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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He Speaks in the Noise

I thoroughly enjoy my moments of quiet and relaxation.  That typically happens before my family is awake or out on a country road riding my bicycle.  Lately, life has traveled far from tranquility.  It’s loud, stormy, and, stressful.  In about every arena that I am involved – it feels like a storm is brewing.

For example, while retrieving one of our cars, after being in a wreck this week – the van I have been driving shuts down on the way home.  Now it sits in a parking lot as I try and figure out my next step with it.  As for the car, it will probably end up getting crushed later this week for scrap metal.

Yesterday I took a vacation day from work and went on a field trip with my daughters kindergarten class.  It was a fun time to watch my daughter interact with her friends.  I don’t see how the teachers do this day after day.  Leading little minds to learn, respect, behave, and to enjoy life.  One parent said to me, “I don’t see how they (teachers) do it.  They kept up with all of these kids today.”  I’d like to add that the children were well behaved. I know the teachers were tired from their little outing but they still had a smile!

Reading in Luke 8:22-15 this morning.  I have re-read this passage several times this week as I continue my trek through the New Testament.  A couple of things stand out to me.  Nothing new.  But in the midst of the current circumstances these verses seem to hit home.

The disciples are with Jesus in a boat.  Jesus is sleeping. There is a storm on the lake and the disciples are scared and have begun to panic.  Now, some of these guys are very familiar with boats and being on the water, as they were fishermen by trade.  I am sure they are very familiar with storms on the water as well.  But for some reason this storm was nothing like they had experienced before.  They were afraid for their lives,

They awaken Jesus for help, “Master we are going to drown!”  The Message says, “Getting to his feet, he [Jesus] told the wind, ‘Silence!’ and the waves, ‘Quiet down!’ They did it. The lake became smooth as glass.”

The sentence that leaves me asking more questions is Jesus’ question back to his disciples. “Why can’t you trust me?”

Makes me think of a moment this week where things seemed to be crashing in on me and I wondered if God even liked me anymore.  I began to question if he was going to let me perish in the midst of my own personal turmoil.

As I read this again, I hear him ask, “Why can’t you trust me?”

Yes.  It’s very noisy right now.  And he is here.  I know it.  I need to learn in this experience of life and to respect, behave, and enjoy life.

On my knees

Actually, I sit here tonight surrendering to the voice that keeps telling me to write.  Whether it is for you, someone else, or myself – I don’t know.  I am here and you are there.  It remains to be seen if either of us will be there by the 2nd paragraph.

I don’t take the time to write for public “consumption” rarely any longer.  Why?  Time, I guess.  It’s hard.  I’m tired. I question, “Does it really matter?” Possibly it has gotten to a place of becoming too vulnerable with my life that I have begun to guard it.  I’ve got this one friend that would slap me in the back of the head about right now… funny thing about this guy – I haven’t seen him since – 1989?  You are there… You know who you are.

Love.

I love my family.  I love other people. At least I say that I do.  Yet, how do I really show it?  Do I play favorites in the love I have?   Is it in what I buy that shows love? (The debt I take on in the name of “love”).  Seriously, I say I love, yet I question how I really show it.  And if I don’t show it, then, is it really love that I have? Do those around me ever get a chance to see it, experience it, receive it?

I sat down to read the Bible a few mornings ago.  In fact, it was Sunday morning.  I never stop reading in the middle of a chapter or the middle of a thought. (Kind of like riding a bicycle.  I can’t stand to stop at 44.3 miles…. I’d much rather press on to get to that 45 mile mark).  I’m reading in Luke right now and the first sentence I read made me see why I stopped reading in mid thought.  I needed that thought on Sunday morning.  In fact, that thought kept me from checking a few more boxes on my read through the Bible plan for the day.

The verse that messed up my reading plan for the day was Luke 6:27.  Jesus said,  “To you who are ready for the truth, I say this:”

So…. love.  I love.  But I have a funny way of showing it… or not showing it.  I guess my circumstances in life have led me to become rather cynical at times of love.  That’s in the giving and the receiving.  Do you ever feel this way?

The battle for our hearts and minds are greater than anything any of us will see on CNN or FoxNews.  In fact, it’s a battle that neither network would really care to cover.  (Ha, they don’t even cover the news beyond their own agendas – I digress – and where did that come from?)

What really matters is what goes on in our hearts and minds.  It’s the surrender of ourselves and submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ that really matters in this life and the life to come.  Too often, I know it’s the case for me, we tend to look the other way and not dwell on those things that really matter.  We don’t stop what we are doing in the midst of a busy day to really hear what really matters.  We don’t listen to the world around us who is hurting and in need of an ear, a caring heart, a friendly smile at the store, opening the door for someone else… God forbid that we ever let someone out in traffic!  Love.

Why is it that we don’t really care about the needs and hearts of other people?  Why is it that we’d rather have our own needs met before we lend a helping hand to someone else?  Maybe this isn’t you – and now you are questioning, “What’s eating at this guy?”

Surely the world isn’t as bad as that!  You know it really is.

I’m the only one to blame for this… some how it all ends up the same

Love

What is love?  Is there really such a thing as love… true love?  Love beyond the Hallmark Channel?

I’d bet those of us who have experienced true love – Experienced it in the act of sacrifice and giving that we have done for someone else.  Or that reality of, “How did they know I needed that?”  You know they met a need in your life – like God Himself met the need through someone else.  They gave out of what they didn’t have or  what they had that God told them to trust Him over.

With a world I try so hard to leave behind.  To rid myself of all but love – to give and die…

I don’t know… what’s this the 13th paragraph?  You still with me?

Take my world a part. I am on my knees. Broken on my knees.

To love you – take my world apart
To need you – I am on my knees
To love you – take my world apart
To need you – broken on my knees Did you really have to die for me? All I am for all you are is what I need and what I believe are worlds apart

All said and done I stand alone Amongst remains of a life I should not own  It takes all I am to believe in the mercy that covers me.

Too often what I say and do is far from what I truly believe.  That’s why tonight… this season of my life I am stopping and asking Jesus to take over.  Take my world apart.  (It already, in many ways, feels like it.) Ha!  One friend asked me earlier today if my name was Job.

Did you really have to die for me?
All I am for all you are
Because what I need and what I believe are worlds apart

From my little corner of the world, I’m stopping the madness… I’m stopping whatever it is that is keeping me from loving the way Jesus would have me to and pausing from my knees and asking him to take my world apart.  That I may love and serve those around me for His purposes and His glory.  That He may take my life and use it for His glory… after-all, that’s really the only reason to get out of bed everyday.

Quotation blocks from Worlds Apart by Jars of Clay.

Oh yeah, there’s that thought from Luke 6:27….

 

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.

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.

Out of the shadow of Shadow Weaver…

…comes Sentimental song.

The Choir‘s new album, Shadow Weaver, is out and ready to be indulged.  It seems to me with each new release by this band there is a drawing of my ear to go deeper in the music and the lyric.  If you are a follower of The Choir, you know exactly what I am talking about.  There is not another band out there who can weave the dreamy alternative rock sound in and out of each album and paint as pretty a picture lyrically as this band can.  You can become a fan now with Shadow Weaver but don’t stop there.  One of the beauties of their art is how previous lyrics or themes are consistently weaved throughout their work.

In 1987, I discovered The Choir, while I was a student at Lee College in Cleveland, TN.  The album was Diamonds and Rain.  Shortly after that purchase Chase the Kangaroo was released and my followship of the Choir was solidified!  As I have grown up over the years, it’s as though the lyric and sound have been a soundtrack for my life.

I’ve experienced many highs and lows in life.  Both of which I would love to have had the right tools to draw from when experiencing both of them.  Today, I hope I’ve learned from the difficulties, destruction, and triumph experienced in my life.  (Deep breath)

I recently attended the kick off concert for the Shadow Weaver tour in Dallas, GA.  I went hoping to be able to write about my experience hearing the songs from Shadow Weaver.  They only played a couple of the new songs that night… and what we did hear was outstanding!  Right now, it’s a song off of the 1990 album, Circle Slide, that I want to share.  As Derri began to strum the first chords of this song, applause began as everyone knew what was coming…  Sentimental Song!

As Derri sang, my mind went back to a little house I lived in back in 1991.  I had been divorced for a short period of time.  Just a little bit shorter than I had actually been married.  My life and my heart were a mess of emotions during that time.  I realize Sentimental Song is really a love song.  But during those days I heard that song from the heart of the Holy Spirit.  Each time I played that song then God reached out to me with love.  I tried hard to grasp ahold of those rays of the Son through the thick darkness that had enveloped my life.  As I sat there listening to Derri sing, emotion welled-up within me as I thought about the love my Heavenly Father has for me.  How His grace is deep and not near as complicated as my life has tried to make it.

I’ve heard of people having serious car wrecks after running slightly off of the road.  The wreck occurred after they tried to over-correct from the first mistake.  Well, my life then was much like that.  I ran off the road through that relationship and tried to over-correct my life and ended up crashing.  Some of the memories of that time in life still plague me.  It’s a constant reminder that God has deep meaning and purpose that is hidden even in the darkness we find our lives in the midst of.  His desire is to mine the diamonds that we have hidden in the past of our lives.

Finish the race

When you step back to take a look at your life, what do you see? How do you evaluate your place or position?  What tool do you use to measure in order to see if you are where you need to be or want to be in life?

There are many voices and tools “out there” to give us the help and guidance in life to get us from where are to where we really want to be… or more importantly, to where God wants us to be.  For me, the greatest tool is reading the Bible.  I find direction, strength, hope, and encouragement in the words I read there.  Reading the Bible is a discipline that I must not neglect and must be a part of daily living.Run the Race

I was recently challenged to think about what my ideal life looks like.  As I began to think about my response, I thought back to the 4th grade.  I was sitting in a room in my house and I recall thinking, “I’m not going to be like that.” I can recall the voice of my dad saying he wish he had made other choices about his career.  I can recall the career path he would have preferred over the one he was on at the time.  In my pursuit of God and living in obedience, I struggle with keeping of my stride since it has been broken.

“How you see your future is more important than what has happened in your past.”  Zig Ziglar

I’m involved in quite a few really “good” things.  I visited one of those recently.  I walked out of that meeting and overwhelmed at the need in our community and the task that is set before them.  The thought kept rising in my mind that they are Jesus in their corner of our county.  They are literally being his hands and his feet.  Reaching out to those who can’t feed themselves.  I was unsure about what my experience would be as I drove onto the property.  I drove away challenged.

I once was a competitive long distance runner.  I recall the feeling of having someone break my stride because they cut me off.  It was a breaking of my stride physically and mentally.  I could get my physical stride back pretty easily but, at times, it was the mental portion of it I would have difficulty over coming.  I can recall dwelling on what had just happened and that becoming my focus over the race being run.

You are never a failure until you quit. Resist discouragement and finish the race God has set before you. -Rick Warren, Uncommon Courage Devotional.

I mentioned earlier there are a lot of tools to help us on our journey in life.  God’s Word is the greatest of those… His word is truth.  At times, each of us have moments when someone or something breaks into our lane and breaks our stride.  Keeping our eyes intently focused in the Word of God will help us to keep our focus.  The Holy Spirit will use those words to lead us where God wants us.

If you are in a place in life where someone has cut you off and broken your stride, now is the time to bring life back into focus.  Looking toward the goal that has been set within your heart.  “You were running a good race.  Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?” (Galatians 5:7, NIV).  Don’t let the distractions of this world, the words of others, or the actions of others break your stride.  Keep running.