Twisted & Treasured

from Rob Gibson…  a midnight thought Aug 22,2016

I am undeniably broken and not in control of it. 
My need for the Savior is greater than my comprehension. My inability to rescue and reform myself is terribly obvious to me. My need to be plucked from the pit, led from temptation, and forgiven of treason is radically real. As if my mind saw black as white, so twisted can my heart be, so self deceiving and self consumed, upside down and inside out; flesh demanding to be fed when it should rather be crucified. My fate, if left to me alone would surely be total destruction and devastating damage to others. Human sin and brokenness knows no bounds, only twisted convulsions that frustrate heart mind and soul. 

But God. But for the restraining hand of God, but for the mercy of the Father who meets me in death, but for a Savior who stands in my stead, but for a Brother who keeps watch of my soul, but for a Son who laid down His life for mine, but for the King who holds the keys to my life, but for the Lord who offers forgiveness and life, I would be lost. But God, rich in boundless love, has taken me as His beloved. Broken though I am, I am consumed by His love, held as His treasure. Amazing! Unceasing love! Hallelujah what a God, what a Savior! 

What if I Rested?

by Rob Gibson  July 14, 2016

Post #10 in: Gleanings from a Sabbatical Journey…



I was sitting in Starbucks watching a baby boy fall gently asleep in his young mothers arms. He was so peaceful and secure, wrapped in her tender embrace. She gently stroked his forehead, his eyes closed, and his little body melted into her arms. He hadn’t a care, totally unaware of the concerns mom, dad and I discussed. He was safe, secure, deeply loved, and in that love he rested well.  I thought to myself, just give me thirty minutes of rest like that and I could run for a week. Do I know how to rest like that? 

My sabbatical was about rest, but rest is difficult for a workaholic fixer. With so much to fix and reform, how the heck can I rest?! It’s a skill we are born with, like this little boy, and then it seems the woes of the world can wrestle it from us with life consuming burdens. 

The burdens are many: paying the bills, satisfying customers, keeping the kids safe and on track, satisfying the boss, can’t loose this job, gotta make quota, terrorist strike again, need to connect with friends, save for retirement, people are protesting in Dallas, what about a vacation, fixing the car, mowing the lawn, a liar or narcissist is going to ruin the country, got to finish the basement or she’ll be angry, how will we afford college, insurance is killing us. That’s enough to keep me up at night.

The list has so filled my mind for years that I stopped dreaming long ago, or at least I rarely remember my dreams. I’m told I dream, but I remember less than a handful of dreams. A party with Taylor Swift (go figure), a hike in the mountains, a board game on white fluffy clouds. When I was younger, I dreamed, I walked in my sleep, then early in our marriage I talked about work in my sleep – to my wife’s chagrin. Then, until recently, things went blank – no dreams.

I have felt guilty resting. A subtle guilt if I sat to watch golf or took a ride on my motorcycle to nowhere in particular. Guilty because if I’m not moving, and moving with purpose, I have no purpose, no value. It’s a jacked up lie, but a workaholic that performs to earn value isn’t going to rest except when it’s physically demanded. I wanted to rest like that baby. I was certain I had to have it, and I was hopeful it was possible. After all, Jesus said: 

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

That sounds fantastic, but how do I access this rest? Maybe a better question is, who snatched it from me? What lying dog told me I had to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders and fix so much stuff?That little baby was resting in his mothers arms, unconcerned with the woes of the world or our troubles; he simply rested in the loving and trusted arms of mama. I want that! 

To rest, I have to continually reclaim a couple of truths, and kick some lies in the hind-quarters. The lie to silence is, “I’m responsible for everything and I have to fix ‘it’ and everyone.” That is way above my pay grade and human capabilities, and turns me into an agitated control freak. The truth I need is the doctrine of rest. It’s one you’ve probably never focused on, but it’s there. We see it when Jesus says:  

“The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:26-29)

This is so freeing because, in essence, Jesus says we can do our work (scatter seed) in the daytime, then go to sleep. Further, while we sleep stuff grows and we don’t know how! In other words, it’s not our responsibility to make it all happen. I am not responsible for the outcome. I don’t have to fix everything or everyone. I am not God and I am not in control. I know this, it’s my heart and soul that need to catch on. I do my best (and even when I don’t he gives me grace) and go to bed and trust the outcome to God. God is responsible for the growth, the result – the harvest.  

This truth gives me the opportunity to lay down my work and rest. It sets me free to breathe deeply, relax, connect to my heart and begin to trust God. This truth welcomes me, at 54, to rest secure as a child in the tender loving arms of my Savior. It invites me to know I am deeply loved, safe, and able to dream again. 

Encouragement!

by Rob Gibson           June 17, 2016

Post #8 in: Gleanings from a Sabbatical Journey…

I just returned from a national convention of similarly striped religious types. It triggered someone in me, someone I want dead, as well as someone I want to thrive. I want a critical spirit to die and the loving encourager to thrive. 
Along my sabbatical journey, I read a piece that stuck me. It resonated too deeply for comfort and uncovered a deadly part of me. The sub-heading was “ The Compulsive Minister” — One who is angry and greedy for more. It slew me when I read:
“Pastors are angry at their leaders for not leading and at their followers for not following. They are angry at those who do not come to church for not coming and angry at those who come for coming without enthusiasm. They are angry at their families, who make them feel guilty, and angry at themselves for not being who they want to be. This is not an open, blatant, roaring anger, but anger hidden behind the smooth word, the smiling face, and the polite handshake. It is a frozen anger, an anger which settles into a biting resentment and slowly paralyzes a generous heart.” The Way of the Heart, Henri J.M. Nouwen

This pricked me as it revealed a seething dissatisfaction with myself and the results I greedily demand. It was triggered this week as demands for more baptisms, more passion, more of a burdened heart, more, more, and more were intensely preached. The desired results had been weighed and measured and found lacking.
I have a perpetually active evaluator in my head, heaping the messages “not enough,” “get it right,” and “do more” at me all the time. I do not need anybody singing with that choir. Rather, the choir we all need to hear more is a gospel choir, and the gospel is good news, not condemnation. The gospel is that Jesus Christ loved you and me to death, in spite of our falling short of the mark. His love is not measured or withheld based on our performance but rather abundantly flowing to us like the perpetually deep and fresh waters of a raging waterfall. The rivers of grace are full, even when I am empty and my striving stumbles and stalls. 

What I need and I believe the church and the world needs is a lot more Barnabas! Barnabas is a name that means “son of encouragement.” Barnabas encouraged the Christian community and the Apostles by his generosity (Acts 4:36-37). When Paul returned to Jerusalem, after his conversion, it was Barnabas that encouragingly introduced this former murderous persecutor of the church to the Apostles (Acts 9:27) when they were afraid of him and seriously doubted his Christianity. The son of encouragement propelled the greatest missionary ever to press on. He didn’t identify all the failures, foibles or faults in the man, which, by his own admission, were many (1Tim 1:15). Rather he focused on the possibilities, the opportunities and what could be. 

Like Jesus with Peter after his triple denial, he did not castigate his friend, but knew there was a passionate loving shepherd in Peter that needed to be encouraged to step into the love and power within him (2Tim 1:7). Jesus was an encourager — encouraging each of us to embrace the truth of his love for us. He invited sinners to lay down deadly ways of self-satisfaction and to receive the abundant life he offers (John 10:10). 

I want to be a Barnabas, not a critic. I want to live in Jesus abundant love and walk kindly, patiently and generously with others in the light of his love, even when we miss the mark. Let’s encourage each other to live in the freedom and love that is ours in Christ and run together into the glory that is increasingly ours in Christ (2Cor. 4:17-18). 

Time for One Thing.

by Rob Gibson   June 9, 2016

Post #7 in: Gleanings from a Sabbatical journey…

Time is limited and it’s running out quickly. Harry Chapin sung the lamentable reality in “Cats in the Craddle”:

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon

Little boy blue and the man on the moon

When you comin’ home son

I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then, Dad

You know we’ll have a good time then

I said, “I’d like to see you if you don’t mind”

He said, “I’d love to, Dad, if I can find the time

The legacy of busyness is, in the end, empty and unfulfilling. He longed for a moment with his son. Our hearts were made, and long for, connection to love. That song always brings tears to me. It resonates deeply as I long for time with my dad, but time is past. I look at my children, no longer babies but budding professionals, time is passing. I see people running fast, connections lost or never found because we couldn’t find the time.

It is as Dr. Suess says:

“How did it get so late so soon?

It’s night before it’s afternoon.

December is here before it’s June.

My goodness how the time has flewn.

How did it get so late so soon?”

It’s getting late. The urgency of making a living, building a home, saving for retirement and the next vacation, making the payments, upgrading the house, running the kids to ballet, gymnastics, swim team, soccer practice and Tae Kwon Do leaves precious little time to sit at the dinner table, or toss a ball in the yard and simply breathe deeply of life together.

On our journey, we visited St. Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado. It is a Catholic monastery, beautifully set in the Rocky Mountains. Christ’s love was palpable in that community. I spoke with one of the monks, Brother Thomas, after service. He is an octogenarian who has given his life to prayer and living a prayerful life while working the ranch, bakery, and tending the monastery. They say: “The monks life is based more on how he lives than on what he does, and how he works more than what that work is.” The brothers breathe deeply of life in communion with God and each other.

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 10.44.12 AM
St. Benedict’s Monastery, Snowmass, Colorado

Brother Thomas approached and was inquisitive and full of love. He winsomely asked some telling questions seeking to connect. Then in the course of our encounter he offered, “we are depriving our children today.” I asked what he meant, wondering what a man who has deprived himself of “normal life” and grabbing the goodies of our modern world could be thinking. He answered: “When I was a boy we took time to play together and be kids and be together, even inviting our non-Catholic friends to church with us. We did life together. We were not consumed by games and videos and rushed, but had time together.”

It was more profound than these words convey. I was experiencing life with him and the very  intentional presence of his soul to mine. He was taking time to engage me with depth. His presence was full and loving and intriguing. He was joyful, warm, and his peace had weight. This senior, a man deprived of all the trappings, had a luminous presence about him. Briefly our souls connected, and that is a rare gift in this busy world.

In that moment, he was intent on one thing. He was fully present to another. Time did not stop, but the time was intentional, welcoming and rich. He did not look past me to speak to someone else, quickly dispense with superficial pleasantries, or rush to another thing; he connected and was focused on one thing, in that moment.

One thing in that moment of time. One person. One image bearer given time and focused attention. “I’d love to, if I can find the time.” We don’t find time, it is given and it is limited. My question is, what will I do with the time? I’ve left many behind in the wake of the busyness of building a profession and a portfolio. I’m certain I’ve missed profound encounters and life giving relationships. I’ve missed some of the real wealth offered in our limited time. One thing I don’t want to miss any more is time with you – every you put in my path.

A person, a relationship, old or new, a connection, before it gets too late. One thing, another soul, another heart that beats in the image of our loving God.

I have time for one thing.

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The road to St. Benedict’s Monastery, winter 2016.

 

Who Needs You?

by Rob Gibson   June 3, 2016

Post #7 in: Gleanings from a Sabbatical journey… 

As my journey began, our church family and friends purposely left us alone and undisturbed. It was a welcome restful kindness, at first. Then the silence gave way to some eerie imaginations. Like the strange noises from the basement that scare a child on a dark lonely night, my soul was hearing disturbing noise. Silence was unearthing self doubt and dark questions.

The silence became empty, lonely, and fearful. The fear was; “Am I needed? Do I matter? Does anybody care?” My imaginations stirred lies and negative answers. If the phone isn’t ringing, the calendar isn’t booked, problems aren’t seeking my solution, and I’m not fixing stuff, I don’t matter. The deeper question is: “Am I valuable?”

The young mother senses she’s needed by the sweet cry of her baby and she is loved in return. The nurse is valued in bringing relief to the wounded. The cashier serves a line of customers and is met with smiles and thank you’s. These relational experiences, someone who needs us, send an implied message of value. But in silence, no one asks. My silence, though planned for rest and rejuvenation, took me to the doubt and darkness of my soul in order to welcome greater light. Silence and solitude is a hard but necessary part of maturing our souls.

This is not the first time I’ve faced this silence, but the heart is fickle. The question of value comes to us as kids finding our place, as singles in search of companionship, searching for a job, or letting go in retirement. Attacks on human value respect no age or boundaries.

I experienced this in my first midlife change, when leaving business leadership to pursue ministry at age 40. Moving from leading 300 employees to the isolation of seminary, with a young doctoral candidate teaching me Greek, raised questions of value. I was humbled intellectually and professionally, as I struggled to learn, the phone had stopped ringing, and I wasn’t producing a measurable profit! I wasn’t making an impact, at least according to a worldly paradigm. I’ve known men and women confronted by this struggle with the loss of a job, the loss of a loved one, or as the kids leave the nest. I’ve seen it in young boys searching for dad’s approval and validation on the ball field and in young school girls who saw their value in curves and cup size.

The attacks on our value and worth come at every age, and it came to me in silence and solitude. The option was to get busy, do something, even turn the music up, or step into what seemed dark, embrace solitude, listen for God, and grow.

In the solitude I discovered my desire to be needed. If I’m needed, I’m valuable, right? I faced my narcissistic want to be desired and admired by others. If a paycheck isn’t coming, if the phone isn’t ringing, if they, whoever the “they” are, don’t need me or want me,  am I valuable?

Silence and solitude is beautiful, lonely by design and necessary for our souls to be still with the hard questions and God. I took the narcissist, the over achiever, the striving performer and the lies they scream into the silence with God.

I faced the truth: I’m not needed. I’m not needed and that’s ok. It does not diminish my value. There will come a day when each of us goes onto new adventures or glory, and our friends, family and the world will carry on, sustained by Christ, not you and me. They do not need me and that does not make me worth less. It maes me humble, expendable, and yet still valuable and loved. Worth is not determined by others opinion, need of us, or our production, looks or skill set. Worth comes from God who speaks us into glorious existence and says:

“Let Us make man in Our image …So God created them; male and female he created them…and saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Gen. 1:26-27, 31)

The Psalmist marvels at His work:

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:13-14)

And Paul reminds us of the value of His work saying:

“…because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus…” (Eph. 2:4-7) and “…together with Christ, we are heirs of God’s glory.” (Rom. 8:17)

God the Father initiates our created value, Jesus Christ constructs it in love, and the Holy Spirit confirms and seals it for eternity. Our value is inherent as beloved image bearers.

I found an answer. The answer does not stroke the narcissist, applaud accomplishment or stoke busyness, but anchors real value in our Lord and God. The answer is He doesn’t need me, but He made me with inherent value. The answer is I’m not needed and don’t need to be needed, and, you don’t need me. That is actually good news.

Everything we need we have in Christ and in Him we have immeasurable value. We are replaceable, expendable, and indeed will be in due time. But for a relatively brief period, we do have one another. We are unique gifts from God to each other. We are image bearers that bless one another, love, add perspective, reveal glory, refine one another, and, for a bit, make life richer.

You are valuable, more so than whatever someone may want or demand of you, more than what you demand of yourself, and immensely more than the sum of your parts and capacities, or the contrived standards of this world. God’s glory is in you as His beloved child. That is enough. You are enough!

Take a few minutes, be alone and be silent, and let the truth that you are His beloved touch your soul.

Demolishing Prison Walls

by Rob Gibson   May  26, 2016

Post #6 in: Gleanings from … and everyday life. The rest of the story from post #5. 

It takes intentionality and courage to deconstruct the prison walls of our false selves. If we don’t expose and dismantle them, they become lonely prisons in which we die.

Demolition is something I do pretty well when it comes to projects at home. I get a strange satisfaction out of beating the crap out of stuff with a sledge hammer. Maybe it’s the hope of a reconstructing something better. Relationally, sledge hammers don’t work as they wound already tender hearts, but deconstructing unhealthy relational walls is still important work.

Last week I shared how my false self, the “right one” (finds value in “getting it right”), built a wall between me and two friends I love. In the moment, I was unaware my false-self was operative, but after our meeting I sensed a divide, a prison of sorts that felt isolated and cold.

I asked God, why I felt disconnected and a dis-ease with that meeting. His word back was; “you’re fighting to be right, you’re fighting for value and worth … stop fighting for what I’ve already given you!” It was a beautiful moment of God given self-awareness that exposed a wall a false-self regularly tries to build. It was redeeming because God gave me the sense I was loved and secure in him, even when I’m wrong and living falsely. It was very freeing as that awareness of the false-self opened a cell door, exposed the wall, and invited me to step into the  light of his truth and love.

Awareness necessarily leads to a choice to do something or nothing at all. Inaction is a choice to let the wall stand and stay in an increasingly lonely prison. Action for me is sharing the false-self exposed by the relational wall. Sharing my brokenness, the falseness, the twisted internal messages and fight for value with these friends. The exposure and disclosure feels risky and the false-self resists it. But the notion that exposure is risky is a lie of the false-self, because God says:

“… when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,

and arise from the dead,

and Christ will shine on you.”” 

(Ephesians 5:13-14)

This is an amazing truth; exposure to his light transforms my darkness to light! It crushes the power of the lies. So God invites me to wake up, take action, arise from death and let Christ shine. Do I dare trust him in this?

God also says:

“…if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  (1John 1:7)

Do I really want loving connections (fellowship) with these men and other human beings? If so, I have to risk walking in the light. My false-self screams resistance: “They will judge you, reject you, and shovel condemnation on you.” They could, some have, others will and the hurt is real. Still, God will not – there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. Nothing can separate us from his love. Christ has fully accepted and secured me – now and for eternity. Will I trust that and walk in the light of his love? Will you?

I decided to step into the light. I phoned one man and told him I didn’t feel good about our conversation and shared the internal battle for value I was having. I assured him he’d done nothing and I was aware this was my junk. He responded warmly; “Thank you for that. I wondered what I’d done because I felt that wall too!” It was telling, because I thought the wall was well concealed. In reality we all feel the relational walls – a wall is not easily hidden. He continued: “I appreciate your honesty and I feel closer to you now.” Amazing, deeper fellowship because I walked in the light, exposing my broken humanity and falseness. It works – God wasn’t kidding!

The light demolished the darkness and, in that moment, took power from the lies fueling the false-self. I say, “in that moment,” because false-selves are pervasive and persistent in attempting to steal the love and joy of being relationally connected. But light conquers darkness.

So if it worked with one man, do I dare call the other? I risked the action and it worked again. Now I’m writing about it in hope that the story will encourage you to walk in the light; and writing it encourages me to stay in the light and experience more freedom as prison walls are demolished.

I don’t know your internal struggle or your false-self, but I’m convinced we all have them. It may be fighting for value, security, love, acceptance or affirmation. It may stem from deep pain, depression, abuse, sexual sin, fear, abandonment, shame, or other relational wounds that make you want to hide your heart. Every situation and every heart is different, and it takes courage to begin the journey out of the prison of darkness. Regardless of the differing darkness of our particular prison, the light of Christ’s love is always the cure. Christ’s love is the way out.

The light is freeing and his love is wonderfully safe. God loves you, come walk in the light.

Part 2 – The Patience to know myself

by Rob Gibson   May 19, 2016

Post #5 in: Gleanings from a Sabbatical… and daily life.

Inward Discovery: Illusive Patience part 2  … The Patience to know myself and God, deeply. 

So I’m not fixed and that tests my patience. I want to have it all together, not be broken, make mistakes, hurt others, sin, feel like an idiot, need to apologize and, basically, experience my humanity. Pride is at the root of my impatience, but it’s not so easy to unroot pride. It is coy and often covered in false humility, especially as we learn appropriate Christian behavior.

The question for me is deeper than pride. Where is my pride anchored? The anchor I believe is a distorted sense of value and worth – a worth tied to “getting it right,” getting everything right!

Intellectually I know it’s impossible, but the heart is not easily convinced. I know my value and worth is rooted and anchored in Christ, because we are made in His image, made new in Christ, claimed as His own and given His glory (Gen. 1:26, Eph. 1:3-14, 2 Cor. 5:17, John 17:22). I get it and I don’t. I’m better at explaining it to others than living out of this truth myself, because I want to prove my worth by getting it right!

If I did get it right, I wouldn’t need Jesus. I’d be independently OK, not dependent on Jesus forgiveness, love or the sustaining power of the Spirit. The strange blessing is my brokenness cries out, becomes too obvious to conceal, and the elephant in the room is revealed.

I bumped into one of the elephants this week. Our Elders were together planning a worship service. I offered a part. It was thoughtfully received, and given a massage in order to improve it. The idea was supported, I was supported, and offered helpful enhancement. This is beautiful collaboration, unless subconsciously my pride, my sense of worth is perceived to be under attacked.

The false-self appears, the “right one” who must get it right (I’d call it the “prideful one” but it is deeper and more nuanced than pride alone). The “right one” screams “your value is at stake, you must be right Rob.” This unconscious voice was playing. So very subtly, with good behavior as a cover, the false self was fighting for worth, my way. I was fighting for acceptance and value, because the story in my head is I’m not acceptable or worthy if I don’t “get it right.”

The reality is these men do accept me, not as a perfect man, but as a broken man who gives it a good go. It’s the false self, the lies within, that say otherwise. But the false self is never satisfied, never accepting of our humanity and brokenness and consequently, will never get for me (or you) what I really want.

Others joined our discussion and agreed with the modifications, so now it’s obvious, the changes are good, the fight must be forfeited for the moment, externally. I kindly agree and it’s resolved, right? No, the false-self isn’t satisfied. I leave disturbed, unaware the false self has been so impatiently active. I also sensed a dividing wall coming up between me and these men. I hate barriers, especially with brothers I deeply value and love.

So I leave to participate in a prayer meeting with 40 other pastors, feeling this dis-ease, feeling some conviction of internal hypocrisy and a disconnection from my brothers. So I ask, “God why am I feeling crappy about that meeting?” The inaudible answer comes, “you’re fighting to be right, you’re fighting for your value and worth, you’re fighting for something I’ve already given you.”

Unbelievable, an unnecessary fight! An internal fight had not gotten what it demanded, but rather had distanced me from trusted friends and constructed a relational wall. That’s what false selves do, they build walls that too easily become prisons to die in. There is a way out.

A way out is patience with my humanity. That means the patience to be wrong, patience to be a man with limits, patience to be in process, patience to be molded by the voice of the Spirit and God’s goodness to me from others. Patience to know and accept myself, and accept God’s redeeming love in my brokenness.

Next week, a few more thoughts on the imprisoning false self, the way out, and the really redeeming way the walls came down in this story.