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.

Thinking Back; Looking Forward

A few weeks ago, I celebrated my 55th birthday. “Celebrated” is an interesting use of the English language. Because, in truth, I more “endured” my 55th birthday than any thing else.

Have you ever thoughthttps://i2.wp.com/www.meducom.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Thinking-back-looking-forward.jpg about why we even bother to celebrate birthdays? When you think about it, they’re really just another opportunity for your family to congratulate you for surviving another year.

I get it… it is scientifically proven that those that have more birthdays live longer.  Right?

So it was my birthday. I don’t have to be happy about it. Who needs to be, annually, reminded that you are one year older and closer to ‘…knock, knock knocking on Heaven’s door.’

I personally believe that after 50, all birthdays should be ignored and that dreadful question of ‘is this the big one?’ posed by well-meaning friends be confined to the scrap heap.

At 55… I hit the “BIG ONE” five years ago.

Hello, people, after 50 they are all big ones!

Like many my age, I’m thinking back and looking forward.

Life has happened so quickly, passed by so rapidly, that I suddenly look around and exclaim, “hey, wait a minute, that ride went way too fast!!”

Life is short.

I heard that said when I was young, but never believed it.

In the early years of life we think time crawls, but as we age it moves more quickly and soon it’s hard to keep up.

It seems only a few days ago that Bryan Blakely and I were riding bikes and exploring the world in our small town of Oak Harbor, Ohio.  We chased dogs, built forts, pretended https://img0.etsystatic.com/031/0/6533227/il_fullxfull.642836572_ohia.jpgto be soldiers on secret missions. The imagination is such a wonderful gift to young boys. The only requirement had been that we were home by the time the street lights came on. After that, we were confined to our block.  It was a time of great memories.

Our mother’s had no idea where we were, but it was rural Northwest Ohio, and it was the days when life was much safer.  Those days when you did not have to worry about your picture ending up on a milk carton.

School days, summer loves, college, travel, marriage, kids, diapers, a new job here, a move there… time kept passing and before I realized what was happening the kids were grown and I am left wondering where did the time go.

All that to say, at this moment in time, the most important thing I ever did in my entire life was trust Jesus Christ as my Savior and surrender my life to Him.

All the rest, both the good and the bad, have a completely different color and a different taste because of that one decision in 1970.

Again… life is short.

Enjoy every moment, but know this – trusting Christ and surrendering your life to him is the most important thing you will ever do.

There is nothing more important than that. 

How wonderful to look back and know that God has worked in my life and to look ahead and see Him at the finish line.

To be honest…  I am in no hurry to get to heaven and on to eternity. 

I’m still good.  I have a lot to live for and to look forward to.

My expiration date hasn’t come up just yet.    

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.

Strong in the Broken Places… A Birthday Tribute to My Mother

She loved you before she even knew you.

And from the moment you met in person, it was all over for her.  

She’s sacrificed her own possibilities for the chance that you could have, do and become more. She hurts when you hurt. She hopes when you can’t find hope. She dreams bigger dreams for you than you’ve ever dreamed for yourself.

And she’s convinced you’re worthy of it all…because you’re special… to her you always have been.

Her love is beautifully irrational.  She looks beyond your faults and flaws and sees the very best version of you. She believes that’s who you are.

If belief alone could get you there, she’d hand-deliver you to your destiny.

It’s all because of a woman we call MOM.

Today is my Mom’s birthday. It’s a special day.

Truly, a mother’s love and influence are among the most powerful things a person could ever find in this world.  If you doubt it, compare notes with someone who no longer has their Mom – or someone who never had her to begin with.

For better or worse, no one shapes our lives more than our mothers because they do it from the inside out.  We find their fingerprints on everything – from our grandest deeds to our most tucked away thoughts.

And she was always there for me – and for my brother and my sister (and for many others). Always. Ma, Mom, Mommy. She took this role very seriously and never wavered.  No matter what.

So I will do my best today to say, “Thank you, Mom. I want you to know that I know there’s no way I’d be who I am – or where I am – without you.”

I have said it before and I will say it to my dying breath…  any good quality that I show in my life is directly given to me by my mother.  I have written about her before (click here to read)  in my post called “Confessions of a Momma’s Boy”.  

Hemingway once wrote: “The world breaks everyone, and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”

Hemmingway 2My mother was one of those people who healed stronger in the broken places. Despite great obstacles she bounced back repeatedly: an extremely difficult childhood, choices she shouldn’t have had to make at such an early life, scant financial resources, losing a child at thirty-nine, losing her dearest friend (Leta Chandler) and I could add many more examples of things my mom endured but came out stronger and better on the other side.

My mother is a petite woman, but there is nothing small about her legacy, or the impact she has had on others.  It is a strong, beautiful, vibrant, legacy.

So as I sit here and think of the influence of my mother I want to share a few of her traits that I am most grateful for…

Generous, kind, loving, sweet, caring, honest, fastidious, brave, strong, energetic, resilient, thoughtful, hopeful, selfless. My mother possessed all of these qualities for sure.  But if I had to put it to one word  it would be…

Sacrifice.

In today’s society this word has much less meaning than it did in the past, but this single word describes my mother best.

A child and mother’s life is deeply connected. There is this love that a mother feels for her child. Mothers carry their young and take care of them until they become adults. Mothers make sure that their children are safe and happy. Mothers sacrifice their own happiness just for the wellness of their children.

My mother sacrificed her life for her children.

I am humbled when I think of all that she sacrificed for me.  Being thankful  seems trite but it truly is what I feel.

Thank you Mom for giving me the freedom and space to dream.

Thank you for creating order in our house despite the disorder that you tried to shield us from.

Thank you for pushing me to go to college even when everyone told me I wouldn’t make it.  Though you never had tIMG_0247he chance to go… you are still the smartest person I know.

Thank you for allowing me to disagree with you when we have our “discussions”.  I guess that is just other ways I am like you… strong in principle and knowing what you believe and not being afraid to defend it… even if it’s not popular or easy.

Thank you for showing me how to be a real friend. Thank you for teaching me how to be compassionate and forgiving. Thank you for telling me you loved me every time we see each other and every time before we hang up the phone.

Thank you for being strong in the broken places.

Thank you Mom, you are my rock, my anchor, and my one true North.

I Love You and Happy Birthday Mom!!

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.

Bookmarks in The Pages of Life

Life is a book of pages. 

We laugh. We cry. We smile. We stumble. We stand. We fail. We succeed. We win and we suffer loss.

Every page defines who we really are. On some level we all “bookmark” the events in life so that we can bribookmarkng them up in our memory to be relived as we move on in life.

The goal in life is to have one perfect memory that is all about those moments, big or small, that make you wish they’d last forever. Those moments you want to stop in time, when everything feels perfect, even for just a split-second.

Snapshots of the mind. Moments to treasure forever.

It is easy to bookmark the great things that happen in our life.  We do not struggle to remember the events in our life that are good.  We can remember almost every single detail of  good life events.  Great memories of graduations, engagements, weddings and almost every detail of our child’s life from birth to this very moment.  These are easy to bookmark and if we are lucky enough, we are able to put a few of these pages together to create a nice “chapter” in our book of life memories. 

The sad part is that we all have bookmarked pages of life of things we do not want to remember.

Life is full of these bookmarked moments.

Life is complicated. It starts before we’re ready, it continues while we’re still trying to figure out the point of it. And it ends before we’ve worked out just what to do.

I’ve learned that in an instant life can change.
Just like that.
No warning.
No rewind button.
No pause or stop button.

Suddenly we are scrambling to “bookmark” memories as fast as we can in our minds.

Sadly, I have had to this a few times in my life.  

My brother Bobby and my grandfather in 1970. Just a few months before Bobby died.

At 9 years old, I had to scramble to bookmark memories of a 14-year-old brother that was taken from our family in a car-train accident.  I can remember almost every minute of that fateful day he was taken from us. But I think that over time when we block out the pain of loss, it causes us to lose some of the precious memories.  These “bookmarks” have faded with time and now at 54, I struggle to remember him.  

I lost my grandfather in 1986. I have great bookmarked memories of him.  He was a great influence on me and there isn’t a day I don’t wish I could talk to him one more time.  The funny thing is that I have some bookmarked memories of him that I choose not to open in my book of life memories.  I systematically only open the pages that make him larger than life.  I only open the pages that fit the image I have of him in my mind.  Those pages of him acting poorly or negatively, although bookmarked, will remained closed and locked. Never to be opened again in the confines of my mind. I guess we all do that on some level. When someone dies, we freely open the “good” pages and quietly put those bookmarks that would taint the memory of a loved one under lock and key. 

Me and Bryan Blakely in our our “Leisure Suits” getting ready to pick up our dates for the 1975 Homecoming Dance.

Many of the bookmarks in my life were influenced by Bryan Blakely, my childhood best friend.  The first pillar in my life.  The days of my early childhood were influenced by his presence in my life.  Not much happened in my life from the age of 5 to 16 that Bryan and I did not experience together.  Somewhere along the age of 16, we started to drift into different directions. Over the next 30 years whenever our paths crossed, we would always talk and we knew that there would always be a special friendship between us, but it would never be the same as it was growing up on that alley between Walnut and Washington Streets in Oak Harbor, Ohio.   He died in June of 2009. 

My best friend from my high school years took his own life.

Steve and I during our senior year in 1979.

Now that is a bookmark that I would rather not have to open. I was devastated.  I was confused.  I was filled with questions. I was overwhelmed with regret.  I was angry.  I was ashamed.  I was frustrated.  I was hurt.  I was all of these things and more.  

I will forever be grateful for spending 40 years of my life with the pleasure of knowing Steve Schueren.  Steve was my closest high school friend.  I looked up to Steve and I will always hold him in high regard as a man of God. All the bookmarked memories I have shared with him will forever be cherished and remembered.  All of us who knew Steve know that he will live forever in our hearts.

Bob Emrich

About the age of 16, I was introduced to a man who would become so influential throughout my teen and adult years.    He grew to be not only be my friend but he was no less a father figure in my life.  Our father/son relationship lasted for years.  Bob Emrich loved me as a son and he loved me unconditionally.  God took him home after a battle with cancer.  He wasn’t perfect but he taught me so much and I still miss him everyday.   There is no doubt of his influence in my life. Forever bookmarked in my memory.

One would think after reading this, I would have this bookmarking thing down.  But like most people, I move from day-to-day not really paying attention to how quickly things could change.

This past week I was reminded once again of making every effort to bookmark memories on the pages of my life.  Phil Disney is someone who I traveled with when I was in college.  As some of you may know, I traveled with a singing team all over the United States and the the world when I was a student at Liberty University.  Phil was a member of the same team I was on. To say that Phil and I are great friends would be an overstatement. We have the common bond of similar bookmarked memories of our time in college. We are friends on Facebook and every now and then we may comment to each other on something we post. But last week, I was shocked when I heard that his wife had suddenly passed away. 

Phil and Jana Disney
Phil and Jana Disney

There it is again… life can change in a moment.

By all accounts, Jana was a wonderful wife, mother and friend. More importantly, she was a true example of a Godly woman.  I spent a few hours this past week reading all of the comments and memories of her.  What a wonderful legacy she left upon her family and her friends.  All of these memories are the bookmarks that each and every one that knew her will retain for the rest of their lives. 

Another reminder to pay attention to all of our life moments because it all can change in an instant. 

Why does it take big kicks in the behind for us to realize what’s important in life?  Most of the time, I believe, it is because we get caught up in chasing things in life. Whether it be money, materials, certain experiences we think will solve our problems or even people. Sometimes we get so engaged with everything in the future or in the past and what it can bring us, that we forget about all that is right in front of our faces.

Are you paying full attention to the things you love? To each moment? What memories have you bookmarked in your memory? I implore you to start with one thing today. One thing you want to experience fully.  Maybe something that will be with your wife, husband, your children or grandchildren. 

Maybe you need to make yourself available to allow a loved one to make a bookmarked memory with you.  Remember your children are making bookmark memories with you as well.

I realize more and more how incredibly blessed my life has been and I know a good part of that must pay tribute to the people that surround my life, past, present and future.  

Lives that vary so greatly, the people I went to school with formed a good part of who I am today. The good, the bad and all of the in between!  

Time goes quickly and some stay in touch more than others, but there’s a bond in growing up in the small town of Oak Harbor, Ohio or in the time spent in a small Baptist Church and Christian School that only those there can understand.  I suppose it’s the pros and cons of living with a small group of people that knits our hearts together.  The losses that take their toll on such a small community can seem larger than life because of the percentage they take away from the whole. They can feel like holes that are irreparable.   But at the same time the wonderful memories of victories are celebrated as monumental events by one and all and are remembered fondly.

My challenge is for anyone reading this is to take the time to make memory bookmarks in the confines of the hearts and minds of your family.  In turn you will be able to do the same, before it’s too late.

If something were to happen and in that instant when everything would change for my family and friends, I  guess there wouldn’t be much more to say than this…

These Things Take Time

Years ago… I used to stay at my grandfather’s house for a week or so during the summer. I have so many great memories of those times and I think about them often. 

During one of these summer visits my grandfather and I planted a tree.  He told me that it would grow and that one day it would be huge.  He told me just to sit back and I could watch it grow.

I took him literally. I watched it all the time I was there and it didn’t do anything!  I was hoping to see it grow, but it Tree in a handdidn’t move, it didn’t change….it didn’t do anything! I’m sure you’re thinking, “You’re crazy, you can’t see a tree grow!” 

I remember the last day of my stay that summer and I asked him why the tree didn’t grow while I was there.  He looked at me, paused, chuckled and then he said,  “These things take time.” 

My grandfather knew that it would be a long time before his prediction would come to reality.  He knew that he would not live long enough to see the tree grow to its full majestic size.  He knew it would be something that I would remember in the future. And… sure enough few years ago… long after my grandfather died, my wife and I were driving and we found ourselves in the area of my grandparents place.  We drove by my grandfather’s old house and there was the tree that was planted all those years ago. It was huge.  The biggest tree on his old property. 

He was right…  these things take time.  

It was the completion of one of the many lessons that he taught me when I was a young boy.  He knew that there would be a day in the future from that hot summer day that I would drive past that tree and remember him and that special day we planted it.

But the lesson of this tree has taught me more than I ever could imagine.

I have always been a person to question things.  There are so many things I don’t understand.  There are many questions that I want answers for.   I get frustrated at times when I don’t get the answers I am looking for. I am not very patient. Sometimes the truth isn’t easy to find and I want to know all the answers.  It is during these frustrating times I have to remember that tree and remember that answers some times take time to receive.

I also used to get so frustrated when I would look at other believer’s. I could watch someone for months and they may not seem to change at all!  I could quickly conclude they weren’t really a Christian in the first place or they weren’t really Take Time“serious about their faith” because I couldn’t see their growth.

Why do we expect the growth of a person to be something we can see and measure?  I have learned that it’s usually not something I can see immediately.  True growth is slow, steady and calmly happening…it takes time….you won’t see it but it’s happening.

Again… these things take time.  

Paul wrote to the Christians  in Ephesus, “Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.” 

I have been a Christian for more than 45 years….most of my life…and I still have so many things that aren’t as they should be….but I’m growing.   One day, I will finish the race and become what God made me to be….until then I’m going to keep growing and look for the answers that I am seeking.

Be patient and just watch because these things take time.

In Search of Inspiration

I have needed some inspiration.  I have been through some dry spells when it comes to my writing before but this last spell has been a rough one.  I usually could come up with something to write Inspirationabout even if it was basically a repeat of something I had written about before.  Not this time… I could not bring myself to even type a word.

No words… no ideas… nothing to say.

I have to ask myself, “Is it time to close the book and pack this blog away with the other million or so blogs that are not being read by anyone?”

I wanted to make it last… I wanted to reach 500,000 visitors.  I am roughly 14,000 visitors short as of this writing. That sounds so self-centered… so… self-serving. But if you honestly know me, you know that I do not write to get recognition. I have turned down opportunities to try to promote my blog on different media sites.  That was not why I started writing in the first place.

I started writing again to fill a place in my life that was empty.  A place that was emptied by the choices I made in life and I needed to fill that place with inspiration and thought. With life running so fast, there’Young man reading small Bibles little time and energy left to try a muster up some inspiration to write.  To be honest with the truth, I long to have another opportunity to teach from the Bible again.  It has been over twenty years since I have had the honor of sharing from God’s Word in a classroom setting. There was always a small part me that believed that I would get the chance to once again be a part of a ministry besides sitting in the pew.  

It is evident to me as I think on these things that God has another plan. As much as I try to believe, I do not believe that it will ever happen. Through the small things and the biggest things, life has certainly taught me this lesson over and over. Things are harder for those who don’t believe. And they’re much easier for those who do. Lord knows that I’ve created a thousand life obstacles by crowding out my faith, or by blatantly ignoring what it was whispering to my heart. It has made life harder because I had to tear down a thousand walls brick by brick by finally believing they had to fall. This is one wall that I have not been able to tear down.

That being said, I must say that I have witnessed others who have endured a divorce and/or failure brickin marriage go on and teach and “do things” in the church as if it never happened.  That opportunity has never been offered to me.

I am not bitter about the price I have paid for my failure or the opportunities that others have been given. It just saps my ability to be inspired at times.

So it’s becoming more important to me that I not waste too much time dwelling on what will not happen and focus on what can be done because my time is running short.  Now before that gets misconstrued, I am not dying, at least I don’t have any plans on dying anytime soon. But blogs and websites like mine are dying daily.  I cannot help but think that this website… this blog… my stories… my words that I write will be the only voice that I will ever have. In no time at all it will be silenced.  

So what can keep me inspired until that day comes? I thought it would be nice to share one thing that has always brought inspiration to me.  As many of you know, I love music.  All types and all styles. It brings me inspiration and I never write unless I have music blaring through my headphones.

One of my favorites is one that I am sure not many people have ever heard of. I am blown away by the composer, Ólafur Arnalds. I discovered him on Spotify.  His album called, “Living Room Songs” is a masterpiece.  Each note has purpose.  The melodies are unique.  Emotion is ever-present.  It Living Roomtakes me on a journey every time I listen. Sometimes it breaks my heart. Sometimes it heals it. I always feel something.  I’m always inspired.

The story behind the album is that he committed to writing one new song each day for a week.  At the end of each day, he gathered a small string section, and there in his living room, they recorded  what he’d written that day on a live microphone. No editing and no overdubs.

It’s beautiful in its imperfection. Each time the piano bench cracks, the pedal squeaks or a violin string falters in pitch for a moment, I smile to myself.  I love that they moved ahead, not feeling the need to repair or hide the ‘mistake’. And somehow, the song actually becomes more beautiful for it.  At the end of the week, it was done, finished – created and shared with the world… all it’s flaws exposed.

That gives me hope.

I’m inspired by what he was able to accomplish in a day – in a week.  And I can’t help but consider what I could do if I lived with that kind of intention and fearlessness.  If I’m honest, it’s scary for me to commit to something before I’ve got it figured out and know what the outcome will be.  Listening to this music makes me want to fly without a net. And it makes me think I can.  It makes me braver.  Not because it’s perfect and grand – but because it’s imperfect.  The flaws are evident… but they still are powerfully touching.

Just like you and me.

We spend so much of our lives trying to cover up our flaws and shortcomings, but what if we could just embrace them and move on?  What if we didn’t let them stop us?  What if they simply became part of the story we’re sharing?

What if I didn’t have to have it all figured out before I was willing to begin? What if I were willing to fly without a net?  What if I lived my life with more intent and focus? What if I made peace with my imperfections and shortcomings?  What if I even embraced them and made them a part of my story? What could I share with the world? What might it inspire in others?

Regardless of the type of music you like, I think almost everyone reading this will fall in love with “Living Room Songs” by Ólafur Arnalds.  It’s perfect background music, especially on rainy days and Saturday mornings. It has become one of my favorites – because it’s more than a piece of music.

It’s an exercise in fearlessness and exposure to what is real, flaws and all.

And that… inspires me.

NOTE: I have attached a video of the process and recording of “Living Room Songs”.  Enjoy!!!

To Be Silent… to Listen… and to Hear

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

….a time to be silent and a time to speak….

                                                                   (Ecclesiastes 3:1,7)

Taking some time from writing… to be silent, to listen, and to hear.

Won’t you join me?

I Wonder… a lot…

I have been absent for a bit. I guess being busy with life and work has me distracted, but I wanted to share a few thoughts this morning before the day gets too busy.

wonderThese are just a few rambling queries, so don’t take them too serious, but they are thoughts that leave me silent and more often than not leave me with more questions than answers.

Here we go…

I wonder in five years from now, will I remember what I did yesterday? Will I remember what I do this week?

I wonder why life is so easily forgotten?

I wonder what we would do differently if we knew nobody would judge us?

I wonder if we knew that everyone we know was going to die tomorrow, who would we visit today?  Why are we not going to them now?

I wonder why we accept regret as an option for our behavior?

I wonder if my greatest fear will ever come true?

I wonder if I have been the kind of friend to someone who I would want as a friend?

I wonder why the older I get, I question what I once considered wrong is now not so bad?  Did it change or did I? Is it possible to know, without a doubt, everything that is good and what is bad?

I wonder which is worse, failing or never trying?

I wonder if not now, then when?

I wonder why God put us messed up broken people in charge of telling the world about Him? Didn’t He know how bad we would be at this?Question-Mark-Balls

I wonder why all the atheists I see are so mad at God? If they don’t believe in Him then why is He so significant in their life?  Why don’t they just talk about something else?

I wonder why people get so caught up in arguing about things of the Bible that really have no impact on eternity?  When you start your thoughts with “God couldn’t…” it is a slippery slope to true unbelief.

I wonder how can I live in such a way that I can show the love of God to others who don’t know Him? It often seems fake and “plastic”. I wish I could break down the walls between me and other people and really let them see God’s love.

I wonder why we are all so afraid? All around me are people with an underlying panic, a fear driven manic that keeps them moving so they don’t have to really think about their life.

I wonder what impact my life will honestly have on others?  How can a person live for 70 to 80 years and then be so quickly forgotten? Then I wonder why some people are always remembered? What is the secret? How does that happen?

I wonder if life is so I-Wonder-1920x1080short, why do we do so many things we don’t like and like so many things we don’t do?

I wonder if we are doing what we believe in, or are we settling for what we are doing?

I wonder why we live in this great battlefield for the souls of men? It seems so dark at times, but then God shows up. I’m looking forward to the day when the battle is over.

I wonder why we so easily value things above people?

I wonder what kind of life my grandchildren will have?  It also is followed by the fact that I fear for their future as well.

I wonder, and honestly so, how God makes all this work out for my good? But He does.

Just a few questions I am pondering on this day…

I wonder if you read them?

I wonder if they made you think?

I wonder… a lot…

The Journey

A few months ago marked my 44 years of having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. 

However, in many ways, I still feel like a young Christian that is stumbling over nothing, falling The Journey Logodown and having to pick myself to try again.  I never thought that the journey to become like Christ was as long as it has been for me.  I thought I would be there by now, but it seems I’ve only just begun.

As I write those words, I wonder if I’ve been too open about my walk and struggle in my Christian walk. I have had people comment to me in the past about how shocked they were to hear how I had struggled in my life. They could not believe that I failed in my first marriage and in my ministry. The only words I could come up with in response was that I was sorry I let God and them down. 

It is something that I live with everyday. I am torn between what could have been in my ministry and where I am at today.  The lessons learned from my failure has made me so much more compassionate towards those that have failed or struggle in this life.  Something that I did not even consider in the years that I was in the ministry. 

My failure broke me.  The price of failure has been one that I am still paying for even after 20 years.  

Truth is, I am not a person that finds joy in sharing my failures.  But one thing iindexs true… I have had more than my fair share of them.  I have to be honest and try to not deceive anyone into thinking that I have everything in my Christian walk all together. I surely cannot deceive myself, I have to live with it everyday.

So how do I be an open book and not be honest about my past failures?  It would be easy to just write generic, short little gleeb articles that give advice with no experience. I see them all the time.  I cannot do that.  I try not to give advice.  I write to remind myself of the lessons learned by my failures and successes.  I try to influence by being an example of what can happen in your life when you take your eyes off of Jesus Christ. I try to give the reader something to ponder.  The truth is my life has been one to be used as an example of caution. If it can happen to me… it can happen to you.

My relationship with God cannot be summed up in a FACEBOOK post. I read catchy little Christian phrases on FACEBOOK that annoy me to no end. Often they are posted by people I know personally and I want to pull my hair out.  I get so frustrated because when people favorpost them, it seems to me that it dumbs down the real relationship a person should have with Jesus Christ.  That somehow by posting if you love God… re-post this message and He will do you a favor.

I do not want to speak for God but I do not think God is not in the business of doing favors for me or you just because we re-post this.

Here’s my up-front disclaimer: I’m not fond of Christian jokes and one-liners. I might be a terrible stick-in-the-mud, but when I pass a church marquee sign posting a “Christian” message, I wince. Although I fight the urge, I read it. And sometimes I need to seek God’s forgiveness for the thoughts that enter my mind after my car has passed by.

I drive about 30 miles to work everyday. On my drive I pass a church where they post phrases on their church marquee. They change it often.  Before Election Day, it read: “To find God, turn right and go straight.” I am sure every left-leaning friend I had would be outraged by what it said. 

Another time the sign read, “If God gave you the same priority you give Him, would you be saved?” My instinctive response was a low growl. I wasn’t being convicted by the Holy Spirit; I simply have an adverse reaction to being smacked in the head with weak theology. God gave me all the priority He intended by giving His Son to die on the cross for me. Salvation comes from the acceptance of His Son and His death that paid the price for my sin. My salvation is not dependent on my priority on any random day.

Why do we insist on using catch phrases to attract our community to Christ?

I understand people are well-meaning.  I am trying extremely hard to not judge but this week I have read FACEBOOK posts such as:

“God answers knee-mail,”

“God loves everyone, but probably prefers fruits of the spirit over religious nuts.”

“Sitting in church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than sitting in a garage makes you a car.”

“Why do some people change churches? What difference does it make which one you stay home from?”

“Don’t make me come down there–signed God.”

Or consider the church sign I passed while driving to work this week. 

It read, “WARNING! Exposure to the Son may prevent burning.”

My response is always the same: “Huh?”

Do we really want to guilt people into worshipping with us? When people read these messages and the out-loud response is, “See? THAT’S why I don’t go to church!” we’ve failed our community–and our faith.

Sure, I get it. But why does it make me crazy? Statements like these are patronizing, condescending, and place the reader on the defensive side of living.  It cheapens the journey that most of us are on.

StonesI am not innocent of doing it either, here’s one that I am guilty of posting –  “Turn your stumbling blocks into stepping stones.”  

As if!  You’re still on the ground with a bloody nose and scrapped knees and I’m trying to tell you how to take those stumbling places and grow? Come on!  Catchy little slogans do nothing to help you or me grow in Christ. I need Christ and I need Him constantly!

And, to be honest, it doesn’t take a stone to make me stumble.  I’m pretty good at stumbling over sand, over a crack in the sidewalk.  It’s never something big thing or I would avoid it.  It’s always the little things that cause my fall, my failing…..and then I grieve, beat myself up and tell God I’m sorry, I won’t do it again (but I will)….and that I should be past all of this by now, but I’m not.

And, then, like a child, embarrassed by my failings, but suffering in my pains, I run back to God and am welcomed by His grace, his love and forgiveness.  I’m always embarrassed to face Him, to come to Him and tell Him “I did it again!  I’m so sorry!!”  And He forgives, He bandages my wounds and He offers to walk with me even as I stumble along.

Are we really trying to reach out to those who are far from God? If the answer is “Yes,” we need to speak and write the words that others understand and will respond to positively.

The FACEBOOK audience is composed of moms and dads, children and grandparents, friends and facebook3neighbors that do not know Christ. They are overworked, tired and stretched to the limits emotionally, mentally and financially to consider the importance of having a relationship with Him. They are searching for something more meaningful than Christian one-liners. All too often they are searching in the wrong places.

We have an incredible opportunity to reach people for Christ.  But it will not happen with a catch-phrase posted on FACEBOOK and truth be told it will not come from any of my writings and postings to this blog site. It will only happen when we meet and love people where they are at in life.  It will happen when we develop relationships that are deeper than FACEBOOK postings.

My desire is to have my writings be an encouragement to those that want to reach others for Christ. I want to show people that my journey has been one to note because of the lessons that can be learned from it.  I have no belief that my words will reach the masses but maybe they will reach one WELCOME-your-churchthat will be encouraged to live for Christ in a deeper way and reach others for Him.

As far as reaching people on FACEBOOK.  Let me just say that if you insist on posting those Christian one-liners, please make sure your other postings and life live up to those postings. 

As for church marquee signs, perhaps we simply need to say, Sunday Services: 8:30, 10:00 and 11:30 a.m. All Are Welcome!

With God’s spirit, those words might be more than enough.

Of Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men and Hoping To Find A Better Way

As I scan my timelines, I see battles. I see people taking sides over current events.

Good people.  Well-meaning people. All with different opinions.  All saying they are not arguing The-problem-with-arguing-with-idiotsbut just trying to prove they are right and that the person who disagrees with them is not just wrong but that they are an idiot.

Who is right and who is wrong?

To be honest most of the people I see making comments and posting on FACEBOOK do not have clue as to what they are talking about. Most of them have grown up in protected environments and have NEVER faced anything remotely close to what is going on in the news. That includes me as well.

I find it so ridiculous that so many of the posts on my FACEBOOK wall are re-posted from satire political sources. If you are re-posting stuff without doing some research to see that it is legit then why bother? All you are showing is your ignorance. If you’re getting your news from “The Onion” or any other satire site and thinking it is real then you have a serious problem.

Here is NEWS for you… ALL NEWS SOURCES and the Republicans, Democrats and the much hated, Tea-Party ALL have sites that are filled with propaganda. All of these “sources” have agendas and they play all of us. I constantly get posts that when truly researched there is just enough truth to stay on topic but the trouble starts in the details of the articles. Most of it is WRONG. Again… those of you posting  those things, please at least try to do some research.

People try to come off on FACEBOOK as if they have the answer… they are right and if you disagree wrong_thumbyou are naïve ,uneducated and/or just plain stupid. They present themselves as having the answer to all problems because so many of them post and comment on things such as the issues in Ferguson, the Eric Garner Death in New York, Immigration, Amnesty, the Keystone Pipeline, Voter ID laws, Fracking, Global Warming, Net Neutrality and a boatload of other topics.  Now most of these people I know. I know where they come from and I know where they grew up. In most cases I know their education level. Most of those I see post barely got out of high school and if they did go on to college they surely did not take the subject matter to be the experts and know-it-alls they come off to be on FACEBOOK.

Now before you think I am coming off as being the only “smart one”… I am not. I learned long ago that FACEBOOK is not the arena to discuss or have legitimate debate about issues of politics, science, music or Christianity.  Truth is… I don’t have all the answers and I don’t waste my time trying to convince people to change their mind on FACEBOOK.  I know what I believe and I know what I think.  People are entitled to have their opinion and have a right to believe what they believe. But just because you think differently from me does not make you right.

I have discovered that those issues I tried to convince people was right when I was 30 years old was really wrong now that life experience has shown me how wrong I was.

I don’t care if you post what you believe or even what you think… but if you are trying to use FACEBOOK as a platform to change people’s minds you are crazy. People do not want to discuss or debate…they want to ARGUE. I have yet to meet anyone that said…”Wow, I am glad you posted that article from (Blue Nation Review / Fox News) cause it changed my mind and now I am going to become a (liberal / conservative)”.

So who is right and who is wrong?  That’s not for me to decide.

Again, truth is… none of these well-meaning people have the “right” to tell the other that they are wrong or right.  It only causes a deeper divide in this country.

We are more polarized than ever. No matter what side of the coin you are on… each think that the person on the other side is wrong and an idiot. There once was a time that we could find common ground… now I think we have lost that in America… sadly I think our country will never be the same. HERE IS MORE NEWS… WE ARE ALL TO BLAME FOR THIS!!!

At least for a few moments can we experience  “peace on earth and good will to men” even if that simply means with those friends that disagree with you.

For this moment, for this season, can we put down our verbal weapons? Can we call a truce?

Can hate not be so strong?

There has to be a better way.

Can we try to finish 2014 and enter 2015 with peace and hope of goodwill where there once was division, hate, unrest and hateful words.

In this Christmas Season… let’s have our conversation stay out of the mine fields of division and let’s love our families while we can regardless of which side of the argument they fall on. My prayer that we honestly experience peace on earth in our relationships and in our families.

Merry Christmas and let us all hope for a better way.

Then They Do

(NOTE: I wrote this on Thursday, November 6th… I am just getting brave enough to post it.)

Oh yeah… tonight was a tough one.

When I say “tough” let me be quick to point out that the word is relative.

Then They doI knew that it was coming and I know that it is going to bring great joy to our family.  But it still was a tough night.

It is one of those nights when you try to look for that chapter in the parenting manual that covers how to handle these type of situations.

Truth is there is no manual. It doesn’t matter if you have been through it before, nothing prepares you for it.  Even when you know it is inevitable.

It is about seeing your child make a decision that they have waited their whole life to make. It is about pushing them where you can while allowing them to make their own choices.  It is about knowing the consequences of those choices.  It is about trust. Trusting them to apply everything you have tried to teach and them trusting you as a parent to let them go when it is time.

I must admit there are tears.  Yes… in the privacy of my hotel room, I am in tears… but not tears of sadness.

When you aAndre and Cassidyre a parent there is so much you anticipate. You assume things. You dream big dreams for your children. You want all of those dreams to come true for them.  You hope and you pray that the dreams you want for them will somehow become dreams that they want as well.

Her mom has waited for this moment since the day she was born. And I have been wishing for her dreams to be fulfilled since I married her mother. Yet, I feel thoroughly and utterly unprepared for this.

Just moments ago, Cassidy called me with the news, the news of a lifetime. Andre popped the question and she said yes. They both decided!—he is the one for her, and she is the one for him—they’ve each found their life partner. We are thrilled for them and my words cannot express how happy we are for them. And though the last few days I’ve known and anticipated this, I am speechless now as I ponder on what to write.

A lifetime of advice can’t come from one note. So I won’t try to cover everyCasssidy Ringthing here and now. And she doesn’t need me to. We have a year of planning.  I know that the time will go quickly but for now I want to stop and just say I am so proud of Cassidy.  Always have been. She has made our job as parents easy.  I trust her and I am confident in the decision she made tonight.

As it was when Crystal got married, I have a year before I will not have to wait up for her to get home at night. A year before it will no longer be my responsibility to make sure she is ok. I have waited for these days to come and you think you are prepared for them. You want all the dreams they have dreamed of to come true… then they do.

And it is then you realize you are not prepared at all.

These lyrics really hit home tonight…

I look over at their pictures,
Sittin’ in their frames.
I see them
as babies:
I guess that’ll never change.
You pray all their lives,
That someday they will find happiness.

Then they do, and that’s how it is.
It’s just quiet in the mornin’,
Can’t believe how much you miss,
All they do and all they did.
You want all the dreams they dreamed of to come true:
Then they do.

No more Monday PTA’s,
No carpools, or soccer games.
Your work is done.
Now you’ve got time that’s all your own.
You’ve been waitin’ for so long,
For those days to come.

Then they do, and that’s how it is.
It’s just quiet in the mornin’,
Can’t believe how much you miss,
All they do and all they did.
You want all the dreams they dreamed of to come true:
Then they do.

As a parent we will face moments when we will “help them find their wings but we can’t fly for ‘em.” Wisdom tells us there will be days when we wish we could step into the moment for them.

But it’s not our stage and it’s not our spotlight.

We’ve gotta let her go.  Life is to be lived moving forward.

You want all the dreams she dreamed of to come true… then they do.

Sunday After Sunday

Sunday after Sunday, I have the same thought. 

Sunday after Sunday, I forget to put it into words. 

There is this guy at our church that inspires me every single week. He doesn’t sing (that I’m aware of). Hestage_20lights-R doesn’t plastage_20lightsy an instrument or lead worship. He doesn’t stand up and preach (at least not verbally). He doesn’t run the sound, lights, usher or speak a word. Sadly, I don’t even know his name.Stage Crew

What he does speaks to me every single week.  After our worship team is done and as the Pastor takes the platform, he appears from behind a door. He quietly moves on the stage, sets up a stand, places a bottle of water on it and puts the makeshift pulpit on the stage. Then he quietly disappears to his seat somewhere among the rest of us.

And this speaks to me.  Every.  Single.  Week.

I wish you could see this guy.  I am sure he doesn’t think what he does has any impact on the service. He has no idea what a ministry he has.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. (1 Corinthians 12:4)

This is the sermon he preaches each week while never saying a word. 

PreachEvery Sunday when I see “this guy” do what he does, I’m reminded that we are all given different kinds of gifts. We’ve got an incredible worship team. They sing like I could only dream to sing.  Jae Sims is our worship leader and he has ministered to me like no other worship leader I have ever heard. The guys rock the guitars and make me wish I would have taken lessons and practiced a lot. The people who do the sound and lights and video and usher and greet….all important. All great.

And then there’s this guy….the one that does something that needs to be done and does it so well.

He preaches a sermon by his actions and he thinks no one notices.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it (1 Corinthians 12:27)

What I enjoy about “this guy” is that he is fulfilling his purpose. Again, I don’t even know his name. His “sermon” is short but the message is strong.

Do what God designed and gifted you to do.

Do it with joy.

Do it even when you don’t know others are watching.

Do it even when you don’t feel 100%.

When you use your God-given gifts, that thing that comes naturally, you’re doing so much more than a job or duty. You are bringing Him glory. You are inspiring others to do the same.

There’s this guy that preaches a sermon Sunday after Sunday and never says a word.

Makes me stop and think about the sermon I am preaching today by my actions. 

How about you?

Being Real: Confessions of a Recovering Legalist

I have been attending church pretty much every Sunday since I was nine years old. 

I am not uniqBeing Realue in that… I am sure many of you who are reading this can say the same thing. 

My church did indeed preach the Gospel. 

Salvation was offered to those that trusted in Jesus Christ and believed that He was born of a virgin, lived a perfect, sinless life and was crucified on the cross to pay for the debt of sin that mankind had committed.  He rose from the grave three days later and now sits at the right Hand of God.  All an individual had to do was ask the Lord for forgiveness and accept Him into their life.  That is still what I believe.

However, growing up in a church that tied the reality of your relationship with Jesus Christ based more upon the length of your hair and your basic overall appearance is not what everyone else experienced. 

The church during that period of time was caught up in what was commonly called “legalism”.  The word “legalism” does not occur in the Bible.  It is a term used to describe a belief that emphasizes a system of rules and regulations for achieving spiritual growth and evidence of salvation.

The truth is, however, even true believers can be legalistic.  As a believer who has endured the worst that can come from the judgment from other believer’s, I can speak with authority on this subject because I am a recovering legalist.

I spent a good portion of my life judging other people in their walk with Jesus Christ.   For many years, I sat back and did my spiritual evaluation of other believer’s, all the while my own spiritual flaws were masked and hidden by my own self-righteousness.  It is one of the greatest shames I carry in my life. 

I have always said that my greatest failure in life was not the fact that my first marriage ended in divorce.  My greatest failure is that I was part of something that judged and hurt those that struggled in this life.

I am a recovering authority on the subject of legalism.  However, it is not the intent of this post to cover all the issues that come with this subject but I do want to discuss a few of them.

I have always referred to the principles of legalism as “the list”.

dont_listIt was the first thing we gave to new converts. The list was made up of all the things that you were supposed to do and not supposed to do if you wanted to keep God happy and remain spiritual.

Most of the things on the list were good things—some of them even came right out of the Bible.

But some of them didn’t.

They were passed along to me from several sources, some from the traditions of my church, some from my training and education but mostly they were instilled in me by my Pastor. I was “taught” that if I did the things on the list that my life would be good. It was like a bill of goods…if you invested yourself into keeping the list you could reap the benefits of God’s blessings and find true happiness in this life. I bought it… hook line and sinker.

The “list” really came down to one question: “Real Christians don’t ______?'”(You fill in the blank).

Jesus died and rose again, martyrs were split in two, and the Church has prevailed for almost two thousand years against the gates of hell so that Christians today can live out this ever important testimony to a waiting, watching world to tell themselves that… Real Christians don’t ____?

Well, I believe it’s time to get a few things straight. The world isn’t waiting for Christians; the world doesn’t care.

In fact, by a large margin it is only other Christians that care about what other Christians do or don’t do.

Why have Christians made such an important issue out of keeping to this list? I believe it’s because we want something clearly identifiable that will distinguish us from the world. We want to be different. We want being “born again” to evidence itself in some clear, tangible way in our world.

That much is good, but Godly men and women have historically distinguished themselves in much more important ways than keeping a list of do’s and don’ts. 

Christianity gravitated to this list of do’s and don’ts because it spells out the distinctiveness so clearly. However, the problem and the danger at hand is that being born again can become a simple matter of following a prescribed formula as opposed to living a vibrant joyful walk with Jesus Christ.

Not that there aren’t any do’s and don’ts in the Christian faith.

Can you SpotThe New Testament is full of directives for Godly behavior. But the Biblical guidelines are much different from the ones found in popular Christianity, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the difference.

The rules for behavior in the Bible deal with less noticeable things and it involves commands which are harder to fulfill than the non-issues that we have created for our own Christian identity.  So we need to ask ourselves a few questions…

  • Which is easier to follow: Real Christians don’t envy or Real Christians don’t dance?
  • Which one gets noticed first: Real Christians don’t lust or Real Christians don’t smoke?
  • Which is harder to comply with: Real Christians love their enemies or Real Christians go to church on Sundays?

To tell a believer that they cannot dance, smoke and that they should go to church each and every Sunday is easy to define and expect from a believer.   Obviously aspects of behavior such as envy, lust and loving our enemies are so much harder to define and to follow.

I can maintain the “list” and still fail in the envy, lust and loving my enemy’s part and many other tenets of God’s desire for my life. 

Truth is…I believe maintaining a list of do’s and don’ts is a dangerous way to assume Holiness and approval from God.

But that is not how the legalist sees it. The legalist creates their own manageable system of weighing and measuring people.  They become like the Pharisees, who regulated righteousness into a long, involved list of steps and procedures, cumbersome indeed, but fulfillable.

So, in many of our churches, I’m afraid it comes down to maintaining this list of:  Real Christians don’t ______ for many believer’s.  They never have to grow past the need for the list and never really have the need to learn or experience what grace truly is. There isn’t any need for them to do so.

Don’t you think Jesus Christ died for something more?

That being said… many of the principles on the list were good ways to live your life and I am sure good ways to keep you on the right path. But surely they were not absolutes as they were presented.

More importantly none of them had virtually nothing to do with my salvation. Without sounding like an immature Christian, the length of my hair, the music I listened to or the fact that I went to the “movies” should not have defined my Salvation. What it actually did was reduce my spiritual walk to a list of bare-minimums-I-have-to-do-to-be-a-Christian.

I struggled with keeping up to the tenets of the list.  My spiritual life was at best “yo-yoSurvey questionnaire” Christianity. Keep the tenets and all was good… fail at one and you were failing and falling fast away from God.   

My walk with the Lord was filled with up’s and downs. Mostly downs because I couldn’t keep up to the standard of the list.  It did not keep me from trying…I was taught the list was the key to my successful walk with Christ.

The problem was what the list did to my Christianity. It became way too much about performance, and not enough about the reality of having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  “Spirituality” became more of an issue of conformity and obedience rather than living out the fruits of the Spirit as God intended.

The progression of the list leads to what I call “the line”

The line is when you consistently keep the tenets of the list.  When a person kept enough of the list to be what they felt was “spiritual” they could draw a line of distinction between themselves and from those who did not.   If a person could make it to the line, he could feel good about Measure Uphimself and his personal relationship with God.

By measuring up to the line, a person could feel like he was good with God. And he could also feel like he was better than others. I cannot help but think of it as spiritual arrogance.

But sadly “the line” leads to “the look”.

Appearances became the most important part of life. And what was seen on the outside was prioritized over what was happening on the inside.

It’s not that some good things weren’t happening on the inside in my life—they were. But things like peace, love and joy weren’t as important as the Bible says they should have been. And no one was judging my spirituality by that. They were judging me based upon the tenets of the “list” and how close I was to their “line”. 

Both of these things made the “look” all the more important in my spiritual walk.

list2When you are a legalist, you spend a lot of time evaluating others, making sure they measure up. What does their “list” look like?  Does their list include all the important things that are on my list? And where is their “line”? Is it up there where it should be?  Or could I consider myself more spiritual since my line is higher? And do they “look” like they should? Or could I look down on them for looking weaker than me?

This evaluation was often called by some pastor friends as “fruit inspection,” which obviously refers to the verse in Matt. 7:20 where it states, “Therefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”

All masked in the name of spirituality, when in actuality it was judgmentalism.

Many Christians wait and watch to be entertained by the latest episode of spicy details in the rise and fall of another believer. What we have here is not just another failure of a believer but clearly an in-house problem among our body of believers as a whole.  notgossip_lg

From my personal experience, sometimes the greatest gossip opportunities are the very “prayer meetings” we have in some of our churches. Prayer requests masked in the intent to “share” a little of what we heard or know about the failure of another believer.

Nothing but plain gossip if you ask me… but that is another discussion for a different time and place.

One of the most troubling things about legalism is that it keeps us from growing to be totally dependent on God.  Jesus saw legalism in the Pharisees. The Pharisees were known for their rules, but never for their discernment. Here’s the thing: When we depend on a checklist of rules to determine our decision-making process, there is no room for discernment. The Pharisees’ mindset would be “Give me the law. I want the rules so that I don’t step out-of-bounds.”

Following a checklist rules reveals something else: it reveals a lack of faith in God’s leading in the lives of others.  It says, “My confidence is in man’s teachings” rather than in Christ alone.  But God has a much better way. His way requires a daily surrendering of our will to His.  His way bears fruit.  It’s not burdensome and it’s not bound by legalism.

Ironically, I’ve been wrestling lately with the flip side of being a recovering legalist.  I struggle with judging and we_all_sinbeing critical of those who are caught up in throes of legalism. I find myself making fun of them.  I find myself even thinking that I am somehow superior to them because I see the error of their way and I found the right path.

This type of judgement is just as bad.  It shows my attitude and posture towards other Christians in whom I perceive the tendencies of legalism. Christ has been so patient with me, yet I’ve not always been as patient with them.

Instead, I’ve become so preoccupied with what I perceive to be their tendencies toward an imbalanced judgement of others and a separatist denominational spirit that I’ve sometimes lost sight of God’s grace in their hearts and ministries. This too is a legalistic tendency and needs to be erased from my life.

I also see that attitude among other believer’s that have come out from that background.  The very same haughtiness and judgment that I have witnessed in those that held to legalistic rules and regulations I see in those who are critical of  legalism.  They have no idea that they are just as guilty.

Thank God for Grace… after all, it’s His work, His power, and His presence in our everyday lives that becomes our true source of confidence and strength as we follow Him together.

I am still in recovery and I have a way to go. But now instead of keeping my eyes on the deeds and actions of others, I will fix my eyes on cross of Calvary.  I am starting to see forgiveness much differently than I have in the past. In the past I would simply ask God to forgive my unforgiveness of others… the older I get I see that God wants me to ask forgiveness of those that I have something against. Like Jesus Christ who forgave those that betrayed Him, I need to forgive those that have done me wrong.

So if you can relate to this story, please let me know… there is strength in numbers.  I need to continue my path to recovery and your invited to come along for the journey.  Maybe we can all find forgiveness along the way.

Is God Good All The Time?

A friend posted this photo on Facebook this morning. It’s a slogan I’ve heard many times. I’m sure you have as well. We all “know” it’s true, but if we are honest we would admit that sometimes it doesn’t feel like this is true for us. If godisgoodwe were honest we might rewrite it, “God is good all the time…but sometimes it doesn’t feel like it.”

How do you answer the question, is God good…all the time…really?

Truth and reality are often in conflict in a fallen world. What we know and what we experience are often in conflict as well. If we were able to be really honest, we…like Job…would say, “I know God is good, but….”

So what is the good we are talking about? What does it mean that God is good?

Does it mean that things always go my way, work out for me and that I am always healthy, always happy, always have all I need? Are my circumstances the good we are to focus on?

I have watched some who would have called themselves Christians teeter on the brink of belief when faced with the question, is God really good? I listened to a man I have prayed with many times tell me that I could go ahead and pray for his loved one if I wanted to but that he didn’t see that all that prayer was really doing any good. I saw that whatever measure of faith he had to that point was broken. As far as I know, he is still reeling.

I wonder what this man and many others like him expect from God.

Much like this man, I know that when I was young my idea and expectation from God was much different from what it is today. When I was young I expected God to make everything I touched be a success. I prayed to win the game, I prayed that “She would like me”. I prayed for God to keep me from getting caught when I had done something wrong… God was like my “get out of jail free card”. Because God was good… He HAD to bless me and take care of me.

It started when I was real young…

God is great, God is good, Let us thank Him
For our food. Aaaa-men.

That was what my sister and I prayed as a blessing over the food when we were kids.

God is GoodWe were ingrained with the idea that God was innately good. Abundantly good. A quick look around our childhood proved this idea correct. We had abundant food and though we may not have been setting the fashion trends in our school, we had plenty of clothes and a roof over our head. My sister and I never doubted that God was good.

Why would I have even questioned if God was good?

In addition, that was what I learned in my church. For many years, I have heard it repeated over and over again.

In various ways, God’s goodness comes up in plenty of “Christian” conversations:

• “Got the test results back. No cancer. God is good!”
• “I’m so glad I waited. He’s such a good husband and daddy to our kids. God is good!”
• “They offered me the job! God is good!”
• “Loving the view from our balcony of the sun coming up over the ocean! God is good!”
• “Tithes and offerings and attendance are up. God is good!”

Not to play devil’s advocate here, but would God cease to be good if your tests revealed cancerisgodgood1?  What if you were the lady who waited on a Godly man but remained single? What if you didn’t get the job? Is God still good if your family seemed to be the only one not spending a week at the beach this summer? If your church was on the edge of irrelevancy, would you still say that God is good…all the time?

Or maybe–if you have identified your current situation in the above scenarios–I should ask, is God any less good?  What happens when bad things happen to good people and good things happen to those who are bad?

Is your faith journey a “what have you done for me lately” faith?

Does God ever get a break from blessing you in order to–I don’t know, maybe corIs-God-Really-rect you or teach you?

Or… 

Is God more of a genie in a bottle, ready to bless you if you can just figure out the right formula to control Him? How little difficulty does it take to derail your faith?

We need to answer these questions so we can honestly answer the all important question of whether God is really good all the time or not.

Do you want me to wrap it up, give you a nice, neat answer? One that can give you the secret to turning on the uninterrupted faucet of God’s goodness in your life?

I’m not that guy. You see…

  • I’ve prayed fervently with a clean heart for friends with cancer. Some have survived that evil monster; others have succumbed to it.
  • I have witnessed men of God, preachers, that have prayed fervently to remove the burden of depression in their life, only to have the prayer seemingly go unanswered.
  • I know of Godly, faithful men and women who have lost a child at birth.
  • I have sat in the living room of the parents that have to deal with the loss of a daughtertaken way too soon from this earth.
  • I have personal friends that are widowed way too soon in this life.
  • I have witnessed some really bad things happen to people who were faithful to God.

So…is God really good?

I say yes.  Not in a childhood yes kind of way or a Christian cliché kind of yes, but yes, nonetheless.

What we really need to understand and accept is the fact that life is hard.  God never promises that we will not endure the pain that this life can give.  As a matter of fact, God tells us that we shougod-is-goodld expect it.

If we don’t accept that simple idea we will find ourselves disappointed, bitter or worse….we will give up on this faith walk with God. The truth is that “God is good” is not at all about my circumstances, but is all about His nature and His character. Because He is good even my difficult days are a blessing because a good God is in charge of my life. Because He is good I can endure financial troubles. Because He is good, cancer can be part of His kind work in my life.

When I make His goodness about my circumstances I will quickly become disillusioned….but when I make His goodness about His nature and how He deals with me then even bad day, difficult problems and health issues change because a good God rules my life.

Is God good all the time? YES! And even when life isn’t so good, wonderful, sweet, loving and good God is working through it all for my good and His glory.

So… is God Good All the Time?

the answer…

God Is Good… All the Time… …and All the Time… …God is Good!

Heal The Wound But Leave The Scar

Earlier this month I posted the following statement on my Facebook wall.

Listening to throw-back Thursday on Proclaim FM… They are playing Michael W Smith’s “Friends are Friends” song. Suddenly… I am over whelmed with memories of a time in my life that I buried a long time ago… a time when I was known as Mr. Lee. He’s been dead for 20 years now.

I had posted that as a simple statement of the fact that the song brought back some memories of a time in my life when I was the Administrator of a Christian School. I had a few comments to my post about how that time in my life wasn’t all bad and I basically shouldn’t think of it as a negative time in my life.

Let me make something very clear…I don’t. 

TCAI don’t view it as a negative time in my life at all, but there are some memories from that period of my life that I would like to forget forever.  To be honest, there are things that I have honestly blocked out of my mind.  I will have former students come up to me and remind me of something I did or something happened in the school and I just don’t remember many of those events.  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 forget.   That includes both the 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 a song like the one mentioned above comes on and the memories flood my mind it brings back the hurt that I caused and it reminds me once again of my failure in my ministry.

God has been very gracious to me and has allowed me to move on.  The hurt is not what it once was and there are periods of times in my life that I don’t remember the hurt at all.  God has taken away much of the pain but the one thing He has not done is remove the spiritual scars that I earned during that time in my life. 

Truth is… I have many scars.

Not as often as in the past and honestly the only time I see the scars that I carry is when those memories are stirred by a conversation.  Or as in this example, a song.  The memories can be so vivid and that they  take me right back there again. I usually wrestle with the Lord a little, wondering what is the purpose of this remembering.

Why do we need to feel it all and hurt so much again? Now, it never goes away, there is always pain, but it may not be as intense as it can be sometimes. Something reminds us and the pain comes again. What is the Lord’s purpose in those painful memories and why are they still necessary?

Over the past few years I believe that I am coming to terms with accepting these memories.  I am starting to understand that these memories come up so we can remember not to lose our compassion for others, especially when there are many people are struggling in their life. Maybe we need to spend more time praying for others who we know are hurting.  Maybe we need to reach out and give a hand to one of these people.  It obvious that sometimes it takes a lot for the Lord to get our attention off our selves and put our focus on others.

I want to keep my scars.  Not from a sense of pride but for a reminder of what happens when you take your eyes off of Jesus Christ.  I have always been amazed that Jesus kept his physical scars.

Did you ever wonder why He kept the scars?  If He was the son of God, why not completely heal those hands and feet.  Why bear the scars?  Why did Jesus keep the scars, show the scars and why does He through eternity keep those scars?

Was it simply to show them that he was the same person that had been crucified?  Was it simply to historically verify that the same person who had been brutally treated, died, was buried, came to life again? Or was there a My Scarsdeeper meaning in his scars that he so willingly showed his disciples?

The most obvious reason He showed His disciples the scars, and continues to wear the scars even in eternity is because scars tell a story. Probably if each of us to survey our own body, we would be able to tell the story of virtually every scar that shows.  The reason for that – scars tell a story.

We all have wounds in our hearts, either from sin in our lives or painful things that happen along the journey. Whatever the wound is from is not important, what is important is that we have that scar to remind us of what God taught us through the pain.

My prayer is that each wound the Lord heals in my life I only hope He leaves the scar so I won’t forget.  Our scars should lead us to honor God for His mercy and remind us of His love and mercy for us.  They should lead us to have compassion for others.  

I thank the Lord for leaving the scars in my life.  I hope that they continue to tell a story of God’s forgiveness and healing in my life. 

May this be your prayer as well. May we always ask God to heal the wound but leave the scar.

The Way I Tend to Be

I was trying to fall asleep one night, when I started to think about the fact that we really do not know those who are around us… even our own family.

By that, I mean we as people… being who we are – whomever that may be and whatever that may look like.  My thoughts mainly focused around the idea of pigeonholing people. We like to think we have a particular person figured out. For example, I would love to say that I have completely figured out my wife.  I believe I do know her quite well, but I could never know exactly who she is.  Some days she is a complete mystery to me.   I guess I am a mystery to her as well.  That being said, my wife probably knows me better than anyone but I know that I still surprise her from time-to-time.  Sometimes that brings her frustration and other times happiness.   How could she not know me after knowing each other for over 35 years?  The question that really needs to be answered is, “How do I expect my wife to know me when I am not sure I know myself?”  There are things about me that stay the same because there are some things about me that are the same way I was when I was five. 

In other ways I keep changing.  Yes, I constantly change.  I am influenced by education, interactions, music, experiences, opportunities, all of that.   I keep discovering things about myself and sometimes what I find out is not pretty or good.  I am sad about that.  I wish I could hide those bad things from myself and more importantly from my family.   The truth is not that simple.  They see my faults before I do.
puzz

Like a puzzle, I have always made it a life goal to never be truly figured out.  I always wanted to keep ‘em guessing.  The problem is that I have finally figured out that I worked way too hard at that.  It’s been really easy for me to focus on the negative things I have learned, especially since I’m trying to improve my weaknesses as a husband, father and grandfather.   Lately, however, I’ve noticed more positive things. I’m discovering new things about myself that have me a little excited – and surprised. It’s not that these new things are so exciting in themselves; it’s that I’m understanding myself better and seeing more clearly who I am.

“Today you are You, that is truer than true.  There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”  – Dr. Seuss

I thought I would have had this figured out a long time ago.  However; the excitement I’m feeling about discovering new things about myself is worth the pain of finding out things I don’t like. Thinking that I’m one thing and finding out I’m something else entirely is scary. I’ve certainly ran away from discovering things about myself before, and I’m absolutely sure that I’m not alone in that.

I want to show you who I am, but I really want to show you that I’m not who you think I am.  I’m different.  I am many things—and I am one thing.  That is for sure, but I am much more than that.

Who am I?  

Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.

I am a man.  I am a “brother” and I am a “son”.   I am a “father” and a “grandfather”.  

I am trustworthy and loyal, but at the same time I am no Boy Scout.  No, I am certainly not. I am quite the opposite, in fact. And by opposite I do not mean Girl Scout.

As a child I was known as the baby of the family.  I am also a “mommas boy”.  I was known as the “Lee boy” and Linda Lee’s little brother.  I was known as the brother of those that were killed in the car/train accident. 

I was picked first and I was picked last.  I was the center of attention and I was ignored.  I was loved and I was forced to grow up too soon. I was easily forgotten and lost in the crowd.  My elementary school classmates would have hard time ever remembering me.  Just a picture of someone they don’t remember.

leisure suitIn Junior High, I continued being known Linda Lee’s little brother.  I was known as a stutterer and a Smart Aleck to cover the embarrassment of my lack of confidence. I was sure that a light blue Leisure Suit was the solution for all my problems.

I was now known to usually to get into fights  because I was small for my age and I would not have anyone try to put me in my place.  My anger and temper would usually get the best of me and the opponent was usually bigger and older than me.  I never walked away from a fight.  I’d like to think I never lost one but I am sure there are those that would have a different opinion.

I was legendary at Nerf Basketball in my bedroom and I was sure that with every Beatle, ELO, Elton John, Areosmith, John Denver and Temptations record I sang with would make me a star one day.  

RunnerIn high school, I was still known as Linda Lee’s little brother but I was also known as a runner, the cross-country kid that got de-pantsed in front of the whole school.  I was known as the first student in my class to earn his Varsity Letter as a Freshman.  I was also known as a transfer student and a basketball player.

I was too short, too skinny, too tall, too angry, too jealous, too loud and too confident.

I was known as being smarter than I let anyone know.  I did what I had to do to stay eligible for sports.  I was a underachiever and at times I overachieved… far beyond my abilities.  I was lucky and I was cursed.  I was not expected to amount to anything and yet I surpassed everyone’s expectations of what I would do in my life. 

Truth is…  I have never reached my full potential.

There was one thing I was but I wasn’t known for it.   I was a “Born Again” Christian.   I had a very deep personal relationship with Jesus Christ but unfortunately very few people knew this about me.  What many knew about me was what they would see at the parties and other places.  I would hide this relationship with Jesus Christ yet I would freely show everyone the desperate attempts of a young man trying to fit in.  It is truly one of my greatest regrets of my childhood.  I wish I would have let others know of my faith.  I wish I would have been the witness that God wanted me to be and that includes the time I was a student at Temple Christian Academy. 

People have known me by many titles and nicknames.

My sister calls me Dave.  (she is the only one gets away with that to my face) She has also called me “Dew Worm” as long as I remember.  Why? Who knows?  My brother had other nicknames for me that will forever be confined to vaults of my memory and hopefully to those of my family.

--In high school, I was “Double Deuce”  not because of the modern Urban Dictionary definition of the act of sticking up both middle fingers instead of just one for added emphasis on the unspoken message; while that could have applied to me in some ways it was rather the fact that I wore the number “22″ for every sport I have ever played.  I was the original “22″. 

I was known as Pam’s ex-boyfriend and from time to time, Michael.

I was known as the first of my family to go to college.  Then as a traveler.  I left the small confines of that small Ohio town and swam in the Amazon River and sojourned the plains of Africa and shook the hands of two US Presidents all before I was the age of 22.

There was a time when I was known as the “Sound Man”.  I engineered the sound board for many of the popular Christian acts of the early ’80′s.  I was also known during this time as a roommate to some of my lifelong friends.  Then I was known as a college graduate and someone who they used to know.

There was a time when I was known as Mr. Lee; but he died a long time ago.

To some, I was known as Coach, to others the teacher and to some the Principal.  If you knew me then, you would much rather have “Pepsi and Popcorn” than “Coffee and Doughnuts” with me.  (An inside joke and shout out for all to whom it applies).

I also was known as an ordained minister… a Bible teacher… to some a youth pastor, to others a Sunday School teacher.

I am no longer any of these things.

Today… to some I am known as the boss and to some, David. 

I am a parent.  Parenting is the kind of job for which there is no practice.  You give it your best shot, and trust that it is enough.  You hope that God will make your children resilient enough that they don’t suffer too much from who you are.  I am “Dad” to Nathan and Adam and “David” to Crystal and Cassidy.  There is no such thing as “step” anything.  

I am my own worst critic. I am success.  I am failure.  I am the silent majority.  I am a loud minority. I am a friend and I can be a foe.  

I am the proud husband of Pamela Renee.

I’m not what I thought.  I’m more than I’ve been.

I am Indiana William and Brody Michael Kirchenbauer’s grandpa.

I am a man that has come to the conclusion that compassion, understanding and forgiveness  of others and their problems are far better than the  judgmental legalism he raised with.

I am a simple man looking for grace and forgiveness.

I guess I am just starting to get to really know who I am just because I have the unmitigated gall of taking the time to understand and know who I am.

This I know…

I am not the man I was 20 years ago when I failed in my first marriage and lost my ministry.  I am convinced that myMyStory story is one of caution.  Caution for all, because if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.

  It is a journey that is more common than anyone wants to recognize.  My story… follows a well-traveled spiritual pathway that leads from sin and failure right up to the Cross of Calvary, where our Savior died so we could know forgiveness, grace, and unconditional love.   That’s where you’ll find me today, gathered with all the other people who are scarred by their past but who’ve been forgiven, redeemed and gratefully clinging forever at the foot of the old rugged cross. 

If you’ve also made mistakes in your life and you long for restoration and wholeness, I hope you’ll come along and share my journey.  But please understand…these are my words and I am accountable for them. 

They tell my story, my journey and the way I tend to be. 

David Michael Lee

Turn The Page

I love turning the page.

To be honest, I always have. I try to make as much noise as I can turning the page of a book – or a pad TurnThePageof paper – or a calendar. I love the cracking sound. It sounds like progress to me. It feels like I’ve accomplished something, and my reward is that now I get to see what happens next. 

The same can be said of when I turn a page in my life. I can’t help but see our lives as stories we’re writing and telling as we go through life. Page by page we fill up the chapters of our life because I believe that each morning we wake up to a blank page and fill it throughout the day with our thoughts and actions. Both the good and the bad. And as I look back on the chapter (2013) that’s closing – and forward to the unwritten page before me, I can’t shake the question, “What kind of story am I writing?”.  Is the journey in this life of mine a love story? A how “not to” book? A mystery? A tragedy or maybe even a comedy?

Sometimes when I look back at some of the drivel I have written over the years, I see each of these aspects in my writing. There are flashes of a love story. A love story of how the love of Jesus Christ has brought me through some difficult times. Definitely the pages that I have filled with words are (at times) a warning of how “not to” do certain things. I also see aspects of mystery because I won’t share everything or name names when I could have and at times should have. I am glad that I have not called out certain people for how they have treated me over the years. However that does not mean I still don’t struggle at understanding how some people hide behind their Christianity. Smiles on Sunday morning but disdain and judgement on others throughout the week. That being said, I am glad that each morning I get to turn the page and see a blank sheet staring front of me. I get to start over and dwell on better things.
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Probably the best words to describe my words may be linked to them being both a tragedy and a comedy.  A tragedy because of the years wasted at life. I single-handedly destroyed my ministry.   I did it to myself. By my own hand.  There is no one to blame but me. There is tragedy found in what could have been.  But what about the comedy? Yes, I still see comedy in the words that I have penned. I have experienced many things in this life that when taken in context are hilarious.  There are things that have happened to me that if I did not personally experience them firsthand I would not have believed them myself.  I have honestly been asked if some of the stories I have told are true and I am here to tell you that every word I have ever written is the truth of what has happened to me.

Yes… it’s been all of these descriptions at times, and more.  But more than anything, as I look to the future of adventurewhat I want my story to be, I want it to be an adventure. Who wants to read a story where the same thing happens page after page? No plot twists. No great success. No failure that leads someone to find to a better part of himself. Nothing out of the ordinary or unpredictable. Who would want to read that story?  Who would want to live that story? Not me. I want to live my life to the absolute fullest.  I want to open my eyes to be all I can be. I want to travel roads not taken. I want the life that I live for my remaining days to be an adventure.

How about you?

Here is where we stand.  2013 has now been written. For some of you, it was a year filled with struggle and hurt. For others, the greatest success and happiest moments of your lives. But one thing we all have in common is… it’s in the past. A new year of blank pages is before all of us, ready to be filled with the greatest adventure we can dream up. A new year of second chances. A new year with another chance to get it right.

You have a story to tell and you have to face the unwritten page each day. That can be harder to face than itWe-all-have-a-story-to-tell sounds.

There are all kinds of obstacles in your way, tying your pages together, boarding up your heart, building walls around your dreams – doing anything and everything to stop you. It can seem easier to put yourself up on a shelf than to write a new chapter. But regardless, whether you intend to or not… your history will be written.

Even if you don’t get out of bed, your story continues. Even if you do exactly what you did yesterday, your story continues. Even lack of thought will fill the page. Even if you’re unaware that you’re creating your history in every moment of every day, with every choice and every thought your having… you are still writing your history.

Don’t let what has been dictate what will be. You have choices. Just because something has been a certain way for some time doesn’t mean it must continue. Just because you chose something yesterday doesn’t mean you have to choose it today. Even if you can’t change your circumstances, you can change your thoughts and actions. You can absolutely change the story you’re telling.

What if you would approach the new year as a blank page waiting to be filled with the greatest story you can tell? What if you would lay down your past experiences, expectations, mistakes, successes – and start fresh?  What if you would reassess the importance you give all that fills your lives and choose again?  What if you would walk forward knowing that if you’re still here there’s something beautiful waiting for you to discover? What if you would turn the page of the story you’ve been writing and face the unwritten page before you?

As a wise man once said:

“A person unfamiliar with their own history are destined to repeat the mistakes of their fathers.”

Welcome to your new chapter. Live it beautifully.

Now… turn the page and write it well.

I Want to Be BRAVE

This is normally a week when many people set goals. Some mcalvin-hobbes-new-years-resolutions-572x433ak resolutions. I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions. My feeling is, if there’s something I want or need to change, why wait until a particular date on the calendar? It makes more sense to get started now.

I do, however, like the idea of choosing a word. ONE WORD to focus on every year. A word that I can use as a roadmap to make my way through life and to help me be more of who and what I am meant to be in 2014.

For me, in 2014, that One Word is BRAVE.

Truth is, I am not brave. FBrave-bannerar from it. I like to avoid the hard stuff.  I procrastinate having the hard conversations and taking the bold steps to share my faith. There’s nothing I find more comforting than hiding in a safe place, away from a dark, scary world.

But that’s not who I want to be, because that’s not someone who gets things done and makes a difference in this world. I honestly want to leave footprints of faithfulness on this earth before God calls me home. I long to teach from God’s Word again and share my faith to those who need to know.

Truth is, I have been hiding for years behind my past failures.  I say I want to be used of God again but fail to put myself in the position to really take those opportunities to do so. I have felt to urge to lead a Men’s Bible Study, but I keep making excuses as to why I can’t do it.

I can’t be a coward. I must be BRAVE.

I want to be BRAVE. I want to fight for what I know is right. I want to overcome my fear of rejection because of my past failures. I want to do things I never thought I coBE brAVEuld do. I want to say “yes” to things that sound crazy and find the reward afterwards. I want to be brave about what is right. I need to ask the tough questions.  I need to go against the grain if the situation calls for it.  I need to try something new.

Yes… in 2014, I want to be Brave.

That’s it. To each one that would read this, being BRAVE might mean something different. You know your situation, just as I know what that word means to me. When you fight for what is right, I believe there’s honor in being BRAVE. I want to have the courage and honor that comes along with it. I know I might lose some things in the process, but being brave is never easy. It will, however, be worth it.

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)

There is tremendous freedom on the other side of your fear. And so I embark in 2014, this fresh, new year, with an attitude and an eye on bravery… my own, as well as yours… Will YOU join me? Will you throw off the security blanket and come out of your cave of comfort to stand up for Christ?

As long as you’re breathing, the possibilities for your life are far greater than you’ve imagined.

Come join me and be BRAVE in 2014 and create an awesome story!!!

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Taking Time for Silent Nights

There are only a few more days until Christmas Eve.

I am sure there are people out there that are starting to panic as the realization sets in that the shopping is not finished and the gift’s are not wrapped.

SilentNightsAlthough the Christmas season is supposed to be a time of joy and celebration, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with all the stress that comes with the season. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in everything you have to do, such as visiting family members, buying gifts and attending multiple Christmas gatherings. Before you know it, you can feel so stressed that you simply want the season to be over so you can have some time to relax. Sometimes life during this Season is so loud it is deafening.

If there is anything we all need to do more of during this season, it is to take time for silent nights.

My wife and I are done with the wrapping and the shopping.  Maybe the better way to say it would be… my wife is done with the wrapping and the shopping.  I’ll give credit where credit is due. She gives me the best Christmas present every year. She takes care of the buying and wrapping and she is gracious enough to me give the opportunity to experience a few of these Silent Nights before Christmas Day.

I am learning that it’s important to take some time out for yourself during the next few days. Don’t turn this Christmas into something you dread. By just taking a little time out for yourself from time to time can help you get your perspective back, helping you to relax and enjoy the joy of the season. Sure, you have a to-do list that is multiple pages long, but if you can take time for a few “Silent Nights” it will allow you to really remember and enjoy the meaning and the joy of Christmas.

Try to embrace the holiday season this year.  Soak up every minute. Cherish every shared laugh of your children and grandchildren.

It is easy sometimes to slip, inviting stress and distractions to interfere in the celebration of Christmas. It is easy to focus on expectations, “to do” lists and activities that the day after Christmas you come to the realization that you were so busy that you missed the opportunity to enjoy the season.

It’s when I choose to slow down and choose to be silent, everything changes.

It is then I hear God’s voice in the laughter of my family and in the giggles of my grandchildren. It is when I feel His love in the hugs of my friends and family. It is when I see Him in the twinkling lights, and in the love that brings us all together.Silent

This year I want to be silent and listen. I want to make memories that I will take with me for the rest of my life. I want no regrets this Christmas. It’s what I want for my family and friends and it’s what I want for everyone that reads this post.

So today, take a deep breath.  Soak up every conversation, every shared moment with those around you.

Be still. Be Silent. Listen.

A Silent and Holy Night is coming.

Don’t rush it. Don’t stress over it.

Embrace it. Cherish it.

Be thankful for it.

Make this choice today and see what happens to your Christmas this year. –

 “Be still, and know that I am God.”

 Psalm 46:10