Everything & Everyday Is A Gift

I am going to let you in on a little secret.

A few weeks ago, I was driving to Columbus for work and usually when I drive alone, I have the music blaring.

That isn‘t the secret. 

This is…

I like to sing along at the tTommyBoyop of my lungs like Tommy Boy (sorry for the mental picture… just be thankful you did not have to hear it). 

Oh yeah… I let er rip!!!!

I was completely overtaken with the sheer pleasure of singing as loud as I possibly could. The music was so good and I suddenly felt myself drift off into my imagination of me being on stage, singing “in concert” at a huge venue.

I suddenly found myself in a full-blown dance routine behind the wheel. Now for the record… I grew up Baptist.  Baptist’s do not know how to dance. I am no exception. 

Oh… the moves I was making.  I was definitely singing better than the singer on the radio as well.  I was so into it, in fact, to the point of being mesmerized by it.  

They say that texting and driving is bad.  I agree wholeheartedly.  But when you get so “into” the song on the radio that you lose yourself it is just as bad.  That moment when you find yourself at a stoplight and make the slow head turn to your right to see the car next you laughing so hard that they are crying because they have watched you for the past mile or so make a complete fool of yourself.

As my face turned a deep red from embarrassment, the light turned green and I waved to them and drove off.  Their car didn’t move.  They could not stop laughing. 

A few miles down the road, I had enough courage to turn the radio on again.

Then the thought crossed my mind, “I wish God would have given me the talent to sing.  Then, I wouldn’t have to resort to singing to the steering wheel.”

And yet, as I thought about it, I suddenly realized that nothing is mine!

It was then I realized that was the exact reason God did not give me the talent to sing.  Because it would have been about me and not about Him.  Whatever talent, or lack of talent I have is given by God. 

There is a reason we are the way we are.

It was a profound and yet simple truth that I need to be reminded of. Nothing is really mine. 

We claim ownership of so much…my time, my car, my house, my job, my wife….and on the list goes.  “Mine!” is probably the most used word in our language as we lay claim to portions of what God gave us.Everyday+is+a+gift+form+God

Everything, literally everything is a gift from the hand of God…my life, my day, my time, my talents, my job, my house and even my voice…. everything comes from Him.

When I change the descriptive word “mine” to “His” it changes how I view the things I think are mine to own, to control, to be angry about if lost.  So much of my life is fretting over “mine.”

I know this stuff.  I mean I heard it all before. Perhaps you have as well. But once more I am made aware that everything, literally everything is a gift from God’s wonderful gracious hand.

It’s great to be reminded once more of God’s gifts in your life.

It creates amazing opportunities to give thanks that I ignored before, when it was “mine.”  In reality it’s really His, given as a gift for my use, my time is now free to give away because it’s really His time and He can use it as He wishes.  And when I have a moment to sit and think, to rest and relax, I can thank Him for that sweet gift.

When IMusic wake up to a new day, I can thank Him for the gift of the day ahead, the moments to enjoy more of His gracious hand.  When I drive to work, singing at the steering wheel at the top of my lungs, I now thank Him for the gift of life.

Everything is a gift from God’s gracious hand.  

As you go through your day take moments and thank Him for letting you have and use His things, His good blessing, His air, His sunshine and His love. 

It will change your life.

Everything… Everyday… and I mean everything and everyday is a gift from God.

Just be glad you don’t have to hear me sing as I pass you in my car. 

For you… that in itself is another gift from God.

 

A Confession

I’ve made some seriously stupid mistakes.

I know you’re shocked right? You shouldn’t be.

Now I have been told that I don’t look or act like someone who has made stupid mistakes, but I can assure you, I’ve definitely knocked it out of Stupid Mistake Park before – multiple times. I’ve rounded those bases more times than I care to remember.stupid-mistakes

I am sure that everything happens for a reason.  But I cannot avoid the truth. Sometimes the reason for things happening a certain way is that you’re stupid and make bad decisions.

That would be me. I know I’m not alone though. Remember that stupid thing you did that time? I’m not talking about your most embarrassing moment that makes for a cute story at dinner. I’m talking about that big kahuna mistake, the one that could take you down if you ever ran for public office.

I sometimes have a really bad dream.  It is the same dream each time.  All my co-workers are gathered in the conference room, watching  each and every awful secret of my life played out on a big TV screen. The next thing I know, I have nowhere to hide and I just start running away as fast as I can. I can hear them talking about what they are seeing.  I can hear myself talking and telling the joke you privately made about your friend’s baby’s ugly cone head and it didn’t stop there. Not only were they watching my actions and hearing my words, but they could read my thoughts. Yeah, I kept running because I knew it was going to get worse.

It is then I wake up in a cold sweat.  The nightmare is over but I usually toss and turn the rest of the night because it seemed so real. I have had this dream many times in my life. Each time it ends the same way… me running as fast as I can to avoid the truth of my stupid mistakes.

To clarify… when I refer to “my stupid mistakes” I need to come clean and call them what they really were… “my guilty sins”.

If you’re like me, maybe you’ve got a nice, juicy handful of stupid things like that in your past (maybe even from this week). Believe it or not, despite our inclinations to the contrary and how hard we try to hide them, I think that the people who know us best ought to be well-aware of all of confessionthose things in our lives.

However, due to the fact that we all spend a great deal of our time trying to convince everyone we’ve got it all together, sharing this kind of sinful baggage with others doesn’t come naturally for most of us. But whether it comes naturally or not, if you’re on board with the Biblical message of confession, God requires us to verbally unload our sins with Him.

No fun, I know.

Wouldn’t it be even better if we could just pretend we never did that completely stupid thing that night, way back when?

Wouldn’t it be easier if we could just kind of mumble a generic prayer to God every time we screwed up? Oh wait!!! Isn’t that what most believer’s do?  I am convinced that many believer’s have never really confessed verbally the depth and magnitude of the sins in their life to God.  Many times it is masked by the line, “God, please forgive me of all my sins”. 

Now… I do not want to be misunderstood.  I believe that God does forgive us of all of our sin when we have prayed even that simple line.  I just feel that the reason many people struggle with the forgiveness of their past is that they have not verbally laid it at feet of our forgiving God.

if-we-confessWe are, indeed, told to confess our sins to God, who is “faithful and just to forgive us of all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9. But then we are also told, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” James 5:16.

Assuming we all agree that we need to confess our sins to God (even the sins from that night way back when), then this raises two big questions about the need to confess our sins to one another. First, how do we know who to confess to? The second question is why it’s even necessary to air our dirty laundry to others.

For me, the first question of to whom do we confess our sins is fairly easy:  I believe that we need to confess to the sins to another believer that I am accountable to.  I believe in the concept of accountability of one brother to another. I don’t believe you should stand on the corner and confess every single sin you have ever committed to just anyone. I believe you need to confess and be accountable to another believer. Find a brother in Christ if you are a man and a sister in Christ if you are a woman. Find someone you can be held accountable to. That being said… in confession… I don’t do this as often as I should.

JamesRegarding the second question as to the necessity of confessing to each other, why can’t we just confess our sins to God and be done with it? Why does God want us to drag other believers into it?

I think it’s because God understands how easy it is for us to cough out a confession to Him while we stare at the ceiling or to cry our eyes out until we feel like we’ve proven how bad we feel about being such losers. We sort of move on, but we never really know the pain of looking someone in the face and telling the truth about ourselves, nor do we experience the joy of receiving forgiveness in-person.

The aspect of confession has been on my mind and heart all week.  God has reminded me in a clear way that He knows who I am.

He knows who you are.

We’re not fooling Him, and we’d do well to stop trying to fool others.

Life is Never How You Draw It Up

Life is never how you draw it up.

Today, Saturday… July 11, 2015 will always be a special day for me.  Sometime today I will surpass 500000-sand500,000 visitors to this site. 

To think I would have a blog / website that would have over 500,000 visitors is beyond my comprehension.

It was never my intention.

If you look on the sidebar you will see that it says that I am at 498,363 visitors since September 3, 2008.  Well… in poetic justice it has been stuck on that number for a week or so now.  I have no idea why.  I have tried everything I know to do with the website that tracks such things and to avail it seems to be forever stuck on this number.  My only recourse is to reset the number back to zero.  It is not that important and in some odd way it is better to leave it where it is.  Maybe it is God’s way of keeping me humble. 

Anyway… I have access to the daily number of visitors and I am now only a hundred visitors away.  I will pass the mark sometime today.

A little history… writing a blog is hard.  The last 100,000 visitors took three years to get.  It seems easy but it is hard to maintain and keep going.  It probably is one of the hardest things I have ever done in my walk with Christ.

Most people fail in writing a blog. It is common aspect in the blogosphere.   Dead, unfinished, incompleted blogs that were started with good intentions.  People who get the idea that they want to blog_behind_blogstart a blog and start writing.  Some with the delusional idea that they even want to write a book.  It starts with the premise that they believe they have something to say, something that will be a help and will be an encouragement to another person.  It is done with all the vigor and excitement that they can muster.  The ideas are just flying all over the place. They sit down and empty themselves into a post and when that first post is revised a 100 times they finally post it and in many examples it usually isn’t that bad.  

Then the problem starts.  It doesn’t take them long to realize that writing is hard.  They spent so much emotion and personal information in that first post that they find as they sit at the computer, they are staring at an empty page.   If they are lucky, they may post a few more and then it happens. 

They quit. 

As it does for the vast majority of those that start a blog it sits empty and eventually deleted because of inactivity.  It is like the one-hit wonder of a rock band.  They get one good song and they can’t seem to get past it and eventually the creativity is just a rehash of the original song.  They all just start sounding the same. It is a common problem and one that I struggled with as well.

God has really blessed me with the opportunity to share my faith and I received a lot of encouragement along the way from other believers.  I have made friends that I will never meet in person until I get to heaven as a direct result of this blog.  I also have had my share of detractors.  There are those that have taken the time to be extremely critical of things I would write.  For the most part, I didn’t know those who would be so critical, but I have to admit there are a few  people I once called a friend that have made known their displeasure in me and in the things I write.

Whether or not people read the words I write is really not that important.  God knows the words I write because they are the words that reflect my heart.  It has been a wonderful experience and I have no doubt that writing this blog was what I was supposed to do over these past seven years.  It was my purpose in life.  It was what I was supposed to do and more importantly it was a way I could still share my faith and have a part in a ministry that could help others in their walk with Christ. 

What I have learned is that in spite of the failures in my life, God can still use me.  I have failed a thousand different ways over the years and when I came back to Him, He was faithful and true to forgive me and though I cannot be used in the same way He did years ago.  He still has a purpose for my life.

So… If you’re headed towards the brink, know that there is a way back. 

I’ve learned that it doesn’t all come back.

But in all the change, loss and frustration, I never lost my faith.  I never stopped believing.

I wouldn’t trade the lessons learned. I’ve learned things I never thought I would have to learn.

There are still layers to restore. Some will never be the same.

There may or may not be more blog posts to come. In truth, I will probably post more.  It is just that my blog waaaill no longer be a priority to me.  If I feel like writing… I will.

I am in the process of making a copy of all my posts so that there will be a hard copy to pass on to my grandsons and future grandchildren upon my passing.  I want them to have something that was from me and my heart. Maybe 50 years from now they will read it and smile.

One thing I’ve always tried to do is share my journey and to do so honestly.

Sometimes that’s not for the best.

Thanks again to all those that have extended kind words and played along.

Some footprints leave a deeper imprint than others… those are the ones that later tell a story.

Life is never how you draw it up and sometimes that is a very good thing.

Until next time.

Mr. Lee Died A Long Time Ago

The other day, a co-worker asked me some questions about my career in Education and my time of being a principal back in the day. When I began talking about it, I suddenly felt myself getting stressed.  I unconsciously began fidgeting with my hands, my voice changed slightly, and my breathing became shallow.  

It was like I was back in my old office again.

I quickly answered his basic question and laughed it off with a line I have used for some time now,

“That was 25 years ago, and Mr. Lee died a long time ago.”

I get different reactions when I say that.  Some get it… they realize that that was a long time ago.  I am no longer that person.

I have often told my wife that I have blocked out most of the memories of that period of my life when I was a teacher and principal of a Christian School in Fremont, Ohio.  Although she doesn’t really believe it, I hold to the fact that the statement is true.  I have watched videos that were taken during that period of me speaking and I don’t recognize the person that they say is me. I don’t know who that person is.  It surely is not me. It bears a resemblance of me, but I struggle to remember being a tca1part of any of the events.

For me, the years I spent there are much like watching a documentary on the History Channel.  I remember being taught that the events took place but I am not part of it. I vivid memories of the time I was in college.  My days at Liberty University are clear and I have wonderful memories of college life and being part of a missions team that traveled across America and around the world.  I can remember specific events and even conversations I had with people. I remember and think of these memories often, but memories of the school not so much.

In truth, I know that the memories are there.  I choose to block them from being in my daily thought process.  It is better to leave them where they are.  When I run into former students of mine, my memories of them are still stuck in the 80’s and 90’s.  They have not moved on in life and in my mind they are still in 8th grade and not the 40-year-old that stands before me.  When they address me as Mr. Lee, I quietly ask them to call me David.  Again… Mr. Lee died a long time ago.

When my co-worker asked me those questions, I was shocked at how easily I plunged back into that old reality.   It has been over twenty-five years since I was Mr. Lee.

I post that as a simple statement of the fact. If you think I make that statement as a reflection of something I view as negative, let me make something very clear… I don’t. 

I don’t view it as a negative time in my life at all.

No offense to any former student or staff member during my tenure there.  It is just some of those memories I’d really just rather not remember. That includes both good and bad memories.

I hold that time in my life as very precious and it took years for me to be able to move on.  It took me years to come to grips with the loss of my ministry.  When these memories are dredged up in my heart and mind I am reminded of the times I was in my office working or in the classroom teaching.  Those were the times I cherished and when I had clarity that I was doing what I was intended to do at that time. I was confident that I was doing what God wanted me to do.  

That was and is a wonderful place to be.  Being confident that you were doing exactly what you were supposed to do.  Not many people ever get to really experience that in their life. I am grateful for the 12 years I spent there. I cannot deny that there is a part of me where that office still resides deep inside of me.  Even after all these years, I still have a space in my soul that defined who I once was.

After I resigned my ministry, like a prodigal son… I ran.  theprodigal

I ran from God for a long time. As a matter of fact, I ran from Him for almost as long as I was in the ministry.  Twelve long years.  I avoided anything that had to do with my life as Mr. Lee.   I worked real hard to kill him.  I could not find any peace with God.  I could not forgive others and more importantly I could not forgive myself for what I allowed to happen.  I made sure that Mr. Lee was buried before I stopped running.

A prodigal son.  We all know one, have been one, or are waiting for one to come home.

Then a miracle happened.  No… I did not walk on water and no water was turned into wine.  But it was a miracle in my life and it’s significance could not be any less than of those.  I found a place where I could heal and I did not have to carry the baggage that I carried for all of those years.  I think of it in terms of being spiritually rescued. I had lost hope and a life line was thrown to me when I was about to go under for the last time.  Grace Community Church of Fremont, Ohio was that refuge that I needed and when I felt there was no place for me to turn to, I felt the warm embrace of fellow believer’s allowing me to sit in church without the  judgement and disdain I had felt in other places. 

I needed to sit. I needed to heal. I had felt so betrayed by the pastor’s I had worked with in the past that I had sworn that I would never be “pastored” again.  After running so long on my own, I realized that I needed to be under a pastor’s teaching and leadership once again.  I found that in Pastor Kevin Pinkerton.Grace-Logo-Color-011

So I sat.  I took the time to sit and be still, heal and be forgiven. Slowly God began working in my heart and I started to have forgiveness towards those I had felt had done me wrong.  I started to write this blog in 2008, and there is no doubt that for the past seven years it has almost filled the hole in my heart.

Finding a place to heal and recover from failure was a miracle to me.  We’re foolish to assume that miracles don’t happen anymore. I have learned that miracles come out of a gut-wrenching need and your last flashes of hope. If were not this way, we would not think of it as a miracle but as something common and not from God.  All things would then just be taken for granted. Finding a place to sit and heal, finding a place to forgive and be forgiven is nothing short of a miracle and I will never take it for granted. Still it took years to forgive myself.

Walking on the water means burning doubt and the terror of roaring seas, it’s not an option you choose for fun. It’s what you pick when you have to know that Jesus is big enough, and that He can come through when it’s devastating. Believing in miracles is one of life’s hard lessons I have learned.

I choose to still believe.

It is with that aspect that I still wonder what the future holds for me. What is next for me? As I wrote a few weeks ago in my post, The Next Big Thing  I am no longer looking for something “BIG” to happen for me. But I can say that I am open to whatever God would have me do.  I am looking for open doors of opportunity. 

Mr. Lee died a long time ago.  I want to leave him buried where he is.  I have no desire to bring him back. In so many ways…  I am a much better person than he was all those years ago.

The next stage of my life will not completely take the old memories away, but it will continue to redefine them and I can always pray the prayer from Psalm 139:22-23,

Search me, O God, and know my heart.
Try me and know my thoughts.
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

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).

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