Month: September 2017

Choosing Sides

Are you old enough you remember the days of “choosing sides?”  

Two captains would be chosen and they would take turns picking their teams from all those gathered to play.

It was a terrible experience… especially if you were last to be chosen.  

That meant you were the least wanted of all those gathered to play.  What a humiliating experience!  (I say that because I was often the last to be chosen.)  

If you, as captain, were lucky enough to get the right picks then victory was almost certain for your team.  

Choosing sides filled the air with anticipation and whispers of “choose me”, “choose me…”  None of uhttps://i2.wp.com/www.civilwarstlouis.com/image5/titles/Choosing%20title.jpgs wanted to be humiliated by last place but we all wanted to play on a winning team.  

The whole experience was one of emotional scars for life, but if you got the right team, what fun that was!  

You were sure to win and usually did.

If only Billy was your pitcher then you had it made.  If you could get Sam for a batter then the game was yours. Getting the right players made a win almost guaranteed.

As I read a passage in Psalms this morning I thought back to those days.  It made me wince and smile all at the same time.

The Psalmist wrote,  “In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is on my side, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me? Yes, the Lord is for me; he will help me. I will look in triumph at those who hate me.  It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people.”

The text rehttps://img1.etsystatic.com/138/0/12865351/il_340x270.1081307595_dokf.jpgads, “the Lord is on my side.”

As I read those words my mind flashed back to the days of choosing sides and I imagined being picked to be on God’s team, to be on His side and He being on mine.  

The Lord is for me, He’s on my side!  

 

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Finding Forgiveness

“I need to forgive.” 

This simple sentence haunted me for years.

I was reminded of this last night as I attended a Casting Chttps://fscog.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/finding-forgiveness.jpg?w=281&h=211rowns concert.  I love their music.  It just cuts right to my heart.  Over the years, it has had a profound affect on me.  Their music has encouraged and challenged me to deal with things I was ignoring in my life.

I struggled with forgiveness for many years.

In my mind, I knew that I needed to but I just could bring myself to forgive those that I felt betrayed me… my heart needed more time to respond.  I learned the hard way that the heart takes more time to heal.

You may not be able to relate exactly to my story, but chances are by the time you’re reading this article, you know what it feels like to be lied to, betrayed, forgotten, rejected or in some other way wounded by someone you loved and trusted.

I have yet to meet a person who has made it through this life without facing one or more of these wounds. And because we understand what it feels like to be injured in this way, we also know how truly challenging it can be to offer forgiveness.

For years I thought I understood what it meant to forgive.

https://marriagemissions.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/08/Time-to-Forgive-AdobeStock_59582002-copy.jpgThen just about the time I thought I had a grasp on the whole process of understanding forgiveness, something would come straight out of nowhere and remind me that I had a long way to go.

The hurt and resentment we sought to leave behind would resurface from time to time. Maybe it was triggered by someone’s offhand remark or by an old song from back in the day.

That is how it would happen to me.  I would be driving back home from work, listening to songs as they randomly came up.

Then that song comes on… the one that took me back to another place and time.

Suddenly I am filled with all the anger, hurt, frustration and resentment that I feel towards people who betrayed or hurt me over the years of my life. 

It would be clearly evident that I still struggled with forgiveness.

On the outside, I would hide it, twist it and lie about it if I needed to, but I wasn’t going to forgive. On the inside I didn’t want anything to do with forgiveness.

I thought I would grow into it over time, I assumed, this burden and I would grow strong enough to carry it. 

As the years went by, I tried to forget. It worked, for the most part. When you carry a grudge long enough, it didn’t feel like a grudge anymore. It just felt like life. https://i.pinimg.com/736x/16/da/d6/16dad6f443ecaae385abba9b17912111--let-god-let-it-go.jpg

Like putting on clothes each morning, I would just get up every morning and strap on my bag full of anger, hurt, shame, bitterness, frustration and the lack of any desire to forgive those that you had an issue with.

As matter of fact, I thought about it rarely. When I did think about it, I prayed it would evaporate into thin air, and that maybe I would evaporate with it.

In some ways, it did evaporate. In many ways I did forget.

After all these years, I still have a lot to learn about the process of forgiving someone.

But I have learned this…

We forgive in response to wounds and betrayals. A part of ourselves is broken. A relationship has crumbled. The potential life we imagined for ourselves lies in ruins. I am learning that I am still broken.

Forgiveness is that healing that mends the broken part of us.

Mending takes time.

Forgiveness cannot take place without honesty, boundaries, space, distance and time.

Forgiveness is a process. I am learning that we forgive one day at a time.

It rarely comes as a single, discrete decision. We talk about forgiveness like it’s a single, one-time event, and in my experience, it’s just not.

Forgiveness isn’t an event any more than brushing your teeth is an event.  It is something you must do over and over and over again.

I am not sure it gets easier with time.

In fact, one of the few things that has helped me heal from my past is to stop saying, “I forgive you” and start saying, “I’m forgiving you.”

Jesus talked at length about forgiveness. Once, Peter asked him, “So, look, how often do I have to forgive? Seven times? Will that about cut it?” Imagine the look on Peter’s face when Jesus said, “Make that seventy-times seven.”

https://blogs.psychcentral.com/anger/files/2015/06/blame-e1433261975140.jpgStrictly speaking, Jesus wasn’t just telling Peter how many times he had to forgive a repeat offender. He was also telling him—telling us—how forgiveness works.

I need to get up each morning and instead of strapping on that backpack of hurt, I need to wake up with the intent of forgiving.

Many days it’s the same person I forgave yesterday.

What would happen if, just for today, you thought about the person who has hurt you most and said to yourself:

“I am forgiving you. By that I mean, I’m not going to blame you or hold you responsible for my life or my future any longer. The power to shape what is coming is mine now. I take it back for myself. I reclaim my power. And that grudge I’ve been carrying, well, it’s hurting me more than it’s hurting you, so for that reason, I’m going to set it down, move on and forgive you.”

Those of us that struggle with forgiveness, we don’t have to make any promises about the future. Except that if we have to, we may need to forgive again tomorrow.

Ultimately… it is how we find the way to forgive.

Sometimes the heart needs more time to accept what the mind already knows.

My Own Worst Enemy

I have an enemy that I deal with daily.

I face it constantly.

The battle with my worst enemy will continue till the day I die.

My enemy is not the Democrats, nor is it the Republicans.

It’s not the President.

It’s not Clinton, Obama or Bernie Sanders.

My own worst enemy has nothing to do with politics.

It’s not the Russians.

It’s not North Korea.

It’s not Iran, Iraq or Afghanistan.

My enemy is not an Atheist. 

It isn’t the Muslims or Islam.

My enemy isn’t ISIS, Nazis, anarchists.

It’s not the liberals or conservatives.

My own worst enemy is not CNN, MSNBC or Fox News.

It’s not FACEBOOK or Twitter.

My enemy isn’t homosexuals, transgenders or bisexuals.

It’s not Black Lives Matter or the Trumpsters.

My enemy is much more insidious than any of these. 

Much more deadly and dangerous.

For you see…

My own worst enemy is…  ME.

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(Paul speaks very clearly in Galatians 5 about our battle against the enemy within…ourselves.  All too often we look to others, or things, to be the source, the cause (and usually the blame) for our sins and our problems.  Although sometimes there can be external forces, ultimately all responsibility lies at our doorstep.  Our greatest battle is truly against our own flesh, the sin nature that resides in each of us.  So, in fact, our worst enemy is ourselves.)

 

 

Piece By Piece

This month we are celebrating. 

We are celebrating the declaration that my sister-in-law is now cancer free.

I am still trying to wrap my head around it.

“Cancer Free.”

Image may contain: outdoorI am filled with joy over this news and I know it is only by the hand of God that we are able to say those two words.

I am thrilled that God’s healing grace has fallen on Lynn and she gets to plan for her future.  I am excited because we get to be part of that plan.   

But it also has caused me to pause. 

It has caused me to stop and consider those that haven’t been able to use those words and those who never had the chance to use them.  

It’s not my place to question God on why some get another chance and some do not.  God is in control and I am called to trust Him, regardless of the circumstances. His ways are greater than mine. 

I am just so grateful for His healing and His plan for Lynn. 

However, one of life’s universal and unavoidable experiences is to lose someone we love.

All who have lived and loved will lose cherished family and friends to death.

Whether early or late, suddenly or gradually, dramatically or peacefully, death comes for everyone. And when it comes for a loved one, our whole world can change in an instant, and we may wonder how we can ever go on.

I have lost more than my fair share, way too early.  A brother, when I was ten years old.  Bryan Blakely, my best friend from my childhood. Steve Schueren and Bob Emrich from my young adult years.  All taken from this life way too soon.

Death can be so difficult to cope with and so difficult to understand. Moving forward can seem almost impossible at first.

But the only way to avoid such heartbreak would be to remove from life all loving relationships… we know that isn’t reality.

We all need loving and caring relationships in our life.

We need them so we can move forward in life.

https://i0.wp.com/www.bang2write.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/piece-by-piece.jpg

So we do our best to do just that… move forward.

Little by little.

Piece by piece.

We attend to life’s daily demands.

We eat, work and sleep again.

We begin to gain some understanding, even peace.

We begin to gain strength.

And yet we never quite get back to normal.

Things won’t ever be just as they were — nor should they be.

Nothing can make up for the absence of someone we love. It would be wrong to try to find a substitute.

There will always be a gap… a hole… a place that feels empty.

We must hold out and see it through.

That sounds hard at first, but at the same time it is a great relief, for that gap, as it remains unfilled, preserves the bond between us and our lost loved one.

It helps us to keep alive our relationship with each other, even at the cost of pain.

It’s this delicate balance between holding on and letting go that gives life some of its bitter sweetness. 

Because wehttps://i0.wp.com/assets.coolhunting.com/coolhunting/mt_asset_cache/culture/assets/images/piecebypiece.jpg know heartache and pain, we also know love and joy.

And it just so happens that often the more our hearts are broken with pain, the more open they tend to be, and thus more able to receive and give love. 

Such love never dies.

Little by little… piece by piece… life goes on.

Play the Ball Where the Monkey Drops It

I recently was told a story about when the British colonised India. They were in Calcutta and some of the English people were trying to establish a Golf Course.

However, there was a problem – Monkey’s surrounded the Golf Course – and Image result for tee shotwhatever it was about the game of golf, these monkeys really enjoyed both watching and taking part in the Game of Golf. So when one of the Golfers took a swing and knocked the ball into the Fairway, these Monkeys would run along, grab the Ball, and start throwing it around.

Obviously, the Golfers didn’t like this, so they tried doing a few different things to solve the problem.

The first thing that they did to try to control this situation was to build high fences around the Golf Course – not such a great idea considering it’s was Monkeys that they were trying to keep out! Not surprisingly – the Monkeys just climbed the fences and carried https://i2.wp.com/www.golfvacationinsider.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/costa-rica-monkeys.jpgon with their game.

The next thing they tried to do was to lure the monkeys away from the Golf Course. I don’t know what they did – maybe they shook bananas at the monkeys – but when they were shaking the bananas at some of the Monkey’s, some of the Monkeys went after the bananas  and the rest ignored them.

The third thing attempted was to capture the Monkeys, but for every one that they captured, there was another Monkey or two, left.

They couldn’t solve the problem and decided that they had to bring about an innovation – and the innovation was a ground rule that said – ‘from now on we play the ball wherever the Monkey drops it.

As you can imagine, playing this way could be rather frustrating. For example, the ball is driven well down the fairway close to the hole – only to have a monkey run off with it and drop it somewhere far from the hole. On the other hand, the opposite sometimes happened. A terrible shot might be picked up and delivered close to the cup. It didn’t take long before golfers realized that golf on that particular course was quite similar to our experience of life – there are good breaks and there are bad breaks and we cannot entirely control the outcome of the game called life.

Like it or not, life is all about playing the ball where the monkey drops it. 

That means that many times in life you will have to play the ball from the rough.

Life has a way of messing with our game plan. We tee life up just the way we like it and make a good swing for success, and then things change; sickness, opposition, Image result for Golf balls in the roughfinancial hardship, relational breakdown, betrayal, divorce or our own poor choices, and we find ourselves with a bad lie playing out of the rough.

In moments like that we must master the skill of playing the ball where life drops it! It has been well said that life is 10% what we make of it but 90% is how we respond to adversity.

We cannot control what happens around us, but we can control what happens within us in response to what happens around us.

In life, sometimes you will have to just play the ball where the Monkey drops it.

 

 

You Have No Idea

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know that I love sharing stories.  I have never been able to write stories of someone else so I usually write about myself. That isn’t as self-serving as that may come across. It is just that I share my thoughts and things that I know about.  I know about failure and I know about success. I have experienced both on extreme levels. So, this week is no different, I want to share another small piece of my own story.

As I write this, today is my anniversary. Exactly 9 years ago today, I sat down to my https://thelegacybuilder.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/1c09e-post2bwriting.jpg?w=1108computer to write my very first blog post.

Now, I realize I didn’t just say I performed my first brain surgery, or I decided to run for President. But for me, it was a pivotal day – one that I think will shape the rest of my life.

While I have always loved to write, I never let anyone know that aspect about me. But blogging? That was something different.  This was where people would be able to see what you wrote. I’d never blogged before. I really did not know what a “blog” really was. I had no following to speak of. I had no way to know if people would find this website, or if they’d even read it. I even wondered if I’d run out of things to say.

What I did know is that there was a stirring inside of me, something telling me that tomorrow wasn’t supposed to look like yesterday. I’d ignored it for years, pushing it aside to keep the pain and darkness that had overcome my life for the previous 15 years or so.

Something told me if I didn’t move right then, another wasted day would become another wasted month – and another wasted year of my life.

Facing that empty screen, I have to admit, I was scared. I was doubtful.

But I wrote anyway. 

And I wrote again the next day.

And the next. And the next.

Over the course of this blog’s life, there haven’t been many days where I did not write something.  Some of those stories and posts have made their way onto this blog site. However, many articles and stories will forever remain drafts, never to be published. Not because they are not good stories, but rather because I am not at peace about revealing them for people to read. I am sure that on some levels, they contain my “best” writing.  I have yet to fully understand why I choose to post some of the articles and some will be deleted when they close down this website after a long period of no activity or I pass away.

So I published and posted articles and stories, while I always say that, “I love to write, but I am not a writer.” I never say I am a good writer.  Some of my posts are not bad and a few of them I would have to admit are pretty good. Many of them are just “ok” and a portion of them are horrible.  I am always amazed that 9 years later, my articles have been read over 525,000 thousand times.

Blogging is not for the faint of heart.  Writing one is hard. Most blogs fail after just a few posts because it does take an emotional toll on your heart.  You pour yourself into it and sometimes people are not so kind while they stomp on your heart or your perspective.

I have had some great supporters of my writings and I have had some detractors. I https://i0.wp.com/omofastaction.africancampaigns.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/ink-stains.pnghave been called names and I have had my writings called, “A stain on the white shirt of society.”  I have come so close to quitting a number of times over the years but I still cannot walk away from it.

I’ve met some amazing people I’d never have had reason or opportunity to know otherwise. Many of them have grown to be genuine friends – some of them an ocean away. Some readers even credit my posts with giving them the nudge they needed to launch out into their own deeper waters, which is the highest compliment to me.

But most of all – best of all – writing this blog had allowed me to feel more like “me” than I had in years.

I was going through a really dark period of my spiritual life when I started this blog. I was truly far, far away from God compared to where I had been most of my life.  I was trying to find my way back and I just could not find a way to do that. I am sure that many of you know what I mean. You’ve felt it too. There’s a deep longing in each of us to discover our elusive “purpose” and to sit in the center of our life knowing that you are  at peace in your relationship with the Lord. Little else feels as good as when you’re actually doing what you know you should be doing.

Writing has allowed me to find my way “home” spiritually.  I made a choice that day when I started writing and filling that blank screen.  I chose faith over fear. I chose action over apathy. I chose to fill the page, to write the first story. And you know what? Each time I write, I gain a little more peace than the day before.

Yes, I know, there are countless blogs growing faster and are much better than mine. I encounter better and more successful “real” writers on a daily basis. And when I compare myself to my colleagues and friends, I’m keenly aware that there’s a lot of road up ahead of me.

https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0254/9599/t/2/assets/logo.png?11343127326311193056But today, when I compare myself to that guy facing that empty computer screen 9 years ago, it’s worth pausing and reflecting on how far he’s come. It’s something to celebrate. I wish I could reach back in time and whisper in his ear, “Go ahead. Do it boldly! You have no idea what a difference this will make in your life!!”.

Do you feel a stirring inside you – to become more, or simply different than you are? Have you ever thought about writing?

If you’ve tried to bury the feeling, but it only grows stronger. If you’re afraid of failing. If you think the sacrifice would be too great.  If it seems unattainable, unreachable, ‘ungettable’…at least for you.  If you wonder if it’s all just wishful thinking, like overgrown hope. And if it would be smarter to settle for what you already have.

Ask yourself this simple question. What if you’re wrong about writing your story?

Go ahead. Do it boldly.

My writings will never be read by millions.  I will probably never publish a book.

But I’ve still got a story to tell.

I’ll write mine… you write yours, because you have no idea what a difference it will make in your life.