Month: August 2015

Living in the “In Between”

Some of you know this, some of you don’t. 

Some of you don’t even know me personally, maybe your just finding your way here by accident and giving me some of your time.   For those of you in the latter category, I will try to keep this simple.

I have made a lot of mistakes in life, many of them small, a few of them big.  I imagine that everyone reading this can relate.Art in between

But, you know, at the end of all of these mistakes, I came out a lot smarter than I was when I started. I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I could take a hit, even several hard hits and maybe a few devastating hits and still get up again. Even if it sometimes took a lot longer than I had wanted it to.

I am not alone.  I am sure on some level we’ve all been there.  

When the world you were cultivating suddenly becomes dark and the life you once enjoyed becomes void and quickly lost. Your plans and thoughts for your future dry up and they soon blow away like the leaves in late fall. During these times in our life, the search for clarity and direction can be a long, dark, quiet road at times. Every step forward comes with a question mark attached to it. It can feel like you don’t belong anywhere at all. The past is clearly behind you. You couldn’t go back, even if you wanted to. But the future seems unclear and far away – like a mirage in the distance.  All you do is survive from one day to another.

Even if you can make out the shape of what might be up ahead, you find yourself asking, How do I get there from here?  What if I can’t do it? Are my best days behind me? What do I do now?

You’re stuck…in the in-between.

I lived there in the “in-between” for a long time.  Wasted years.

In between what once was and what will someday be. In between what was comfortable and the life we’re meant for…next. 

It can be daunting, the in-between. It can be fertile soil for discouragement and doubt, frustration and fear. Some people never get to the other side and pull themselves out from the “in between”. 

This is sad.  Truth is… I believe that God doesn’t want us to live our lives in the in-between.

I write this because I have people close to me, people who I love that have been thrust into the “in between”  and as someone who has made it through this “in between”  phase of life, I feel some responsibility to give some advice on how to survive it. It isn’t easy.

So what do you do?

First of all, I think that reflection is one of the most important, and seldom-used, tools at our lies hostagedisposal. For the record, reflection is NOT living in the past. Reflection is taking an honest look back and being truthful with yourself about your failures.  Most people never do this.  They justify their actions or deny the facts that they know are true.

It is why a lot of people just sort of drift from day-to-day and suddenly find that they are 80 years old, with no real sense of how they got there, what the path they walked says about who they are, what they did, and how their lies and deeds affected others, loved ones and strangers alike.

I truly believe that before you can move on and start living life on the other side of the “in between”, you have to be honest with yourself, your family and your God.

You have to ask yourself, “What lie am I keeping that is holding me hostage?”

The unexamined life.

It breeds deception and it causes us to find lies that we tell to ourselves and others to hide who we really are.

My life in the “in between” has obliged me to look hard at my past and present, even when I didn’t want to. I had to deal with the lies I was telling to God, myself and to others. 

How I have dealt with those lies I have covered over the last seven years of writing this blog. I will not spend  a lot of time to list all of those lies here but rest assured they are real and there are times that as I reflect and time passes I uncover a few more.  I deal with them as soon as I do. I choose not to be dragged back to the “in between”.  More detail can be found in having the time to talk to me and asking.  I will tell you the truth.  I went for almost 15 years before I started to deal with the lies I was telling myself.

I know so many people who try to use the lie that “God wants me to be happy.” as an excuse to justify many decisions they make in life. Yes… I guess there is solyingme truth in that God desires that we are content in where we are in life but no where in Scripture does God say He wants me to be HAPPY.  I tried to justify the argument “God wants me to be happy” and made it often through the years. I’ve heard Christians defend all kinds of decisions based on the belief that God wants them to be happy.

But the truth is I’m not sure that He does.

The word “happy” appears six times in the Bible, none of those in reference to God’s intention for your life. This is not a bad thing, though. Happiness is almost always tied to the present. How quickly can that change?  If we constantly lived for our current happiness, what a miserable life most of us would have.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think that God delights in our misery. But I’m not sure that there’s any Biblical evidence to back up the claim that He wants us to be happy. In fact the Bible seems to teach that He is more concerned with our holiness than our happiness. I lied to God, others and to myself about this.

Living day-to-day in the in-between is hard. 

Again. it’s hardchoose because we don’t acknowledge and deal with the real problems that caused us to be in that situation in the first place.

Most of the bad decisions I have ever made, I made when I was in the “in-between”. The problem is we are all free to choose what we want to do, but we are not free from the consequences of those choices we make. 

The best choice is always one that requires us to wait on God to give us clear direction.  I mean truly “waiting” on Him.

For me, these “in-between” periods of my life happened when I did  not wait on God but told others and fooled myself into thinking that I had.

If you are caught in the “in-between”, you must remember that the waiting on God’s direction is your work for the moment. God has called us and has directed us to follow Him. Sometimes that means standing still and waiting for His perfect timing. This waiting is hard. It’s hard to not be able to work towards something and easy to get caught up in the not-yet.

If you are dealing with the in between, may you find joy in your wait. Hopefully you will find your purpose for the rest of your life.

Remember… God wants your holiness not your happiness.

May He strengthen your heart for this journey. May you wait and trust in Him and find life on the other side of living in the “in-between”.

 

 

 

Live Like You Were Dying

It’s 11:00 pm.

I’m wrapping up my day, finishing some things for tomorrow’s work day, planning tomorrow’s details of what needs to be completed… and I just thought,

“Who says I even GET a tomorrow?

What if I didn’t – What would be left undone?’’

We’ve all heard Tim McGraw’s  song “Live Like You Were Dying”.

live-like-you-were-dying-78806170We know we’re supposed to be living like we were dying, but on my last day, I actually don’t think I’d choose to go skydiving or mountain climbing – and if you see me getting on a bull named Fu-Man-Chu, please knock some sense back into me.

What would I actually do on my last day? What does it really mean to live like you were dying?

If I knew my breaths were numbered –

  • I’d savor each one. I’d take the time to notice what it feels like to take a deep breath and exhale.
  • I’d make a video for my grandchildren, telling them who their grandpa really is beyond what their young minds can understand.
  • I’d write them notes to open for future major holidays and life events.
  • I’d pray. I imagine I’d pray the most honest prayer I’ve ever prayed, with a fervor I’ve never had before.
  • I’d call my family and my friends. I’d tell them exactly what they mean to me, and I’d beg them with everything I had left to run the rest of their race to the fullest.
  • I’d name specific gifts I see in them.
  • I’d right my wrongs as best as I could… If I needed to come clean with someone, I’d do it.
  • I’d forgive those who’ve wronged me in half a heartbeat, and let them know they’re forgiven – whether they asked for it or not.
  • I’d tie up loose ends. If someone was relying on me for something, I’d make sure they could pick up where I left off.
  • I’d find someone who’d poured into my life and thank them for it.
  • I’d hold the ones I love the most, tighter and longer than ever before.
  • I’d lavish kind words and encouragement on them.
  • I’d give away everything I’d accumulated to those who could still use it.
  • I’d tell my wife everything – EVERYTHING she means to me – and I’d let go of our shortcomings as a couple. I’d let her know that I KNOW she’d made me the luckiest man in the world.

Interesting – nothing here about enjoying my stuff.

Wow… not one. Stunning.

The pursuit and maintaining of stuff occupies the majority of our time, and yet, in the end, it doesn’t matter at all.

When I started this post, my goal was to identify what I’d do if I knew I was dying. But as I’m wrapping up, I’m realizing that if these things are important enough to me to accomplish in my last days or hours, maybe I should make them more important right here and now.  

What would YOU do if you knew your breaths were numbered?

Guess what?  They are.

All of us need to be reminded what really matters now and then.

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. 

And then there’s 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.