Thursday, October 20, 2011

Burn Notice - & Burn Recovery

My current fave TV show I am watching in re-runs is "Burn Notice."

Michael Westen is a spy who's been let go by his handlers for no honest reason - "fired" so to speak, and so the term used in the spy game is he got a "burn notice" or was "burned."

Makes as much sense as being 'fired' don't you think?

Funny how we use that term "I was burned by my ex..." "I was fired from my job..." - both idioms mean that we've been hurt badly - and I think we like the term and accept it so easily is because we feel the anger and rage at the unfairness, the injustice of it.

We've gone through the flames - of hatred, self-doubt, self-loathing, fury at our impotence, etc.

I think that we are foolish to imagine we will NEVER 'get burned' - never be betrayed, never be deceived by a friend or lied about - no, we MUST expect that will happen in a Fallen World.

It is just a matter of time - or opportunity.

I have found that when I am my happiest over some event - say I just got all my bills paid off, or I've just won an award, or I've just darn happy, someone believes it is their solid and sworn duty to burn me.

It's happened so quickly on so many grand occasions, I suspect a Malevolent and Diabolical Foe [just like the One mentioned in the Bible] is prompting these responses.

But it could just be old-fashioned jealousy and envy. No supernatural push required.

You see, I am thinking about this because only two days ago, I ran into a woman who seemed familiar to me and she said the same. We went through a laundry list of places we had served in Wheaton, and which churches we attended. Then she mentioned she used to work at the headquarters of a relief organization, and I went "AHA!"

I was given a 'burn notice' some 11 years ago at this Christian Relief Organization. I had left everything to come to Wheaton to serve Christ here and in 50 days, I was being run out the door. I hated that because, frankly, I loved my job and the variety of Christ-followers working there.

But my department manager? She was infamous there. And this woman not only knew of her, she had worked UNDER her for many, many more 'days' than I had - years in fact. I saw the pain and fury in her eyes as she spoke of this particular manager, what she had said, what she had done. She had endured so much under her "leadership" that she honestly had mental and physical health issues.

She still smelled of smoke, if you catch my drift.

I would love to say I've moved on adn it doesn't bother me at all, but the fact is I have a a bittersweet memory of those days and that unforgettably manipulative dictator.

At first, I was VERY happy to work with so many saints. I was joyous and busting my butt to prove myself.

But then I uncovered the small fact we were spending $30,000 on a 'new' web site design that simply would not work. It was being designed in a frameset and no one, I mean no one [in 2000] was doing that anymore. Too many times 'bots ignored tags, you are asking for two pages from the server when one will do, bookmarks would always lead you to the 'Main' page, CSS is simpler and more elegant, etc. Lots of reasons.

To say manager was not happy with my 'revelations' and 'observations' would be an understatement. Before you know it a paper trail was being created to show how I was not performing to speed. In a classic, 'you've got to be kidding me', a list of 24 items were typed up for me to have accomplished - an 'impossible' task by their reckoning - to be reviewed that day at 1:00! [I got this at 10:00.]

I got the task list done in 30 minutes. [Yeah, I am that good... O.K. they were THAT ignorant.]

I was grinning at this silliness and thought it absurd. I was just trying to get this ship I'd signed on to going in the right direction as fast as possible. I tried to reason with my immediate supervisor. Oh, it was ugly. Pride and anger and envy rose up. The word 'insubordination' was used.

It was too late. I had angered her [by challenging her ignorance] and she sat me down in her office. She began laying it on, how I was not working with the 'team' [who had no training and were her personal sock-puppets of opinion.] In the end, I distinctly heard God say "Resign" as she was hotly giving me this "talking to."

"I resign!" I said, being the compliant Spirit-led guy I am supposed to be. [Your applause is appreciated.]

Her "Good!" sealed the deal.

I was saddened to be honest. I hated being betrayed, but I knew something that Joseph knew.

The OT Joseph, that is. The one betrayed by his family and then his employer. He knew this: God was watching.

What makes Joseph's story great is not the burns he got but his burn recovery.

He ends up saving people from starvation. He ends up leading Egypt.

In six months, my department manager was let go. I ended up staying in Wheaton and starting a ministry. I've seen several souls be healed, miracles happen and lives permanently transformed.

That is wonderful. Not the process, but what it CAN produce, if we allow God to use it.

The reason I watch 'Burn Notice' is not because Michael Westen is a burned spy - but because he's a burned spy who STILL cannot help but use his skills and abilities to fight evil, help the defenseless and basically take down the bad guys. In Miami. With people who'd die for him.

Sure, he's still obsessed with "WHY?" but in the end, the answer doesn't matter to us. We are glad he's at home kicking but not in Afghanistan. We know the character of the man because he is NOT in self-pity mode. He rolls with the punches. He keeps coming back.

That is the joy in the character. Jeffrey Donovan plays him as a poor man's James Bond - cool car, but an old black Dodge Charger it is. Hi-tech surveillance - made by hand from cell-phones and whatnot. Beautiful women - on the Miami beach.

And Michael is not distracted by these things. He only wants to clear his name and get to the truth. Why? Why was he burned?

Frankly, we don't REALLY care - we are glad Michael Westen is home, helping his family and friends.

Folks you may have been burned - and recently. The answer to why you were burned is simple - someone who was selfish wanted you out of the way.

But take heart. God sees. He knows. He's going to make it right.

You have more friends than you know. You just have to keep going in the right direction.

I'm not trying to give you the Romans 8:28 bullet of comfort. I am telling you that being burned will stop only PAPER, not METAL. If you are going to be soul of sterling silver, worthy to be given everlasting life, you MUST expect this process.

And as I have accepted it, I have begun to laugh again, to preach of God's goodness and even to be amazed as He has made very difficult paths straight as I continued to trust and obey Him.

Like Joesph, bloom where you are planted - even if in a prison.

Like Michael Westen, keep doing what is right, serving others - even if you have no job history, no money, no "assets."

Because "there is nothing hidden that will not be uncovered" said Jesus.

And you can count that the Perfect Man knew precisely how much uncovering would be necessary. And how those who burn others will themselves be burned.

Don't worry. Keep laughing. Keep doing what you are good at.

God will restore everything. Just give Him some time.

Amen.

p.s. "Keep Calm and Carry On" was a motto the British developed to raise morale in England as it was facing imminent disaster in 1939.

It is a good motto.

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