Passion Week – What Does that Really Mean?

By many, the week leading up to Easter Sunday is referred to as Passion Week. For some the word passion might be a confusing term, especially in the world in which we live.

For me that word has a much deeper connotations than just a sensual human response. One definition of passion says “having a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something”. Another is “intense, driven, mastering a feeling or conviction”.

I admire musicians who have true passion in the way they display a total surrender in the the way they perform. They can convey a message with such force that you are left with little doubt about the importance of the message. They just lay it all on the line with unfettered emotion. If you cannot sing with passion, why bother?

People are passionate about many other things in life too. They can encompass the entire spectrum of humanity. Even in the realm of business there are those who are totally engulfed with a passion for their goods or services. The truth of the matter is, if you bring a passionate zeal to your work or avocation, you will excel and exceed in whatever you do. Regardless of your craft, people will follow and respect you because of your depth of commitment.The intent of my writing today is to examine a passion that far outweighs all other human pursuits or desires.

There was a lowly man who took up residence on earth and walked among us. He was from humble beginnings and led a simple life. This gentle man of whom I speak had a calling and a purpose. He may not have been a master builder or a great musician of ability or craft. But his goal and purpose pushed him to the ultimate level of passion. His resolve was born out of who he was. He was bred as a servant. His DNA fully tilted him to love people with a unique passion unknown before he came. His strong resolve led to his ultimate demise very early in his life. You’ve probably guess that I am speaking of Jesus, the Christ.

When he looked people in the eye, his gaze went directly to their core. He saw them where they were, yet loved them in spite of who they were. He was a magnet to those around him. He exuded a passion for life, but it not his own. The compassion he had for people was powerful enough to make rugged fishermen drop their nets and follow him without reservation. He just commanded a presence about him that was inexplicable. And he still does now.

For those of you who know and follow this man Jesus, he still has that magnetic draw and power. To become like him empowers you. To walk with him encourages you. To know him changes you.

As we ponder this week of “passion” we should be reminded how far his care and concern took him. It led him to to an early grave as “religious” leaders declared him their enemy because he obviously had a greater influence than they. Those same people took him down, or so they thought. There’s more to this story. Stay tuned.

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The Demonization of Christianity – Part 1

Mainstream media outlets of every type have become effective tools used in the demise of America. They condone every form of societal evil that exists. Based on whose interviewed and the way in which the probing questions are formatted it shows us display that journalism in American has morphed into any but objective delivery of truth. Instead of reporting news for what it is, it becomes quickly evident that they are completely “in the tank” for things we all generally accepted as morally and intrinsically wrong.

We all know the subject matter. It’s not even necessary to call them out. With a thinking rational mind, and any sense of morality, you know exactly the subjects of which we speak.

It’s been going on for a while now. Any downward change to a foundational principles or standards happens slowly at first. Subtle change and veiled innuendo begin. It’s like being insulted quietly. Then society becomes more and more hardened to the change. The ones who have a weak or lacking moral compass laughingly begin to accept things that were once considered taboo. Then as time marches on the forbidden turns to acceptance. More passing days then ushers in promotion and participation.

In the early stages of our downward spiral (during the “shock period”) opponents of the loosening of the moral belt might get a listening ear and even some agreement from many loose followers of the truth. But the barrage of repeated assaults on our national character continued. Then we experienced the “scoffing stage” as sane and decent men tried to stand up for truth and goodness but were laughed down as being simply foolish.

Next came the “mocking stage” a few years ago. The name calling began. Lovers of goodness were starting to be called haters. They were also told they were being intolerant of progressive ideas. When people mock you, you either run or stand up and fight back. Fighting back usually fuels the fire of the mocker. Then the defense of truth turns into an ugly battle of wits.

Back in the 1970’s and 80’s we sort of laughed at the phrase “If it feels good, do it”. Then a popular sports shoe shortened that quote to “Just Do it”. More and more people began embracing that thought.  It took a little before people adopted that mantra and starting living fully with that mindset. But it did finally happen, and on a wholesale basis.

There are many responsible parties and forces at playing in the intentional demise of our land. Now anyone who openly shares their faith in a creator God is branded and labeled as someone less than intelligent. Having a moral and then biblical stance on any subject will surely put you in the camp as one whose “cheese has fallen off his cracker”.

There will be more to come with this discussion, but for now I will leave you with this idea in mind. How do we live morally going forward?

Celebrating a Birthday – Especially in Heaven

He was my sounding board and confidant. And spiritual younger brother/friend. We pulled each other back from despair a number of times when life just didn’t make sense. He was Encourager-Par Excellence. He was the “get it done” person in the room. If you told him “Sorry that idea or project just isn’t possible” it was his signal for “watch and see it happen”. He’d go into high gear and make things happen. That thought process wasn’t just a human determination. It was coupled with the understanding and belief that our God is bigger than our problems or any obstacle we might face. The word “no” was just not a valid answer to my friend. He simply wouldn’t accept failure or defeat. He had a zeal for life that many will never attain. The enthusiasm and determination he exuded had a way of rubbing off on you.

One day he wanted me to come over with my pick-up to help him with a chore. It was one of those cold and blustery North Texas days late in the winter. I was sort of in a mess at that time because I was recovering from a broken arm and torn rotator cuff. The plan was to load a horse into a trailer and then take that horse to a breeder somewhere down close to Tyler, Texas. Because of my injuries I was still in a sling, but I could still drive.

We (bride and I) arrived at the land across from Jeff’s house and one of the guys who lived next to  the pasture had captured the horse in question and was trying to load said horse into a single stall horse trailer. After some wrangling, the horse finally reluctantly complied and they tied his bridle to the inside of the trailer, with what I thought was a flimsy rope. While watching being loaded I noticed that this little trailer had seen better days and I was a bit skeptical of the road worthiness of the wheels and tires for a 90 mile trip. But knowing Jeff, we were going to at least try.

Before I could back the truck up to latch onto the now loaded trailer and leave, this horse starting bucking and kicking in the trailer. I really thought the horse (and trailer) were about to start rolling down the hill. But while Mr. horse bouncing around in that trailer the rope with which he was tied broke free. So now this horse was confined, but loose, inside that little trailer. You are not going to believe this next part.

This horse was not happy and was not going to have any part of this trip or this trailer. His eyes were bugging out and then his head was sticking out the window of the trailer. Believe it or not, that horse proceeded to come out that side window. I was certain this whole thing was about to get really ugly with a horse half in and half out of a trailer window. But somehow he came out completely and then headed for the hills! It was the craziest thing I think I ever witnessed.

Horses became one of Jeff’s passions during the final chapter of his life. He left us way too early. But we are only given so many days on this earth by our creator. God’s purposes for Jeff had obviously been accomplished. During our friendship some great spiritual lessons were learned by both of us. In the pursuit of trusting God we both witnessed God’s hand in our lives and in lives of others too.

Jeff Thompson would have turned 52 years old today. He left an indelible mark on those around him, especially me. I might have a few impossible tasks in my path, but those are not really obstacles in my estimation, thanks to my buddy Jeff. Happy Birthday in heaven little brother and friend!

 

Survivors

There are times in the human condition when life throws stuff at us that we’ve never dealt with before. Illness, financial woes, strained or broken relationships, co-workers that make your life less than perfect and a myriad of issues that test the very fiber of your soul. Even the most balanced and grounded person can lose equilibrium and find themselves flat on the ground. It is just a reality that life is never perfect.

I’ve witnessed family and friends go through what seemed insurmountable pain and suffering. There were times that the only thing they could successfully do was cry. Every season of life seems to bring its share of heartache, yet humans just keep on going. Kids and family and even friends depend on us. We have bills to pay and lawn to mow. We just keep on keeping on.

We were blessed with a desire and a will to succeed. And if we find a true passion for something we can  even excel in what we do. Although created from the smallest of cells and molecules we somehow ended up with everything needed to become persons of value and worth.

There is a hope that each of us might become productive citizens one day after adulthood comes crashing into our worlds. At conception we were lavished with so many amazing potentials by our creator. Among the many wonderful things He gave us the ability to think and learn. He also gave us an innate need to love. Even when selfishness clouds our way we seem to find something down deep inside that causes us to have empathy and compassion on the other sojourners around us.

Most of us have been blessed to be parents. Once that happens we practice for years to get that right, or at least close. We scrimp and save and finds ways to provide, when there seems to be no way. And it all just comes natural for us to love and care for our mates and the broods entrusted to our care.

So if you are reading this I must assume you are a survivor. You’ve faced things that made you want to quit. You’ve given up so many times, only to wake up with a new resolve to putting your shoes in a forward direction.

Was it the cry of your child after a bad dream that gave you wings to keep flying? Was it the hoped promotion at work that pushed you? Did the strings of your heart renew your desire when you finally found that someone special? Did your best friend kick you in the teeth or lovingly lead you to renewal? Or maybe you were such sick of your position in life?Regardless of the reason you dusted off your boots and you just kept going.

Whatever make makes us survivors, it is must be a powerful force?

Pollsters, Pundits and Panderers

They all seem to know who is going to get the nomination. Their formulas use every form of math imaginable to man. The scenarios are wilder than remote Alaska. Everybody thinks they have it “figured out”. In the meantime good people from all over this land sit silently by and watch and listen, but just barely.

Then there’s the media. They always have their darlings. And sometimes those names change from month to month. There’s ALWAYS a slanted perspective, even for the network that claims to be “fair and balanced”. They have their favorites too.

But come election day (I early voted) the polls and the pundits don’t matter. They are all revealed for what they really are – panderers. For the truly serious voter what matters is substance, not sound bites. Experience and voting records are magnanimously more crucial than the pettiness of name calling or backbiting.

For the person running, just tell me who you are. Let others who know you also tell me who you are and what you REALLY stand for. Informed American voters vote their conscience. They look beyond the quips and the quirks. They look to the “soul” of the candidate to make their choice.

I was actually undecided before walking into the cubby to cast my vote last week. As I looked at all of the names on the list I felt a little sorry for the people who ran and then bailed. But for the names still left I voted for the one that best represents what I want America to be. My decision wasn’t based on emotion or how good the person appeared to be. I chose them to represent me and the values I embrace.

As this election cycle continues, I trust that others will also put aside what I avoided – the noise – and just do what feels right for you.

For those of who think they’ve got this all figured out with polls or whatever, please just shut it and let people vote.

 

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.

Normalcy – Crazy is Normal Too!

It really hasn’t been all that bad. People say “oh I am so sorry for your loss” or they have very careful responses when we are forced to tell them “our home was damaged in the tornado”. People have been really kind, but guardedly careful in their responses to us – as if we might just break down and boo-hoo on the spot. We’ve even gotten to the point that if the subject comes up (for whatever reason) we are starting to avoid telling people of our plight.

There have been annoying aspects of having things change so quickly – but being displaced by a Christmas tornado is not the end of the world. We all have stuff in our homes – like clothes – and appliances – and tools and closets full of food, and other items we can’t seem to live without. But to put it bluntly, virtually everything at our home either got thrown in the trash, tossed hurriedly into a suitcase or moved to a warehouse in very short order.

In the middle of the really drastic changes of the past 50 days we’ve been able to gain back a little familiarity in the past few days, by simply getting our hands on a couple of our own chairs. Hotel and rental furniture leave a bit to be desired in the posterior and lumbar departments. And excitedly one of our cars came back “home” last week after an extended excursion to a tropical body shop. The other car hope to make its escape this afternoon. So instead of driving my beat up pickup truck or the wonderful borrowed car from our daughter (which we were very grateful to have), we are getting back a few things that we depend on to help make things seem “normal” again.

We are undoubtedly part of the “Golden Agers Club” in our trendy apartment home. It is definitely a change parking in a garage that has more than one level and wondering each day what choice spot we’ll score (and hoping it is close to the correct exit). Then there’s the walk from the garage to the mailbox, and then up the elevator to the frigid hallway to our new paradise. Was that a right then left, or other way around?

But somewhere in my past I heard that new experiences are supposed to stretch you keep you young, aren’t they? If so we should have trimmed about 20 years off by now! At least things are not mundane and boring. One positive is that we’ve found like twenty new places to eat while waiting for a place where we could actually cook a meal or two on our own. Making our own food this past Friday night, was fine dining indeed. Hog heaven was more like it.

Over the course of time we’re learning to sit back, see the scenery, and enjoy the ride! What comes around the next bend might be yet unknown, but it surely will be just another adventure in the twists and turns of a crazy trip!

 

Toast… in the Eyes of the Law

 

Courtroom settings are familiar scenes. We’ve seen them in television dramas or experienced them first hand as a plaintiff, defendant or juror.

The nervousness of being there has different emotion levels. If there as a juror you are wide eyed and all ears, wanting to be the best listener you can be. Being there as a plaintiff brings a degree of seriousness and determination to present your side of the story and win your case. But being there as a defendant is in a class all its own. You are on trial. Your life is on the line. Everything hangs in the balance. All eyes are on you and you are being judged. Total strangers only know basics of your case. Just from a first glance or few words spoken you are being judged by every person in the room based on nothing more than primary facts.

All cases before a judge or jury have things entered as evidence that support the charge. Witnesses are called to either support the facts or cloud the facts from the view of the accused. But as the facts are presented against you, it seems the cards are stacked against you. You answer back with your view of the charge. But the more the prosecution presents, the more you know you are sunk and have no hope in redeeming yourself.

This backdrop of a courtroom scene is so you can see what I think it might be like when we one day stand before our creator God and answer the charge against us as sinners. There will be plenty of evidence for a conviction and very little, if any, facts supporting our innocence.

But in that grand courtroom that we all will face, in will come a couple of surprises. Mercy and grace show up to testify on your behalf. Miss Grace is a lady who shows up with complete favor and gives you more goodness than you’ll ever deserve, for no apparent reason. Mr. Mercy however, shows up and removes the charge against you, even though the evidence clearly shows you should be convicted and doomed.

It’s not only that we will have been released from the charges against us, but we’ve been given a gift instead of judgment. How can I leave the place of judgment with a clean slate and awards to boot? It is only because our gracious and merciful God loves the heck out of us for some reason.

When you think you are destined for destruction and ruin one day, remember that Mercy and Grace can show up on your behalf, if you’ve trusted in the judge of all creation.

Dust That’s Settled – Or Not

 

A full month has passed since our Christmas storm ordeal began. We’ve learned to           appreciate some things while living in a hotel space.

  1. Home cooked meals – We had our second one last night in a month. It was Homemade (with love) Beef Stew and Corn Bread. Yum!
  2. Space – What we thought was a good sized “suite” was great for a few nights, but it’s gotten smaller by the day. Can’t wait until we move to an apartment next week with 2 bedrooms!
  3. Washer and Dryer – We’ve not had to lug laundry around for a long time. That’s a true pain for my bride, but she’s a trooper.
  4. Your own furniture – A sleeper sofa is the most uncomfortable sitting device on the planet. And whoever heard of a sitting area with no chair?
  5. Sleeping in your own bed – We’ve been blessed with a decent bed, but there’s nothing like your own clean sheets!
  6. Quiet – The guy upstairs must be building something at 7 p.m. every night or doing jumping jacks? It could be worse!
  7. Having your own parking space – You get the luck of the draw every night. Mostly it’s been good for us.

I think we all get pretty comfortable with where we live, how we live, and with the self-imposed standards of living we all enjoy and expect. But those things can change in an instant. When change occurs sacrifices aren’t optional. They just come with the territory. Change does help you with your perspective though. It makes you genuinely appreciate things you had.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. We’ll get to remodel our home at some point. And we will get most of our stuff back later this year. The process getting the ball to that end of the field is a slow one. The anxiety of not knowing how the process of rebuilding will go, or if you’ll even be able build it back the way you want hangs around in your mind. Then you wonder if home will still seem like home, when you return?

So many unanswered questions. And on many things going forward we don’t even know what questions to ask or what to expect in the process? We are plowing new ground. We will continue to take this just one day at a time and we intentionally decide to have joy in the journey!  I guess I am no longer stuck in the 1960’s? Wait, I am in my sixties darn it!

Progress is Slow – But it’s Still Progress

Finding your sea legs after something crazy as a tornado hitting your home is a difficult task. Being patient and being placed “on hold” is something I don’t’ do well. I manage my personal affairs with a “full hands on” for most things. Being dependent on other people and waiting for dominoes to fall does not come naturally for me.

We all hate insurance, until we need them – to pay off. The constant battle is this – Do I or don’t I trust the insurance company? Currently I do trust them. They said the right things. They seem to be on our side and in our corner.

Storm follow-up and repairs are slow, especially in such a hard hit are like North Texas. I am learning a great lesson that I’ve heard about before- That this is going to be a marathon not a foot race. We are taking a very LONG foot race. it will be about endurance and hanging in there. The word race will now be replaced with journey.

It has been an emotionally grueling 3 weeks since our world flipped over. Emotions change every day or two. It goes from shock to sad to mad to hurt, and then bits of each all over again. At least now I don’t take those big nose dives after visiting our home. The hurt is being replaced with “OK, let’s get this ball rolling and get it all done”.  If you don’t like simple auto damage claims, you’d not believe all of the elements of a catastrophe dwelling claim. I’m trying not to get overwhelmed by it all. So many decisions face us in the months ahead. But the alternative is homelessness! We are grateful for small things that we took for granted before.

We are on a quest to find joy in our journey. We’ll look back one day and know what we should have worried more about, and what we should have done differently. We hope we’ll be better people for this chapter. We can’t help but think there is some grander purpose in this all. We just know it.