Friday, October 30, 2009

Pets...You Got To Love Them...Or Do You?

I'm not much for pets. Although, growing up we always had pets in our home, I was never the one that took "ownership" of those pets. If I remember correctly, I have personally had only two pets that I would call my own. A gold fish and a rabbit. The gold fish lived a very long time, while the rabbit was not so fortunate.

Now, although I don't own any pets nor do I want any, I do like animals. I remember growing up, my grandfather had a small farm with chickens, dogs, a mean rooster, and a pony. I loved spending time there in the summer. Hanging out there with all those animals was great. Well, except the mean rooster, that thing I hated. I love going to Seaworld, wildlife refuges, and the zoo, as long as its not in the heat of summer in southeast Texas. I remember when my wife and I went to the Canadian Rockies, how fascinated we both were as we encountered elk, moose, sheep, reindeer, and other forms of wildlife. Then there was the time we went to the zoo while in Belize City. We knew from the get-go that this adventure was going to be great when we encountered the swarming African killer bees at the entrance of the zoo. Yes, someone in our group got attacked by them, but lived to tell about it. To be honest, that wasn't near as exciting as the Tapir that sprayed body fluids out of its hind-end on a lady in our group. Oh, I almost forgot the time I stopped on the side of the road to check out what these people were looking at only to see a nest of bald eagles. I love that kind of stuff.

Even though I like animals, still, I don't really care that much for pets around the house. Maybe, its the responsibility of taking care of them. Maybe, its the trail of hair, or smell, or damaged property they leave behind. Maybe, its the rubbing up against my leg when I don't want it to, or the jumping in my lap when I don't want it to, or the barking at night. I'm not sure, but for whatever reason, I don't like pets. By the way, as I'm writing this there are some dogs in the neighborhood barking. I'm not sure what they are barking at, but they are barking. Barking non-stop. There are times that doesn't bother me, then there are times when it drives me up the wall. Right now is one of those times, its driving my up the wall.

While I'm not all that much into having pets, I know there are those who will read this and be floored by that fact. There will be cat lovers and dog lovers, cat/dog lovers, fish lovers, bird lovers and other pet lovers who will struggle with the fact that there is someone who doesn't really care for their Fluffy, or Spot, or Polly.

Isn't it wonderful though that we are created so different? There are those who own one pet and that's plenty. There are those who own a lot and want more. And then, there are those like me who have none and want none. God made us all so unique. It's really an awesome design by our Creator. It doesn't end with our affinity for animals either. Some of us like rock, others like country, while others like big band, or rap, or pop. Some of us like broccoli, while others like potatoes. Some like steak, while others like fish. Some of us are athletic, while some are artistic. Some of us are creative, while others are logical. On and on the list goes. We are created so vastly different that even though there are those with like interests or talents, there is still nobody just like us.

Think about that... Over 6 billion people on this planet and you are one of a kind. God created us in such a way that only we can love and respond to Him in the way that we were uniquely created too. I truly believe that God is glorified in us simply becoming the person we were created to be. It is in that moment when we genuinely become fully alive that God's glory is clearly revealed in us.

What is so crazy is that there are those who try so desperately to attempt to squeeze us into a mold that we were never created to squeeze into. They struggle with the idea that one could actually be different than they are or have different likes and dislikes. Scripture tells us to be careful not to allow this world to squeeze us into its mold. Rather, we are to allow God to help us to become all He has created us to become. Only then will life be completely satisfying.

I'm not sure how I got all of that out of me not being a pet person, but somehow I did. I do know one thing, I've got to take a break now and find out what these crazy dogs are barking at. They are driving me up the wall.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Day The Snake Got Loose In Our Church

While growing up, one of my Dad's favorite story tellers was a man named Wendy Bagwell. Over the years I've probably heard this man's retelling of his encounter with a back woods snake handling church close to a hundred times or more. If you want a good laugh, you can check him out here on Now, Westlake Fellowship is not a snake handling church. And it was obvious by my "handling" of this snake that it was not something I did often.

Fortunately for all the members of Westlake, this snake encounter happened on a Saturday when I was the only one in the building. It all started while I was on my way out of the door to put up some signs. When I opened the door, there in front of me was a nice size water moccasin. I won't try to guess the size as I'm sure in my mind he was at least 5 feet longer than he actually was. Now, my first instinct when I see a snake is usually to kill it. This day was no different. Because I was headed out to put up signs, I had two large poles in my hands so I used them as my weapon. While still inside the door, holding one pole in one hand, I attacked with the other. However, the snake was not in defense mode, but he himself was in attack mode. He lunged for the pole in an attempt to strike it. Every time I tried to hit him with the pole, he leaped into the air trying to strike it. After a few futile attempts at hitting a moving target, I was thinking of a new strategy, when all of a sudden that crazy snake came in the building. Not only did he come in the door, but he proceeded to come after me. I was retreating to safety up some stairs, trying to think how I was now going to get that thing out of the building. The snake on the other hand was not taking time to think. He just kept coming. Up the stairs, mouth wide open, this snake just kept coming after me, leaping in the air trying to strike me.

At this point, I began to sweat just a little bit. Thank God I had a couple of long poles in my hands, but the fact is this snake was extremely fast and I didn't want him to get upstairs and crawl somewhere where I couldn't get to him. In my mind while attempting to keep a safe distance from him, I was thinking of the possibilities of what could happen come Sunday morning if this crazed snake was still in the building. I had to get him out. I finally dropped one of the poles before I put a hole in the wall and went back into attack mode determined to get this intruder out and then deal with him appropriately once outside. Somehow, someway I managed to get enough of him with the pole that I was able to sling him down the stairs and out the door. Once outside, neither he nor I relented. He attacked, I attacked and when the dust had cleared, my opponent lay motionless on the ground in two pieces. Ok, if you've ever killed a snake they aren't really motionless at first, but I thought that was really a good line.

I stood there chuckling for a moment thinking to myself, "Did this really just happen?" I mean this was a crazy encounter. I have come across numerous snakes in my lifetime, but never had one come after me like that. Here weeks later, the memory of that snake with its wide open "cotton mouth" striking at the pole and at me, is still extremely vivid. At the time all I knew was I had to do whatever was necessary to get that thing out of the building.

In scripture our enemy is referred to as a snake or serpent. There are times in our lives when like me, we open the door and we allow him to enter. Maybe we didn't want him to, but the truth is once the door is open, he doesn't ask permission. Like that crazed snake that day, our enemy just storms right in. Perhaps, it was something we saw on the Internet that opened the door, or perhaps it was an unhealthy thought we meditated on too long. It could have been endearing yourself to a co-worker of the opposite sex, rather than with your spouse. Maybe, it was a choice we made to compromise in an area, or a time we let our eyes see something we should never have allowed them to see. There are thousands of ways we can open the door to the enemy and once he's in he can be very difficult to get out.

One thing is true, once the enemy has made his way in the door, the intensity at which we war with him has to increase. Like me on that day facing that snake, it is at this moment we have to determine to do whatever is necessary to get the enemy out. If we do not, trust me, it will eventually effect every person in that house. Perhaps, we need another hand in the battle with us, and we need to swallow our pride and solicit the help of a trusted friend. Whatever the case, if we choose not to go into attack mode and deal with the enemy, his work of destruction will be evident everywhere.

Although, that snake had me backtracking at one point that day, the truth is I didn't take it all that seriously until that happened. It's when I quit playing around and got serious that I defeated that snake once and for all. The same holds true for us when dealing the devil. As long as we don't take the fight seriously, he'll have us backtracking. It is only when we begin to take the fight seriously that the enemy starts to encounter defeat.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Help, I Need A Break!!!

Have you ever needed a break? Have you ever needed to escape? You know just get away. Just take some time to forget about life and all its responsibilities. Perhaps, a vacation once a month would be ideal. Not the kind of vacation where you are doing a million things but the kind where you just get to kick back and relax. Ok, I know that unless your bank account is running over and you're self employed, retired, or have a very nice boss, that's not at all practical. And no I'm not offering you an all expense paid vacation somewhere.

The truth of the matter is that we are busy people. We wake every day with agendas that often could never be accomplished in a 24 hour day. As a result, we often go to bed at night with unfinished business. Some of us are often walking around on the borderline of burned-out constantly. And because vacations only come once or twice a year, it is imperative that we find some kind of escape, even if it is for a few moments.

Some head for the movies. Some hit the la-z-boy chair and vegetate in front of the TV. Some run to relationships, while others pop pills, drown themselves in drink, or sit around with a laptop on their lap for hours gaming, surfing, or engaged in some other Internet activity. There's a great deal of other activities that people choose as their "escape" and I must admit I have a few myself.

The truth is that we all need some down time. The problem is, we often err in how we approach this. God created us in such a way that we would need a break. He set up a system in which we could have a day off. He called it a sabbath. Religion took that day and made it into a religious thing, but God himself says it was created for us, not Him. God, the Omnipotent Creator created us and gave us permission to take a day off. What a concept!!! Think about. One day every week to escape. To take the pressures of life and remove them from our shoulders for a day. Go ahead, rotate those shoulders around and roll your neck around a time or two. Now that feels good. When is the last time, you took a day off? A day when you spent the day with the ones you love the most. A day when the agenda was nothing more than to take a break. Trust me if we could learn to do that, we would be more equipped to handle life during the rest of the week.

In addition to taking a day off, what do you think would happen if during the moments of needing to escape during the week, we chose to run to God rather than run to all our other "escape" mechanisms. I'm not saying that all those things we do to escape are negatives, just that often times they are a substitute for the only thing that can really work. Scripture tells us... that those who wait on the Lord shall renew their be still and know that I am God...come to me all you who labor and are heaven laden and I will give you rest. All throughout God's Word we are instructed that in Him is where we find true rest. Sure, we can escape using lots of other ways, but we were created to find our escape in Him. When we choose to run to Him, not only do we find rest but we find a renewed strength.

Running to Him is not a religious thing. It can look like a few moments of silence and solitude. Or, perhaps a few moments of scripture reading, or prayer. It can be time spent in meditation. No, meditation is not just some wacked-out eastern religious practice, but a scriptural practice that God instructs us to embrace. It's a practice of pondering or thinking about what God has said and what He's saying. I'm convinced that when we learn to practice "escaping" like this, it puts us light-years beyond any of those other escapes.

Next time you feel the need to escape, try running to Him. I think you'll find that He is better equipped to meet your need for rest and strength than any other thing you try.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Best Football Game Of The Week

Believe it or not the Monday night game that pitted Brett Favre against his old teammates was not the best game I witnessed this week. Oh, sure it was a good one and Favre once again pulled some Monday night magic out of his hat, yet I can't say it was the best game of the week. As a matter of fact, no NFL or NCAA game even compares. This game wasn't watched by millions of fans and to be completely honest wasn't even played in a big stadium.

The game starred two rookies who attempted to get the best of a wily old veteran team. A veteran team who has lost some speed and agility through the years but has gained in wisdom in order to compensate for its losses in physical ability. There was a lot of chatter going into the game, but as we all know the outcome is always determined on the field. It was apparent by the opening kickoff that the veteran team was in trouble as one of the young rookies took the opening kickoff the length of the field.

By the time the dust had cleared, my young boys, er, I mean the young rookies had pretty much whipped the older, wiser team. Ok, so I let the cat out of the bag. The fact is these little one's of mine are just way too fast. And although it's tough for them to bring me down, its nearly impossible for me to even catch them. It was quite a one-sided affair. I don't much care for losing, but the truth is I'll lose to that tandem anytime.

Naturally, nobody else would find this backyard game of football of much interest. Oh, I'm sure there are a few that would pay to see this overweight, out of shape, increasingly gray-haired man trying to track down his swift-footed boys, but lets face it other than that, this game offered very little that would appeal to anyone but those involved. Yet, for those involved, it was a blast. Sure, the day after, I felt every tackle, every hit, and pains in muscles I didn't even know I used. Still when compared to Favre's Monday magic, the Texans romp of the Raiders, and the Cowboys, (well, let's not even go there) this game of football with my boys wins hands down.

If you're a Dad or a Mom, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Nothing really compares to those moments you spend with your children. At least that's the way it is for me. I love it. I wish I had more time to spend with them. Let's face it, there's coming a day when they'll grow up and those moments when they come to me and ask, "Daddy, will you play with me," will be a thing of the past. Those with older children have already experienced this I'm sure. That's why is so important to cherish those moments while we have them, and place a priority on spending time with our children while we can. Having spent 15+ years in youth ministry, I never once had a teenager come to me and tell me, "My parents spend way too much time with me." On the other hand, if I had a dime for every time a young person came to me struggling with the fact that their parents never had enough time for them, I would be a wealthy man.

Time is the commodity most needed by your little ones. Not money, not stuff, but you. I must admit, there are those moments when I fail miserably at this. Those times when they are screaming for my attention and my time, and something else take priority. Yes, its obvious that there are moments where it is impossible to set aside everything and focus only on them. We have to work, we have to run a household, we have to do a million things it seems some times. I'm referring to those moments when something takes priority over spending time with my children that in the grand scheme of things is of little importance. I mean let's face it, can't I do my internet surfing later? Is it possible to record what I'm watching and come back to it later? Yes, I know you're tired from a hard day's work, but do you have 20, 30, 60 minutes left in the tank? Maybe, its just a few minutes but if you'll put everything you've got into those few minutes, trust me, you'll not regret it.

I mentioned my experience with teens earlier, but the same holds true with so many parents. I can't recall a parent ever complaining that while their kids were growing up they wished they wouldn't have spent so much time with them. However, how many parents have you known that regret the fact that they were always too busy to spend quality time with their children while they were growing up? Determine to spend time with your children. Turn off the TV, turn off the laptop, and get in the floor or go outside and have a blast. Trust me when I say, it'll be the best time of your week.

I enjoy watching 40 year old Favre run around the field and throw the football like only he can. But watching him could never compare to the moments when this 42 year old, gets to race around a back yard trying to catch my 3 year old and my 6 year old. Its true they came out on top this time, but I've been working on a new game plan for our next encounter. And next time, they're going down baby, they're going down!!!