They Had No Clue

And when his friends had gone away and night had fallen they took him and ridiculed and slandered him. Charges were trumped up against him in late evening when few were aware or present. He was alone with his enemies. And things got terribly worse for him. The wounds inflicted on him seemed more about hate than retribution.

Yet he gave no defense because he’d done no wrong. The world didn’t understand him so they viewed him as a threat to their own politics and power. They had no clue who they were really dealing with. He allowed them that night to do with him what they wished. He didn’t fight back or rail. He knew his purpose. He paid a heavy price that night. He carried a weight beyond measure. 

The next day there was surely a hush over the landscape. The preacher had been put down and silenced. He would not longer be able to gain the attention of the masses. His friends, no doubt, would now be quiet and go away.

How or why did this escalate to the end of the gentle healer? Through a blurred and salty vision this man that night saw past the offences of his revilers. He saw them with a compassion and love that they couldn’t know or ever embrace.

Unbeknownst to all, those darkest hours were ushering in a new light that would never fade or fail. Waiting, hoping, longing – they all waited in silence not knowing the direction of the future for all. They all just had to wait.

God. Is He Someone I can Pray to?

God is our Father and our creator. That is my story and I’m sticking to it. That is something I was taught in my upbringing.  Since God is our Father, that makes him in essence and in character, our Dad.  Being a perfect Father, we know that he must enjoy the interaction, respect and reciprocal love from his kids.

Long ago in my life experience I gained a great respect for God. That was even before I could say that I had a personal “experience” or relationship with him. As a child, when others would pray, I was taught to bow my head and close my eyes (simple I know). But if I knew nothing else personally about God, at least I knew to respect Him and revere who he was.

When we speak God’s name, mention him in passing or even simply think of him, he is acutely aware of us and at full attention and ready to hear from us. The scriptures instruct us to pray without ceasing. I think we all know what that really means. It means that in every situation we should have God’s name on the tip of our tongue asking him for guidance, comfort, and every other thing we could possibly need. Prayer is reaching out to God. It is also acknowledging that He (and he alone) is our source and strength. I’m a guy who loves fun and find some sort of humor in anything. It’s just how I’m wired. But mixed in with my humor there is a serious side to me as I think of who God is.

God expects us to call on him in thick and thin. I think it has to be a wonderful thing to him, when we call on his name to a simple conversation with him and lovingly thank him for being who he is. This conversation can be equated to telling our earthly father – I love you daddy.

Our paw owns it all. He’s really a rich guy. He lavishes his wealth on us each day. At times I feel like a spoiled brat the way he blesses and cares for me, even when I’ve been a fool. But in his goodness he knows what’s best for us. He also knows full well when to withhold his wealth from us and correct us.

The next time to have the need to reach out to your father for advice or strength or even to just thank him, don’t hold back. Speak his name, call out to him boldly. He will hear your voice and respond to you in grace and love.

God inhabits the praises of his children, all day – everyday.

Scabs and Scars

I’ve personally been met with obstacles and challenges in my life that left me battered, bruised and broken. I bear scars of failure and defeat. Some wounds have been deep and lasting. Some battles I’ve faced seemed to have lasted for a lifetime. Then there are are those really tough events that defined my life, at least for a time.

The human condition gives us all episodes of life where we get punched and slapped and knocked down. It’s just life. Some battles leave you with evidences of your survival. Some skirmishes can leave you with nasty little scabs. Then there are those events that leave indelible marks on your life. Those seem to stay with you. Scars left behind can be reminders of failure and brokenness.

A few years ago I was at crossroads in my life. Failure and despair seemed to haunt me. That thinking seemed to be a new norm for me. I decided one day that I was far better at failure than I was at winning. Let me tell you, that is not a place you want to be. That feeling takes you captive and makes you its slave. It seems there is no escape from that dungeon.

But then I found some really wise counsel, from some very honest and godly men. They didn’t ridicule me, they didn’t shun me. They didn’t try to figure it all out for me. They came along side me in my pain. They prayed with and for me. They hounded me with compassion and care, in an humble yet strong kind of way.

It was a rather odd and new time for me. Men were taught to suck it up, take it on the chin and just deal with it. Don’t show your weakness, don’t display your pain. And whatever you do, do  not tell any other man your weaknesses or failures. If you do, your man card is cancelled permanently. Does anyone know who wrote those rules?

I can honestly say, at this point in my life, that I wear my scars as badges of honor. I know I am a survivor of the rarest kind. I’ve been in the trenches of life and am still here to tell of them. I have a marriage that has stood the test of time. I have folks around me that I’d willingly give it all up for. I’ve seen ugliness and pain yet I smile in spite of it all.

There’s nothing special or gifted about me, yet I’ve found the secret to success in life. It is not about reaching some pinnacle of fame or fortune, or reaching some lofty goal or getting some large reward.

I’ve learned to simply rest in what my God has shown me, in my pain. He’s a trustworthy teacher that takes you to the highest of places of submission and tests you to see if you really do trust him. When I’m shaken and thrown down I know that He still loves and cares about me, especially in my pain. It must seem odd to those around me, but I’ve been blessed beyond measure in some of the darkest places in life. Yet God is good. All the time.

 

Riding the Rails

The emotional roller coaster in the aftermath of devastation is quite the ride. The ride takes off with tons of adrenaline flowing that moves you to action as you take that first steep dive down the tracks. Then as you start up the next hill you get a bit concerned about how high the next drop might be .

Then after a few days of riding you are dizzy and downright tired of the ups and downs. The downhill falls seem to get steeper when they come. But pockets of adrenaline arrive to alieve some of your fears.

About a week in you realize that your life (all of it) will never be the quite the same. Planning for a life change and implementing that plan is quite different than being forced to change every single plan and thought you had about your future.

Yesterday was one of those days. It started out stressful at work with tons of things to do and not knowing where to start on them because they were all urgent. It was so overwhelming it made me want to just walk away. Then I found a happy place with earbuds in place with some soothing music that took me away. That’s when work started cranking out. At the crest of the ride I decided that I needed to go “home” at lunch to survey the mess to see what we still need to do in the mopping up process. That little visit sent me back to a bad place.

Life has its ups and downs regardless of the date or your station in life. Challenges that we all face can take us from contentment to worry and doubt, in short order.

As I reviewed my life (and not just the past 10 days) I was reminded of some words from Isaiah 54:10 that lifted me up.

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.” NIV

That’s all I got today, and all I need.

Where’s My Cup – Quest for Normalcy

Having a normal nights rest is something that can be illusive the older we get. Depending on circumstances or diet or a change in the time we retire, we seem to search for the perfect sweet spot so that we can get a deep restorative sleep.

When your apple cart is flipped on it’s side or tossed a block from your home you reach for the fruit – it is not there. You look and all you find is an empty place.

When everything in it’s place has been moved, the quest for things from your normal routine begins. Whether it’s a favorite coffee cup or a small screwdriver, trying to navigate back to simple routine it can be as illusive as laughter at the IRS office.

Our complex world can become very simple in short order.

99.9% of our personal belongings are now in storage 19 miles from us. I almost said 19 miles from home. Camping out in a hotel room is fine for a couple of days but the novelty and simplicity grows thin rather quickly, especially when you can’t even find your house shoes.

Humans were created for routine. Navigating in the dark in our home is  (was) something I’ve took for granted. Not that I count, but I can walk directly the the door handle on the bedroom door. I can walk to the kitchen or den without running into a wall or stumping my toe. When I wake up in the morning I can tell you what time it is without even looking. I can take you to the top drawer of my toolbox in the garage for a screwdriver (in the dark) and pull out a phillips head.

When I rolled out of bed this morning I turned right and ran into the window. Then I put my foot in my bride’s shoe and it didn’t fit. I walked in the dark with my hands out in front and walked slowly. I saw a glimmer of light. Aha -the  microwave clock! That tiny light is so important to me right now. Who would have ever guessed?

We found that we have a nice lady here that can make a mean omelet in the hotel lobby. We have a new routine! The food is good but I have a hard time with total strangers sitting around in their jammies and hair so wild they could easily have a bird hiding in there. As we prepare to return to work tomorrow we will no doubt enjoy at least something that is routine and familiar. Who would think I want to go back to work?!

I promise to grateful today. I will be grateful to go to my church, even though it’s 12 miles further now. I will be grateful for a couple of meals prepared by someone else. I will be grateful to know I still have a partner that I adore with every fiber of my being.

It will take a little time, but we will find our new “normal”. And we will be happy with whatever that different routine brings us. We have no reason to fear. We have no reason the grieve. We have no reason to worry. We have each other and we hang onto a God that we believe in. We know that He will provide our every need. He’s that kind of God and we trust in His goodness.

A Cold and Starry Night

Do clear, cold, starry nights make you think of days gone by like it does for me? Something is mystical and magic about gazing in into the heavens on a winter night. I think it is awesome to realize that the sky we view on any given night is the same exact view that we’ve surveyed our entire lives. And on a grander scale, that sky has been the same for a really long time (like forever)!

On a cold night in a distant past most of us know of and accept the story that there were men who had a simple yet important job of tending sheep. And on that special starlit night these wranglers realized there was something different about that fluorescent sky. These stargazers had much experience with night skies. They had an intimate knowledge of the details and scope of the horizon. They had they viewed that same scene night after night for a very long time. Other than watching for predators and strays, I’m sure these fellows spent considerable time talking among themselves about a myriad subjects. But on this night they had something big and new to think about and discuss.

For them to see a new light in the sky must have more than just a passing interest. It would be equal to us hearing or seeing an unidentified object of unknown origin flying in our direction. It was, no doubt, one of those things that would shake anyone to the core. These sheepherders probably didn’t know what to make of what they were witnessing? They, along with countless other night watchers, must have been talking about this new light in the sky for weeks and months to come.

This new light in the sky seemed to somehow be focused and directional, unlike the other sparkles in the sky. The special light seemed to be shining towards a place. Even with the sky’s visual rotation, this particular light stayed in place and pointed in a direction. It didn’t lose its intensity as the night faded.

I may be spending a great amount of effort in painting a scene that would have been present in that night, and that sky. There is great reason for the concern and special wonder of this night sky, and that star. For you see the light that was burning brightly in that night sky pointed to the place where a human kind would become supernatural royalty. This great light and event was because of the birth of single child. The child of which I speak was more than just the pride and joy of new parents. The great illumination pointed to a hope for all mankind.  For you see, God became flesh that night, as the savior of the world was being born. This single event signaled to the world that something was new and different. I’ll bet there was electricity in the air and an excitement that was inexplicable.

So the next time you gaze the night sky, see if you can imagine what it might have been like to see that Star of Bethlehem that night. That star still shines but it is now visible to all who believe in the baby toward whom it pointed. He later became a kinsman redeemer and king. Jesus the Christ was born and is still our star and guide.

The Imagination of Creation

Being creative people by nature we are motivated from time to time to make our own creations. From the large array of raw materials in our natural world, we make things that make our lives easier and make us increase our productivity, and also things that are just wonderful nuggets for our eyes. We think, envision, design and craft. We cut and nail and glue and sand. We top off our creations with color and style. Then we display them proudly for the world to see. We feel that sense of accomplishment and joy of being a creator.

 

I’ve been wondering what that process was like for our eternal creator? Did he think about making us for ten million years (as if he has a calendar)? Did he make previous versions of us that weren’t quite right? Did he think the whole thing through before he started the design process? From one of the attributes about God (omniscience) I’ve learned, I believe that every step, every detail, every single aspect of his design and craft, were without flaw. The overriding influence of His every thought and action was based out of and driven by desire. He desired fellowship. He longed for the interaction we as human beings would give. The eternal genius behind it all was all about having an offspring.

 If you spend time, energy and enormous resources in building a project, you would be surprised and shocked to think that someone would take what you poured your very self into and basically rip up your design to shreds and throw it in the trash. If something I had labored on and sweated over became one day to be regarded as a piece of trash, I think the darkest deepest side of my own flawed humanity would make me horrifically angry mad and want retribution.
Can you imagine with me, for one moment, what could possibly be going through God’s mind each and every time an abortion is performed in our world? I shudder to think what his ultimate wrath might be one day for those who’ve taken his lovingly created human children and shredded them with no remorse?. This unspeakable evil will bring us ever closer to the end of time. I never want to be accused of not doing everything in my power to stop this horror.

Light Bulb Moment today

I had one of those light bulb moments early this morning.
It came to me as a single word – Mission.
What does Mission mean?
Webster defines this as: an important goal or purpose that is accompanied by strong conviction; a calling or vocation, or an important task or duty that is assigned, allotted, or self-imposed: or sending or being sent for some duty or purpose.
 
For a number of years I felt like I had several missions in life. Among those were to be the provider for my family and to be the man God called me to be, for the protection and nurture of the wife  and brood he blessed me with. Another mission was to raise our kids in the “right” way. That mission was a joyous and rewarding endeavor.
 
A little later in my adult time I had a mission to be a leader among, and with, men of faith. That became a passion that was shared with other like minded guys who were in various stages of their lives. It was also a rewarding and fruitful experience and watch as God blessed and prospered that deepening faith experience. 
 
All the kids are gone now. They are pursuing their own missions now. So, for the most part my fathering mission is pretty much accomplished. My provider mission and role of provider has changed to being the provider for my wife and myself. The men’s ministry mission waned in recent years, as some of my closest allies and comrades left this place for a better land.
 
A discussion began last evening with my bride about the frustration we feel as believers in that the population at large are very much different than we are. Our society is very much “into themselves” and searching for happiness in things and events that we personally find no joy or purpose in. We sort of feel out of touch with the mainstream. We want to be and attempt to be relevant and “part of the crowd” yet we just can’t embrace many of the activities and attitudes that make the multitudes happy nowadays.
 
So, as often happens early in the morning, the Holy Spirit speaks. Not with great detail but with single words like MISSION. In the “mature age” of our lives I think we need a new mission. We need something that we are jazzed about. We need to throw ourselves into something that makes a difference in the lives of other people. And we need to be on the same page as a team for this mission. At this point I have not a clue what that might look like or be? But the same spirit that injected this new word into my thoughts, will also bring something to us that will energize our batteries and give us new meaning and purpose.
As we allow our spiritual gifts to be employed openly in the mighty hand of God, there will be purpose and drive and success. There will also come with that the fulfillment of knowing that what we are about is something that makes our creator smile.
I’m ready to find my new calling, whatever that might be. Stay tuned for further mission news!   

Haters. I am. Are you too?

 

I hate poor quality. I hate poor customer service. I hate liars and thieves. I hate having to be at work by 8 A.M. I hate Mondays. I hate that America now apologizes for exceptionalism. I hate to see our veterans get pushed aside and forgotten. I hate the media that doesn’t report the truth. I hate taxes. I hate being punished for my beliefs. I hate able bodied people who won’t work for a living. I just hate where our country has ended up and headed. On the flip side I am a lover.

 

I love quality products that last. I love merchants that actually like doing business with me. I love truth. I love doing the work that I do. I love each day of the week when people leave me alone and let me excel. I love the ingenuity and exceptionalism that my parents and grandparents taught me. I love the sacrifices that our veterans made for us and our freedom. I love it when journalism is not tainted and just reports what happened. I love paying my fair share of taxes that adds to and increases capitalism. I love the rewards of faith in God, who loves me and is in control. I love when I see people stand up and make it on their own financially by hard work and ingenuity. I love America and the freedoms we’ve enjoyed for at least 238 years. I love my wife and my family. I love my life.
So in the end I am more of an optimist and a lover than I am a pessimist and hater. You know, the true haters are the ones who take truth and twist it into a lie.    

On the Precipice of Change –

On the Precipice of Change
     As we ponder our future this week we try and envision what our world might look like 6 months from now and beyond, we can’t help but think back about when life was more idyllic. When we were a people of wonder and hope and had dreams for our kids and grandkids that surpassed our own lives growing up in the 50’s and 60’s and 70’s.
     As a free people we just hope in the vision of a future that is bigger and better that that of previous times. I’ve personally witnessed an erosion of the American dream in the past number of years as society has changed and watched as values have changed. Change is always a needed thing if we are to be innovators and idea people, but some of the changes that have taken place have taken a toll on those of us who baby boomers as we’ve watched with interest in how American business has evolved into a purely profit machine that could care less in the people who make it happen, namely it’s workforce.
    How many people do you know who have had a diminished standard of living in the past 10 years? Who is it in your family that has experienced being “down sized” without a job and left to fend for themselves in a sour economy? We all know someone whose had to deal with aging and at the same time see whatever nest egg they had evaporate just trying to keep the lights on. And the back side of that is that they there has been no “light at the end of the tunnel” in many respects.
    As Americans we have a proud heritage of independence and resolve. We’ve always taken the lemons we’ve been given and made not only lemonade, but we’ve taken those sour fruits and made things like Super Duper Frothy Delicious Lemon Fruit Ta-Ta or some similar concoction. That’s just who we are as a people. We are innovators and entrepreneurs at our core. That’s why we’ve been the best at what we do. We know what’s good and what works.  That’s why immigrants flock here, isn’t it. They want a piece of the large wonderful pie that we call America. Can’t blame them, can you?
    I am hoping for change. And the change I’m hoping for is that we can once again be released as a people to innovate once again. That through collective creative genius we can unleash Americans to re-build America. And when we do that we all get a piece of the action.
    So as we look forward, I hope that we all realize that we really can re-fire the engines of America. If we as a people will untie the hands of business and let capitalism and innovation do what it does best, we will see a spirit of cooperation and excitement that we’ve not experienced in a long time. Don’t you think it’s high time we got back to the American we all knew and loved? Wouldn’t you like to be excited again about the future our great nation? America has been asleep, not dead. It’s been imprisoned, but not with a life sentence.
It is my earnest hope and prayer that life will once again resemble the America I once knew. And I hope that starts before it is too late to change.