Jesus fell on his face in prayer.
The magnitude of what He was facing and the weight of the eternal destinies of the world fell upon His shoulders. Eleven remained then, they were sleeping a stone’s throw away. But soon there would be none. Not one friend would stay.
“Let the cup pass,” he cried. “Father, if possible, let the cup pass!”
The Father gazed lovingly at his Son and the Son stared back already knowing his destiny.
“Your will be done, Father,” whispered the Son.
Just then, through blurry eyes, Jesus saw the line of torches slithering like a snake up the hill to the garden. The mob arrived. Judas kissed. Friends fled. Soldiers arrested. And Jesus’ world suddenly became a swirl of torment and mockery.
Judas, the betrayer, would soon hang pale and gasping swinging from the end of his belt under the limb of a tree. The flames of hell already lapping at his feet, it would have been better if he had never been born.
The trial of Jesus Christ was a sham as liars lied and mockers mocked. God claimed to be God, and it was called blasphemy. And the face that Moses longed to see — the face that he was forbidden to see — was slapped and spit on.
They leveled their charges. Pilate stared intently at Jesus. He questioned him. And found no guilt. Neither did King Herod. So Pilate offered to release Jesus to the swelling crowd. But they chose freedom for the murderer Barabbas instead.
“Then what should I do with Jesus of Nazareth?” Pilate shouted to the mob. The mob thundered back: “Crucify him! Crucify him!” And their voices prevailed.
Pilate washed his hands and delivered the Innocent One to death.
Next, Jesus was stripped and his hands were tied above his head to a post. The Jews would have been more merciful — no more than thirty-nine lashes. But the Romans extended no such mercy. The scourging was a horror that few survived. Fearing they had gone too far and killed Jesus before it was time, the soldiers cut him loose. He fell in an unconscious heap at their feet.
As Jesus came to he was forced to stand. A purple robe, a mock scepter and a crown of thorns were all forced upon the Savior. Jesus is bowed and bloody, heavy lumber is strapped across his shoulders. The weight of the rough wood proves too much as it grinds against the lacerations left by the Roman scourging. Pain explodes like light in Jesus’ brain. And he crumples under the beam. He no longer can carry the beam.
Jesus looks up and holds the soldier captive in his gaze. The victim’s eyes do not pierce the centurion with the hatred he expects. Instead, he finds love in those eyes. Love mingled with pain, yes — brokenhearted love — but love nonetheless. And not a love excited by one mere act of kindness. This love preceded the moment. This love preceded his existence. This love preceded the existence of the world. Somehow the centurion knows that these are the eyes of Eternal Love.
Jesus holds the soldier’s gaze as long as he can. But the blood that dripped off the ends of his hair to the ground when he was bent low under the beam now drops into his eyes. The blood mixed with sweat stings, and Jesus blinks.
It’s nine o’clock in the morning, by this time on this dark day, Jesus was all too familiar with the sting of pain.
Then Jesus is led out beyond the city gates. He sees several posts fixed in the ground. Three of those poles stand ready to receive their cross beams and the tattered body of Jesus and the two criminals carrying their own beams behind him.
Jesus now lays naked in the dirt on the hill called Golgotha. Two men take hold of his hands. Eternal Love shines forth again, as the hammer comes crashing down.
Flashes of the soldiers, the priests, the thieves, the friends, the mothers, the brothers, the mob, the wooden beams, the spikes, the thorns and the blood on the ground beneath him all eternally etched into the minds of the witnesses of this fateful day.
Dark clouds gather above.
Jesus is lifted on his crossbeam to the post. His left foot is now pressed against his right foot. Both feet are extended, toes down, and a spike is driven through the arch of each. Jesus immediately pushes himself up to gasp for breath and to relieve the pain in his outstretched arms. He places his full weight on the spikes in his feet and pushes against the pain.
Jesus is now held there suspended between heaven and earth by spikes in his wrists and feet.
But it wasn’t the spikes that kept him there… it was his love.
Quickly waves of cramps overtake him — deep, throbbing pain from his head to his toes. Jesus can exhale, but he cannot inhale. His compressed heart is struggling to pump blood to his torn body. He fights to raise himself in order to breathe and in order to speak.
He looks down at the soldiers now gambling for his clothes. He pushes himself up through the violent pain to pray aloud, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they do.” Then he sags back into silence. But the crowd is not silent, though he can barely hear their taunts through the din of his pain. “He saved others, let him save himself! If you’re the Christ, come down off the cross! Save yourself, King of the Jews!”
It’s noon now. The rain falls harder and the clouds blacken. Jesus looks down through wet strands of hair into the familiar face of a woman. It’s his mother. She’s sobbing so hard that her breathing is as labored as his. Without words she looks into his eyes and begs to know why. He longs to hold her and to tell her that it’s all for her. He pushes upward and says, “Woman.” Then he looks his friend John in the eyes. John is standing behind her supporting his own weeping mother. “He is now your son.” then to John, Jesus murmurs, “And she is now your mother. Take her away from here.”
And he sags back into silence, back into countless hours of limitless pain.
As the sin and weight of the world crashes down on Jesus, God the Father can no longer look at his beloved Son, his heart’s treasure, the mirror-image of himself. He looks away.
Jesus pushes himself upward and cries to heaven, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
It’s three o’clock and Jesus finds one more surge of strength. He presses his torn feet against the spikes, straightens his legs, and with one last gasp of air cries out, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”
And he dies.
The merciful centurion sees Jesus’ body fall far forward and his head drop low. He thrusts a spear up behind Jesus’ ribs—one more piercing for our transgression—and water and blood flow out of his broken heart.
In that moment mountains shake and rocks spilt; veils tear and tombs open.
And the merciful centurion looks up at the lifeless body of Jesus and is filled with awe. He drops to his knees and declares, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”
But that’s not the end of the story…
Let me start off tonight’s posting on grace with a couple of thoughts.
First of all, I admit that I have issues with forgiveness which I’ll explain in a minute.
Second, I have issues with feet. I am not a fan of bare feet. I don’t like touching feet or feet touching me. I can’t explain it, it’s just one of those things.
Forgiveness and feet are just two of the MANY things I have issues with.
I’m just being honest here. I know we’re supposed to forgive and I really do wrestle with situations where I should. I’m working on it and God’s not done with me yet.
Now what do these two issues have to do with grace?
In John 13:1-17 we see Jesus do the unthinkable.
He is just days away from dying on a cross for the sins of the entire world. He’s with his closest friends eating dinner. He knows them… He know what is going to happen. He is with the very men that will soon scatter. They won’t have His back. One will betray Him outright. Another will deny he even knew Him.
If these people were in my life and I knew that they were going to walk away, betray me and deny they even knew me, do you think I would want to share a meal with them? Would you?
As if the meal wasn’t enough, He goes far beyond the call of duty. He takes the role of a servant and washes their feet.
He washed the feet of friends that would bail on him. He washed the feet of the man that would betray Him. He washed the feet of the man that would completely deny knowing Him. He knew exactly how it would all happen.
These men didn’t deserve the forgiveness of the Savior. They didn’t deserve the act of humility given to them by having their feet washed by God’s Son. No… they did not deserve these things but that is what Jesus Christ gave them.
That is Grace.
When I think about this act of grace and the one which would soon follow, I am ashamed of my inability to forgive. I am saddened by my lack of grace in situations. Should I wash the feet of those I may have issues with? Could I even do it? Could I wash the feet of those I need to forgive? Is an email saying “I’m sorry” or “I forgive you” a modern-day version of that? Could a phone call be like filling that basin and kneeling before those I need to forgive? I think so but I am not sure.
This I do know… I am starting to see forgiveness much differently than I have in the past. In the past I would simply ask God to forgive my unforgiveness of others… the older I get I see that God wants me to ask forgiveness of those that I have something against. Like Jesus Christ who forgave those that betrayed Him, I need to forgive those that have done me wrong. That needs to begin this week.
Jesus was placed on the Cross for our sin. This is a critical point that cannot be missed – Have you accepted His grace? Have you accepted Him as your Savior? Maybe today is that day. Maybe this week is a week to finally accept the grace that is found at the foot of the Cross.
“…And we will never be able to wash the feet of those who have hurt us until we allow Jesus, the one we have hurt, to wash ours.” – Max Lucado
That is Grace.
I never thought God could use a trip to Seattle to teach me a lesson about grace.
A few years ago I had a meeting in Seattle, Washington. I arrived in Seattle on a Monday night around 11pm. I was weary from a long day and ready to check into my room at the Holiday Inn express. It’s not my hotel of choice, but it’s where my meeting was being held early the next morning. Like is or not, it’s where I was staying. Or so I thought…..
The nice people behind the counter at the hotel kindly informed me that all of the rain they recently had damaged a number of their rooms and I was going to be “walked to the Hilton.” The next thing I know, I am given directions to my next destination. When I walked into the lobby, it was pretty clear that this was certainly not the Holiday Inn. From the valet parking at the front door, to the lobby big enough to land a plane in, as the man behind the counter said
“wow, this is quite an upgrade from the Holiday Inn.”
When I finally got to my room, the square footage of the room seemed to be larger than my house, robes in the closet, Starbucks coffee on the counter, even a telephone next to the toilet in the bathroom. This is the kind of place you see in movies and never dream of paying for. I was like a grown up version of the kid from Home Alone. The most amazing part came in the morning when I got my bill. It literally read $0.00. That’s right. No charge. Free. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. The Holiday Inn had paid the bill in full.
You probably see what I am getting at here. Isn’t that something like the grace we have been given by God?
I had a debt to pay. A large debt. I did not earn this place. There was nothing I did, could have done, or will do to ever have made that possible. Someone else paid my price. All I needed to do was gladly accept the offer, and follow the directions to get there. Even though my original plans were “damaged,” someone had noted my situation and provided a better way.
That alone would have been worth it all. But remarkably, they also paid my price in full.
We all have a debt of sin that we need to deal with. We all need someone to pay the debt for our sins. There is nothing we can do to earn the payment that needs to be paid. All we need to do is to accept the payment for our sin that Jesus Christ made for us on the Cross of Calvary. It was free… no charge. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. It was this free gift that allowed you and I the ability to have our sins forgiven. All we have to do is accept this free gift of Salvation.
Now that really is, as they say, Amazing Grace.
If you watch the news it’s easy to panic. The world seems out of control and panic, fear, worry are all emotions that come when it seems anarchy is imminent.
But it’s ok….God IS in charge.
Nothing is out of control, it’s ok.
As I read scripture there is one thing that is very clear… God is sovereign and all the chaos you see is not God’s doing, but He is sovereign over it all. Rulers are placed in their roles by Him (see Daniel 11), nations have their existence because of Him, the events of history do not catch Him by surprise….He’s a “hands on” God, fully capable to handling the world’s problems.
The world we live in is in full panic mode because it seems “wicked men” rule and chaos is looming near, but don’t forget….it’s ok, God’s in charge. Even the apparent wicked ruler you see in different places around the globe is there by divine appointment to accomplish His will, His plan, to bring glory to His Son.
Relax, God has everything fully under control…..the government, the leaders, the weather, global warming, prices at the pump, your job, your life, you future…all of it….God’s in charge.
So what do we do????
We need to share our relationship with Christ and make disciples, be ready when He comes and present to Him a life of trust and obedient response to His one command to His disciples…the final words…go into all the world and make disciples. That is His goal…the redemption of the lost man and He has given us that one task.
Why are we so busy with so many other things He never told us to do?
Why are we worried about all the rest? It’s ok, God’s in charge, focus on the one thing he has told us to do and don’t worry… He’ll take care of the rest.
So… sit back, relax and listen one of my favorite songs by the incomparable Keith Green.
Here is the latest “truth” about blogs… people don’t read them!
Wow, what was a surprise.
Not really… I have known this for quite sometime.
To be honest most of us write for ourselves and not so much for others anyway.
But if people aren’t reading blogs anymore what is a better way to communicate? How can we share our thoughts, our lives, our stories and be read by those who may need them?
Do I stop because I am not having over 10,000 readers each month?
It seems Facebook fills some of that void, but Twitter and Instagram seem to be the new content zero sites people are using. What a day we are in. Everyone is on the internet, but few are actually using it for information. Now it’s purpose is entertainment and communication.
However, I do receive feedback, every now and then, from someone who has been helped by this blog.
So, what do us bloggers do?
Shall I continue?
Should I find another vehicle to communicate?
It seems, if no one is reading this, that the efforts are indeed for me alone, but if they help me is that enough? And, at the moment, I would say yes.
These blogs have been a journey for me, a story of what God is doing in me. If they help someone else great. If not, I will write them anyway.
God can sort all of that out.
I am proud to share the new single released by my son-in-law, Clay Kirchenbauer. Please let me know what you think of the song!!!
Tell me what you want because I don’t know who to be
and I never thought we’d ever see a battle we can’t beat
Tell me who you are, because I don’t know who you’ve been
And I never thought we’d ever face a battle from within
Beautiful enough to overwhelm my heart
A burning fire that consumes my every part
Loving you is more than hard, it’s like counting the stars
Come back down to earth and try not to get burned
because I’m trying to figure out how we lost everything we learned
Beautiful enough to overwhelm my heart
A burning fire that consumes my every part
Loving you is more than hard, it’s like counting the stars
Stars fade and people change, hearts break
You lose faith in the one who’s always kept you safe
No matter how hard I try I always find I fall right back to you
Beautiful enough to overwhelm my heart
A burning fire that consumes my every part
Loving you is more than hard, it’s like counting the stars
Loving you has only left me incomplete
but I’ve never loved something that made me feel so free
Loving you is more than hard, it’s like counting the stars
Clay Kirchenbauer – Counting the Stars
Music and Lyrics by Clay Kirchenbauer
Vocals / Piano – Clay Kirchenbauer
Guitars / Bass – Thom Daugherty
Drums – Kyle Kirchenbauer
Strings – Mark Evitts
Produced and mixed by Thom Daughtery @ AGITPROPER
Mastered by Dan Shike @ Tone and Volume Mastering
© Roleystone Media – 2014
“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.