whole life? Perhaps he was, or perhaps he loathed her insufferable fussiness and punished her with coldness, the coldness they now sip together like chilly mint juleps. But, does it matter? There, at my feet they lay, the two of them. There they lay until the steaming rot of time itself swallows them dead again.

I once saw an egret plucking geckos from the bushes for his lunch. A stealthy bird with spindly legs, he was all beak and neck and belly, stalking tender young lizards. In one elegant lurch he snatched his kill between two teeth-less scissor beaks, over and over, lizard after lizard. Each one wrenched, twisted, writhed, and was swallowed helplessly whole, its fatal figure embossed, protruding from the bird’s long, thin neck until it sank out of sight.

I, too, will be stalked, snatched, and swallowed whole. God will watch as I watched. He will see my helplessness; my ludicrous struggle, observing my twitching form as I am pushed down death’s lean gullet to its dark swollen belly. He saw Jules go down and Cornelius, too, and all the dead laying all around me now. Not one soul escaped His sight.

I laid down on the newly greened grass beside Julia and Cornelius, resting under the tall oak that spread its spring-budding branches over us. As I dozed, they sat with me. He like Clark Gable and she Emily Dickinson, his handsome locks greased back and she, her dark hair pulled tight, bunned neatly, pinned for the long haul.

“Our four years apart were the hardest,” she pined, as if she had died for the beauty of her words. “I couldn’t wait for him to get here.” “And I couldn’t give a damn” spoke Cornelius in his best movie star imitation, his voice not quite his own, musty and dank, so long unused, so long silent. He winked wryly toward Julia in the way he always had when teasing her, but she had no blood with which to blush. A few moments passed, the air between us a thinly grayed veil. “It’s not so bad, really” she said distantly, looking past me to the stones and oaks behind. “God sees” she said. “God sees.”

May 2013

Prayers

The flicker of tongues
Lashes my soul to heaven
Innocent angels scatter to the lightened edges
 of my spirit-strokes

Stolen flames singe the fleshy insides
 of my mouth as bursts of incredulity
Flash the clouds and flesh the promises from faraway places
 now made manifest

Elijah, Ezekiel flame out
The “shining of shook foil”
Electric images edging their way to me
 from me into eternity

 

2009

To the Nines

We dress these bodies
Decaying corpses, purple husks
As if a polyester blend
Or the miracle of cotton can conceal
The truth about us

Death in our members
The rot of bones
The wormwood and the gall
The high-heeled pageantry of pride
Left to judge itself by itself

When will He dress us to the nines?