Need A Stronger Connection? Start With The Cable!

Recently, I had trouble getting my old truck started. I checked all the usual suspects like being out of gas, having no spark, dead battery, bad starter, etc., but to no avail. After hours of frustration, I did what I usually do in these cases and called someone smarter. Together we ran down the usual checklist again only to discover I had overlooked the most basic component: the battery cables–the first place I should have checked.

Battery cables are essential because they carry the current that is needed to make our cars go. Over time cables can get corroded especially around the terminal, but this is usually easy to spot. In my case, I’d already cleaned the visible corrosion and reattached the existing cables.  What I hadn’t done was to inspect the cable itself. Battery cables consist of many strands of copper wire. Those individual strands become brittle with time and begin to break.  Corrosion can creep down the cable to areas that are not readily visible or are covered by the protective sleeve.

In this instance, the cables were brittle, broken and corroded under the rubber sheath. (There is another analogy here.)  When this occurs, the cables can’t carry the current and overheat causing the car not to start. Moreover, the original cables were undersized meaning the cables only had the bare minimum number of strands necessary to carry the current. Thus any breakage or loss in conductivity created a problem. The solution was quite simple: install a new, larger uncorroded cable with more strands and bigger wire to carry the current.

As it turns out, our relationship with God works like the battery cables. Our relationship once established can grow brittle if not renewed. Over time, life can wear on the wires that tie us to God causing them to corrode and break. When this occurs, we often find ourselves crying out to God for more revelation and power and we get frustrated and overheat when it doesn’t come. As you can imagine, the power of God comes with lots of current. It takes a healthy cable with many strands to carry the power. If God sent all the power we needed at once it wouldn’t be received because our cables or connection wouldn’t be strong enough to handle it.

Much like a battery, we can increase our connection to God by increasing the size of our cable and adding strands. In the spiritual realm we do this by increasing our communion with God.  Communion according to one definition is “the sharing or exchange of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level.” Prayer, reflection, church attendance, acts of Christ are all examples of communion with God. As we increase the quality and frequency with which we connect to God, we in turn increase the capacity to receive God’s power and revelation.

Need more Godly power in your life? Replace worn and broken cables and you’ll have a fresh new start!

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Let Go Of The Reins!

There is a dramatic opening scene in the academy award winning movie “Dances With Wolves” that has always left an indelible impression on me. The main character played by Kevin Costner has lost his will to fight during a bloody civil war battle. He mounts his horse and rides across the battlefield directly in front of the Confederate lines, daring them to take his life. In doing so, amidst the hail of shots, in full gallop he drops the bridle reigns (purposeful switch), tilts his head back and opens his arms to the heavens as if to say, “This is it. I have no control and I am ready!.”

If you have ever ridden a horse, you know it takes a great deal of confidence or a complete lack of regard for your life to drop the reins in a wide open environment and let the horse go wherever it wants at a full gallop. Most riders stay in firm control of the reins at all times because that’s the instrument whereby you guide the movement of the horse.  It takes years of practice to learn how to effectively control a horse with reins to get the result you want and once you have it, you certainly don’t want to let go!

This incredible scene has stayed with me because I see the parallels to my own life in terms of control. If you are like me, you have spent years trying to corral the reins of your life–countless amounts of energy spent trying to get a grasp on all the little variables and details of life so we might exercise some control over the direction. Over time, we convince ourselves that we have taken ahold of the reins in such a way that we are in firm control. Then, when life takes a sudden unexpected turn, we find ourselves violently thrown to the ground, lying there covered in dirt wondering how could we get thrown so badly when we were in control.

If this sounds familiar, then it’s important to remember the only way to truly get in control of our lives is to drop the reins and ride with God. Psalms 46:10 tells us to “cease striving and know that I am God.” In other words, we have to give up control over the reins in our life and accept God’s will. We do this not in futility, but in full acceptance and faith that God’s control over our lives will guide us farther and better than that which we can do on our own. Proverbs tell us to “trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all ways acknowledge God, and God will make your paths straight.”

If you have seen the movie you know that the main character’s surrender of control is the key to his salvation. The same is true for us. All things are possible when we let go of the reins and accept God’s reign!

Are You Drinking From The Cistern Or The Eternal Spring?

When I was a kid one of my least favorite jobs was cleaning out the cistern. For those of you too young to remember what a cistern was like, it is a hole in the ground, lined in concrete that catches the rainwater off the roof. The water is then pumped into the house for drinking water.

Once a year my grandfather and dad would lower me into the cistern with a porcelain bucket and a ladle on a board fixed to a rope. I’d scoop up anything that had fallen or was washed into the cistern over the previous year: leaves, sticks, bugs, frogs, lizards and the occasional dead bird. It was creepy enough to be lowered several feet down in the cold, dimly lit pit of water but that unsettling feeling compounded as soon as the realization sunk in that all this debris was in the water we had been drinking!

For my grandparents, a cistern was an improvement over the old days of a dirt well or creek water on which their parents relied. Until they finally got a well in the early 1980’s they didn’t know how much better the water could get. I was recently reminded of this memory, one I likely purged, when re-reading the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well.

You will recall that Jesus asked a Samaritan woman for a drink which was in and of itself unusual because Jews didn’t associate with Samaritans for a variety of reasons including the fact the Samaritans built a temple to rival Jerusalem’s claim as the true house of God. The puzzled woman began questioning Jesus as he remarked that she should instead be asking for living water. The Samaritan woman reminds Jesus the well was dug by none other than “our father Jacob” who “drank of it himself.” Jesus replies that the water from the well of her ancestors will not quench her thirst but the water He offers brings eternal life.

Like the cistern of my grandparents, the waters were good enough for the Samaritan’s ancestors and thus sufficed for her. I wonder how many of us are or have been like the Samaritan woman, getting by drinking only from the debris-filled cisterns of the lives we know. How many of us keep returning to the same generational wells of our parents and grandparents? Are you still drinking from the well of poverty, abuse, divorce, poor decisions and bad habits? It’s a place I have known well over the years.

The Samaritan woman, like many of us, didn’t realize Jesus was offering her something new and refreshing to not only satisfy her thirst but to rejuvenate her soul. The well of which Jesus speaks is not tied to place (and thus setting aside ancient differences) but to Spirit. Therefore, we don’t have to return to the well of our parents or our past. We don’t have to drink water filtered with the debris of our life up till now.  Let’s cap the cisterns once and for all and drink freely from the eternal spring!

When It’s Time To Forgive, It’s Time To Focus!

Forgiveness is a fundamental concept in Christianity. It is not only central to our relationship with Christ, but also in our relationship with others. The Scriptures are clear we are to forgive the transgressions of others (Matthew 6:14-15) and to put away any bitterness or anger (Ephesians 4:31-32) we have toward them. Yet, forgiveness of those who have wronged us is one of the most difficult challenges we face.

Typically our lives are replete with tales of wrongs we have experienced. We might not remember our best days, but we can vividly recall the pain and hurt that someone caused years ago–perhaps a marriage or relationship that has gone sour, harsh words between friends or far too often deep division among family members. I can certainly relate to each of these. These transgressions stay with us and the scars incurred because of them can make it difficult to forgive much less forget.

When we think of forgiveness it is often in the context of forgiving ourselves (a topic for another time) or forgiving the transgression of another person–a spouse, work colleague, family member or even a total stranger. Because of the perceived wrong, we develop anger or resentment towards the wrongdoer. We may even come to believe that our forgiveness is conditioned on them understanding that they have wronged us. We look to see if they are sorry or feel guilty about the transgression. We may even ask that they pay a price or make-up for their mistake with some deed.

This person to person view of forgiveness while common can lead to unwanted complications. What happens if the person does not recognize or refuses to admit their transgression? What if they are not sorry? Do we hold on to the resentment and anger until they come around?

It’s important to remember that when our forgiveness is dependent upon another, so is our fulfillment. Forgiveness (and fulfillment) is not earned–it is a gift, not to the other person but to yourself and, even more fundamentally, to God. Forgiveness then ultimately is not between us and our transgressors but between us and God. To illustrate this point, recall the story of Joesph and his brothers.

Joseph is sold into bondage by his jealous brothers only to rise to power in Egypt and subsequently is in a position to help his family when they need it. It’s a story of betrayal and triumph and is often cited as the premier story of forgiveness. Yet, curiously the word forgiveness is never mentioned. It is difficult to say why, but perhaps because it’s not a story of forgiveness among brothers but rather a story of remaining in tune with God.

The key to Joseph’s forgiveness was his conscious choice to remain focused on God. Joesph understood three things: (1) God had a bigger plan for him and for his family; (2) he was in God’s favor; and (3) it was God’s responsibility to deal with his brothers’ transgression. Joseph’s forgiveness (and therefore fulfillment) was not predicated on his brothers actions, but on his relationship with God.

By focusing our attention on God rather than our transgressors, we can avoid the complications of relying on others as a condition of forgiveness. Moreover, our anger, disappointment and pain will dissipate much faster through God than through our earthly relations. We can’t avoid pain in life caused by others, but we can free our pain when we remember the lesson of Joesph: when it’s time to forgive, it’s time to focus!