Saturday, September 30, 2017

This Is Your 'Olly, Olly, Oxen Free!' Moment

Yesterday, Jan came into the living room to take a break from editing the final draft of her new book of blessings. She said, “Garris, I just heard the words, “‘Olly, Olly, Oxen free!’ I think the Lord is saying something. ” We both smiled remembering the times as children when that phrase was spoken during games. We wondered what the phrase actually meant.

Olly, Olly, Oxen Free is used in children’s games like Hide and Seek to let kids know they can safely come out into the open from a place of hiding without losing the game and being tagged, “It”. The wording evolved from an earlier phrase meaning, “All Clear!”

Some of you reading this might be living in relational circles that do not give you the opportunity to live in freedom. The group and the authority structures within the group control and demean individual expression. The freedom God is offering to you is only possible if you are willing enough to step out of bondage and into a place where you and what you think is no longer hidden. God has given you the "All Clear!" signal. He is inviting you to a life where relationships are honest, open and above board. The lack of these critical elements in your life has fed your frustration. You now stand at a critical juncture hesitating because you have seen what happens to those who buck the system by simply expressing an opinion with honor and truthfulness. 

I believe Jan heard the words from a childhood game as a prophetic metaphor. You no longer have to live in hiding in a marriage, a friendship, at a job or within the slavish demands of a controlling group. You don’t have to worry about being tagged the “It” person.  God wants the real you to emerge from hiding. The choice now rests with you to be brave enough to take this step and adjust the trajectory of your destiny. The Lord has made a way for you to come out from a place of bondage and step into an open space where freedom and joy await your revealing.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Rising Above

Our lives are constantly being filled with opposing opinions on all matters pertaining to life. This has become a place where anger and frustration breed their offspring of division and hatred. The way forward through this morass of opinion and heated emotion will never be discovered by our unending participation in the back and forth of a mean-spirited and dishonoring debate. Great leaders in our history have risen above these cultural tug-of-wars and shown us another way – an upward way.

Some in the Church seem to live for the next hot-button issue to appear to give them a sense of purpose. This division has created an industry fueled by a never-ending supply of divisive topics. Just wait until the NFL issue has passed us by. The next issue is already in the pipeline waiting to meet our undisciplined emotions.  This is not taking place only in the Church. It has embedded itself in our national dialogue. It fuels the existence of our media and emotionally caffeinates our day. We have become junkies waiting for the mainline experience of the next hot topic.

What can a person do? You can begin to listen to the voices that rise above this on-going and never-ending battle of opinion. These gifted ones can see the good on both sides of an issue. They refuse to throw the baby out with the bath water.  They bring to the table tangible solutions and blueprints from Heaven not considered by those who have been deafened by the artillery barrage of our heated debates. These are the cultural apostles God gives as gifts to a divided Church and a confused culture.  They deliver to us the blueprints for another option.

When these voices begin to speak the truth in love they will pay a price. Those who assumed they were pulling from their end of the debate rope will now call them traitors. Those on the other side will distance themselves in suspicion like the early believers did with Paul after his Damascus Road experience. This is a time in our history that requires the courage to let go of the tug-of-war rope of debate and look up. Heaven is delivering supernatural blueprints that will offer us a better way forward that will help us see our higher calling.

The Doors Have Opened

I was taken high above a very challenging situation. I was looking down on a house whose roof had been removed revealing the walls that separated each room. Then I saw a person in the interior of the house wondering how they would get out of a very imprisoning situation. In an instant, all the doors in the house swung open like they were spring loaded and were responding to a command. There was no longer any maze-like journey of testing doors and running into dead ends in a futile and frustrating attempt to find the way out. All the doors have been opened. The way out has been made. Walk ahead and don't look back.

The Passionate Embrace of God

When I gave Jan the first hug of the morning, I pulled her in extra close. When our faces met, something funny happened. Jan said, "Look at your glasses. They are all fogged up!" Through my foggy lens, I smiled and said, "We still have the passion even at 4:30 in the morning." We both laughed. I then said something else not for public consumption and we laughed once again and went about our morning writing routine.

That humorous experience reaffirmed something I have known for years. You have to be close in order to be intimate. What takes down a marriage, destroys a friendship or causes us to believe lies about God's love is many times the result of not living in daily intimacy with God. This is a transparent intimacy where nothing is hidden.

The answers to the most challenging circumstances in your life will not come because you have everything figured out and know the eventual outcome. These answers can never bring you peace. The most life-transforming answer to your questions is an assurance that no matter what happens, you are loved by God.

Pull God close today and maybe the glasses you are using to interpret your life will fog up enough to blur the details of your situation so that your only remaining interpretive tool is your ability to feel His embrace. In that embrace, the answer you seek will come. And sometimes the answer is not an answer at all. It is simply knowing you are loved and that everything will work out for the good because you belong to God.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Civil War of 2017

A civil war is taking place within the Church. Instead of firing bullets we are firing personal opinion at opposing ideas. Leading up to this conflict, something unique has taken place. The opinion of those within the Church is now as varied as those outside. No longer is there a lock-step interpretation of the facts within the community of faith. Everyone is loaded with an opinion. Our weapon of choice is social media. When an opposing head of opinion pops up on the horizon some see it as their duty to fire off a round of displeasure and dismissal.
This conflict is exposing the breadth of our diversity. On one end, we have over-zealous patriots whose allegiance to our nation trumps matters of faith or at least give it an equal footing. On the other end, we have people who have discarded any expression of national pride as not having spiritual substance. Some are more worried and more vocal about who drops a knee at a sporting event than who will drop the next nuclear bomb on planet Earth. On social media and in the foaming anger of our favorite news feed are people dedicated to packaging and delivering into our homes every neurotic version of reality fed to us from the abundant buffet of our personal demographic.
In a civil war no one really “wins”. We all lose something in the battle. A significant casualty in this civil war is the loss of civility. Sometimes a civil war will take place to dismantle the weakness of our shared status quo to allow us to emerge from the ashes of conflict to reconstruct our civility into a new and better version of our selves. I hope so.
The only way this civil war can be averted is to change the target. Firing at opinions will have no real effect. We must fire at hearts. The only round powerful enough to bring lasting change to that sacred space was fired by Jesus. His ammunition was aimed at the highest good of those who opposed his way of thinking. Paul was shot by one of these rounds on the road to Damascus. So was Nicodemus, the woman at the well and the 12 men who followed Jesus through a culture equally at war with each other 2,000 years ago as we seem to be today. In all civil strife, a resurrection that takes us higher than our narrowly informed personal opinion is our only hope. That is the target we should be aiming for.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Day I Tossed The Pot

As I sat in the police academy as a young almost-a-cop, I heard a lecture from one of the instructors about the difference between the intent and the letter of the law. Every law has both letter and intent. While the letter of the law does have an important place in our lives,  it is the intent of the law –its purpose - that has a deeper meaning. As I sat in that lecture a wave of righteous fear swept over me as I realized I would soon go out onto the streets of my city to enforce its laws. It was scary to me because I realized that law without a merciful interpretation of its intent can be a cruel and devastating power to possess.

After the academy, I remember pulling over a kid one afternoon on a traffic stop for a minor violation. The kid was a rookie criminal because he did not know how to hide his baggie of marijuana from the sight of a policeman’s inquiring eye. In those days the possession of marijuana was a serious crime. Your life was subject to jail time and your future employment would be in jeopardy with an arrest on your record. I am thankful the laws have changed in that area.

As the kid stood before me he was shaking and in tears, I asked him to explain what he was thinking. He said it was his first time to buy a baggie of pot. He bought it from a friend thinking it was the cool thing to do. He went on to say he was getting ready to head off to college and had allowed his naivety to override common sense. He told me of his parents and their loving support. He revealed to me his plans for his future. He wasn’t begging to get out of the arrest. He assumed he was toast and was spilling his guts. I told him to give me the baggie of pot. I opened it and tossed the weed into the air. The kid looked up at me with an astonished look on his face. I said, “What you did was stupid. Don’t do it again. Get out of here and get on with your life.” For a moment, I thought he was getting ready to hug me. He got back in his car and drove off.

There are times the intent of the law is not found in the execution of its punishment, but it the merciful release of those held in violation of its statute. This was the heart of God when He sent Jesus to a guilty world and took upon Himself our guilt. It is important to never forget that truth when we have guilty people standing before us who need to receive the merciful intent of the law instead of its judgment.