Jailbreak

I walk the long hallway lined with prison cells. Inmates stare at me as I am pushed toward my own holding tank.

“Get in there you worthless piece of scum!” my prison ward says shoving me behind bars. “You’ll never amount to anything. You are just a sinner full of sin. The safest thing for you is to stay behind these walls and remember your wrongs!”

I hang my head in shame, knowing the guard is right. I don’t deserve to be let outside these bars. I don’t deserve to live outside of my shame.

The jail door slames behind me and I hear the guard slink off, murmuring comments of accusation at random prisoners on his way out.

“So, why are you here?” someone asks.

I turn to see a group of people huddling in the corner. Some in the group are older some are younger and there are both male and female.

“I did something wrong. I messed up,” I say in almost a whisper. “I feel so ashamed of it. I hung out with the wrong crowd. I . . .” my voice trails off.

“Go on, tell us,” an older gentleman encourages. “We are all in the same boat.”

“Well, I stole some Gatorade from a gas station.”

“A Gatorade? For real? Dang, I would’ve gone for at least a Coke.”

“I know and I got caught! I am so embarrassed! So full of sin! So evil!”

I sulk in my sorrows for a moment. I finally look up out of my self-hatred at the group in my cell. I realize I haven’t asked them why they are in jail – I could be in a cell with a bunch of murderers!!!

“So, ah,” I start to say, wringing my hands and trying to sound nonchalant. “What put you guys behind these bars?”

The older man clears his throat. “Well, we actually are a family. This is my wife and kids.”

“Oh okay.” I try not to sound nervous. They are all related? That sounds like I am a little out numbered if they try to do something.

“We all had a really good friend that we loved. We had a great relationship with him when suddenly he died. It threw my whole family into a downward spiral. Our lives seemed to fall apart. We started having feelings of bitterness and started questioning if God was good. Anyway, we felt so bad that we turned ourselves into the police. They immediately locked us away until we could bury our pain.”

Suddenly a door opens and the prison guard appears again in the hall.

“We just want to remind you, you dirty no good criminals, that if you keep repenting of your evil deeds you might just have hope after you die. Unfortunately you are too far gone to help right now. Some of you will always be too dangerous to let out of these cells to the public. So keep repenting. Keep being depressed. Keep living in mourning. Nothing will ever change but your sadness might give you a better life after you die.”

Then the guard came close to my cell. He looked past me and focused on the family huddled together.

The guard whispered at them. “We all understand your pain. We know it’s hard when you find out God isn’t as good as you thought. Keep asking questions. Keep questioning God because I would like to know what He says. Maybe if you get an answer you’ll be at peace.”

The guard seems so concerned about the family. I really can’t believe how helpful he is being.

“What about me, do you have advice for me?” I ask.

“You? Just keep feeling like a worm.”

And with that the guard leaves. I find a little bench against the wall and take a seat. The family in my cell look even more depressed. Wow, this is my new life in jail. It’s not exactly what I thought it would be but then again I deserve this.

The door out in the hall opens again. I assume it is just the guard again but this time there aren’t any long accusations. I decide to get up and look into the hallway. That’s when I see a man stopping at each cell, talking intently with the people inside.

“Hey, who is this guy?” I ask the family. They shrug their shoulders.

I watch as the man comes closer and closer to my cell. Who is he and what is he saying to everyone? Suddenly I don’t have to wonder anymore – the man appears in front of me and says my name.

“How do you know my name?”

“I knew you before you were born, why are you here behind bars?”

Well darn it. This must be Jesus, and he is seeing me at my worst! Why couldn’t he have come when I was at church last week? “If you know my name you must also know what I have done.”

“Yes, I know what you did but why are you behind bars? Didn’t you ask me for forgiveness?”

I nod, not sure how that helps.

Jesus then focuses on the family behind me. He has such love and compassion in his eyes. I can tell he loves this family and me very deeply.

“How long are you planning on staying in the prison of doubt?” he asks them.

“Lord, you failed us.”

“Only the enemy fails people and brings destruction. I can only bring good. Do you believe I am a good God?”

“Well, yes, but we need to know why you let this happen to us.”

“Is it the prison guard that keeps reminding you to ask why? He wasn’t the one who lost a friend.” Jesus pauses for a second. “Do you believe I am a good God?”

The family is quiet for a moment. Then the old man slowly replies, “Yes, you are a good God.”

“Then it is time you let that belief become more powerful than the questions and the circumstances. Life is too short to waste it inside a prison cell. Your destiny awaits outside, my dear children!”

Jesus turns to all the prisoners and says in a loud voice, “I have already cancelled your debts. It is time to step out of your prison of shame. My blood was enough!”

I hear murmuring among the prisoners and within my own self. How can we step out of this locked up prison? Was his blood really enough to remove shame? I thought I needed to keep showing my sorrow, repentance, and shame to prove I was sorry.

“For everyone in this prison who is doubting my goodness – don’t stay in this place any longer.” Jesus continues, “My Father is good and we only do good things. If you have questions then send them to the cross! The cross ends all debates and silences every accusation against my character!”

My heart begins to feel hope in this dark prison as Jesus speaks these words. I am just trying to process the whole fact that I don’t have to wear shame to prove my repentance when a dilemna hits me.

“Lord, I believe you’re probably speaking the truth, but how do we get out of this prison? Do you think you can convince the guard to let us out?”

Jesus laughs. “I have it all taken care of. Son, your accuser is shaking in his boots because you’re standing in a cell that doesn’t have a lock. You are free to leave.”

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Jesus Standing for You

Before you read this you may want to take a look at Acts 7 especially verses 55-60.

So here we have Stephen being martyred – pretty dramatic – and my favorite part is when he sees Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father! Wow! Jesus was resurrected and seated at the right hand of God but here Stephen actually sees Jesus standing – as if what is going on can’t be watched from a sitting position because He’s so excited.

I can just hear Jesus saying, “That’s my boy! Oh Stephen, you have ravished my heart! Oh Stephen, you make me so proud! Come on! I can’t wait to hold you in my embrace! Come on! You’re so close – keep going! I’m giving you the love you need for this moment. Just keep looking at Me! Do you see the tears in My eyes? They are tears of joy for you and tears of love for your killers. Oh Stephen, I’m so proud of you! Thank you for loving them! How I love you!”

Here’s where it gets tough: Can you imagine Jesus saying this about you? Can you picture Jesus standing up in joy over you?

My thoughts have always been, “Well, I’m not being martyred so probably not. But I know Jesus loves me.” There was something in me that still thought I had to earn God’s love – or at least His stand up, applauding kind of love.

But here’s the truth. I think Jesus stands up for everyone of His kids like He did for Stephen.

When He looks at you does He see all your faults? Or does He say, “You are so lovely”? (Song of Songs 1:5).

I don’t have to earn God’s love or do something in my eyes to make Him proud of me! Just being His son or daughter qualifies you to bring His heart joy! Letting Him love me, believing He loves me, and releasing His love to others is my only call and the only thing we can do that makes Him proud. His delight isn’t in your money, influence,  success, or works – His delight is in you!

Luke 19 talks about some servants that got a decent amount of money. There was one servant who didn’t bring pleasure to his master and why was that? Because he saw his master as harsh, impossible to please, and strict. He disconnected himself from God’s love. It’s when I disconnect myself from God’s love that I ruin my life. It’s when I stop the flow of love and reject His acceptance of me that I destroy my life. It’s when I take my eyes off of His eyes of pleasure for me and look at my pain, short comings, and trials that I forget who I really am to Him.

We have to see ourselves the way He sees us because we can’t move forward in love until we do. When we know we are flawless in God’s sight we become unoffendable and able to release forgiveness to those killing us.

It is your own shame that causes you to take offense, point fingers, and judge your brother. Shame makes you feel the need to hold a grudge because you are holding a grudge against yourself. Shame makes you point the finger at your brother because you are pointing the finger at yourself. Shame makes you see God as an angry judge who counts all your faults so that’s what you do to those around you.

You have to love yourself before you can love others. You can’t have shame and be Jesus to people. I have to let Jesus free me, love me, and accept me before I can truly love. I have to let Jesus destory my blanket of shame so I can love the people throwing stones at me.

So let’s both do something. Let’s close our eyes and pierce through our misconceptions and wrong ideas of God. Let’s pierce through the shame and works mentality. Let’s pierce through and see Jesus standing beside the Father gazing at you with love. Ask Him how He sees you. Ask Him if He is proud of you. Ask Him if He finds joys out of your life. And then live out of that place of being loved!

Longest Ride of My Life! – Short Story

 

This has been the longest ride of my life. My legs feel restless and I’m hot and sweaty from the sun beating down on my poor little head.

“Are you sure we are headed in the right direction?” I finally ask, knowing something has to be wrong for it to take this long.

AutomotivesNeither mom nor dad respond immediately but I can tell they heard me. From the back seat where I’m sitting, I can’t see the expression on their face but I imagine they are both worried.

“I promise you,” dad finally says. “We will get there.”

“Yes, but are you sure we didn’t take a wrong turn?”

“Yes, son, I know where we are going and we are right on track.”

I sigh. My dad seems really calm which can either mean he knows what he is doing or he is lost and doesn’t want to scare me.

I look to my right and see my sister is fast asleep, drooling on her pillow. How in the world can she sleep so long? This trip is wearing me out and she’s fast asleep enjoying the ride.

Actually, that’s a good idea. Long trips always go by faster when you sleep through them. I decide to follow my sister’s example (all except for the drooling) and lay my head against the car door. My mind feels like it’s in disarray but I finally make myself fall asleep.

Suddenly the car swerves and I’m jolted awake.

“Oh my gosh!!!” I scream. “We almost wrecked!”

“You jolted yourself awake,” my mom assures, laughing as she looks back at me. “We didn’t almost wreck, honey.”

“How long was I asleep?” I ask my heart still pounding from the near-death wreck I had imagined. “It looks like the sun has moved a lot since I fell asleep,” I notice, looking out my window.

“You slept a few minutes,” my mom replies.

“You’re kidding?!” I ask in shock. “Only for a few minutes?! Are we not almost there yet?”

“We are about two minutes closer than when you asked the first time.”

I lay my head back against in the seat in dismay. Out of the corner of my eye I see a map tucked behind the seat in front of my sister (who is still sleeping). I pull out the map and begin trying to figure out where we are. I need to wrap my head around this or I fear a mental breakdown is coming.

“Can you even read that?” my dad asks, looking at me through the rearview mirror.

“Not really, dad,” I say, beginning to feel my voice rise and fall. “I just . . .” I feel the sobs coming up my throat and I’m not able to hold them back. “I just feel lost and like we’ll never get there. It’s been a really long day and my head hurts from the sun. I’m feeling car sick like I’m going to throw up. I don’t think I can do this anymore, it is just too hard!”

I let my emotions pour out of me. The tears flow down my cheeks as I let it all loose. My dad doesn’t say anything. He just listens patiently as I have my emotional meltdown.

“I’m sick of people saying we’re almost there,” I continue, “And yet we never get there! I’m just not sure I can handle the stress and the trauma of this trip!”

A few minutes pass and my sobbing begins to transition into whimpers. My dad just keeps driving.

“How fast are we going anyway?” I finally ask. “I’ve noticed that red van has been in front of us forever. Are they even going the speed limit?!!”

Dad still doesn’t answer nor does my mom say anything. Finally I come to my senses.

“Dad, you’re right I’m just being a pill! I’m just being impatient and selfish. I surrender everything! All my hopes and dreams of finally getting out of this car,” I say with passion – hoping this was the real purpose my dad was taking so long. Surely, now that I have surrendered everything we will arrive. “I know I acted like a little brat just now,” I add. “And if I was you I would have spanked me but you didn’t and for that I’m thankful.”

A few more minutes pass in silence and I begin to wonder if my dad is still awake. Maybe he can’t hear me.

“Dad?”

“Yes?” he wonders.

“I want you to know I trust you. From my perspective it seems impossible that we would arrive and get out of this car. To me these doors seem so closed and the metal ceiling seems to be caving in on me but I’m going to trust you.”

“I appreciate your faith in me,” my dad answers back, with a smile written on his face. “And it’s a good thing these doors seem closed considering that we’re driving. Look, I know you’re worn out and tired and feeling like this will never end but guess what?”

“What?”

“I’ll get you there. I’ll get you out of this car and I’ll pick you up out of your car seat and I’ll set you free.”

I smile. “I believe you.”

I hate to make myself look bad but this emotional rollercoaster repeats itself three times. I have three more emotional meltdowns, three more reassuring words from my dad, and three more moments of silence before we finally reach our destination.

Just like dad promised, he gets out and opens my door, unbuckles me, then picks me up out of the car into his arms. Finally I have arrived! Finally I am free!

Ocean

My eyes are blinded by the bright light reflecting off the white sand but they soon adjust and I take in the deep green and blue of the ocean. My heart pounds with excitement.

I can smell the salty breeze mixed with the distinct scent of sunscreen lotion. I can hear the waves crashing on the shore and cry of sea gulls searching for a place to land. In moments I’m going to be running into those waves, feeling the cool water crash around me, tasting that salt on my lips and basking in the glorious sun light!

“We made it! We actually made it! I thought it was impossible but I never doubted you, dad. I just kept believing you.”

“Good for you,” he laughs as he sets me down on the sand. “Now go enjoy the water while we unpack the car.”

“I think our son just went through the longest 20 minute drive of his life,” my dad comments to my mom.

“I think it’s safe to say we have a very dramatic four-year-old,” she responds and they both laugh.

 

The End.

Author’s notes:

  • Maybe you’re going through a long season of waiting on the Lord – Don’t quit! Don’t get discouraged! You have a heavenly Father in the driver’s seat and he will get you to your destination.
  • Maybe you’re pushing for a breakthrough or contending for your destiny – Your daddy has you in his hands and he won’t let you miss out on the great plans he has for your life. Don’t give up hope!
  • Maybe you’re trying to read the map and figure it all out – Don’t worry, he knows every turn and he isn’t lost. Just trust him. He has good for you!
  • Maybe you feel like it’s impossible that God can turn your situation around – Don’t lose faith. He is so much more in control than you can fathom.
  • Here is the reality: Our life is a 20 minute drive compared to eternity! And when we get to heaven it is going to be so much better than any beach!! We’re going to see God face to face!!! Every bit of fear and pain will be forgotten as we embrace the savior of the world! Love we can’t even comprehend will overwhelm our emotions. Joy surpassing anything we’ve ever experienced here on earth will fill us. He will be the fulfillment of every desire you have ever had!!! And believe me, it will totally be worth the wait!

The Dreaded Night – Luke 7:36-50

The dreaded night has finally arrived. I still can’t quite believe the mess I got myself into. When I had asked Jesus to my home for supper it had been a spur of the moment invitation and not at all thought through. At the time of the invite I had just heard him share an exceptional parable with the crowds and I had been impressed. That was the last time I would ever let my emotions get the best of me!

All week I had been suffering repercussions. First my family wanted to know why I had invited the revolutionist into my home. Then my colleagues wanted to know why I, a devote Pharisee, had invited an uneducated self-proclaimed teacher for supper. And then I began to question myself as to why I had done this ludicrous thing.

Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see Jesus and his rough looking disciples standing at my door. Not about to greet them myself, I catch the attention of Joseph, my head servant.

“Go show Jesus to his place,” I say in a low tone with my back to Jesus.

Joseph looks at me with a puzzled expression. “Do you not want to greet . . .”

“No!” I argue with as much force as I can muster. “And make sure you seat him away from the head of the table. Keep those places reserved for my friends when they arrive.”

Joseph doesn’t respond as he obeys my orders. Jesus and his disciples are brought inside and seated. I try very hard to avoid making eye contact with any of them. The awkward moments that follow seem like an eternity. When are my friends going to get here?

At last I see Caleb and Cleopas approaching my front door followed by a few others of my close acquaintances.

“Welcome!” I greet with as large a smile as I can manage. “I’m glad you could make it!”

“It’s always a pleasure to be in your company,” Caleb laughs coming inside.

“The sunlight is fading fast,” Cleopas points out.

“Yes, and you all must be hungry!” I say. “Come and sit down! I’ll have my servants bring some water for your feet and some refreshments while we wait for the first course to be served.”

Jesus and his disciples watch as my friends are carefully looked after by my servants.  I want Jesus to know I don’t see him as my equal in society. I want Jesus to see that he is the one honored to be in my home.

“Joseph, we are ready for the first course,” I say when I see that my friends have been prepared for the meal.

With the arrival of food and with the conversation among my friends rising, I am able to totally ignore that Jesus was in my home and at my table. This is just what I was hoping for: He is here but isn’t the center of attention.

Remainders of the second course are just being taken away when our dinner is interrupted. My friends gasp and I look up to see Sharon, our neighborhood harlot, standing in front of Jesus. She knows better than to come to my house when I have company! What on earth is she doing here?!

Silence fills the room and I can hear weeping. The weeping is coming from Sharon who lets her tears fall down on Jesus’ feet. Jesus remains composed when the woman suddenly falls upon his feet, wiping them with her hair, kissing them with her lips, and weeping all the more.

I am not only disgusted by this lady’s outburst of emotions but by Jesus’ response to her! He sits, looking at her with eyes that show compassion as if he understands what she is doing.

Things go from bad to worse. Sharon pulls out an alabaster flask of perfume and begins pouring the contents over Jesus’ feet. The fragrance takes over the room and drowns out the smell of the meal.

I can’t look anymore. I can’t watch this parade of sin. I know that Jesus isn’t from here but if he was a prophet, if he was anywhere close to God, he’d know this woman was unclean and a convicted sinner!

“Simon,” Jesus’ voice says splitting through the silence and invading my thoughts. “I have something to say to you.”

Disgusted I reply, “Oh really? What could you possibly have to say?”

Jesus doesn’t miss a beat. “Two men were in debt to a banker. One owed five hundred pieces of silver and the other only owed fifty. Now neither of them could make payments on their debt any longer so the banker decided to forgive them both. He completely wiped their slate clean. Tell me, which of the two would be more grateful?”

“I suppose,” I start to say, “Well, I suppose the one whom he canceled the larger debt.”

“That’s right.” Jesus turns to the woman yet he continues to speak to me. “Look at this woman here at my feet. I came to your home; you provided me no water for my feet, but she washed them with her tears. You gave me no greeting, but she hasn’t stopped kissing my feet. You didn’t give me anything to freshen up, but she has soothed my feet with perfume. Impressive, isn’t it?”

Jesus pauses to look around the room. We are all silent.

“She was forgiven many, many sins and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal. I forgive your sins,” Jesus says, looking at the woman. “Your faith has saved you.”

At these words the woman seemed to have been released of a million ton load. Joy, peace, and relief seem to sweep over her. And at these words, I suddenly feel like the burden she carried has been placed on me. I now understand why I invited Jesus into my home.

I invited Jesus because deep down inside I had sin that I wanted free from. Deep down, underneath my mask, I had things I wanted Jesus to forgive. Something told me he could do it. Something told me he had the keys to freedom. Something had told me he could forgive – even though it didn’t make sense to my brain.

But my pride has been holding me back. This woman threw herself upon Jesus. I reserved myself, afraid to be seen too close in public. This woman wept upon his feet. I had remained proud, unable to humble myself to repentance. This woman gave her best perfume, probably her life’s savings, and I couldn’t even give him the best place at my table. This woman saw her sin as a heavy debt she could not pay. I had thought of my sin as minimal compared to most, but in reality my sin is greater than this woman’s for she will be leaving the room free.

The night is still young. Jesus is still in my house. Will I get the courage to humble myself before him? I take in a deep breath.

Asleep in the Storm

Reference: Matthew 8:23-27 ~ Mark 4:35-41 ~ Luke 8:22-25

I have never been sea sick before but right now I am getting the full experience. The boat has been rocking for hours and I don’t think I can take it any longer. I lean over the side of the boat and let out a moan.

Maybe we made a mistake in taking this trip across the sea. At first when we set out there was nothing but a blue sky and a gentle breeze. Now dark clouds have crowded the horizon accompanied by strong gusts of wind.

“You’re not use to this are you?” one disciple laughs, seeing me in my sickened condition.

I shake my head. I really don’t see why he laughed when he asked the question. I don’t feel like laughing at all.

There is always that inward struggle where you have to weigh the need to throw up against the possibility of getting by without doing the disgusting act. I’ve been having this inward struggle the past few moments. Finally, I’ve come to the decision that it is just inevitable and I let it flow. Luckily I didn’t have a big lunch.

When I finish I look and see Jesus asleep in the stern. I’ve noticed that sometimes real life noises that occur when someone is sleeping can become a part of their dreams. Hopefully I didn’t just give Jesus a bad dream because I wasn’t quiet.

“The wind seems to be getting stronger,” I say, a little concerned.

“Oh that’s nothing!” Peter replies. “I had a day once where we were fishing in winds ten times as strong as this!”

This starts the disciples sharing their countless stories about past experiences in stormy waters. I just can’t seem to stomach their conversation at the moment. I look at Jesus again. It seems so funny that he lays in complete peace, able to shut everything else out so well.

I should follow his example and lay down across from him, I think. Maybe he can teach me a few things about being calm. I don’t know why this urge comes over me but I give into it and join Jesus in the stern.

I try to imitate him in his position of rest. He opens his eyes and sees me lying on the opposite side of the boat from him. I can see the peace in his eyes and the calm on his face. I don’t see his lips move but something seems to almost whisper the words, “Stay here. Stay in peace.”

I’m not really sure what is getting ready to happen but I decide to obey the silent words. Before long I realize my stomach ache is gone even though the tossing and rocking seems to have increased. The other disciples have quieted into hushed tones and I know they are beginning to be worried. This makes me worried too.

A sudden, violent wind howls across the sea and wreaks havoc on our little boat. I turn my eyes to see the disciples struggling to stand in the force of the wind. Their clothes appear glued against their bodies as a sea mist is being sprayed into their eyes. My heart begins to race at this sight. Things are getting worse and we could be in great danger. I just about get up to see if I can help the disciples when my eye catches sight of Jesus still lying in peace.

My full gaze turns back to him and our eyes meet. I realize he wants me to forget about the storm around us, forget about the waves, the wind, and the danger. I can see that he wants me to remain where I am, resting in peace.

If I’m going to do what he is wanting then I can’t keep pulling my gaze away to see the storm. I have to keep my eyes locked onto his eyes and keep my gaze locked onto his face. I make a decision to keep my eyes focused on him no matter what happens.

I hear a disciple scream a high pitched squeal and then suddenly a wall of water rushes over the side of the boat. The wave crashes into our boat and soaks me completely through.  But I work hard on keeping sight of Jesus.

The sky is now so dark someone might think it is the middle of the night. The wind continues to beat against us relentlessly. The waves have grown and seem to keep growing as they crash one right after another over top of us.

I hear the disciples yelling out commands and exclamations. They seem to be getting louder but making less sense. I can tell they are scared to death. Even with their screaming and the water that keeps washing over me, I am still able to stay focused on Jesus.

He is so calm. He is so peaceful. And even though it feels like our boat is almost upside down at times, I feel completely at rest. It almost seems wrong that I feel so peaceful. Shouldn’t I be up doing something right now? Shouldn’t I be helping the disciples in trying to fight the storm? Shouldn’t I be concerned? Am I being stupid and heartless to be resting at a time like this?

All these questions are silenced as I stare into the eyes of Jesus. He closes his eyes and I do the same. I can still see him even with my eyes closed. I can still see his beautiful eyes of peace and I relax knowing he is in control. My spirit seems to hear him say once more, “Stay here. It’s not about the storm around you but who is in the boat with you. I am peace. Stay here. Stay with me.” Those words echo through my mind over and over and over.

The shouts from the disciples grow louder. Suddenly all their voices are yelling in my direction.

“Master!!! Master!!! Wake Up!!”

My eyes are jolted open and I see all the disciples hanging on for dear life looking at Jesus asleep in the stern. Their shouts are for him as he is their last hope for survival.

“Don’t you care we’re about to die!? Our boat is sinking!!! We’re going to drown! How on earth can you be asleep! Are you going to save us!?”

I have never seen the disciples so scared before. The blood has drained from their faces and they look worn out from fighting this enormous storm.  Years seem to have been added to them in just a few minutes.

Jesus sits up and I do the same. My eyes quickly verify that we are indeed in trouble. Our boat is sinking, filling up with water, and the huge waves are about to capsize us completely.

Jesus looks out over the sea and the storm and says with authority, “Peace! Be quiet!”

The words are so simple yet so electric with power. The wind stops immediately and the sea slowly dies down until it becomes smooth as glass. The sun even begins to break through the clouds as the darkness dissipates. The danger had felt so real at the time but when things changed so quickly and drastically it almost made you question the reality of the storm.

Everything is so calm. It occurs to me that it is simply the manifestation of the reality Jesus was already experiencing in the middle of the storm. Out of peace he commanded peace. The great calm we now experience is the outward circumstances aligning with the world of peace Jesus was always in.

The circumstances around our boat were made subject to the peace of God. I realize that the storm that was trying to act big and scary was actually fake compared to the reality of God.

“Where is your faith?” Jesus asks, looking at each and every disciple after this great miracle.

I can tell they are just as much in awe as I am. In one command he changed the entire weather outlook for the day. In one command he silenced a storm. We worshiped him in awe and adoration.

In my heart I felt God speaking to me. It isn’t about the storm. The storm isn’t the reality you should live by. Life is never about the storm. It is about the One who commands the storm, the One who is peace itself, and the One who is in the boat with you.

*Interesting Side Note: After crossing the sea, Jesus set a madman free then got back into the boat and left. It might be said that he came across the sea just for that one demon possessed man. Isn’t true that the storms we endure aren’t exactly about us (though they seem to be at the time) but are actually for the freedom of someone else.

Beautiful Beggar (Short Story) Acts 3:1-11

I feel kind of helpless as I’m being carried up this long row of stairs. The two men hold me up as they ascend step after step.

“I really would help you if I could,” I say half-jokingly.

“You seem to have put on weight since yesterday,” one of the men laughs.

“Well, we’re almost there,” I encourage.

There are only two types of people in the world: The beggar and the giver. Now, I’m proud to say I’m a professional beggar. I’m not ashamed of it. Some beggars I run into are ashamed of their profession. They feel bad asking people for money without performing some sort of work. I guess I’m different in that respect: One, I have absolutely no problem asking people for money and two, I wouldn’t say the money isn’t hard earned – begging is a lot of work.

The reality is most people are beggars they just don’t know it. They argue their case and try to point out how they’ve never asked for anything from anybody but the truth can be seen in their faces. Deep down they are longing for something, begging for something more.

“Just set me down in my usual spot, thanks,” I say to the men carrying me as we reach our destination.  “Ah! Easy now!”

The men set me down gently in front of the Temple gate we have affectionately dubbed the Beautiful Gate. I’ve sat in front of this same gate for many years now mainly because it’s almost always busy. In my profession you have to be where the people are and that’s why the key point in my marketing strategy is location, location, location.  I also picked this gate because I feel like the name is a very accurate description of my complexion.

“Here’s your pay.” I hand out the coins to the two men who carried me to my spot. “Now don’t forget to come back tonight to pick me up!”

“We won’t,” they say, chuckling to themselves. “We haven’t forgotten you for years now!”

I smile at them. “Yes, I know but eight years ago you did forget me.”

“That was only once!” they argue. “And that was during a nasty storm that came through . . . “

“I know,” I interrupt. “Now hurry up and leave. Here comes a lady who looks like an easy target.”

As my two friends slowly ease away I see my first customer approaching. She is a middle aged lady, probably married, and who looks well off.

“Isn’t God good?” I say when she’s in earshot.

“What’s that?” she asks, coming closer.

“I said, isn’t God good?” It has always been my philosophy to start off with a religious comment that has nothing to do with the fact I want money.

She pauses for a moment. “Are you a beggar?”

She isn’t buying my small talk.  “I don’t like to call myself a beggar,” I answer in sincerity.

“Really? Why not?”

“Well, I think the public perception of the word ‘beggar’ isn’t always positive. The problem is, I haven’t settled on an alternative title for myself but I’ve been kicking around a few ideas.”

I can tell the lady is amused by my reply. “So what are your ideas?”

“Well,” I begin, acting a little embarrassed to share my ideas. “I’m not exactly sold on it, but I like the phrase Empty Vessel. It sounds religious, sort of humble, and yet implies the fact that I want you to give me something.”

The lady laughs at my explanation. I have her right where I want her. My begging technique is to strike a conversation with the customer, keep it funny, and keep it honest. I’ve been far more successful using this method than trying to pull on the heart strings and put on a fake show.

“Empty Vessel, huh? I kind of like it. So, how long have you been crippled?” the lady asks.

“All my life! But I don’t let that detour me from my calling!”

“Oh I’m sorry. Well, that’s the spirit to have! What do you consider to be your calling?”

“To be an Empty Vessel,” I say, smiling slowly.

She shakes her head and laughs. “Alright, here you go,” she says, tossing me some coins. “And to answer your first question, yes, God is good.”

“He sure is,” I whisper to myself as she walks away and I put the coins into my collection box.

“Look here,” a man’s voice suddenly says, coming out of nowhere.

I look up to see two men staring at me with marked attention. I can’t believe how easy it is going today! One right after another! I start to say something but the man beats me to it.

“I don’t have any silver or gold . . .” the man begins.

That’s a bummer, I think to myself. Not much I want from him if he doesn’t have any money.

“But what I do have,” the man continues, “I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!”

I can hardly believe my ears. Walk? Is he crazy?! I can’t walk! I’ve heard of Jesus before but . . .

“Whoa!!” I cry as the man grabs me by the hand and pulls me up to my feet. “I’m not quite ready for this!” I try to object.

Before I completely know what has happened, I am on my feet standing without any pain. I think my feet register the miracle quicker than my brain as I suddenly start running and jumping and going wild.

Finally my mouth gets wind of what has happened. “I’m healed! I’m healed! I’m healed! Praise God! I’m healed!” I shout at the top of my lungs.

The two men are laughing and praising God right along with me! Whoever this Jesus of Nazareth is I want more!

In my ecstatic joy, I see one of my co-beggars watching me with his mouth wide open. Suddenly it dawns on me: I’m not a beggar anymore! All these years I’ve been begging for money, money, and more money but what I really needed was a touch from God delivered by these two men.

I look around as I continue jumping for joy and I see all the other people – not just beggars but common people and religious scholars – they are all in search of something. They think activities, work, people, money, and pleasure is what they crave. They think doing religious routines will satisfy their souls. But I finally know that what they really desire, what they are really begging for is an encounter with God. Mine came just now, simply because two men took the time, not to give me money and just keep going, but to stop and extend to me the invitation to experience the glory of God.

Ever Had a Dream That Just Won’t Die?

It has been said that if you can imagine your dream fulfilled then you’re not dreaming big enough. Well, I guess that’s been my philosophy with PBMP (Peace Builders Media Productions). Who knows where it will take me but that’s the great thing about a dream isn’t it?

In Mark 10 Jesus says all things are possible with God. This is a big statement for those who are afraid. If Jesus was telling the truth (and we know He was) then the sky is the limit for us believers! So why not let God’s dream (which is entirely huge) become our own dream?

In the Gospel of John, Jesus repeatedly says, “Ask anything in my name and I will do it.” What?!!!!! That’s craziness right? But if Jesus kept saying it then I guess we ought to start doing it. Why not ask for big things? Why not dream big? Why should I put a limit on what Jesus wants to do for me?

My dream for PBMP involves a college for the arts, a school for upcoming movie directors, a place where Christian actors can work in a pure environment, a hub for Christian media and creativity, and a company that produces amazing films, TV shows, and books. These are just some of the things I see in my dream.

“But your dream is just your own imagination,” you might say. But what if God took my imagination and made it His own desire too! What if He was the one who gave me this crazy, wild, huge dream? I guess we’ll wait and see.

What is God dreaming through you?