Sunday, May 20, 2012

UnChangeable Changer

     I have borrowed the phrase "Unchangeable Changer" from a wonderful series of books by the late Dr. John White that I used to read to my sons at night during our daddy time: The Archives of Anthropos. In one of the books, The Sword Bearer, the main character, John Wilson, meets God in an incredibly tender way, and it's in that context that God introduces Himself to young John by saying, "I am the Unchangeable Changer. I am the Beginner-Who-Never Began." That meeting began a journey of great transformation for young John, but you can read that story for yourself. For now I want to talk about the Changer's commitment to changing you and me!
     My last two tweets on Twitter have been centered around God's (unchanging!) commitment to change us, not because we are defective but because we are broken and unable to fulfill our destiny as His people apart from His constant transforming work in our lives.
     I probably won't write long today, because I am writing only with Papa's special permission on this day that is usually my "Sabbath," but I do want to expand a bit on my two tweets because of the responses they both generated. So here goes...
     First, it's not uncommon for people, even believers, to say (or at least, think), "That's just the way I am" in terms of certain aspects of their behavior. I think of one particular woman from a period of ministry several years ago who said this often in reference to her outspoken and direct method of communication. It was if she felt that her personality was somehow off limits to God's transforming work. But the wreckage of her blunt communication (truth-without-love) suggests otherwise. She was actually hindering her destiny and the destinies of others around her by believing that her directness was "off limits" or perhaps "beyond God's ability" (not that she would have consciously thought that!).
     But as far as I can tell, the promise of the Fruit of the Spirit (which includes kindness and gentleness) is for every believer, including those who by nature tend to be direct and outspoken. My Bible doesn't say that "Type A personalities are exempt from being kind because direct and forceful is just the way they are." :-) No, the truth is, we will cut ourselves out from part of our destiny in Him if we say "That's just the way I am" no matter what our reason.
     So why do folks say, "That's just the way I am"? My sense is that many of them are afraid to face their brokenness, afraid that they are beyond hope. So it seems easier to stay broken and justify that brokenness than it is to present themselves to Holy Spirit's leadership and transforming work in certain areas of their lives.
     But there's good news for all of us who are ever caught saying, either with hardness or with resignation, "That's just the way I am." And that Good News is that God, our loving Father, is the Unchangeable Changer. It is He who changes and transforms us! The Fruit of the Spirit is the Fruit of the Spirit, not the result of our trying harder to be different. And as we make ourselves more and more vulnerable to Him, He does the impossible: He changes even our most deeply seated traits that are not like Him (our destiny is to display His character, to have His image restored to us). As we take down the "no trespassing signs" in our hearts and allow Him and trusted others into those most wounded and sensitive areas, the transformation begins to take place, hurting at times, taking too long for our preference, but leading us eventually to say, "That's the way I was, but the Changer changed me!"

Surrendering afresh to His transforming leadership.

Tom, one of Abba's little children

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Just for Fun: Living in Houston

     I know I usually write "serious stuff" here, but I have been wanting for quite some time to write some fun reflections on living in Texas and especially in Houston from the perspective of an adopted Texan. I hope all y'all will bear with me while I do so and maybe even smile at some of my discoveries.
     First, of all the places I have lived, I feel most at home in Texas, so please don't take my poking fun as an indication that I am not a Texan through and through. Except for a 4.5 year exile to Colorado, I have been a Texan since 1995 and am glad for it, y'all!
    But there are some funny discoveries I have made since moving here that make me smile, and I sort of need some "comic relief" today, so here goes.
    One of my first discoveries about Texas came as I was flying into Austin in 1995, and the pilot of the SWA flight said, "Friends, welcome to the republic of Texas!" He wasn't kidding, methinks. We Texans take our "Texasness" very seriously, y'all, and don't y'all forgit it! :-)
    Another discovery I made soon after moving here was that for some reason, many folks in Texas are confused as to which side of the road to park on. It seems to be a common habit to swerve in front of oncoming traffic to park the wrong way on a street. This is something unique to Texas, as far as I can tell, and quite discomfiting to folks from other places. There's nothing quite so attention-grabbing as car lights coming suddenly on in your lane as you are driving along at night. I am sure my life expectancy has been reduced a time or two by that particularly unique Texas experience!
     Another funny discovery I made after moving here is that Texans take their driving very seriously here. In some amazing and mysterious way, usually friendly folks undergo a remarkable transformation once they start their cars! Anyone who's ever tried to merge in front of someone in Austin, San Antonio, Houston or Dallas knows what I am talking about here! It was also in Texas that I discovered that pedestrians are considered targets, with varying point levels awarded for scaring them depending on their agility--I think this goes back to the days of horses and wagons. I admit that this has added vigor to my times as a pedestrian, though, and I have chosen to add dodging SUVs to my list of sports activities :-)
    But what about Houston? I have made the following discoveries that appear to be unique to Houston. The first and most amusing discovery is that the streets in the developments here are still being designed for horse and buggy days! Except for cities where there's a lot of older neighborhoods that were in fact designed for horse and buggy, Houston is the only city I have experienced the wonderfully invigorating game of "dodge-car" while driving through a neighborhood. And if two cars happen to be parked opposite of one another, the experience escalates to something akin to shooting the rapids! :-) I sometimes wonder if I am the only one who has noticed this... 
     Another interesting discovery about Houston, not unique to Houston but certainly a predominant characteristic, is the variety, ferocity and abundance of mosquitoes that one gets to choose from when one dares to venture outside in the summer. I knew I was in trouble when I heard folks say, "Oh, that's the small kind" in reference to mosquitoes! And I knew I was really in trouble when I heard the mosquitoes in my neighborhood discussing which regiment got to "go in first"! 
     Another interesting discovery that I have made, noted by others, is that Houstonians are vying for the honor of having the highest contrast in outside and inside temperatures during the summer months (which runs February through October, I think). For reasons known only to God, Houstonians seem to relish the drop from 100 degrees to 60 degrees that modern AC makes possible! I welcome any insight as to why the AC is run cooler here than any other large American city! But at least the mosquitoes freeze to death when they dare to enter our buildings!
     But let me end on a positive note, lest you think I am complaining! Like the rest of Texas, Houston is filled with friendly people (unless they are behind the wheel, of course), and there is a warmth here not related to climate that pervades much of the city. And this warmth is remarkably "cross-cultural" in this great city. I cannot tell you the joy I experience when I look out across the mall or the congregation I am part of and see such a glorious conglomeration of color and culture--it looks like Heaven!
     Well, I will stop for now, I reckon. Oh, I have also heard that the fishing is good around here, too, and I hope to experience that soon :-) 

Just for fun this time...

Tom, one of Abba's little boys