Monthly Archives: October 2006

So this is what ‘old’ feels like

Originally posted on 7/6/06

This week I turn 32. No milestone, but I’m realizing that with 3 kids, and memories of my parents at this same age, the clock is not slowing down.

I remember my dad turning 30. He’s 57 this year. I remember going on trips. I’ve seen pictures, and been told, ‘We were your age when we went to _______.” Ex-cuse me?? Come again? There’s no way you were the same age as me right now when we went there. But oh, yes, it is true. It’s only harrowing because I remember those trips, I remember those times, and to me, as the child, my parents are just the same now as they were back then. It’s as if time passed by, but they stood still. It’s surreal.

It is frightening in a way when you can remember your parents doing the same things with you as a child that you do with your kids now. But I don’t know that that is a bad thing. I do things with my kids that my parents did with me, and I see the same joy in their eyes that I remember as a child. Sporting events, playing at the park, going on vacations…..those same joys I knew, I see in them. Seeing things like this from a different perspective is one of life’s greatest joys. And I’m thankful for the groundwork laid by my parents. Their example is what I follow as a father now. The things they did with me, and who they are, both as earthly parents and as spiritual guides, shaped who I have become, and continue to work on being, as a father, husband, and mentor to my family.

I’m thankful for that, and that is the best present I could ever get. Growing old is not a bad thing. It IS dependant on your outlook though. You can embrace it for what it is, or take a defeatist attitude about it. I choose to embrace it. Growing older, thinning hair, no longer being the ‘cool’ guy (although my wife would contend I never fully grasped that one), and not quite being in the shape I was in during younger years (although you’re NEVER too old). I guess it comes down to perspective: not looking at the time that’s gone, but looking ahead at all the potential today, tomorrow, and beyond holds.

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Peace in uncertainty?

I’ve come to a point in my life where I’m completely uncertain about everything.  I have recently answered God’s call on my life to preach.  Now, contrary to what one might thing that entails, it did not involve a lightning bolt from the sky.  I didn’t visit a burning bush, and I didn’t hear the booming voice of James Earl Jones tell me, “Go….preach!”.  God had been dealing with me about this for the past year or so.  I had been arguing with Him about it for longer than I can remember.  Finally, on September 10th, I gave in.  He spoke to me in such a real way, there was no denying it.  Long story short, through the confirmation of at least 3 people, God showed me what I’ve been missing all along–the fact that He wants to use me………ME, to share His word in a deeper way.  I can understand how that might sound arrogant or pompeous, but believe me when I say that couldn’t be further from the truth.  I am immensely humbled by the things God has shown me over the past few weeks, and I am equally excited about what plans the Lord has for Theresa and I.  Since that time, my pastor has asked me to step into the position of elder at the church.  I had been, since mid-September, been asking God for that ‘invitation’ I knew He had (although I had no idea on the timeframe).  After seeking Him and continually (and I do mean continually) asking, He showed me that the ‘invitation’ I’d been seeking was right in front of me.  This is what God has for me (as well as Theresa) right now.  When it’s time for the next step, He’ll open the door.  That is so exciting to me.  Knowing that you are in line with God’s program and plans provides a peace that cannot be equalled.  It’s in the storms of life that we sometimes find the answer.  Other times, the answer comes before the storm, but it makes the storm that much easier to weather.  I will rest in Him, not only now, but for the years to come.  He placed a call on my life years ago, as a child.  I forgot about it, but God never does.  Once He puts a call on your life, it’s there to stay.  You might push it aside, ignore it, forget about it, but God never does.  He waits, patiently, allows you to make mistakes and do your own thing, but after all that is said and done, He’s still right there, waiting to open the doors of purpose so that you can step into everything He wants for you.

Car vs. Semi

Here’s another one moved over.  I liked this one, and I think it’s an important thing for us all to remember from time to time.

 Originally posted on 8/17/2006

Life. Man, what a whirlwind it can be. I currently have so much on my plate, that it seems I can’t keep up.

-I’ve tried keeping up here, to no avail, and I have lost touch completely with a few other blogs I like trying to keep up on, because they are genuinely interesting.

-I’ve tried staying with some type of workout routine, again, to no avail.

-I currently have, between 2 websites I write for, about 15 cd reviews to get out.

-I am preparing to study for my Series 6 & 63 investment license, which will expand the scope of what I do in the ‘real world’, and set my course to a further degree for my career.

-I have 3 kids, one of which, as previously mentioned, just joined our household a few short months ago. By the way, at 2 months, he is double his birth weight, and 4 inches taller, or in baby talk, longer, than at birth. This kid is mine through and through. But I digress.

-I am busier at work this year than any year past, since I started in this profession. Hey, I’m not complaining about that, it’s a good problem to have.

-I am now serving as a youth leader, which has meant occasional teaching on Tuesday nights. I love teaching youth, it’s a blast. I can ‘talk’ to them, without talking down, it seems like I can be a bit more ‘real’ with them. Maybe I’m still young at heart.

-The band. Whew. Since Mike returned from New Orleans, we have scheduled 8 shows in the next 2 months. That’s the polar opposite of 3 weeks ago, when we had 1 show scheduled. We’ll definitely be backing up a bit after mid-October.

-I was seriously considering taking a series of college level online Bible courses, to sharpen me as it relates to being a church leader and teacher. That has, unfortunately, gone to the backburner with the addition of the investment licensing I’m preparing to go through. I will get to this, but fortunately, there is no time limit nor constraints on when I have to be done. So it gave way temporarily.

All this got me thinking what having a full plate typically (or at least hopefully) gets the believer thinking:

Have I stopped to hear God today?

Hmmm. Come to think of it, have I stopped to hear God this week? Now there’s a sobering thought. In all the daily grind, in all the rush, and in all the ‘I wish there were more hours in the day!’ moments, how often have we stopped to just listen. When was the last time you just shut the world off, shut out all the distractions, and just waited on God? How much time have you found this week to clear out just a few minutes for the Creator of the universe? Consider these few verses:

Psalms 46:10-“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (NIV)

Deuteronomy 4:29-“But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (NIV)

I Peter 5:8-“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” (KJV)

Now, you can probably guess how the first two passage relate, but what about the last passage? What does the devil ‘seeking whom he may devour’ have to do with a busy day?

Here’s how.

If your mind can be occupied with other things, with things that are temporal, short-term, and meaningless in the ‘big picture’, then what satan has done is to divert you from that time with God. He knows that if you can get to that ‘there’s not enough time in the day’ phase of life, that your time with God will likely suffer, and as a result, he will have succeeded in getting his foot in the door of your life. He will systematically pick you apart, and the changes are so subtle, so minute, that you can’t even tell or realize what is happening. And that’s when he’s got you right where he wants you. And it is my humble opinion that we are just as wrong for our sin of neglecting God, as we are for our sins of lust, greed, envy, and hate. Time spent away from God with the busyness of the day, week and month is seperation from God, and ultimately, seperation from God is death.

So what is the solution??

Stop.

No, seriously. Right now, stop whatever you are doing (or whatever else you are doing, since you are reading this). Don’t do anything. Don’t read, don’t talk, don’t fiddle. Just stop for 5 minutes.

………..
…………..
……………….

Did you stop? What did you hear? And not only did you stop to hear, but did you stop to LISTEN? Really listen?

Here’s the thing: God IS talking. There is no doubt about that. He speaks to us today just like He spoke to Adam in the Garden of Eden. He speaks to us just like when He met Saul on the road to Damascus (but perhaps without the blinding light). He speaks to us just the same as He spoke to the prophets of old.

When He spoke to David in the cave, He spoke to you too. When He was speaking to John the Baptist, He was talking with you. But did you listen? The same Creator of the universe, the same God who formed all things, and rules all things, wants to have an intimate, personal relationship with you. He’s been waiting for the moment you stopped to hear Him. Let’s face it…you wouldn’t ignore your best friend on the phone, so why would you shut out the God who made you, who loves you, and who wants the very best for you? He is right there, speaking, waiting for you to take just a few short minutes and stop everything. He wants to tell you so much, so can you do it? Can you put aside the busy agendas, the things that one year from now you won’t even remember, and the things you put inbetween a closer relationship with Him?

He’s waiting for you. He doesn’t require much. Just a willing ear and a quiet spirit. Take the time today to stop and listen. Putting it off today will only make it harder to do tomorrow. Take the time to hear Him today.

A moment away (A glimpse of the divine, Part II)

Originally posted on 6/22/2006

Wow, what a last couple of weeks it has been. Up and down, and up again.

As many of you probably already know, it started a few weeks ago with an incident that, while time has lessened the initial strain, will be indelibly etched in our memories for years to come. You can read about it over at my myspace page, but for those of you who do not know, or are not on my friends list there, my family and I (including the boys) saw a man get shot. We were, instantaneously, thrust into a situation above and beyond our control. The way the situation unfolded from there is a direct result of God’s protection over us, and His guidance in our lives. Who knows how it COULD have turned out. In addition (and again, because of God), not only did my boys have the presence of mind to do about the best and only thing they could do at the time, but they show very few long-standing effects of witnessing something so brutal. I pray they never experience it again in their lives.

Last week, our 3rd son was welcomed into the world. It was a rocky road, but not nearly as rocky as it could have been. I cannot say that my faith wasn’t shaken, that there weren’t times when I wanted to ‘give up’, or that I really didn’t know what I would do had the situation turned for the worst. It did not, however. At that crucial moment, in a time when it was the LAST thing I wanted to do, I prayed. I gave Alex over to God. And God moved. He is home with us, and he is well. I am learning all over again what an immense joy it is to be a father to a newborn. I love every minute of it, and I can’t wait to watch him grow.

Yesterday, I got to put “A glimpse of the divine” into action. As I made a run to the store for Theresa (apparently even women who’ve just had a child still get cravings…), I saw a woman at the intersection. We’ve all seen her before. Pacing the corner, sign in hand. “PLEASE HELP-I HAVE KIDS. THANK YOU, GOD BLESS YOU”. My first reaction was the same as it is most times, and probably is for most of us-“Yeah, I bet. What do you need it for? Booze, drugs, or just because you’re freeloading?”. Then the Lord spoke to my spirit.

“Whatever you’ve done for the least of these, you’ve done unto Me.”

Ouch. Ok God, you’ve got my attention. Then my mind thought back to one day, long ago, when I was spending time with a pastor. We ran into a person in a similar situation, and the pastor offered to get the man groceries. So we went on a grocery run for the man. This time, I thought, I will do something different. What would it take for me to get her a few things, need them or not? Very little. A few bucks? I can do that. So while I shopped for my wife’s very specific requests (remember, she “just got sawed open a week ago”), I shopped for that woman and her family. I thought maybe, just maybe, if I could give her and her family a meal, even if just for tonight, who knows what that might accomplish. So I got her some bread, deli-style turkey, a 2 liter of Coke, and some Oreo cookies. Maybe not the most nutritious meal, but hey, if she does have kids, the Oreo’s alone would bring a smile. I proceeded to check out, bagged my own groceries separate from hers, and headed out. I pulled up to the intersection, and opened my window. “Here ya go” I said. She walked up, grabbed the bag, mumbled something indecipherable, and kept pacing. “God bless you” I told her. Then I headed home.

As I drove, I still wondered about her. Was she drunk? Was she strung out? Or was something else going on? Again, the Lord spoke to me. “It doesn’t matter. You did what I told you to do. Whether or not she is out there for dishonest reasons is of no consequence. That is not your concern.”

I continued to think about what all had transpired over that ‘run to the store’. Then I remembered something I read by John Fischer a year or so ago. A moment in time, ONE moment, could be the difference between success and failure; between happiness and despair; between salvation and damnation. We have so much more of an impact on that than we realize. See, it didn’t matter WHY she was out there. What mattered was that she was out there. We are not the judge of why. But if she was out there out of need, true need, then maybe that one simple act could make a difference. Maybe one act of kindness could reaffirm to her that the world is not all self-serving and selfish. That there are people in the world, full of Christ’s love, who fall, fail miserably, but still try to do what is right, regardless of the price, and without reciprocation. I wish that I thought like this more often. I am working on it. Unfortunately though, it is a ‘sometimes’ thought, and not a way of life. I want it to be a way of life. And something like this is not commendable. Upon telling my wife about the situation that unfolded, she said, “That was wonderful of you to do”. It shouldn’t be anything wonderful. It should be something incredibly ordinary. It should be common. I pray that it will be someday.

A glimpse of the divine, Part I

Originally posted on 5/11/2006 

“Ignorant fibbers in the congregation
Gather around spewing sympathy
Spare me
None of them can even hold a candle up to you
Blinded by choices hypocrites won’t seek “

So goes part of the song “10,000 Days”, from the new Tool album of the same name. For those of you who do not know, here’s a little background.

Maynard’s (Tool’s vocalist) mom suffered a stroke that paralyzed her for the final 27 years of her life. She passed in 2003, so the stroke occurred in 1976….When Maynard was 11. The number of days Maynard’s mother was paralyzed was most likely within 100 days of totaling exactly 10,000 (27 years and change). “10,000 days and the fire is long enough / You’re going home”. As far as I can tell, Maynard’s mother was a believer. Even in her paralyzed state, she kept her faith in God (the previous track “Wings For Marie, Part One”, and Perfect Circle’s “Judith” also back this notion).

The song “10,000 Days” references, in large part, if not totally, the final days of Judith Marie’s (Maynard’s mother) life. Among many lines in the song, the verse above stood out to me. Here’s why.

In the last two weeks, this is the 2nd time I’ve heard this notion of Christians, and Christianity in general. And it’s intriguing to me. It may require hearing or reading the lyrics to the entire song to fully see my interpretation, but you can easily do so with a Google search, if you choose. But here’s what stands out. It is obvious, that in her final days, as well as probably early on after her stroke (when Maynard was 11), she was visited by other believers. They probably said to her what we all say, when we hear of another person experiencing difficulty. They probably, albeit well-intentioned, offered prayers, and told her they would keep her close to their heart. Now obviously, this is assumption on my part, but I’m getting at something deeper here, so bare with me. What is he saying here? “Ignorant fibbers in the congregation/Gathering around spewing sympathies/Spare me”. What did he see that set in his mind that these people were doing something self-serving, and not something to serve in a tangible way? It seems to me, he saw something that is all too familiar in Christendom: insincerity. Now, you have to understand that I do not condone his position, but this is the branch of a much deeper-rooted problem in the Church today.

I have an acquaintance, who recently was let go from his pastoral position at his church. He was let go just days prior to Christmas. The congregates who stopped by to see him, his wife, and their kids, offered condolences and prayers, but little else. No one said, “Hey, on our way over, we brought you some groceries.”, or “Listen, we know you are going through a rough spot, so we paid your gas/electric bill”, or “we took up an offering at church, your mortgage is paid this month”. They stopped by, said, ‘we’ll keep you in our prayers’, and moved on. It has left that acquaintance jaded to say the least.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t about tangible things, and it’s not about money. It’s about doing what we are called to do. Serve. When was the last time you offered something to someone unprompted? When was the last time you took the $5 in your pocket, and instead of going into Starbucks, gave it to someone in need of a meal? And better yet, when was the last time you actually took the time to LOOK at the people you see everyday, you see in the pews of your church, or in the cubicle next to you at work, and looked at them long enough to see the need in their eyes. People who are desperate, and people who are in need, do not hide it well. I can attest to that from personal experience. But the problem is that we get so busy in OUR schedules, OUR agendas, and OUR plans, that we totally ignore those around us, or even worse, we acknowledge them with the token “I’ll pray for you”. Let’s face it-75% of the time, we say that for one of two reasons: 1) we say a quick prayer, then forget about it, or 2) we offer a blanket acknowledgement, in the hopes of not having to commit more time to that issue that doesn’t concern us than is absolutely necessary. Ouch. But is it true? From what I’ve seen, by and large, yes. And that is unfortunate.

So what is our solution? Jesus talked about it in Matthew 25:31-46. Verse 40 says, “‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'”

It’s not rocket science. It just takes effort. The solution is this:

Eyes focused outward.

I was turned onto this by a good friend, Scott, who’s blog you can find on the sidebar here under “Special Forces Group”. He has a link on his site for http://www.eyesturnedoutward.com/. I’d strongly advise checking it out. Scott and I were talking about this recently, and it is a passion of his. It should be a passion of all of us. Eyes turned outward. Focusing on the needs of others, and not focused on the covenience of our own daily grind. The problem with inaction is that it fuels the accusations all around us. I want to disarm the accusations with action, rather than give fuel to the fire. If we could do that, we could make a bigger impact in these last days than we ever thought possible.

A new attitude

Originally posted on 5/25/2006…..

I recently watched something that brought me to a realization.

We have NO idea how good most of us have it.

If you’re anything like me, you grew up in a loving home. Maybe it wasn’t the most ideal situation or environment, but at the very least, you knew that you were loved. Perhaps you had the opposite though. Perhaps you had a roof over your head, but you didn’t feel much ‘love’ from parents, siblings, peers, etc. In both situations, you have reason to be thankful though. In the lack of fulfilled needs, or in the lack of positive affirmation, there are still good things that can be shared from experience, even if you have to sometimes dig a bit to find those things.

I really have no complaints. My upbringing made me at least part of who I am today. I always had food, clothing, a place to sleep. I dealt with fear early on in life. Fear of the irrational at times, other times fear of a parent’s anger. The latter, thankfully, was dealt with early on in my late-teens, and is something I no longer carry with me. Becoming a father myself also helped heal those wounds, albeit few of them (again, thankfully).

In that process, I learned to become who I am today. I made mistakes, I slipped up, made some VERY poor decisions, but through it all, even in the bad times, I surrounded myself with people who loved and cared for me in good times and bad. That is part of what carried me through, along with God’s grace and mercy. There’s no denying that. But I digress.

I saw something today that changed my perspective on what we, especially as Americans, take for granted. Life. Freedom. Choice. I saw the eyes of Auschwitz survivors, and it moved me. It didn’t move me on a superficial level (at least I’d like to think it didn’t), but in a deeper sense. See, when I saw the faces of those survivors, I saw something behind their eyes. Something that, in every face, told a story. The story was likely similar in most, but it was a steel look, a glance that was unmistakeable–these people had been through hell, and lived to tell about it. But 60 years later, the scars were just as real, the events just as true, and the survival just as precious. And it made me sad.

I’ve had it pretty good. And I’ve been pretty blessed. I’ve come to the conclusion that I take far too much for granted. I spend too much time on the meaningless stuff, and don’t concentrate enough on the bigger picture. See, I think we get wrapped up in the menial everyday things we deal with that really take little effort, rather than the things that matter the most. The things that matter are bound to be different for everyone, but for at least some of us, they should be the same. As a believer in Jesus Christ, my first matter of the heart should be to see the world around me, love those I come across with the love of Christ, and in some small way, plant a seed that points people to Him. I’ve come to realize over the last year that it’s not so important what my ‘liberties’ are, but rather what people on the outside see when they look at me. If that is the only thing I leave with them, then so be it. God is in control. But the important thing is that I do what I am called to do-what we are all called to do-and that is to love those around us. Not just the ones that are easy to love, or are convenient to love because it takes little effort, but the ones who I don’t WANT to love. The people who I can only love by looking at them through God’s eyes. Every person we meet, every person we have contact with, has value. I would even go so far as to say that every person we come in contact with, like them or not, has some quality, characteristic, or trait, that we can gleen off and learn from. Perhaps if we looked at people the way we should, rather than how is easy for us to do, we would see them so much differently.

Honestly, I’m not sure what all this has to do with what I saw on that program, but I know it gives me a greater appreciation for the things I do that are so easy and minor in the grand scheme of things. It also helps me to realize that every one of us have a calling. God brings it out of us when He wills, but it is there, for every single one of us. For some of us, it is easy to see, for others, it is harder. For some of us, moving into that calling is a no-brainer. It takes little effort because it doesn’t require us to move out of our comfort zone. And again, for others, it requires much time, effort, concentration, and yes, even some work.

Regardless of which category you fall into, take the opportunity today to reflect on it, and if taking that step requires effort, then take a deep breath, lean on God, and take that step. Do not let today pass without you realizing the fullest potential of who you are in Christ, and who He’s called you to be. God is patient, loving, forgiving, and kind. His mercy endures. When we take the first step into all He wants us to be, it is amazing how much easier it becomes. The movie “Dead Poet’s Society” made famous a phrase that I have thought of many times over the years. “Carpe Diem”, or, “Seize the Day”. Shouldn’t we all do that? And if you are a Christian, isn’t the call to do that even more vital?

Seize the day. Seize today.

Moving time…..

I’m moving my blog over here from blogspot (thanks Jordan).  Over the next few days, I’ll be reposting entries from there over here.  Stay tuned.