Beyond Blessed

As the world around us crumbles, and as my life seemingly crumbled around me, i can only say, “i am beyond blessed.” How can one make such a statement, how can i make such a statement? Easily! But first, you need to know the road i choose to travel. my road is much like yours in many ways, yet completely different, and that is the mystery of life. Everyone is the same, and yet completely different. To think otherwise is to be a fool. Furthermore, everyone is on a journey, influenced by others, affected by decisions, changed by events.

How one traverses these life influences and how these things imprint one’s life is one hundred percent the choice of the individual. It is called taking responsibility, being self-aware, and stopping to breathe and to use a skill often left in the annals of history, critical-thinking. You may not be able to stop what happens to you, but you can definitely determine how you respond to it.

Romans 15:13 —May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Romans 12:12 —Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

Philippians 4:4 —Rejoice in the Lord alwyas; again I will say, Rejoice.

Galatians 5:22-23 —But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control . . .

Life might suck. Lord knows my 2020 has! i have shared before, besides all that is going on with the world, my mom was diagnosed with cancer and died four months later. Through a series of events, i find myself yet again divorced. It has forced me to step away from full-time vocational ministry after 20 plus years! This is the first summer that i have not had any of my son’s with me. With all the travel back and forth to visit my mom and be with family for the last four months, my finances are shaky at best. i have been eating out more. Taco Bell, mainly, as i am on a very tight budget, and i can get a meal for $3.50, which is actually far less than if i went to the store. Because when i cook like i did this morning, i make food for a family, and it reminds me of the fact i am alone. So how is it that i can say that i am beyond blessed?! Because of the road, i choose to travel, and on this road, i am never truly alone.

If not for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within me, i would not. It is the hope that i carry within me that allows me to have joy unspeakable. i can’t even fully explain it. All i know is that i have a roof over my head, food in my belly, and an opportunity each moment to choose Jesus, to choose joy, to stand and say, “i am beyond blessed.” And it is true, no matter my circumstances, i am beyond blessed. You can be too! If you choose.

You are loved,

cj

Life in a tiny apartment

R.O.U.S.

This morning my downstairs neighbor told me she thinks we have a rodent between the floors because when i am gone, she can hear gnawing. “When you leave that rodent comes out and gnaws on wires or something for hours,” i suggested it may be Shiloh, my mini Aussie, gnawing on his bone, he has two really yummy bones; not that i would know, they just look yummy. Anyway, she did not agree. Growing up, we lived in several apartments. One thing about them is everything, every noise, anytime you drop even a pin; it’s like setting off an atomic bomb or something. Knowing this i attempt to walk softly and minimize my clumsiness. When Shiloh does enjoy his bone, he uses his paw to press it firmly to the floor so that he can, well, gnaw on it. i am fairly certain this is the rodent.

my bike was stolen from my porch or deck or landing, whatever it’s called. i was away, you know if you have read any of my previous posts, at my parent’s home. When i returned, it was the first thing i noticed. It had a tire lock on it and a flat tire, so i am not sure how they managed to run off with it, but one thing is for sure, they did not ride off into the sunset. i hope they needed it, Jesus said, if someone steals your coat, give them your tunic as well. Basically, a tunic is a shirt, so if someone steals your coat, give them your shirt as well. In this instance, i should probably put a sign on my deck that says, “here is the key to the lock on the bike you stole.” Maybe add a footnote, “thanks for being my final excuse not to ride it.”

my apartment is so tiny it is like a studio; only it has a wall between the bedroom and the living room. i lived in a very small apartment when i first moved to Wasilla, AK. It was two bedrooms and although the square footage is probably not much more than this place . . . it now feels like a mansion in comparison. Have you ever seen the sketch, Joe’s Apartment? i am not recommending it, i just remember bits of it from my younger years. i don’t even know what the premise was except that Joe, the guy living in the apartment, had made a bond with the many roaches residing with him. Except for the fact i keep my home clean, and i don’t have roaches, and my name isn’t Joe, it’s basically the same thing. Although, it does appear that i have at least one R.O.U.S. that comes out when i leave. So who knows maybe a T.V. Show in the works, “cj’s apartment.”

Why am i telling you these random things? Well, here goes; You never know what life is growing to throw at you. One minute, a family, a big house, and the next . . . um, not, that. One could easily give up, some do, but the story doesn’t have to end there or here. Each day, every moment really is another opportunity to see the good, to choose joy, to do what is just, to love mercy, and to walk humbly. A lot of introspection has and is going on in my tiny apartment. i suspect that will continue for some time. The one constant in my life, Jesus, i know He will always be with me. His mercy is new every morning, and His love is sure.

Here is a final note, don’t put your hope and your joy and your worth in possession, or influence, or others, YOUR WORTH is in knowing the LORD and in His presence, period.

“”Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew‬ ‭6:25-34‬ ‭ESV‬‬

You are loved,

cj

2020 can go to . . .

2020 i went to the zoo

“When life hands you lemons, you make” . . . This old saying, although very cliche, is an excellent piece of advice. my mom, who i have been writing about a lot lately, she also made it into many a sermon over the years, so it’s not just in her passing that she gets the shoutouts, definitely lived this quote. Life can suck, forgive my choice of wording, but it is true. It can pile on and make you wonder, can things get any worse?

Let’s look at 2020. Worldwide pandemic, locust in several African Countries, India, and China, ravaging crops, earthquakes in divers places, volcanic activity, wild weather events . . . These global events just tag onto things like riots, protests, civil unrest, political football, and election chaos. It’s only August!

Now, let me tag on my 2020. my mom was diagnosed with cancer in April . . . She passed into glory in August. Cancer is a wicked disease, and this one was beyond wicked, moving quickly and decisively. Although she had moments of extreme pain, she passed peacefully. i had to resign my ministry, another divorce, my former brother-in-law whom i really like, and we had a great time together recently, said, jokingly, yet with a grain of truth, “you know there’s a common denominator?” Yes, i know, and it rings all too loudly in my ears. i am really trying to figure out what my future holds as i seek the Lord in and through this crazy time in my life. So, if anyone can say 2020 sucks, i think i can.

However, if life gives you lemons . . . my mom would simply say, “you gotta get up, brush yourself off, and move on.” So, that is what i am doing! Focusing again on writing, ministry from an early church perspective, organic ministry, of course, blogging, podcasting, and looking at restarting my YouTube channel with weekly “Coffee with Jesus” moments. i don’t know what the future looks like exactly, but one thing i do know . . . Jesus holds it, and there is no one i would rather have leading the way.

So, for me, and you as you read this, here is my life verse, along with some supporting passages that help me get up each morning and focus on Jesus.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” i always paraphrase this, “Act justly, Love mercy, Walk humbly.” (Micah 6:8)

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.” (Philippians 3:12-15) In the voice of my mom, “you gotta get up, brush yourself off, and move on.”

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in Him.” (Lamentations 3:22-24) The Lord, is always faithful, and for that i am thankful!

If you are going . . . Through it, let me just say; “you gotta get up, brush yourself off, and move on.”

You are loved,

cj

See you later 👋 . . .

my mom died today. How does one say that simply, without sounding callous? Really, just her body died as her spirit lives on. And although i said, goodbye, i also said, see you later.

This is my mom preparing for her annual Christmas party

Some say that faith in God or any god, for that matter, is a waste of time. Or they will say, “whatever helps you cope.” For those of us with faith, believing in the Great I Am, there is a comfort that comes when a fellow believer passes, even if that person is family, in my case i call her mom. So yes, it does help us cope. However, it’s so much more than that as well.

my mom’s joy is her testimony, as i wrote previously (see here). Her joy through tragedy in her own life. This has been my witness of my mom. It’s a lesson learned. She also taught us to fight, to not give up, and to get up each time you get knocked down, just keep getting up. She’s known for singing, and one song comes up every time in family discussions, “I Woke Up This Morning Feeling Fine.” She taught herself the piano and played by ear. Whenever there was a piano, which was often, you would hear her play, and without fail, this song echoed down the halls.

That is the assurance that comes in knowing Jesus. It’s unexplainable, but the peace, the comfort, the joy, the hope, the knowing . . . it’s amazing. For those that feel this is just a way to cope than so be it. For those of us, that know . . . It’s everything.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.
‭‭1 John‬ ‭5:13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

i recently visited a gated community with twenty-four-hour manned security. You had to have credentials to enter the community. Do you live there? If not, you have to be on the “list.” In order to live in this community, you need to pay and pay a lot i am sure! i can’t imagine the homeowners association costs, they had a pool with lifeguards, tennis courts, trails, and a park, the upkeep alone on those things is enough to send the HOA costs through the roof, not to mention the twenty-four-hour manned guard shack. Now factor in the cost of the home! Folks actually live like this! i felt like such a peasant when i was there like i should be bowing and saying things like, “your majesty,” or “yes, my lord.” But everyone in that development paid to be there and paid a lot. To get on the “list,” which is temporary, you have to have a reason, and someone has to have told the gate guard you were coming, they had to put you on the “list.” But again, it was only temporary; only residents were allowed to stay, those that paid to be there.

The Kingdom of heaven will be even greater than this housing development. What about the cost? It is also very high. However, that price has already been paid. You just need to get your name on the list, and this list isn’t temporary. Who paid the price for us? Well, Jesus. Why? Well, love, that is the answer He loves you, me, us, so much, He paid the price for us to live in the Kingdom. So how do we get on the list? The book of Romans says; “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” (Romans 10:13) It is believed that Paul wrote the letter to the Romans. Peter is recorded as saying this in the book of Acts, written by Luke. “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Peter was quoting Joel 2:32 “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.”

Why the need? There is an issue of sin that needs to be dealt with, and it goes all the way back to the garden and the beginning of time recorded in Scripture. We are all born into sin, for which we become accountable when we reach an age of understanding. It is at this point a price is required. Either you attempt to pay for it yourself, which is impossible, or you call on the one who paid the price for you already.

my mom is on the list. She has called upon the name of the Lord. She dedicated her life to His service. When she arrived at the gate, the guard opened it and welcomed her home. i am thankful for this assurance. Although i will miss my mom, and i will miss her, that is temporary! For this wasn’t a goodbye, it was a see you later! Thanks to the blood of Jesus.

You, too, can have this assurance. If you don’t already, comment below or send me a message depending on where you see this, and i will gladly answer any questions you might have. You are so so loved. But let me stress this, everyone serves something, what is it that you serve? A system, a government, money, fame, etc. Joshua (In the book titled after him, the 6th book of the Bible) at the end of an epic speech says this; “Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

The difference will be simple; it’s either “goodbye” or “see you later.”

To my mom, “i will see you later!” To you, i hope for the same.

You are loved,

cj

So many sandwiches!

i want to say that a few Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday concerts were added while on the tour as my dad called local Churches along the way.

Sitting with my mom as she withers away is the most difficult thing i have ever done. Today, i sat with her and we listened to hymns together (some Christmas because my mom loves Christmas) as we held hands . . . She slept, i cried. Each hymn so sweet and just brought back so many memories. When i was younger we traveled as a family and sang in churches. One particular summer that i recall is my favorite summer of all time. i lived in two shirts and one pair of jeans, although i am sure i had more. The two shirts were from the movie, “Return of the Jedi”. Both were softball style shirts (if that makes sense) one was blue, that one was my favorite, the other red. i also lived in a fifth-wheel trailer.

That summer between concerts i remember the road trips, the stops, the hikes, the sandwiches, we ate so many sandwiches! i remember setting up for the concerts, eating at all the potlucks, so many potlucks, and the tearing down. i remember every concert was exactly the same and yet completely different and that is the best i can describe them. Shawnee our German Shepherd was the best traveler! She and i were buds. i remember all the family and old friends of my parents that we saw, some for me, meeting them for the first time. We even did a mini concert at the home of a cousin or family friend.

i remember all the historical sights we visited, some recently destroyed because humanity has gone mad. So many state and national parks too. i learned so much and am so thankful for those memories. It is the source of my appreciation for music and music of all kinds but especially my fondness of the hymns. my mom’s voice echoing through the sanctuary’s of big churches and little churches . . . Brick churches and log “cabin” churches, old wooden chapels and fancy plush churches. Her voice was angelic, she will definitely be featured in the heavenly choir where i am sure she will be found shortly upon her arrival into heaven.

Music is her life blood i think. my mom loves music. In heaven, the Bible says that the angels sing around the thrown. This will definitely be where mom is found. She will have that old voice back, strength in her bones, and air in her lungs, as she sings out around the thrown joining in with the angel choir, a new song! It is this image that fills my mind and heart with comfort and peace. i am reminded of Jesus words at what is referred to as the sermon on the mount.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3-10)

In these final days, moments, with my mom i am thankful for these words from Jesus. May His Kingdom come, may He reign in our hearts and minds and lives forever and ever, amen. Be blessed today knowing that He cares for you. How do i know? Because of sandwiches, so many sandwiches! He comforts through His word, through His Spirit, and through memories, so many great memories! i love you mom, may you enter your much deserved reward in peace; May your heavenly concert tour be as full of joy as our earthly ones.

You are loved,

cj

Feeling Helpless in a Familiar Place

my mother is dying. Six months, that’s the best the doctors think. Being a pastor i have sat with countless families as they have said goodbye to a loved one. i have been there to support, pray with/for, encourage, and cry with them. i have helped with final arrangements, from just giving ideas to even taking on the full planning of a funeral for those who just didn’t know or couldn’t plan it themselves. Now here i am with my mom, and its as if i am completely clueless. my brother has taken on the significant role of caretaker during these days of home hospice, nurses do come in, a few days a week, to check on things, but the day to day care, my brother has taken on, and all i can say is WOW! He amazes me. Again, i am clueless, i can’t even think of what to do. my sister is here as well, and she has stepped right in, and i just sit back . . . oh, i do some, when asked, or the task is obvious.

Did i mention that i have sat with many a family in this very situation and have had the whereabouts to know what, how, when, where, to do, and or give support. It’s like i am frozen here. i feel helpless, and it makes me feel selfish because the only one here who is genuinely “helpless” is my mom. Stuck in bed, dependent on her family and a team of nurses. i have tried and will continue to try and do all that i can, i am trying to change my mindset, move in different ways, trust more, pray more, be more . . . aware?!? Is that the right word? i don’t know. i want to honor her the best i can, for she has been the joy and inspiration of the family.

The commandment in scripture to “Honor your father and mother” (Exodus 20:12) is actually in reference to older or elderly parents, of course, the principle can also be applied to children and their parents. Although we mostly refer to it in the latter, it definitely is more the former. i stated above, i want to desperately honor my father and certainly now more than ever my mother in these final days. i believe that i have done a fair job to this point of my life, but at the same time, i think of all the times i fell short in this area. my mom would say if asked, that she is proud of me. That makes me happy, but i wonder, is it warranted? Have i earned it?

Jesus didn’t, nor does He expect us to earn His forgiveness. He gave freely of Himself on the cross to make us righteous and holy. What a gift! There is a song by Steffany Gretzinger called, “No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus.” WOW! What a powerful song and a fantastic voice! The opening lines of the song are so powerful; the song opens like this: (i will link to a video of the song at the bottom)

“If my heart could tell a story
If my life would sing a song
If I have a testimony
If I have anything at all

No one ever cared for me like Jesus
His faithful hand has held me all this way
And when I’m old and gray and all my days
are number on the earth
Let it be known, in You alone
My joy was found
Oh my joy, my joy

Let my children tell their children
Let this be their memory
That all my treasure was in heaven
and You were everything to me

This song is my mom. This has been her testimony, and it has been my challenge. i can’t listen to this song without getting lost in memories where my mom’s joy filled the air. She has been the bedrock of our family, the glue if you will, and she did it all with joy. And that joy was founded in her faith in Jesus. Her legacy, her testimony, can be found in this song by Steffany Gretzinger, and i am glad that i stumbled upon it. i hope that it blesses you and challenges you as much as it has me. i pray this becomes my testimony as well, for no one ever cared for me like Jesus . . . and Jesus, through my mom, is her testimony. May Jesus, through me, be mine.

No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus, Steffany Gretzinger

You are loved,

cj

a (not so gentle) farewell

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

i have been attending church for my entire life. my grandfather was a pastor, evangelist, author, conference superintendent, and for a time was the director of interracial evangelism from 1956-1964. The family, my parents, and siblings traveled and sang in Church’s growing up, i went to camps, retreats, advances, and conferences. In my introduction, i talk about how i have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of the church, and i choose to love her anyway. This is still true. i do love the church and will always love the church and do all i can to serve her. However, i am bidding the westernized church a farewell. It has become an institution, in my opinion, and it has left the ideals of Christ for a capitalist mindset, and i can’t take it anymore. Over twenty years in fulltime ministry with various experiences within the church as pastor, teacher, evangelist, and when i needed them, they wanted to know when they would get their money. Well, the check is in the mail.

When the concern for ones well being is superseded by money, or persuaded by gossip, that is a clear indicator that things have gone astray. (Let me be clear it wasn’t the whole church, some individuals clearly cared for me and desired for my well being even giving of themselves to help). That is what the “church” is supposed to be, yet when money is at stake, it is that issue that takes center stage, and that is just sad. i recently drove past a church that was building a new facility. A large sanctuary. i wondered for what? An hour a week, two at best. Maybe multiple services, but even still, is that genuinely justifiable? The amount of money that goes into a new build for minimal use could go for so much more. What about a rehab center? A homeless shelter, transitional housing, a halfway house? Oh, but where will we meet? How will we collect money to pay the bills and upkeep on the buildings we use once or twice a week or on craft day? How about VBS we have to have VBS! Where will all those children go?

Here’s the reality. The church is only a priority when it’s not hunting season, football, NASCAR, or whatever other sport happens to be on when Sunday rolls around. i use to get frustrated with such things, but now i think, “where could true organic ministry have happened?” Certainly not in the stale hollows of a building where gossip prevails. Or the woah is me attitude that permeates the fellowship with spiritual neediness, or should i say greediness? Yes, spiritual greediness is huge in the “church.” i am not being fed, i don’t like the music, why didn’t i get a hand out when you passed out food? The sermons are too long. i can’t anymore with this mindset, let them have their tired old established religion, just give me Jesus.

An actual letter by a selfish church goer without a spin to sign their name

The above letter received is just one example of the attitude within the church today. By the way, many of the parents would say that their children loved the services. Which i find rather amusing, wasn’t it Jesus who said, “let the little children come and do not hinder them.” Jesus had a heart for the youth and i believe He knew, “better get them while they are young because the older they get, the lazier they are in their faith.” It’s sad, but oh so true. To the last point in the letter above, “people will likely stop attending.” This veiled threat is tiresome, please, for all that is holy, stop attending!” But, really, i am actually for the reverse or opposite now, let these selfish people have the dusty building and let the true church step out and be the church, for it isn’t in a building.

i am starting a Bible study in my home in the coming weeks. In so doing we that gather will have the fellowship that the Word encourages, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25) We will also be able to encourage one another on to love and good deeds without the worry of financing a building. We will be taking our meals together as the early church did in Acts, and we will bathe each other in prayer. In fact, i have had a more organic ministry in the last two months than the previous two years, that is for sure. In fact, i would even say that it has been more simple, more faithful to the Word, than perhaps much of the ministries i have been apart of where a board reigns, money dictates, and a building governs.

i believe it is critical that we begin to do this more and more! The church in western culture is a waste of time and space! And to the final part of the verse in Hebrews, “and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” This is now, if you can’t see the Day is drawing near, then you probably have taken offense to this post, and to that i simply say, i am sorry. However, i only write what i am inspired to write, and i am only governed by the will of the Spirit of God, the one who reigns from on high.

You are loved,

cj

Social Distancing

Social Distancing

Today my friend and i were in Natural Grocers, where we ran into a mutual friend. This friend is a hugger, and so we hugged it out in the produce section. Beside us was a woman with a bag over her hand as she selected her organic vegetables. Another woman in the store was pushing her cart around, gloved, and with a medical type mask on. As we stood with our friend near the apples and talked conspiracy theories and Scripture, i heard over the loudspeaker a plea for social distancing. “For the safety of all our customers, Natural Grocers is practicing social distancing. We ask all our customers to please observe these practices, stand 6 feet apart, and limit contact and touching.” i don’t know if that was said because of us or something that the store just announces ever so often to keep folks aware, but we continued talking. Although we weren’t in each other’s laps, we definitely weren’t practicing social distancing. We did wrap up our conversation a bit later and went about our shopping.

These are some crazy times that we live in! Just yesterday a pastor in Florida was arrested for holding services on Sunday. Today in Louisiana another pastor who held services on Sunday had a warrant issued for his arrest as well.  Both of these pastors ignored the government’s restrictions on large gatherings, based on the idea of social distancing. This applies to all large gatherings, the church is not being singled out. However, these pastors feel that their faith is enough to protect them, and in almost every other case, i would agree. However, here it seems they have ignored Romans 13:1-2 which simply states that we are to honor the government.

Given these two scenarios, my grocery store encounter and these pastors holding services, is either justifiable? To what degree is it proper to follow the directives of the government? Do we, as Christians, have an obligation to adhere to every edict the government has decreed? Given the absolute panic, some folks are faced with in these trying times are we as Christians too loose with our freedoms in Christ?

As we stood talking i could visibly see one of the checkers uncomfortable with our little gathering of 3 persons. Her uncomfortable look made me slightly uncomfortable as well, and so i stepped back a little and over towards an empty case as to make room for shoppers around us; was my freedom and fearlessness out of line at that moment, i wondered. Shortly after leaving the store, we went to another to get one other item before heading home. Here we saw an older gentleman with a mask that had a ventilator. Was he wearing it out of fear or caution?

i have a lot of unanswered questions and more questions every day. i do worry for my family. Am i doing all that i can to keep them safe? As the priest of my home am i leading them spiritually? Am i being enough of a comfort to them or am i adding to any of their anxieties? i don’t have all the answers in all of this . . . but i do know that as i ponder these thoughts i am drawn back to the words of Paul.

19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews, I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law, I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law, I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak, I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means, I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)

We are living in unprecedented times. We can either be paralyzed by them or we can find ways to love others better in them. i choose the latter.

You are loved,

cj

Four Dimensions

Four Dimensions

What is our mission or goal in life? We hear all the time that we are to run the race to win it! That isn’t wrong. We hear that we are to strive to be the very best version of ourselves! That isn’t wrong either. We hear that we are to put others first, above ourselves, to be second. That isn’t wrong either. Yet, when we consider all of these things together, we get a pretty mixed impression of our mission or goal in life. So what is it, and how do we achieve it? Well, let us consider together for a moment the puzzle of these three statements.

Run the race to win it . . . based on 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” ESV

Pretty clearly, one could understand, how, one might perceive, the need to be a cut-throat Christian.  However, this is only one perspective of the same cube.

Striving to be the very best version of ourselves . . . based on Philippians 3:12-14, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” ESV

By this, one could easily conclude that we strive to be the best we can. Doing everything in our power to strain for that perfect version of ourselves.

Putting others first . . . based on Philippians 2:3 “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” ESV

Here, one could easily conclude that a Christian is best described as a doormat. Always and forever, second place. Each of these obviously is true. But there is more! A fourth dimension, if you will.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1 ESV

Alright, then here we have the four corners if you will. We as imitators of Christ are to run the race as to win! Train hard every single day, and beat our bodies, to mean our fleshly desires, into submission. To have self-control. We will make mistakes, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep going, striving for that heavenly crown.

Meanwhile, when you see your brother stumble, stop and help them up! Our goal, although it is to run to win! It is also to cross the finish line with as many people as we can! And to do so without giving offense, you will not be able to do this 100% of the time. However, we are to sill try! We are to love all equally, yet declare the truth of God boldly.

So run to win. Do all that you can to better yourself, start by listening to the Holy Spirit. Put others before yourself, considering their needs above your own. And finally, do everything in love as to be imitators of Christ.

You are loved,

cj

Visiting Memory Lane

Visiting Memory Lane

**This blog was originally posted on December 6, 2011, at 3:15 pm Alaska Time as part of my “Coffee? Yes, Please!” Blog. Since i can’t sit in a coffee shop at the moment with the nation’s response to the covid19 virus, i thought i would get all retro and nostalgic, with this blast from the past, memory lane, post! i hope you enjoy a look at my coffee shop life.**

i think it’s funny how anytime i want to go someplace downtown i will say, “Hi Galaxy” (that’s my phone). She reply’s, “At your service cj,” i laugh every time. i will then say, “Navigate to ____________” and she will proceed to give me directions and they usually always go like this, “continue down dewberry and turn right onto 88th, stay on 88th and continue onto Northwood, turn right onto Raspberry and take the Minnesota North on-ramp. Turn right onto Todor, turn left onto C st. It’s at this point in the trip that it changes, today i turned right onto Benson.  i like to think about our “navigation” to heaven. There are a few steps that are for everyone, and it never changes; however, there is a point in the journey that it becomes very individual as each person’s personal relationship is different. Of course, the destination is the same, but for some our journey may cross other bridges and go down other roads as we each struggle with different issues and God works in us in His timing and as long as we continue to listen to the GPS (God’s Providing Spirit).

If i make a wrong turn on my journey, my phone says, “recalculating,” and then from that point gets me back on track, if i follow its instruction. Sometimes i have made such a wrong turn that it simply says, “Turn around when possible.” God is that way too, sometimes i mess up, and from that point, He simply recalculates (in away), taking my errors into account and redirects me redeeming the error for His glory. Other times He simply says, “Turn around,” which is code for “repent,” which means to turn from sin, literally to turn around from the error of my ways.

i walked into Cafe Felix this afternoon and was greeted at the door by statues, Hindu, Buddhist, and others, each one staring at me.  i caught myself staring back, and then from behind the counter, the clerk said, “Can i help you?” i wondered if he could, was I in the wrong place? i thought. Catching my thoughts, i saw from the corner the cafe part of this establishment. i said, “Nope, i see it now, thank you, though,” and with a smile, i turned into Cafe Felix.

i walked up to the counter, the barista greeting me with a warm smile asked if she could help me (i must really have looked lost).  i asked for a menu, ordered an americano and a grilled cheese, the sandwich came with feta, cheddar, tomato, and bacon, and was super yummy! Served with tortilla chips and salsa…tortilla chips seem to be the chip of choice for Cafes in Anchorage. The coffee was exceptional, an organic Brazilian blend, smooth and not bitter in the least bit with an earthy flavor.  The room is arranged like a thrift store exploded with different tables and chairs and table cloths. In the center of the room, four chairs around a gas wood stove and in the corner a small stage for open mic night or like events.

The internet was down, so i tried yet another feature of my galaxy phone, wifi hotspot. Excellent! As i sat and watched people come and go, there is a large verity of clientele, but i had a feeling that they each shared a common understanding of where they were as opposed to me. Still a bit confused, was it the eclectic blend of music playing? Literally from Bluegrass, Country, Frank Sinatra, Top 40, and Christmas music…what? My ears didn’t know what to think. Or was my confusion the result of the potpourri explosion that occurred? Or incense or maybe the scented candles? Either way, the smells mixed with coffee and grilled cheese confused me, i am sure. As the place cleared out and i really began to think i was reminded of my GPS.

God’s Providing Spirit. This place, as i thought about it, would be an excellent location for a coffee with Jesus meeting. As i prepare to launch several options during the week, this place has won (at least for the moment) a spot on the circuit. I don’t think it was an accident that i found this place but rather on purpose. When Paul saw the many altars in Athens, he didn’t run away, he went into the heart of it and proclaimed the Truth. Everyone’s journey must start with, believing Jesus died for them, ask for forgiveness, accepting the gift of salvation, repenting of their sin and begin to walk in a manner that is pleasing to God. Jesus said,  “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything i have commanded you. And surely i am with you always, to the very end of the age.” So why not take the message into the heart of a place that has many altars to other gods? Yes, i think i will.

**For those wondering, Cafe Felix in Anchorage AK, received 4 out of 5 coffee mugs. ☕️☕️☕️☕️**

You are loved,

cj