Grieving the Giver

December 4, 2012 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Alan Mowbray –

A hypothetical man—let’s just call him Alan for the sake of expediency—was praying to God one day.

“Father God, why is it that You never give me any really cool spiritual gifts? I do what You ask. I go to church Sundays, Wednesdays, Men’s meetings, Father/Son events, Couple’s Group. My wife and I even lead a small group in our home. I understand You don’t give all gifts to everyone, but I just want things to be more exciting, purposeful, and worthwhile.”

The man waited for a reply.

What he got was silence.

In fact, Alan heard nothing from God the rest of the day. He went to bed that night, with the same prayer on his mind. Then he dreamed. Of Christmas morning.

In the dream, Alan and his wife stayed up the night before finishing some last-minute present wrapping. They craftily hid these gifts from curious eyes and hardy box shakers. Satisfied their surprise was set, they turned in, and set their alarm clock to be up and ready with cameras when their children awoke the next morning. Their anticipation in giving these hard-earned presents to their beloved easily equaled that felt by the children waiting impatiently for the Wonderful Day to arrive.

When the alarm sounded, Alan and his lovely wife kissed each other good-morning and rolled out of bed to get prepared. The kids would be awake soon.

As they pulled on their robes, they made final plans—she would take pictures and he would kneel by the tree calling to the kids to wake up and see the awesome toys and things awaiting them. Soon they were ready. “Merrrrrrrrrrrry Christmas!!!” Alan hollered with joy.

Seconds later, feet thumped the bedroom floor and squeals of happiness came down the hall. In the corner of the living room, the dog raised his head in the direction of the increasing ruckus. His little people were awake and on the way.

The youngest popped out of her bedroom first. As her small bare feet gained traction on the tile floor, her brother appeared from across the hall—hot on her heels. It was a drag race now. They skidded into the living room and saw their father in front of the tree, arms open to receive their morning hugs, and behind him, the tree. And what a tree it was—loaded with many more gifts than the night before, prior to going to bed.

Alan braced himself for the onslaught of two small bodies hitting him at full speed, ready to grab them, kiss them, and love on them. But when they reached him, they ducked under his arms and fell to their knees in front of the tree, searching frantically for gifts with their name on them, oblivious to their slightly less-excited parents.

The sounds of ripping paper faded and at that moment, Alan awoke. His wife was sleeping soundly beside him. Everything was quiet, except for his spirit—which was broken.

“Now you understand.”

“Yes, Lord.”

“All those gifts I have already given you, are they worn out? Broken? Useless?”

“No, Father.”

“As long as you seek My gifts, but do not seek Me, the gifts I have already given you will lose their luster and shine. All the gifts I have ever given are the same in My eyes. No single gift is greater than the other. But when you seek My gifts and not My heart I am grieved.”

“I’m so sorry, Father. Please forgive my selfish attitude.”

When you seek His gifts without seeking His heart, God is grieved. I am as guilty of this as anyone.

Lord, forgive me for grieving You, the Giver. Holy Spirit, help me to seek the Father’s heart more and what I can get from Him a little less. Amen.

Life Interrupted

October 19, 2012 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Alan Mowbray –

It was a long day at work—ten hours. Arriving home, I discovered things in a shambles. Dinner not started. Dishes not done. And my wife still working feverishly in her office to satisfy a deadline commitment. There was a time when I would have just said, “Let’s go out for dinner.” But in today’s economy, that kind of attitude can add up quickly in the financial column.

Now, although I had other plans for the evening, there was an obvious need. My kids were hungry. My wife was on track workwise, but needed a domestic assist. My dream of a relaxing night after a hard day’s work kicked to the curb.

Kaput.

Interrupted.

Sad story. Stuck in a rut and can’t get out of it, right?

Some might say that, but they’d be wrong. Sure, I cooked dinner, did the dishes, drove the kids to dance and football practice and whatever else needed to be done. My little hour or two of quiet bliss was gone. But a wonderful thing happened. I demonstrated love. I demonstrated honor. This interruption was an opportunity to fulfill a need. The lost quiet bliss was forgotten, but in its place, love, honor, and happiness shone brightly and the evening turned out to be great, peacefully chaotic, and full of family. Perfect.

If you take a few seconds to think about it, the life of Jesus was full of interruptions. That Samaritan woman at the well, blind Bartimaeus, a Roman centurion, the woman with the issue of blood. In fact, you have to think hard to come up with a miracle that Jesus performed that was a premeditated event.

The easiest way to say it is He was available for interruption at any moment. He lived his life in interrupted mode. Not that He spent his day waiting for these opportunities to occur, but rather, that He went on with life, and stopped whatever He was doing at the time to minister to the one in need. He understood what we all need to realize. We are here to live a Life Interrupted.

Take a moment to look back at the last week and think about opportunities when you could have stopped and assisted or talked to someone right then and there, but instead, you put it off, scheduled it for a more convenient time, or just ignored the need.
Because you had other plans.

Look back a little further and take stock of whether previous plans you had and followed through with were as important as that person’s immediate need.

I’m just going to say it. We as Christians are a very inflexible people. Because of this, small groups are never started, church seats remain empty, and young boys and girls go without fatherly and, in some cases, motherly mentors. Hundreds of other functions of the church body are neglected.

The problem is not the world, my friends. The problem is that we, the church, need to loosen up a bit and stop being so rigid. Knowing the Bible isn’t enough. Applying it to life is where things get done.

So, be available.
Get a little dirty.
Smile.

Before you know it, your life will be full of God’s love working through you.

Before you know it, you, too will be living a Life Interrupted.

The Manual

July 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Alan Mowbray –

I’m a technical writer. It gives me great satisfaction to create an elegant manual that will enable a customer to solve problems and operate their purchased software at its peak capacity. My manuals are free to all customers who purchase our product.

The catch? You have to read it.

Occasionally, a customer calls for help with a problem and the fix is, let’s say, on page seven. I could ask them, “Did you read the manual?”

If I did, the answer would always be the same. “I couldn’t find it” or “It’s not covered in the manual.” But you can’t do that.

Early on, I made the mistake of answering a customer’s cry for help with, “Did you look on page seven? It’s right there.” The customer was already frustrated—whether she read the manual or not.

Click. Dial tone.

Then she called my boss. Ahem, you only do that once. Time to enroll in Bedside Manners 101.
So when a customer calls and I perceive they never took the time to read the manual I wrote and could recite from memory, I refuse to take offense. I help them. I guide them through the process. At the end, I bring them to the manual and show them how to find the answer for themselves the next time.

Customer service is more than solving a problem, it’s also teaching. I spend extra time to help my customers to understand the product and manual. Because if you are successful and can solve your own problems by using the manual, you don’t need my help anymore and I’ve done my job.

God gave us a manual, too. The Bible. But instead of reading the Word of God and knowing it intimately, we skim through it in frustration or boredom—failing to find the answers we need. Then we complain to God or others, throw up our hands in defeat, or even worse, sit on the problem in silence until it gets uncontrollable and painful.

Our customer service skills can be just as bad. How can we expect to assist those who are spiritual newbies if we haven’t read—and understood—the Manual ourselves?

Our spiritual walk constantly shifts us back and forth between the status of student or teacher. At times, we end up being both. Ever been teaching and getting a download from the Father at the same time? So cool. But through it all, we need to understand our current status and act accordingly. And both require using The Manual.

As a teacher, your customer service skills can water a seed or kill it. If someone came to you for spiritual help—although you might like to—would you respond with a curt, “Did you even take the time to open your Bible and read it?”

No, you wouldn’t. With a gentle, loving heart, you would stop what you were doing, take the time to open The Manual with them, and show them what God says about that specific issue.

Jesus is the perfect example of this. Calm, loving, generous, and direct, He did everything in His Father’s power to help us. We need to be the same. When you hear that cry for help, apply love—and The Manual.

End of my customer service story—that frustrated customer that hung up on me is now one of the most knowledgeable customers I have. She could do my job. She doesn’t call with problems anymore, she calls just to say hi and tell me how much she appreciates the company I work for.

Job well done.

Standing the Watch

May 8, 2012 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Alan Mowbray –

Have you been asking God for something lately? I know I have. Do you feel the answers are slow or non-existent? Me too—that is, until the other day when I read Habakkuk 2:1.

“I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guardpost. There I will wait to see what the Lord says and how he will answer my complaint.” (NLT)

The moment I read that scripture, something clicked. As a former Navy submariner, I’ve stood a few watches. Six hours or more at a time—some watches on deck, some below decks.

Each watch station has its own characteristics, but what’s unique about all watches is that initially, you as the person taking the watch are unprepared. Yes, you’ve put on your uniform, donned your weapons, strapped on your protective gear—but that doesn’t leave you ready. So you go to your watch station and do the turnover routine with the off-going watch—unprepared.

Once you have assumed the watch, the real preparation happens.

When standing topside security watch on a submarine in port, there’s a lot going on. Initially, when you take the watch, all that activity has an equal priority to your ears, eyes, and mind. For the first ten or fifteen minutes, your mind performs the last portion of preparation for that watch—creating dynamic filters.

After standing there for a while, just listening, observing silently, your brain starts to block things out. That steam vent fifty feet away that pops off every 4 minutes fades into the background. The roar of the diesel engine powering the crane at the end of the pier becomes a quiet rumble. Even the soft, gentle slap of waves against the curve of the sub’s hull, the ebb and flow of its tidal forces tugging the ship against the creaking mooring lines, and its seemingly random pushing around of loose pilings against each other under the pier all disappear.

A different silence emerges.

Finally, you are prepared to hear and see and to stand your watch effectively. Even your body can sense differences around you. Now you’re really “on watch.”

New sounds touch your ears—conversations audible at couple hundred feet away, footsteps of someone walking on the deck of the ship opposite you, distant laughter, and unseen doors opening and closing. Your brain filters out what doesn’t change, while enhancing what does.

Until I read that verse in Habakkuk, I had forgotten what waiting on the Lord is really about. This is the position I should have put myself in when waiting for an answer from God. At my watch station. Alert. Mouth shut. Ears open to hear that still small voice speaking to my spirit.

(I Kings 19:11-13) He created us to hear His voice in spite of the clutter.

I won’t forget again.

Love’s Ultimate Day

April 5, 2012 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Alan Mowbray –

In the month of February, the focus always swings to love. Sure, it’s not the only month of the year where love rules, but still, you get my point. Valentine’s Day, wedding anniversaries, the “day we first met” anniversaries, our “two weeks of dating” anniversaries, birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Grandparent’s Day and a plethora of other “days” all remind us to show some love to those who are most important to us.

But to me, Good Friday is the ultimate day of love.

1 John 4:16-17 (NKJV) introduces us to what and Who Love is–“And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God Is Love, and he who abides in love abides in God and God in him.”

Next, John 3:16 (NKJV) quickly explains just how much God loves us. “For God so loved this world, that he gave His only begotten Son. That whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

We, who were sinners. We the world. Loved by Him, yet dead to Him. The world had rejected Him. The world hated Him. Adulterers. Murderers. Cheaters. Liars. Gossipers. Blasphemers. And still, He loved us enough—selflessly—to give His own Son to die. He sent Jesus to live as a man, not just to do cool miracles and say really deep things—but to die. And to die the most horrible death that man could conceive.

It was the only way God could circumvent the destruction and judgment that was waiting for all of us—thanks to man’s fall in the garden. Circumvented, that is, if we chose to accept and acknowledge what Jesus did for us.

So that’s what makes Good Friday the ultimate day of love in my book. Jesus did this because of love. If I had been the only soul that ever lived, He would have died for me in order to give me the chance to accept that gift.

When I take the time to just remember that one thing—the sacrifice my Savior made for me that day—I am broken. After being unjustly accused, He was beaten beyond recognition. He was whipped until his skin was in tatters. He was stripped and hung from a crude killing machine—the cross. Lastly, all the sin of the world—not just past sin, but all sin that would ever be perpetrated—was placed upon Him.

Think about it. If my sins were/are heavy enough to condemn me to death, what can be the weight of billions upon billions of people amount to? Agony is too small of a word to describe it.

Yet Love carried it all! Love knew that this must be done. Love came down to earth and became man. Love suffered through childhood, puberty, adulthood, injustice, numerous opportunities to quit, temptation upon temptation, and—

Love stayed true to His mission of love.

Salvation.

1 John 4:10 (NKJV) “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

Take a moment to just toss around in your head the enormity of a sinless human life of 33 years, culminating with dying for your sins—done as a gift—just because you are worthy of His love.

All of this was a gift to you. Personally.

If you’ve never accepted that gift, why not now?

You can let me or any writer on this site know just by commenting and we’ll respond.

Let today be Love’s Ultimate Day for you!

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