Call for the Question

Dream with me a little. When you stand back and contemplate your life do you ever wonder if you have, or will make, a difference. An elementary and obvious query for folks who ponder about more than just the mundane “sleep . . . wake up . . . go to work . . . eat . . . back home . . . watch football . . . go to bed . . . (repeat)” kind of existence.

Most of our daily activity is arranged around patterns of repetition. We do and are what we have always done and been and don’t usually think about enlarging our life borders beyond these predictable boundaries and patterns. Only when some event or new relationship calls us awake and apart are we faced with a shaking of our self-centered homeostasis.

We long for significance. Significance is about identity and impact. So we hope that somehow when we pass on from this life we won’t be forgotten; that we will have made a difference; that we will have contributed to something much larger than we are. That we have made a difference in our social circles, a difference in our families, our faith communities, our legacies.

Why do we long to recast our lives in this way? Why are we aroused, or at least pause to muse, whether this life we relish (or tolerate) will have any import? Is there some inner insatiability that yearns for fulfillment? Why can’t the average human simply follow the mind-numbing script of day to day rhythms of “normal” life?

Lots of questions there. Personally, I am not satisfied with settling for the repetition of a pointless existence that generates no influence or impact on my fellow travelers. Are you? Did you ever wonder why you are here or if there is a purpose and significance to these few years you’ve been allotted on planet Earth.

I am increasingly convinced that not only is there an important reason for my presence here at this time but I am sure I have been called and outfitted for this time. No intent here to exhibit any ego issues, I just believe there is not only purpose, but call, gifts and power to accomplish my purpose.

How do I know? As I reminisce about the journey my family and I have been on, I see the hand of God in every event, every decision, every move, every relationship and every trial. Details are not necessary here but clearly we have been “set up” by God for the next season in our purpose-full life.

Each of us who have chosen to be a Jesus follower (and I might add all who have not yet intentionally chosen) have dormant within us the gifts, call and power to live out that purpose. To release these “enablements,” our part is to resolve to open our minds, hearts and spirits to allow that empty space of unfulfilled destiny to be inhabited by the dream God intends us to live out.

Ok, Dr. Gary; what does that look like and how can that happen, you rightfully question. Well, it does look different for each of us but maybe there are some common indicators and divine events that call us to this most excellent life.

Let me pose some questions. (I know; too many questions and not enough answers! I believe the best way of self-discovery is self dis-cover-y. Other words, you know the events in your own life and can dis- or un- cover how God has been at work.) So, let’s begin.

Is there a history of God-consciousness and/or God-faithfulness in your past and present? Has your spirit been quickened by God-activity in such a way as to cause a craving for more God-connection to be present and witness what God is doing, to join Him there? Is there an awareness of destiny for that which you feel is beyond anything you could have orchestrated or have lived out?

Do you believe you have gifts you yearn to share with others in Kingdom efforts that have not yet been fully employed? Have you wanted to be a tool of influence in culture but you have not found a place of expression? Is there a fire within you, a pent up energy that bubbles and bulges and heart-burns to be released?

Are there strange, crazy events and opportunities that present themselves that defy logic and “rational” behavior? When you step through open doors do you look in the rear view and wonder how those steps could possibly fit within the paradigm of known God activity?

Conversely, is there a lack of confidence in the prompting and timing of unction (Holy Spirit empowering) that seems to bring timidity and a consequent quenching of that fire? Or, is there some guilt or sin that screams out its presence when you might be encouraged to step out and be bold, bringing shameful silence instead of confident Kingdom life or warfare? Do you wonder if you even know how to hear God? Did you miss His voice of direction?

If I am sure of anything, it is this. Contrary to much of the theology I was taught in my impressionable years, God has not given up on this human experiment. In fact, He holds all the cards of power and will not allow it to fail. I said; He will not fail! There will not be only 12 or 13 people in the Kingdom to come. If so, why would He promise to pour out His spirit on all flesh just to annihilate almost everybody in some lake of fire? (Sorry, another question.)

In keeping with that thought, we should ask a further question. How might something like that Spirit pouring/drenching be accomplished? Well, God is going to have to get a bunch of people turned around and start living into their destiny. How will that happen? By awakening those who are called by His name and empowering them with confident, spirit infused lives of excellence coupled with opportunities for influencing culture and government toward repentance.

Ok, that was a mouthful, but I believe an astonishing change is in the cards that God holds and has started to reveal all over this land. When those who are called by His name pull their collective heads out of the sands of traditional theological assumptions and walk in purity, truth and confidence, an amazing, life-giving, life-validating move of God will break out in the land.

Cultural and religious strongholds of idolatry will be smashed. Wickedness in governing structures that are covenantally connected with spiritual powers of darkness will be broken. Bondages of mind and spirit, wealth and heritage will be released as families become free to serve God and others.

A pipe dream? Don’t think so. This kind of spiritual earthquake could unleash the Third Great Awakening, setting the table to usher in His Kingdom.

The last question I have for us is this. Do we want to live into our God-created significance? Are you; am I ready to take the next step into our intended destinies? That step is our choice. Let us join Him.

Your Kingdom Come!

Storied Past – 8

Stunned for a few moments, Becky finally gathered her presence of mind and sprang up. Tearing down the stairs to the street level she searched for Ramona. The streetlights had already been on for a while but they didn’t reveal which way the girl had gone.

“Oh, Ramona,” she wondered, “where did you go?” Heading back upstairs she tried to think what to do next. Maybe Ramona would go back home tonight. She might try to check online for a doctor there or maybe she could get a referral from her own doctor. What to do?

Her ringtone abruptly sounded. It was Jeremy, the staff member from City Reach.

“Hi Becky, how’s it going?”

“Not good. Remember the girl I brought with me to the soup kitchen?”

“Yeah, she seemed real shy. Nice though. What about her?”

Becky sighed, “Well, she is pregnant and I’m afraid she might end it; soon!”

“Are you serious right now? Isn’t she with you?

“Well, she was at my apartment until I got home from work. Then she had a meltdown and flew out the door threatening to find a doctor. I don’t know what I should do.”

Jeremy thought for a second. “Want me to meet you someplace? We should try to find her.”

Becky agreed. “I think she might go to her house. Meet me there; 1015 East Granite Street. I’ll be there in fifteen.”


Ramona hurriedly walked to the corner where she turned left. She didn’t know where she was going and didn’t really care. She was only cognizant of this anger and deep hurt that drove her to get away; just go someplace, anyplace but here in this Podunk, small-minded town.

That thought lodged in her consciousness with a speck of hope. Maybe she really should go someplace else: a new life in a new city where no one knew her. They wouldn’t know her past; wouldn’t judge her now and she could make her own future without church busybodies telling her how to live. She could find a doctor in a larger city, take care of her problem and start over.

First she had to go home and pack some things. Then she remembered: her purse! She was in such a hurry to leave Becky’s she left it in the front hallway!

Continuing around the block she headed back to the apartment.


Becky and Jeremy arrived about the same time at Ramona’s house. “Did you knock yet?” he asked.

“No, I was waiting until you arrived. I may need your moral support.” Becky said.

“No lights on,” Jeremy noted. They peered into the living room window. “And I don’t see any shadows moving around either.” He said.

“Great!” Becky sighed and moved back to the front door. She rang the doorbell. No answer. She rang again and then again.

“Well, what do we do now?” Becky looked at Jeremy.

“Where else do you think she might go?” he asked.

“I don’t know. I’ve only known her for about a week, Jeremy. I saw her Dad at the mercantile store and then on the kitchen floor, unconscious. He is the only . . . oh, I know. Let’s call Pastor Marlowe. He would know lots of her friends and they could ask around; see if they can find her.”

“Great idea, Beck! I’ve wanted to meet him anyway.” Reaching for his phone he said, “I’ll search for his number.”

He found a Pastor Marlowe listed and handed the phone to Becky. She waited while it rang and then went to voicemail.

“Pastor Marlowe, this is Becky Moore, a friend of Ramona Beckett. I am wondering if you could help me find her. I think she may be a bit distraught and could be in danger. You can reach me at my number; 503.555.6162. Thank you.”

“Well, all we can do now is wait for him to call back. Other than that, I don’t have a clue where she could be,” Becky concluded.

It was now getting close to 9:30 pm. They caught a bus and headed toward downtown. Five or six minutes later they got off on Main. The streets were wet from a heavy mist. Diesel fumes from the departing bus mixed with the moist air in a familiar scent that describes most small to medium sized Northwest towns. The yellow/orange streetlights reflected off the dampness of every hard surface and magnified, leaving a glow that was both welcoming and mysterious.

Holy Grounds Coffee Company, Becky’s part time employer and the place she took Ramona after discovering her under the overpass last week, was in the next block.

“Jeremy, let’s go get some tea while we’re waiting for Pastor Marlowe to call back. I will tell you what I know about Ramona.”

“Right! Good call.” Jeremy agreed.

They ordered and sat down with mugs of steaming organic tea. Becky then related how she met Ramona just down the street a few blocks and everything up to when he called her a couple of hours before, including Ramona’s dream and today’s rant.

“Well, that is pretty sad,” Jeremy observed. “I have heard other people share similar stuff about that church. It will be interesting to meet the Pastor and see if he is really that . . . that harsh, I guess I might describe it.”

Becky’s phone interrupted their conversation. Pastor Marlowe’s voice asked, “Becky Moore?”

“Yes, Pastor? Thanks for calling back. I’m worried about Ramona.” She then gave a much shortened version of the last few hours.

“Well, what would you like me to do?” Marlowe asked.

“I was hoping you might check with some of her friends there in the church to see if they might know where she could be.” Becky suggested.

“You know, it’s hard to say. Ramona strayed from God and she’s gone into other friendships that her church friends probably wouldn’t know about. She could be anywhere. And I don’t want to get in the way of God’s disciplinary activities. What would that make me?”

Becky had a hard time with this last comment. She didn’t quite know how to respond.

“Well, I would be glad to call a couple of people if you could give me their names, Pastor.”

“If you want to call, that’s fine. I think she has made her bed though, and you can see what she did in it!”

“Yes, sir. Who can I call?”

Marlowe gave her three of Ramona’s friends from his church. Jeremy entered them into his phone as she repeated the names. Thanking the pastor, she hung up.

“You will never believe what he just said.” Becky was fuming. “I just can’t understand how a Pastor would write off someone and not even want to help.”

“There are those who believe that when you leave a church you leave God and His best ways,” Jeremy observed, “even if you don’t leave because of sinful activity. It’s like you can only serve God best in that church and by leaving it you have chosen to serve God at some lesser level, which is not acceptable once you have known a better way.”

“And what about Ramona? She didn’t leave because of that. She left because she felt like she couldn’t live up to the Pastor’s expectations, which she equated with God’s expectations. Oh! Excuse me. I need to call these friends before it gets too late.”

– To Be Continued –

Storied Past – 7

Ramona sank down into the stout hospital chair next to his bed. She hadn’t figured her father struggled with anything. He was always so settled and determined when it came to his faith. He seemed to act with unquestioned commitment as he dutifully followed the Pastor’s directives. If he, the one who was so careful to do the right thing, the one who always backed the Pastor fully, the one who was always there at church even if he was sick, if HE had questions . . . well, how could she ever make it?

That brought back a memory that made her shudder. In her mind she could hear a ditty that two of her friends sang years ago. Pastor Marlowe loved it! He had them sing it several times in front of everyone. One verse went like this:

“If we all backed our pastor, our pastor, our pastor
If we all backed our pastor, how happy we’d be.
When your friends are my friends and our friends are God’s friends
If we all backed our pastor, how happy we’d be.”

Well, she wasn’t happy! Maybe other people in the church thought it was because she wasn’t “backing the Pastor.” But, her dad was. Why didn’t he act happy then?

“You’ve been awfully quiet. What are you thinking about?” She snapped back to the reality of the sterile hospital room.

“Nothing, Dad. Um, did Mom always go along with Pastor Marlowe’s preaching? I mean, did she agree with all the rules and stuff?”

“Well, we had, shall I say, spirited conversations about different things. Sometimes when he had a Bible teaching about something, she would disagree. I always thought Pastor meant well and was truly concerned about making sure we were ready for Heaven.”

Ramona was puzzled. She had the impression that her mother was pretty supportive. She never talked bad about him anyway. Well, there WAS that time that Sister Jacobs had all the girls line up on their knees to check how short their dresses were. Her mom was not happy about that but what could she do?

The duty nurse slipped into the room. “I think we should let your father rest for a while now. Pretty big ordeal he’s been through today!”

“Sure.” Ramona said. “I’ll see you later, Dad.” He didn’t respond. He had drifted off to sleep.

Ramona was deep in thought as she exited the hospital. The distinct medical smells from inside were supplanted by the organic wetness of nature outside. The crispness of this spring evening was such a contrast and seemed to portend a feeling she couldn’t quite identify; something peculiar. Was it simply the known promise of the approaching warmth of summer? Was it the impending unknown experience this life growing inside her would bring?

A baby would change her life trajectory, of course. Many times in the last few weeks this thought had both frightened her and brought anxiety. She struggled to picture a daily routine which included feeding, smelly diapers, tiptoeing at nap time, the inevitable noise of a crying child, the virtual death of her social life. She didn’t want her future completely hijacked by a baby!

As she walked the fifteen or so blocks back to Becky’s, a possible solution she once rejected out of hand took form on the shadowy horizon of her consciousness. She needed to find a doctor though.

She had to figure it out; needed to think this thing through. It made sense because she just wasn’t ready; besides people did it all the time. How could she get a job with a baby? It would be too hard!

She tried not to think it might be a solution she could regret later but she was already filled with guilt and regret. With a baby she would still have that, plus the added burden of being responsible for a child. At least with an abortion she would only have guilt and regret.

Becky pulled a couple of shots of espresso to add to the Americano she was making. She had been thinking about Ramona all afternoon.

“Lord, how can I help her see you?” she breathed. “I know that her church experience has been hurtful and right now her faith is especially vulnerable. Let me just be a friend to her and listen.”

“Paul, your Americano is ready. Paul?

A good looking guy stepped up to claim the drink. “Thanks! Hey, what time do you get off work?” he asked.

“In a few minutes,” she returned, “but I have plans. Thanks anyway.”

“Well maybe some other time?” he offered.

“Probably not. My boyfriend wouldn’t like it.”

“Oooooo. Ok then. Have a nice life.”

He turned and walked out, to Becky’s relief. She clocked out and went to get her coat. Leaving the small shop she headed to her apartment.

Ramona was standing at the back kitchen window when Becky walked in. She hung her coat on the hall tree and walked across the small room to the overstuffed chair. She waited to see if Ramona would acknowledge her presence.

Seconds seeming like minutes passed and finally Becky ventured, “Ramona, you Ok?”

“Does God forgive all kinds of sins, forever?” Ramona asked, almost monotone.

“Yes, yes, of course Ramona. He has already forgiven all of your sins and mine. You know this; that Jesus died once for all of us and for all time. Sin has been paid for completely and entirely. You are forgiven.”

“Well, I don’t feel forgiven.” She shot back. “I feel dirty, I feel rejected, I feel embarrassed, I feel wronged, I feel like I’ve disappointed God, my family, church and I’ve gone too far, made too many mistakes and used up all of God’s patience.” She was gathering steam now. “That’s why I’m pregnant! God is punishing me because I went too far this time. I didn’t listen to him or the Pastor and now I have to pay for it.”

Ramona turned to face Becky. There were tears running down her face from reddened eyes. Becky was moved deeply as she sensed the pain Ramona was trying to express. But the next statement from Ramona shook her.

“I am going to fix part of the problem.” Her voice was strong and resolute now. “I can’t let a baby ruin the rest of my life. I need all my energy to get back on track. So since God forgives sins forever, I’m about to commit one more.”

“Ramona, how can I help?” Becky hoped this would slow down the girl’s speedy journey into more trouble.

“Well, for starters, you can take your “God stuff” and stuff it where the sun don’t shine! I’m tired of everybody’s sanctimonious attitude like they know what I should be doing. I know what I want and it isn’t a baby!”

She strode out the front door slamming it with a finality that chilled Becky to her bones.

“Ramona, Wait! Don’t do it. I can help.”

Storied Past – 5

“Ramona! What are you doing here?” her father repeated, this time more irritated. “Where have you been? I’ve looked all over for you. I haven’t seen you for two days and I’ve been worried. I called the police this morning after looking for you all last night. Where did you go?”

“I . . . I just had to leave for a while. I needed some space to . . . “

“Well, you coulda’ said something.” He interrupted. “You had me scared. You need to come home right now.” He seemed to be gaining speed, anger and volume all at once.

“Well, I think I am, no I know I’m OK and I will come home soon. I just need some space; to think and figure things out.”

“What’s to figure? You are pregnant, in trouble and in sin. You need to get saved,” he spat out. You’re lucky I haven’t thrown you out. I’m still your father and I say you need to come home.”

“No sir,” she countered. “I am staying with a friend and I will be just fine.”

Becky had observed the interaction from a few aisles away and felt like it had escalated more than necessary. She stepped up to the cash register. “Could you call 911 please? I hope everything will be OK but just in case.”

“Sure,” the cashier said.

As she returned to her previous position a safe distance away she saw Ramona’s father reach out and grab her arm. “I said, you need to come home, right now.” Ramona pulled back so fast she knocked over a display of windshield wiper fluid. A couple of bottles split open spreading bluish liquid over the surrounding area.

“Dad, I said I am just fine. I will be home soon. Now could you just leave me alone for a while? Please don’t cause a scene.”

“Well, I guess you already caused a scene, didn’t you, when you went out, got drunk and got all knocked up from some guy you didn’t even know. You’ve probably been sleeping around, too. You’re a whore and damned for Hell.”

Ramona started. She had never heard her father talk like that. But then the impact of what he had said infuriated her. “I was not sleeping around! I have been your perfect little girl all my life trying to please you and the church and now you call me that? I hate you, I hate you!”

Just then the squawk of a police radio coming in the front door demanded everyone’s attention.

“Hey, Hey,” the officer called out. “Let’s calm down and tell me what’s going on.”

“Nothing, officer,” Ramona’s father replied. “I was just leaving. I’ll see you later little Miss sleep-around. Don’t think this is over.”

“Now wait a minute, mister,” the officer known as Riley demanded. “You are not leaving that soon. I want to talk to you first. Here, step outside for a minute. And you stay here in the store, young lady. I want to talk to you, too.”

Ramona looked over at Becky, her heart in her throat from fear. Where did that talk-back spunk come from? She never talked to her father that way before. She guessed she would be in trouble with him for weeks because of it. If Mom were still alive she would be disappointed but she knew Mom would be at least understanding and loving through all this.

Come to think of it, it started to make some sense. Since Mom died her father seemed to become more harsh and demanding. He went to church more like he was off to war or something. When they came home he was more rigid and mechanical around the house. “Everything has a place and there is a place for everything,” he kept saying, as if he were getting OCD or something. Structure, organization and perfect behavior were the most important values. No time for fun anymore.

Becky had walked over by this time and touched her elbow. “I’m so sorry, Ramona. Are you going to be OK? We can go. I still have a few more days until Saturday to find a scarf.”

“Probably should go. I feel weak in the knees. But the cop wants to talk to me first.”

After a short conversation with Officer Riley they headed back to Becky’s apartment. It was still cold out and Ramona clutched her coat closer. She did need to go home and get some clothes to wear. She really hadn’t planned on being gone long when she left yesterday. Now, with her father’s behavior, it made things more complicated. Should she just go on back home or stay with Becky a couple more days?

Turning to Becky she said, “If it’s OK with you Becky, I think I may need to stay with you a little longer but I need to get a change of clothes. Could you go with me? I’m not sure how my father will act when I get there.”

“Of course, Ramona. And yes, you may hang out with me until you get things straightened out with your dad.”

They caught a bus for the ride over to Ramona’s neighborhood. These colder days would eventually give way to the warm spring season but winter seemed to refuse to let go of its grip. Gray, cloudy skies and the accompanying rain squalls were the norm now and this afternoon was no exception. They seemed to overshadow Ramona and eerily prophesy that dark forces were in control of her destiny. The awful dream from last night stole back into her memory in an effort to confirm a hopeless feeling that had nagged her subconscious recently. Why had all this happened to her? What good could possibly await in her future now? What a mess this was.

The bus stopped at East Granite Street where she and Becky got off. Walking two blocks up brought them to a crème colored bungalow with chocolate brown trim where Ramona’s family lived; that is to say, where she and her father lived. Since mom died it hadn’t seemed much like a home. Oh, the place was clean and decently appointed, as it had always been but the warmth of her mother’s graceful spirit was missing, replaced by the drab clamminess of legalistic rule minding imposed by her father.

She turned the key in the lock and pushed the door open. She invited Becky to go in first. Suddenly a strange feeling came over her when she crossed the threshold. What was it? Walking through the living room into the kitchen she nearly tripped over her father’s shoe. Then a horrified scream vaulted past her brain and out of her mouth.

Get out of the (Fear)Boat

“Fear causes a kind of contraction of the heart. As such, it inhibits godly actions such as love, hospitality, risky mission, and generosity.” Frost and Hirsch; The Faith of Leap.

Fear of rejection, fear of past guilt, fear of incompetence and fear of imperfection enslaves many in a prison of defeat. They (maybe some of us) become paralyzed with doubt, anxiety, self-loathing and others’ expectations and become ineffective quasi-disciples of a disfigured image of Jesus. What ever happened to the bold, courageous, risk taking, adventurous disciples of a risen, victorious Jesus who calls us to live on the edge of life (and in the middle of life) with Jesus-confidence and living faith?

What does this look like? First, a life lived with confident faith requires a character infused with integrity. We cannot advance into faith-full activity with sullied consciences. Deal with your issues honestly and then live in truth.

Second, we must carry the presence and power of the Spirit. This is the only pathway to effective ministry. Words and/or actions alone are not enough.

Thirdly, we must be in community. Life is lived together and after all, we can’t be and make disciples if we are hermits or afraid to mingle and minister in the middle of the pain and joys of others.

Fourthly, we must live large and bold. By large, I mean our minds, hearts and hands must be open, understanding, welcoming and giving. By bold, I mean we must live with proactive initiative (yes, I know that may sound redundant). But “Step into the water, go out a little bit deeper,” as the old song says.

Fifth, expect results (hint . . . faith). I know, I know, our religious culture allows for failure, even if we “pray in faith.” “It must not have been God’s will” we say apologetically and I know God is sovereign and all that. I may have missed something but I can’t recall Jesus in a puzzled quandary about not being able to heal someone. True, the disciples didn’t always return with a positive report, but Jesus patiently (usually) shared how they could bring home the bacon . . . er . . . right, they didn’t eat pork. He taught them how they could triumph over Satan’s activities. The good news is that we are evaluated by our faithfulness, not our “successes.”

Sixth, retell/share the story. There is, I believe, unplumbed power in the fresh, testimonial narraphor. Again, a recall of Jesus’ story telling example confirms the facts. People want to know this stuff works and hear real, not platitudes.

Seventh, (notice the spiritual significance of the number seven. Just kidding, there is no magic about my having seven points). Repeat. Take up the adventure where you left off. Get out there and walk on water, or whatever risk taking activity you engage in. If God confirmed His activity and presence by moving through you and your community He will do it again.

So, I challenge you and me to try, just try this. Take a risk by being bold. The prefaced caveat is Spirit aware direction, of course. But don’t shrink from a divine opportunity by blaming it on not feeling bold or not having an affirming tweet from Jesus. Living in the Spirit is part sensing, part intuitive and part risk taking. Those are not necessarily divided into even thirds but I think those elements should be there. When you have met Jesus and he has forever changed you, you are ready to meet others and forever change them, by the power of His Word and the presence of His Spirit.

Connecting with others to build relationship, to love them and make disciples is not the only way we take risks and carry the Spirit’s scent. Many live out their call in less obvious ways. They live generously; they live faith-fully and in a daily witness of a life saturated with integrity and congruence. Others simply and graciously do tasks of mercy for and with others in mind. Some extend ministry into their children’s and grand children’s lives with love and mentoring only they can provide. Still others open their hearts and hands in self-giving of time and resources. Countless are the ways we look and smell like Jesus.

I can’t tell you exactly what an encounter will look like because that would quantify and limit your expectations of how God works. A paradigm doesn’t exist. God is so creative it could happen a million different ways and in as many environs. But be assured, you and I are not alone in this adventure. Remember Hebrews 12 and the huge crowd of cheerleaders along the way to a destination certain? They are witnesses and believing users of risky faith. Can you hear them and their now-realized faith-became-sight shouts for you to take that first halting step? They know that just ahead is the potential for explosive, culture altering Kingdom activity in your adventure that will usher in the kind of victory in Jesus we used to sing about.

Get out of the boat. Jesus is waiting.