Artisan Souls and Warriors

Several years ago, I read a book by pastor Erwin McManus, Artisan Soul, that resonated deep within me. Since then, I’ve read several other books by him, and am inspired by his words, as well as his love for Jesus and adventure.

On Sunday, I had the awesome opportunity to worship in his church in Hollywood, CA. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. I arrived super early and found there is actually parking on site (yay!). I sat in my car listening to a sermon that my friend back home in PA was streaming live on Facebook while observing the many volunteers preparing the building and surrounding for the service. Quite literally about 50 or so people were scurrying about, sweeping, preparing literature tables, coffee stands, and gathering for a pre-service prayer.

Around 9:30, I ventured toward the building and was greeted by about 10 different people, all super friendly. I am truly an introvert (though I know that surprises some people) and planned to just fade into the woodwork unnoticed, but a bubbly woman came running up and introduced herself as “Mamma D”. She asked if I was there alone, and when I replied, “yes”, she said, “not anymore! You’re with me today!” I honestly thought, “oh no! What have I gotten into??” I hung out with her until the doors opened and when we went inside, she said to the ushers, whom she apparently knew, “this is my new friend, and we’re going to the front row”. Lol. Goodness. Turns out Mamma B was from Shippensburg, Pa, and been here three years, serving as the head of hospitality team. No surprise. She told me that the “kids” refer to her as Mamma B because she’s like their mom away from home. She said, “99% of them have come to LA to follow a dream, and 98% of them will face rejection. My job is to help them pick up the pieces”. Awww.
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Everyone was talking about Erwin’s new book, and some had “Book club” pins on, including my new friend. They were excited that he was going to talk about his new book today. I was a little disappointed. I’ve read some of his books and found them both inspiring and scriptural but was afraid I was in for a morning that was about Erwin and not about Jesus. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The worship was good although the songs were new to me. The keyboard was a Nord, which is becoming a new favorite of mine. The room held several hundred people and most seemed to be in their twenties from all walks of life. I wondered if Pastor McManus would actually be there in person or simply projected, but during worship, I looked over and saw him worshiping with his wife, in my same row on the other side of the room.

When he got up to speak, he thanked the worship team for giving to God and bowed in prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to fill us. He did mention the book, but with a humble spirit. The books title, The Way of the Warrior made me think it was about battle, literal battle. But as he began, I realized it is about spiritual battle, depression and anxiety and the battle within our souls. He talked about living in LA, “the epicenter of human creativity but the epicenter of human brokenness”. He mentioned, as an aside, to be careful what “informs” you because it WILL form you, and talked about the importance of knowing scripture.

His scripture for the morning was 1 Kings 19, although he summarized chapter 18 to set the context. Elijah, one of the Lord’s prophets, interacted with Jezebel and Ahab, who worshipped Baal. Elijah challenged them to see whose God was more powerful but taking two bulls and preparing them to be cooked but not set fire to them but ask their respective gods to bring fire. Baal did not but God brought fire from heaven, and everyone was amazed. Then Elijah killed the prophets of Baal.  My notes from the talk are below the scripture.

1 Kings 19:1-13   Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.7 The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night. The Lord Appears to Elijah And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Elijah had an incredibly victorious moment in his life, as depicted in 1 Kings 18, where Elijah called on God to bring fire from Heaven and He did; immediately following that victory, at the beginning of Chapter 19, Jezebel sends Elijah a message saying she’s going to kill him, and he runs away scared.

Pastor McManus pauses here to remind us that with social media, etc, we see the highlights of people’s lives, and sometimes compare ourselves to them. Sometimes when we see lowlights of someone else, it makes us feel better about ourselves. He cautioned us against comparing our lives with either highlights or lowlights of other people. God sending fire from Heaven for Elijah was a highlight of his life. Surely this should have given Elijah confidence, yet we see him run from Jezebel.

He also reminded us that no matter how much success we’ve had, we are not immune to anxiety and depression. “Anxiety and fear is not connected to reality. I’ve seen some of you face real problems with strength but sometimes fear happens in regards to things that aren’t real. Beneath them, Fear is just faith projecting the most negative future

A few verses later, Elijah asks God to take his life, and says, “interestingly, this isn’t the only suicidal thought in the Bible–Jonah had similar thoughts.” He stopped to point out the irony that, while Elijah doesn’t want Jezebel to kill him, he is ok with God killing him. Lol.

‘”Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep’. Sometimes when we’re depressed, we sleep more. Sometimes when anxious, we cannot sleep.

Need to run TO your life. Don’t run from the one you need to running to.

If you have faith and you’re affected by depression, it doesn’t make you weak but human.

Sometime when we feel alone, we you make ourselves alone, retreating from those who love us. Some of our destructive behavior is manifesting in reality.

If you don’t allow God to heal you, you will always need more.

Are you carrying baggage ? (who isn’t?)

God is more creative than you. He always has more ways out than you can imagine.

What do you do when you’re depressed? Sleep? Eat?

We’re much harder on ourselves and on each other than God is on us.

We need to fight the fight for inner peace.

War is raging within us. The war that will end all wars is the war of the human heart. When your spirit is unhealthy you body is unhealthy. Your spirit needs to be healed.

5: He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again

Don’t let em tell you you need to stay away from carbs”. Lol – Pastor McManus

7 The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God

“There’s a journey ahead that you cannot avoid. Some will say they’re broken and can’t serve. But when you’re broken you need to serve. He’s always going to send you on a journey that’s too much for you so you need Him. It doesn’t get easier. You get stronger.”

Incidentally, sometimes we won’t allow broken people to serve. Leadership is about people. You may not be ready to lead but you are always ready to serve.”  (how true is that??)

“The feelings of emptiness is not proof of the absence of God. God is waiting the entire time not to reprimand. He’s here to start a new beginning with you.”

Take care of yourself. Be with friends. Eat and drink There’s more of you than you know.

9 There he went into a cave and spent the night. The Lord Appears to Elijah And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

This is the same question that God asked Adam in the garden.. What are you doing here? Why are you choosing to stay there?

Some of you are hiding in a cave called the job you hate. Or the life you hate.  It’s time to let the haters hate and move on.

10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

The lord is about to pass by.

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

God wasn’t in the earthquake or the wind or fire. He was in the gentle whisper.

Elijah’s greatest battle? Not the fire, not the battle with jezebel. But facing his Creator asking him what is he doing here.  The biggest battle you’ll feel is the one for your soul.

We think peace will happen if we just aren’t violent. We will only have world peace when we have I. We peace. The war needs to be won in our souls.

Fight for peace. Surrender your inner world to the one who can bring peace to your souls, Jesus Christ.  He closed the service in prayer, and invited all who wanted to proclaim Jesus as their Lord and Savior to do so.

I am looking forward to reading his book.  Though the title doesn’t resonate with me, I know a good many people who are broken – who have and are battling depression and/or anxiety.   I, myself, have battled, which is one of the reasons I wrote the book, Masquerade.   I will summarize the Way of the Warrior for you when I finish.

In the meantime, be blessed, my friends.

SB

The Last Supper

This Friday marked the final day of operation for the service center. I came out to say goodbye to the folks who have worked for our company, some of them for over 20 years. I know the difficulty of transitions, so I wanted it to be as soft a landing as possible for them.   When I arrived on Thursday morning, I brought bagels, and told them I’d planned to bring lunch into the shop both Thursday and Friday.  When I asked them what they wanted, they said Mister V’s Steakhouse…     a bit pricey steakhouse katty corner from the shop.  I told them I’d check out the prices and get back to them ….   and I did.  The compromise was this…  if that’s really what they wanted, we’d do lunch only once.. on Friday.   That’s what they really wanted.

We spent Thursday and Friday shipping the remaining items to our other service locations and preparing to auction off everything that isn’t needed somewhere else.  I invited the guys to come back on Tuesday for the auction.   On Friday morning, when I arrived at the office, the guys were like vultures, eager to ask me what I’d accept for this and that.  It’s only fair they should have a first shot at what they wanted, so I entertained all of their bids.  It was obvious to me that some of them had done their homework, and looked up what items might go for new, and offered fair prices for them. It also helped that they collected their last paychek today, and each of them came to work with a wad of cash to spend.. lol.   At the end of the day, I think it was fruitful for them, and fruitful for us.  I have labelled workbenches, racks, office supplies, lunch tables, microwaves, etc, for the auction on Tuesday.

Just after 11 AM, we walked over to the restaurant, and ate our last supper.

We enjoyed a nice lunch together and talked about each other’s families. It was a good way to spend the last day. I wish them all the best of luck and am happy to say that a many of them may be offered positions with a local company who does repairs. I hope they all land on their feet.

Best wishes!

SB

Hearts Desire

On the airplane from NC to LA, in the row in front of me, was a family of six. The boys, who looked to be perhaps 13ish and 17ish, sat with their father on the left side of the aisle . The girls, whose age I could not tell because they were directly in front of me, sat with their mom. The father and mother sat across the aisle from one another. I could see the father best, because he was diagonally in front of me; a tall, thin man with gray hair, cut short in the back but a little longer on top. Black framed glasses covered his steel blue eyes. When he smiled, deep creases emanated from the corners of his eyes, revealing years of character. A day or so worth of stubble adorned his face and chin. The oldest boy had long, blonde hair, as did the younger boy, though his was hidden under a beanie. From what I could see, mama had very long sandy-blonde hair as well as the girls.

A few times during the five hour flight, the man stood up, probably to stretch. During one of those times, he leaned over and kissed his wife a long, drawn out kiss. I smiled to my inner self and though, “oh, I guess he likes her”. She responded by reaching up and running her hand across his chest and down, across his belt. For a brief moment, I got scared as her hands continued down his thighs and dropped in her lap. “Goodness,” I thought. “I guess they both like each other.” (Please! Not in front of the children! or the passengers!

This couple was probably in their mid to late 50’s, and the family resemblance of the kids with them told me they were one family, not a blended one. Mom and dad periodically reached across the aisle to touch one another and hold each other’s hand. Sweet. I thought how nice it was that, after years of raising a family, they were still so obviously crazy about each other.

About 3 hours into our flight, the husband reached into his backpack, pulled out an NIV study Bible and began reading in Romans. (Not that I was creepin)

Nothing warms my heart more than seeing a man who loves God also love his wife, ashamed of neither, and not afraid of anyone’s judgement. I believe this is the way God intended relationships to be. What a wonderful example this couple set for their children, to love one another wholly and completely while honoring God. This is truly my hearts desire.

May they always love God and each other as He intended. May their children find the same.

Be blessed today, my friends.

SB

Weary traveler?… or something more sinister?

As I mentioned in yesterday’post Post 9-11 every time I travel by air, I think about the first few time I flew after 9-11.  Yesterday’s post was a bit more serious, but looking back at this one, it has a bit more levity.  It, too, occurred within a few months of the most devastating event in US History occurred, and the fear was quite fresh on everyone’s minds. Airport security was a whole new ball game.  Frequent announcements were made in airport terminals about identifying unattended bags, and passengers were terrified that they may contain bombs or other explosive devices.

I sat in the terminal waiting to board a flight to Tampa, Florida, casually observing the other people in the terminal around me.  A family with young children to my left, a few business travelers across from them, and the disheveled foreign man sitting directly across from me.  He was wearing a black, rumpled up raincoat, khaki pants and a wrinkled dress shirt.  His hair was a mess and he looked like he hadn’t slept in weeks.  Kind of like a foreign Columbo.

His briefcase?  A small, silver, stainless steel case that seemed right out of a James Bond movie.  I tried not to make eye contact with him. No one else around me seemed to notice him.

We sat there awkwardly for a while and then he asked me, with a thick accent, if I had change for a dollar – he needed to make a phone call.  I did.   I remember that, as handed him four quarters and took his dollar, I placed it in my left, front pocket, in case the authorities needed to dust it for fingerprints.   I’m sure it was an unfair judgement, but in the wake of 9-11, I thought he seemed a bit off. I thought to myself that it was strange he didn’t have a cell phone – even I had a cell phone at that time.  But whatever, I gave him the change I had.    And then…   it happened. He asked me if I would watch his James Bond briefcase while he made a phone call.     Really?   At a time when everyone was walking on pins and needles, waiting for the next terrorist attack?  At a time when the airport speakers perpetuated reminders about notifying authorities about luggage left unattended.  He asked me to watch the briefcase that surely contained a bomb?

A million thoughts went through my head in a split second… did I want to be the one who shut the entire airport down only to find his briefcase contained notebooks used for his work and other incidentals any traveler would have?  or did I want to be the one who didn’t raise a flag when I could have, who became one of several hundred victims as the plan he commandeered plummeted into the land below? A weighty decision, for sure.  I had seen news reports about planes and airport terminals that had been shut down due to citizen panic from well-meaning people. In the end, I decided I didn’t want to raise a flag. After all, he was probably just a weary traveler, right? And I avoided the scandalous news story that could have embarrassing consequences.

When we arrived safely in Tampa that evening, I felt like kissing the ground.  The weary traveler deplaned with the rest of us, and continued to wherever his journey took him, presumably without incident.

Was I unfair?  What would you have done?

Curious to hear your responses…

SB

 

Anyone with similar experiences?

Post 9-11

Every time I travel by air, I think about the first few time I flew after 9-11. 

The first time I flew after 9-11 was in November of the same year.  I was headed to Dallas, TX for a business trip, and my flight took off early in the morning.  While in flight, Flight 587 took off out of New York bound for the Dominican Republic, and crashed in Queens, NY, killing all 260 passengers.  Although it was subsequently determined to be an accident, when it first went down, the people of New York and even the rest of the country weren’t so sure.  Being in flight already, I was incommunicado with any of my loved ones, and none of the passengers on the plane had any idea what had happened.  It made for a nervous couple of hours for my family, until I landed in Dallas.  Immediately upon arrival to the gate, cell phones all around were beeping like crazy, with calls from loved ones breaking the news to us, hoping to find we were ok.

crash

It was an eerie feeling that morning, in the wake of 9-11.   So tragic, the loss of lives. It was eerily quiet as we deplaned that morning.  I believe everyone had similar thoughts – to be thankful to be on the ground, yet tragically mourning the crash, wondering if there were more to come. As we would find out, there were no further incidents that morning, and I continued my business trip as usual. But, to be sure, people traveling that day had a sense of awe about them, not on regarding air travel, but the world itself.

It’s hard to believe it’s been eighteen years since those events.  Air travel has changed drastically, and yet, somehow, we’ve all adjusted to our “new norm”.  We’ve picked up the pieces and moved on… because we really had no other choice.