Archive for the ‘blessings’ Category

It began like any other Sunday. I clocked out at work at 6:00 AM and drove home to try to get some sleep before it was time to leave for worship. We were running late and by the time we checked the kids into their classes, we had missed a couple of songs. A video played discussing mission work in Cyprus, but there was a technical glitch and it kept stopping and starting. When it was decided the video would not play, the band came back up to lead us in a few songs.

In all honesty, my mind was wandering all over the place.  I was thinking about being late and how I hate being late. I was thinking about my day and how I did not have enough sleep. I was wondering what was wrong with the video and why it wasn’t playing.  I was distracted.  I said a silent prayer to God asking Him to let me focus.

Josh (our worship leader) introduced the next song and I was immediately brought back into focus. The song was Chris Tomlin’s Our God. It talks about how great our God is. He is greater, stronger, higher than any other. It then had the words “Our God is healer, awesome in power.” I began to think of healing. My mind first went to my dad, who had been in the hospital for a while and who was not doing well during that stay. He is now improving daily and I thanked God for being his healer. I then thought about my own life and the healing taking place. I had been bitter and guilty for quite some time after losing my last ministry job, I felt like such a failure. Tears were forming in my eyes as I sang about God being my healer. He is healing me more and more each day as I seek His will. He is healing my hurts; my pain; my brokenness.  He is is greater than my pain. He is stronger than my guilt. He is healer of my sorrows. He is Lord. By the time we got to the part of the song that reinforces if our God is for us, what can stand against us, I was so excited to be God’s child.

A little later in the worship time we sang the old hymn My Hope is Built on Nothing Less. The chorus states “on Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.” I began to thank God for being the solid rock I can stand upon. I also wondered why so many times, I try to stand on ground that isn’t solid. I look at the sinking sand around me and think, “I can make it across before I start to sink.” That is not true. Every time I try to stand on anything other than Christ, I sink deep into the quick sand. The more I struggle to get free, the deeper I sink. Why do I keep trying to stand on anything but Jesus? He is the solid rock. He holds me up in a world of sinking sand. He heals my hurts, pains, sorrows, shame, guilt, and regrets.  I am so thankful for the way God answered my prayer Sunday morning. He used the songs to minister to me. He always knows just what I need and He is always ready to point me back to him if I am only willing to listen. I pray we can learn to put aside our distractions and listen to His still quiet voice as He so deeply longs to speak to us.

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I am definitely not a fan of hospitals. The smell makes me nauseous.  In fact, I have been known to pass out from visiting someone in the hospital (I know I’m a wimp when it comes to that). I also never really know what to say. I feel awkward at times.  However, I am becoming more familiar with hospitals. I have a few memories of them that are great and a few that are not so great. I can recall visiting a grandparent in the hospital and seeing them suffer. Although I was young, I could understand they were in pain and wanting relief. I recall sitting in the hospital visiting my sister who missed a special Christmas party because she was sick and in the hospital. I felt so bad for her. And I recall watching the nurses put an iv into my child’s arm and seeing my child suffer. Those are not great moments. They make you question and hurt and cry.

However, we have those happy moments in hospitals too. I recall sitting in a hospital in Memphis, TN and holding my wife’s hand. The doctor and nurses introduced us to our newborn son. Our first child. We giggled with glee. He was perfect. And just to make sure we knew our life would be much different, he peed on me. I laughed and hugged him and kissed him. We rejoiced.

A few years later I sat beside my wife’s hospital bed again. This time we welcomed Joshua to our family. I was able to cut the cord and to follow the tradition, he also peed on me.

Those moments of holding those children were so special. they were happy moments. The hospital stay reminded me that I am blessed with wonderful children.  When they discharge papers were written, we were able to take our son home for the first time and it was an exciting moment –  a new beginning.

This week, I have also been to the hospital. this time it was for a different reason. My dad was in great pain and in bad shape. My mom, brothers, and sister sat beside him and leaned on each other for support. On Saturday, I went to the hospital and it was my first time to get to see him there. He was admitted Friday night, but I had to work and couldn’t make it until Saturday. When I walked into his room, my heart was aching. He looked so week. My dad has always been the absolute strongest man I have ever known. Now he  sat in a bed looking so feeble. It really hurt as I walked to give him a hug and he was so weak he couldn’t lift his arms high enough to give me a good hug. While I sat there looking at my dad struggling and having a hard time doing the most simple of tasks, my mind began to wander. I recalled all the lessons I have learned from my dad. He works hard everyday. He loves his family with an unconditional love. He is strong, yet he realizes everything he has comes from God. He is not a perfect man, but he reminds that we have a perfect Father who hears our prayers. While I never believed he would not make it through his surgery or the infection he had (I was confident that he would be okay), I couldn’t help but be reminded that my dad will not always be here. The reality of life is that people pass. I began to think about friends and family who have left this earth to be with God. They made an impact in the lives of many people. I was reminded that I must learn to enjoy each moment to the fullest. My is too short to spend each waking moment being stressed. I need to take full advantage of each day given me by growing closer to God and loving those around me. Gos has given us a gift. If you are reading this and you are a believer in Christ, then you have been given a gift. You had someone who cared enough about you to tell you about a Savior. Regardless of how you may be feeling right, you have an opportunity to grow in your knowledge of Christ. You have an opportunity to tell someone you love them before it is too late. you have the opportunity to live in the moment. How hard it is to live in the moment. Our minds like to drift to the past or to the future. We make plans and life passes us by. We talk about the past so much, we miss today. I am thankful for the reminder to live for today. Tomorrow will have its own problems, today I choose to live for today. I will take up my cross today and follow my Lord. I want to learn to live each day with no regrets. I have many regrets in my past. I must choose if I will learn from them and make a better decision today or if I will just focus so much on those regrets that today becomes another wasted day. Will I enjoy this moment with my kids, or will I focus so much on how I raised my voice at them yesterday that I miss this moment that can be so special? Will I spend my time focusing on how I was angry with my spouse last week, or will I choose to enjoy this moment, this day with her? Life is a series of moments. These moments pass quickly. If we are not careful, we will find our self looking at life wishing we had enjoyed those moments more. God is faithful in each moment. He is faithful as we praise Him and thank Him for letting us hold our newborn child ; He is faithful when we question why we suffer. We have a choice of how we will respond to each moment in life. Let’s choose to live for the moment. Choose to follow Christ today; love your spouse today; enjoy time with your children today. We may not get that moment tomorrow. We will not get back yesterday’s time – all we have is today, this moment. How will we use this moment? Lord, teach me to take each moment as a gift from you.

So much time has passed since I last posted. In fact, I do not know that I have updated my blog since just after the new year. So much has changed in my life and I have been trying to process it all. Life is like a roller coaster ride. It is filled with ups and downs and sudden twists that take you completely by surprise. Sometimes all we can do is hold on tight and trust we will make it through the ride safely and with a better appreciation for the calm moments.

It feels as though the last 10 months or so have been a giant roller coaster with sudden turns and corkscrews and loops with no area of straight track. It feels as though I am holding on tight and trying not to fall out. What I am learning is to trust the ride operator. God is guiding and leading and I am slowly learning to trust Him, loosen my grip on the safety bar, and enjoy the ride. In all honesty, it has been an incredibly painful  and emotional lesson, but I am thankful for what I am gaining from the ride.

Back in October, our then one-year-old son, Joshua was admitted into the hospital. We were told by the hospital staff and doctors that he was near death. We brought him in just in time. Our life was rocked. Nothing else mattered to us except making sure our baby was okay. We cried; we prayed; we worried; we stood strong; we struggled, but still trusted in God. After about a week in the hospital , he was released and doing well. This was one roller ride we did not want to experience again. We learned valuable faith lessons, but no parent wants to see their child suffer like that.

Fast forward a few weeks. I sat in my office responding to emails and working on a children’s Christmas musical for the church. An elder approached me and said I was needed in the conference room. I sat down and listened as the elders asked me to resign as children’s minister. My heart sunk. I did not know how to respond. I was always told that I was a great teacher and the kids were learning so much, yet it was explained that because of my struggle to find teachers, I needed to resign my position. Every emotion imaginable overtook my spirit: anger, fear, sadness, anxiety, and even relief. It is hard to explain. I was quite bitter for a couple of months. I felt like such a failure. I was depressed.

I struggled to find any type of work at all. I applied at retail stores, restaurants, and even fast food places. With each rejection, I sank a little lower. I finally took a job cleaning a department store and probably wouldn’t have even found that job if my brother-in-law hadn’t recommended me. I wondered what was wrong with me. I wondered how I could have my ministry taken away from me. Nothing seemed to matter at that point. Rather, I didn’t think I mattered at that point. I felt so low; so useless; so powerless. I sat in the worship service not knowing what to do. I had always had some role to fill – preach the sermon, teach the class, lead the communion, be up front, share a word of wisdom – now I just sat there. Yes, I understand that one does not need to be up front to participate in the worship and life of the church, but that was all I had ever known. Now, I felt…insignificant. All I had ever worked for was gone.

I was one the roller coaster of life and it was making me sick. I became disoriented from all the turn and sudden drops. I cried the ride operator (Jesus) for help. He didn’t stop the ride, he didn’t even slow it down –  but  he did teach me how to learn from the ride and even enjoy some of the moments. I learned a very valuable lesson. My identity is found in being God’s child – nothing more, nothing less. My identity is not a title of minister, it is not a great sermon, or a good lesson. My identity is not found in being a good teacher. My identity is not wrapped up in my ability to organize. It is not found in being an introvert or an extrovert. My identity is found in Jesus. My identity is not others expectations of me. My identity is God’s son. I had never realized I viewed my identity in being a minister and having a title, but when that was taken away, I had never felt so insignificant. I have now learned my true identity. I am God’s and He is mine.

Do I miss doing full time ministry -yes, I miss parts of it. I miss teaching and preaching. But I will not trade the valuable lesson I have learned. It nearly cost me everything, but I have gained the only thing that mattered. I have gained an understanding of my true identity.

The roller coaster did not end there. You can read about Kellie’s job change and see that God is still trying to teach us something. Sometimes, I just want to scream out, “Okay God I get it. You can stop now.” But I am so thankful for this new-found identity. It was there all along, it just took a major wake up call to realize I was burying it somewhere and didn’t even realize it.

My life looks much different today than it did a year ago. I am now a forklift operator at a local warehouse. It is so different from what I am used to and I struggle to find my place there sometimes. I used to preach about staying faithful during the darkest times of life and now I am experiencing what that means. I once talked about freedom in Christ and now I am truly experiencing it. I am God’s child – nothing more, nothing less. Lord teach me to always find my identity in you.

When we look at the world around us, we can see so much pain and suffering. It gets depressing just watching the news these days. We hear of another rape, another murder, another robbery. We see another terrorist act, another casualty in the war. We see suffering all around. Many of you can recall where you were the exact moment a tragedy such as the Oklahoma City bombing or 9/11 occurred. Bad news is all around us. Tragedy often seems to be around every corner. Human suffering invades our lives on a continual basis.

We live in unstable times. We can recall the things that once seemed so safe and how they now have been scarred. Recall the group of people shopping in a mall when someone opened fire and claimed innocent lives. The tragedy that took place at a college campus when an alienated student went on a shooting rampage. What about the people attending a worship service that is suddenly interrupted by gun fire  – it wasn’t in a communist country it was in the heartland of the United States. We live in a time of uncertainty. And the people cry out, “Where is God?” They say, “If God is such a loving God, then why did this happen? Why did He allow it? Why didn’t He stop it?” We live in uncertain times. Each day people face tragedy: loss of a loved one, unemployment, bankruptcy, victims of violence, homelessness, hunger, poverty, and the list could go on and on. And they cry out, “Where is God? Does He care? Does He even exist?”

I have faced some tragedies of my own and I have found myself asking the same questions at times. I think back to driving in the car on Christmas Eve from Oklahoma City to Muskogee after leaving my grandfather’s funeral. Christmas Eve was always such a special time in our family and yet this one carried with it the loss of a dearly loved man. I think back to those times when I felt so rejected by people. I think back to the kid who was one of the leaders in a gang who said he wanted to make a change. When he asked if I could meet with him the next day, I responded yes and as I went to the housing project where he lived and hugged the kids in the neighborhood who were my friends and talked with parents, uncles, and siblings I hear gun shots and there lies the gang member who said he wanted a better life…And I cried out, “Why?”Why didn’t I make a choice to take him home with me the night before to get him out of the neighborhood? Why did God let this happen?” Tragedy has a way of slapping us in the face and daring us to respond.

Bad news is all around us. Not much has changed over the last couple of millenia. Since the beginning of sin, people have questioned why. Since sin entered the world, bad news has been showing its ugly face. And it is in those moments of bad news that we need hope. It is in the midst of tragedy that we need peace. It is in the eye of the emotional storm that we feel helpless to control that we need to experience the calm, gentle breeze.

God looked at this world and saw the hurt and pain that seemed to have overtaken us as a people. He sent prophets to the people and he sent various messengers, yet God still seemed so distant. He still seemed so far away. God knew the perfect solution. While He would still use people, He would do something that would truly impact the world. He came into the world and walked and talked and lived among us.

Luke 2:8-11 states: And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

This time of year is a reminder that God made a decision to come to this earth in the form of a baby named Jesus. He could not sit by and watch His people suffer, he responded by becoming flesh and blood and moving into the neighborhood. He went through the trials we go through, he suffered like we suffer – that is good news. And although tragedy still occurs, we know how to deal with it because He put on flesh and blood and taught us how to live. He understands what we go through. Have you experienced the death of a loved one, he understands. Have you ever been abandoned and betrayed by a friend, he understands. Have you ever put all your effort into helping someone only to have them reject you, he knows what that is like. That is good news for us. We have a God who understands pain. That is the Christmas story, that is God being proactive. He put on flesh and entered the world as flesh and blood so you and I could have a more peaceful life. This isn’t about nativity scenes, it’s about a God who gave himself as a gift.

Jesus life was spent serving others and bringing them hope, peace, and good news. One of my favorite sayings of Jesus is this: “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” DO you need some rest? The world is full of bad news. Wouldn’t you like to take a rest. That tragedy has been heavy on your heart for so long – wouldn’t you like for him to carry it for you? That guilt and shame has taken your peace for too long now – wouldn’t you like to rest? God’s response to this suffering world is an invitation to rest. We live busy lives. We have appointments and deadlines. We have stress and burdens. We get tired and want to rest, but we say we must continue. We think we must keep carrying this weight, we must stay stressed. We feel that life is meant to be stressful, but Jesus offer rest.

When I look at the tragedies around me I wonder, “Where are you, God?” His response is that he is right here offering me some rest, but I look everywhere else. Don’t you think you have looked everywhere else long enough? Wouldn’t you like to rest in Jesus?

I have three questions for you to think about . Feel free to respond on this post or just to quietly answer these for yourself:

What personal hardship has affected your life?

How has it changed your life?

How do you need God to respond?

A Blessing

Posted: September 30, 2008 in blessings, injustice, Jesus, justice, poverty

I came across this great blessing – a challenge really from one of my college professors facebook notes. I liked it so much that I had to share it with those who read this blog.

May God bless you with discomfort
at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships
so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger
at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people
so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears
to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger and war
so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and
to turn their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness
to believe that you can make a difference in the world
so that you can do what others claim cannot be done
to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.

Amen.

In our world, it is easy to take things for granted. I take it for granted that I will get to eat when I am hungry. I will have place to sleep tonight. I have a roof over my head. I have transportation. I have access to medical care. I have a support network of friends and family.
I take that all for granted some times. I find myself complaining because it is too hot with the air conditioning off and too cool with it on. I complain because the cable goes out and I am not able to use my high speed Internet connection. I get frustrated when I am at a restaurant and my glass of sweet tea is empty. I cannot finish my meal so I get a box to take it home in.
As I type these words, I see that I am spoiled. I am blessed. How was I blessed to live in a country like this? When I start to feel that I don’t have much, I go back and look at the world all around us. Go to http://www.globalrichlist.com/ and see how wealthy you are. Check out http://www.miniature-earth.com/ and see how blessed you are to have opportunities that many do not have.
It helps me realize that I have so much that I take for granted.
I am not trying to preach a sermon on poverty, I just want to share in case you need to be reminded. I know I do.