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.

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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.

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?

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.