Tag: God

Where Home Is

As October gives way to November this year, my life’s odometer flips another month.

Why?

My birthday is in June, so it’s not that.  My odometer turns because both of my sons, Nathan (Oct 25) and Adam (Nov.6) have birthdays in the coming weeks.

For me, the milestones of life have never really felt important. I only “feel” older when I recognize that my boys are going to be 32 and 28 respectively.

Image result for odometer of lifeThe odometer flips for me because how is it possible to have children that old?

Because of this… I find myself especially pensive about some things. I am thinking about the fact that I am on the backside of life. I am just a few years away from retirement and I wonder if all of the effort at my place of employment was worth it.  What did I miss in life because of being too commited to my job? 

I also look back with thoughts of how often have I failed to live up to my faith. Have I walked a path that brought honor to Jesus Christ? Thoughts of failure and the times I walked far short of God’s plan for my life clearly overwhelm any memories of when I was doing what was right.

It’s more of a feeling in my soul than a sequence of clear, discrete thoughts.

I find myself more and more overcome with thoughts of “home.” Not so much about being home but rather my thoughts are more about the journey to get home. Like after a long vacation and you start to head home. For me, there has always been thehome-is-where-our-story-begins relief of getting home after those long trips. The same enthusiasm that I had on the day we pulled out of the driveway to get “there, I often feel that same enthusiasm to get home when it was time.

Life is about returning.

Returning home.

I think that was one of the main reason I wrote my book, “Footprints in a Small Town.” I was on the journey to reconnect to my childhood home and hometown. 

Now I find myself on a journey to find my way to another aspect of “home” and looking to find closure on other aspects of life.

In other words, trying to find another place that represents home. I am not talking about heaven. Heaven is the final destination. I am not ready for that. I have more things I want to accomplish before I find my way to that home. 

At this point in my life, I believe that God is asking me how I am going to live my remaining days. It is clear to me that my success is not found in my paycheck, nor is it found in a title I have at work.

My success is now more or less found in being a good man. A good husband. A good father. A good grandfather and a good servant of God.

This is where home is for me now.

How different this is from the drive to achieve that defined so much of my life as a younger man. I knew where I wanted to go and believed that I could get there only through toil and competition. Without effort and without impressive results, I would go nowhere.

Image result for successOther people would be more or less, higher or lower than me. I would look up in envy or down in condescension. And I could not rest until I had arrived. It was all on me.

The drive to be successful.

The older I get I realize that none of these things that I have accomplished are real evidence that I did it on my own.

As I reflect I see the evidence of God doing the heavy lifting. He was there preparing a way and giving me the opportunity.

God brought me here. Right where I am today.

I have no idea where life is going to lead me in the coming years. Things are changing and I need to continue to trust that God will lead me to where I need to go.

And I will only arrive there by admitting that I cannot get there on my own.

Together, we walk and, at times, stumble together back to the home we yearn for.

We are all returning to where home is.

We’re all just walking each other there.

Our path homeward is long and uneven.

We will endure detours and setbacks.

But the One who brought us here will lead us.

Home.

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Not Fooling Anyone (A Chronicle of Bad Conversations and Storefronts Past)

A few weeks ago, a co-worker popped his head in my office. He said “So, are you ready for next Wednesday?

I sat there going through my mental calendar and couldn’t come up with what the significance Wednesday had. I finally had to ask “What’s Wednesday?”

He then reminded me that Wednesday was the day on the calendar that I age one more year. He asked if I had any words to impart to impart the wisdom I’ve gained in my many years.

Nope.

To be honest, I was just happy that he reminded me what Wednesday was because I needed to renew my license tags.  That summed up the depth of the wisdom that was flowing through my brain. I mumbled that I would write a post about “all the wisdom I’ve gained over all my years”.  He laughed and said sarcastically that he “couldn’t wait” to read it and something about that it should be a short read.

That Saturday, as I sat at the DMV, I was reminded of this conversation I had the previous day. I thought about what wisdom or perspective I could have actually shared.  What gold nuggets of wisdom have I gained? What words can I put in a post?

I had nothing.

But I valiantly tried to post something. I spent the next few days writing a post that I published a week or so ago. I called it “Thinking Back, Looking Forward”  Click here to read

I’ve spent the days since that posting going round and round about this subject.  While I liked the article I posted, something just told me that I needed to share something more. 

What could I write that would show what I truly have learned over the years? What I have learned in these years on this big rock that I can pass on to my kids and grandkids, not to mention, anyone else that might read this? 

Then it hit me… while staring at a picture that sits on my desk.  I had actually wrote about him in my post that is linked above.  My closest childhood friend, Bryan Blakley died the day after my birthday in 2009.  I have written about him a number of times and I have always felt a part of me is missing since his passing.  We lost him all too soon. I could never deny the influence that Bryan had in my life.  I can’t say that all of the “influence” was good either.  I got in trouble with Bryan on many occasions and there are secrets of things that we did that I will take to my grave. 

But the one thing that I could always say about Bryan is that he was true to himself.  He lived what he believed.  Even if he was wrong.  He never tried to hide who he really was.  I always tried to hide and fool people into thinking I was some kind of innocent kid. 

I wasn’t innocent.

Bryan was a person that really did not care what people thought of him.  He was who he was 24 hours a day. The good, the bad and the ugly.

I always looked up to that because he was true to his convictions and to what he believed.  He never tried to fool anyone.  I thought back to the words I spoke at his funeral. A simple sentence that I still believe summed up Bryan’s life and in it a truth that sticks with me to this very day…

You can say what you think but you’ll live what you believe.

That’s it. 

That basically is the foundation of all wisdom.  In other words,  to quote Shakespeare, “To thine own self be true”.  Under all that we think, lives a life that really shows what we truly believe.

I’ve said multiple times that it is really easy to sit behind the keyboard and act like you’ve got the world on a string. For 9 years, I have posted personal thoughts and hopefully, https://itsyet2bt0ld.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/img_3064.pngshared the struggles too. Life has knocked me down a few times. Those events have shown me things about myself I never wanted to see.  I believe that in those events, I caught the glimpse of who I truly was. 

It’s like really seeing yourself in a mirror.  What if we honestly just saw our character instead of our image in a mirror? In reality, that is how God sees us all the time.  Because He sees through the fake image we try to show the world. What God sees in those moments is the character that sums up who we are.  It scares me to consider what God thinks when He sees and hears the lies we tell Him and others.

I have often thought about what a book about my life would look like.  How would it read? How would it be perceived?  I have even gone as far as coming up with the title.

 “Not Fooling Anybody (A Chronicle of Bad Conversations and Storefronts Past)

What I have learned about life is that I haven’t really fooled anybody.  More importantly, I know I haven’t fooled God.  I don’t think many people understand that.  I think there are many people who think they are fooling others, they in turn fool themselves into thhttps://i1.wp.com/notfoolinganybody.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/logo.pnginking that they have fooled God.  It is not possible to fool God.  I have learned the hard way this great truth.

Sometimes, late at night, when I am trying to go to sleep. I am reminded of the conversations that I had with people over the years.  Those conversations when I tried to defend my sin. Those conversations when I tried to fool people that I had my act together and I was living the kind of life that God would be proud of.  Those conversations when I tried to fool myself that I was something that I knew in my heart I wasn’t. I have memory of more of these conversations than I care to remember.

My life has always been either honored or betrayed by the “storefronts” that I have built over the years.  The people who have known me over the years can stroll down the main street of my life and see the evidence of my life that is seen in the storefront windows that line the street.  Like in times of old, before the malls, when people would shop local and go window shopping.  The product that each store sold was placed in that window for all to see.  I have many “storefronts.” Most of them are good.  However, there are a few that I wish I could make go away.  Now before you think I dwell on these “bad storefronts,” I don’t.  I know that God has dealt with me about the content of those storefronts and He has forgiven me and has allowed me to live a great life. But I would be lying if I said that in the quiet times that I am alone, that these storefronts don’t flash in front of my eyes and I am reminded of them. They do.  Some bring me happiness and others embarrassment. 

Such is life.

At the end of the day, I hope that whenever my number is called, those that knew me personally or from afar will all be able to say the same thing. I hope they will say that I said what I thought and it matched the way that I lived and what I believed.  I know that this was not true in my younger years.  I have had to be shaped, molded, poked and prodded by God to fix many areas of my life. 

Even at 55, I am a work in progress. 

We all are.

I hope, before I die,  I can point others to Jesus Christ and the salvation that is found in Him.

I hope that I can encourage others to create a life that feels good on the inside and not just one that looks good on the outside.

I hope you’ll see that I didn’t just speak highly of my wife, I honestly treasure and honor her above all others.

I hope you’ll see that I love my kids. Even if I disagree with some of the choices they have made. I made it my goal to treasure each moment and never leave a doubt in their mind as to how I felt about them.

I hope you’ll see that I didn’t throw around the word “friend” like it’s something you accept on a social media site. I believed that relationships are important and that people – no matter who they are – matter.

I hope you’ll see that I didn’t just talk about faith to be high and mighty. I live a life filled with questions, doubts, struggles, fears and wrestled through the journey to be not high and mighty, but second and humble.

I hope that you see that I didn’t intend fool anybody.  I was what I claimed to be… a sinner, saved by grace.

That sums up the wisdom in this small brain of mine. 

Maybe this was too long to convey a simple point of wisdom but that’s the best I’ve got.

The calendar turned on another year older.

It’s another chance to say what I think and more importantly….

Live what I believe.

The Evidence

There is nothing like ripe, fresh fruit.

To be able to pick a piece of fruit from the tree and eat it is one of the great experiences of life.  

I remember, years ago, when I lived in Oak Harbor, Ohio and experiencing the thrill of picking cherries from our trees in our back yard.  I still remember climbing those trees and sitting high up on one of the branches and picking and eating fresh cherries by the hand full.  I still reflect in amazement that was part of my childhood.  I surely did not appreciate the experience at the time.

I am not sure that I can ever remember eating cherries in my adult life that were as fresh and sweet as those I picked back in those days.

Fresh fruit is the ultimate sign of life from a fruit tree. It tells you, without any doubt, this tree is alive!  And because of that life we enjoy the fruit.

There is one more thing I think about when my thoughts wander to this topic of fruit-  fresh fruit has a sweetness to it.  It’s as if one of the great evidences of fresh fruit is a sweet subtle taste that makes you want more.

So what is the evidence of life for the Christian?

What tells the world, as they walk by, that you are alive in Christ?

It’s the fruit!

Here’s how Paul describes the fruit that comes from us when we are alive in Christ,

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”

The thing about this kind of fruit is that others should be drawn to it, there’s a https://syntheticgospel.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/good-tree.jpgsweetness about our lives that should make them want to be around us.  The fruit of the Spirit coming out of our lives should draw others to us and ultimately to Christ.

It’s the same thing that happened when Jesus was here… people loved being with Him.

The fruit of his life was sweet and refreshing.

So this is what I am pondering today. In clear self-evaluation, I am wondering if the fruit that I produce is pointing others to see Christ in me?  I want to be recognized by the fruit of the Spirit.  However, I am reminded of the times that no one could see Christ in me because I was too full of myself. 

There was no room for fruit to grow.

Too often, I was caught up in the throes of the dogma of religion and not in living in the freedom that being alive in Christ brings. 

As I reflect, my challenge to you, is for you to evaluate what is the evidence of the life of Christ in you?

Does the fruit of your life have the sweet taste of God’s presence or the bitter taste of self and religion?

Is there evidence that you are alive in Christ?  How does it taste to those around you?

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.

 

The Broken Parts of Us

One night last week I was using super glue to fix and re-attach the handle to an antique porcelain tea-pot.  As hard as I tried, I cophoto-1uld not press the parts together hard enough to make the cracked lines disappear from the handle.  It frustrated me because this was such a nice collectors piece and I was disappointed in the results of my work.  I knew that it was broken and that I would never be able to get the true value of the piece because it was flawed but I wanted it to look better than it ended up looking. The handle was re-attached with all the skill and effort I could muster but it was forever flawed and it never would be as perfect as it once was.  It will forever carry the scars of the broken handle until one day when it will be thrown away and discarded with the trash.  I guess that should be expected because the once perfect little tea-pot had been damaged and whenever something is damaged it never really is “as good as new”.  Yes, it was functional and could be used again but it never again would be defined as in “mint condition”.

I placed the tea-pot on a shelf to dry for the night and I never gave it another thought.

The next morning, I was driving to the BMV to renew my license and I had the radio on.  Some preacher was talking but I was not listening to it at all.  The radio was just blaring but it was just background noise as I was thinking about what I had to accomplish for the day.    As this man finished his message, he closed in prayer… and while I was not really paying attention something made me clear my thoughts and I focused on the words of his closing prayer.  I heard him say these fateful words…

Lord, don’t allow me to hide the broken parts of me that I need to see.

Uh oh… I just got spiritually slapped up along the side of the head. 

What did he just say? What in the world does, Lord, don’t allow me to hide the broken parts of me that I need to see” mean anyway?  Flashes of my broken parts suddenly flood my thoughts.  Many of my broken parts are still lying right where I left them years ago… never fixed or cleaned up.  Just lying there, dormant in the recesses of my memory.  Some of my broken parts have been safely locked up in the corners of my mind.  Protected… safe and secure from further damage.  Some of the memories of my broken parts are like a puzzle… missing pieces that create empty spaces where something once belonged. 

Yes, many of my broken parts have been glued back together.  Some of these broken pieces you hardly see the crack but like the tea-pot, the scars of the damage will forever be there.

Broken parts of me that I have been hiding for years.

At least that is what I thought.

Then I realized that besides God there is one person in my life that knows all of my broken parts.  I mean ALL of my broken parts.

Yikes. 

I’m pretty sure my wife shouldn’t have to deal with the broken parts alone.super glue  She’s amazing, but that just isn’t fair. There’s a lot of weight there for her to carry.  She deserves better than that.  Plus she cannot carry enough super glue to fix me.

Not good.  Not good at all.

I don’t know what the standard for amount-of-people-that- should-know-your-broken-parts is, but I am guessing that one isn’t anywhere close.  There should be a community of people, brothers, friends around me that know those broken parts and are okay with them. People that know those ugly things and love me anyway. Don’t get me wrong, I know folks that love me….they just don’t know the broken parts.

It’s not how we were meant or designed to live.  I know that God knows and He doesn’t want us to bury those broken parts in our hearts.  He wants to fix them.  Like the tea-pot He wants us to be functional again.

God knows our sadness and the brokenness we try to hide from Him.

I have spent the greater part of the week since these events thinking about what lesson can I take from these illustrations and I have come to this conclusion.  I think we all try to put out the “best” of what we are for others to see.  We try to convince people that all is ok with us and the truth is they have no idea of the burden and weight of the world we carry on our shoulders due to those things we hide.  We try to hide that part of us we consider broken.  Like a discarded toy in the bottom of the toy box, we think we have buried it but the truth is all of that “broken stuff” that we carry in our heart and in our mind keeps us from being who we are meant to be.

So how do we fix these broken parts of us?  As I thought about it this week I just wish that God would talk to me directly and say, ” David… these things need addressed and you have to do quit hiding these things I want to fix” .

Honestly? I never understood what people meant when they said “I heard God’s voice.”  Because I never have.

I guess I always imagined that it would be a booming, loud shout from the heavens above sort of thing. Or maybe a smooth, soft and gentle whisper, like an easy listening radio DJ.  Or I’d be walking down the street and a bush would blow up in flames and out would pop Jesus!

I don’t know, really.  I am not sure what I would ever imagine God talking to me would be like. But a definite, audible voice, right? Yes. I assumed I would hear a voice.  And well, sorry, but no. Can’t say that ever happened. 

But make no mistake God was talking to me all this time.  I believe He was talking to me through the people He put in my life.  I believe that over the years God has sent people in my life to help me fix the broken parts of who I am.  My wife is a prime example of someone who has come into my life that has healed many of my broken parts. The problem is that there is more of me that needs fixed.  As I look back of the road of this life, there have been other people who were sent to lo7 daysok for me. They were there for the broken parts. I just never shared them. They did their part, I didn’t do mine.

I have always been waiting for the right moment, the right time, the right day to deal with the things I need to fix in my life.  That “someday” isn’t coming.  Life has taught me this lesson well. ‘Someday’ is never coming. If I want to be happy and healthy – if I want to love the work I do – if I want great relationships with my family, my community, myself and God, I can’t wait for some magical event to make it so.  It’s not gonna happen. The life I want doesn’t happen by accident.  I need to allow God to work in my heart and expose those parts of me that need fixed.

So today as I sit here at my desk, I look at that broken handle on the tea-pot and suddenly my heart is over-whelmed with the these words…

IN THE BROKEN PARTS, I AM THERE.

I do not recall thinking that up on my own.  I do not recall ever writing those words.  But what I do know is the all-knowing and incredibly moving emotion that is washing over me.

Maybe God does talk to me. Maybe not in a booming way.  Maybe with no harps.  He is not popping out of burning bushes, or soothing me with his easy listening voice.

But He is here.

He talks to me through broken handles. He speaks to me through random radio programs.  He talks to me by the people He puts in my life.  He is everywhere and anywhere, and He is most present in those places I expected He had abandoned.  Hiding in my wounds, resting in my broken parts, fully and beautifully alive.

He is there for you as well.  Placing people in our life and speaking to us through the most random things.  He is waiting for us to respond.  He is waiting for us to allow Him to deal with those things we try to hide even from ourselves.

Today is the day… open up and allow Him to make into all we can be for Him.

Because make no mistake… IN ALL OF OUR BROKEN PARTS, HE IS THERE.

 

 

 

 

The Walk

For the past month I really have not been writing much.  I’ve been busy doing some things around the house.  Some minor repairs and getting the yard back in shape.  While I do these tasks around the house it allows me to really do sombook-the-walke thinking.  So I started focusing on and thinking about the Christian walk.  Specifically MY Christian walk. I’ve been trying to evaluate my route of recent years. Why has my odyssey gone this way or that way? Why have I struggled at different times and why have other days been easy and inspired? It’s clear that my walk with God has not been a progressively growing and problem free life.  I don’t think anyone has that kind of walk with God.

Let me see if I can describe the Christian walk from my own experiences.  For me, as I walk with God, it seems that my walk looks more like a long walk through the desert with an occasional stop at an oasis for refreshment and rest. 

An oasis is a strange place.  In the middle of miles of sand, suddenly and for no reason, water, trees and life appear. It’s at this oasis of life where a weary traveler can get spiritual rest, get spiritual water and gain new strength.

It is my experience that my walk with God can best be described this way…

There are many dry days as I continue to walk with God. 

All the way in my journey, I know God is with me and caring for me, but days of oasisjoy, inspiration and great victory are rare.  Then, suddenly and for no reason, I come to a spiritual oasis.  It’s wonderful!  Refreshment, rest, water and revival of spirit.   If I can, I linger at the oasis for a while…it’s such a great place, but as my life moves on, I know that at some point I must continue my odyssey and so I head back into the desert to my walk with God.

The oasis is great.  It’s needed.  I would get discouraged and might give up if it weren’t for the occasional oasis, but life with God has to be a life of dependence.   It must be a life in which I look to God and trust Him. I won’t find that relationship at the oasis. I have to go out into the desert to discover that kind of relationship with Him.

It’s the dry days when I learn to trust God the most. It’s the days in the desert when I look to him to help me and give me what I need for that day. It’s the dry days in the desert when I grow in my faith the most!

Some pray for an eternal oasis. They never want to leave the cool springs, the wonderful shade, the fig trees, and the comfort of the oasis.  Many find this oasis at their church.  Never wanting to venture too far from safe confines of their Sunday morning worship service.  While I too find comfort in my time at church, I have found that only lasts so long.  True ministry and true value of your walk with Christ in found in your journey in the real world.  In your community, at the gym, at the store as you shop or at your place of work.  In those dry places of your daily life you find true growth and a deeper understanding of your relationship and walk with God.  It is there where ministry and your Christian walk is most important.  Not just on Sunday morning because if you only focus on the oasis of the church for your spiritual growth you will never learn to depend on God. 

So, off to the desert we are led.  Led by God to meet with Him there.  Dry days when we will find our richest walk with God.

As I’ve tried desert_walkto think through my own walk with God I think this describes my odyssey so far. It’s not glorious. It’s not always full of great testimonies to share. It’s often dry and difficult, but it’s my time in the desert where I find an intimacy with God I can never find at the oasis.

To me…this is what I would call the normal Christian life.  At least it is the Christian life I have experienced for the past twenty years or so.  I think it’s the real life of every Christian. Many linger long at the oasis not wanting to leave the comfort there, but some find a hunger for God more powerful than the comfort of the oasis and so they head off into the desert. It’s there we find an intimacy and relationship with God that will never be found at the oasis. It’s this strange contrast between oasis and desert that describe the walk of the Christian.

It is not glorious and it certainly is not easy.  

There are days when the best we can say is, with God’s help, we got through that day.

In the end, between rests at the spiritual oasis and walking with God through the desert we grow in faith.  It is in this journey that I come so accustomed to that I see my walk will never be one that spends much time in the oasis.  Most of my journey has been and will continue to be one that sojourns the desert learning to depend upon God, seeking to grow in His grace and try to be used of Him as He would see fit.

Lace up your shoes believer’s… today looks dry with no oasis in site.  It’s going to be a good day.

Storm Warning

Last night, as I drove home in the midst of the 3rd winter storm in the past two-weeks. I found myself complaining out loud in my car. I was giving Mother Nature a tongue lashing.  I am sick of the storstorm-warningms and I am already tired of this winter.  As I drove my car through the drifts of snow, I realized that all my complaining and tongue lashings were not going to help.  I was complaining to God about something He already planned to happen. I believe that God allows storms in our life to teach us. Storms are an intended part of our lives.

One author said, “we are all either just leaving a storm or about to enter one.”

So why are we so surprised by their presence in our life?  No matter how much we prepare for them they always seem to be unexpected, unpredictable, unwanted, and they always produce fear.  The only answer I can think of that addresses the question of why we are so surprised by them is because the storms in our life remind us that we are not truly in control of our lives and that scares all of us!

I am reminded of a story found in the book of Mark, chapter 4. It is the story of a storm in the lives of the disciples.  A storm that was planned by God to teach them, help them and illuminate them.  It’s a fascinating story and there is so much in the story that captivates me.  As I read narratives like this I imagine I’m in the boat with them, wet, afraid, struggling, and then I look to Jesus and He’s asleep!  How could He be asleep?  Doesn’t He realize what trouble we are in? Doesn’t He care?

We all feel this at times in the midst of the storm.  When storms come in our lives, just as Job asked in the midst of his storm, we all ask, “God, don’t you care?”  What they missed (and honestly we miss it too) is that God was in the boat with them!  If they go down so does he!  Doesn’t it strike you as strange that Jesus was asleep?  Don’t you wonder at times in your own life, “is God asleep, has He forgotten about me, doesn’t He care?”  You may have actually said it out loud, 

“God, WAKE UP!  I’m in trouble.”  

But what we and the disciples miss is that God is with us.  Do you realize how big those words are? God is with us.  It means He’s in the boat too! It means He’s invested in you, in your life, in your storm.  It means “He’s got this!”  It means, if you are in the storm and He’s with you, it’s part of His plan.

Ok, so I ask as I write that, how can a storm be part of His plan?  Because in the storm our senses become alive, StormSignsharp, focused and we can see more clearly than we ever do in normal days.  In this storm the disciples feared the storm, but in just moments their fears were redirected to Jesus.

Storms bring clarity.  They focus our passions, our desires, our lives on what’s most important.  In a recent storm in our area the news crew interviewed a woman who had lost everything in a fire in her home.  As she stood in front of her devastated home, nothing left of all she had, she said, “we are so blessed, no one was hurt.”  And suddenly clarity comes to her life.  The stuff can be replaced and in that moment, in the midst of losing everything, we discover that we have actually lost nothing at all!

As you face your next storm realize two things, 1. God is with you.  This didn’t happen without His presence or permission, and 2. He has a plan and purpose in the storm for your life.  

In the midst of your next storm will you discover it?  

Will you see that all of life is about knowing Him and trusting Him?  

Will you discover that He has never left you, He’s with you….even in the midst of your storm.

Finding Purpose in Life

As I pass the five-year anniversary of this blog, I have taken some time to reflect over the topics I have shared since I started writing.  I have covered just about all aspects of my Christian walk and along the way I have told some personal stories from my life.  It is hard for me to write about someone or something that I do not have a connection with.  I have tried to be open and be “real” in the sense that most of the advice and experiences I’ve shared are things that actually happened to me.

I’ve talked about some things that I am not proud of and I have shared most of my failures and even some of my victories. If you take the time to go back and read the archives of the posts from when I started writing you would find me in a different place in life than I am today.  A mere five years ago, I was still very bitter and unforgiving of those that I felt turned their back on me when I struggled in life and my Spiritual walk. 

I struggled with losing my ministry and I struggled with the realization that I was the only one to blame.  I could not find peace and I could not forgive myself for the damage I had done to my kids, not to mention what I did to my relationship with God. 

Many people never really find their purpose in life as it pertains to their relationship with God.  They spend their life trying to find it and they viewed their “purpose in life” as something that they would find in their future. I found “my purpose” very early in life.  As a believer, when you were right where you were meant to be, doing exactly what God had intended for you to do it is easy to know what your purpose in life is.finding-your-lifes-purpose-3 Lose that and your life is suddenly in a free fall. This is what happened to me.  I lost my purpose and I experienced fifteen years of really dark times in my spiritual walk.  

I had lost my purpose in life as it related to my relationship with Jesus Christ.  I remember desperately longing to know my purpose and wondering if I was ever going to find it again.  For years, I couldn’t relax in my life (and otherwise) for fear that I was so off course and somehow I would never be used of God again. 

That is when I found my pen again.  I say “again” because years ago I would write and share my ramblings and perspectives of a young man trying to find his way through this life.  I have stashed away dozens of  those notebooks from that period of my life.  I have made sure that they will never ever re-surface or be read again… at least not while I am alive.  

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 five 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.

Probably that is the underlying theme of this blog.  It has been about trying to find “what the purpose in life” is after you have failed in your Christian walk with the Lord.  Can you relate?

How can you know and find life’s purpose?  I don’t suggest that you follow my lead in your journey trying to discover it because I know that God had a different plan for me and I am the one that took the detour from the original plan He had for my life.

But this is the truth I have discovered. The phrase, “What is my life’s purpose?” is one of the least helpful questions you can ask yourself. Why?   Because here’s the thing – it’s unanswerable. We’re obsessing over a question we don’t have the capacity to answer.  It is no wonder why people struggle with finding it. Purpose in life is not something that is found in the future.  Rather it is found in your words, actions and thoughts that you have today.

There is a better question for all of us, one that will help focus our efforts on today and lead us where we belong tomorrow.  We need to ask ourselves, “What is my purpose for today?”

This is the real stuff that makes a life. What is my purpose…today.

Today… am I passionately pursuing the things I know to do?

Today… am I listening to the stirring from God inside me that’s calling me forward? 

For years I was so worried about what my future “purpose” was going to look like that I missed what it was supposed to be today.  Will I have a great future moment in history? Probably not.  Will I do or say something someday in the future that will change the world?  I doubt it.  Do I know what my “future” purpose in life is? I have to say no. How could I?

What I do know is that I have to write this post today to release when I am done as planned.

Will I feel like I’ve “arrived” by having accomplished any of these things?  Will trumpets sound; will I receive an award? No. But by completing my purpose for today, I’m setting up myself for tomorrow. And by completing my purpose tomorrow, I’ll set up myself for the next day.

now is the timeIt may seem obvious, but look around. How many people in your life are waiting for some big revelation before they’ll start doing something for God? As we do the things we know to do (especially the hard things), we stumble into things we could never plan and in the process, we change our world in a thousand ways.

You have an ultimate purpose, and in the scheme of life, I’ll bet it’s something that God will be pleased in. Your purpose “today” will get you there.  How do you know what your next purpose is?  I can’t say for sure, but it starts today… not tomorrow.  Tomorrow never comes.  It starts with the needs of those who are directly in your life. Seems like a worthy place to start to me.

So maybe it’s time to give up trying to solve the unsolvable, time to give up what’s unknowable. Time to stop focusing on things that are unseeable.

Maybe it’s time to ditch the question, “What is my purpose in life?”

And replace it with, “What is my purpose for today?

For those of you that have played along over these five years and have witnessed the progression in my life, I want to say thank you and I hope that you find God’s purpose for your life … today.

When God Says No

This past week I have been praying for something very specific.  It didn’t happen.

noNow comes the normal response that of all of us ask as we question what God is doing. 

I prayed, why didn’t He answer?  I mean, this was really important to me, how could He not answer my prayer and do what I wanted?

Have you found yourself questioning God when He doesn’t answer your prayers? Have you found yourself questioning how  you can trust Him when He knew how important it was to you? Or find yourself saying, “Why pray at all if He doesn’t answer anyway?”

I’m sure you could add a dozen other questions to this list that you have asked as the plans and prayers you hoped for didn’t come true and didn’t materialize.

What is God doing?  What’s His plans for us?  How do we navigate this topic of prayer when often the things we ask for are very important to us?  Now what?  Can we trust Him?  Should I even pray for things again since He didn’t answer this prayer?  Doesn’t He know how important this was to me?

The emotions of unanswered prayer are intense.  The hoped for expectations that are crushed by a prayer unanswered are confusing.  Now what? Where do we go from here?

There are often no words for the emotions that follow an unanswered prayer.  Unanswered prayers make us ask questions…especially when He has invited us to ask!

For me, after many years of knowing God, I realized that often my dreams and visions are not the best thing for me…and so I trust God for his plans, his directions….but it’s hard, isn’t it?  It’s hard when we asked, we wanted, we hoped…and He replied with silence. God's No

But I have found that some of the greatest gifts that God has ever given me is NOT answering all of my prayers.  When He has said NO or simply did not give me a clear answer to my prayers, I have found that in those unanswered prayers, I have witnessed things working out better than I ever imagined.  God’s “No” is not a rejection, but rather a redirection.

I shudder to think what would have happened to me if God would have answered and gave me all that I have prayed for.  

The bottom line for all of this is simply this:  God loves us.  God is sovereign and His love, His plans, and His wisdom direct our lives for His glory and our good.  

It doesn’t mean we always get what we want.

Solomon wrote these words,

“The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.”

When God says “No” I rely on these truths:

God loves me.  He has my best interest in mind.  He has a plan for my life.  He’s sovereign.  I can trust Him to accomplish the best for me…..even when He says “No”.

In moments like this, when I don’t understand His “No” I go back to the verses that direct me when I don’t have answers…the verses that calm my confused and disheartened mind,

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

“Not Guilty”

I stand accused.   There is no place to hide. The truth is soon to be revealed for all to see because this is the day I am to give account for my life.  The list of all my sins and everything I’ve done wrong is a mile long. 

I am so ashamed.  I cannot hide behind my words any longer.  My fate is now in the hands of One who judges…

I wait for Him to render His verdict and I hang my head in shame…

But then He turns to me and says, “I know you… I love you… I gave my life to save you.  Love paid the price for Mercy… my verdict…”

“Not guilty.”

How can that be?  I cannot begin to comprehend the kind of Grace that would take the place for all of my sins.

“Not guilty.”

After years of scrutiny and judgment and public ridicule.

“Not guilty.”

Suddenly I see the Cross and the tears well up in my eyes because it should have been me to pay for my own sins.

“Not guilty.”

My fate was in the nail scarred hands.  The debt of my sin was paid when He was nailed there and He said,  “I know you… I love you… I gave my life to save you.  Love paid the price for Mercy… my verdict…”

“Not guilty.”

The song “Not Guilty”  has played in my head and in my heart all this week.  Written by Mandisa and Matthew West, the song has been challenging me to scrutinize my own life and my own indiscretions. How would I measure up with the knowledge that all my sins would be laid before me at seat of God’s judgment?  Would I still have a future and a hope?  I cling to the belief that I have an Intercessor who knows me , loves me and gave His life for me.  Paid the debt of sin for me and provided a way to heaven.

What kind of Grace says “Not Guilty” ?  Only God’s.

Do you know Him today?  Are your sins covered by His grace?  Jesus Christ came to seek and to save those that were lost… all you have to do is accept His gift of forgiveness.  If you would like more information on how you can know Christ as your Savior, please send a note to thelegacybuilder@aol.com and I will get back to you.  May God’s love find you today.

Thank you, Lord.