My Criminal History

Updated: Nov 5

When I was in high school shoes never lasted long enough - well, shoe soles!

As a teenage guy who loved sports, I was out at the park, the concrete jungle every chance I got - rubber didn’t stand a chance against playground concrete.

Since we didn’t have a lot as a family, and the rest of the shoe looked fine, I did what any kid would have done. I cut out coffee can plastic lids and slipped them into my shoes to cover the hole that was exposing the ball of my foot. That didn’t hold up long on the playground, but there were more lids. Yet, when it rained, well... it didn’t work at all.

In those days, I was focused on “shoe survival” until the day I could get another pair of Adidas or Chuck Taylors; I still wear Chucks today - without lids.

Nice story; how about this one?

I didn’t go to my neighborhood high school, which had 10,000 students on three different shifts. I took a test to get into an engineering school in west Brooklyn. It only had 6,000 students (128 of them were girls - what was I thinking?)

I had to commute to school, either by city bus or by taking several trains. Bus was an easier, more direct route. I chose the bus, but I didn’t know anyone. A few nearby friends chose the train. So into October of my freshman year, I traded passes (we erased and re-wrote our names) with another student who wanted to switch modes of transport too. The pass allowed us free access to transportation.

Long story short, I got mine confiscated by a teacher who recognized the change.I never told my parents. Couldn’t afford to travel. Couldn’t get a new pass for three months.

For those months I dodged the transit cops, faked having a pass and jumped the turnstiles to get to school. If I couldn’t get past the cop on duty, I walked the next eight blocks to try another station. When that failed I used my lunch money to get one way and went without food that day, counting on hiding in the mob returning from school. I was focused on surviving traveling to school. I guess I have a criminal history.

Here’s the point. In high school, these are just two of my survival stories - I have a boatload of them. I prayed a lot during those days that life would get easier and that those problems would not take me down.

Through the election and the chaos that follows, I’m praying as hard as I did then. I think everyone is. Many see this as a turning point in history and question, “Will I/we survive?”

I want to contrast words I wish could have been more on my mind as a teen than they were - If I understood them, they would have helped. 

Consider these verses:

In Matthew 6:31-34 we read: 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 

32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 

33 But (you), seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

That all sounds good and super religious, Jon, but how does that help?

I received a phone call today from a dear friend who is trying to navigate co-parenting their child - not married - shared custody. That’s tough stuff, never fair, and always has some sense of just surviving attached to it. I thought of high school. Laser focused on my problem. You too?

But in our conversation, she shifted from her problem to a story of seeing an acquaintance at Safeway. Her greeting, “Hey, how are you doing?” unexpectedly was returned with “I’m doing terrible,” her friend’s eyes filled with tears. It was the weight of everything that has changed, trying to adjust and feeling crushed from it. Her eyes shifted from her problem to the devastation her friend was dealing with. She saw a bigger picture. The result of our conversation was one of trying to understand how God was at work.

Back to our verses. As believers we have the ability to see the world beyond survival. We ALL can get swept up in having a laser focus on our problem(s) - we can get consumed by our immediate need (being anxious about everything) and miss what we have in Christ.

Jesus is telling us - God knows you need an answer to your problem(s), but He wants to FIRST give you a new set of eyes to see the problem, the opportunity, your surroundings and His provision all at once.

To do that, I (Jesus), FIRST, will have to make you righteous. Not by your deeds or works, but by what I, (Jesus) will do to make it happen.

[2 Corinthians 5:21] “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Jesus went first to open the door to a new kingdom view. [Colossians 1:13] “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son”.

What did we receive? Ephesians 2:4-10 reads this way:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

That doesn’t sound like survival living. It’s a new way of walking through the burdens with truth bringing us assurance and confidence that God is at work - even when the burden is heavy.

Paul adds:

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

He calls us to be kingdom focused to ease our burden of mistakenly thinking, “The only thing that matters right now is finding a solution to my problem, or of putting all my hopes in a specific outcome.” What a burden!

His... is a call to trust, “I know that you need these things, but I want to give you more than you can ask or think through the life and glory of My Son, Jesus Christ.”

Having a broader view of His grace and provision allows us to change our thinking, change our experience, and receive those around us with immeasurable grace. And...and walk in the good works He has prepared for us ahead of time. This Godly calling fits us, like perfect, new clothes. We experience a supernatural ability to withstand the demands of the immediate and be lavished in the comfort of the eternal.

Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,

See, these verses show that God has redeemed our past through His Son's crucifixion and resurrection and ascension. He broke down the wall of hostility between us and God - Remember, when we were focused on running our own lives apart from God, we were children of wrath, hostile to God. He gave us His Spirit in place of the old covenant law.

But there's more...

16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Simply put, we have been united as one body in Christ - those of us who were left out, marginalized and forgotten, united with those who were godly disciples of Christ.

19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

When we see how we are united, we can look past the flaws and be strengthened by what we share together in Christ.

As you and I walk through these heavy days, dealing with difficult thoughts and burdens, and struggle to bear the load, can we hold on to His truth that directs us toward His life and the strength, power and promise that He is not just enough, but that He is attempting to deliver His immeasurable riches to us... together... focused on Him, while we lift each other up.

Let’s not just survive - let’s thrive!

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