Month: December 2013

I Want to Be Brave

calvin-hobbes-new-years-resolutions-572x433This is normally a week when many people set goals. Some make resolutions. I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions. My feeling is, if there’s something I want or need to change, why wait until a particular date on the calendar? It makes more sense to get started now.

I do, however, like the idea of choosing a word. ONE WORD to focus on every year. A word that I can use as a roadmap to make my way through life and to help me be more of who and what I am meant to be in 2014.

For me, in 2014, that One Word is BRAVE.

Truth is, I am not brave. FBrave-bannerar from it. I like to avoid the hard stuff.  I procrastinate having the hard conversations and taking the bold steps to share my faith. There’s nothing I find more comforting than hiding in a safe place, away from a dark, scary world.

But that’s not who I want to be, because that’s not someone who gets things done and makes a difference in this world. I honestly want to leave footprints of faithfulness on this earth before God calls me home. I long to teach from God’s Word again and share my faith to those who need to know.

Truth is, I have been hiding for years behind my past failures.  I say I want to be used of God again but fail to put myself in the position to really take those opportunities to do so. I have felt to urge to lead a Men’s Bible Study, but I keep making excuses as to why I can’t do it.

I can’t be a coward. I must be BRAVE.

I want to be BRAVE. I want to fight for what I know is right. I want to overcome my fear of rejection because of my past failures. I want to do things I never thought I coBE brAVEuld do. I want to say “yes” to things that sound crazy and find the reward afterwards. I want to be brave about what is right. I need to ask the tough questions.  I need to go against the grain if the situation calls for it.  I need to try something new.

Yes… in 2014, I want to be Brave.

That’s it. To each one that would read this, being BRAVE might mean something different. You know your situation, just as I know what that word means to me. When you fight for what is right, I believe there’s honor in being BRAVE. I want to have the courage and honor that comes along with it. I know I might lose some things in the process, but being brave is never easy. It will, however, be worth it.

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)

There is tremendous freedom on the other side of your fear. And so I embark in 2014, this fresh, new year, with an attitude and an eye on bravery… my own, as well as yours… Will YOU join me? Will you throw off the security blanket and come out of your cave of comfort to stand up for Christ?

As long as you’re breathing, the possibilities for your life are far greater than you’ve imagined.

Come join me and be BRAVE in 2014 and create an awesome story!!!

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Taking Time for Silent Nights

There are only a few more days until Christmas Eve.

I am sure there are people out there that are starting to panic as the realization sets in that the shopping is not finished and the gift’s are not wrapped.

SilentNightsAlthough the Christmas season is supposed to be a time of joy and celebration, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with all the stress that comes with the season. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in everything you have to do, such as visiting family members, buying gifts and attending multiple Christmas gatherings. Before you know it, you can feel so stressed that you simply want the season to be over so you can have some time to relax. Sometimes life during this Season is so loud it is deafening.

If there is anything we all need to do more of during this season, it is to take time for silent nights.

My wife and I are done with the wrapping and the shopping.  Maybe the better way to say it would be… my wife is done with the wrapping and the shopping.  I’ll give credit where credit is due. She gives me the best Christmas present every year. She takes care of the buying and wrapping and she is gracious enough to me give the opportunity to experience a few of these Silent Nights before Christmas Day.

I am learning that it’s important to take some time out for yourself during the next few days. Don’t turn this Christmas into something you dread. By just taking a little time out for yourself from time to time can help you get your perspective back, helping you to relax and enjoy the joy of the season. Sure, you have a to-do list that is multiple pages long, but if you can take time for a few “Silent Nights” it will allow you to really remember and enjoy the meaning and the joy of Christmas.

Try to embrace the holiday season this year.  Soak up every minute. Cherish every shared laugh of your children and grandchildren.

It is easy sometimes to slip, inviting stress and distractions to interfere in the celebration of Christmas. It is easy to focus on expectations, “to do” lists and activities that the day after Christmas you come to the realization that you were so busy that you missed the opportunity to enjoy the season.

It’s when I choose to slow down and choose to be silent, everything changes.

It is then I hear God’s voice in the laughter of my family and in the giggles of my grandchildren. It is when I feel His love in the hugs of my friends and family. It is when I see Him in the twinkling lights, and in the love that brings us all together.Silent

This year I want to be silent and listen. I want to make memories that I will take with me for the rest of my life. I want no regrets this Christmas. It’s what I want for my family and friends and it’s what I want for everyone that reads this post.

So today, take a deep breath.  Soak up every conversation, every shared moment with those around you.

Be still. Be Silent. Listen.

A Silent and Holy Night is coming.

Don’t rush it. Don’t stress over it.

Embrace it. Cherish it.

Be thankful for it.

Make this choice today and see what happens to your Christmas this year. –

 “Be still, and know that I am God.”

 Psalm 46:10

Winning the Argument But Losing the War

People fascinate me.

Stories fascinate me.

Listening to people tell me their story fascinates me.

I am intrigued by what makes each one of us different.

I wonder what shaped you? Who shaped you? What drove you to be who you are today?

Unfortunately, oncsomeone_is_wrong_on_the_internet1e you start to get a feel for who this person is you also get to hear some things from this person that you really don’t like, or is different from you. It really gets interesting when you find out that this person believes differently than you. This often leads to some heated conversation.

Why? Why are there tensions created when you meet someone who believes something different from your beliefs? Why do people feel like they have to argue about every single aspect of Christianity?

I’m “friends” on Facebook with a lot of people who believe differently than I do. A few are merely acquaintances. A few I know well. Two of those friends recently caused quite an argument on Facebook. The details are not really important (here at least), what happened in the aftermath is.

As it always seems to happen… people get 10 ft. tall and bulletproof when they are in the comfort and security of their home and armed with a keyboard.

They raised their verbal (written) fists.

Both threw punches.

And the watching Facebook world… watched… and judged.

It was like waWHy I am Righttching the freshman preacher boys in the dorm back in the day when I was a student at Liberty University. Every Fall you would hear a new batch of them arguing about things that have no eternal significance, but were trying their best to prove to everyone who would listen that they were right.  They would say that they were not arguing but they were just explaining why they were right.

It usually took these preacher boys about a year or so of studying Theology for them to realize that they really didn’t have a clue and there were many more acceptable answers to the same questions they were so desperately trying to prove as Freshman. 

My two friends were having a “discussion” on Facebook and everything would have been fine if it stayed in the “discussion mode”.  But like many “discussions” it didn’t.  At first, they slightly disagreed. But within 15 minutes, one of my friends was declaring the other a heretic. Now… it should be noted that both of these friends declare themselves as believers… Christians.  They were arguing about issues that actually had nothing to do with leading people to Christ. 

As their discussion crossed the 60-minute mark, and their Facebook feeds fully flushed with arguments and disagreements, I realized that they were no longer simply stating opinion. They were positioning themselves to win the argument, dismissing any counter points no matter whether they agreed or not. They were in this fight to be crowned the person most in the right. And it didn’t feel good.

This silly argument left me thinking: What is it about human beings that leaves us needing to be right, needing to get the last word in no matter what? Regardless of the cost. Regardless of the people who were reading their hateful, hurtful banter.

Sure enough… some people would message me over the course of my two friends argument and comment about how these two well-meaning people had done more to harm to the cause of Christ then they would ever know.  One would walk away the “winner”… winning the argument but losing the war.

I can’t say that I have always been innocent of getting involved in “discussions” that turn into man_yelling_at_computerarguments.  But as I have grown older, I am not the guy to argue theology anymore.  For those of you that do not know, I am educated and trained in Bible theology… and I can argue with the best of them. But I also know that I don’t have all the answers and I don’t wear my education on my sleeve. I don’t have to prove to anyone what I believe. Over time I have realized that more damage has been done arguing over things that mean nothing to the cause of Christ. I know what I believe and I am not swayed by anyone wanting to argue the tenets of Calvinism or the pros and cons of the KJV or just about any aspect of Christianity. I’ve learned the hard way to stay as far away from the arguing as I can.  I have seen too much damage done in the process of being “right” and I have never witnessed anyone say, “Wow… that argument completely changed my fundamental belief system!” or like Phillip Yancey stated:

“No one ever converted to Christianity because they lost the argument.”

No one “wins” in these debates and arguments. People get hurt. Words cut like the knife from both sides. No one drops their sword and advances the Kingdom. I might go so far as to say we retreat the Kingdom. We need to be able to explore the tension and not do so with our verbal fists raised. We need to ask the questions, receive the answers all the while drinking a large mug of grace.

Because the watching world… watches… and judges.

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Joseph’s Lullaby

empty-mangerWith Christmas decorations comes the inevitable arrival of Christmas music… that to some people is pure joy.  I think my sister-in-law, Lynn starts playing Christmas music some time in mid-August.  Normally, I wait until about week before Christmas Day to start the music… but not this year.  For some strange reason I have listened to more Christmas music than ever.  I think it’s partially because one of my favorite bands (The Sidewalk Prophets) put out a new Christmas CD.  Their song “Hey Moon”  (video attached at the bottom of this post) is the best Christmas song I have heard in years.

Last night, like many other nights, I sat down in front of my computer to do some writing and do some editing of posts that I have written over the past month. Unfortunately, I found myself staring at a blank page in front of me.  So I turned on some music for some inspiration.  I like the music of MercyMe and I just sat in my office staring off into the abyss listening to them when the lyrics of one their songs hit me like a ton of bricks.

I love how it’s written from Joseph’s perspective. The new father singing a lullaby to the One that would soon change the world.

Incredible.

Joseph knew what was in store for the child.  He knew the price that was going to be paid.  He knew that this newborn son was born to die and pay the price for the sins of the world and that of mankind. He knew that this child was going to experience pain.  The lyrics of this song really got to me tonight.  Not just the song, but one line in particular. It gets me every single time.

The lyric is this….

For tonight, simply be my child.

I remember when my first-born, Nathan was born.  I really thought I was preHand_holding_finger_bw babypared to be a father.  In reality, I was nowhere near ready to take on the responsibility that soon would be mine.  I am not sure anyone is truly prepared for the changes in life that happen when you first become a parent. My perspective in life changed in the micro-second of when I first touched and held him in my arms. I felt the same responsibility when my son Adam was born as well. For me, being a parent was something magical… something incredible. Your goals change and you realize that you are no longer here on earth living for yourself.  You want to create this perfect world for your child, where they will forever be protected and not experience any pain or hurt in this life.  

My sons are now 27 and 22 years old and the parent in me still wants to protect them. I still do not want any hurt or pain of this life to effect any of my children.

I cannot fathom or comprehend the emotions and thoughts of Joseph and Mary as they held this perfect child in their arms, knowing that he would carry the burden of the Cross of Calvary.  Would it have been selfish of them to ask God to give them a break and allow Jesus to simply be their child for a brief moment?  The father in me says no.

As Joseph and Mary understood that this perfect child was given by God to pay the price for mankind’s sin. They would not be able to protect him from what he was going to face. We as parents realize the same is true with our own children.  We can help them and we can hope that the pain of this life passes by our children but we know that the inevitable is coming. It’s part of life… but that does not keep us as parents to stop trying to protect our children regardless of their age.

We have so many visions and dreams of what our children will be one day. We know early on what their potential is and having lived as long as we have on this earth, we also know the challenges in life which lie ahead for our children. We also know enough to accept the fact that there will be surprises too. As we watch them grow up in the various moments of life, we as parents, often think back to that simple line….

“Simply be my child”

I do not want and most assuredly I do not want my children to speed through the moments of life without having memories to look back on.

I am learning that as I grow older my memories are a lot like a bank account, you withdraw from what you’ve put in. So, from personal experience, my advice to all of us would be to withdraw as much of the bitterness, anger and disappointment in your life while you can. Start depositing more family time memories, more contentment and less regret in the bank account of your memories. Because the world and all of its pain and challenges can wait. Soon enough there will be plenty of things that will steal our attention and time.

As we navigate the hustle and bustle of this Christmas season. Take time to make memories. Carve out moments and put the world and all it’s worries and pain on pause.

Allow your child to simply be your child.

Tis the Season…

Tis the Season…

Gifts boxesI know some of you are already finished and everything’s wrapped beautifully beneath your tree. I wanna let you in on a little secret – the rest of us don’t like you very much.

I’m that guy who’s out on the 24th and wrapping things minutes before the gift exchange, so right now I am cruising.  No need to panic just yet…I’ve got plenty of time.  I always think it’s more exciting with the panic and road rage I’ve grown so accustomed to.

Truth be told… I could live without all of the craziness.

Unfortunately, I don’t hide my feelings very well (understatement).   So much so that my wife sometimes teasingly refers to me as “Scrooge”.    But she knows me better than anyone else…  she knows that I amscrooge not a “scrooge”.  I love to give presents. I love to give them and watch my children and grandchildren open their presents.  I admit I am not a fan of the process, so much so that I defer to my wife to do the buying but I have no issues with doing the financing.  I just really believe that my reactions to the Christmas season can be misinterpreted. 

So what is my problem? What is it that keeps me from really enjoying the Christmas Season?

I’ll tell you…

I don’t like the process of me receiving  gifts.  Strange right? 

I find it awkward.  Uncomfortable. 

I am always the last to open my gifts and I just would rather open them up at a time when I am alone.  I know that that could get interpreted as being ungrateful (which I never feel) or maybe that I am taking away the enjoyment that someone would get when they give me a gift.  My intention is to not encourage either one of these reactions. So what is my problem? Why do I struggle with the process of accepting and opening presents that have been given to me? 

This is not something new to me.  I have always felt this way.  I do not remember a Christmas or birthday that I was looking forward to opening presents that were given to me.  As a matter of fact, I don’t remchristmas-listember a Christmas where I ever really asked for anything or was hoping for a certain gift or toy.  To the best of my recollection, I have never made a list and I most certainly never “expected” anything.  I don’t say these things to sound noble or selfless… it is just the truth of how I honestly feel and how I am.

I know that most people won’t get or understand this.  But after I resigned from my job and made a career change in 1994, I had to reinvent myself. I felt like a complete failure in life. I had never really had anything in life as far as material things go… so it wasn’t like I had lost a lot of “things ” in this life.

But as a result of that event in my life, I have learned some valuable lessons in life. First of all, I am here to tell you, you never know where life is gonna take you. You leave home, go to college or start your life and you do the best you can.  In that process it is so easy to get lost in this old world and forget who you are and where you came from. It is so easy to start believing that material “things” are more important than they are and you equate success to having “things”.  

I don’t want “things”. I could have a nice big house (with a nice big mortgage) and I could have the new car sitting in the driveway. I don’t ask for them because I don’t want them.  I have indeed re-invented myself and I have learned that having success and living a great life aren’t the same thing. You know? Success might hand you everything you ever thought you wanted… but nothing will keep you from a great life more than chasing after things and comfort.

We all work so hard to create a comfortable life, but most of us get chained up in the process.  And once we finally do get comfortable, we wouldn’t possibly consider changing course because of all we could lose. We make most of our life choices based on mortgage payments, car loans, insurance, and our 401K.

I choose to have a great life as opposed to having “things” that might be considered having success. My happiness is found in my relationship with Jesus Christ, my wife, children and grandchildren. It isn’t found in any “thing” I have ever had in my life.

That is not to say that I haven’t enjoyed the gifts I have received over the years.  It is just I never expected them and most certainly were not taken for granted.

I guess it’s because my favorite Christmas presents I have ever received have not been neatly wrapped in paper and sealed with ribbons and bows.  My favorite presents have not come in boxes and as matter of fact… I struggle sometimes to remember physical gifts that have been given to me.

The gifts I remember and I cherish are the ones that hardly get noticed. At least not noticed by anyone else except me. I received one these gifts this weekend.  Our grandsons were spending the day with me and my wife. I Brody22was holding Brody (4 months old) as he drifted off to sleep and when I looked down to see his sleepy eyes close, I was warmed with the love I have for this child. My gift this year for Christmas is the opportunity to hold him in my arms and etch that memory in my mind and in my heart.  These times will pass me quickly and soon this little boy will grow up and move past having his grandpa hold him as he falls asleep. A wonderful moment in my life.  A gift. A gift I don’t take for granted.  A gift I don’t want to forget.  A gift that is better than anything I could possibly open in a box. A gift not wrapped up in ribbons and bows but is more beautiful than my words can convey. These are the moments in life that you hold on to.  That was one that I will remember as long as God gives me the ability to do so.

When my two-year old grandson Indiana says to me, “Grandpa… ready…setCARS… go…” I know he is asking me to line up all his cars on the floor and play cars with him.  We will spend the next 1/2 hour or so pushing them across that wooden floor to each other and with each squeal of “ready…set…go!!!” that Indy yells out, I will push each car at his command.  Each one a gift and a memory for me.  He too will one day move on… and soon enough will be asking me for the car keys to drive me somewhere.  Hopefully, I will be around for that one… because it too will be a gift and a memory for me.

I have received some special gifts from my family over the years that will always be precious to me. I have a special gift that I carry with me everyday and that gift is clearer in my memory on each Christmas Day.  These special gifts are the memory of when my children have used their own words and looked me in the eye and told me they loved me. That is the only present I want or need. That present is priceless. They are the ingredients to a great life.

As I stated, I choose to have a great life as opposed to having “things” that might be considered having success.

Tis the Season… yes… we are closing in on another Christmas. How might your Christmas be different this year if you stopped and considered not spending so much of your time and choices pursuing and buying “things” and focused on the important aspects of this life?  

This year, give your family and those you love in your life something they can’t give themselves. Write a handwritten note to tell them you love them. Look them in the eye and tell them thank you and that you appreciate all that someone has done for you in this life.

I can assure you, this Christmas there are no greater gifts you can give.

 

God’s Positioning System

Even after all these years, I’m learning that God’s will isn’t a path clearly marked out for years to come, but instead it’s guidance for the moment.  God’s will and direction for life are much like a GPS.  ”In .3 miles turn left…”  The directions gps_logo-1of the GPS are as you need them.

Walking with God is much like that.  It’s not a course revealed for the next 40 years, but a walk of steps and turns and moments.  Each day is a new day of walking with God and finding His will for you in the moments, in the encounters of your life.  The course, as it looks to you, might go around in circles for a bit, but God has a plan and it’s only revealed as we come to each turn in our course.

We don’t need to know the route, we simply need to obey the prompts of the sweet voice on the GPS and soon we arrive at our destination.  God’s Spirit works in that same way as we walk with Him through the day.  We may not know all the turns and twists in our route, but simply need to trust the guidance we receive as we walk with God through the moments.  Walking with God is a fascinating adventure.  You never know who you will meet, where you will go, but it’s never boring.  

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.     Prov. 3:5-6