Drop Your Stone

Because of recent events, I have to admit my hands have been full of rocks.

hand-holding-stonesI’ve wanted to throw them at certain people for quite some time now.  Every night after spending a short time scrolling down my FACEBOOK wall, I was adding names to my list of people who I felt needed a stone chucked in their direction.

I was getting rather upset.  My hands were packed full of rocks and I had quite a pile of them at my feet just waiting for me to pick up. To say that I was ready to begin catapulting them across the wide spectrum of people I disagreed with would be an understatement.  Many of my rocks were destined for those I have serious differences with. Particularly with those that have different beliefs than me. But some of these rocks I held were intended for some fellow believers.  Specifically those fellow believer’s that are part of  the ill-defined segment known vicariously as “Christian Millennials”.  Many of whom choose to take an opposing side of issues that are not in line with how they were raised.  Many turning their back on the very foundational principles that their parents taught them and then they spend most of their time and thoughts on bashing (throwing rocks) at this same foundation.  Many taking joy when a fellow believer fails in their Spiritual walk.

Defined as those that are 24 to 36 or so, depending on who you read.  They’ve been called the “Me, Me, Me Generation” by Time magazine.  There is a common belief that they feel “entitled” by just about everyone.  The bottom line is that these “millennials” believe they are right on just about every question of life.  Even if they do not think they are right, they just know that you are wrong.

And they are leaving the church in droves.

Now it would appear that I am making too broad of a statement and painting a picture that all people in this group are the same… they are not. Many are searching for the truth and the church truly does need to find common ground with them. Also, before I come across as just throwing judgmental hand grenades at them, please read this to the end.

It is said that 70 percent of those raised in the church disengage from it in their 20s.  One-third of Americans under 30 now claim “no belief in God or at least not the God they were raised to believe in.”

So there are 80 million millennialists (give or take) in the U.S.—and approximately the same number of suggestions for how to bring them back to the church.  But most of the proposals I’ve read fall into two camps.

The first goes something like this:  The church needs to be more hip and relevant. Drop stodgy traditions. Play louder music. Hire pastors with tattoos and fauxhawks. Few come right out and advocate for this approach, but it is clear they do not want their parents church.

Others demand a more fundamental change. They insist the church soften itjesus-thumps-up1s positions on key doctrines and social issues. They say, our culture is secularized. Let’s get with the times in order to attract the younger generation, they say. Let’s marginalize God and/or Jesus Christ as simply our “buddy” to help us out (with a wink and a smile) when we are in trouble and that everyone can live their life as they wish regardless of eternal consequence.  They believe we must abandon core beliefs and restrictive moral teachings of the traditional church. They believe the Bible is intended as a guideline, not necessarily absolute truth. They tend to question every story found in the Bible. It surly could not have happened the way the Bible said it did and if you do believe the Bible as fact, you are a racist, bigoted, hypocritical, uneducated homophobe.  More importantly… you are just plain wrong.

They really believe that Christianity must “change or die.”

I have issues with both approaches.

I want a pastor that is relevent and up to date with the issues of life for all members of my church. I want him to be aware of current events but he doesn’t have to look like me.  He shouldn’t have to look like them either.  Chasing just the “coolness” factor at church won’t work.

I have horrible memories of a pastor lecturing me at summer camp when I was a teenager about the evils of a rock band that had not put out an album in 10 years. He came to the “service” dressed like me and tried to use language that he thought would relate to me. He had no clue and more importantly he was trying to relate and be “cool” but failed miserably. 

In my experience, churches that try to be cool end up with a pathetic facsimile of what was cool about 5 years ago.  No one wants to see a 60-year-old pastor acting like he is 25.  It never comes off well.  Does this mean that a pastor is “done” in his ministry in his 50’s or heaven forbid his 40’s? What will be “cool” when these “Christian Millennialist’s”  turn 50?  Will they be as relevant as they present themselves today?  I think not. What will these, all-knowing (but have no real life experience) people do when the next generation comes along and has a different way doing things and have their own version of being “cool”? Will they see error in their ways? Or will it be too late to even matter?

The second tack is worse. Not only will we end up compromising core beliefs, we will shrink our churches as well. The advocates of this approach seem to have missed what happened to mainline liberal churches over the last few decades. Adopting liberal theologies and culturally acceptable beliefs has drastically reduced their attendance. When the premise of your take on Biblical accuracy of truth starts with “God couldn’t have” or “God didn’t” it is a slippery slope to complete unbelief.

In addition, I think  that in solely conceptualizing God as a nice, kind, “Jesus is my best friend,” lover of kittens and puppies way that we have, we lose some of the reverence for the righteousness of a Holy God. Make no mistake, there will be eternal consequences for the way we live our lives.

While I am still coming to terms with how to exactly handle my inner feelings in dealing with them, I still believe that people like me and those of the church need to find common ground with those that carry these beliefs.

Now back to my hand full of rocks…

throwing rocksI had enough. I was tired of seeing these people getting away with throwing rocks at other people who I felt did not deserve the bashing they were receiving. It was now my turn.  As I scrolled down my FACEBOOK feed and I was picking up more rocks and taking more names to receive them. I was going to respond to every post I disagreed with. Everyone was going to know what these people were really like.  I wanted to embarrass them. I wanted retaliation. I wanted to prove them wrong.

I threw a couple of rocks at a few of them.

But as I raised my arm to sling another of my well-deserved, verbal judgemental stones… a still small voice in my heart said:

“Before you throw another one… Maybe we need to have a little conversation as a reminder?”

Arguing, I began to tell the Lord that I was justified! They were wrong and I was right and it was important that everyone know!

As I thought about justifying my argument to set people straight, I was reminded of the story of a woman caught in the very act of adultery – which in Jesus’ culture was justifiably punishable by stoning.  Jesus faced this mob that was eager to stone this woman. He put a stop to it with a simple challenge: “anyone who has no sin in their life should step forward and throw the first stone”.  Jesus didn’t say, “If you’ve never committed adultery, pelt her now, as hard as you can!”

Nope. It was if you’re without sin. Without any sin.

Sin is sin is sin. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong. 

Reminding myself of this story, I let a few stones drop from my hand.

I’ve never molested a child or shot anyone or taken something that didn’t belong to me, but guess what? I’m still a fallible human being. I’ve messed up. A lot.  I am not perfect and I need grace and forgiveness.

I can’t throw that “without sin” stone. Can you?

A few more stones fell from my hand to the ground.

I pondered three Biblical truths:

  • No one is without sin. (Romans 3:23)
  • Treat others as you want to be treated. (Matthew 7:12)
  • Vengeance is mine, says the Lord. (Romans 12:19)

I need to accept that God will take care of the outcome.  It’s not my job.

Regardless of my “feelings” or “thoughts”, it is not my job to stone those who I think are wrong.

Maybe this is the common ground we need to have.  Instead of feeling like we need to throw stones at those we disagree with maybe we all need a reminder of our own sin. It is impossible to be self-righteous when you recognize the sin in your own life. I think we will struggle to judge others when the grace that covers our sin is front and center on your mind.

I dropped the remaining stones to the ground.

I am going back inside my glass house now.  First to wash my hands, secondly to wash my windows because it seems I haven’t been seeing things clearly.

Again, I need to accept that God will take care of the outcome.

Throwing stones…why does it seem as if everyone is guilty of doing this? Why are we so quick to judge?

Whatever you’re thinking of throwing… just don’t.

Drop your stone.

 

Bookmarks In The Pages of Life

Life is a book of pages. 

We laugh. We cry. We smile. We stumble. We stand. We fail. We succeed. We win and we suffer loss.

Every page defines who we really are. On some level we all “bookmark” the events in life so that we can bribookmarkng them up in our memory to be relived as we move on in life.

The goal in life is to have one perfect memory that is all about those moments, big or small, that make you wish they’d last forever. Those moments you want to stop in time, when everything feels perfect, even for just a split-second.

Snapshots of the mind. Moments to treasure forever.

It is easy to bookmark the great things that happen in our life.  We do not struggle to remember the events in our life that are good.  We can remember almost every single detail of  good life events.  Great memories of graduations, engagements, weddings and almost every detail of our child’s life from birth to this very moment.  These are easy to bookmark and if we are lucky enough, we are able to put a few of these pages together to create a nice “chapter” in our book of life memories. 

The sad part is that we all have bookmarked pages of life of things we do not want to remember.

Life is full of these bookmarked moments.

Life is complicated. It starts before we’re ready, it continues while we’re still trying to figure out the point of it. And it ends before we’ve worked out just what to do.

I’ve learned that in an instant life can change.
Just like that.
No warning.
No rewind button.
No pause or stop button.

Suddenly we are scrambling to “bookmark” memories as fast as we can in our minds.

Sadly, I have had to this a few times in my life.  

My brother Bobby and my grandfather in 1970. Just a few months before Bobby died.

At 9 years old, I had to scramble to bookmark memories of a 14-year-old brother that was taken from our family in a car-train accident.  I can remember almost every minute of that fateful day he was taken from us. But I think that over time when we block out the pain of loss, it causes us to lose some of the precious memories.  These “bookmarks” have faded with time and now at 54, I struggle to remember him.  

I lost my grandfather in 1986. I have great bookmarked memories of him.  He was a great influence on me and there isn’t a day I don’t wish I could talk to him one more time.  The funny thing is that I have some bookmarked memories of him that I choose not to open in my book of life memories.  I systematically only open the pages that make him larger than life.  I only open the pages that fit the image I have of him in my mind.  Those pages of him acting poorly or negatively, although bookmarked, will remained closed and locked. Never to be opened again in the confines of my mind. I guess we all do that on some level. When someone dies, we freely open the “good” pages and quietly put those bookmarks that would taint the memory of a loved one under lock and key. 

Me and Bryan Blakely in our our “Leisure Suits” getting ready to pick up our dates for the 1975 Homecoming Dance.

Many of the bookmarks in my life were influenced by Bryan Blakely, my childhood best friend.  The first pillar in my life.  The days of my early childhood were influenced by his presence in my life.  Not much happened in my life from the age of 5 to 16 that Bryan and I did not experience together.  Somewhere along the age of 16, we started to drift into different directions. Over the next 30 years whenever our paths crossed, we would always talk and we knew that there would always be a special friendship between us, but it would never be the same as it was growing up on that alley between Walnut and Washington Streets in Oak Harbor, Ohio.   He died in June of 2009. 

My best friend from my high school years took his own life.

Steve and I during our senior year in 1979.

Now that is a bookmark that I would rather not have to open. I was devastated.  I was confused.  I was filled with questions. I was overwhelmed with regret.  I was angry.  I was ashamed.  I was frustrated.  I was hurt.  I was all of these things and more.  

I will forever be grateful for spending 40 years of my life with the pleasure of knowing Steve Schueren.  Steve was my closest high school friend.  I looked up to Steve and I will always hold him in high regard as a man of God. All the bookmarked memories I have shared with him will forever be cherished and remembered.  All of us who knew Steve know that he will live forever in our hearts.

Bob Emrich

About the age of 16, I was introduced to a man who would become so influential throughout my teen and adult years.    He grew to be not only be my friend but he was no less a father figure in my life.  Our father/son relationship lasted for years.  Bob Emrich loved me as a son and he loved me unconditionally.  God took him home after a battle with cancer.  He wasn’t perfect but he taught me so much and I still miss him everyday.   There is no doubt of his influence in my life. Forever bookmarked in my memory.

One would think after reading this, I would have this bookmarking thing down.  But like most people, I move from day-to-day not really paying attention to how quickly things could change.

This past week I was reminded once again of making every effort to bookmark memories on the pages of my life.  Phil Disney is someone who I traveled with when I was in college.  As some of you may know, I traveled with a singing team all over the United States and the the world when I was a student at Liberty University.  Phil was a member of the same team I was on. To say that Phil and I are great friends would be an overstatement. We have the common bond of similar bookmarked memories of our time in college. We are friends on Facebook and every now and then we may comment to each other on something we post. But last week, I was shocked when I heard that his wife had suddenly passed away. 

Phil and Jana Disney

Phil and Jana Disney

There it is again… life can change in a moment.

By all accounts, Jana was a wonderful wife, mother and friend. More importantly, she was a true example of a Godly woman.  I spent a few hours this past week reading all of the comments and memories of her.  What a wonderful legacy she left upon her family and her friends.  All of these memories are the bookmarks that each and every one that knew her will retain for the rest of their lives. 

Another reminder to pay attention to all of our life moments because it all can change in an instant. 

Why does it take big kicks in the behind for us to realize what’s important in life?  Most of the time, I believe, it is because we get caught up in chasing things in life. Whether it be money, materials, certain experiences we think will solve our problems or even people. Sometimes we get so engaged with everything in the future or in the past and what it can bring us, that we forget about all that is right in front of our faces.

Are you paying full attention to the things you love? To each moment? What memories have you bookmarked in your memory? I implore you to start with one thing today. One thing you want to experience fully.  Maybe something that will be with your wife, husband, your children or grandchildren. 

Maybe you need to make yourself available to allow a loved one to make a bookmarked memory with you.  Remember your children are making bookmark memories with you as well.

I realize more and more how incredibly blessed my life has been and I know a good part of that must pay tribute to the people that surround my life, past, present and future.  

Lives that vary so greatly, the people I went to school with formed a good part of who I am today. The good, the bad and all of the in between!  

Time goes quickly and some stay in touch more than others, but there’s a bond in growing up in the small town of Oak Harbor, Ohio or in the time spent in a small Baptist Church and Christian School that only those there can understand.  I suppose it’s the pros and cons of living with a small group of people that knits our hearts together.  The losses that take their toll on such a small community can seem larger than life because of the percentage they take away from the whole. They can feel like holes that are irreparable.   But at the same time the wonderful memories of victories are celebrated as monumental events by one and all and are remembered fondly.

My challenge is for anyone reading this is to take the time to make memory bookmarks in the confines of the hearts and minds of your family.  In turn you will be able to do the same, before it’s too late.

If something were to happen and in that instant when everything would change for my family and friends, I  guess there wouldn’t be much more to say than this…

The Next Big Thing

I am sure that the next “Big Thing” isn’t going to happen for me.

It doesn’t really matter what the “Big Thing” is — I know what it was and it’s time I moved on.

Next-BigIt has been a nice journey… as the days, months, and then years passed by, I began to see that I wanted the “Big Thing” because I believed it would make me happy. It was something that I wanted and I have come to the conclusion that it wasn’t something that God wanted for me. I began to notice that the harder I worked to get the “Big Thing”, the more frustrated and miserable I became.  Basically, God was being kind enough to protect me from getting the very thing I was seeking.

It has been a long ride… but the truth is something changed during the long wait.

I’m sure you can relate to wanting something, then praying, waiting, and nothing happening.

It leaves you feeling like God is either ignoring you or punishing you for wanting it too badly.

Granted, over the years, I still did what I could to make the “Big Thing” happen, but as time passed I stopped feeling that I “had” to have it.  I stopped striving so hard for it.  I discovered that my significance is not wrapped up in having the “Big Thing” but the joy is and was in the journey to find myself and to grow in the grace of God.  

As I began waiting on God, rather than anxiously waiting on the “Big Thing”, my joy grew deeper, because my joy wasn’t dependent on His giving me the “Big Thing”, it was being dependent on Him. That was something I had forgotten all those years ago when I was running fromthe-next-big-thing-logo God.  

No, the “Big Thing” wasn’t meant to be. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been wonderfully rewarded for waiting on God.  As I have waited, my great reward has been knowing that God loves me and that I don’t need anything except Him to make me feel significant. And that was more reward than I could ever ask for. 

As I look back, that was probably the “Big Thing” that God had intended for me all along.

So… what’s next for me?  I don’t know.

I guess and I’ll just wait to see what the “Next Big Thing”  God has in store for me.

These Things Take Time

Years ago… I used to stay at my grandfather’s house for a week or so during the summer. I have so many great memories of those times and I think about them often. 

During one of these summer visits my grandfather and I planted a tree.  He told me that it would grow and that one day it would be huge.  He told me just to sit back and I could watch it grow.

I took him literally. I watched it all the time I was there and it didn’t do anything!  I was hoping to see it grow, but it Tree in a handdidn’t move, it didn’t change….it didn’t do anything! I’m sure you’re thinking, “You’re crazy, you can’t see a tree grow!” 

I remember the last day of my stay that summer and I asked him why the tree didn’t grow while I was there.  He looked at me, paused, chuckled and then he said,  “These things take time.” 

My grandfather knew that it would be a long time before his prediction would come to reality.  He knew that he would not live long enough to see the tree grow to its full majestic size.  He knew it would be something that I would remember in the future. And… sure enough few years ago… long after my grandfather died, my wife and I were driving and we found ourselves in the area of my grandparents place.  We drove by my grandfather’s old house and there was the tree that was planted all those years ago. It was huge.  The biggest tree on his old property. 

He was right…  these things take time.  

It was the completion of one of the many lessons that he taught me when I was a young boy.  He knew that there would be a day in the future from that hot summer day that I would drive past that tree and remember him and that special day we planted it.

But the lesson of this tree has taught me more than I ever could imagine.

I have always been a person to question things.  There are so many things I don’t understand.  There are many questions that I want answers for.   I get frustrated at times when I don’t get the answers I am looking for. I am not very patient. Sometimes the truth isn’t easy to find and I want to know all the answers.  It is during these frustrating times I have to remember that tree and remember that answers some times take time to receive.

I also used to get so frustrated when I would look at other believer’s. I could watch someone for months and they may not seem to change at all!  I could quickly conclude they weren’t really a Christian in the first place or they weren’t really Take Time“serious about their faith” because I couldn’t see their growth.

Why do we expect the growth of a person to be something we can see and measure?  I have learned that it’s usually not something I can see immediately.  True growth is slow, steady and calmly happening…it takes time….you won’t see it but it’s happening.

Again… these things take time.  

Paul wrote to the Christians  in Ephesus, “Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.” 

I have been a Christian for more than 45 years….most of my life…and I still have so many things that aren’t as they should be….but I’m growing.   One day, I will finish the race and become what God made me to be….until then I’m going to keep growing and look for the answers that I am seeking.

Be patient and just watch because these things take time.

Each Time This Light Flashes Another Soul Passes Into Eternity Without Christ

For the past few weeks, I have had some really strange dreams.  They are a mishmash of memories of my past all thrown into some strange current situation where I have no idea what is going on.

For example, a few nights ago I was dreaming that I was doing my current job but was sitting in my old office at the school.  I was trying to get in contact with my current employees but all I saw were my former students. 

Strange.  

I haven’t dreamed about the school for a long-long time.  

Then last night I was dreaming that I was standing in the lobby of the church I grew up in.  I was staring at a red light that was flashing on a table of a visiting missionary.  The missionary was there that day to share his ministry and what he was doing in some far off land.  The red light flashing represented a soul that had passed on to face eternity.

It was a  déjà vu moment for me.

Because many years ago, when I was a teenager, I attended this service.  I don’t remember the message, but I do remember the little red flashing light. This little light was on with these words below it-

“Each time this light flashes another soul passes into eternity without Christ.”

My first thought was, “Oh, that’s a neat thing.” But, after taking my seat in the service it started to bother me. Often, during the service, I would look back at the light and it was still blinking. My thoughts ran from, “I wish that would stop!” to “What if I just unscrew the bulb?” and “how can we just sit here and ignore that light?”

That little red flashing light, meant to communicate the need for mred lightissions, has been an ever-flashing light in my life to remind me of the crisis of humanity and that people are dying without Christ.

What seemed like a neat idea at first started to really convict me.  Have I done my part in reaching others for Christ? I try to convince myself that I have… or at least tried to.  I know that God knows the truth, but that doesn’t keep me from trying to tell a lie.

It’s amazing how we can convince ourselves that God doesn’t know that we tell Him lies. We also think He believes them.

To be honest, this flashing red light has bothered me for many decades. How many of those flashes represented people I was responsible for? How many of them were not supposed to flash because I did not do my part?

How about you? What is your responsiblity to the flashing red light?

I think that some dreams are placed in our sleep by God to get our attention.

So today, once more, maybe for the 10,000th time, I’m thinking of that little flashing light that has been flashing in my mind and heart for these many decades and I need to be honest about what I am going to do to make that light flash a little slower.

May our prayer be that we would be part of God’s plan to help the many we meet not be one of those eternal flashes.

Jesus Calms The Storm

Picture3Jesus calms the storm…in our lives.

Can I say out loud that I think that’s not always true?

Oh no, I hear a rumbling in the church pews! Before you start screaming heresy and picking up stones, I’d like to add, I believe He can… and there are times He does.

No doubt.

My God has more than enough power to quiet all the storms that rage, to still the mightiest of winds that threatens to beat us up and rescue us out of the water that longs to hold us under.

He wouldn’t even have to flex a muscle. He could just use His voice, “Be Still” and complete peace would awe even the toughest skeptic.

But I have a hard time with promising such things. I don’t speak for God. He needs no spokesman but I guess I’m tired of God getting a bad wrap and maybe it’s because we win people with things that aren’t completely accurate about God and then there’s a let-down effect.

Too many times people come to Jesus because they hear “He’ll fix your problem” or “He’ll calm your storms” and when the storm continues to rage they think, “Well, obviously this is a bunch of junk. This ‘Jesus’ didn’t do anything for me! My storm still rages!”

They are let down and put out with God because they point at Him and say, “He didn’t do what He was supposed to do!” 

Truth is… I’d love an easy life. I’d love a life without storms, without trials, without pain… and fortunately that’s a life that’s in my future (it’s called Heaven). But I’m not home yet. I’m still here standing with the wind smacking me in the face, and the water filling up the bottom of my boat!

Hey… I’ll let you in a little secret…

Life     Is      Hard…

What I’ve come to learn and love about God is that He is a very present God in the midst of such hardstorms. He is near, as close as a whisper, as close as my skin, with a hand extended.

He indeed is our Savior! Our hope and rescue. He is with us. That is what He promises.

He might and He might not calm our storm, but His promise to walk with us in the midst of that storm stands true! There have been many times I’ve cried out to God to change my circumstances or my frustrations and He chooses not to. And in this moment, with His own way, He calms ME… not the storm… ME! And even when the waters rise or the wind picks up, I’m fine. I’m at peace.

So don’t hesitate to ask God to calm your storm. You’re not crazy for wanting the rocking of your boat to cease! We all wait for the moment we feel the settling of the water, and we can finally look up to witness the clouds parting, with promises of better days ahead.

If you are in a storm, know that an even greater promise remains, One that promises to carry you through the storm! He is not ignoring you, He is near, He loves you, and if He’s not stilling the storms He’s wanting to still YOU. A Peace that holds your hand, calms your fears, silences your questions and brings strength to your heart and soul.

Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).

In Search of Inspiration

I have needed some inspiration.  I have been through some dry spells when it comes to my writing before but this last spell has been a rough one.  I usually could come up with something to write Inspirationabout even if it was basically a repeat of something I had written about before.  Not this time… I could not bring myself to even type a word.

No words… no ideas… nothing to say.

I have to ask myself, “Is it time to close the book and pack this blog away with the other million or so blogs that are not being read by anyone?”

I wanted to make it last… I wanted to reach 500,000 visitors.  I am roughly 14,000 visitors short as of this writing. That sounds so self-centered… so… self-serving. But if you honestly know me, you know that I do not write to get recognition. I have turned down opportunities to try to promote my blog on different media sites.  That was not why I started writing in the first place.

I started writing again to fill a place in my life that was empty.  A place that was emptied by the choices I made in life and I needed to fill that place with inspiration and thought. With life running so fast, there’Young man reading small Bibles little time and energy left to try a muster up some inspiration to write.  To be honest with the truth, I long to have another opportunity to teach from the Bible again.  It has been over twenty years since I have had the honor of sharing from God’s Word in a classroom setting. There was always a small part me that believed that I would get the chance to once again be a part of a ministry besides sitting in the pew.  

It is evident to me as I think on these things that God has another plan. As much as I try to believe, I do not believe that it will ever happen. Through the small things and the biggest things, life has certainly taught me this lesson over and over. Things are harder for those who don’t believe. And they’re much easier for those who do. Lord knows that I’ve created a thousand life obstacles by crowding out my faith, or by blatantly ignoring what it was whispering to my heart. It has made life harder because I had to tear down a thousand walls brick by brick by finally believing they had to fall. This is one wall that I have not been able to tear down.

That being said, I must say that I have witnessed others who have endured a divorce and/or failure brickin marriage go on and teach and “do things” in the church as if it never happened.  That opportunity has never been offered to me.

I am not bitter about the price I have paid for my failure or the opportunities that others have been given. It just saps my ability to be inspired at times.

So it’s becoming more important to me that I not waste too much time dwelling on what will not happen and focus on what can be done because my time is running short.  Now before that gets misconstrued, I am not dying, at least I don’t have any plans on dying anytime soon. But blogs and websites like mine are dying daily.  I cannot help but think that this website… this blog… my stories… my words that I write will be the only voice that I will ever have. In no time at all it will be silenced.  

So what can keep me inspired until that day comes? I thought it would be nice to share one thing that has always brought inspiration to me.  As many of you know, I love music.  All types and all styles. It brings me inspiration and I never write unless I have music blaring through my headphones.

One of my favorites is one that I am sure not many people have ever heard of. I am blown away by the composer, Ólafur Arnalds. I discovered him on Spotify.  His album called, “Living Room Songs” is a masterpiece.  Each note has purpose.  The melodies are unique.  Emotion is ever-present.  It Living Roomtakes me on a journey every time I listen. Sometimes it breaks my heart. Sometimes it heals it. I always feel something.  I’m always inspired.

The story behind the album is that he committed to writing one new song each day for a week.  At the end of each day, he gathered a small string section, and there in his living room, they recorded  what he’d written that day on a live microphone. No editing and no overdubs.

It’s beautiful in its imperfection. Each time the piano bench cracks, the pedal squeaks or a violin string falters in pitch for a moment, I smile to myself.  I love that they moved ahead, not feeling the need to repair or hide the ‘mistake’. And somehow, the song actually becomes more beautiful for it.  At the end of the week, it was done, finished – created and shared with the world… all it’s flaws exposed.

That gives me hope.

I’m inspired by what he was able to accomplish in a day – in a week.  And I can’t help but consider what I could do if I lived with that kind of intention and fearlessness.  If I’m honest, it’s scary for me to commit to something before I’ve got it figured out and know what the outcome will be.  Listening to this music makes me want to fly without a net. And it makes me think I can.  It makes me braver.  Not because it’s perfect and grand – but because it’s imperfect.  The flaws are evident… but they still are powerfully touching.

Just like you and me.

We spend so much of our lives trying to cover up our flaws and shortcomings, but what if we could just embrace them and move on?  What if we didn’t let them stop us?  What if they simply became part of the story we’re sharing?

What if I didn’t have to have it all figured out before I was willing to begin? What if I were willing to fly without a net?  What if I lived my life with more intent and focus? What if I made peace with my imperfections and shortcomings?  What if I even embraced them and made them a part of my story? What could I share with the world? What might it inspire in others?

Regardless of the type of music you like, I think almost everyone reading this will fall in love with “Living Room Songs” by Ólafur Arnalds.  It’s perfect background music, especially on rainy days and Saturday mornings. It has become one of my favorites – because it’s more than a piece of music.

It’s an exercise in fearlessness and exposure to what is real, flaws and all.

And that… inspires me.

NOTE: I have attached a video of the process and recording of “Living Room Songs”.  Enjoy!!!

To Be Silent… to Listen… and to Hear

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

….a time to be silent and a time to speak….

                                                                   (Ecclesiastes 3:1,7)

Taking some time from writing… to be silent, to listen, and to hear.

Won’t you join me?

I Wonder… a lot…

I have been absent for a bit. I guess being busy with life and work has me distracted, but I wanted to share a few thoughts this morning before the day gets too busy.

wonderThese are just a few rambling queries, so don’t take them too serious, but they are thoughts that leave me silent and more often than not leave me with more questions than answers.

Here we go…

I wonder in five years from now, will I remember what I did yesterday? Will I remember what I do this week?

I wonder why life is so easily forgotten?

I wonder what we would do differently if we knew nobody would judge us?

I wonder if we knew that everyone we know was going to die tomorrow, who would we visit today?  Why are we not going to them now?

I wonder why we accept regret as an option for our behavior?

I wonder if my greatest fear will ever come true?

I wonder if I have been the kind of friend to someone who I would want as a friend?

I wonder why the older I get, I question what I once considered wrong is now not so bad?  Did it change or did I? Is it possible to know, without a doubt, everything that is good and what is bad?

I wonder which is worse, failing or never trying?

I wonder if not now, then when?

I wonder why God put us messed up broken people in charge of telling the world about Him? Didn’t He know how bad we would be at this?Question-Mark-Balls

I wonder why all the atheists I see are so mad at God? If they don’t believe in Him then why is He so significant in their life?  Why don’t they just talk about something else?

I wonder why people get so caught up in arguing about things of the Bible that really have no impact on eternity?  When you start your thoughts with “God couldn’t…” it is a slippery slope to true unbelief.

I wonder how can I live in such a way that I can show the love of God to others who don’t know Him? It often seems fake and “plastic”. I wish I could break down the walls between me and other people and really let them see God’s love.

I wonder why we are all so afraid? All around me are people with an underlying panic, a fear driven manic that keeps them moving so they don’t have to really think about their life.

I wonder what impact my life will honestly have on others?  How can a person live for 70 to 80 years and then be so quickly forgotten? Then I wonder why some people are always remembered? What is the secret? How does that happen?

I wonder if life is so I-Wonder-1920x1080short, why do we do so many things we don’t like and like so many things we don’t do?

I wonder if we are doing what we believe in, or are we settling for what we are doing?

I wonder why we live in this great battlefield for the souls of men? It seems so dark at times, but then God shows up. I’m looking forward to the day when the battle is over.

I wonder why we so easily value things above people?

I wonder what kind of life my grandchildren will have?  It also is followed by the fact that I fear for their future as well.

I wonder, and honestly so, how God makes all this work out for my good? But He does.

Just a few questions I am pondering on this day…

I wonder if you read them?

I wonder if they made you think?

I wonder… a lot…

The Rest Is Still Unwritten

One of my favorite books is “Give Us This Day” by Sidney Stewart.  He was an AmeGive Usrican soldier who survived the Bataan Death March that took place during WWII.    The story as told by Stewart,  was held captive by the Japanese in the Philippines.  He became a captive because the US military pulled out of the Philippines and abandoned him and about 11,000 other American soldiers.  He endured the horror and atrocities of the Death March itself where he was forced to walk over 90 miles where most of these soldiers died.  The total death toll is not known, however, it is estimated that over 20,000 soldiers and civilians died during the march.  He then was held captive for over 4 years as a prisoner of war (POW).  The story of his experience, compassion, friendship and faith moved me to tears.  Once I started reading it I could not put it down.  It is a great story of honor and perseverance of the human spirit.

I loved turning the page of that book.  Why?

Because it was a story that needed to be written and more importantly, it was a story that needed to be read. I think we all want to be remembered and I think all of us have a story to tell. As the evidence of this post will show, I do not have the talent to write a book, especially not one that could impact the world like Sidney Stewart’s book. 

However, I think that most people are eager to leave something behind bearing their name; many of us can’t bear the thought of passing through the world without smudging it up a little with our fingerprints.  We seek creation, and the logical conclusion is a story to tell. Now, I know I don’t have a story like  Sidney Stewart’s, but that is not to say that I would not like to try to put something down on paper for my kids and grandchildren to read.

However, the thought of me writing and reproducing a story is foolishness to me.  Does planet earth really need my remnants?  Do I owe this to humanity?  The obvious answer is a resounding NO!!!

So, do not look for my book on the discount table at the local Barnes & Noble.  It will remain in the safe confines of my computer and maybe one day it will be extracted by my children.  Maybe they will have a good laugh and a good time remembering the memories of a life that was once part of theirs. 

Maybe…just maybe, they may even print it off and place it on the same shelf as Sidney’s.

Truth is… we all are writing our story.  It is just we are not putting it down on paper. I can’t help but see our livnotebook-pen-writing-stylees as stories we’re writing and telling as we go. We wake up to a blank page and fill it throughout the day with our thoughts and actions. And as we look back on the chapter that’s closing (2014) – and forward to the unwritten page before us, we can’t shake the question, “What kind of story are we writing?”.

Is the life we are living a love story? – a how to book? – a mystery? – a tragedy? – a comedy? I’m sure that it could be all of these at times, and more.

So here we stand.  2014 is written.

For some of us, it was a year filled with struggle and hurt. For others, the greatest success and happiest moments of our lives. But one thing we all have in common is… it’s in the past.

A new year of blank pages is before us, ready to be filled with the best experiences we can dream up.

But we have to face the unwritten page, and that can be harder than it sounds. There are all kinds of obstacles in our way, tying our pages together, boarding up our hearts, building walls around our dreams – doing anything and everything to stop us.

But regardless, it will be written.  Even if we don’t get out of bed, the story continues. Even if we do what we did yesterday, the story continues. Even lack of thought will fill the page.  

Don’t let what has been dictate what will be. We all 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 tomorrow.

Even if you can’t change your circumstances, you can change your thoughts and actions. You can change what you do and you absolutely can change the story you’re telling.

What if we’d approach the new year as a blank page waiting to be filled with the greatest story we could tell?  What if we’d laid down our past experiences, expectations, mistakes, successes – and start fresh? What if we’d walk forward knowing that if we’re still here there’s something beautiful The-rest-is-still-unwrittenwaiting for us to discover?

Welcome to your new chapter.

Write it well. Live it beautifully… and remember the rest is still unwritten.

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