Friday, December 19, 2008

Lessons From Whoville

We can learn a lot from all the Whos in Whoville
Yes, we are much older, but there's more to learn still
When Christmas Eve came on that night the story goes
All the Whos were tucked in from their heads to their toes
And while they all slept, something tragic went on
The Grinch came to town, not planning to stay long
Just long enough, to steal Christmas was his plan
To ruin that special day, for the Whos would be grand
Christmas Eve came and went, then Christmas morning did come
And the Grinch prepared himself for what he thought would be fun
But, the Whos surprised him, yes they blew him away
They foiled his great plan, and ruined his day
For somehow and someway, though no presents they found
The Whos started singing, it was such a beautiful sound
The Grinch realized then, something he didn't know before
Christmas isn't in boxes, and can't be bought in a store
Herein is our lesson, but closely we must look
To find this powerful truth in this little children's book
Christmas isn't about all the decorations and trees
Nor is it about all the presents, we give or receive
It's not about how much money you can spend
And it's not about how many Christmas cards you send
These things are great and we all love them a lot
But Christmas still comes, with these things or not
Yes, Christmas is more, as the Grinch figured out
More than all this, he now knew without a doubt
It's about family and friends, and loving the life that we're livin'
It's about peace on earth, and all the goodness God's given
When you figure that out, Christmas somehow comes alive
And you can enjoy it, even if you get a bunch of ugly ties
Or, an ugly sweater you would never dare wear
Or, a fruit cake made sometime last year
Whatever you get, or if you get nothing indeed,
Christmas is still great, when you know what it means

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Fat Man In A Red Suit, Flying Around The World In A Sleigh. Hmmmm?

A fat man, in a red suit, flying around the world in a sleigh pulled by reindeer. What a story? Isn't it amazing how creative we can be? Throw in a story of a reindeer whose nose glows, tiny elves who work feverishly to get all the toys done in time, and a list of all the good and bad kiddos in the world and we've got an epic story. Its been told for years and gets tweaked a bit with every generation or so, but never seems to lose much steam.

Every year, this fat man in his red suit, shows up everywhere. He's at the mall, he's on the TV, he's on Christmas cards, he's even on Coca-Cola cans. Everywhere you look, there he is. Just think, wouldn't it have been nice to come up with the idea of this guy and sell the world on it? I'm thinking somehow, someway you could have made some pretty serious bank if you had.

Several years ago, I heard a Christian radio station trying hard to sell the whole idea of Santa as a God thing. Now, I don't have any problem with Santa, but a God idea? I think that's just a bit of a stretch. Sure, he's a nice guy and all and he goes around giving stuff away, still I struggle with the idea of Santa being God inspired.

Let's face it, God needs no help from our imagination to come up with a great story. Let me rephrase that, a miraculous story. While we're conjuring up stories of a fat man in a red suit, he pulls off something that reaffirms the fact that His thoughts are light-years beyond ours. One night in a little town called Bethlehem, God wraps Himself in human flesh in order to rescue mankind. If you know the story, think about it. God, the Creator of the universe, humbles himself, and becomes one of us. He steps out of eternity and steps into time, submits himself to a brutal death at the hands of men He could thump off the planet in a heartbeat. He does all that in order to restore mankind's relationship with Him.

A baby was born that night who would take away the sins of the world. A King was born who would never see an end to his kingdom. A Deliverer was born who would set men free. A Healer was born who would heal the sick. A Savior was born who would save mankind. A Prince was born who would set this world at peace.

Of course, many never truly recognized Him. As a matter of fact, when He showed up that night in Bethlehem, they couldn't even make room for Him. They couldn't make room for God! They were so busy going about doing all the things people do, that when God, Himself showed up, they didn't recognize him, notice him, or even offer him a room to stay in. That night in Bethlehem was all about Him, and yet He went largely unnoticed. As a matter of fact, other than a few shepherds and angels and some wise men studying the stars, nobody even new what happened that night.

We aren't all that different are we? We've got this ongoing ridiculous debate on whether we should say "Happy Holidays," or "Merry Christmas." We've casually become a culture that no longer recognizes what this time of year is all about. We strive to be politically correct while all the while missing the point entirely. We go about doing Christmas in such a way as to forget why we do it in the first place. We love the paid holiday time, retailers love the money, and oil companies love the travel. We love Santa, and Rudolph, and Frosty the Snowman. We love the decorations, the lights, the trees, and everything else that comes with this time of the year. But, if we are not careful, just like Bethlehem that night, we'll miss Him. The One it's all about.

Don't get me wrong, Santa's a great story and all, but it just doesn't measure up to God's true story. I know it may not be politically correct to say, "Merry Christmas," but to be honest, I really don't care about being politically correct. If someone chooses to be offended by that statement, they just don't understand what happened that night in Bethlehem many years ago. Jesus truly is the reason for the season. No amount of commercialization, political debating, or differing religious ideologies can change that fact.

Bethlehem was the birth place of the greatest King ever to be born and that night hardly anyone even knew it. Isn't it ironic. Christmas is about the birth of the greatest King to ever be born, and it appears that there is an ever growing number of people who don't even know it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Three Wise Men

In the aftermath of Ike, as you drive around our community it’s not hard to spot broken tree branches dangling high up in numerous trees. They are everywhere. Some are just little branches while others are massive branches that would cause damage to roofs, cars, or people should they fall on them. My father-in-law has at least three on his property. Each of them big enough to do some pretty serious damage.

A couple weeks ago, my wife and I pulled up just in time to catch my father-in-law and 2 of his neighbors plotting how to best take care of one of those limbs that was dangling a good 30-40 feet up in a pine tree hanging over the driveway. As I walked up to the scene, I thought to myself this is going to be good. No, not funny, but good. There is something awesome that takes place when a few gray haired men put their heads together in an effort to fix something, or accomplish something. I was convinced this would be no different. By the time I arrived, they had pretty much figured out how they were going to go about doing it and were just gearing up for the implementation of their well thought out plan. I would just be a spectator. Having already lassoed the dead limb, and having determined that mere mortal muscle couldn't pull it down, one of the neighbors set out to retrieve his golf cart. They then, attached the rope to the back of the golf cart and moments later down the limb came. A limb, big enough to cause major damage to a car or, worse yet, kill one of my boys had it fallen on them. A brilliantly laid out plan, successfully carried out, and now once again it was safe to park in the driveway.

I knew when I drove up that day, that as these three gray-haired men, threw some ideas around it wouldn’t be long before the job would be done. After all, they pooled together somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 combined years of life experience. Trust me when I say, there was a wealth of wisdom standing in the driveway that day. Mix that wisdom with the determination of 3 men and there aren’t many jobs that won’t get done. I’m pretty sure if you replaced our politicians in Washington with a handful of these guys, they’d have a lot of problems solved in no time.

What’s so sad is that many times those of us who are younger, don’t recognize the value in men like these. We fly through life as if we know everything, and are pretty certain that those who are a bit more seasoned than us, are incapable of teaching us much. While the truth is, if we’ll open our eyes and ears, we’ll find a wealth in men and women like this. If we’ll simply be teachable, we can learn in one moment what it has taken them a lifetime to learn.

I remember as a teenager, I wasn’t real good at tuning in to all the times my Dad tried to teach me. Even as a young man in my twenties, there were still times I wasn’t listening. But the older I got, the more wealth I began to see in both his words, and the way he lived life. Now, in my forties, my eyes and ears are opened and I’m more teachable than at any other point in my life. This past year, I got the opportunity to work side by side with my father-in-law on a couple of jobs, and there wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t learn something.

I’m pretty sure, had I saw those three men out there when I was 15 or 16, I wouldn’t have taken out my note pad and pencil so to speak. And, naturally I would have missed a great opportunity to learn something. Sure, it was just a tree limb. And, that’s really the point. There is so much in life that you can never learn in a book, in a classroom, or even with your own life’s experience. There is an immeasurable amount of wisdom and knowledge that can only be found lingering around someone whose life experience has purchased them an encyclopedia worth of wisdom. Take my advice, next time you see three gray-haired men outside up to something, pull up a chair, and watch the show. Trust me, you’ll learn a lot from those wise men.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I Love The Rain

I love the rain. Sure, it can make life a bit of a hassle. Especially, on those days when you get caught out in it unprepared without an umbrella. Or, when traffic moves at caterpillar speed on your way to and from work. But, still I love the rain.

Sure, I like listening to it fall outside. For some reason, it just has a calming effect. Then, there are times I like to just stare out the window and watch it fall. I even like playing in it. Yes, even as an adult. But, all of that pales in comparison to the real reason I love the rain.

Every time it rains, I am reminded of a story I heard a few years ago. It seems that in 1937, a young lady who already had several children discovered she was pregnant with yet another. She had no desire for another child and had found someone who would be willing to help her abort the pregnancy. She somehow convinced her husband to pay for the procedure and one morning she woke up to find the cash for the procedure laying on the kitchen table. However, it was pouring down rain that morning and she didn't want to get out in all that mess. The story goes on, I've been told, that after that day, she just decided to have the baby.

To think that a little rain saved a little baby's life is a pretty powerful story, but that story carries a lot more weight when it touches your life on a more personal note. That young lady was my grandmother and the baby was my Dad. To think of what might have been, had it not been raining that day. I stagger to think that myself, my 2 bothers, my 2 sisters, my 2 sons, my 4 nephews, and my 3 nieces, all could have been aborted on that raining day in 1937. I just thank God that on that morning in that little town in West Virginia, the heavens opened up and poured down rain.

As you can imagine, its hard for me not to be reminded of that story, when it rains. Sure, I get upset from time to time when I'm inconvenienced by wet weather, but somehow, someway God always reminds me that it was a day like this in 1937, that my life as well as the lives of those I love dearest were spared. So, is it any wonder why I love the rain?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Lessons From The Land Of Uz

A few thousand years ago in the land of Uz, there lived a man whose life gives us some pretty powerful lessons. While reading his story this past week, I was hit with a pretty big reality check. The story begins by telling us of this man named Job who seemed to have the perfect life. He had a great family, big house, and lots of stuff. Then we are given access to a conversation between God and satan concerning Job. God brings up Job and actually brags a little bit about him to which satan replies by saying that Job only loves and serves God because his life is so great. Satan tells God that given some calamity in life, Job is certain to view God quite differently.

As I read this, I began to think about myself. I pondered for a moment how often I truly fail this very test. I started to think how quick I am to get a little miffed at God when things don't go my way. When prayers seemingly go unanswered or when I'm not seemingly under a "blessing cloud." Perhaps, you're like me. You find that praising and thanking God for all He's done comes really easy when life is good, but it becomes quite difficult when life stinks.

If we are honest with ourselves we'll admit that in those moments we are doing little more than throwing a fit. Ok, perhaps we don't lay on the floor and kick and scream like we did when we were little, but our heart attitude is not all that different. We want something and we don't get it, so we pout, get an attitude, and want God and the rest of the world to know it. Sounds like a fit to me. Crazy isn't it. The very thing we discipline our kids for, we somehow justify when we ourselves do the same thing.

God is good. He is always good. He can't act outside of good, because that's who and what He is. That being said, bad stuff still hits our lives. We live in a world that is broken. We live in a world at war. A war that is constantly raging between good and evil. Between the forces of darkness and the forces of God. Those who sit around with the idea that they are immune from bad stuff happening to them have a "Disney" outlook on life. It isn't real. Its a fantasy world that is destined to come crashing down one day.

Job's life was great, but calamity and tragedy hit hard. Like Job, it is in those moments that we truly find out about our heart. It's here we find out a lot about ourselves. In those moments, we find out if we are little more than an adult who still has the same heart as a spoiled child, or if we have outgrown the mindset that the world should cater to our every desire. Finding the ability to look beyond the garbage in life and maintain a heart of thanksgiving toward a God, who remains good through it all, shows growth and maturity along our journey. On the other hand getting ticked off at God, angry with everyone else, and mad at the world shows that we have many more mile markers to go on our spiritual journey to maturity.

Count on it, bad stuff will hit your life. Friends will wound you, relatives will upset you, and this world will hammer you. Its how you react when it hits that makes all the difference in the world. Job's life in the end was better than it was in the beginning. I truly believe that is largely a result of how he handled the calamity that hit his life. Just remember in the middle of it all, God still remains God. In the midst of life's hardest struggles, His goodness, grace, mercy, and love can still be found. If you can find nothing else for which to be thankful, those alone are fuel enough to bombard the heavens with your gratitude.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

My Life Is Good. It's Real Good!

How often do we go through life taking for granted all the good in our life? So often, with me anyway, I can easily focus on the few things that are not meeting my expectations. The things that are gnawing at me, and frustrating me to no end. Those things that don't go the way I want, end up the way I had hoped, or cause me some kind of inconvenience. For whatever reason, there they are constantly bombarding my mind and clouding my outlook.

Yet, at the same time, I am surrounded by blessings everywhere. I've come to learn that it is no accident that our eyes gravitate toward the negative. It is the strategy of our enemy, to distract us from all the good in our life, by magnifying the bad that we encounter. We only need to understand that strategy and make a decision to not allow ourselves to dwell on everything that is wrong.

It is true that my life is surrounded by negative things. Things that don't go my way. But, when I take a moment to focus on all the good, I quickly realize that my life is good. It's real good! I've got a wife that is the greatest. Two boys that I consider second to none. Brothers, sisters, Mom, in-laws, nieces, nephews, that all rock. Yep, nobody at odds with one another and everyone walking in healthy relationship with one another. Now, is that awesome or what?

Then there's the beautiful VW that is paid for. Debt that will soon be paid off, a place to lay my head at night, clothes to wear, and food to eat. I feel as though I have more quality friends than I have had at any point in my life. My wife and I are leading a new church that is touching people's lives. Every time I breathe I breathe in freedom because of the country I was born in. I have running water, hot water, A/C, and electricity. I'm telling you my life is good. It's real good!

But beyond that, God has blessed me abundantly in other ways. As bad as I get, I'm always loved by Him. His mercy covered me and protected me from the judgment of a just judge. His grace restored me to a position I don't deserve and could never have earned. When I fail, I find that same grace working in me and for me. His blood washed my sins away forever, and He chooses to not bring them up ever again. He rescued me from a life that was destined for hell. He empowers me to live the type of life I could never live apart from Him. He showers me with blessings I don't even have to ask for. His goodness is evident all around me. I'm telling you my life is good. It's real good!

Perhaps, you find yourself like me sometimes focusing on those things that are negative. If so, take a few moments out and begin to focus on all the things in your life that are good. You'll begin to see that even though bad stuff is hammering away at you, there is so much more that is good. Trust me, it'll change the atmosphere around you.

There is so much more good in God than there could ever be bad in satan or this planet we live on. God's goodness can never take a back seat to anything or anyone. God is good and His goodness is evident in your life if you'll take time to look for it. Truth is that wherever you find yourself today, your life is good. It's real good!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Church Is Not An Event

My family took a trip this past weekend to Sea World in San Antonio. By the way, this time of year is perfect for a Sea World excursion. Beautiful weather, and no crowds make for a most enjoyable family outing. Sea World, of course has attractions that include aquariums full of sharks, sting rays, piranhas, eels, and other forms of sea life. There's a place where you can feed dolphins, seals, sea lions, and birds. There's alligators, penguins, rides, and lots of junk food. Then there are the shows. The events where humans interact with these massive sea beasts in ways that leave the observers oohing and awing.

I've seen it all before, but it still amazes me how they train these animals to perform the way they do. It is quite entertaining to both children and adults. We love those events so much that we watch some of the shows more than once every time we go.

I sit there in each of those shows and I wonder what it would be like to be a part of the action. I wonder what it would be like ride on the back of one of those killer whales, or to dance with one in that massive pool. What it would be like to to be suspended 30 feet in the air on the tip of Shamu's snout or to hang onto the dorsal fin of a dolphin who's slicing through the water at 30 mph. Of course, you can't just jump into the water and take off interacting with these sea creatures. Being a part of that action requires a bigger commitment than the price of admission. We are talking about highly trained individuals who have invested years of their lives into these animals in an effort to perform and entertain the masses.

As I was sitting here just thinking about all of that, I thought of how church is often exactly like those shows. The masses show up for the event on Sunday morning and we watch as highly trained, or sometimes not so highly trained, professionals entertain us. We sit in our chairs, or pews and we watch the performance. If its good we come back, if its not, we look for a better show somewhere else. We want the worship team to sing songs we like. Songs that move us, deeply. God forbid they sing a song that we don't like or can't connect with. Then, we want the minister to make us feel good. We want him to preach a message that stays away from the garbage in our life that needs attention, while pumping us up and exhorting us. Then, when the offering plate is passed we drop in enough to cover our price of admission if we were entertained well. Then we leave the show, our life no different than when we came.

Somehow, that process seems to be missing the whole purpose for which the church was created. The church is not an event. When we narrow it down to that, we facilitate a philosophy that will insure that the church, while reaching the masses, will fail miserably at becoming what it was created to become. The purpose of the church is to engage the masses to get out of the seats and "into the water" so to speak. It is only then that the church can become the powerful force God intended it to be. When we place a demand on those who are simply spectators, to become engaged in doing kingdom business, then and only then, are we fulfilling God's mission for the church.

Sure, there are those who come into church, in desperate need. They come in need of salvation, deliverance, healing, freedom, and a host of other things. But, when the church serves them in a way that never helps them get passed those needs, but makes them eternally dependent on the church, the church has failed at its mission. We need to do whatever is necessary to get them saved, delivered, healed, and free and then train, equip, and enlist them into kingdom business. It is only when we trash the thinking that the responsibility of ministry is reserved for a sacred few, that we can truly experience church the way church was meant to be.

In every local body of believers there is a wealth of ministry sitting. What is so tragic, is that next week, next month, and next year they'll still be sitting. And there are churches everywhere that will put on a show to accommodate their desire to simply be entertained. Trust me when I say, I'd rather go to Sea World. They are much better at putting on a show.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Faith Of A Child

Friday night we were waiting to be seated at a restaurant when a guy in a wheel chair rolled passed us. My inquisitive 2 year old asked, "What him in?" I told him he was in a wheel chair to which he responded, "Why?" I went on to tell him that there was something wrong with his legs which made him unable to walk. As I watched the look on his face as he watched the man leaving, it appeared to be one of great concern. I simply asked him if he wanted to pray for him and he responded by holding my hand and confidently said a quick prayer on his own. "Jesus heal him, so he can walk amen." He then looked out the window looking for the man and said, "Now he doesn't need that wheel chair."

Wow! Wouldn't it be great if it was that easy. Actually, it is. It just comes down to trusting God with that kind of faith. The kind of faith that believes that God can do anything. The kind of faith that takes no thought about how big the problem is, but just knows that God is big enough, strong enough, powerful enough, to fix the problem.

I remember when I was little, I had that kind of faith. I never doubted God's ability. I prayed about everything and truly believed that God answered prayer. I really believed that nothing was impossible with God.

Perhaps you found yourself there in your younger years as well. Then life happens and we begin putting God in a box. We begin to limit him in our minds and although we pray, it is no longer with the kind of faith we once had as a child. Then we follow that up with religious jargon that we learn along the way in an effort to explain the ineptness of our prayers.

The Holy Spirit, used my little one Friday night to speak loudly to me and remind me how simple trusting God is. No, the man didn't get out of the wheel chair and miraculously start walking across the floor. But, that's not really the point. My responsibility is not performing miracles, that belongs on God's shoulders. What is necessary on my part is simply to believe and trust Him. Its to approach God with a child-like faith that views God as the omnipotent, compassionate, limitless God that He is.

I wonder how different things would be if we saturated our prayers with that kind of child-like faith. I wonder what types of humongous, mind-boggling, feats we would step out and attempt for God, if we approached life like we serve a God who can truly do anything. I for one would like to just see it, rather than just imagine it.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Only One Is Fit To Be Our King

We had a young man minister in our service this past week and as he closed the service in prayer he said something that has stayed with me all week. "Jesus, You are the only one fit to be our king!" Simple phrase, but profound statement. As we look ahead to the coming election and we take a survey of where we are as a nation politically, economically, spiritually, and every other "ally" you can think of, this election appears to be one of the most important, at least in our lifetime.

Now, I'm not going to get political here, I'll save that for another time, but our next leader will have to be one who can navigate us through a lot of tough stuff. All I know is I don't envy the man who takes on this task. Of course, I'll do my part and vote for the guy I think holds my personal views and convictions, and that I think is best equipped to lead us as a nation right now.

In doing so, I'll take part in the great American process of electing those who lead us. I love that idea and am thankful that I have been fortunate enough to live here my entire life. It is true that in America we are blessed in ways that many of us take for granted. I truly have no desire to live anywhere else.

Naturally, if those I believe are best able to lead us go down in defeat come November, I won't be a happy camper. That being said, I don't think it'll destroy my world. Although, I expect a lot from those who lead us, I've been around long enough to know that it can be unhealthy to place too much confidence and trust in these mortal men and women. Although, there have been great leaders and will be some great ones to come, each of them will fail, disappoint, and upset us at some point. Yes, even the ones we like.

Let's face it, there is only One who is fit to be our king! There is only one who can be completely trusted. There is only one who has the ability to hold our life together when the world around us is crumbling. There is only one whose eternal tenure as king can not be affected by public opinion, purchased by special interest, manipulated by money, or tainted by political ideologies. His kingdom though at war, is one of eternal peace. Our king has no term limits, and wasn't chosen by popular vote. He sits on the throne because according to the God of the universe, he earned it. He can never be impeached or overthrown. He is not subject to the limitations of checks and balances, but rules with absolute power and authority. His is a government that is perfect, led by a perfect leader. Now, with Him at the helm, is there anything we really need to worry about? Trust me all is well, and all will be well for those who are a part of His kingdom.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Finding True Life

In Matthew 16:25, Jesus makes a statement that is a bit puzzling. "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." It's a bit puzzling until you actually walk it out, and in doing so find it to be so true. Over the course of the last few weeks, life here in southeast Texas has been a little crazy. Things are beginning to get back to normal for many, while others will face months and perhaps even years before things resemble anything close to normal.

In the aftermath of Ike, we've found ourselves with an opportunity to prove this scripture to be true. I don't know of one individual here who wasn't affected in one way or another by this storm. Yet, by in large most people I know began looking beyond themselves in an effort to find someone who needed a helping hand. Whether is was helping with clean up, buying food and supplies for those in need, standing in line at the FEMA pods for someone else, or driving in search of gas for neighbors. People just lived quite unselfishly.

Our church was notified of a family who had left to escape the storm and when they returned found their apartment completely cleaned out. Beds, furniture, clothes, toys, everything completely gone. Once notified, our small church got busy. Within just a few days, that family had new beds, living room furniture, food, and plenty of clothes. I had the privilege of being the delivery man, and I have to tell you I learned first hand that it is when we forget ourselves and live for someone else that we truly find life. I'll never forget the look on the faces of those three young children as we dropped off the clothes, food, and furniture. It was worth more than all the money this world has to offer.

We travel through life so often, striving for things we think will bring us fulfillment and satisfaction in this life. In the end they never do. The words Jesus spoke hold the key to that deep desire in all of us to find fulfillment. Only when we begin to lose our life do we truly find life. Think about the times in life when you've felt most fulfilled and I'm sure you'll find it was those moments when you placed someone else's needs before yourself. Those moments when you've sacrificed for someone else.

The key, of course, is learning to live there and not just visit every once in awhile. When sacrificial living becomes a way of life, then we'll be living right where we were created to live. And we'll find those words of Jesus to ring so true.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Longest Night Of My Life

Living in southeast Texas most of my life, I have dealt with severe thunderstorms, the threat of tornadoes, hail storms, and tropical storms pretty regular. Even an occasional hurricane from time to time, but nothing I’ve ever been through compared to Ike. Now, living about 90 miles from the coast we expected to get hammered a bit, but I really didn’t expect to get hit as hard as we did.

As the storm arrived, my two boys were out cold, totally oblivious to what was going on. I on the other hand was just beginning my sleepless nighttime adventure. Now, the high winds would not have been all that big of a deal, had our house not been surrounded by 75-85 foot pine trees. When I say surrounded, that’s exactly what I mean, they are on each and every side of the house. Although Ike showed up at night, there was still just enough light to be able to see the tops of these trees being tossed by Ike’s hurricane force winds. I don’t know if you have ever seen pine trees swaying in the wind, but at 40-50 mph they look like they could snap. Now, picture 75+ mph sustained winds with 100+ wind gusts and that’s what we were watching. Those pine trees appeared to be made out of elastic, swaying and bending to a point that seemed well beyond their limit.

Of course, there was really nothing I could do but pray. And perhaps that’s the very thing that I struggle with at times. Not so much praying, I pray a lot. But it’s the not being in control that I struggle with. I mean, I like it when I can fix things and solve problems. I like it when I can protect my family, and provide for them. I like it when I am at a point where I can trust my ability to get done what needs to get done. But, here I was unable to do any of that. It would have been great if I could have pulled off a “Jesus calming of the storm” moment, but I couldn’t. Here I sat, watching my two boys and my wife and realizing it was all out of my hands. I had reached my limit to protect them and take care of them. I was in a position where I had to totally rely on my Heavenly Father to take care of us. Perhaps you can relate. It’s like when your little one becomes sick and there’s nothing you can do to fix it. If you could you would take the sickness on yourself rather than watch them have to deal with it. Or, how about those times when you are watching a loved one die and there is nothing you can do in your power to change the situation. If you are at all like me, you feel powerless in those moments. You have all this ability to do so many things but none of it does you any good when it comes to moments like these.

I’ve discovered throughout the course of my life, that it is in these moments that we find there is One who can be trusted when our ability has run its course. One who can be trusted to carry the weight that we so desperately try to carry, but were never designed to carry. It’s moments like these that God is waiting in the wings for us to release to him the role and responsibility of being God that we so often try to step into. Its in these moments where he proves to us that he does a much better job at being God than we do. When Ike rolled into town, he was much bigger than me. I couldn’t stop him, slow him down, or weaken him. His fury came through at full throttle and I had to release the role of protector of my family into the hands of my Heavenly Father. And just like always, He pulled through. As we drove through our neighborhood to check out the post-storm damage, there are literally hundreds of trees down. Homes, and cars are damaged, but it didn’t appear at first glance that anybody had been seriously injured. As for our pine trees, they are still standing, a testimony of a God who can be trusted.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I Caught A Thief

While fishing the other day with my family I came across what I thought was an extremely cunning fish. Now, I’m not a great fisherman by any stretch of the imagination, but generally if I get a nibble or two I can hook the fish. It may take me a worm or two, but not too many fish once they’ve made their presence known escape my hook. This one was different though. I’d bait the hook, he’d steal the worm. I’d bait it again, and he’d steal it again. Time after time this was the way it went. Determined to catch him though, I kept after it. Not sure how long I was at it, but I know I baited that hook at least 6 times. I knew he must have been a small one, but that manly, man thing in me was determined not to be outdone by this fish. Then all of a sudden, I did it. I hooked him and as I reeled him in he seemed a bit bigger than I thought he would be. As he reached the surface of the water, I realized he wasn’t a fish at all. The worm thief was a turtle. My kids thought it was awesome and I was impressed by my skill and persistence at catching the big guy. Still, he was not at all what I thought he was and had I known it was a turtle I wouldn’t have wasted my time and worms on him.

Throughout our life, there are times when just like this turtle, we encounter a thief. I know there are some things that we bring on ourselves through lack of planning, lack of knowledge, and lack of wisdom. But, its important to note that we do have an enemy and there are times when he is at work and we don’t know it. We are trucking along through life and we get hammered by this thing and that thing. Our finances take a hit, our marriage takes a hit, our friendships take a hit, our job takes a hit. We do everything right and still seem to be getting it from every direction. If we are not careful, we’ll blame others, or even worse blame God.

Scripture tells us that our enemy is not flesh and blood. It’s the devil not others. Scripture also tells us that our enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy. When we realize what our enemy’s job description is, it goes along way in determining who’s at the bottom of this kind of stuff in our lives. Once we know who’s at the bottom of it, it makes it easier to deal with the real problem. Once, I discovered it was a turtle stealing my bait, I didn’t throw any more out there for him to steal. In the same way, when we discover the enemy at work in our life, we don’t allow him to continue. Using the Word of God and prayer, we take the fight to him and watch him tuck tail and run. If we need to change the way we are doing something, we do it. If need be, we get some brothers and sisters in the faith to stand with us. The point is this, we identify the thief and then do whatever it takes to make sure he doesn’t continue.

Of course, with the turtle I was humane. I removed the hook and put him back in the water. With our enemy though, there is no need to be humane. Once you get him on the hook, finish him off!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Lessons From A Belly Button

A little over 2 years ago, my wife gave birth to our second child, a bouncing baby boy. On the day we were set to take him home from the hospital, I had taken my then 3 year old son down to the car to get something. On our way across the parking lot he made a statement that worried me at first. "Dad, I don't want to take the new baby home with us!" Assuming that he was just having a bit of a struggle with the idea of sharing his mom and dad with his new brother, I instantly began searching the depths of my intellect for the right words to say to help him overcome this hurdle. Having found nothing profound with which to respond, I responded by saying, "Why?" To which my toddler answered, "Because, his belly button is really gross!"

Naturally, I was relieved that is was only a "belly button" issue and he wasn't feeling threatened by his new baby brother. I was pretty sure that I could help him come to terms with this and everything would be ok. Needless to say, we brought our little one home with us and in just a few days our toddler was elated when the gross belly button fell off. As I sit here thinking about that story, it seems so funny to me that nobody has to teach us to be uncomfortable with others who aren't like us. It comes naturally. I remember growing up as a kid and seeing people without arms or legs and I found myself fighting the urge to stare. Let's face it, my toddler wasn't acting all that different than we adults do at times. His issue was with a different looking belly button, but we struggle with different tones of skin sometime, or different genders, or different political philosophies, or different theological beliefs. Let's face it, sexism, racism, and other forms of prejudice don't get near as much energy from little ones as it does from us adults.

Truth is in this year's presidential election, we all know that there will be some who will not vote for Obama simply because of his skin color, while on the other hand there will be those who vote for him simply because of his skin color. At the same time, there will be those who won't vote for John McCain simply because his running mate is a woman, while there will be those who will vote for him just because he has a woman on the ticket. Let's go even deeper. There will be those who won't vote for McCain because he's too old, while there are those who won't vote for Obama because he's too young. It's crazy isn't it? But, we all know its true.

I've lived in the Bible-Belt my whole life and grew up in a "full-gospel, spirit-filled" denomination. Of course, that denomination was a step above all the rest. At least that's the way we felt. Then I left that denomination and found a non-denominational, charismatic church and realized that I was in error all those years and now had found the type of church that stood above the rest. Yep, we even do it in church don't we. We elevate ourselves and those institutions we are a part of and we look down at those who aren't like us. We often struggle with the fact that people don't share our views, opinions, and beliefs. So much so, we have difficulty connecting and interacting with them.

God's desire is that we walk in unity with one another. Jesus prayed and asked the Father to make us one. He also said that the world would know that we are his disciples by the love we have for one another. For years, I was so little in my thinking as to apply this only to my local congregation and denominational affiliation. I had no concept of the global body of Christ. I struggled with the idea of how I could ever walk in unity with the Methodists, and Baptists, and Catholics, and Pentecostals, and all the other denominations and independents.

I found the key though and here it is. You can not focus on the things that make you different. When we brought our newborn infant home, he was constantly clothed and wrapped up. Because of that our toddler could not see the gross belly button, which made it easy for him to accept his little brother. He held him, he kissed him, and absolutely adored him. It was only those moments during diaper changes or bath times that the thing he struggled with was even visible. As he connected with his little brother the gross belly button became lesser and lesser of an issue. Here's my point, when we choose not to focus on those things that separate us, we are quick to find the things that bring us together.

We truly have to get to the point where we no longer care if the church down the street sings out of hymnals or breaks into a 30 minute spontaneous worship tune. We have to come to the place where we no longer care if some raise their hands in worship or have no worship at all. We can no longer allow things like "once saved always saved", "falling from grace", "tongues", eschatology, or style of worship drive a wedge between us. When we choose to connect despite our differences we'll find that in the grand scheme of things our differences don't really amount to much.

I've discovered on my journey that my theology is not what identifies me. Scripture tells us that we are complete in Christ. My identity is found in Him alone. Not in theology, doctrine, church affiliation, or worship style. I know what I believe, I know in whom I believe, and those who hold a different belief or interpretation in no way threaten that. When Christ is at the center then He trumps everything and anything that we don't see eye to eye on. I think that when we understand that, it makes it alot easier to love others the way God intended for us to love them. Let's face it, if we can't love our brothers and sisters in the faith, how are we to love those on the outside? Think about it, if we can't love someone who differs with us on the ministry of the Holy Spirit, how can we ever love those who not only disagree with our theology and worship style but our belief in the God who's the very foundation on which we live?

I'm happy to say that our two boys are connected in a way that only brothers can connect. Sure, the gross belly button is a thing of the past but the two are as different as night and day. From the outside looking in, I can see all the things that make them different, but to them it just doesn't seem to matter. It's as if they can't see them. Or, maybe it's just that they choose not to focus on them.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Thoughts From A First-Time Kindergarten Dad

I dropped my oldest son off today for his first day of kindergarten. And no, I'm not going to cry or get emotional. It's just hard to believe this day is already here. My wife and I opted to wait until he was 5 instead of sending him off to K-4, but the extra year still wasn't long enough. I've been fortunate to work a great deal out of the home over the course of the last 5 years and because of that, I've really been able to be a big part of my son's life. We've walked through a lot of stuff together, had many father/son talks, and whipped a lot of little boy fears together. I've found myself answerless on the end of way too many questions from left field. Questions like: "Where's Heaven?" "What does God look like?" "What Makes A Magnet, Magnetic?" "How Old Do You Get In Heaven?" It's been awesome and I am truly thankful to have been able to spend so much time with him during his early years.

I know, I'll still have those moments and going to kindergarten isn't the same as going off to college or getting married and moving away. But, here's the point, for the first time in over 5 years, my son is not in the other room, or in the backyard, or down the street at his aunt's house. For over 6 hours, (6 hours and 45 minutes to be exact), he'll be in the care of someone we don't really know.

He'll be fine, and that's not really a concern. Actually, I don't think there is any real concern. I know that a lot of parents have issues with fear, but I think I've got a handle on that. I have no apprehension or fear about the school, the teacher, or the kids in his class. I just think it all comes down to the fact that I'll miss him. We're not just father and son you see, we're buddies. And I'm just going to really miss my buddy.

Call it separation anxiety if you want, but that is really what it all comes down to. It's so crazy. Just 5 years ago, he didn't exist and now here I am unable to remember or imagine life without him. Isn't that the way it is though? As we walk through life, there are those relationships that we become a part of and we become so connected that its as if we are one. Perhaps its husband and wife, father and son, mother and daughter, sister and brother, or just tight knit friends. Regardless of the roles, relationships can become so intertwined that life apart seems impossible. I'm not talking unhealthy co-dependent relationships here. I'm talking about relationship the way it was meant to be. Relationships where we walk through life together, tackling life's problems, encouraging one another, and helping one another become everything they were created to be. It is these types of relationships that I choose to make myself dependent on, because it is these types of relationships we were created to be a part of.

So many of us choose never to get really close to anyone because of the fear of the wounds that we'll encounter, and the work it'll require. It's true that deep relationships require work and wounds are not only possible but highly probable. Yet scripture tells us, "Woe to the man who is alone." That's because there is life and blessings that you will only experience as a result of walking in deep, healthy relationships with others. How awesome it is when you fall to have those nearby you to pick you up! It is a powerful thing when you are struggling to have those who will stand with you and walk through the battle with you. And how refreshing it is to get an email or a phone call from someone encouraging you when you need it the most.

Relationships are a powerful thing and the rewards far outweigh the costs. Sure, I'll miss my buddy during the day, but I wouldn't trade our dynamic relationship for all the money in the world. I've got another buddy that I met a little over 2 years ago, and I'm working feverishly at developing a dynamic relationship with him as well. After this week I'm thinking of waiting till he's 6 before sending him off to school.

I noticed while I was writing this that the air filter must need to be changed because there seems to be a great deal of dust in the air and it is really affecting my eyes right now. At least, that's the story I'm going with.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Stuck In The Mud?

Have you ever had a car stuck in the mud? A few years ago, when we were building our house, I was backing out of the driveway and I ran the front wheel of my Ford Ranger off the driveway. Not a big deal except it had been raining like crazy and mix that with the fact that we had no grass in the front yet, and what you have is a front yard that resembles a swamp. Needless to say the front driver-side of my truck sunk down until the axle was resting on the cement. Now, 4 cylinder Ford Rangers aren't equipped with the power of a full size truck and the fact that it was a worn out truck firing on only 2 and a half cylinders meant I was in trouble. Needles to say, I failed to maintain a good attitude. But, enough said about that.

I remember giving it gas and the back wheels just spinning on pavement. I did that a few times expecting somehow to get a different result. No such luck. I was stuck and it was going to take some work to get it out. I was going to get wet from the rain, muddy from the mud, and irritated with every passing minute.

Like my truck, I've managed to get my life into some pretty nasty ruts from time to time. If you are human I'm sure you can relate. I'm talking about those seasons in life, when you're not moving forward, and not even moving backward. Those times when you're just stuck. Perhaps, everything was going great and then somehow you found yourself derailed. Life is frustrating, but for some reason, nothing changes and there you sit, day after day, month after month, stuck. The cold hard fact is, nothing will change until you determine to make a change. You'll stay in that continuous cycle of rut dwelling until you decide to do whatever is necessary to get out of it.

With my truck, I had to try a new approach. I had to get out of the truck and come up with a plan to get the front end off the pavement. Had I just stayed in the truck giving it gas, I would still be there today. The reason we stay so long in our "life's" ruts is they require us to change. They require us to grow. And lets face it, we humans aren't always real keen on changing and growing. It's so much easier to stay where we are. We get comfortable with lifestyle choices, behavioral patterns, and the way things are that we resist anything that has the potential to mess up our comfort zone.

The life we live is a long journey, and I am nowhere near my destination yet. But, thank God I am nowhere close to the beginning. I've discovered though, growth along the journey only comes when I allow the Holy Spirit to mess with my comfort level. I only get out of the ruts in life when I determine to do something different. I only get unstuck when I step back, evaluate the depth of the rut, come up with a game plan, and then carry it out.

Are you in a rut right now? Determine to do whatever is necessary to get out of it. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how to approach it and then get out and move forward.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Lessons From The Olympians

As I watched the opening ceremonies of this year's summer Olympics, several thoughts were racing through my mind. Will the U.S Men's Basketball team be able to return to their "Dream Team" status? Will Phelps blow away the competition again? Who'll be crowned the world's fastest man and will The Woodlands Laura Wilkinson bring home the gold again? I also thought, China has put together the greatest opening ceremony I have ever seen.

Over the course of the next couple of weeks runners will run, swimmers will swim, and gymnasts will jump, twirl, spin, tumble, and try to stick their landings. Athletes from around the world will stretch their bodies to the limits in an effort to be the best in the world at what they do. They'll mesmerize and amaze us by their talent, skill, and heart. Then, in just two weeks it'll all come to an end.

Think about that. In just two weeks, these athletes who have trained for most of their lives for this moment will find "this moment" over. Let me break it down even more. In just 9 seconds, the "world's fastest man" will be crowned. Just 9 seconds! We'll watch him take off and then kick in the after-burners for the last few strides of that 100 meters. All the other athletes will take a little longer than 9 seconds to win their events, but it'll all be wrapped up within just 2 weeks.

Have you ever stopped to think about the enormous amount of work and preparation that these athletes go through in order to prepare themselves for this one moment. What we see is "the moment." We aren't privy to the process. Those mornings when their bodies don't want to get out of bed. Those days when the don't want to practice. Those meal times when they don't want to eat healthy. Those days they want to punch their coach in the nose. Those times when their bodies are screaming at them to stop. Those moments when the sacrifice of time and the physical and emotional demands of training begins to strain their closest relationships. No, we don't get to see them fight through all of that and we don't get to see all the endless hours of preparation. All we see is "the moment." That moment when all the preparation determines what we all see.

In that way, the Olympics aren't all that different than our lives. What we do in private goes a long way in determining what the world around us sees in our public life. It would be great if these athletes could just show up the day of their event and compete without any preparation but that's not the way it works. If they want to perform at the highest level possible, preparation is a must. So it is with us. Sure, we can put on masks and have the appearance we've got it all together, but at some point we've got to get in the water, or step up to the starting blocks so to speak. Life is challenging and when crisis or challenges hit, the world gets to see the real you. As a believer, if we are constantly allowing the Holy Spirit to develop us, it will be evident in the way we do life. If we are consistently open to allow God to chip away at our character in those quiet and alone times, then our public performance will show evidence of that. That being said it doesn't mean that we aren't ever going to blow it. However, if we are willing to go through this process, our life will reveal growth and it will be evident to all those around us.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Hot, Dry Seasons

Southeast Texas summers can get pretty brutal. With temperatures hovering around 100 and little rain in the forecast, it can seem a little unbearable at times. Any cloud in the sky is a welcome one and one with rain potential is a sight for sore eyes. Usually as we head into August, we begin longing for that first cool front that is at least 6 to 8 weeks away. In the meantime, A/Cs are cranked and pools, and water sprinklers, are used to bring a bit of relief.

Have you ever found yourself in that kind of place spiritually? A dry and weary place with no relief in sight? A place where God seems a million miles away and your prayers seem to be bouncing off the ceiling? You're not alone. We all find ourselves in those seasons from time to time. We all find ourselves at times in a dry season longing for a spiritual deluge from heaven. Day after day goes by and with it comes no rain, and no relief. In the middle of seasons like this we can feel alone, and as if God has abandoned us.

It is so important that we not allow our feelings or our emotions get the best of us here. I love to read the Psalms that David wrote when he found himself in a season like this. They each seem to hold within it a journey from hopelessness to hope. The psalms at some point seem to get so dark and hopeless, but always give way to the hope he has in God. His soul would become vexed, but through it all, when he focussed his eyes on God, the season seemed endurable. In the middle of times like this, we want to give into our feelings and our emotions. Those who live "emotionally driven" lives though will often miss out on some pretty remarkable things that God has in store for us.

Our feelings and emotions can really lead us astray. Let me give you an example. A couple weeks ago I went to see "Journey To The Center Of The Earth." Now, it is nowhere near my top 10 movies of all time, but I saw it in 3D and really got a kick out of it. At one point there are these wicked looking fish that are jumping out of the water and some of them look like they are jumping right into your face. I actually screamed out and moved to avoid one fish that appeared it was going to eat me for lunch. Here's the point. I knew that I was more than a 100 feet away from the screen. I knew there was no way that creatures could fly off the screen and attack me. However, my eyes told me different and my body reacted to how I felt not what I knew.

Here's the truth. In the life of David, there was always hope for him in God. Regardless of how he felt, God was always his strength and refuge in time of need. Sure, things got crazy from time to time, but God was and is always God. That holds true for us as well. When you feel like you're in the middle of one of those dry seasons, remember, God is always there. Regardless of what we feel, he never abandons us. He never, ever leaves us.

Here in southeast Texas, we understand what summer brings with it. We also understand that come late September, we can look forward to the prospect of a cool front carrying with it some long awaited relief. In the same way, during the course of our life, there are seasons that none of us look forward to. But in the middle of those seasons, we must understand, that relief and refreshing are on their way. And regardless of how we feel, God is with us. He's always with us. Look for him. Trust me, He's still God in the middle of that dry season you find yourself in. While you are waiting for that season to come to an end, if you'll search for Him you'll find refreshment in the middle of it all. In Texas we long for that first cool front, but until it gets here, there's always the swimming pool. When you find yourself in a dry season in life, and you're looking forward to that season coming to an end, always remember if you just look for God, finding Him is like that refreshing jump in the pool during the hot summer months.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I'll Do It Tomorrow

I had a dentist appointment here about 3 weeks ago. It was just a routine checkup, nothing major going on with the pearly whites. I don't have dental insurance, but I've been able to hook up with a free clinic that takes care of all my dental needs. A couple of years ago, I had a problem with one of my wisdom teeth, and it had to come out. Other than that, I've never had any problems with my wisdom teeth so they all remain, minus the one that was extracted back then. I say all that to say that the wisdom tooth that opposed the one that was pulled now needs to come out. No big problem with it yet, but it is dropping down now since there is not a tooth to oppose it. It may not cause any problems for a couple years or more, but eventually it will.

Of course, the extraction of a tooth is not a pleasant procedure. And I have to admit, I am a pretty big wimp when it comes to this kind of stuff. Naturally, my nature is to put this thing off as long as possible. I'm not sure why, but I just want to delay the painful procedure as long as I can.

A lot of us are like that with many things. There are those things that often need to be nipped in the bud, but for some reason we hesitate and as a result, things usually grow worse. Or, maybe we have a pain, or lump, or some other physical abnormality, and we put off heading to the doctor as long as we can. How about those issues in a relationship that need to be addressed, but we continually put it off, until that day when everything comes to a head and emotions get out of control? What about all that time you were going to spend with your kids one day, only to find them all grown up now? What about those piano lessons you were always going to take, or those vacations you were going to go on, or those letters you were going to write?

What is it about us that wants to put things off? If we could only learn to deal with things quickly how much time spent worrying could be avoided? How much tension in a relationship could be put to rest? How much more could we accomplish in our lives? With me, there are a few different reasons for all this procrastination. Sometimes its fear, sometimes its ADD, and sometimes its just a desire to find the easy road to take. You know that road that doesn't have any speed bumps, curves, or traffic jams. Funny thing is, that easy road somehow always finds it way right back to where it started. Although, I've made great strides in this area over the course of the last few years, I'm still a work in process.

If you're one who often puts things off, hoping and praying they'll disappear, trust me, more times than not they'll still be there in the morning. Learn to address those issues in your life that need to addressed asap. Make a decision to face things head on when they come up and refuse to put them off. Are there relationships that need your attention? Take time out and invest the time and energy necessary to bring about restoration. Start making plans now to do those things that you've always wanted to do.

I've discovered in my life, when I live like this, life is much more fulfilling and not nearly as frustrating. Of course, when it comes to the wisdom tooth, I think I'll put that off another week or so. Remember, I said I was a work in progress.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tiny, Hot Pieces Of Metal

This week on the job, I had to drill some holes in a metal panel. No big deal except it was over my head. Still it wasn't all that big of a deal until the tiny, hot pieces of metal started falling on my flesh. Now I don't do a lot of manual labor type work, I'm more of an office guy, but I've used a drill many times over the course of my life. I just don't ever recall drilling into metal over my head. Of course I knew the friction of drilling caused heat, but I never imagined that those little tiny pieces of metal would be so hot. So, there I am, metal hitting my face, my hands, my arms and going down my shirt, each one of them a couple thousand degrees. Ok, maybe not quite that hot, but trust me, they were a bit hotter than a hot summer day in southeast Texas.

Even though it stung a bit when each one hit, I just kept the finger on the throttle because there were holes that had to be drilled. Sure, I could have stopped, but then the whole job would have come grinding to a stop. The tiny, hot pieces of metal weren't life threatening, they were just a nuisance. A part of the process. Without them, there's no way to get the job done.

Sounds a bit like how God works in our lives. There's a place God wants us to get, but getting there will require a little bit of friction. We'll have to open up ourselves and allow him to work on areas that will be a little uncomfortable. You know those areas in our character, or those habits, or those addictions that we really don't want anyone touching. Sure, it can be a little inconvenient, irritating, or even painful at times. Nobody likes it, but its all a part of the process. Sure, you can refuse to allow him to work, but that will only bring everything to a grinding halt. You'll spend your life never developing into the person that God desires for you to be. Oh, but when we yield ourselves to his "Holy Spirit drill", He begins to do an awesome work in our life. Those parts of us that don't belong, he chips them away. And slowly but surely we become a little more like him, developing into the man or woman he designed us to be.

Yes, I survived those tiny, hot pieces of metal and with those holes drilled we became a step closer to the job getting done. Trust me, you'll survive the working of the Holy Spirit in your life and with each thing he does, He'll be a step closer to getting the job done.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Trust: The Key To Overcoming Fear

A dark room, noises in the night, the sound of thunder, and the creature that lives under the bed are just some of the things little ones fear. None of which makes any sense. You can protect your children by carefully monitoring what they watch on TV, but somewhere, somehow, someway they all face some kind of fear at one time or another. For some it requires little more than a caring, reassuring talk from Mom or Dad while others really struggle to overcome their fears. Whatever the case, fear can dominate and cripple a child whenever it is present.

Over the past few years I've had the opportunity to walk both my boys through several of these "fear" moments. And as I mentioned earlier, most of the time it makes no sense. For instance the simple flipping of a switch to turn off a light and suddenly a room becomes a scary place. Or, you mix that dark room with a tree branch rubbing against the window and now that room is an unbearable place to be. See, what I mean, it makes no sense.

If you are a parent I'm sure you've had to deal with some crazy fears like this from time to time. Or, perhaps when you were a child you had your own fears you had to walk through. What is so ridiculous about this whole fear thing is that as we get older, it never really stops. The fears just change. And just like with those little ones, they can be dominating and crippling. Think about it. You get a sharp pain and your chest and what instantly shoots through your mind? It could be nothing more than a muscle spasm, heart burn, or gas, but why is it we often fear the worst? Or, how about when that phone rings at 3am? Or, when you hear economists on the news proclaiming how bad everything is and how it's only going to get worse?

There are millions of different ways fear manifests but often times, just like our little ones, it makes no sense. I think that fear often shows up when we are not in control. A child is scared of the dark because he can't see. He has to trust that nothing is happening even though he can't see to make sure. He fears the noises at night because he can't see what's making them and his mind begins to imagine all kinds of creatures that could make those sounds. We as adults fear the struggling economy because we can't do anything to change it. We fear that sharp pain in our chest because if it is indeed a heart attack, we can't fix it ourselves. Let's face it when we are not in control, it's not a comfortable place for us. We love it when we can fix things and handle things on our own, but when it comes to completely, totally relying on God we get a little uneasy at times.

What is so crazy is that we are talking about the Creator of the universe here. Trust me, he is much better at being in control than we are. We need to learn to trust the fact that when things are beyond our control, that they are never beyond him. When you mix that with the knowledge that He truly loves us, and wants the absolute best for us, then and only then, will we begin to live a life free of fear. It all comes down to trust. And the whole idea of trust means you have to rely on someone or something else. Throughout my life men I have trusted have failed me, and stuff I've put my trust in has failed me. But, through the years I've learned that God can be trusted.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Thank God, He's Not Like Us

God's Judgment. It's a fascinating topic that is often misunderstood. Throughout my life there have been earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, tsunamis, fires, terrorist attacks, airplane crashes and other horrible tragedies. One thing I have come to expect is that in the wake of tragedies like these there are always, and I mean always, those who are ready to tell the world how those events are the hand of God pouring out judgment on those who deserve it.

To be honest, those statements have never sat well with me. I mean, something deep down just doesn't resonate with comments like this. I feel like we as Christians sometimes think we are speaking for God and he's screaming at the top of his lungs, "Shut-up!" Ok, maybe he's not saying shut-up, but if you can believe he pours horrible judgment out on people then I can think he says shut-up.

I think the thing that bothers me most is the arrogance in which those "undeserving judgment," proclaim with confidence God's passing of judgment on those "deserving." Have we as Christians come so far in our Christian walk as to think we are no longer deserving of judgment? The truth is we all deserve it. No one is more deserving than anyone else. Sin is sin, and we are all in the same boat when it comes to that. The judgment pronounced on sin is death. Since we all sin, we all deserve death.

I really believe that those who are so quick to jump on the "God's judgment" bandwagon are disillusioned by thinking that God is like them. They often make statements about God judging a group of people because if they were God that's what they would do. Thank God, He's not like us! Here's the way God is. Since, we all have sinned and deserve death, God decided to pass judgment. Yep, he decided to pour his judgment and wrath out on sin. So, scripture tells us that Jesus became sin, and God poured his judgment out on him. As a result justice has been served, by Jesus taking our place. The cross is where God's judgment on sin was carried out. Now, as a result, grace, God's undeserved, unmerited, goodness and favor, is available to us. All of us. Don't get me wrong, I still believe that sin has consequences in our life if we choose to walk down that road. For instance, whether I'm a believer or not, if I was to murder someone, that sin would carry some pretty hefty consequences. Sure, I could capture God's forgiveness for my actions but that act carries with it a huge penalty.

I honestly don't know why calamity hits some, while it never comes close to others. And I'm not saying God can't sovereignly move in a way that opposes my theology. I learned along time ago, God will never fit in the box I consistently try to put him in. I just believe that God is the judge and I'll leave that responsibility to him. I refuse to jump on the religious bandwagon that so arrogantly thinks God is in agreement with them. I just pray that I consistently agree with him. I find that life goes a lot smoother for me when I'm trying to be like him and not trying to get him to be like me. I think we can all be very thankful, that God's not like me. Cause' I would have thumped us all off this planet by now.

Friday, June 27, 2008

My Favorite Rap Song

I'm not a big fan of rap and hip-hop. I can handle it from time to time, but I don't like a steady diet of it. My 5 year old on the other hand, really digs it. Actually, from a very early age he would groove to the sounds of hip-hop when he would accompany my wife and I to youth events when we served as youth pastors. I'm telling you he could really groove. I would make comments about not knowing where he got his moves because mommy and daddy sure couldn't move like that.

Anyway, we bought him a Toby Mac CD for Christmas and he listens to it a lot. Then this week his cousin let him borrow his Toby Mac DVD. Needless to say the the better part of this week, he's been "boomin' out the stereo system, cause we rock in stereo." At least that's what I think the words are as best I can make out.

Of course, whatever he's listening to, his little brother joins in. Usually we find them in their bedroom complete with a rap singer hoodies on their heads, and some type of microphone thingy in their hand. Pretty much anything can pass for a microphone as long as they can hold it in their hands. After listening to that music for a while, our house becomes a stage for this up and coming hip-hop duo.

The other night while I was in the living room I was entertained by the hip-hop sounds of my two little ones. Somewhere in all their music mix I could make out "Come on, Come on, Come on," "Honor and Power and Praise," "Your Grace Is Enough," "Singing, Rain Down,""I Was Meant To Love You." How they put that together in one rap tune I don't know, but I have to admit it has to be my favorite rap song. And believe it or not, I think I could handle a steady diet of that.

But, then again isn't that the way it goes? Even though I'm not all that much into that style of music, I'm definitely into my boys. Believe it or not, I've even been known to join them, with fake mic in hand and hoodie on my head. It's just one of those things where I think I would do anything just to hang out with my boys and bond with them.

Hmm, I wonder if that's the way God is with us? I kinda think so. I think that whatever song we sing, just so happens to be his favorite song. And I think that he'll do whatever it takes to spend time with us and bond with us.

By the way, just like they knew what I was writing, my two boys have just come into the room and cranked up Toby Mac. So, I've got to wrap it up cuz I got to join my boyz and "Turn on, turn on, the ig-ni-tion!"

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Lessons From The Buried Treasure Of The One-Eyed Pirate

I can't recall the pirate's name I used, but I do remember he was a one-eyed pirate and that's all that really matters. A few weeks ago, my sons and I embarked on a treasure hunt. I was sitting at home one day trying to think of a fun adventurous thing to do, when I remembered an idea my niece and nephew gave me about something their dad used to do when they were younger. A treasure hunt. So, I got up and got busy writing riddles, drawing maps, and hiding them throughout the house, garage, attic, and cars. Of course I had to get a treasure together and bury it in the back yard to make the adventure complete.

I don't want to brag, but I have to admit it was one of my better father/son adventure ideas I've had. I sat down with my two boys and began telling them about the pirate One-Eyed (Billy, Willie, Wally) or some made up name like that. Most people don't know it but he actually use to visit Conroe way back in the time period when pirates were sailing the ocean and raiding ships. Ok, so Conroe's a good 90 miles or so from the coast, but the story works good with boys 5 and 2. Now my 2 year old had no real idea what we were doing, but he sure had a blast running through the house with us and digging with his plastic shovel.

We ran all over the place and found clues that only the One-Eyed pirate himself could have left behind. Until finally, we had found 2 pieces of a map that had been torn in two. When we pieced the map together we discovered that the One-Eyed pirate seemed to have buried a treasure in our back yard. We got out the shovels, hunted for the X and started digging. There it was just like the map had indicated.

Of course, we had to run in and tell mommy about the treasure we had found and after that get something cold to drink because it was something like 120 degrees outside. Ok, it was more like 90 but hey, I'm in story mode here. After the excitement of the hunt was over, things got back to normal and the rest of the day was just like any other. Oh, but the hunt was a blast. Even for me and I knew where everything was.

It reminded me of times when I was a kid. Times when me along with others would head out in discovery mode and head off into the great unknown. There was that time when I went into the attic when I couldn't have been more than 6 or 7. I went up with a friend looking for bats that someone had told me lived in attics. I didn't find bats but I did discover that drywall doesn't do too well at holding up a young adventurous boy walking around in the attic. Fortunately, nothing broke when I fell through and hit the ground.

I loved that kind of stuff! No, I didn't enjoy the pain of the fall, but the adrenaline rush of stepping into a dark attic where bats might be, was awesome. I'm sure had I found bats, I would have fallen out of the attic trying to run from them. Here's my point. I think we were wired that way on purpose. Not just to run around looking for make believe treasures or bats that aren't really there. God wired us to get a thrill out of the process of discovering him. He longs for us to enjoy this journey of discovery that we are on concerning him. Of course, that journey is a bit dangerous at times. Times when we go through things that are beyond our control so that through it we can discover that part about Him that holds everything together. Then, there are those times when our trust in Him is stretched to the limit and find ourselves running out of time only to find that part of Him that is never late. How about those times when everything around you makes no sense at all and in the middle of it you discover that part of Him that doesn't think the way you think.

Our journey of discovery is not always fun, but you can never say it's not exciting. Back in the days of Moses, there was an event that took place that left the children of Israel a bit scared of God. God's talking and the children of Israel see lighting bolts, and smoke, and they hear loud noises like thunder. They freak out a bit and tell Moses that they have no desire to communicate with God one-on-one. They tell him that they are completely ok with the idea of God talking to him and then Moses can just relay the message the them. Why? Because, it seemed a bit dangerous. Our continuous discovery of God can seem a bit dangerous at times, but it will always be rewarding. As we grow to know him more and more, he'll stretch us and challenge us. He'll address things in us that need addressing even though we don't want to go there. He'll cause us to step out of our comfort zone and step into areas we've never been.

As a kid, I loved that kind of stuff, but as I grow older I get more comfortable with where I am. The truth is, God will let us stay right where we are, but where is the adventure in that? I think its time for some of us to rediscover the joy of discovering the unknown things of God. I know I'm ready to go on a treasure hunt.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

God Is Here

I caught the movie, "Prince Caspian" last week. It was a pretty good flick for the most part. One thing that stuck with me, or actually I should say bugged me, was the absence of Aslan. Aslan of course in the writings of C.S. Lewis is a reflection of Christ. In this movie, I was a bit bothered by the fact that Aslan was nowhere to be found. Sure, he makes an entrance in the end, but throughout the movie, one is left wondering where he is and why isn't he there. You sit there thinking, "Doesn't he care?""Why has he left these Narnians on their own?"

I'm not a movie critic and I don't intend to discuss how this movie did a poor job of transferring Lewis's writings to the big screen. The point I want to make is that unlike the movie, we have a creator who hasn't left us. Although, there are times when we can't feel him, perceive him, or see evidence of him, he is here. He is always here. Whether we feel him or not, he's here. Those who live life driven by their senses, struggle when their senses don't sense him. Scripture tells us though that we are to live by faith, not by sight. It takes faith to pray when you "feel" your prayers are reaching no higher than your ceiling. It takes faith to love others when your "feelings" have been hurt. It takes faith to trust God when you "feel" like he's not there. It takes faith to continue on the path God put you on when you "feel" like quitting.

God is here regardless of what we think or feel. Believe it or not, when a tsunami hits or a hurricane hits, or tornadoes hit, or an earthquake hits, he is here. I'm not saying he causes calamity in our life, just that when calamity hits, he's there. Bad things happen, its true, but God has not left us on our own to go at this life alone. He is here with us, walking through life with us. Of course, like the movie, he'll show up at the end. But, until the end, He is here!!!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What Voice Do You Listen To?

I had the opportunity to take in an Astros game with my family last night. After our 3 mile hike, we finally made it to our seats in the nose bleed section. If you have never been to Minute Maid Park, they have a train that sets high above everything out in left field. In order for the train to get cranked up and move along its short little track, the Astros have to either hit a home run or win the game. Now, for us adults although its a neat attraction, its not really a big deal. But for my two boys, seeing the train move was pretty much the only thing that they cared about. Anyway, since it would take us about an inning and a half to get down from the nose bleeds, staying in our seats till the end of the game was pretty much out of the question. So, in order for them to see the train move, the Astros were going to have to hit one out of the park.

Not sure what inning it was, but at one point the Astros had loaded the bases and Hunter Pence steps up to the plate. My wife commented to the boys that we may get to see the train move. I turned to her and said it's not likely with Hunter Pence at the plate. Now, I like Hunter Pence and think he's a great ball player and know he can hit home runs from time to time. I was just making the point that he doesn't have the power Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee have. And although he is likely to drive in a couple of runs during this at bat, clearing the bases with a grand slam was a bit of a stretch.

Fortunately, for the Astros and all their fans, he didn't bother listening to me. He drives it to deep right and everyone knew when he hit it, it was gone. There I stood, in disbelief. Again, I didn't think it was an impossibility, just not likely. Of course, what I thought, didn't change anything. I'm not an expert, but then again even if I was, my opinion still wouldn't do much in effecting the outcome. The only time, our opinion makes a difference is when someone listens to it and allows it to effect them.

In our lives there are millions of voices out there screaming a million different things. If we stop to listen to them, most of them will be shouting out that we are incapable, inadequate, and unable. They'll tell us we aren't strong enough, smart enough, or talented enough. They'll scream that we never will, never could, and never should. Some of those voices are from those close to us, while others come from those who don't even know us. There are those voices that come from the "experts," the media, and Hollywood. Then there are those voices that seem to come from deep inside of us when we take a hard look at ourselves. Regardless of where they come from, they can do nothing in shaping us unless we choose to let them. It is when we begin agreeing with them that we give them power.

There's only one voice that matters in the grand scheme of things. And it is with this voice we need to learn to agree. That is the voice of our heavenly Father. If you'll listen close his message is quite different. It'll whisper, "You have what it takes!" "You can do this!" "Go for it!" "You can, you will, and you should!" His voice can be heard in those around you encouraging you and exhorting you. It can also be heard coming from deep inside you if you'll listen for it. It is when we come into agreement with this voice, that we find the kind of life God has designed for us to live.

Hunter Pence hit a grand slam last night, because he stepped up to the plate and swung the bat. I don't know what he was thinking when he stepped up there, but if he's like most men, I got to be thinking in the back of his mind he had to believe that a grand slam was possible. Every kid growing up playing baseball envisions a moment like that. And in that dream every kid envisions himself knocking the cover off the ball. It's not until those kids grow up and have spent years listening to those negative voices, that they no longer believe they can do it. I have to think that at the moment he saw the pitch, Hunter heard a voice that said, "you can do this." A split second later the bat hit the ball and the rest is history.

You can spend your life believing all those voices that tell you no, not, never, ever. Or, you can choose to listen to the one that says, "You have what it takes. Swing the bat!!!"

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

It Makes Me Appreciate And Value Life

Over the last couple of weeks, as I've watched the news, I've been taken back by what all has happened. Thousands of lives have been lost through tornadoes, cyclones, and earthquakes. Just think about it, people were going about their everyday lives when all of a sudden it was all over. It's pretty sobering to me. It makes me appreciate and value the life that I have. Let's face it, none of us have been promised tomorrow. I'm not trying to spread doom and gloom here, its just reality. Actually, death for a believer is hardly doom and gloom anyway. The point I'm trying to make is that this life we live is so temporal and in the grand scheme of things, even 70, 80, or 100 years is still quite short. Scripture says our life is but a vapor, here one day and gone the next.

Death for us is certain, unless we are of the generation here when Jesus takes us out of here. The truth is death could visit us today, tomorrow, next year, or it could be 10, 20, 50, or 70 years from now. But rest assured, it'll visit us. Ok, I know this is not my usual encouraging, inspiring BLOG, but stay with me.

Life on this earth is precious, but in comparison to eternity it is extremely short. What we do in that short amount of time is extremely important though. When I hear news like I've heard the last couple of weeks, it makes me think about what I'm doing with my life. It's not a condemning thing, just a gut check. It makes me ask the question, "how engaged am I with my family?" It makes me want to spend quality time with those I love most. It makes me want to put the things that need to be on the back burner on the back burner and put the things that need to be in the forefront in the forefront. It makes me want to play air guitar with my kids even when I've got a list a mile long of the things I need to do. It makes me want to spend time with my wife, and cherish each moment we have together. It causes me to evaluate the things I value and why I value them.

Years ago, my grandmother who was well advanced in years knew that death was getting closer with every passing day. She was a feisty lady and was never shy when it came to speaking her mind. Of course, that often led to her not having the greatest relationships with others, including some of her kids. From time to time she would get to thinking that she would hate to die and not have a clear conscience so she would get on the phone and start calling people. She would call one person after another asking them to forgive her if she in anyway had offended them. I just wonder how our lives would be different if we would not wait until we are in our 80s or 90s before we did something like that.

The truth is that a moment wasted can never be recaptured. We need to make it a point to say the things we so often wait too long to say. We need to forgive those who we often wait too long to forgive. We need to spend more time with those most important to us, and we need to love as if there's no tomorrow.

Of course, the most important thing is not to fall too much in love with this world here. When all is said and done, the stuff here will be gone and the only thing we take out of here is our relationship with our Creator and our relationship with one another. That's it. Nothing more , nothing less. If we travel through this life trying to capture as much stuff as we possibly can, in the end we will be grossly disappointed. I'm not saying that having stuff is bad, just that if it becomes our main pursuit in life, we will realize in the end how worthless that pursuit truly was.

I am convinced that loving God and loving others is the only pursuits in life that are the only things that are truly rewarding. Perhaps its just me, but I just believe that if I'll focus on that, when death comes knocking, I'll have no regrets and can welcome it with open arms. Of course, I'm talking in about 60 years or so.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Of Squirrels And Men

I'm not sure why, but last night while I was laying in bed, I was recalling an event that happened a few years ago. So, I figure I'll just run with that today. I don't remember exactly how long ago, but I know it was several years back, while I was playing golf one day. I would love to say that I am great at golf, but that would be more than an exaggeration. It would actually be a complete lie. Anyways, I was playing alone this particular day and actually managed to hit the green on a par 3 and was thrilled with the idea that I was walking up to the green carrying only my putter. You every-once-in-a-while golfers no exactly what I mean. As I'm approaching the green, on the other side of the green I see a squirrel, which of course is not out of the ordinary, but this one was a bit different.

Generally, squirrels run away from you, right? Not this one. This one actually starts running toward me. Naturally, I thought that was a bit odd, but as he continued to approach me I began to think perhaps he's more than just a bit odd. Perhaps, he was a card carrying member of squirrels with rabies or something. Needless to say I was getting a bit nervous. I stepped a little to the right and cocked my putter and took up a posture that said, "come, near me and I'll kill you!" The squirrel never deviated from his course and never broke stride. He ran directly over the ground that I had just vacated and continued running in a straight line until he got to a tree and simply scaled the tree as only a squirrel can do.

After my heart slowed down a bit and the adrenaline rush was over, I continued with my round of golf, no doubt missing my birdie putt. I don't really remember the putt, but I had to have missed it, because as poor as I am at golf, trust me if it was a birdie, I would remember it.

Back to last night. As I lay there recalling this event in my mind, I started thinking about how focused that squirrel was on where he was headed. I'm not sure what was in that tree, perhaps its nest, or little baby squirrels, or a hidden stash of acorns. The fact is there were trees all around, but for some reason, this was the only tree this squirrel was interested in. And even though this 5' 11" 200 and none-of-your-business pounds guy stood directly between him and the tree, this squirrel was determined to get there. He wasn't rabid, he was just focused and determined.

We've all been in situations like that. We have something we've set our eyes on. Something we long for. Perhaps it's a dream that God has birthed in us. A creative, inspired dream that God planted deep inside of us and we see it clearly up ahead. Maybe its a miracle of healing you've had your faith set on or a loved one you've been praying for God to reach. It could be any number of things we've set our heart on but, in between us and it, is some kind of major hurdle. Something that takes our eyes off of the goal, and therefore causes us to lose focus and get off track. If we are not careful, it can cause the dream to die.

But, if its a God dream, we need to be willing to face the hurdle head on. Keeping our eyes on where we are headed and the One who's called us to get there. Like the squirrel on that golf course that day, we need to stop at nothing to reach the place that we long for. We need to determine that whatever stands in the way is going to either move or we'll climb it, hurdle it, overcome it, go over it, go under it, or go around it. Scripture tells us that for the joy that was set before him, Jesus endured the cross. The cross represented a hurdle for Him in the process of purchasing our salvation. The joy that he kept his eyes on was you and I living the kind of life he created us to live. The cross stood between him and that goal, but thank God he refused to back down. Thank God, he rolled up and sleeves and took that cross head-on, keeping his eyes on you and I.

What is it in your life that you set out to do, but somewhere along the way the enemy got you sidetracked? What dreams have you backed down from because the enemy placed something in the way that intimidated you? God has a word for you today. "Dream again." "Hope again." "Go for it, and let nothing stop you."

I'm not sure what would have happened that day had I not moved aside. Perhaps, the squirrel would have deviated his course or backed down altogether. But then again, I may have come home with evidence that I had been in a fight with a determined squirrel. I don't know about you, but I think, we need to learn how to send the enemy home looking like he's tangled with a believer who is resolute, determined, and full of fight.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Layers Of Goo And The Spirit Of Religion

Although, I usually find myself working in an environment with A/C, desks, and computers, right now I am working on a job that is quite different. I am currently working in a hot warehouse, utilizing tools very different than a computer keyboard. I'm working right now on an industrial grinder. A very, greasy, grimy, dirty, industrial grinder. Layer upon layer of oil, dirt, and goo. The idea is to take it completely apart, clean it up, update its parts, and then put it back together. The finished product will actually be better than when the machine was brand new.

Anyways, while working on the machine this week, I got to thinking. I starting thinking how, the spirit of religion and this multi-layer of goo is not all that different. I'm not sure how long that machine was in operation, but I am certain it's been a good little while. Slowly but surely over time the oil, dirt, and goo built up making the actual machine look very different than when it was brand new.

In the same way, religion can do the same with us if we are not careful. Prior to salvation, the enemy will stop at nothing to prevent us from becoming a believer. However, after salvation, I think his strategy changes to one of deceiving us with religious ideas that sound good but are far from scriptural. Slowly, but surely these lies begin to mount up. Layer upon layer, just like the goo on the machine, this religious goo builds up making it very difficult to remember what the original looked like.

Let me clarify by giving a couple of examples. In the beginning, we understand salvation is not of works but a result of grace. But, somewhere along the way we often get this mindset that salvation is maintained by works. Yep, its a layer of goo. Or, check out this one. We get saved, again by God's grace, and are doing good at living a godly life so we put ourselves on a petty-stool having "earned" a position a bit higher than others. Goo! Then there's the attitude that because our church's doctrine or theology is right, all other's don't quite match up. Again, just goo. Can you see how far off we can get? And to think it all starts with just one little layer.

This past week, I've been up to my neck in dirty, oily, goo. But it doesn't come close to the thick religious goo I've been acquainted with over the course of my life. The goo this week came off with some Gojo, Lava soap, and a bit of elbow grease. Unfortunately, religious goo doesn't come off that easy. For some it takes years, and for others it never comes off. We need to constantly pray that God open our eyes to religious mind sets and ideals that didn't come from Him. And then, we must be willing to allow Him to use some Holy Spirit Gojo and wash that religious goo off.