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.

He speaks in the quiet

Seasons in our life come and go then they come back around again.  Every time we take the time to meet with God through His Bible there is a power there.  He wants to converse with us – but how much time do we really take and sit down and listen.

Our pastor challenged us with the amount of Social Media we partake in several months ago.  I had already cut out Facebook, Twitter, Instagram before his message.  I had grown so tired of the stuff I was reading on there.  And yes, this post will hit Facebook and there will be a few who may not want to see this pop up in their feed as well.  Weeks before the primaries in Georgia, I had kicked the FoxNews habit I have had for years!

It’s great to be free from the junk that was filling my mind and my time!  I have found a bit of freedom.

I mentioned power in the Word of God.  That’s true.  Everyday I pick up my Bible and read and those words come to mind just as I begin to read, “There is power in the Word of God.” I’m reading right now like I did when I was a new Christian.

My favorite spot right now is on the deck behind the house.  I read, pray, and listen.  Many times while listening I hear the birds and I am reminded that He takes care of the birds – how much more will he take care of us.

We all have our moments.  Moments when we are on top of the world, so to speak, when it comes to faith and believing.  There are times we find ourself running from our greatest fears or falling to some sin that just can’t seem to be overcome.  Then we hear the voice of the Lord, like Elijah did in I Kings 19:13, “What are you doing here?”  No matter where you may find yourself today, remember there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, Jesus.  If you find yourself hearing His voice asking that question… answer Him.  He is asking for a reason.  There is another place He wants you to be.

I believe every word he said to be true.  I believe that Jesus came to love me… just as much as he loves you!  I love to pick through my collection of music.  I rode the bicycle on the trainer tonight to The Kry.  I had to get off the bike and get on my knees and thank Jesus for intervening in my life.  Without him, I know, life wouldn’t have any meaning whatsoever.  Take a moment to listen to this song and read the lyrics below as you listen.

It all became clear to me
The day I believed it’s what is true
He was nailed to the tree
Cause I needed a Savior I needed love
Why would I be silent or ashamed
To sing about the one Who took my place

I believe in God and the Son He sent
That He came and He died and He’s risen again
Every word He said Every promise is true
I believe it…I believe it…

This I’ll sing loud and clear
As long as I’m breathing
My whole life through
While the world spins and whirls
No other reason to live at all

You may disagree but that’s OK
Cause I don’t really care what they may say
It’s like a fire burning inside that keeps
burning burning burning

I believe in God and the Son He sent
That He came and He died and He’s risen again
Every word He said Every promise is true
I believe it…I believe it…

I believe in God and the Son He sent
That He came and He died and He’s coming again
Every word He said Every promise is true
I believe it…I believe it…

I originally wrote this Summer, 2016.

 

 

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….

 

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.

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.