Changing of the Season

It has been a mild Winter here this year.  As for cycling, I had gotten off to a great year of getting miles in.  In fact, my best January ever.  We had a hint of Spring most of the year.  Then it hit… a COLD snap that I wasn’t expecting nor desiring.  It had felt so good all year until we had a blast of winter.  I pushed through some of the cold and stayed on the bicycle.  I also ended up sick for about 3 weeks or so and the cough still lingers.

I stood outside just as the sun was beginning to rise Saturday morning.  The noise that filled the air was music to my ears and brought a smile upon my face as I stood there sipping on my coffee.  I couldn’t help but be reminded of Matthew 6:26.

Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God.  And you count far more to him than birds. (The Message).

My body was getting accustomed to the mild temperatures this winter just to be shocked by the normal temperatures of winter – I considered my own life as I listened this morning.

Seasons come and go.  The good, the bad, the ugly, the pretty, the unwanted, the challenges, the miracles, the blessings, the growth, and death are all a part of life.  None of it should ever really catch us off guard.  But for some reason it does and we experience a various array of emotions in response to the circumstance.  We get comfortable in our seasons.  And when the turbulence in the atmosphere occurs at the change of a season we run, hide, and seek shelter from the approaching storm.

Earlier this week I saw on Facebook that my wife stated, “Why does life have to be so hard?”  Yes, we are in the midst of a tough season in life.  Doctor visits, dentists, car wreck, 3 cars that have broken down (make that 4 since I started writing this), bills, etc.  Yet, I sit here and consider the good health, the miracle of no injury in that totaled Honda… there is good in the midst of the tough season we walk through.  Even as I held my youngest daughter the other night as she was sick and sleeping – I cherished the moment.

I know holding her won’t always be an option when she is sick.  She will grow out of kindergarten, go to elementary school, high school, college, and eventually get married… That’s what the others have done.  With each changing of the season they grow up.  They experience new normals in life and they too will grow from the changing of seasons.  I know she was comforted as I held her and I found much joy in the moment.

I can’t help but think God feels much the same way when we relax and surrender to His loving arms and let Him hold us when we are going through a tough time.  No, I didn’t do anything to heal my daughter.  I prayed over her, held her, and was there with her as she went through that moment of sickness.  Some times God intervenes in our lives and provides the miraculous for His purposes in our lives.  Other times I think He sits with us as I did my daughter and comforts us through the situation.

Wherever you find yourself today.  Remember, just as the birds of the air: don’t sow, reap, or gather into barns… our heavenly Father feeds them and takes care of them.  This Spring take a moment to sit quietly by yourself and listen to the birds of the air and let Him speak to you.

How much more will he take care of you and I?

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I’m in way over my head

This is all way over my head.

I need to hear You.

You are the light that leads me.

Yet I wonder, “Where do I find peace?”

Jesus is the strength that keeps me walking.

Yet, I find it hard to trust.

Seeking His purpose.

The storms of life want let me rest.

The quest for peace becomes more desperate and allusive.

Yet He takes me in and takes me deeper into His Word.

Breaking through a fading concentration.

It’s in His Word that I come to a place of being able to see a place that can’t be seen without His Spirit revealing.  Psalm 139:13, “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.” As many times as I have read this my mind has stopped with the creation of the organs within my body.  The miracle of blood flowing through the body sustaining life to the entire body.

But today I thought about something else.  The creation within that can’t be seen or touched.  A place that can’t be operated on by human hands.  I’m referring to the personality, the interests, the likes and dislikes…. purpose.  He knit it all before we were ever delivered.  For me that was interesting thought today.  Made me question, “What in the world am I doing with that aspect of my life?”  There is so much more to life than just living… heart beating, blood flowing, and lungs taking in oxygen, etc. IMG_4061

Visiting a third world country in the name of Jesus can leave you speechless.  Yet, full of questions about life and your place in this world. That’s what it did for me.  The first morning back home I arose early and began to fill my pot with water (like I do every morning) so I could boil three eggs for breakfast.  Before I could get the eggs in the pot, I wept and said, “They aren’t doing this this morning… at least the way I am able to.”  Then I thought about the young Christian men I had the amazing pleasure of meeting.  I thought they have a deeper understanding of Jesus in their country than I do of Jesus in my country.  Their vantage point of seeing Jesus is so much different than mine.

The need is great in the land I had the pleasure of walking, praying, pondering life and purpose.  They probably don’t remember me but I can’t shake their faces from my mind.  I don’t want to lose sight of those I came to love in just a few short days.  I don’t know what God wants to do with all that I have experienced.  I do know He doesn’t want me to waste it.

13419113_10206513780182839_2338340058097243765_nI still can’t seem to grasp the words to convey my thoughts and my heart… I’ve been home for two weeks.  I can say there is so much more than this… this in which I live.  There is so much more.

Jesus, thank you for making sure I was there.  Craig, thank you for sharing with us worship, heart, love, discipleship, obedience, courage, faith, Jesus!  I can’t thank my church family, known as CFBC, for giving me the opportunity to have this experience.

As Matt Redman so beautifully wrote, “I’m coming back to the heart of worship.”

 

Joy, joy, joy down in my heart

Approaching 2015 I felt all of this pressure to have a “word” for the year. I’m not sure where all of this started but for the past several years I have had a word or a phrase that has been a central focus. But this year it seemed like the message of “having a word for the year” was coming from many directions. I don’t recall there being so much focus on “having a word for the year” before. It came from a devotional, a friend, my pastor, and Margaret Feinberg to name a few sources.

I was leaning in a direction for this word or focus for the year. Then I began to think that I was being influenced by one of my favorite authors and I didn’t want that either. I wanted this to be real, fresh, and lead by what the Holy Spirit. I even changed my word on New Years Day just to avoid the word I thought I needed to focus on… just to change it back within a few days.

I landed with “Joy” as my word for 2015. Margaret Feinberg’s book Fight Back with Joy has some to do with where I was going for the year. And it was because of her book I wanted to fight off the thought of joy being my word for the year. I just wanted this to be something God wanted me to focus on.

Several years ago I had a pastor friend tell me his prayer for me has been that I would experience real joy in my life. His words have stuck with me now for about 6 years. I’ve wondered: What was it about me that would have him say that to me?   Was I depressed? Unhappy? Did I seem like I was missing something in my life? Is that why I have been feeling the way I have been feeling? Was it all because I lacked this three-letter word in my life? The answer is, Yes.

It’s time to stop asking questions and really pursue what God has in store. Taking the words of Margaret Feinberg and making them my own,

It’s time to pursue a joy-filled life. No need to wait for joy to arrive mysteriously in the mail one day. I need focused spiritual practices that might nurture joy. (Fight Back with Joy).

Well, whatever the reason, I’m on a journey to find and experience lasting joy… a joy-filled life.

Almost everyday this year “JOY” has come up… in conversations, messages on the radio, a charm on a necklace, Scripture, a song on the radio… it comes at me through so many ways.

Recently, while sitting in the living room, sipping on a cup a coffee, during my Quiet Time, I have the thought come to me, “Read 1 john 1:4.” So I read that verse in The Message Bible. If you are familiar with The Message you know sometimes you can’t just read one verse.

We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy!” (1 John 1:3-4, The Message).

I sat down to write this verse out on a break at work and as I finished “Joy to the world” by Three Dog Night comes on the radio that’s playing through our building. I understand what my pursuit is to be this year JOY.

I’m sure I’m no different from you as you live, breath, and walk this planet. There are problems. There are mistakes made due to unwise choices. There is sickness.  There are circumstances that may have caused you to label yourself as damaged goods – not to be used for the Kingdom of God. Maybe someone else has labeled you as such and you have believed the lie. It could be that you battle depression, the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, lacking confidence or faith… whatever it is that may be holding you back today. Know that God wants to fill your cup. He doesn’t want to just fill it up He wants it to overflow from His heart to yours and from yours to those in your world.

Today is the day to surrender. Let Him fill you up! Ask Him to and He will.

Oh and one more thing… that same day I mentioned earlier, over dinner, my four-year-old says to me, “Dad you know what we are going to dance to? I got the joy, joy, joy down in my heart…”  I’m encouraged I’m moving in the right direction.

Look Up…

I love being outdoors!  Whether it is day/night or hot/cold outside, I’d rather be enjoying the outdoors than the indoors any day of the week!  I recently was talking with a few of my kids.  I talked about how in the evening after the sun goes down about my love for sitting on the deck watching the stars.  If you have never been out west in the middle of New Mexico the view of the heavens are unbelievable.  With no city lights around to dull the view of God’s beautiful creation.

It was another tough day.  It was one day of many that one of my children have had to walk through.  The frustration and the hurt was great.  I could see it in his face and hear it in the somber tone of his voice.  On the drive home from church, to make a little conversation, I asked about Sunday School.  He told me they talked about 1 Kings 8:56-58 and he began to read those verses in the Bible.

Blessed be the LORD who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised.  Not one word has failed of all his good promise, which he spoke by Moses his servant.  The LORD our God be with us, as he was with our fathers.  May he not leave us or forsake us, that he may incline our hearts to him. To walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his rules, which he commanded our fathers. (ESV).

As I drove,I thought there couldn’t be a more perfect verse for us to discuss in light of the situation.  We walked into the backyard at our home.  We sat down on an old porch style swing and began to rock back and forth.  The swing creaked with every movement.  Moments later the old swing cracked.  Just before the swing gave way I had told him to look up.  There was one branch of this tree that had already turned to a beautiful color of red.  We talked about that branch of this tree that already turned leaving all of the summer green behind.  We talked about that branch and how we would never had seen the beauty there had we never looked up.

In the moment, I began to talk with him about God’s desire for us to seek him in all of our seasons of life.  It was at that moment the swing began to give way to our movement and weight.

The night before, our family had gathered around a small fire pit to roast marshmallows.  The chairs were still set up so we made our way to sit and talk there.  After we read the above passage, once again, I looked up and could see two trees.  Both of them are large yet one was a bit larger than the other with its limbs full all the way around the tree.  Whereas, the other tree was large its limbs reached to the sunlight that comes up from the south.

I pointed out the large tree was well-rounded and full.   We observed how it was an obstacle to the growth of the the smaller tree.  Yet the smaller tree was still full of life… even thriving in the midst of the the obstacle of the larger tree.

I reminded him of the situation that was feeding his hurting heart.  I encouraged him to keep reaching out to Jesus, the Son of God.  That as he turns his face toward the Son, Jesus would never leave him or forsake him.  Just like those Israelites came to know that God wouldn’t forsake them, my son would also come to know, Jesus will never forsake him.  That is a promise we all have.  I pray that as you hear God’s voice drawing you to himself, you will not ignore him but rather turn your face to Jesus and lean into him.

Thanking God tonight for my children!

I have a wonderful group of kids!  I have been thinking about them most of the day and what God has done in their lives… how He has used them… and praying for what He is going to do with them in the future.

The Bible says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6, ESV).  As a parent, leading my children has been my mission.  It thrills my heart to hear my kids talking about the various Bible studies they are a part of.  I recall my two oldest children when they were 3 and 6 (year 2000) inviting our neighbors to our church… then seeing those people show up to church as a result of their efforts!

Those two children are now 17 and 19 serving the Lord, praying, caring for their friends, having spiritual conversations, and seeking God concerning their future.  My 12-year-old son recently told me he has been thinking about becoming a youth pastor.  I’m praising God his heart is open to following the Lord!  I looked over during church this morning to see my 16-year-old daughter praising God during worship… beautiful!!

My 4-year-old daughter has become a little prayer warrior.  At bed time last night, she said she wanted to lead our prayer.  She prayed for her little cousins mom who wasn’t feeling well.  She wasn’t going to get to go to a family birthday party for one of her other cousins as a result.  So, Chloe prayed she would get better.  We received a txt message from her today saying she was better and going to the party!!  Chloe was so thrilled and excited that God had heard her prayer and to see it answered.  Just yesterday afternoon my daughter hurt her leg and asked, “Daddy will you pray for it?”  I prayed. She stood up and said it’s all better and carried on!! I am was so blessed that her first thought was to pray!!

It’s a beautiful thing to see my family growing in Christ.  I pray that God will continue to bless them.  Tonight I just want to praise God for what He is doing in my kids!!

Crossroads

Are you familiar with the ending to the movie “Cast Away”?  Tom Hanks is standing there in the middle of this intersection in the middle of Nowhere, TX.  As far as he can see in all directions is nothing – yet he has been given the gift of life to be lived another day.  If you had been him, how would you have chosen where to go?    IMG_2822

We all find ourselves at places in life where we are at an intersection and we aren’t sure which way to go.  In the movie, he isn’t sure where he is going to go.  He pauses and gets out of the Jeep with his map and ponders for a moment or two.  During this moment of contemplation is when the person he was looking for drives up.

I wonder how many times in life we come to a crossroad and ignore it and just keep driving our lives right on through.  Or – how often do we get there – and recognize it… and then we get stuck there afraid to move at all.  Maybe there has been a bad decision in the past and fearful of getting burned again.

No matter the reason or how you would respond to the situation it is still a decision that must be faced and made.  No decision is still a decision.  How do you make the decision?  What steps do you take?  Do you get the Road Map out?  In my life, the Road Map has become God’s Word found in the Bible.  No, it doesn’t tell me to turn right or left and any specifics like that at all.  I can say the Holy Spirit gives insight I can’t explain.  Which is often followed by a peace I can’t explain.

Jesus tells us in John 14:25-27,

I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught. (The Message).

I’ve personally been at a crossroad for a long time now.  I have ventured in a couple of directions already to find that the peace, fulfillment, and contentment were not in the directions I have tried thus far.  I am still hungry to know God more so I keep going back to the Cross and asking for direction.  I am asking for wisdom… wisdom to be used for His glory, for the leadership of my family, and the community in which I live (wherever that would take me).

The Holy Spirit will teach us all things.  He will give all that we have need of.  He cares intimately about the details of our lives.  He will not leave us lonely in the dark.  Jesus instructed his disciples:

“This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I’ve revealed to you. Ask in my name, according to my will, and he’ll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks! (John 16:23-24).

I know He uses me through my job… even though I can’t directly communicate His Word… I live it.  I’m thankful for the opportunity I have to influence others in all aspects of my life.  I want to continue to do so full of the Holy Spirit, wisdom, and grace.

“Daddy, I want to pray for you.”

When I was a student at Lee College, I took a class that had as one of it’s books, “Will Our Children Have Faith?”  I don’t recall anything about the book today beyond the title.  The title has stuck with me through the years.  At various moments, it would come to mind and help me as thought through situations with my children as well as the children in churches where I served.

As a Dad, one thing I have always enjoyed is praying with my children at bed time.  My oldest daughter is now 19, I am confident I have taken steps that have led her in the right direction.  Just as I have done with each of my children.  I trust I have been faithful to walk with Jesus in a way that honors him and leads my children to him.

My youngest daughter will be 4 years old soon.  During the Summer, at bedtime we talked through one of our own made up stories. (Just as I have done for almost 19 years with each child along the way.)  Now, just as then, they typically include my child as the central figure in the story along with a couple of her toys that come to life that she plays with.  After the story time I pray.  Recently after I prayed she said, “Daddy, I want to pray for you… ‘Heavenly Father, bless my Daddy – In Jesus Name.'” Then she said, “I didn’t do that right, I want to pray again… ‘Father, forgive my Daddy.'”  I had quite the laugh, smile, and thought-filled contemplation over her prayer.

She prayed for blessing and forgiveness.  I believe with all my heart her prayers were heard.  I don’t know specifically what she thought I needed forgiveness for.  But that’s alright.  It has led me to think through a lot of areas of my life, as I have thought through I have sought to leave each area at the foot of the Cross.  More than anything her praying that night… her desire to pray for me – has heightened my sensitivity to pray for others.

At times, I wonder why I have had on my life a desire to pray for others.  This discipline began while at Lee College.  I kept a notebook of people I prayed for.  Today, I don’t recall all of the names but I remember many of those faces.  There have been so many that I have prayed for in which I have not seen results (at least through my eyes).  There are several people today I pray for regularly and those folks will never know this side of heaven about those moments in prayer.

This past Christmas Eve, my wife and I went to the mall to do some last minute shopping.  I wasn’t feeling well, so I sat in the middle of the mall and watched people.  It became apparent within my heart I was to pray for those that walked by.  I’m not much on shopping but those moments made the trip more than worth it.  Even now I don’t recall those things that were purchased, but I recall the people and the moment.  I recall the urgency we all have to live our lives in a manner honoring Jesus.

Just as my daughter may not have fully comprehended her prayer for me.  But the Holy Spirit did.  Her prayer has led me to search my heart and invite God to search my heart and reveal to me anything that is separating me from Him.  More than anything I want to live a manner worthy of the grace that has been so wonderfully given to me.