“If prayer worked my nephew wouldn’t have died from cancer!!”
These impassioned words were spoken by a friend of mine. A bunch of us were out to lunch and we all seemed to be talking at the same time. A myriad of conversations going on at the same time when suddenly above our increasing volume of occasional laughter and cat calls those words cut through the noise like a knife.
The restaurant where words once filled the air was now filled with an uncomfortable silence.
As the faces from all my friends looked to me to give a response. I was stunned. I was speechless. I did not know how to respond. I struggled with coming up with the words to comfort or to give an answer to the obvious pain that comes from a comment like that.
I knew the story. I knew his nephew had died in the past year from cancer. He was talking about it with another friend at the other end of the table. What I didn’t know was the struggle that he had in trying to accept it. He was bitter at God because he prayed and prayed for healing for this little boy and according to him, God did nothing.
After being a believer for over 40 years, I have hardly ever missed a Sunday service over that period of time. I attended a Christian High School,went on to graduate from Liberty University (the largest Christian University in the world) and then I went on to be in the ministry for over 12 years. One would think I would be able to give a good explanation for my friends pain. One would think I would have had a handle on how to give an answer to his statement about prayer.
In fact, the more I pray, the less I understand its profound mysteries. I have come to the realization that I have a problem with prayer and I am confident that I am not alone in this conclusion.
Maybe you are like to me. I struggle sometimes when I pray. My words ‘feel’ as if they are bouncing off the ceiling and not really going anywhere. Sometimes, I ‘feel’ as if I am talking to myself and wonder if God is really listening; it’s as if God is vague and not concrete. I can’t see Him. I can’t touch Him. I can not ‘feel’ Him.
I am mature enough of a believer to understand that my ‘feelings’ are not reliable, and my faith has nothing to do with them, whatsoever. The problem begins when I allow my focus to be drawn inward. My mind begins to think… “I can’t see God doing anything about…”, I can’t touch, I can’t feel. I, I, I.
I know that there appears to be a problem with prayer for more than just me. “It’s a one-way conversation.” “It doesn’t seem to work.” “God takes too long to answer.” “God does what He wants anyway.” We have all had these thoughts at one time or another.
I’ve long wondered about the function of prayer in my life. One of my favorite verses is Matthew 7:7 where Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given to you.” The only problem is, a lot of times God doesn’t give us what we ask. Many people have left their faith because they prayed for healing but a loved one died anyway as in my friends nephew. Others get frustrated because they pray and don’t receive a well-paying job, relief from a chronic pain, or peace with their family. I’ve struggled with my own unanswered prayers or prayers that get an answer I didn’t want.
Which has made me wonder, “What’s the point in asking?” Why should we share prayer requests when we meet for Bible studies? Why should we ask friends to pray for us when we’re sick or injured? What difference does it make? Even praying for God’s will doesn’t make an impact on the outside world. God will follow His will whether or not we remember to ask for it.
I believe it’s better God acts on His will rather than granting our foolish wishes. God will always know what is best for us, and you can be sure He’s looking to give you the best in your life even if it isn’t what you want. But how much does God take what we pray for into account? What impact can our prayers have on the mind of God?
As much as I have struggled at times with my perspective of prayer, I’ve come to several conclusions that might help correct the perceived problems with prayer.
I have learned that the purpose of prayer is not for God to please me by giving me everything I prayed for, but for God to fundamentally change me. He wants to change the way I think about how God answers my prayers by learning how to accept His will for the things I pray for.
We need to understand that the purpose of prayer is not for God to please us, but for God to change us. If a father constantly gives in to a child’s demands, we’d take him for a lousy parent. Why, then, do some think God’s a stubborn God when He doesn’t give us everything we want? We need to trust that God is wise and powerful enough to answer rightly—and right on time. First John 5:14 says, “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” That is, God won’t jump at every loose-lipped confession. Prayer offered up in true faith submits to His will—our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
God’s will is to change us, not please us.
In addition, we need to accept that the power of prayer is perceived in even the smallest response. I’m convinced that humans don’t fully comprehend how little we deserve God’s love and grace. Consider that what we regard as “crumbs” of answered prayer may really be bountiful feasts once we realize that God owes us nothing (Genesis 32:9-10; Luke 7:6-9). When we adjust our attitude about our own unworthiness to receive God’s favor, we’ll never regard “small” answers to prayer as insignificant. What we consider small and insignificant are the seeds to grow our faith. If God always answered in BIG ways we would be less dependent in our faith. Faith is believing, regardless of our feelings and regardless of any earthly outcome. Faith’s focus is on God–and the truth of who and what He is not necessarily how our prayers turn out.
Finally, we need to acknowledge that the process of prayer is not as important as the attitude of prayer. Christians can get hung up on method, worried that they haven’t said the right words, haven’t prayed hard or often enough, or haven’t believed deeply enough. That’s hocus-pocus, not prayer (Matthew 6:5-8). We all need to be in the mindset of prayer so that we are better prepared to accept God’s will for a situation. I believe our attitude of prayer is more about how we accept the decision that God has already made than it is to “change” the mind of God.
Of course these reminders are easy to read, but they’re not easy to live. To our finite minds, we’ll always perceive “problems” with prayer.
Are you struggling with your prayer life, not seeing results, wondering if God is listening?
It might be time for an attitude change. It might be time to allow God to fundamentally change you so that you are willing to be open to God’s plan regardless of what the outcome may be.
It might be time to finally accept that the problem with prayer is not with God, but with us.
2014 is a weird time to be alive.
We’re more connected than ever, more aware of what others are doing with their lives than at any other point in history. The rise of social media and its integration into our daily lives make it so. There is no escape from it and there is no going back to way things used to be. There was a time when I could escape into my own little world and dream and pretend to be anyone I wanted to be.
Everywhere I turn in life I see confused people. People acting less and less like their true selves and more like other people whose lives they desperately crave. Facebook, its showcasing and highlighting of people’s lives, every minute detail, make it difficult not to compare and envy others. In truth, this is nothing new.
In the attempt to give full disclosure, I spent the majority of my days of youth filled with visions of being Brooks Robinson, Johnny Unitas, Harold McGilton and Paul McCartney all rolled up into one person. Who are these people? Well they were people I dreamed of being at one point in my life.
Once upon a time, I tried my best to be Brooks Robinson. Brooks Robinson was a Hall of Fame 3rd Baseman for the Baltimore Orioles. Known as The Human Vacuum Cleaner, Brooks Robinson established a standard of excellence for modern-day third basemen. He played 23 seasons for the Orioles, setting Major League career records for games, putouts, assists, chances, double plays and fielding percentage. A clutch hitter, Robinson totaled 268 career home runs, at one time an American League record for third basemen. Robinson earned the league’s MVP Award in 1964 and the World Series MVP in 1970, when he hit .429 and made a collection of defensive gems. I did not have to play very many games to realize that my dream to be the next Brooks Robinson wasn’t going to happen.
The same could be said for Johnny Unitas. As a Sophomore in high school weighing in at just a smidgen over 100 lbs, my career as a football player was short-lived. But that did not stop me from wanting to be just like him. “The Golden Arm” as he was known, amassed numerous records in his 17 years as the Quarter Back for the Baltimore Colts. Unitas’ career statistics include 40,239 yards and 290 touchdowns passing. A genuine team player, Unitas was a first- or second-team All-NFL choice eight years, selected NFL Player of the Year three times, and named to 10 Pro Bowls. That definitely wasn’t going to happen in my life.
I have written the most about my dream to be just like Harold McGilton. Who was Harold? He was a Sprint Car Racer from Fremont, Ohio. Throughout his racing career, Harold won many features and set numerous track records. He was a two-time Track Champion at Fremont Speedway. To this very day I still dream about what it would be like to be strapped into a Sprint car and driving it into a 100 MPH slide through the turns of our local dirt track. Again… this dream would not become a reality.
Seriously. I spent a good portion of my younger life searching for a role that would encompass a little bit of these people into what I would do with my life but I never found it. When you are just not talented enough it kinda hinders the possibility of it happening. I mentioned earlier that I wanted to be the next Paul McCartney, but hearing my recorded voice told me that just wasn’t in the cards either. So I did what all die-hard, race car drivin, rock star football playin third basemen wannabees do. I quit trying.
What I needed was a good dose of self-analysis. I needed to figure out why I was here and what I have to give to this world we live in. I had to stop trying to be someone I wasn’t ever going to be.
Have you ever lived a portion of your life dreaming about being someone you could not become? Have you dreamed about doing something that just wasn’t possible? I am sure we all have.
The question remains, how many of us have been able to do exactly what you were meant to do? Have you honestly been able to live a portion of your life where you were able to act upon that which you are passionate about? Have you ever been able to “be” what you were meant to be?
As an example, this past Sunday morning I watched the worship team at Grace Community (Click on Link) absolutely crush the worship set. We are beyond blessed with some incredibly talented people who serve on our Worship team. Every week they usher those that visit Grace Community into a heart of worship. They do it for 3 straight services. Each one as strong as the next. They are living what they are made to do. You can’t miss it. It oozes out of them. If you’ve been there, you know what I mean.
Here is a video from this past Christmas as the Worship Team was practicing the opening to our Christmas Services.
Thank you to our worship team for living in your sweet spot and doing what you were made for. It inspires others on so many levels. It goes beyond music and lyrics. It’s a contagious passion. You were made for it and you are living it.
As the years passed in my life, I am happy to say that for many years of my life, I was able to be and to do exactly what I felt I was meant to do in this life. I found my path and I did exactly what God wanted me to do.
My prayer is that you find your path and be who you were meant to be.
We all want to make the world a better place. We all want to mean something to other people. What that looks like differs for all of us, and sometimes it changes from one day, one month, and one year to the next.
But it’s up to us all individually to wake up every day and decide that those intentions are what really matter. It’s not the money, approval, acclaim, or anything else that might distract us from what we believe to be true. What matters is who God wants us to be, and what we do about it today.
Who do you want to be–and what will you do about it today?
No one in my life has demonstrated to me the best of what love and marriage can be more than my friends, Barry and Denise Williams. In a hundred ways, they’ve given me something to reach for. They have no idea of the impact that they have had on my life and they also have no clue that I am writing this about them. On purpose, I did not ask permission to use them as an example. So, before I go on too far… I want to apologize to them for calling them out in front of anyone who will read this.
So here is the story…
It was 1982. It was the start of another year of college and I was moving into dorm four on the campus of Liberty University. I was nervous, as always, about who my roommates were going to be. I walked with some reluctance down the hall to my assigned room because I had a bad experience the previous year and I was hoping to get a good roommate for that upcoming school year.
I cautiously opened the door and stepped into the room. It was dark and there was a small desk lamp on at one the desks in the room. I could see that someone was sitting there writing a letter. He didn’t immediately look up when the door swung open but he continued to write for a few seconds more before putting the pen down and introducing himself to me. I introduced myself and waited for his story to be told.
The first few days in the dorm is always a time of filtering. What do I mean by this? I have always found it very interesting during my college experience I would often hear inflated stories of how great someone was in sports. Not all, but I was always amazed at how many of my fellow dorm-mates claimed they were “All-State” athletes or some other champion of grandeur that was supposed to impress me. I had heard it all over the years. I would assume it is tied to some people’s attempt to re-invent themselves after high school.
So, as I stood there in my dorm room, I would always ask the two important questions. “Where are you from?” and “Did you play sports in High School?” Yes…these were the all important questions that needed to be answered as early as possible because it would be these two answers you would have to deal with for the remainder of the year. The previous year my room mates were from Florida and I was immediately separated from the conversation for the most part. Apparently the people from Florida never really had room for someone from Ohio.
I asked the important questions and Barry proceeded to answer them. To my surprise he was from Ohio… I was immediately relieved. Also he was a Cleveland sports fan and I slowly began to think that this year’s room-mate would turn out a lot better than last year. I then pressed him about where he went to high school and if he played sports or what was his claim to fame. Barry was reluctant to say anything but I continued to press him for answers and then he finally told me he played baseball and also was a pretty good golfer and boxer. AND…there it was… he didn’t “look” like an athlete to me but hey I was used to the stories and at least he was from Ohio. That was the beginning of a friendship that has lasted from that very first day until this very day…well at least until he reads this and changes his mind.
In time, Barry proved that his athletic talent was not a lie or an exaggeration. He truly was a great ball player and golfer. I never wanted to take the risk to find out if he was a great boxer.
In those first few days of getting to know each other, I found out something else about my new-found friend. Each and every day I would come back to my room and there Barry would be sitting at his desk writing a letter. Every night when we went to eat dinner he would mail this letter. I don’t mean most days, I mean EVERY DAY this happened. After a week or so, I asked what was up with the letter writing. I was wondering if he was writing his mommy everyday or what. I think at first he was a little reluctant to tell me but that is when I found out about Denise.
He wrote her every day. I could not figure out what he possibly could say to her in a letter everyday. For the record these were not “notes”, these were two and three page letters. He was faithful and consistent. Every day was that same process and as far as I know it continued up until the day they were married.
Fast forward fifteen years later and I found myself in the mess of a divorce. Barry knew what was going on with me but he did not know my reasoning.
Whether I asked for them or not, I knew I was about to get some answers, so I was honest with him. I unloaded all of my issues and problems of my marriage on him and at the end, I asked him (trying to justify my actions), “How can you be sure you and Denise will last forever?”
Barry responded, “I can’t. You can only be sure it’s going to last forever a day at a time. You make it to forever bit by bit.”
Good answer, but not good enough. “Okay, but how can you trust that who she is today is who she’ll be down the road? How do you know she won’t destroy your heart someday…or that you won’t destroy hers?”
“That’s the wrong question, David. That question will keep you from ever fully trusting or committing, in or out of marriage. You should be asking, ‘Can I trust her today? Can she trust me today?’. Then do what it takes to be able to answer yes. You ask today, and again tomorrow and the day after that… That’s how you get to forever.”
The next words out of Barry’s mouth have become a compass for me.
They’re simple, so don’t miss the gift they carry.
He said, “David, 100% of the time that marriages get in trouble, it starts with people saying to themselves, ‘My needs aren’t being met. She’s overlooking me. He’s not doing enough. I deserve better.’ Once you start looking at things in terms of what you are or aren’t getting, you’re on a dangerous road.”
“You wanna know why Denise and I have something few people have? Here’s our secret. Every day I wake up and I ask myself, ‘How can I serve her today? What does she need? What can I do to make her life better?’ Something always comes to mind, and I do it.”
But the thing is, she does the same thing. She wakes up and asks herself, ‘How can I serve him today? What does he need? What can I do to make his life better?’ Something comes to mind and she does it.”
“Everyday?” I asked as the memories came flooding back of the letters written everyday to the love of his life.
“Every single day, both of us make sure our needs are being met. Neither one of us are focused on getting what we want or deserve. There’s no need to fight for it if someone else is fighting the battle for you. And neither of us keeps a list of all the ways the other has dropped the ball. As long as you’re focused on what you’re owed, you’re not focused enough on what you’re there to give.”
It took me a few years to get beyond the surface of his words, because I did indeed get divorced and paid the price for the actions that I did not do in my first marriage.
Today I have been happily remarried now for 15 years and Barry’s words filter through my mind often. I have applied his logic and I wish I could say that I get this right all the time. The truth is I still mess up and forget the important advice Barry gave me all those years ago.
I have so far to go. But I won’t stop working on it.
My wife is worth it. We’re worth it.
Now… I know that Barry and Denise are not perfect. I am sure that they struggle at times like all of us do, but I have no doubts that they will last forever. As they close in on 30 years of marriage, their example is something to emulate and the wisdom needs passed on to all who are married or considering marriage.
Married, single, among friends or with our families, what if we let each other off the hook and started fresh, this time considering each other as more important than ourselves? What if each of us woke up tomorrow asking what we could do for those we love the most?
What if we fought to see each others’ needs met instead of our own? What would life look like if we abandoned the thought that we are owed something or deserve something better?
What if we made it our mission to make something better of the beautiful thing we have?
These are some of the questions that create our happily ever after.
These are the questions that begin to get us to forever… one day at a time.
I have discovered in the past week that even though I have been a believer for over 40 years, I have been dealing with issues that I thought I had buried years ago.
When something from your past comes up and interjects itself in the middle of your life it can be “unsettling”. That would be the word I would use to define what I have been through. This week has been “unsettling” for sure. I know I am not the only person that struggles with issues of their past. I think we all struggle with our past. I think we all carry the excess baggage and burdens of our past in our life. I think we all struggle with issues that we have had to deal with and though we try our hardest to bury them they always seem to find their way back into our life.
One example for me is losing control of my temper. I grew up an angry person with a very short fuse. I never really got a handle on this and at 33, it cost me my marriage and ultimately my ministry.
However, for the past 20 years, God has allowed me to get this under control. I really worked hard on it and really I did not struggle with it like I had in my younger days. Unfortunately, like the Apostle Paul, I have found myself over the past few days struggling with the “Old Man” I used to be. I lost my temper about a problem at work. While I didn’t do anything drastic… I did indeed compromise my testimony at work. Years of trying to show Christ in my life… blown away by my reaction to a problem. In truth… it shocked me because I had not reacted that way in years. I don’t know where it came from other than to say it is buried deep inside me and it raised its ugly head. I am ashamed. I have to say I didn’t sleep very well and when I did, I kept having the same dream all night long about how disappointed God was in my reaction.
Life has a way of leading us back again and again to our weakness until the pieces are picked up and the lessons are learned.
Are you in a place right now where you can relate? Have you asked God over and over again to help you from the guilt, the pain, the rejection from something from your past?
Over the years when I would talk to people who were having problems in their life, I would always give advice to them. I would tell these people who were struggling in this life to just hold on to God. Just keep hanging on and trust His grace and the salvation He provided for all of us.
I even wrote about “Holding on to Your Faith… Even When God Doesn’t Make Sense” (Click here to read). While I believe that this is still good advice I think that in many situations this advice doesn’t quite give the comfort and peace that we all need in this life sometimes.
Our struggle with “excess baggage” is rooted in our own disappointments, setbacks and heart breaks. Our deep fear, hurt, suspicions and doubts are rooted in the stories of our own past. You can’t neglect those things. That’s where you lost heart. You have to go back and invite Christ to walk with you through those times, periods and places where you lost heart, so that you might experience the restoration we’ve been talking about. In other words, what I’m suggesting is that we take Jesus up on His offer. He says that what He wants to do is heal the broken hearted. That’s all of us! We are all, in some ways, broken in our hearts and we need to experience that restoration so that we might hope, believe and be released from resignation, depression and cynicism that are rooted in our hearts. Those latter things are rooted in our hearts because of the stories of our lives. The offer is to invite Christ to walk with us there towards healing and restoration.
Again… life has a way of leading us back again and again until the pieces are picked up and the lessons are learned. We need to go back! We need to go into our places of disappointments, setbacks, our heart breaks, our woundedness. Why? Because Jesus wants to take away the pain from those experiences. We can’t do this on our own. We need someone to lead us into battle and that person is Jesus Christ! Just when you think it’s hopeless God will show up and change the tide of the battle.
Whatever the burden, and we all have them, Jesus came and offered to take them…no questions asked. It’s a real invitation that He offers to everyone.
What more could God do? What more could He offer than to take our burdens, our excess baggage and carry them for us? The only requirement? You just have to give them to Him.
Last night, as I drove home in the midst of the 3rd winter storm in the past two-weeks. I found myself complaining out loud in my car. I was giving Mother Nature a tongue lashing. I am sick of the storms and I am already tired of this winter. As I drove my car through the drifts of snow, I realized that all my complaining and tongue lashings were not going to help. I was complaining to God about something He already planned to happen. I believe that God allows storms in our life to teach us. Storms are an intended part of our lives.
One author said, “we are all either just leaving a storm or about to enter one.”
So why are we so surprised by their presence in our life? No matter how much we prepare for them they always seem to be unexpected, unpredictable, unwanted, and they always produce fear. The only answer I can think of that addresses the question of why we are so surprised by them is because the storms in our life remind us that we are not truly in control of our lives and that scares all of us!
I am reminded of a story found in the book of Mark, chapter 4. It is the story of a storm in the lives of the disciples. A storm that was planned by God to teach them, help them and illuminate them. It’s a fascinating story and there is so much in the story that captivates me. As I read narratives like this I imagine I’m in the boat with them, wet, afraid, struggling, and then I look to Jesus and He’s asleep! How could He be asleep? Doesn’t He realize what trouble we are in? Doesn’t He care?
We all feel this at times in the midst of the storm. When storms come in our lives, just as Job asked in the midst of his storm, we all ask, “God, don’t you care?” What they missed (and honestly we miss it too) is that God was in the boat with them! If they go down so does he! Doesn’t it strike you as strange that Jesus was asleep? Don’t you wonder at times in your own life, “is God asleep, has He forgotten about me, doesn’t He care?” You may have actually said it out loud,
“God, WAKE UP! I’m in trouble.”
But what we and the disciples miss is that God is with us. Do you realize how big those words are? God is with us. It means He’s in the boat too! It means He’s invested in you, in your life, in your storm. It means “He’s got this!” It means, if you are in the storm and He’s with you, it’s part of His plan.
Ok, so I ask as I write that, how can a storm be part of His plan? Because in the storm our senses become alive, sharp, focused and we can see more clearly than we ever do in normal days. In this storm the disciples feared the storm, but in just moments their fears were redirected to Jesus.
Storms bring clarity. They focus our passions, our desires, our lives on what’s most important. In a recent storm in our area the news crew interviewed a woman who had lost everything in a fire in her home. As she stood in front of her devastated home, nothing left of all she had, she said, “we are so blessed, no one was hurt.” And suddenly clarity comes to her life. The stuff can be replaced and in that moment, in the midst of losing everything, we discover that we have actually lost nothing at all!
As you face your next storm realize two things, 1. God is with you. This didn’t happen without His presence or permission, and 2. He has a plan and purpose in the storm for your life.
In the midst of your next storm will you discover it?
Will you see that all of life is about knowing Him and trusting Him?
Will you discover that He has never left you, He’s with you….even in the midst of your storm.
I love turning the page.
To be honest, I always have. I try to make as much noise as I can turning the page of a book – or a pad of paper – or a calendar. I love the cracking sound. It sounds like progress to me. It feels like I’ve accomplished something, and my reward is that now I get to see what happens next.
The same can be said of when I turn a page in my life. I can’t help but see our lives as stories we’re writing and telling as we go through life. Page by page we fill up the chapters of our life because I believe that each morning we wake up to a blank page and fill it throughout the day with our thoughts and actions. Both the good and the bad. And as I look back on the chapter (2013) that’s closing – and forward to the unwritten page before me, I can’t shake the question, “What kind of story am I writing?”. Is the journey in this life of mine a love story? A how “not to” book? A mystery? A tragedy or maybe even a comedy?
Sometimes when I look back at some of the drivel I have written over the years, I see each of these aspects in my writing. There are flashes of a love story. A love story of how the love of Jesus Christ has brought me through some difficult times. Definitely the pages that I have filled with words are (at times) a warning of how “not to” do certain things. I also see aspects of mystery because I won’t share everything or name names when I could have and at times should have. I am glad that I have not called out certain people for how they have treated me over the years. However that does not mean I still don’t struggle at understanding how some people hide behind their Christianity. Smiles on Sunday morning but disdain and judgement on others throughout the week. That being said, I am glad that each morning I get to turn the page and see a blank sheet staring front of me. I get to start over and dwell on better things.
Probably the best words to describe my words may be linked to them being both a tragedy and a comedy. A tragedy because of the years wasted at life. I single-handedly destroyed my ministry. I did it to myself. By my own hand. There is no one to blame but me. There is tragedy found in what could have been. But what about the comedy? Yes, I still see comedy in the words that I have penned. I have experienced many things in this life that when taken in context are hilarious. There are things that have happened to me that if I did not personally experience them firsthand I would not have believed them myself. I have honestly been asked if some of the stories I have told are true and I am here to tell you that every word I have ever written is the truth of what has happened to me.
Yes… it’s been all of these descriptions at times, and more. But more than anything, as I look to the future of what I want my story to be, I want it to be an adventure. Who wants to read a story where the same thing happens page after page? No plot twists. No great success. No failure that leads someone to find to a better part of himself. Nothing out of the ordinary or unpredictable. Who would want to read that story? Who would want to live that story? Not me. I want to live my life to the absolute fullest. I want to open my eyes to be all I can be. I want to travel roads not taken. I want the life that I live for my remaining days to be an adventure.
How about you?
Here is where we stand. 2013 has now been written. For some of you, it was a year filled with struggle and hurt. For others, the greatest success and happiest moments of your lives. But one thing we all have in common is… it’s in the past. A new year of blank pages is before all of us, ready to be filled with the greatest adventure we can dream up. A new year of second chances. A new year with another chance to get it right.
There are all kinds of obstacles in your way, tying your pages together, boarding up your heart, building walls around your dreams – doing anything and everything to stop you. It can seem easier to put yourself up on a shelf than to write a new chapter. But regardless, whether you intend to or not… your history will be written.
Even if you don’t get out of bed, your story continues. Even if you do exactly what you did yesterday, your story continues. Even lack of thought will fill the page. Even if you’re unaware that you’re creating your history in every moment of every day, with every choice and every thought your having… you are still writing your history.
Don’t let what has been dictate what will be. You have choices. Just because something has been a certain way for some time doesn’t mean it must continue. Just because you chose something yesterday doesn’t mean you have to choose it today. Even if you can’t change your circumstances, you can change your thoughts and actions. You can absolutely change the story you’re telling.
What if you would approach the new year as a blank page waiting to be filled with the greatest story you can tell? What if you would lay down your past experiences, expectations, mistakes, successes – and start fresh? What if you would reassess the importance you give all that fills your lives and choose again? What if you would walk forward knowing that if you’re still here there’s something beautiful waiting for you to discover? What if you would turn the page of the story you’ve been writing and face the unwritten page before you?
As a wise man once said:
“A person unfamiliar with their own history are destined to repeat the mistakes of their fathers.”
Welcome to your new chapter. Live it beautifully.
Now… turn the page and write it well.
This is normally a week when many people set goals. Some make resolutions. I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions. My feeling is, if there’s something I want or need to change, why wait until a particular date on the calendar? It makes more sense to get started now.
I do, however, like the idea of choosing a word. ONE WORD to focus on every year. A word that I can use as a roadmap to make my way through life and to help me be more of who and what I am meant to be in 2014.
For me, in 2014, that One Word is BRAVE.
Truth is, I am not brave. Far from it. I like to avoid the hard stuff. I procrastinate having the hard conversations and taking the bold steps to share my faith. There’s nothing I find more comforting than hiding in a safe place, away from a dark, scary world.
But that’s not who I want to be, because that’s not someone who gets things done and makes a difference in this world. I honestly want to leave footprints of faithfulness on this earth before God calls me home. I long to teach from God’s Word again and share my faith to those who need to know.
Truth is, I have been hiding for years behind my past failures. I say I want to be used of God again but fail to put myself in the position to really take those opportunities to do so. I have felt to urge to lead a Men’s Bible Study, but I keep making excuses as to why I can’t do it.
I can’t be a coward. I must be BRAVE.
I want to be BRAVE. I want to fight for what I know is right. I want to overcome my fear of rejection because of my past failures. I want to do things I never thought I could do. I want to say “yes” to things that sound crazy and find the reward afterwards. I want to be brave about what is right. I need to ask the tough questions. I need to go against the grain if the situation calls for it. I need to try something new.
Yes… in 2014, I want to be Brave.
That’s it. To each one that would read this, being BRAVE might mean something different. You know your situation, just as I know what that word means to me. When you fight for what is right, I believe there’s honor in being BRAVE. I want to have the courage and honor that comes along with it. I know I might lose some things in the process, but being brave is never easy. It will, however, be worth it.
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)
There is tremendous freedom on the other side of your fear. And so I embark in 2014, this fresh, new year, with an attitude and an eye on bravery… my own, as well as yours… Will YOU join me? Will you throw off the security blanket and come out of your cave of comfort to stand up for Christ?
As long as you’re breathing, the possibilities for your life are far greater than you’ve imagined.
Come join me and be BRAVE in 2014 and create an awesome story!!!
There are only a few more days until Christmas Eve.
I am sure there are people out there that are starting to panic as the realization sets in that the shopping is not finished and the gift’s are not wrapped.
Although the Christmas season is supposed to be a time of joy and celebration, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with all the stress that comes with the season. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in everything you have to do, such as visiting family members, buying gifts and attending multiple Christmas gatherings. Before you know it, you can feel so stressed that you simply want the season to be over so you can have some time to relax. Sometimes life during this Season is so loud it is deafening.
If there is anything we all need to do more of during this season, it is to take time for silent nights.
My wife and I are done with the wrapping and the shopping. Maybe the better way to say it would be… my wife is done with the wrapping and the shopping. I’ll give credit where credit is due. She gives me the best Christmas present every year. She takes care of the buying and wrapping and she is gracious enough to me give the opportunity to experience a few of these Silent Nights before Christmas Day.
I am learning that it’s important to take some time out for yourself during the next few days. Don’t turn this Christmas into something you dread. By just taking a little time out for yourself from time to time can help you get your perspective back, helping you to relax and enjoy the joy of the season. Sure, you have a to-do list that is multiple pages long, but if you can take time for a few “Silent Nights” it will allow you to really remember and enjoy the meaning and the joy of Christmas.
Try to embrace the holiday season this year. Soak up every minute. Cherish every shared laugh of your children and grandchildren.
It is easy sometimes to slip, inviting stress and distractions to interfere in the celebration of Christmas. It is easy to focus on expectations, “to do” lists and activities that the day after Christmas you come to the realization that you were so busy that you missed the opportunity to enjoy the season.
It’s when I choose to slow down and choose to be silent, everything changes.
It is then I hear God’s voice in the laughter of my family and in the giggles of my grandchildren. It is when I feel His love in the hugs of my friends and family. It is when I see Him in the twinkling lights, and in the love that brings us all together.
This year I want to be silent and listen. I want to make memories that I will take with me for the rest of my life. I want no regrets this Christmas. It’s what I want for my family and friends and it’s what I want for everyone that reads this post.
So today, take a deep breath. Soak up every conversation, every shared moment with those around you.
Be still. Be Silent. Listen.
A Silent and Holy Night is coming.
Don’t rush it. Don’t stress over it.
Embrace it. Cherish it.
Be thankful for it.
Make this choice today and see what happens to your Christmas this year. -
“Be still, and know that I am God.”
People fascinate me.
Stories fascinate me.
Listening to people tell me their story fascinates me.
I am intrigued by what makes each one of us different.
I wonder what shaped you? Who shaped you? What drove you to be who you are today?
Unfortunately, once you start to get a feel for who this person is you also get to hear some things from this person that you really don’t like, or is different from you. It really gets interesting when you find out that this person believes differently than you. This often leads to some heated conversation.
Why? Why are there tensions created when you meet someone who believes something different from your beliefs? Why do people feel like they have to argue about every single aspect of Christianity?
I’m “friends” on Facebook with a lot of people who believe differently than I do. A few are merely acquaintances. A few I know well. Two of those friends recently caused quite an argument on Facebook. The details are not really important (here at least), what happened in the aftermath is.
As it always seems to happen… people get 10 ft. tall and bulletproof when they are in the comfort and security of their home and armed with a keyboard.
They raised their verbal (written) fists.
Both threw punches.
And the watching Facebook world… watched… and judged.
It was like watching the freshman preacher boys in the dorm back in the day when I was a student at Liberty University. Every Fall you would hear a new batch of them arguing about things that have no eternal significance, but were trying their best to prove to everyone who would listen that they were right. They would say that they were not arguing but they were just explaining why they were right.
It usually took these preacher boys about a year or so of studying Theology for them to realize that they really didn’t have a clue and there were many more acceptable answers to the same questions they were so desperately trying to prove as Freshman.
My two friends were having a “discussion” on Facebook and everything would have been fine if it stayed in the “discussion mode”. But like many “discussions” it didn’t. At first, they slightly disagreed. But within 15 minutes, one of my friends was declaring the other a heretic. Now… it should be noted that both of these friends declare themselves as believers… Christians. They were arguing about issues that actually had nothing to do with leading people to Christ.
As their discussion crossed the 60-minute mark, and their Facebook feeds fully flushed with arguments and disagreements, I realized that they were no longer simply stating opinion. They were positioning themselves to win the argument, dismissing any counter points no matter whether they agreed or not. They were in this fight to be crowned the person most in the right. And it didn’t feel good.
This silly argument left me thinking: What is it about human beings that leaves us needing to be right, needing to get the last word in no matter what? Regardless of the cost. Regardless of the people who were reading their hateful, hurtful banter.
Sure enough… some people would message me over the course of my two friends argument and comment about how these two well-meaning people had done more to harm to the cause of Christ then they would ever know. One would walk away the “winner”… winning the argument but losing the war.
I can’t say that I have always been innocent of getting involved in “discussions” that turn into arguments. But as I have grown older, I am not the guy to argue theology anymore. For those of you that do not know, I am educated and trained in Bible theology… and I can argue with the best of them. But I also know that I don’t have all the answers and I don’t wear my education on my sleeve. I don’t have to prove to anyone what I believe. Over time I have realized that more damage has been done arguing over things that mean nothing to the cause of Christ. I know what I believe and I am not swayed by anyone wanting to argue the tenets of Calvinism or the pros and cons of the KJV or just about any aspect of Christianity. I’ve learned the hard way to stay as far away from the arguing as I can. I have seen too much damage done in the process of being “right” and I have never witnessed anyone say, “Wow… that argument completely changed my fundamental belief system!” or like Phillip Yancey stated:
“No one ever converted to Christianity because they lost the argument.”
No one “wins” in these debates and arguments. People get hurt. Words cut like the knife from both sides. No one drops their sword and advances the Kingdom. I might go so far as to say we retreat the Kingdom. We need to be able to explore the tension and not do so with our verbal fists raised. We need to ask the questions, receive the answers all the while drinking a large mug of grace.
Because the watching world… watches… and judges.
With Christmas decorations comes the inevitable arrival of Christmas music… that to some people is pure joy. I think my sister-in-law, Lynn starts playing Christmas music some time in mid-August. Normally, I wait until about week before Christmas Day to start the music… but not this year. For some strange reason I have listened to more Christmas music than ever. I think it’s partially because one of my favorite bands (The Sidewalk Prophets) put out a new Christmas CD. Their song “Hey Moon” (video attached at the bottom of this post) is the best Christmas song I have heard in years.
Last night, like many other nights, I sat down in front of my computer to do some writing and do some editing of posts that I have written over the past month. Unfortunately, I found myself staring at a blank page in front of me. So I turned on some music for some inspiration. I like the music of MercyMe and I just sat in my office staring off into the abyss listening to them when the lyrics of one their songs hit me like a ton of bricks.
I love how it’s written from Joseph’s perspective. The new father singing a lullaby to the One that would soon change the world.
Joseph knew what was in store for the child. He knew the price that was going to be paid. He knew that this newborn son was born to die and pay the price for the sins of the world and that of mankind. He knew that this child was going to experience pain. The lyrics of this song really got to me tonight. Not just the song, but one line in particular. It gets me every single time.
The lyric is this….
For tonight, simply be my child.
I remember when my first-born, Nathan was born. I really thought I was prepared to be a father. In reality, I was nowhere near ready to take on the responsibility that soon would be mine. I am not sure anyone is truly prepared for the changes in life that happen when you first become a parent. My perspective in life changed in the micro-second of when I first touched and held him in my arms. I felt the same responsibility when my son Adam was born as well. For me, being a parent was something magical… something incredible. Your goals change and you realize that you are no longer here on earth living for yourself. You want to create this perfect world for your child, where they will forever be protected and not experience any pain or hurt in this life.
My sons are now 27 and 22 years old and the parent in me still wants to protect them. I still do not want any hurt or pain of this life to effect any of my children.
I cannot fathom or comprehend the emotions and thoughts of Joseph and Mary as they held this perfect child in their arms, knowing that he would carry the burden of the Cross of Calvary. Would it have been selfish of them to ask God to give them a break and allow Jesus to simply be their child for a brief moment? The father in me says no.
As Joseph and Mary understood that this perfect child was given by God to pay the price for mankind’s sin. They would not be able to protect him from what he was going to face. We as parents realize the same is true with our own children. We can help them and we can hope that the pain of this life passes by our children but we know that the inevitable is coming. It’s part of life… but that does not keep us as parents to stop trying to protect our children regardless of their age.
We have so many visions and dreams of what our children will be one day. We know early on what their potential is and having lived as long as we have on this earth, we also know the challenges in life which lie ahead for our children. We also know enough to accept the fact that there will be surprises too. As we watch them grow up in the various moments of life, we as parents, often think back to that simple line….
“Simply be my child”
I do not want and most assuredly I do not want my children to speed through the moments of life without having memories to look back on.
I am learning that as I grow older my memories are a lot like a bank account, you withdraw from what you’ve put in. So, from personal experience, my advice to all of us would be to withdraw as much of the bitterness, anger and disappointment in your life while you can. Start depositing more family time memories, more contentment and less regret in the bank account of your memories. Because the world and all of its pain and challenges can wait. Soon enough there will be plenty of things that will steal our attention and time.
As we navigate the hustle and bustle of this Christmas season. Take time to make memories. Carve out moments and put the world and all it’s worries and pain on pause.
Allow your child to simply be your child.