This morning I was walking with Vern one of our two waking routes, and my thoughts went to what I may say to encourage some students his weekend at an awareness event. I was thinking to say what you believe about yourself is very important. I want to communicate these things: they are…
- One of a kind
- Made wonderfully
- Precious and very valuable, and
- Nothing can diminish their value
We approached a white car that was parked into the sidewalk a ways which frustrated Vern. I laughed it off, “it’s ok, let’s just go around” I said. And we did. As we walked, I glanced up for a good look at the owner – a tall, well-dressed, dark-skinned young man with a lit cigarette in his hand . He was standing behind his white rear-end damaged car.
As soon as I said hello, he smiled wide and said it back, quickly apologizing for how he was parked. I asked his name and he said Solomon. “Solomon!” I replied, “I like that name. It’s Biblical!” He nodded and wished me a good day. “You too!” I said back. We kept walking, and I went back to thinking of those encouraging truths, only now I was applying them to Solomon. Perhaps I should have told him, I thought to myself. The moment is gone.
We turned the corner and continued walking at a slow pace, when I noticed that same white car had pulled up across the street from and behind us. He got out, crossed the street and approached me, saying in a slight African accent (from Senegal, to be exact), and an excited smile, “Chelan, I cannot help but thank you for saying hello to me.” “Oh, sure!” I said. God gave me an second chance, “God wants to use you in a significant way to impact the people around you – people in your sphere of influence.”
“How do you know this? I feel as if you may have more to say to me, from your spirit.” I replied back with a smirk, “I’m sure I do!”
I am going through a very hard time in my life, as my wife has left me in March. We have two girls. My 4 year old is on the car. I am having such a hard time, I cry every day. I do not believe in divorce. I feel as if there is something more in your spirit which you can say to me.”
“Oh there is! I have the Spirit of the living God inside of me. He is a God of restoration. He makes all things new. And you feel broken because it was he who designed marriage to be an everlasting covenant. When husband-and-wife separate or divorce, that covenant is broken. That is why your heart breaks. But you must contend. Do you know what that means?” He said, “I do not.” “It means to fight for something and not give up. Be encouraged – the Lord reconciles and restores.” “But my wife”, Solomon retorted. “She is very smart, getting her Masters, but she is being childish, going to her parents who do not like me, getting their advice. They do not share my religion.”
Vern, who was standing close by, kept trying to interject a remark and managed to finally share hope from his own life, “My wife and I have been married for 47 years!”
The dark man’s daughter, whose name was Rikeah, rolled her window down and yelled, “Daddy!” obviously tired of waiting. He yelled back a desperate, “two minutes, baby!” The clock was ticking. Time would not be wasted.
“Do you know Jesus?” I asked him urgently. “I know he was a great prophet. I am Muslim”. “Oh, well, I don’t know much about being Muslim, but I know Jesus, and to me, he is so much more than just a prophet. He is the Son of the living God who died for our sins and rose back to life. He is my EVERYTHING! I LOVE him!”
Would you like to know him? “I do already know him” “No, I mean know him, like I know him. Time is short. Would you like me to pray with you?”
Solomon’s countenance clearly brightened and he did not hesitate, “Yes, please!” So I took his hand in mine and my other hand crossed over, to reach his broken heart.
And I prayed something like this, “Lord Jesus, thank you for your Spirit that lives in me, and I pray the same thing for my new friend Solomon. That you would take up residence in his heart. Fill him up and give him hope for a reconciled relationship with his wife. You restore! Thank you for bringing us together like this today. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.”
Solomon hugged and thanked me. And then turned to my sweet client by his walker, hugged and thanked him as well. And ran back across the street to his daughter.
Vern looked at me. “Well,” he said quietly, in awe of God. “That was a holy moment.”
Sinful nature tries and pries into our sense of self worth, and the search for significance. It lies to our spirit saying, it is not enough that an unseen God sees you and all you do. You need the seen people to see you, verify you, validate you, compliment you. THEN you will be worthy.
THEN you will be counted.
But that is a liar’s voice. Don’t be deceived.
If Eve were there beside you, she’d surely pipe up, “ENOUGH! DON’T FALL FOR IT! That snake told me the same thing. He said if I did something, I’d be more like God! And it made me forget… I was ALREADY like God, before he opened his toothy mouth and spoke his intrusive words that leapt straight into my being! Why did I believe him?? Do not make my mistake. Stand firm in who you already are, whole and complete. You are like God already, made in his image and likeness. Like I was! You have nothing to prove to yourself, to God, or to anyone else. Please believe me, you have only to be who he made you to be…ENOUGH.”
Today I’ve been discussing the scriptures with my nearly 70 year old friend, Vern…Adam and Eve, Ananias and Saphira, the resurrection, the road to Emmaus, the resurrection of the saints, the man of the Gaderenes who was set free from Legion. Quite the conversation.
As we talked about that last one, the man who was set completely free, something occurred to me. His instinct was to cling to the one who set him free. He literally begged Jesus to let him follow him as he left.
“As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon possessed begged to go with him.”
Mark 5:18 NLT
Who can blame him? I would too! I’d never want to leave Jesus’s side after that miraculous moment.
But Jesus had a superior idea. Doesn’t he always.
“But Jesus said, “No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.””
Mark 5:19 NLT
His devotion to his Savior would not be shown by simply following him around, as admirable and understandable as that may seem.
The better idea was for this healed man to go home. It was to tell the people who knew him before, even in the face of disbelief, what had just happened. It was to proclaim to old friends, mockers, family and townsmen the outrageous mercy of a man like no other man – this man called Jesus.
I also see Jesus saying the same thing in John 4 to the Samaritan woman as he sat there with her by a well.
“The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone…So the people came streaming from the village to see him.”
John 4:28, 30 NLT
What does it mean to follow him today? Like the man set free of his demons and the woman set free of her shame, we don’t have the privilege of following him around physically from place to place. But remember this: later, he said, “it is better that I go, so that the comforter can come”. It is better for us, he said, because we have the gift of his comforting, guiding, convicting and sweet Spirit…24/7. And it is BECAUSE we possess this gift in us, we can truly follow him.
As we spend peaceful pockets of time with him in secret places, bursts of worship, or as we dive into the sacred and ancient text…we are filled with his truth and revelation. And then we have the opportunity – no, commission – to GO.
Go and tell your old friends, mockers, family, the downtrodden dredging about your town. GO and tell even those whose bony fingers and cutting slander pointed your way. Tell as many as you can, of all that Jesus has done for you. Look to recent events. Don’t just pull the biggest miracle from the timeline of your existence and tell of that…expand it! A recent testimony will bring a depth of vulnerability and relevance, and will have more impact than you can imagine.
What did he do THIS WEEK?! This month?
HOW was he merciful to you?
WHAT did he free you from?
Take a few moments, pray and inventory this last week or month. Jot down what you got, then shoot a video, write a post or simply go out and tell it to anyone and everyone. The personal (your own) first-hand story of redemption will boost belief in the hearers. I promise. It may not be evident in the seen realm, but keep doing it. It is what is revealed I the unseen that truly matters.
To tell is not to follow. But I’m beginning to think one cannot truly be a follower without a consistent, uncensored personal telling of the goodness and mercy of this man
Our next door neighbor has chosen today to die. He is using assisted suicide, I’m sure to make it easier on his wife as she navigates the difficulties and grief of caring for him at home, during his final stage of ALS.Last week, I thought to visit, thinking it was the day he chose to pass. Someone had misinformed me. It was the day he chose to die…10 days later. So I got to see him, touch his shoulder, talk to him and ask him questions. And listen to his responses come out of a speaker across the room. I watched his eyes focus on letters on a screen attached to his wheelchair, and slowly make words. Half of which he did not intend to make. But the ones he did intend were, “i’m ok”, “Julie is nice to me”, and “no pain”.
As I took the hint that it was time for me to leave, knowing that they were against “religion” and prayer of any kind, I had to ask him, “would you like me to pray for you?” I would have quoted from memory as best I could, Romans 10:9, and thanked our God for his immense love for this man. But as soon as “…pray for you?” came out of my mouth, his head shook, no. I looked up, to see his wife’s head already shaking no, as if to imply, “don’t even try. It’s useless”.
My prayer would have to be spoken in my spirit.
It was an awkward walk back to the front door. But we hugged, and she did thank me.
I’m learning…It is an especially sad thing to experience someone’s outright rejection of God… Utter disbelief in his love, in their final days of life.
My only prayer, borrowed from a close friend,would be for an angel of God to visit him in his last day – his last moments here on earth. And in those moments, his heart would become soft and humble and he would believe.
This week my Ricky was asked to speak on Sunday to singles at church, on Wednesday to his largest crowd yet (close to 300?) to current students, faculty and alum at our old High School, Westside Christian, as an “Honorary Alum”, and then on Friday to 22 murderers at the Oregon State Correctional Institution. What a range!
He also got word of a Wash.Co. Drug Court participant who wrote a paper on HIS book, PCS & PHD, quoting parts of it that meant a lot to him in his journey toward sobriety and rehabilitation and success in life. Seems like he even quoted Proverbs from each chapter of Rickys book without even realizing that they were from The Bible. Hope is Hope and when God anoints it, it changes hearts. So much hope being released in Jesus’ Name. So, so proud of my husband.
The email from Ricky about the Drug Court participant is as follows:
First, know I’m not tooting my horn
Everyone in Drug Court has to write a short paper on something they’ve learned in Drug Court before they can Phase to the next level (5 Phases total).
This guy chose to write his paper on my PCS&PHD book. He’s not a Christian but he loves my book and shares it with people. I’m not sure he knows the “quote references” in my book are from Proverbs but he’s still getting the Word!
There are so many different ways we can mentor/disciple people. Don’t underestimate yourself!!!
Read below for the letter he submitted to the court to move to Phase 3:
503-505-0995 • http://www.rickyrussjr.com
Begin forwarded message:
From: Stephen M
Date: December 21, 2015 at 10:01:21 AM PST
To: “firstname.lastname@example.org” <email@example.com>
The book I chose to read and relate to my life is PCS & PHD written by Ricky Russ
Each chapter in this book I’ve already used and can use in the future to help me in my recovery and lead me to positive choices and outcomes in my everyday life.
Chapter 1. Yesterday
Ive never liked to focus on what can’t be done, rather what can be accomplished. Not to say being realistic isn’t important in recovery it is. However when taking advice, especially from someone in a mentor role I seem to get much more out of a positive approach, rather then someone telling me I can’t do A,B or C because of my past. I realize I have to be responsible for my past and the the things I’ve done but the longer I let that dictate my future the longer it takes to get back to where I belong.”Fear based decisions have a shelf life. Their results are short term,whereas hope-based decisions bring life”. I’ve been given some tools to deal with the things I’ve done and put people through in my past. I’ve learned that as long as I remain true to myself and make that next right choice good things will come. “The wicked are edgy with guilt, ready to run off even when no one’s after them; Honest people are relaxed with confidence bold as lions(28.1). “There will always be those who mistake your confidence for attitude. Stay humbly bold. The author also mentions “Transparency” in this chapter something that is encouraged in drug court. I feel me being an addict this is so important. I need to be open and honest with myself and the people in my support group in order to remain on even ground.
Chapter 2. Today
What I take out of this chapter is that I have to surround Myself with positive influences. My environment is essential in continuing to grow and form positive relationships. “If your serious about discovering all thats inside you, you’ll find a place to do so. Find people and places that strengthen your plans”. I also take out of this chapter the importance in time management and being prepared. If I want to be successful and be able to deal with the problems in my life that will come up, and they will, I have to be willing to go the extra mile even in the things I sometimes don’t want to do. “Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run; hurry and scurry puts you farther behind.”(14.24).
Chapter 3. Tomorrow
I take out of this chapter that while technology is great, and should be used, theres a lot to be said for good old fashion do it yourself education. I should learn from my elders, take advice from those who have, been there, done that. I should listen more and not be afraid to ask for help.”The wise accumulate knowledge-a true treasure; know-it-alls-talk too much-a sheer waste (10.14).
Chapter 4. Haters
This chapter is Important for me and my recovery. I use to take things personal, and ill admit i still do ,this is something I continue to work on daily. However its up to me how I react and their opinion doesn’t change who I am or where I’m going . “The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in God protects you from that(29.25). This part of the book also helped me realize how important discipline is.”Discipline produces something that cant be bought”. I have to be disciplined in my everyday choices to stay on the path of remaining clean and sober.
Chapter 5. Advice
I learned that advice comes in all forms. I don’t have to like what advice is being given or the person giving it ,however I shouldn’t disregard it I should always consider it and try and use it to better myself. ”Although spite isn’t the best motive for not doing wrong it can work. If you choose to put “spite” in the passenger seat, be sure to let respect and honor ride in the back seat as well”. Im working on listening to any advice that comes my way because my ego and closed mind has caused me to miss out on a lot of good advice I should of taken. ”Simpletons only learn the hard way, but the wise learn by listening”(21.11).
I was angry about something and ranting just before I went to sleep. The more I talked about what made me mad, the madder I got! I actually put my hot head on my pillow and fell asleep right after that. But the Holy Spirit must have had other plans. I believe it was He who woke me up a half hour later to tell me, that’s not how to deal with anger, as a child of God who is filled with and led by His Spirit. I got this strong impression in my mind, to pray about that issue before going back to sleep.It took longer than I thought it would, for me to humble myself enough to bring it up in prayer out loud to the Lord. Part of me wanted to let my rant be. And be ok with it. Some would call this “venting” (which to me, is usually a prettied-up word for gossiping or sinning in your anger. It’s like “Poopouri” -that sweet-smelling fragrance you spray on poop. Mask it up all you want…it’s still poop).
Well anyway, I was TIRED. I wanted to go back to sleep! 😴 Not the best motivation to pray, I’ll admit. But He knew it’d work.
So I took Ricky’s hand and told him what was going on in my (renewed) mind – the mind of Christ. And I prayed through it for a few minutes.
Praying did two things for me in that moment of anger:
1.) it dug out any prideful, worldly or self-righteous attitude-weeds that were telling me I have the right to express my anger without involving Jesus or inviting him into it to help me deal
2.) it joined me together with my sweetie as we sought the Lord together to ask him to calm my heart and trust him to help me with the root issue of why I was mad, and give me wisdom
3.) OK…3 things. It put me back to sleep in seconds, like spiritual melatonin!
Thank you Jesus, for leaving your Spirit here with us after you ascended. Thank you for convicting us and helping us process through our anger. We know we can ALWAYS go to you cause you’ve been through it all, + WAY more. You’re so amazing.