by Andy Wood on December 2, 2016

in Esteem, Five LV Laws, Life Currency, Principle of Legacy, Waiting

This photo from December 2013 - People scatter rose pedals during an interfaith graveside memorial service.in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

This photo from December 2013 – People scatter rose pedals during an interfaith graveside memorial service.in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Suppose you were hosting an event for a crowd north of 1,400 people.  Where would you have it?

That’s a pretty serious venue.  Unless your name is something like Biltmore, you can probably scratch the back yard or dining room off the list.  But hey, your local hotel ballroom may fit the bill. Depending on the nature of the event, a few church houses or large theaters or auditoriums would work.

When was the last time you were part of a crowd that big? I was there a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve got to tell you, it was noticeable. Parking was a bit of a challenge. The venue was a little crowded. The energy was palpable. Lots of noise and excitement.

And no, I’m not referring to a Black Friday sale at Walmart.

But I want to tell you about a different kind of assembly. One where 1,430 people came together and hardly anyone noticed.  Parking wasn’t a problem.  Noise wasn’t an issue.  In fact, all was deathly(!) quiet, at a venue that was shockingly small.

The location: a mass grave. [click to continue…]

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Into every life there come those moments that cut new paths – awkward, ugly paths – across our landscape.  Shadow experiences that block the warmth of the sun’s rays and leave us in a dark spot – or leave dark spots on us.

Most of these shadow moments are fleeting.  Just as the sun stays in motion across the sky and recasts the shadows on the ground, life moves on and the light returns to our lives.

But sometimes the Shadow has a life and mind of its own.  Sometimes it simply refuses to leave, and we’re left with the scars and the questions and the daytime darkness that threaten to block our sun forever.  Sometimes, regardless of the truths we know or the time gone by, it just seems that the Shadow’s always there.

When the Shadow’s always there, if feels as though you have your own personal cloud suspended right over you, while the rest of the world basks in the sunshine.  It’s easy to worry that you’re everybody’s else’s downer… when the Shadow’s always there. [click to continue…]

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Dead Fish

There’s a certain kind of tired, a certain kind of strain
A certain season of get-it-done-now
When it’s a good thing that some things run on autopilot.
Otherwise, I may just forget to breathe.

But then You specialize in keeping my whole world turning
My light still burning, My heart still yearning –
And after all these years I’m still learning
To trust and know You’re there. [click to continue…]

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For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime!
Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning
(Psalm 30:5, NLT)

Until we experience the promise of a home where there is no more night, we all will encounter seasons that feel as though dawn is forever an hour away.  It’s not a matter of if , but when the shadows grow long and dark.  And no one, regardless of their faith or pedigree, is immune from the seasons when darkness comes.

When darkness comes, “tired” takes on a whole new meaning.  Every fiber of your being aches for rest, but rest remains taunting and elusive.  Even the simplest of routine tasks feels like labor to exhaustion when darkness comes. [click to continue…]

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Callie has been seeking the Lord a lot lately.  That’s because not very many people are seeking Callie, and the loneliness hurts.  Badly.  Truth be told, Callie sometimes seeks the Lord to give Him a piece of her mind.  But she has developed the kind of relationship with God where that level of honesty is common.

Callie believes.  But her faith is being tested, almost as much as Stephen’s.

Stephen feels as though he’s two steps past the edge of the ledge, and “all” he has to stand on is the promises of God.  But Stephen wants more.  He wants some evidence – a little sight to go with his faith.  He’s willing to do anything for God, but he wants to know exactly what that “anything” is, and feels terribly insecure in the face of an unclear future.

Stephen believes.  But his faith is being tested, almost as much as John and Julie. [click to continue…]

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As long as people have searched for direction, worshipped their Creator, and looked for language to express their passion and warmth, we have returned again and again to stand by the fire.

The fire was an agent of God’s guidance and an ongoing expression of worship in the days of the tabernacle.  And we kept returning to stand by the fire.

A refiner and cleansing agent of the hearts of men, the fire was a symbol of God’s hatred for sin and an affirmation for the prophets who spoke His truth.  And again and again, we kept returning to stand by the fire.

The fire was a weapon of God’s voice, a light in the darkness, and an expression of hospitality and welcome. And from the dark places and lonely spaces, still we kept coming to stand by the fire.

The fire revealed a passion for God’s word in our bones, the baptism of the believer, the instrument of God’s testing, and the piercing gaze of the risen Christ.  And out of desperation or terror, love or longing, still we kept coming to stand by the fire.

And even today the Spirit and Bride invite you to come.  To be warmed and convicted and cleansed and restored and pure as you stand by the fire. [click to continue…]

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I will give the lonely a reason to believe in companionship again.

And in so doing, I will banish loneliness from my own heart forever.

-from The Encourager’s Creed

Somewhere near you is an Eeyore in Tigger’s clothing.  They’re bouncy, flouncy, trouncy, pouncy, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun on the outside.  But on the inside they’re desperately alone and resigned to eating thistles.  And you can make a difference.

There is somebody not far away who is adored for all they do and have to offer.  They have no shortage of attention, compliments, and outright praise.  Yet for all the attention and admiration they receive, they are profoundly lonely.  Why?  Because while many people are amazed by them, nobody seems to understand them.  But you can.

It’s the chameleon of the emotional world. It blends seamlessly into any environment, and play-acts with the best of the cons.  It can empower anybody to be hysterically funny in order to disguise the depression and isolation. It can offer wisdom or encouragement or insight to anybody else, but receives precious little in return. It can mimic the language of the spiritual, with talk of solitude and prayer and hearing God – yet all the while it disguises a relational wasteland. But you can (and should) break through all that.

Loneliness.  Ever since Eve and her husband were evicted from their first home, something in us has ached with a longing for companionship and deep connection.  We want to know we are searched (understood) thoroughly, known intimately, and loved unconditionally.  [click to continue…]

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Storming the Gates of Loneliness

by Andy Wood on October 11, 2010

in Esteem, Life Currency, Love

“Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.” (Carl Jung) 

In an eastern hospital years ago, a group of medical students were doing a pediatric rotation.   As they worked with these hospitalized kids each day, they noticed that the patients responded with great joy to one particular med student.  Nobody could figure out why.  So they talked one of their cohort members into doing a little spying. 

The observer followed him around all day and discovered nothing.  Finally that night, the mystery was solved when the young doctor made his last round. [click to continue…]

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Lonely for God

by Andy Wood on September 17, 2010

in Five LV Laws, LV Cycle, Principle of Abundance, Waiting

Thomasville, Alabama.  A long time ago.  I was driving from Jackson to Tuscaloosa and had stopped for gas at one of those places where they still pumped it for you.  Young man walks out and gets the pump going while I’m pretty much minding my own business.  I’m wearing jeans and tennis shoes, with some casual shirt.

He eyes me and asks, “You a minister?”

(I hated then and hate now looking like a preacher.)

“Yes,” I replied, surprised.  “How did you know?”

“You have this glow about ‘cha,” he said with a smile.

I was surprised again, and blessed.  This wasn’t a particularly glowing trip.  I was driving north to unload a car on the back end of a dumb purchase that had left us pretty beaten down financially.  It was a desperate move to get out of a stupid debt.

Glow?  I’d have to take that one by faith.  It felt more like I was panting.

As the deer pants for the water brooks,

So my soul pants for You, O God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God;

When shall I come and appear before God? (Psalm 42:1-2)

Ever feel like you were panting?  Like you couldn’t quite catch your breath as you went from one thing to another?  From one stressor to another?  From one disappointment to another? [click to continue…]

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And you will be called priests of the Lord, you will be named ministers of our God.

You will feed on the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast.

Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion,

and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance;

and so they will inherit a double portion in their land,

and everlasting joy will be theirs (Isaiah 61:6-7, NIV).

It’s a scary journey, the move from shame to grace.  But it’s a journey every growing believer in Christ, every recovering addict, every healing soul must take.  The paths are often unfamiliar.  Lessons must be un-learned and relearned.  You will be forced to face down familiar, but largely unchallenged beliefs.

People who live in the realm of shame live in a world the Brennan Manning describes as “huffing and puffing to impress God.”

It’s a realm of performance.  Brownie points or self-condemnation.  Self-fixing mixed with wallowing in guilt.  Comparing ourselves to others in order to feel superior… or to prove what an absolute joke we are.  “You’re nothing,” shame whispers.  “And if people really knew you, they would agree.”

As much of a liar as shame is, sometimes it’s more comfortable to return to old patterns of thinking and feeling.  It’s embarrassing and uncomfortable to confront the truths of the scandalous grace of God.

“I am a creation of infinite worth?” Ridiculous.

“I am totally forgiven?” What do you mean, “totally?”

“I am completely loved, fully pleasing?” In what universe?  What absurd fantasy?

Challenge that!  Confess the truth, whether it lines up with your feelings or the twisted logic of shame or not.  And most of all, learn to accept the grace of God as it is expressed through the graciousness of others.

The secret is gratitude.  When a friend encourages you, when someone offers a gift, when another praises you, receive it with the same graciousness in which it was offered.

Try this for practice: [click to continue…]

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