Tool Shed

An old tool shed stood abandoned with nothing left but cobwebs, the smell of fuel oil and sweat of hard days past. A corner a backyard yearned for such a structure; woodworking shop? Potting shed? Home gym? Imagination running wild.

Preparations were made, building movers in line, a new foundation was laid and excitement ensued. When pieces came together, we found the building was longer than anticipated. An old carpenter’s adage is to “measure twice and cut once,” yet my experience has proven, “measure twice, cut once, measure again and cut it right the second time.” Extra blocks, extra wood and a temporary fix was in.

As evening approached, a folding chair and glass of tea lent time to dream new dreams and recount the day’s victories … and failures. Quick thinking and extra muscle can overcome some errors; others stand as lessons to pack away in our toolbox for next time. Whether it is writing measurements on a scrap of wood or totaling a spreadsheet a second time, I try to turn mistakes into practices that prevent repeat performances, adding “tools” to my toolbox.

Pondering next steps, I wondered how often our preparations fall short of the impending task ahead. Would bit more time and effort have avoided the difficulties? Perhaps. Yet many of these “tools” gather with time, with experience and with “re-engineering” when plans fall short.

A friend was attending a church retreat, one of which changed my life significantly. I felt inadequate in supporting his journey due to my current travels, or apathy, or both. My “foundations” came up a bit short, crumbling at the edges so I opened my toolbox and found:

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19 NIV

Though familiar with most of this passage, verse 19 caught my eye, “Do not quench the Spirit.” Pray continually, believe and then get out of the way. I set out on an hourly prayer vigil, using phone reminders to keep me on track. Not only was I supporting his journey, but also I found my prayers expanding to those laid on my heart. This new tool resulted in less stress, more focus, a refreshed mind and less opportunity to wander off straighter paths.

As the weekend ended, I chose to keep this new tool in hand, extending from a weekend to a full week, then may a month and perhaps a new full time habit; building foundations strong enough to lift others when the need arises. If this habit takes hold, the results are bound to make it to these pages so stay tuned…

Winters of the Soul

First day of winter, a piercing chill in the air, driving through fog as droplets sprinkle the windshield. Most travelers proceed with caution; others speed through ignoring the need to slow down. Spending a few more moments enveloped in clouds provided a bit of peace to the rhythm of wipers.

Topping a hill, the sky cleared and the world accelerated, yet with wet roads, one hurried soul found their way into the median, surrounded by flashing lights and bright yellow jackets. Traffic again slowed to a crawl.

Human nature leads towards caution when the path is less than ideal, only to speed up when obstacles seem to scatter. Too often, the faster we travel, the more likely we are to find “hidden” stumbling blocks.

Much like the driver in the median, I speed through my prayer life when mountains have appeared to move, yet hidden perils appear forcing me to the median or at least grinding to a halt. The closer I get to God and where He is leading, the greater the pull from either side.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:2-3 – NIV

Perseverance does not seem like joy and I tend to fail the testing of my faith, not only when facing a battle, but also when facing foes unseen.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12 – NIV

Evils appear in the “winters” of our spiritual lives, yet in the midst of the cold, a Savior was born, Immanuel, God with us, angels appearing saying “fear not.” The Hope of the world was born that night and grew to be strong, to lead the way through hard winter days when our vision is obscured by the fog that lies before us.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. Ephesians 6:10-11 – NIV

Lord, lead me through the winters of my soul, clothe me in Your armor and help me to stand firm.

Amen …

Prepare “The Way”

Thanks given, turkey eaten, pie consumed, football watched and naps taken. Seeking advent candles and twinkle lights, the focus turned to the birth of a Savior. Under an ancient live oak tree, much work needed to be done as neglect resulted in overgrown weeds, unacceptable to stage the Nativity. In mowing, trimming and pulling I heard:

 a voice of one calling in the wilderness, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.” Mark 1:3 – NIV

 The initial humor faded into a metaphor of my heart as of late, neglected, overgrown, unprepared for the Christ child. Mary and Joseph knocked on doors only to find no room, the innkeepers busily tending to paying guests. I too have ignored the knocking, focusing on the business of the day and keeping up appearances.

 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”  Luke 2:10-12 – NIV

 With no “proper” room available, God chose the humblest of places to appear, yet shepherds and wise men traveled there to honor the King of Kings, the Savior of the world.

Even as God is willing to use small, dusty corners of my heart to make Himself known, I should pull the weeds and trim the grass preparing greater space for Him. I pray that in lighting candles and hanging lights, I will see neglected spaces needing cleaning, making a way for Jesus. I pray the same for you.

Amen …

Echoes Intertwined

A silent church awaits a heart-wrenching melody. Fingers press ivory keys, felt hammers strike metal strings, music emerges through wood and iron – in Echoes. In the same way, our prayers, whether joyful or painful, journey through flesh and bone, breath and heartbeat to the heavenly realms – in Echoes. Yet unlike mimicked sounds bouncing off castle walls, prayers return in whispers, gentle (and not so gentle) nudges and God’s unique sense of humor – in Echoes.
Music flows through my fingers as lifeblood spilling over alternating ebony and ivory, intermingling with the precious blood of Christ. Melody and harmony in tune with the Almighty. Echoes Intertwined.

A collection of parables, lessons and God whispers
Humbly penned by john g. adams

Run Forrest Run

Forrest Gump ventured to see if he could run to the end of the road, then the county line, then the state line, and continued until he reached the ocean. He had gone that far, so he turned around and went the other way, crossing the country at least four times, and people began to follow him without knowing why. When he stopped in the desert, the crowd waited for something profound, yet heard Forrest say, “I’m tired. I’m going home now.” The followers were dumbfounded, not knowing what to do next.

They followed to be part of the crowd and there must have been a reason for the journey. Those who are searching tend to follow anyone who appears to have the answers, either good or bad. School cafeterias were filled with those who dreamed of sitting at the cool table, believing popularity would give their life meaning, yet the value in popularity was just as meaningless as Forrest’s reason for running; he just ran, no earth shattering wisdom, no dynamic motivation; he just ran.

As school days passed, I still longed for a seat at the cool table; stage lights dimmed and dreams faded leaving marginally talented hands idle. There had to be a reason for the tough lessons I had learned and it turned out everything I was chasing was just another “Forrest,” running for the sake of running. I put away my toys and watched dust gather on piano keys wondering why my muse was disinterested. Perhaps she was tired of shouting over amplifiers and loud speakers.

The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel! ” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” And the Lord said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle. 1 Samuel 3:10-11 NIV

I, too, have been Samuel, staring at midnight ceilings, awakened by whispers of wisdom, which at times make their way into pencil scribbles and ink spots.

Will the words form cognitive sentences?     God only knows if or when.

Will they reach millions or just the one?     God only knows if or when.

Therefore, I will be Forrest Gump, running just to run, playing just to play, writing just to write. Will my efforts further the Kingdom?     God only knows if or when.

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14 – NIV

Run Forest Run

Echoes Intertwined

A silent church awaits a heart-wrenching melody. Fingers press ivory keys, felt hammers strike metal strings, music emerges through wood and iron – in Echoes. In the same way, our prayers, whether joyful or painful, journey through flesh and bone, breath and heartbeat to the heavenly realms – in Echoes. Yet unlike mimicked sounds bouncing off castle walls, prayers return in whispers, gentle (and not so gentle) nudges and God’s unique sense of humor – in Echoes.
Music flows through my fingers as lifeblood spilling over alternating ebony and ivory, intermingling with the precious blood of Christ. Melody and harmony in tune with the Almighty. Echoes Intertwined.

A collection of parables, lessons and God whispers
Humbly penned by john g. adams

Lessons of the Fog

A morning fog appeared as the sun peeked over the horizon, soft brushstrokes of pinks and yellows across the sky. Water droplets suspended in midair obscuring images beyond my grasp; a clear reflection of my soul after a night of troubled sleep. Warm water pelted my skin washing the sleep from my eyes, yet I was unable to produce a coherent thought in prayer, let alone verbalization. Perhaps not the time to ask or knock, but simply to listen and wait for doors to open, as God sees fit.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. Romans 8:26-27 – NIV

Verse for the day echoed as I ventured outside. The fog was like that of a heavy snowfall in the mountains, an insulated silence, only broken by a dog’s bark in the distance. Proceeding ahead, the road before me was obscured by a mass of gray with only glass beads infused in highway paint to point the way. Headlights, white lines and red dots in the distance kept me somewhat centered; however, slower speeds and caution were key.

As synapses began to fire, thoughts raced from lane to lane like sport cars whipping in and around as if the fog was no more than spittle on their windshields. There is value in patience and a few extra minutes are better spent in the presence of God than in the rush of buying and selling, trading life for another shiny penny. I may not fully comprehend the wisdom in minor delays, but my heart relishes the calm.

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. 1 Corinthians 13:12 – NLT

Long stretches of painted lines, placed long before I needed them, laid a path, with God’s gracious light reflecting, drawing me out of the fog back to the straight and narrow.

God knows me completely.

Ox or Donkey?

A business social event, not my forte’ as I prefer quiet spaces, small bistro tables soaking in the soft green eyes of my sweet bride, or a table for two with an audience of One, conversing with the Almighty about everything and nothing. Yet today would be different. Breaking out of my “nose to the grindstone” routine in time to slide into my seat, the usual pleasantries were exchanged with talk of handshakes versus fist bumps. Obligatory discussions of upcoming business quickly digressed to stories of college days past, dove hunting and beer drinking. Volume accelerated and the “language” deteriorated far below what decorum should allow, becoming a place I did not need to be. Feigning tremendous workload awaiting me (okay, that was real), I made my exit.

In the solace of silence, my frustration brought to mind a passage about being “yoked with unbelievers”

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14 KJV

While I prefer scripture in more contemporary English, the King James Version states “unequally yoked together.”  Paul used an agricultural reference, which the Corinthians would understand where two oxen, working in tandem, would increase plowing production more than just the two-fold strength of animals combined.

Do not plow with an ox and a donkey yoked together.  Deuteronomy 22:10 – NIV

Do not team the stronger with the weaker, for the ox would overtake the donkey and draw the plow off course. My strengths are certainly not superior to others for I have been both ox and donkey. When an ox, I feel I can compensate for the donkey, but when a donkey, yoked to a team of oxen, I stumble and become trampled by a mass of hooves and “droppings.” I thought this passage promoted avoidance of unbelievers; however, it only advises us to be wary of how closely connected we are.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NIV

In taking on the yoke of Christ, He, in turn, takes ours on His shoulders, not just carrying our share of the load, but also grasping the reins, guiding the team back to the straight and narrow.

Lord, open my eyes to the unequal yokes before me that I may call on You to shoulder up alongside me before the burden is too much for me to bear. May You be Glorified in the plowing and the abundance that will sprout in the furrows.

Amen …

Asking For a Friend

Flipping through my hand held collection of so-called news, sport scores and other general foolishness, an image caught my eye; a man on the porch hanging Christmas lights while there were still jack-o-lanterns at his feet. The caption read, “Ah, Christmas lights. Too soon? Asking for a friend.” In spite of what the stores would say, the answer was of course, yes, too soon. Preparing for the spirit of Christmas? Never too soon, but at least wait with lights until turkey and pumpkin pie (with lots of whipped cream) have been consumed and afternoon naps in stretchy pants have been taken.

A slight bit of holiday humor had me considering “asking for a friend,” a phrase normally used to ask a question too embarrassing to sign your own name to. Yet in some cases, it is more a petition for someone in need than merely a humorous misdirection. Relying on a bolder voice can spread a message wider than those who choose to hide behind a keyboard (either computer or piano), myself included.

A centurion in Capernaum sent Jewish elders in his stead to find Jesus, as the centurion’s servant was ill. Perhaps the origination of “asking for a friend.”

Jesus … was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to Him, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed… When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well. Luke 7:6-10 NIV

No truer example of “asking for a friend,” for the centurion felt unworthy to even consider approaching Jesus. This centurion, with all his power and authority, could not save the life of his beloved servant. His belief in Jesus was the last arrow in his quiver, yet feeling inadequate, he asked others to “pull the bow” on his behalf.

Faith in believing, faith in asking (even if through another) and faith in humbling himself, accepting his own frailty. That is the faith Jesus saw.

Praying for others is noble but does it masquerade our need for healing in places we do not dare expose to the light of day? When my heart is not beating in the right direction, I am unable to help someone in need. “Asking for a Friend” conceals my need to sweep out dirty corners; making room for those God has called to dwell alongside. As Grandma taught us to take off muddy boots outside the door, we must wash our feet before approaching the Throne of Grace, for ourselves and for others.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Psalm 51:10-12 NIV

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24

Asking for a friend…

Casting Cloaks

I am convinced those who create contracts are paid by word count. Each “and”, “or”, “within” or “without” may have a purpose when used in a certain context, but it seems they are simply meant to dissuade people from reading them (and hiring a lawyer to do it). I am blessed with this “duty” because I can see past the clutter and focus on the most important aspects of contract-speak. An asset in office situations and helpful when editing creative endeavors, but a hindrance in consuming Scripture. The Words of God were strategically placed with purpose where like contract-speak, each word has meaning. In seeking the forest in spite of the trees, I missed a tender sprout, green and lush but just out of my line of site, until today.

As Jesus and his disciples … were leaving the city, a blind man … was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” … Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” …Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked… “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. Mark 10:46-52 NIV

This story also appears in Matthew and Luke; however, Mark added a detail that had previously gone unnoticed. When Jesus called the beggar, he threw his cloak aside, jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

A cloak was a long outer garment and according to color and adornment, was a symbol of position, perhaps the most expensive clothing that one owned. For a beggar, it would have been used as bed and blanket, and a place to hide his belongings, his “shopping cart” to give it a more modern analogy. Leaving it was no small thing, yet when Jesus called, he jumped up and ran to Him, leaving all he had behind. This was the act of faith Jesus saw, not just the belief in the Power of Jesus. Upon receiving his sight, he followed Jesus, not running back to tell friends and family, following Jesus. Luke’s version said he:

followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God. Luke 18:35-43. NIV

What cloaks hold you back? Mine are  memories of sins forgiven but not forgotten, fears of exposing darker parts of who I was, and in some ways, still am, and the worry of laying open my heart only to be crushed back into submission by this world.

The beggar wanted no more than to see and see Jesus. He cast off his cloak, followed Jesus, praising God and inspiring others to do the same. Perhaps the miracle was not only restoring sight, but encouraging casting of cloaks, leaving old things behind and being bold enough to follow in the light of day, allowing others to receive sight as well.

Lord, please grant me the strength to cast off my cloaks and shed old skins, that I may hear Your call, jump to my feet and run to You, and that others may see and do the same.

Amen …