Month: May 2010

Lessons I Am Learning (Things God Has Taught Me)

They say that you are never too old to learn.  I have to say that I agree with that statement.  I am learning more about God than I have ever have in my life.  I’m learning some things about myself that I would have never discovered had I not gone through the experiences over the past year.  I am a better person as a result of these lessons learned.

A long time ago I learned that writing down thoughts and ideas was necessary for me. It gives the thoughts in my head a concrete place to exist and makes it easier for me to express myself in a rational manner.  So taking the time today to review all of the scratches of my thoughts that I put down on paper has been enlightening to say the least.

What I’ve discovered is that we are all on a journey through life and during this journey we will be presented with lessons to learn. These build on themselves, so you have to pass one life lesson before you can move on to the next. Sometimes you may repeat the same lesson for many years before God gives you a passing grade and you get to move on to the next lesson. I know there were several times in my life where I was stuck in that very situation.  God kept trying to teach me and I was too stubborn to listen and learn.

So as I close in on another birthday (in a month) I sit here and I wonder…what can I say about what I have learned over the course of the past year?  What could I possibly write?  So here goes…I will attempted to share some of the things that God has taught me over this past year. (In no particular order)

  • You are never alone, and there is never trouble that is beyond help.
  • The worst thing that you could do in life is to dishonor God, yourself or your family and then living life without setting it right.
  • Without God, life’s storms are too strong to withstand.
  • Wealth and fame are an illusion.
  • The only times I’ve been truly miserable is when I was lying to myself or to others.
  • There is no experience that is bad—experience just is. It is what you do with that experience—will you use it to shape your life for the better, to become a stronger person, or will you allow those experiences to smother and destroy?
  • Always have a picture on your desk of someone you love and admire.
  • Don’t let life pound over you wave after wave. You’re not a rock. Learn to seek  shelter on Christ the Solid Rock.
  • Learn from the tides and the currents of life.  God is directing them.
  • Choose to sail—refresh, and do not drift through life.
  • Live life with intent.
  • I am that I am is the most powerful phrase in any language as it is the name of God and never take it in vain.
  • The Lord lives and is personal, and He loves; He’s always there to help.
  • We have to train ourselves to hear Him—like a muscle, the more we use it, the louder He becomes.
  • Serve Him, serve Him in all things.
  • Stand where He wants you to stand, where you have a purpose.
  • Life is hard, and then it gets harder but every second of life is worth it.
  • Always say what you mean and mean what you say.
  • Turn the other cheek.
  • Believe in what you believe to be true.  Not because someone has told to believe…but because you have proven it to be true in your life.
  • Freedom and rights are given to man by God—they are His, we are the guardians.
  • Refine manner. Gentleness, meekness, kindness will always be the currency of any true value.
  • Stuff doesn’t matter.
  • It’s never too late to change.
  • Forgiveness is divine.
  • The atonement is real.
  • You are worthy.
  • Hell is real.
  • We can have a life and an eternity of regret if we are not careful to keep our regret debt low.
  • It is never wrong to do the right thing.
  • Learn to love those that you don’t even know or may not like.
  • Read the Scriptures everyday because they are alive—He speaks to you through them.
  • There are no coincidences in life.
  • Sleep hard but sleep less.
  • Pray on your knees.  My most effective time in prayer is when I am on my knees.
  • To whom much is given, much is required.
  • Never want anything too much—you will pay too high of a price one way or another.
  • Someone you meet today is afraid or suffering.
  • Always tithe.
  • Never let the sun go down before saying I’m sorry for your wrongs.
  • Life does go by too fast.
  • Keep a journal—write what you think.
  • The Lord’s house is a house of order. There is order in all things—find it.
  • You will have very few real friends, cherish those that you do have.
  • Things will change.
  • The hardest thing to do is to admit failure—to admit weakness, but only the very strong do.
  • Fasting without prayer is a diet.
  • I’ve learned that comfort isn’t always comfortable…and though God is ever-present in our time of need, it doesn’t always mean that things are going to ‘feel’ so good…or even tolerable.
  • I’ve realized that for the Lord to be close to the ‘broken-hearted’, then the ‘broken-hearted’ must feel unspeakable pain.  I’ve felt the crumbling of my very own heart.  Two of my closest friends  died this past year and I even had my own brush with my mortality.  I have felt the pain of having one of my children make a decision in their life that I totally disagree with.  But I love them regardless whether my heart is broken or not.  I am sure that I have broken God’s own heart with my sin and actions over the years.  He loves me regardless of my sin.  This is a hard lesson to learn.
  • Most of the random acts of kindness I’ve seen come from the most unlikely sources.
  • I’ve been appalled at the complete absence of empathy from other believer’s when someone they know fails in their spiritual walk.
  • ‘Comfort’ isn’t necessarily ‘comfortable’
  • True comfort has very little to do with ‘feeling good’
  • I have learned to be more reflective…
  • I am very grateful for the people in my life.
  • I am very grateful for my health.
  • I am grateful for my Church and my Pastor.

This list is just a few of the things I have learned over the past year.  It is  definitely not complete and I hope to be able to learn a lot more as the years go by in my life. This past year has indeed been one of much learning and I want to continue to have my heart and my mind prepared for what God will have for me to learn.

What has God taught you this past year?

A Good “Mood” Kicking Required

I’ve mentioned it before, I am a morning person.  It is usually the time of day that I am most at peace and happiest.  It usually takes a few hours into the day until my mood takes a drastic turn for the worst.

But today was different. I woke up this morning in bad way from the start.  I got up looked out the window and realized that my tee time…errrr  “business meeting” at 11:00 was going to be canceled due to a thunderstorm moving in.  I was not a happy camper.

Now I know…there will be other days to golf.  No big deal.  Usually by this time of year, I have golfed enough to feed my fix.  But this year I have not touched a club.  As a matter of fact, I haven’t even taken my clubs up from the basement.  I was looking forward to the day because I have been so busy at work that I just wanted some time to put my mind in neutral and just play a round of golf.  It wasn’t going to happen.

Sure enough…and I am sure you can guess what happened next.  As soon as my wife and daughter  get up, I start ranting and raving about whatever I can find to complain about.  Taking my “mood” out on them, just because I am frustrated about “my selfish desire to play golf today”.  Not good.

So I close the door to my office and I just sit at my desk staring at the blank sheet of paper that is in front of me.  All I want to write about is how ticked off I am about the rain.  How “nothing” ever works out as planned.  I just wanted to write down what a crappy “mood” I am in.

Then I jump on my computer and find a blog called “Lynn Dove’s Journey Thoughts” It was what I needed today.  I will post a little of what she posted:

This morning during my quiet time I was reading from Oswald Chambers “My Utmost For His Highest” and I couldn’t help but laugh (and squirm) at these profound words:

“There are certain things we must not pray about – moods, for instance. Moods never go by praying, moods go by kicking.”          – Oswald Chambers

He goes on to say that:

“A mood nearly always has its seat in the physical condition, not in the moral.  It is a continual effort not to listen to the moods which arise from a physical condition; never submit to them for a second.”

You know, when he’s right he’s right!

She continues:

“I have also spent, what Oswald would say, “a considerable amount of wasteful time feeling a little sorry for myself and praying about…yeah, you guessed it…my mood”. I suppose it is part of the human condition when things don’t go exactly according to plan, that you get a little down.”

Oswald Chambers says,

“We have to take ourselves by the scruff of the neck and shake ourselves, and we will find that we can do what we said we could not.”

I needed a good “mood” kicking this morning.  Thanks Oswald!

That doesn’t sound a bit like my idea of trying to run away, or wasting time being upset because I couldn’t golf today.  On the contrary, it’s more like a kick in the pants.

Yes…thank you Oswald and Lynn for the thoughtful and most needed words…

And the  golf clubs may just stay in the basement for a few more weeks.

My Journey Continues…

They say that life is what happens while we’re busy making our own plans.  One minute we think we know exactly where we’re going and the next moment we find that our road map for our journey through this life has been ripped to shreds.   It has happened to all of us.

My first real experience of having the road map of my life shredded was in 1994.  Much to my dismay, my road map was shredded by my own hands.  I was moving along in life with two boys to raise, a career as an administrator in a Christian School and a passion to teach the Word of God.  I was very involved in the ministry and as I entered 1994, I was so naive and so unaware of just how shredded my life was going to be before that year ended.  I lost everything I had in this life.  My marriage, my career, my church and every single friend I had in this life…except for two.

It was the beginning of five years of complete darkness and withdrawal from everything I once knew and was a part of.  I am glad that I did not know ahead of time what was going to unfold during that period, because had I known what my journey would end up being I am afraid that I would not have even attempted to get through it.  Yes, it was that bad. Looking back, even from my perspective in 2010, I do not know how I survived it.  God had many opportunities to take me. I cannot tell you how many times I wanted Him to do just that.

I remember that all I wanted to do was to disappear.  I had made such a mess in my life that I did not think there was any hope of ever  getting past…my past. I hated everything about myself and my life so much that I couldn’t even stand to look in the mirror. I did not care how I looked to myself or to anyone else.   I knew that I did not want to be me and I wanted to be anywhere but where I was at that time. I just wanted to get in my car, put it in drive, head south and go wherever it would out of gas and stay there.  Just start over and leave everything behind.

In 1999, my road map in life took another turn.  I had already started a new career in business and that was actually moving along nicely.  As the year began,  I started to rebuild my personal life.  I re-connected with my high-school sweetheart and before the year was out I was happily married and I gained two daughters to help raise along with my two sons.

With my career and personal life back on track, there still was a great void in my life.  Spiritually I was dead.  I know that God was gracious to me during this time, in spite of the fact that I was bitter and unforgiving towards almost everything and everyone.  Slowly…piece by piece and stone upon stone I started to re-build my spiritual life.  My heart began to soften and the bitterness and unforgiving spirit I had towards others started to leave.  I now could forgive others and not harbor bitterness towards those that turned their backs to me when I needed them most.  I still will never understand “why” other Christians turn their backs on someone who fails in their life.  But I forgive them for it.

The bigger issue for me was in how I would deal with forgiving myself.  How could I forgive myself for all all the hurt I caused to my family, my boys, my church and my God? I knew that God could not use me again if I could not forgive others…but He also could not use me if I could not forgive myself as well.  In 2009, after almost fifteen years on a wandering spiritual wilderness journey, I made peace with my God and with myself. What I found out is that with every morning you wake up and it is still you in the mirror.  You can run but you never can hide from God or from yourself.

I can’t tell you how my journey will end yet because it is not over.  At times I wish I could purchase a “Life GPS”  that was tapped into the clear directional instructions of God?  But that is not how it works.

My present journey is set on a different path—I now walk this journey called my life on solid ground, hand in hand with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I still struggle from time to time, but this time not alone. I am restored from the inside out, and I am encouraged and blessed by every miracle God has given me. He’s given me the miracle of unconditional love, promise, peace, joy, a future! I share this short story of my journey with you because if you, or anyone you know, have ever been where I was, I want you to know that God is the only answer to fill that emptiness, pain, sadness, anger or whatever it is you have experienced—Christ is the way, the truth and the life. You see, once you understand the depth Christ’s love and why He paid the price for all of our sins, it begins to put every situation into a different perspective.  It is then that He will take you on to the next step and then on to the next, and the next thing you know you are walking with Jesus on this journey called life.

 

For you…it is my heartfelt desire and prayer that every word written on this site will encourage you, help strengthen you and give you new insights to face the realities of every day life as you go through your journey.

 

Look around you, and enjoy the journey because the journey will be a part of who you are when you finally fulfill what God has for you.

The purpose of life is a life of purpose.

Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.  Time is a companion that goes with us on this journey called life.  It reminds us to cherish each moment, because it will never come again.

This  past week I posted a note called “I Am Still Here”.  This post was about the passing of the closest friend I have ever had on this earth.   He was one of the two that stood by me and helped me on my journey and he taught me this very wise perspective…

Instead of saying “Love the Sinner… hate the sin” rather say, “Love the Sinner…HATE your OWN sin”

 

That perspective changes how you look at everyone and helps you forcus on the things that are important.

I am still here…and my journey continues.

I Am Still Here

God saw he was getting tired.

My friend, who once was so strong was now so very weak.  He was slipping fast and I still am not sure he really believed that it was his time to go.

I got to spent the day with him.  I took the day off so that I could spend one last day talking and reminiscing about the times of our lives.  We talked for hours.  He was too weak to leave that hospital bed, but that day we took a trip.  A trip down a well-worn path we know as our past.

It was his last “good” day.

That was one year ago today.

He died a few days later on May 16th, 2009.

It still hurts me as much today as it did that Saturday night when I walked into his room as his wife, his sons and his family were gathered around his bed.  I saw that my friend, mentor and brother-in-Christ had just passed.  He was no longer on his journey in this life, but he was now taking up residence in heaven.  I cried…not for him.  I cried for me.  He was in a better place.  Me… I was still here.

I am still here.

One year later and I still am not over the fact that he is gone.  There are days when I pick up my phone and start to call him and suddenly remind myself that he is no longer going to pick up the call.  I still cannot delete his number off my cell phone.    For years I had simply picked up the phone and dialed his number.  He always picked up.  Whether he was driving his truck across the flats roads of Iowa or through the hills of Tennessee…he always picked up.  He would answer the phone by just saying my name.  Never “Hello”…just “David!!”

He was the closest friend that I ever had on this earth.  He loved me like a son.

I miss him.

I am still here.

Robert “Bob” Emrich  12/20/46 to 5/16/2009

Tomorrow… I will celebrate his life.

Today….I cry.

Every Breath is a Second Chance

Have you ever considered the possibility that with every breath you take is a second chance?  I would like to share a story of how this was made a reality in my life.  I have never talked about this before.  To be honest, I am struggling with telling this story because I do not want the “event” to overshadow the “point” I am trying to make.   But here goes…

Years ago, I was having lunch at Bob Evan’s with a few of my friends.  We were talking and laughing and just having a good time.  As we were getting ready to go, I looked up and noticed that a woman sitting at the table next to ours had a very strange look on her face.  Even the people sitting at her table did not seem to notice her appearance.  Suddenly she stood up.  No words.  No noise.  Just silence.  She then started to wave her arms to get the attention of those sitting at her table.  No one noticed.

I am not sure what it was that made me react.  I have never had formal training in performing the Heimlich maneuver,  just what I had read on a chart at work. The only thing I knew was that she was choking and no one was doing anything about it.  I got up from my table and ran over to the now frantic woman.  I spun her around and I threw my arms around her.  I squeezed.  Whatever was lodged in her throat shot out of her mouth and I heard her take a very loud gasp of fresh air.   Within seconds the color came back to her face and although shook up by the whole event, she sat down at her table.  The look of panic on her face was now replaced with a look of disbelief.  That was the same look that was on my face as I turned around to head back to my group of friends.  No words were spoken. Everyone around us was silent.  It was if we all were in denial that what had just happened was real. We all were in shock that the event took place that I just picked up my coat and bill and made my way to the cash register.

This happened so quickly that some of my friends who I had lunch with did not see it.  I do not know how long the woman had been choking but for me the whole event was a mere 15 to 20 seconds long.  It was so surreal that it was like I was just a robot and I was just doing what I had been programmed to do.  All I knew was that for some reason, I just wanted to get out of there.

As I got to the cash register,  the manger came over and  took my bill.   He wanted to get my name and I was telling him that was not necessary.  I did not want to make it into a big deal and I was just glad that she was okay.  I then felt a tap on my shoulder.  I spun around to see who it was and it was the woman who had just been choking a few minutes earlier.   Our eyes met and she was trying to come up with words to say.  As tears filled her eyes, the only words that she could mouth were, “thank you” and she started to sob.  I did not know what to do.  I looked at her and said, “It’s okay, we all need second chances”.

I don’t know why I said that.  It just came out of my mouth.  Much like the whole event.  No plan or preparation… just a reaction.  I hurriedly left the restaurant and I never gave my name nor did I know hers.

I have never talked about it with anyone.  I am no hero nor do I ever want to get recognition for the deal.  I just happened to be at the right place at the right time.

Who doesn’t like second chances? We all can think of times in our lives that we would like to have a chance to start over.  Don’t you wish there was a big red “DO OVER” button that we could push whenever we messed up?  If you are like me, the button would get worn out because of the number of times it would need to get pushed to cover all of my mistakes.  But truthfully, that would be nothing but selfish. It probably would be better if I had a “Do Over” button that I could push for the people in my life.  When they messed up I could push the button and they would be granted another chance.  We all like to have our faults overlooked, we’re not so good at overlooking (or forgiving) the faults of others.  Why is it that we think everyone else should get what they really deserve, but we should be given a break?  Why is it that it’s okay for us to take a mulligan, but we get irritated with others who do?  I don’t know.

What I do know is that this random, chance meeting of two people in a Bob Evan’s restaurant in Toledo, Ohio has made me a better person. It has allowed me to consider the fact that God’s entire kingdom is built around Second Chances.  He gives us breaks, forgives our sins, moves us into a different future…and this to people who have blown it again and again.

So consider this,  for every breath you take…you get a second chance.  A chance to get it right.  Another chance to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior. A chance to forgive and be forgiven.  Another chance to say “I love you” to those that need to hear you say it.  A chance to “right a wrong”.  With each breath you take, you have a chance to change your life forever.

Sometimes I wonder what that woman did with her second chance.  Did she “right some wrongs” in her life?  Did she love her husband more?  Hug her kids a little tighter?  Did she have or start a better relationship with God?  Did she tell the people in her life that she loved them more often? Did she become a better person?  I do not dwell on these questions because I will never know the answers to them.

What I now realize in my life, is that when our paths crossed on that fateful day, I was a bitter person. I blamed everyone else for the problems in my life.  I was a hateful, angry person that took out his frustrations on people who did not deserve my wrath.  I had carried this angry, bitter, unforgiving attitude for years.  That day was the beginning of change in my life.

I am not sure if that woman made any life changing decisions as a result of this experience.  Maybe for her it is just a story to tell her children.  For me, I cannot help but think that maybe the second chance that was given by God that day wasn’t intended for her at all.

It was for me.