Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Where's My EASY Button?

"Therefore, be imitators of God.........."  -Ephesians 5:1

Where is my EASY button on this one?  I need my EASY button please.  I need that crutch that allows God to swoop in and make this one a piece of cake.

I have one thing to say to God:  "Being an imitator of you is impossible.  I can't do it."  You know what He said back?  "I know it is impossible............for you."    

God is not asking us to imitate Him.  He is asking us to have a relationship with Him, and only then will we become imitators of Him.  Because when we are connected with him, He shows through us.  Kind of a convaluted way of saying, "Just connect with Him and watch what happens to your life, your outlook, your reactions, your joy in life, your service to others, your attitude, etc., etc., etc." Give it all over to him.

Only through God's hand can we imitate Him.  We will have to work at it at first, but what we are really working to shut down our temptations, fear, loathing, self pity, doubt, addiction, etc.  When we learn to shut those things down in our lives and ultimately concentrate on God, only then does imitation become second nature because we are so close to Christ, it's like we are Him.

Follow?  Now go find your EASY button and throw it out the window.  It ain't gonna help!


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Home Improvement- Chapter 3

Chapter 3- Choosing the Proper Building Material

"For a dream comes with much business, and a fool's voice with many words."  Eccl 5:3

I was talking to a friend of mine today about the business venture he has been working hard on over the last few months.  My wife has even helped him out designing a few of the things he needs for it.  If you are a college football fan, be on the lookout because there are going to be some super cool things coming out that you will have never seen before, but want to get your hands on because of their uniqueness.  I will plug his ideas later on if he allows me (and after I ask him first).

Anyway, after we talked today, I sensed the passion and hardwork that has gone into such an undertaking as starting a new business, or designing a line of clothing, or inventing something.  There are two undeniable tenets to being a success at work, at home, etc.:  tenacity and dedication.  By the way, that does not translate into 18 hour days for 60 years straight. 

And through my friend, I have learned one huge fact of success in any facet of life:  success comes not from what you know or don't know, how well you talk the talk or don't, or how well you dress or don't dress.

Success comes from dreams; that are shaped into reality; then worked at for weeks, months, and mostly years; but ultimately achieved after allowing Christ to work harder on us than us on our dream.  Ultimately, success of a dream is not what comes out of our mouths, but what pours forth from our heart through our character and actions as we strive to be successful at work, home, school, and for Christ.

So what's your dream?  Quit talking about it and start acting on it.

Talk is the house made of cards.  Action is the house made of cinder blocks. 

Lastly, failure is still successful if we learn and grow.

Building with better materials,

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Home Improvement- Chapter 2

Chapter 2- Hurricane Protection

"And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly.  I perceived that this also is but a striving for the wind."  Eccl 1:17.

So I am sitting at the Village Inn last night with a couple guys that I meet with and just talk about life and throw out biblically based challenges to one another.  Now I'm really digging my scrumptious cherry supreme pie on Free Pie Day at the Viking Village Inn (that goes out to you C brotha), and I get this yearning for more to eat.  So I order the cheese omlette, the hash browns and some really greasy bacon to top it all off.  In order not to feel guilty that I am eating too much, I look at C and ask him to order what he wants as the fourth item.

We talked for close to an hour about all the things going on in our lives lately and how the last challenge went for all of us.  Grace was the topic.  Yah, exactly.  We didn't quite hit even par on that one.  All kidding aside, we really did work hard on giving grace and working on turning that other cheek, but as human as we are, that's like trying to hold in a burp after drinking a 2-liter of soda sometimes.

So as C and H are talking, I pull out my bible and go back through the first chapter of Ecclesiastes I had read the night before.  I remember reading about Solomon's loathing over all he had worked so hard to gather and accomplish and how it was like "striving after the wind."  I really started thinking from the shoes of the second smartest man who ever walked the face of this earth.  He had it all, including some astronomical number of wives, boundless amounts of money: the Bill Gates or Warren Buffett of that time.  It just struck me that despite the fact this man had everything in the world, including the biggest, wisest brain, he sat down and wrote a book about how vane his life was. 

Then I threw it out there like a poker ante on green felt: "What wind are we chasing after in life?" 

What's the one thing, whether now, in the past, or in the future, we are chasing, have chased or could possibly chase, which would be like trying to grasp at the wind in a hurricane?  What do we do about stopping the "madness" and re-focusing on those things which are most important?  What do we need to do now that will stop the frantic, swirling chase and help us find the eye of our hurricane, the calm amidst the storm?  Lastly, what are those "things that are most important?" 

Here's my challenge to you all:  find your wind and enjoy life as it whips about you but doesn't knock you down and instill fear in you.  Is it time to cut back on work hours and spend an extra hour at home with your kids?  Is time to settle down and stop chasing after your favorite TV show while your spouse tries to talk with you about life?  Is it time to devote the bar hours at night to digging into the Word and finding solice in scripture and the God who loves you, instead of at the bottom of the bottle? 

Where's your storm?  Figure that out, and then chase after the eye of the storm.  I guarantee God will be at the center of your storm, pushing out the wall and providing solice in a place which is typically brimming with "madness."

Calling on THE Weatherman,

Monday, August 23, 2010

Home Improvement- Chapter 1

Chapter 1- Preventing Erosion

I have been reading the blog of a certain pastor in the United States.  You may have heard of him: he wrote the book "The Purpose Driven Life,"  he gave President Obama's Inaugural Prayer, and he is the lead pastor for a well known church out in California.

Now Rick is one of the most successful pastor's of the modern era in spreading the Good News "to all nations."  His teachings are a beacon of hope and challenge to many people around the world  Yet, they can cut straight to the bone. Like a surgeon performing neurosurgery in a hurricane, God's divine power to use Rick in so many precise and personal ways while life swirls around us like a tempest, I felt as though his last 5 posts were custom tailored for a character surgery. 

So let's define procrastination:  in the McBride English Dictionary, procrastination is defined as the art of finding every way possible to avoid doing the stuff we don't want to do or that just isn't any fun, until the last possible second.  I used to say it was just my way of waiting on "God's timing" to do something.  Ahhhhhhhhhh, yah. in the words of Jim Carrey looking for Mary Swanson in "Dumb and Dumber, "Sammy........Swawmy.........Swa.........Sw.........Swanson....-Look on the briefcase, maybe it's on there.  - Samsonite!  I was way off!"

God has hit me right between the eyes through the fine words of Rick Warren (here's the link to his blog, good stuff:  http://profile.purposedriven.com/dailyhope/ ).  Slowly, through my fine craft of procrastination (perfected over many years of believing I could ace a paper by writing it the night before because I got a C on the one I wrote a week early), I have been eroding the very foudnation of service to my God, my family, my job, just my entire worth to this world and the next.

And God has been speaking to me for a long time.  I'm just so thick headed, I didn't want to understand or had the delusion that I had things under control and thought, "God, I got it from here. Take a break." I used to have a monetary goal for my business on my wall.  Now the goal on my office wall reads like this:

"Go to the ant, O sluggard: consider her ways and be wise.  Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.  How long will you lie there, O sluggard?  When will you arise from your sleep?  A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man"  Proverbs 6:6-11.

Now I can be really hard on myself.  I'm talking debilitatingly hard on myself to the point that I think God doesn't even want me.  But that's not the truth either.  Procrastinatorial (is that even a word?) tendencies and all, God loves me and accepts me.  Now I just have to be willing to let Him put me to the grinding wheel and shape who He wants me to be.  Otherwise, the very foundation of my life will erode away like the man's house that was built upon the sand.

Awakened to shore up my foundation,

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Desire for Pain

Is it weird for me, as a father of 2 sons, to want my sons to experience pain, suffering, a broken heart, hard times, (input your own word here?  I was sitting down at the dinner table tonight, alone because I wasn't hungry when the rest of the family ate, and I was watching my 5-year old playing with his cars on the couch.  Over there was my wife working diligently on the computer to find a good deal on a pair of shoes for our son's awkward feet.  And I just started thinking, I wish I could take my son's foot pains away so that he could walk around school all day long and never have to wake up in the middle of the night again crying in pain.

I was also thinking about how I don't stop my almost 1-year old from climbing on the toys only to hope that when he falls, he will experience the pain of falling (of course watching with a close eye so he doesn't crack his head open on the furniture).  I want him to know the pain of falling so he can learn to think before he does it the 10th time (kids hardly ever learn the first time).  Then I pulled out the crystal ball I have stashed in the pantry for times when I want to know what their lives will end up like, and I started to imagine them as teenagers: girls, schoolwork, friends, peer pressure, (input your own word here too).  And then I realized, I will never, ever be their savior, nor will I ever try. 

Sometimes I feel as though I am being callous towards my kids when I want them to experience pain, but deep within my heart, I don't ever want them to feel the pains I had to endure in my life, however miniscule or different from mine they may be.  What I want them to learn is how to cope, how to deal with the realities of life without breaking down.  That's why we try to teach them, through the repeated tantrums and wailings on the floor, that life is not getting what you want all the time.  They need to experience the pain of losing something or not gaining something they want, so they can cope in the future when the inevitable will happen.

Christ is the same way with us.  He never wants us to experience pain, especially the pain He watched as His own son was tortured, dragged through the streets, beaten, stabbed with spikes and a spear, and then ultimately left to die on a couple beams of wood: FOR US.  I imagine in my finite mind that God, as He watched these things happen to Jesus that day, turned away and wept.  Yet, he remained strong, and steadfast in support of His own son experiencing that pain knowing in the long run, the result would be the salvation of those who would accept and follow Him. 

I don't want to shield my children from pain and suffering.  I don't want to save them from every bad decision they make.  I don't want to keep them from making bad, and good, decisions.  I don't want to be in the way of the life lesson they will learn from the pain they experience.  I WANT to help them endure it, recover from it, and grow from it.  I don't want to stop it from happening.

Disclaimer:  there are going to be times, for their safety, and possibly sanity, that intervention may be required, don't get me wrong here.

Lord keep me strong,

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Good Defense

".....'We don't know who opened his eyes.  Ask him.  He is old enough to speak for himself.'  His parents said this because they were afraid of the elders, who had already decided that anyone who said Jesus was the Christ would be avoided.........."  John 9:21-22

A good defense is not always a good offense.  Jesus has just healed the blind man with spit and dirt.  The man is brought before the Pharisees and grilled over what happened.  They still won't believe the him, so they take formerly blind man to his parents to verify that he was blind from birth.  But something funny happens.  They verify his blindness yet deny the One who healed him, knowing full well Jesus Chist had healed their son. 

I can still remember times in the military when it was prudent for me to remain silent about my faith so as not to be "avoided" by the "elders."  It was a regulation not to be open about your faith.  I have become much more vocal in work environments about my faith, still with the fear of being "avoided."  Frankly, I don't care if I don't get invited to happy hour after work.  Acceptance, or better yet, lack there of, can be paralyzing to someone of my people-pleasing nature.  But I have turned a corner in my life.  People to please no longer fully fuel who I am.  (Notice I said fully-it's a hard habit to break). They can't, unless I want to live my life for them and not for a God who gave His only son on a cross for my forgiveness.

Do I still hesitate to talk about my faith sometimes?  Absolutely, out of fear, which breeds and fuels a lack of that same faith I claim to have.  It's hard to be open.  But, it will be a lot harder to close my soul when Christ bears it on the day I stand before Him.

What will we do when the guys in the office are talking about what they would like to do with the cute girl in cubicle 2, and then turn and ask us our opinion?  What will we do when the girls at the gym are bashing our faith because of the "money hungry" pastor with his limo and multi-million dollar house?  What will we do when the boss says that you cannot, under any circumstance, talk about your faith in the workplace, yet makes off-handed remarks about churches in staff meetings?

What will we do?  Don't go on the defense.  Jesus didn't.  Why should we?


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Guilt by......well, just Guilt!

"And he touched my mouth and said: 'Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for."
              Isaiah 6:7

Ever since I can remember, I never could lie very well.  Everytime I tried to lie as a kid, it would backfire on me because I would feel all this deep guilt within myself and then just confess whatever it was.  My lies were always written on my face or in my actions.  Guilt would consume me. 

Guilt has now turned into fear for me.  I don't feel guilt as much any more, as I do fear of the ramifications of telling the truth in today's litigious society.  Look at your car's insurance card:  one of the key things it says is to not admit guilt in an accident. So my insurance company is telling me not to take responsibility for my actions?  What message does that send?  Maybe I am naive in my thinking here, or it could be the guilt I carry around.

Fear and guilt are of the same color when it comes to the emotional spectrum.  Boiled down to their essence, these emotions invoke feelings of not being in control.  As we all know, control is an illusion, or should I say dillusion, we mere humans see as some ability we have over our surroundings and circumstances.  Some people spend their entire lives chasing after control of their situation or position in life.  We here it a great deal:  "I must take control of my destiny, fate, etc."

The problem is this:  fear, guilt and control can turn into obsessions if we are not careful and do not focus on the fact that our Father in heaven has control over all things, except of course, our own choices.  Choices are about the only things we have control over in life.  And no one makes right decisions 100% of the time. 

Christ is our refuge in those times we are afraid.  Trying to take control of a situation is us saying to God, "Hey, I got this one.  Take a break for a little while because I want to play your part for awhile." Guilt, is us saying, "God, today I will not let you forgive me for the things I have done wrong.  I just want to wallow in my own misery hear.  Take a break for a little while because I want to play your part for awhile."

The ultimate sacrfice has been paid for our sin, sins which can lead to guilt if we let them, and further, guilt leads to fear when we try to take control.  The atonement has happened.  Why do we try so hard to pay our own way?

Forgive me Father,

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound.  I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, Oh Lord, make me dwell in safety." 
          Psalm 4:7-8

Last night, my wife and I hosted our home team as we have done every Tuesday since the beginning of February.  Tonight was a little special for me.  As I posted months back, I read the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan.  We have been following the accompanying study to his book in our home team this session and it has been really cool to see our group participating and growing in their walks with Jesus Christ.

Tonight was especially enlightening to me as we dug down to the heart of loving our Savior and God.  We talked about loving Him in a way that rivals that of our most intimate relationships here on earth.  It made me look deep into my relationship with Him and wonder:  How much effort am I putting into our relationship?

We asked a lot of questions tonight. What was it like to pursue that person in your past or present who you would do anything to spend time with?  What did you give up in life to spend that extra 15 minutes with your special someone?  Was a 3 hour drive, one way, worth seeing that person for only 30 minutes?  Seeing that person in the flesh was amazing, but how does not seeing Jesus physically affect how we interact with Him? 

Relatable questions, all of them, but pondersome nonetheless.  I had to ask myself some other questions:  when I was chasing my wife in college, what did I do that would seem crazy just to get a kiss or spend 5 minutes with her?  What did I give up for her that might have been important because I just wanted to spend time with her?  (Quick Story:  I once drove 28 hours straight from Tucson AZ to Auburn AL just to spend 2 days with my fiance before some military training.  I have a $200 speeding ticket from a Louisiana cop to prove it!  Now, would I do that again to spend 2 days with my Savior?)

Let me ask those questions again and replace "my wife" with "my Savior."  When I was chasing my Savior in the past, what did I do that would seem crazy just to spend 15 minutes with Him?  What did I give up for my Savior that might have been important because I just wanted to spend time with Him?

Fast forward to today:  What am I giving up to spend time with my Savior, Jesus Christ?  What is more important than my relationship with Jesus Christ?  Then we threw out the challenge:  conciously spend more time with Christ this week than we do with that special someone (spouse, kids, friends, coworkers, etc.). Whether it's 1 minute or 1 hour more, make the effort.  Don't do it because it's forced, but do it because it is what we yearn for and desire.  We were not just talking about doing things for Christ like church, or service or, worship.  We were talking about connection and letting responsibilities go just to spend time with Him.

Sherk the responsibilites for once and open up your mind and Bible.  What will it be like?  I bet it's like no other experience on earth and I want it!

Take these responsibilities and ..............,

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Resurrection

Question of the Day:  why is the birth of Jesus celebrated so much more than His death and resurrection?  This has been a question I have had for a very long time.  Many will argue that there would be no crucifixion and subsequent raising from the dead had Jesus not been born, so it is more important to celebrate His birth.  But I beg to differ.  There would be no salvation without his death and resurrection. The blood He shed for each and every one of us on the cross would not be possible if Christ had decided not to abide by the will of the Father.

"And going a little farther, he fell on his face and prayed, saying, 'My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but what you will.'"  Matthew 26:39

"And he said, 'Abba, Father, all things are possible for you.  Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.'"  Mark 14:36

"And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed saying, 'Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.  Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.'" Luke 22:41-42

Three of the four gospels confirm that Jesus could just have easily done his own thing, as take up his final cross for us and spill his blood for our salvation and forgiveness.  In Jesus' final prayer in the garden, according to John, Jesus even hints at the fact that he could have made that decision.  So my questions still remains, why do we celebrate Christmas as the penultimate holiday to celebrate Christ, yet for the most part, we give Easter a cursory recognition?  Is just a reason for us to take 2 weeks vacation from school at the end of the year?  Does it give us other reasons to conclude the year on a high note?

Who knows.  I vote for a change to the status quo across the board.  Let's celebrate Jesus' death and resurrection as much, if not more than, we do His birth.  It just might change our outlook on the gift we have been given by the Father.

Please don't take this as an indictment on anyone or any organization.  I am just as guilty.

I'm just saying,

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Other Woman

"For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolator, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God." Ephesians 5:5.

I was with some guys this weekend, spending time in Scripture, learning about effective leadership, but most of all, connecting with God and seeing where He is leading His church.  One of the guys said something while we were all together that made me think about the odd relationship I was forming with that little device I connect to the world with. He held up his Crackberry, ehh hem, sorry, Blackberry, in his left hand and proclaimed that she was The Other Woman! (Ladies, this is not to exlcude those who find The Other Man in there personal electronic devices, but most of the time, it's us men who find refuge in "sexy" technology).

So I started thinking, yes dangerously thinking: When are the times I see myself engrossed in technology and leave my wife, family, and even my God for "The Other Woman?"  It happens more often than I want to admit. For the most part, when I get home from work, the BB goes on the charger stand, vibrates a lot, grabs my attention every time, and calls to me to caress the buttons and answer every email, text message, Tweet, and phone call that comes across her very active radio waves. Most times I can resist the lure of the "idolatrous" electronic vixen she is. But there are times when I cave and just look at the screen with my picture of Ethan on the Monster Truck wheel. Guilty again.

Question: did Jesus ever have one of these? My guess is that if he did, it would have ended up at the bottom of the Sea of Galilee after the first 5 minutes of the Pharisees Tweeting about this odd Nazerean that was blaspheming the name of God. Yet WE still come back for more.

So what do we call The Other Woman? A distraction? A tool for business? An IDOL? Tough call, but sometimes, it may just be an idol we use to lose ourselves among the world of electrons and shirk off our real responsibilities. Sometimes, the hard responsibilities: loving our wives or husbands; spending time with our kids; seeking the face of God in life; learning the hard truth about our relationship with God.

This indictment I take upon myself. Where do I need to leave the Other Woman behind?

Away with you Woman!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Back in the Game

It's been a long while since I have posted to the blog.  Two kids are no excuse, but they really demand a lot of time and attention.  So I am going to start back into my venture of working for Christ through the words I post here.  This privilege to interact with God through the words I write here has been an inspiration lacking lately in my life and it's time to re-engage with Him on a deeper level again. 

Like Maverick on a Mig,