Two Pennies

“While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box.  Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them.   For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.”                                                                        

Luke 21:1-4

As I have grown older, I admit that I don’t think I do much for God that matters.  I have always tried to convince myself that over the past 8-9 years that I was doing something worthwhile in my writing.

But in truth… it really hasn’t amounted to anything.

There was a time, years ago, when I really felt that I was part of something that was doing something for the Lord.  In light of where I am in life, it is very clear to me that since 1995… I have been on the shelf. Not really doing anything of significance for the Lord. I used to say, like Moses, I was on the backside of the desert and I was on journey that would bring me back to where I could be used once more for God.

That is just something that I don’t believe any longer.

I am convinced that the reason I am still “on the shelf” is because I have always been waiting for the opportunity to teach an adult Bible class. I have not been willing to do the “small” stuff.  I was waiting to be reconciled to the point that I could once again open a Bible and teach like I did all those years ago.  And as much as it pains me to admit, I see now that I still struggle to truly give the little I have to offer to do the small stuff to be used of Him.  I have been looking for something bigger to do. 

Here is the truth… God knows my heart.  He knows my pride.  He knows my intention. 

It’s been 21 years and I am still not far enough on my journey to be completely restored.  I have more miles to walk and I have more layers of my heart that need to be stripped of my pride.

Now before anyone who stumbles upon this post and may  think that I am feeling sorry for myself, I’m not.  What I have come to realize is that I have been the one that has kept me on this journey away from serving God and I have exiled myself to the shelf. 

This is not a place where God has put me.  I have done this to myself.

When I look at the world around me and all that is happening I am tempted to ask, “So what difference can I make?  What I could do will not change a thing.”  

As I read this story this morning, once more I watch Jesus highlight the little things…the things we miss.   He tells the disciples, “Hey, did you see that?  That was amazing!”  And they reply, “What? What? We didn’t see anything.”  Jesus responds, “That woman who put two cents in the offering, did you see that?”  I’m sure they were thinking, are you kidding me?  What difference does that make?

To God it was big, to us it was nothing.

I am convinced that I miss the big things because they seemed so small to me.

God sees the small things, the things done for Him.

Yes, even when no one else sees them, God sees.

He sees our intentions.

He sees our hearts.

He sees who we really are.

We’re not fooling anybody.

Living Life When God Surprises You

I hate surprises.

I don’t like them at all. I hate surprise birthday parties.  I don’t like being surprised at Christmas and most assuredly I hate situations when I don’t know what is going to happen.  I like a plan and I try my best to know the outcome of whatever I am a part of.

Of course I have had to adapt because there is no way I can control every aspect of life.  Life throws you curves and unexpected things.  There are forks in the road and decisions that take place everyday in our life that will result in a “surprise”. There is no doubt that God allows these curves and unexpected things in life to take place.  They are not surprises to Him.

God is full of surprises. Many times we expect Him to do one thing, and He does another. We anticipate His movement in one direction, but often it is in another. Sometimes we trust Him to handle something immediately, and He waits and it seems to take forever. Then other times we anticipate waiting for a long time, and almost overnight He has solved what appeared to be the impossible.

Over the course of the past few weeks, I have been surprised by the events that have affected my life.  I have had to be “surprised” on two different occasions, when I have had to deal with people I looked up to had passed away.  Similar to 2009, when a few of my closest friends died, 2016 has started off going down a path that I hope doesn’t continue. 

I thought about it and my thoughts wandered to all the surprises that I have had in recent days. They were events that I did not see coming.  I guess that living my life without the expectation of events that turn into surprises is part of my problem.  I need to understand that God has prepared the “surprise” long before the day of the event.  Again, God does not call them surprises, and make no mistake He has prepared them for all of us. 

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.                                                                                                                                                         1 Corinthians 2:9

We live in the potential of a surprise from God all the time.  We just live our life without really considering the things that could happen.  I believe that is how we should live our life. We cannot live in fear of the future.  We cannot be paralyzed by the surprises of life. Of course, it will challenge our faith and our trust in Him and its human nature to question and to wonder why God would allow certain things to happen. When God surprises us with an opportunity, our first reaction is to view it from the god supperspective of our own sufficiency. We fear the unknown, we fear the loss and we fear the uncertainty.

What gives us the most hope every day is God’s grace.  We know that God is going to give us enough grace and strength to get through anything we am going through.  None of this is a surprise to God and if we trust Him to forgive us of our sins and our past, we must then be willing to allow Him to guide our future.  Even if that includes a few future surprises that we don’t like. 

With every surprise and opportunity God also brings answers for our fears, objections, and defenses. His answers in every instance point to Himself and His own sufficiency to meet our every need.

I believe that there are five promises God’s answers for us when we are subject to the surprises that we have to face:

1. His Plan.  There is a sovereign purpose and plan for everything including our lives. He planned the events with us in mind. What we consider surprises in life are not surprises to God. They are part of His plan for His ultimate glory and we are a meaningful part of His plan. There was a reason for it happening.

2. His Presence.  We are not alone as we participate in fulfilling God’s plan. Many times we allow ourselves to be alienated from Him when we go through the bad surprises of life.  He hasn’t forsaken us.  He’s there and knowing He is always with us brings peace amid tumultuous times and comfort amid challenging days.

3. His Provision.  God designed us so He knows exactly what we need. God is sufficient not just for comfort but for all our needs in every situation He surprises us with.

4. His Power. Our weakness is not a defense against doing what God asks. We are told to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. And when His power is at work through us His plan and purpose will be fulfilled.

5. His Promise. God has promised to never leave nor forsake us. He will be there… always.

The next time God surprises us with an opportunity, a challenge, or a change in life, we need to take a moment to pause before we get into defense mode. We need to think about who we are focusing on—ourselves and our limitations, or God and His unlimited sufficiency.

Knowing He is sufficient in every way we will begin to accept these surprises with more grace.  We read in God’s word,

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails”                  Proverbs 19:21.

We may make our own plans, set our own course and directions for our lives, and soon discover that it is God’s purpose that will prevail.

For me, I have had a week of trying to put all of this in perspective. I have come to accept that there was nothing anyone could do to change what happened.  We like to think we could have changed God’s mind or influenced the end result.  The bottom line is that many of our prayers are opportunities for us to accept that which is His will and not change the outcome of what was planned by God himself.

Living life when God surprises you can be difficult. It challenges our faith and our confidence. At the end of these surprises, we may not understand it completely but God will still make sure that things turn out for our good and His glory.

Hold on. Stay Strong.

God loves to do the things that we have absolutely no power over, and that’s the way He has planned it for our lives.

Leaving The Porch Light On

One week ago, I had the honor of speaking at my daughter’s wedding ceremony.  Not many get that opportunity to speak and share from their heart at such a special occasion. 

It was just about a year ago, I received a call from Cassidy and she told me he popped the question and she said yes.  I already knew that this was going to happen because the young man who was asking for her hand in marriage, had already talked to me and asked permission.

None-the-less, it was a shock to my system that it really was going to happen.  I wrote about it here: Then They Do (click on this link).

So flash forward 11 months and I finally give some advice to them about their new life together. A number of people have asked me if I could share what I said, so I am posting my speech in its entirety. It’s not word-for-word but it is close… here goes:

Good afternoon everyone. I’d like to welcome the friends and relatives of both families who are gathered here today to celebrate the marriage of Cassidy and Andre.

Thank you for taking time from your busy lives to join us on this afternoon.

Some of you have traveled quite a distance to be here. And we are thankful for that.

We hope you’ll enjoy the rest of the evening and we hope you will remember this day as fondly as we will.

Wedding1I feel so proud today to be standing here given the opportunity to take part in this special day.

I am also extremely grateful for the chance to speak to you today.

That being said, there will be three ways I will remember this speech… the one I practiced, the one I am about to give and the one I wish I would have given.

Hopefully… You will hear the one that is closest to the one I wish I would have given. But I make no promises.

I’ve learned that life is circular, it’s full of beginnings and endings, there are times of extreme joy that can be followed by hard and difficult times.

New chapters of life begin while others will come to a close. I believe that life is meant to be lived looking forward. It is to be enjoyed. As James 4:14 says, Life is just a vapor… it appears for a short time and then vanishes away.

Life moves fast and before you know it your child is standing in front of their friends and family committing their life in marriage to another person.

As parents, on many levels our job is done. While we will never stop being a parent, a new chapter is starting for us.

One season is unfolding into another and we will close the chapter of raising our children. The responsibility of raising them has been lifted.

All you can do as a parent is thank God for the opportunity and hope that some of the wisdom of our life experience was passed down.

Just like many othPam and Davider parents, we spent the vast majority of our lives raising our children to become productive adults and become good people.

The journey of being a parent is not for the faint of heart.

There are twists and turns, surprises and disappointments. There are moments of extreme pride and moments of regret.

It’s a rollercoaster of emotions.

As a parent you sojourn through the good times and the hard times because that is your job. It is what you do.

You do all you can to protect them, you provide for them and try to take care of their every need. In most examples, there is not a need in your child’s life they have not been given.

Then in many situations … somewhere around the age of 16 they look at you and tell you they can’t wait to move out of your home. They inform you that they “WILL NEVER raise their children the way you did.

It leaves many parents wondering what they did wrong.

But let me make something perfectly clear today. That is not the story of Cassidy.

As a child, Cassidy was strong-willed but loving.  This strong-willed aspect is something she and I had the opportunity to discuss many times in her younger years.

CassidyThis loving, strong-willed little girl brought those traits into her adult life. In times when she could have made other decisions, she kept her “will” strong in serving the Lord when it would have been easy to go the other direction.

Along the way Cassidy has picked up many skills, some from her life experience and some as gifts from God.

Cassidy has always worked hard at becoming a better person. Always strived to become better at what she does, and becoming the caring person that she is today. She has made me unbelievably proud. I am thankful that I have been able to be part of her life.

If I am honest today, I cannot deny that I feel a loss. After all, for the first time in many years, when I go home tonight, I will turn the light out on the porch knowing that she will not be coming home.

Our little house is the one home on our street where the porch light burns. porch Light

As it burned for her sister before she got married, a light has always been left on until Cassidy came home at night. 

When I turn that light out tonight, I will cry. But they won’t all be tears of sadness.

Rob and Leslie, Pam and I, have raised her to get to this point in time. We all spent time preparing her for this day and this new adventure.

For the past twenty-two years, this house where the porch light burns has been her home.

You know… we could have moved from that old house on Stilwell Ave. We even made plans to do so. We could have moved from the house where we raised four children with only one bathroom.

But there are reasons we didn’t.

One reason is because of a door jamb in our kitchen.

A door jamb where pencil marks measure the growth of a family. Each mark a memory and each  mark with a date written beside it to note the growth.

This door jamb tells the story of children growing up and becoming adults.

Each dated mark one step closer to this very day.

These marks will remain on that door jamb until one day the new owners of our home decide to paint over them and make marks of their own.

Another reason why we have not moved is something that I want to share specifically with the two of you.

You know that I have profound hearing loss. As I grow older my hearing will get worse. 

I hope not… but there may be a day when I lose the ability to hear all together.

But for now, I hear things that most people don’t.

You see… this little home where the porch light burns, speaks to me.

In the quiet, I can hear the echo’s of our children laughing. I hear the chatter of you having your friends over for movie nights. I hear the sounds of the TV marathons you had, watching the complete series of Friends, The Gilmore Girls, Supernatural, Full House, Boy Meets World just to mention a few.

To be honest… I sometimes wish I could un-hear the sounds of how many times you watched the Disney High School Musicals.

The walls of our home reverberate with the sounds of Birthday parties, of long talks at the dinner table, and the precious sounds of Christmas celebrations.

If I really concentrate, I can hear the click of the door closing behind you when you were out at night. That wonderful sound that you were home, safe and secure.Cassidy Singing

One of my favorite sounds that still ring through the walls of our home is listening to you sing as you got ready for school or work. Cassidy, you will always be my favorite singer.

The walls of our home emit sounds of a family that was trying to find their way in this life.

It surely wasn’t perfect but the wonderful sounds that come from the walls of our home, far out-weigh any noise of discord that there may have been.

In time… these wonderful sounds will fade… many are already being replaced by the laughter and the banter of our grandsons playing in the living room. 

When it is time, you guys can help in filling our home with the sounds of future grandchildren that will be absorbed into the walls of our home.

My challenge to you and Andre is to fill your home with sounds of love, sounds of joy and sounds of happiness. If the walls of your home would speak, may they share sounds of forgiveness and acceptance. More importantly, may the walls speak of a young couple that loved the Lord and made Christ the center of their home.

Too many homes todawedding2y are filled with discord… filled with hateful words and fighting. My prayer is that the walls of your home will never be saturated with these kind of sounds.

In closing, every parent wishes that one day their child will find the right person for them to spend the rest of their life with. The fear of any parent is their child making the wrong decision about that.

When I first met Andre, I learned quickly that he was a good man, and would not be the type to hurt Cassidy. Once I got to know Andre, I couldn’t have chosen anyone more suitable. He let her be herself and did not try to change her to make him happy. He’s very considerate and thoughtful. I appreciate the way he treats and makes Cassidy feel about herself, I cannot thank him enough. We are confident that he will take good care of her.

Traditionally, at this point, I guess I should offer some advice… so here goes.

Andre… Always leave the porch light on for your wife.

Cassidy… Anything Andre says in anger 6 months ago is inadmissible in an argument. In fact, all negative comments made by Andre become null and void after 7 days.

Andre… Cassidy is not a morning person. Stay clear… enough said?

Cassidy… Andre is not a mind reader and he never will be. His lack of mind-reading ability is not proof of how much or how little he loves you.

Andre… Whenever you’re wrong, admit it. Whenever you’re right, Take pleasure in knowing that you are and then keep it to yourself.  Just keep it to yourself!!!

Cassidy… leave the porch light on for your husband.

I cannot encourage the two of you more than to have your home filled with sounds of happiness, forgiveness and love.

May you continue to serve the Lord with your life and in your marriage.Speech

You both have been raised in love. You have been raised by parents that love you more than life itself.

We are filled with joy that you are getting married today. It’s a new journey and a new beginning for you and for us. May your love always be an example to all of us that are here to witness your vows to each other.

One last thing… in the future… remember to leave the porch light on…  so that your children can always find their way home.

So that’s it… we are one week in to being “empty nesters”. 

We could not be happier for Cassidy and Andre!!! 

We are excited to see what the future holds for them and for us. It will be new adventures for all of us!!!

And while our children are now all on their own, all becoming productive adults and good people. 

I’ll still leave the porch light on… just in case they ever want to find their way home.

Viewing Life Through A Broken Lens

About a year ago, I bought a used IPAD from a friend. I was told upfront thcrackedat the screen was cracked.  

And then I saw it. 

All along the left hand side of the screen was cracked.  It was bigger than I expected but I was committed to get it fixed right away.

For the first few days, it’s all I thought about when I tried to use it.  It was right in my face.  It seemed to be staring at me. 

It was the first thing I noticed every single time I used it.  No matter where I looked, it taunted me and contorted my view of the pictures on the screen.  I couldn’t wait to have it fixed now, but I needed to delay it for a few days.  I had a lot on my plate, so I planned to take it to get fixed the following week.

But within a few days, the cracks began to fade into the background.  A week later, and I’d all but forgotten the cracked screen.  

I barely noticed it.

In those few short days, I grew accustomed to the cracks in my window.  I compensated for them.  I accepted them and the distorted view that came with them.  What had once been an obvious, irritating distraction became familiar enough that I looked right past it.  It was almost like it wasn’t there.

But it was there.

It’s like looking through glasses with a broken lens.  It distorts our view.  We don’t see things as we broken-glassesshould. An obvious lesson here is that when we ignore small problems, they grow bigger and spread.

When we avoid paying the smaller cost today, we’ll likely pay a larger one tomorrow.

But there’s an even more important lesson for me.  Maybe for you too.

Where else am I looking at my life through broken glass?  Good and bad, what’s true about me that I refuse to see? What’s in my way that’s obvious to everyone but me?

This week I found some things that I have been ignoring.  The cracks and broken pieces of perspective have come back into focus to show me where I have been living in denial.  I have been living my life by not acknowledging the obvious.  The issues associated with growing old and having serious health problems belonged to someone else and surely not me.

My mind and eyes adjusted so quickly to my bad situation that I no longer even saw things as they were.  I ignored the problem so well that I didn’t see the thing right in front of my face obstructing my view.  I looked past it, even as it worsened.  It became normal to me.

I have been living there, in denial, for a while now. I have a serious problem with high blood pressure and I have diabetes. No matter how much I would like to deny that these issues are true, I cannot stop them from affecting my life.

Last week I was having chest pains.  You would think I would have said something to my wife but I didn’t. I couldn’t rest and I couldn’t sleep. Much like the crack on my IPAD, after a few days of pain I just looked past them in ignorance. The more I tried to ignore the increasing pains and pressure in my chest the more I started having this sinking feeling and thoughts that I was soon to die.  I thought of impending doom. Still I did nothing. Denial and pride kept me from reacting to what my body was telling me.

After almost a week of this I finally gave in.  I could no longer deny that something was seriously wrong. I sent a text to mSky Highy wife and told her that I was having issues.

I soon found myself heading to the ER.  When I got there I was immediately rushed in to the cardiac unit.  Initial tests showed that my blood pressure was “sky-high” as the doctor put it.  I was about as close a person can get without having a stroke or a massive heart attack.  The reason for why this was happening was still lost to me but was obvious to the doctors that were treating me. I was soon going to get a real clear picture of why I was in the hospital and in the condition I was.

It was painfully obvious and acknowledged that I had not been taking my medications the way I should have.  My broken “lens” was ignored and I looked past these health issues as if they belonged to someone else.

They had to bring my blood pressure down slowly so as to not induce a stroke so I was subjected to a few days of tests and treatment to bring it down and get my diabetes under control. I can no longer look past these medical issues.  The good news is that my heart is in pretty good condition considering it’s owner. No blockages and the potential of stopping any more damage if I can get back on the path of good health.  I want to live another 30 or so years, and it was made real clear that I that will not happen unless I make some changes in my life. 

Another second chance.

I am home today… still having residual chest pains that will go away with continued treatment as prescribed. Reminders of a fool who still viewed his heath problems through a cracked lens. The signs were all around me. I just never let myself see them.

I have to ask myself some real important life questions.

Where else am I looking at my life through broken glass? 

Good and bad, what’s true about me that I refuse to see?

What’s in my way that’s obvious to everyone but me?

These are painful questions to wrestle with, and trust me, I’m aching having gone a few rounds with them.  But who wants to live a life seeing things as they aren’t?

We all need to see our circumstances as they truly are.  We cannot continue to look at life through a broken lens. Our challenge is to not ignore what’s broken.

If life isn’t shaping up as you’d hoped – If you’ve been circling back to the same person or problem again and again – If you’re in a destructive relationship – especially if it’s with yourself.

Maybe you’ve got a crack in your window. Maybe there’s something right in front of you obstructing your view, keeping you from seeing things as they really are,keeping you from being who you were meant to be.

What is it?  It’s not a mystery.  It’s in plain sight.  Once we name it, we can deal with it and move on.

So, go a few rounds with these questions that are taking me to the mat.

Am I viewing my life through a broken lens?

What does it keep me from seeing about myself?

What am I denying about the circumstances I’ve created?

What old pain have I grown accustomed to and embraced?

What if I laid it down?

What would be possible if you could see yourself and your circumstances as they truly are?

Answer them before it’s too late.

Everything is a Gift From God

I am going to let you in on a little secret.

A few weeks ago, I was driving to Columbus for work and usually when I drive alone, I have the music blaring.

That isn‘t the secret. 

This is…

I like to sing along at the tTommyBoyop of my lungs like Tommy Boy (sorry for the mental picture… just be thankful you did not have to hear it). 

Oh yeah… I let er rip!!!!

I was completely overtaken with the sheer pleasure of singing as loud as I possibly could. The music was so good and I suddenly felt myself drift off into my imagination of me being on stage, singing “in concert” at a huge venue.

I suddenly found myself in a full-blown dance routine behind the wheel. Now for the record… I grew up Baptist.  Baptist’s do not know how to dance. I am no exception. 

Oh… the moves I was making.  I was definitely singing better than the singer on the radio as well.  I was so into it, in fact, to the point of being mesmerized by it.  

They say that texting and driving is bad.  I agree wholeheartedly.  But when you get so “into” the song on the radio that you lose yourself it is just as bad. 

And then there’s that moment when you find yourself at a stoplight and make the slow head turn to your right to see the car next you laughing so hard that they are crying because they have watched you for the past mile or so make a complete fool of yourself.

As my face turned a deep red from embarrassment, the light turned green and I waved to them and drove off.  Their car didn’t move.  They could not stop laughing. 

A few miles down the road, I had enough courage to turn the radio on again.

Then the thought crossed my mind, “I wish God would have given me the talent to sing.  Then, I wouldn’t have to resort to singing to the steering wheel.”

And yet, as I thought about it, I suddenly realized that nothing is mine!

It was then I realized that was the exact reason God did not give me the talent to sing.  Because it would have been about me and not about Him.  Whatever talent, or lack of talent I have is given by God. 

There is a reason we are the way we are.

It was a profound and yet simple truth that I need to be reminded of. Nothing is really mine. 

We claim ownership of so much…my time, my car, my house, my job, my wife….and on the list goes.  “Mine!” is probably the most used word in our language as we lay claim to portions of what God gave us.Everyday+is+a+gift+form+God

Everything, literally everything is a gift from the hand of God…my life, my day, my time, my talents, my job, my house and even my voice…. everything comes from Him.

When I change the descriptive word “mine” to “His” it changes how I view the things I think are mine to own, to control, to be angry about if lost.  So much of my life is fretting over “mine.”

I know this stuff.  I mean I heard it all before. Perhaps you have as well. But once more I am made aware that everything, literally everything is a gift from God’s wonderful gracious hand.

It’s great to be reminded once more of God’s gifts in your life.

It creates amazing opportunities to give thanks that I ignored before, when it was “mine.”  In reality it’s really His, given as a gift for my use, my time is now free to give away because it’s really His time and He can use it as He wishes.  And when I have a moment to sit and think, to rest and relax, I can thank Him for that sweet gift.

When IMusic wake up to a new day, I can thank Him for the gift of the day ahead, the moments to enjoy more of His gracious hand.  When I drive to work, singing at the steering wheel at the top of my lungs, I now thank Him for the gift of life.

Everything is a gift from God’s gracious hand.  

As you go through your day take moments and thank Him for letting you have and use His things, His good blessing, His air, His sunshine and His love. 

It will change your life.

Everything… Everyday… and I mean everything and everyday is a gift from God.

Just be glad you don’t have to hear me sing as I pass you in my car. 

For you… that in itself is another gift from God.

 

Mr. Lee Died A Long Time Ago

The other day, a co-worker asked me some questions about my career in Education and my time of being a principal back in the day. When I began talking about it, I suddenly felt myself getting stressed.  I unconsciously began fidgeting with my hands, my voice changed slightly, and my breathing became shallow.  

It was like I was back in my old office again.

I quickly answered his basic question and laughed it off with a line I have used for some time now,

“That was 25 years ago, and Mr. Lee died a long time ago.”

I get different reactions when I say that.  Some get it… they realize that that was a long time ago.  I am no longer that person.

I have often told my wife that I have blocked out most of the memories of that period of my life when I was a teacher and principal of a Christian School in Fremont, Ohio.  Although she doesn’t really believe it, I hold to the fact that the statement is true.  I have watched videos that were taken during that period of me speaking and I don’t recognize the person that they say is me. I don’t know who that person is.  It surely is not me. It bears a resemblance of me, but I struggle to remember being a tca1part of any of the events.

For me, the years I spent there are much like watching a documentary on the History Channel.  I remember being taught that the events took place but I am not part of it. I vivid memories of the time I was in college.  My days at Liberty University are clear and I have wonderful memories of college life and being part of a missions team that traveled across America and around the world.  I can remember specific events and even conversations I had with people. I remember and think of these memories often, but memories of the school not so much.

In truth, I know that the memories are there.  I choose to block them from being in my daily thought process.  It is better to leave them where they are.  When I run into former students of mine, my memories of them are still stuck in the 80’s and 90’s.  They have not moved on in life and in my mind they are still in 8th grade and not the 40-year-old that stands before me.  When they address me as Mr. Lee, I quietly ask them to call me David.  Again… Mr. Lee died a long time ago.

When my co-worker asked me those questions, I was shocked at how easily I plunged back into that old reality.   It has been over twenty-five years since I was Mr. Lee.

I post that as a simple statement of the fact. If you think I make that statement as a reflection of something I view as negative, let me make something very clear… I don’t. 

I don’t view it as a negative time in my life at all.

No offense to any former student or staff member during my tenure there.  It is just some of those memories I’d really just rather not remember. That includes both good and bad memories.

I hold that time in my life as very precious and it took years for me to be able to move on.  It took me years to come to grips with the loss of my ministry.  When these memories are dredged up in my heart and mind I am reminded of the times I was in my office working or in the classroom teaching.  Those were the times I cherished and when I had clarity that I was doing what I was intended to do at that time. I was confident that I was doing what God wanted me to do.  

That was and is a wonderful place to be.  Being confident that you were doing exactly what you were supposed to do.  Not many people ever get to really experience that in their life. I am grateful for the 12 years I spent there. I cannot deny that there is a part of me where that office still resides deep inside of me.  Even after all these years, I still have a space in my soul that defined who I once was.

After I resigned my ministry, like a prodigal son… I ran.  theprodigal

I ran from God for a long time. As a matter of fact, I ran from Him for almost as long as I was in the ministry.  Twelve long years.  I avoided anything that had to do with my life as Mr. Lee.   I worked real hard to kill him.  I could not find any peace with God.  I could not forgive others and more importantly I could not forgive myself for what I allowed to happen.  I made sure that Mr. Lee was buried before I stopped running.

A prodigal son.  We all know one, have been one, or are waiting for one to come home.

Then a miracle happened.  No… I did not walk on water and no water was turned into wine.  But it was a miracle in my life and it’s significance could not be any less than of those.  I found a place where I could heal and I did not have to carry the baggage that I carried for all of those years.  I think of it in terms of being spiritually rescued. I had lost hope and a life line was thrown to me when I was about to go under for the last time.  Grace Community Church of Fremont, Ohio was that refuge that I needed and when I felt there was no place for me to turn to, I felt the warm embrace of fellow believer’s allowing me to sit in church without the  judgement and disdain I had felt in other places. 

I needed to sit. I needed to heal. I had felt so betrayed by the pastor’s I had worked with in the past that I had sworn that I would never be “pastored” again.  After running so long on my own, I realized that I needed to be under a pastor’s teaching and leadership once again.  I found that in Pastor Kevin Pinkerton.Grace-Logo-Color-011

So I sat.  I took the time to sit and be still, heal and be forgiven. Slowly God began working in my heart and I started to have forgiveness towards those I had felt had done me wrong.  I started to write this blog in 2008, and there is no doubt that for the past seven years it has almost filled the hole in my heart.

Finding a place to heal and recover from failure was a miracle to me.  We’re foolish to assume that miracles don’t happen anymore. I have learned that miracles come out of a gut-wrenching need and your last flashes of hope. If were not this way, we would not think of it as a miracle but as something common and not from God.  All things would then just be taken for granted. Finding a place to sit and heal, finding a place to forgive and be forgiven is nothing short of a miracle and I will never take it for granted. Still it took years to forgive myself.

Walking on the water means burning doubt and the terror of roaring seas, it’s not an option you choose for fun. It’s what you pick when you have to know that Jesus is big enough, and that He can come through when it’s devastating. Believing in miracles is one of life’s hard lessons I have learned.

I choose to still believe.

It is with that aspect that I still wonder what the future holds for me. What is next for me? As I wrote a few weeks ago in my post, The Next Big Thing  I am no longer looking for something “BIG” to happen for me. But I can say that I am open to whatever God would have me do.  I am looking for open doors of opportunity. 

Mr. Lee died a long time ago.  I want to leave him buried where he is.  I have no desire to bring him back. In so many ways…  I am a much better person than he was all those years ago.

The next stage of my life will not completely take the old memories away, but it will continue to redefine them and I can always pray the prayer from Psalm 139:22-23,

Search me, O God, and know my heart.
Try me and know my thoughts.
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

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.