Life Unreserved

I have a wonderful family.  All of my kids are great kids who love the Lord and desire to see others come into a closer relationship with Jesus.  For that I am extremely grateful.

Over 10 years ago one of my children decided she wanted to start a blog.  I recently reminded all of the kids about it… and we all had a big kick out of it.  (You have to understand, I have 6 kids, one son-in-law and a soon to be daughter-in-law.  Ages range from 8 to 24).  If you’d like to see what Valerie’s first blog post was like you can click here. (She’s going to kill me… Ha!)

She is now 21 years old and recently started a new blog, Life Unreserved.  I am very proud of her walk with the Lord and to see what she has come through and still fighting to get through.  She has always been a fighter… worked a little bit harder here and there and it has always paid off.  Even now as she is fighting the world of autoimmune disease she is a champ!

Today’s post is really an opportunity to share with you her story.  I hope you will take a minute to read Life Unreserved.

Looking forward to seeing what God does through her as she begins to tell her story.

The Path into 2019

Here we are January 1, 2019.  Today starts a new day, a new year, a new vision into what lies ahead.  I know we all put a lot into the new on this day.  We all have a since of hope and that maybe – just maybe – this may be the best year yet.  For some of us, when we look back over our lives we sure hope this is the best year yet.

I was reading in Isaiah 43 this morning.  Kind of a random place to pick up the Scripture.  But then again, maybe not so random.

“Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history.  Be alert, be present.  I’m about to do something brand new.  It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?  There it is!  I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.” (Isaiah 43:18-19, The Message)

I don’t know what your path is looking like as you begin this New Year.  I know the path

Walking in the presence of God

I have been on for a little while now has been caught up in the fog with limited visibility.  Today, God is telling me to forget all that is weighing me down from the past.  Too often, when we look back, our minds go back to the “bad” stuff.  Why don’t we go for the good stuff in our memories.  Maybe that’s just me.

In Isaiah 43:1, God says, “Do not be afraid, I have redeemed you.”  In verse 5, He says, “Do don’t be afraid:  I’m with you.”

Walking with God is not as clear as we would like for it to be.  But then, maybe, we shouldn’t desire for it to be clear.  Walking with God is about trusting him wherever He may lead us.  Walking with God is allowing the Holy Spirit total freedom to lead and empower as he desires.

God speaks with us in so many ways.  As I’m writing, I decided to grab another translation off of the shelf.  It’s a specific Bible that I don’t use very often.  It was given to me by FBC, Aztec, NM after my ordination. I opened it up and found a letter from a sweet friend from Harvest Church, Rio Rancho, NM – dated June 2001.  It was a beautiful reminder of something God didn’t want me to forget.  It was an opportunity to look back by going straight to the good stuff.

I can’t help but think that this reminder is key to the future.  (…making a road through the desert.)  This reminder is a Sacred Echo of what a few others have been telling me over the past few years.  For each, I am very thankful.  God is good.  Whatever it is that God may be speaking to you on this first day of 2019, remember to be present and stay alert….

“Do not be afraid: I’m with you.” – God

 

 

 

Bright Lights

My son is learning to drive with his learners permit in his pocket.  A piece of plastic that gives him the right to drive on the road with an adult in the car with him.  I have always believed that permit was to learn to drive.  Now I’m seeing that it is there for his protection by forcing an adult to be in the car with him to teach him how to deal with impatient adults on the road.  (He is now the 4th child I’ve ridden with.  I don’t recall seeing so many impatient adults with the previous 3 children).

What have we become as a society?  It’s hurry here and there.  It’s hurry, hurry, hurry!  But, you know, mistakes occur when we hurry.  When you think of a hurried time in your life what comes to mind?

  • A scheduled appointment you are late for?
  • Impatient about finding a job?
  • Someone breathing down your neck to get something done… a deadline?
  • Finding that perfect relationship you will spend the rest of your life with?

We get in a hurry over a lot of things.  These four points are just from observations in life. (I could have written more…. but I’m in a hurry. Ha!… Sorry!) At some time in life we have all been in a hurry for one of those reasons or something else.  I can just about bet you that when life-decisions get hurried mistakes are made and accidents happen.

While riding down the road with my son, there was this car with bright lights on his tail.  He was going just over the speed limit.  He kept referring to the lights in his mirror and getting frustrated.  I encouraged him to focus on the road ahead and let the person deal with whatever they have going on by themselves.  We can’t control what they have going on. We can only focus on what we can see ahead of us.

Sometimes when others are in a hurry it can affect our own performance.

This conversation lead to more talk about the past.  We can’t do anything about the past in our lives.  Just like those bright lights, if we focus on the bright lights of the past we will be blinded and lose sight of what is up ahead.  Sometimes you have to reposition yourself, while in the driver seat, so that those things behind you don’t interfere with your future.

Who is sitting in your drivers seat?  Are you letting the guy behind you push you into a hurried state?  Are you getting your eyes off of the road in front of you all because you are focused on what’s behind you?

In Hebrews 12 we read,

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.  Study how he did it.  Because he never lost sight of where he was headed- that exhilarating finish in and with God- he could put up with anything along the way:  Cross, shame, whatever.  And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. (The Message).

If you are wanting to look back, then look back to the life of Jesus.  See how he dealt with life.  The encouragement for the day is to look to Jesus… keep your eyes on him.  As we approach the final days leading up the celebration of his birth, look back over his story.  See how his story from the past can lead you on into a great future.

Being made strong

The Bible says, “When I am weak, I am made strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)

A piece of steel can’t say that.  When it fails…. it fails and people get hurt or even die.  And it’s final.

When we are weak, in a particular area of life, we also can experience hurt and pain as well as a variety of other emotions.  This weakness can hurt us and others around us.  Yet, in our deepest weakness, Jesus reminds us that in our weakness we are made strong.

When we come to the end of ourselves and turn to Jesus for our strength, understanding, and power, he will give us what we have need of in the moment.

As a cyclist, I know if I want to complete an event that is extremely difficult, I must train.  I must get myself prepared and ready to accomplish whatever it is I want to do.  Without the proper training, time, nutrition, and encouragement, I will not be able to do what I set out to do.

Finishing doesn’t happen overnight.  I plan for it.  I train for it. I suffer for it.  I get frustrated when setbacks come my way.  And, yes, things get in the way.  This year I got sick just 4 weeks before the event I was training for all year.  My body was in good shape but my mind was not.  I showed up to the event in shape physically – not mentally.  You have got to have both to reach your objective.  Even the best encouragement couldn’t help me overcome my own self doubts in my head.  I was there to do the 80 mile ride and settled for the 50.  The 50 was no cake walk with over 3500 ft of climbing – with one of the climbs over 8 miles long.  I completed a lesser ride but I did what I my mind said I could do.

I look around my life these days and I see many of the same fears and feelings I have had pretty much all of my life.  I’m not sure why I keep fighting these same things over and over.  Maybe I get tired and let my guard down.  I allow the stuff of life to get to me.  And, yes, Satan knows me well and knows when I am on a good track and uses individuals and circumstances to send me down from time to time. During ALL seasons of life, I must remember to surrender to Jesus….. hear his words “Come to me…”

I’ve been in training as a Christian for many years.  Too often, I still feel like a newbie.  Even so, I, just as you, need to heed the words of Jesus, “Come to me…”

“Come to Me…” (Matthew 11:28). His word come means “to act.” Yet the last thing we want to do is come. But everyone who does come knows that, at that very moment, the supernatural power of the life of God invades him. The dominating power of the world, the flesh, and the devil is now paralyzed; not by your act, but because your act has joined you to God and tapped you in to His redemptive power. (My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers, November 4).

Obedience

God, teach me lessons for living so I can stay the course.  Give me insight so I can do what you tell me- my whole life one long, obedient response.  (Psalm 119:33-34, The Message)

As I begin to write, I had to have a conversation with my 7 year old on obedience and respect.  She has an old iPhone that she has kept up with for about 4 years now.  No, she doesn’t have wireless service but she does get to use it like an iPod.  I have been very impressed at her ability to keep up with it and to not break the screen.

How does this relate to obedience?  Well, I had a conversation with her this morning about not walking around the house watching and listening to her “kid shows”.  I explained I don’t want to hear it today.  So, as I begin to write, she walks past my room with it playing.  Literally – all I typed before this happened was the word obedience.  I turned around and called her back and had another conversation about it.  (Side note:  I do like all the times she walks around the house playing and singing Hillsongs, “Oceans” at the top of her lungs!)

This week I made a step of obedience myself.  I have been praying about this for over a month.  Really? Yes really!  I sat around for the past month and prayed whether or not I would be obedient.  Sounds silly, stubborn, and disobedient – all at the same time – I know.  And, yes, I do and did deserve the same conversation from Jesus that I had with my daughter this morning.

It gets better than that prayer.

I actually called one of my life-long friends from seminary.  Fortunately, he didn’t answer the phone.  I called looking for him to give me permission to be reasonable and logical about this thing I was praying about…. bottom line I was looking for him to tell me (without him knowing) I was looking for him to give me permission to delay my obedience.  Think I will call him back today to apologize for something he has no idea he was almost a party to… Honestly, I don’t think he would have given me the permission or encouragement for me to delay my obedience.

My wife and I sat down that same night, held hands, and prayed.  Immediately, I did what I had been “praying about for a month.”  Two days later, God intervened in a situation to let me know He had heard me and was with me.  A direct answer to another prayer that has been ongoing for the past month.

Honestly, as I sit here and contemplate this week.  I can see all of the situations before me and see them all as layers connected to the same onion.  Obedience is the key to the layers being able to be peeled back.

This morning I am reading Rick Warren’s daily devotional and he also is writing on this same subject!  (I love how the Holy Spirit works through things I read to confirm His leading in my life).  The first paragraph reads,

God smiles when we obey him wholehartedly.  That means doing whatever God asks without reservation or hesitation.  You don’t procrastinate and say, “I’ll pray about it.”  You do it without delay.  Every parent knows that delayed obedience is really disobedience.

Well, you don’t have to hit me over the head…. but I do love the confirmation of God at work in my heart and my life.  For that, I am wonderfully thankful!!

Faith-filled living does require action.  And, oftentimes, that action is at the center of obedience.  So, today, walk in obedience and do what He is leading you to do.

He cares…. seek Him with all your heart!

Just before the cold, snow, and ice came our way, I was looking through some things and came across a bag of bird seed I had forgotten about.  So, I go out to the storage building to get the bird feeder and set it out.  Normally there is a lot of traffic around this feeder throughout the spring and summer months.  Now that it’s winter not so much traffic.

I was looking out the window this morning as I heard something rustling in the leaves.  I saw  male and female Cardinals.  They were both enjoying the little treat I had left outside.  The sight got me to thinking about a time I was meeting with a few friends early one morning.  We were praying over needs in our lives.  As we prayed, I could hear the birds singing and I reminded the guys that God takes care of the birds we could hear – how much more will he tend to our needs.  We must trust him and lay all of our concerns at his feet for he cares for us (Matthew 6:26).

I set the bird seed out over a week ago.  I have seen these Cardinals sitting on the fence some 50 feet away from the bird feeder on several occasions.  I thought to myself (as if I were talking to them) there is food over here under this window.

Isn’t that like God?  Everyday he provides for us.  His provision is there.  Sometimes it’s right in front of us and we see it right away.  Somethings in life come to us through much seeking, looking, asking, knocking, etc.  But when we find that which we are searching, our Heavenly Father is looking out the window at us with a smile on his face, with great pleasure, saying, “You have found it.”

We all go through tough and bitter-cold seasons of life.  Seasons of searching for answers to troubling times.  Paul writes in I Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

These verses are not always the easiest thing to do – especially when faced with overwhelming circumstances.  I know I’ve been there… even now I seek and search and lay those things that are heavy on my heart and I rejoice because I know He cares and His Spirit comforts me.

In Psalm 84, the writer is longing to be able to worship in the courts of the LORD.  To physically be in this place of worship.  “Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young.” (v.3-4)  He is reminded of being there in this place of worship and seeing these birds there and how he longed to be in the presence of God just as he knew those birds are.  But even more than his longing to be in the courts of God, in prayer, he longed for the living God himself.

For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.  I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.  For the LORD God is a sun and a shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor.  No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.  O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you! (Psalm 84:10-12)

Find rest, comfort, and warmth as you trust in the Lord today… may you find the presence of the Lord himself.

Walking in wide open spaces

I loved living in the desert.   I miss the wide open spaces with blue sky all around.  While reading in Psalm 119, I was reminded of this beautiful land that I miss.

and I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts.  Psalm 119:45.

The Psalmist loved the Law of the LORD.  I love reading Psalm 119.  Through all of life it’s the law, the way of God, His precepts, commandments…. that he loves and that drives him forward in his pursuit of God.  He has a relationship that is real and personal with God.  The Message puts it this way, in verses 44 & 45,

Oh, I’ll guard with my life what you’ve revealed to me, guard it now, guard it ever; And I’ll stride freely through wide open spaces as I look for your truth and your wisdom;

Rio Grande in New Mexico Bike MS 2015

We were visiting a church several years ago.  During the worship these lyrics jumped out at me, “All of my deserts are rivers of joy.” I mentioned I love the desert.  And when I look back at my time of physically living in the Southwest I see rivers of joy.

I was reminded of John 14:12 this morning where Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” (New Living Translation).  God intends for each of us to be moving toward greatness.  He tells us here in John that we will do even greater works… but we must believe in him…  Even in the times of desert living.

Our lives have the propensity to become messy.  Everything about each one of us is not perfect.  Yet we try hard to make our lives look neat.  We want to make everything look perfect.  We attend churches with stained glass windows and/or churches with rock bands filling the room with great music, lights, and dry ice… all looking and sounding good.  But when it’s all torn down what really remains?  Hopefully, in both situations, relationships are being built so that when the stain glass windows and the music fades that the heart of it all will still be standing.

After having lived in the beautiful Southwest, I understand that there is a lot of life in the desert.  For me, its a beautiful place that is open with great views all around.  To some the land may look barren but it’s really wide open spaces full of excitement.  So much has adapted and been created to sustain life there.  I believe we will each spend our time in the desert of life.  It’s not a place we should avoid but rather take advantage of.  It’s there, in the stillness of the desert, we can draw close to God.  It’s a place for us to be able to sit back and enjoy looking into the face of God and keep our focus steadfast on Him.

The desert at night is breath-taking!  The first time I ever stopped on New Mexico HWY 550, in between Albuquerque and Aztec, I realized I couldn’t see one foot in front of me due to the darkness.  But I could see more of God’s creation in the sky than I have before.  I never would have seen the beauty above me had I kept my focus on the darkness in front of me… I had to look up.  When we find ourselves in a desert place with darkness all around it’s not until we look up to God that we will see His glory.

Romans 5:2 in The Message says it best,

We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand – out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.

If you find yourself today in a land that is dryer than you would like keep your eyes on Jesus.  Look to him and him alone for your joy.  We will not find joy looking in any other direction.  Feeling a little dry? Want someone to pray with you?  Just leave a comment, “In need of prayer”.  I’d be happy to pray for you.

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