Archive for the ‘christianity’ Category

The last couple of nights Joshua has been extra clingy (is that a word?).  He wants me by him constantly. While he is playing, he wants me by him. When he is laying down, he wants me by him. I love it, yet it is draining. Sometimes I just need to have a break. I feel drained. Yet, at the same time, I enjoy the fact that he loves me so much. All he wants is for his daddy to be around. He wants to know he is safe. He wants to know he is not alone. He wants to know I am near by.

I want to enjoy these moments. I know that one day he will be older and we will not get this moment back. He will be wanting to do his own thing and I will long to be near him. I pray I learn to embrace these moments.

As I think about Joshua’s desire to be near to his daddy, I am forced to think of my own relationship with God. We are encouraged to draw near to God (James 4:8).  I have to ask myself the hard question: Am I seeking to draw near to God? DO I desire to get closer to Him each day?Do I so long to be with Him that I cannot stand the idea of not being near him? Do I, like Joshua, just want to be near my daddy? I believe God wants me to be that in love with Him. He wants me to seek Him. He wants me to love being with him. He longs for me to long after him. God is my daddy and he loves his child.

I am thankful for the lessons we learn through children. My prayer is that we can all learn to love God so much we cannot stand the thought of not being near Him. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

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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.

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.

A man was very much in love with his wife. He longed to show her that he loved her. He told her that he would one day prove his love to her. He decided to show his love to her by swimming the deepest river. He was so proud of his show of love that he set out to walk across the longest desert. After accomplishing that feat, he decided to prove his love by climbing the highest mountain and shouting, “I love you!” As it turned out, his wife divorced him – he was never home.

The story above illustrates something about people. We long to be a success. We want to do things in a big way. We want to be the best at what we do. We want to prove our self worth by doing bigger, better things.   We want to be best at our careers; to be successful. We long to build the biggest companies; to plant the most churches; to grow the biggest program; to be the biggest and the best.

I have to wonder: is bigger really better? Is more really more?

In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve have it all. They are in a beautiful garden called Eden. They have have no stress, no job, no pain. They in a total state of paradise. They enjoy total fellowship with God. They have it all. Or did they? The crafty serpent enters the scene and begins to place doubt and desires for more into Adam and Eve. He approaches Eve and asks, “Did God really say ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?'” Eve responds by explaining that they could eat from any tree except the tree in the middle of the garden – if they ate from that tree, they would die. The serpent begins his crafty twist of words, “You will not surely die. God knows if eat from that tree, you will be like Him and know good from evil.”

Did you notice what happened? The serpent, in a subtle way, tells Eve she can have more. The text of Genesis 3:6-10 explains this longing for more, the giving in to the craving, and the result.

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband who was with her and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. but the Lord god called to the man, “Where are you?”

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”  Genesis 3:6-10 NIV

Adam and Eve had all they needed in the garden. It was a perfect situation; total paradise. Yet the serpent convinced them they could have more. They could have more knowledge, more power, more – so they ate the fruit. They gave into the power of more.

Have you ever noticed how we, the human race, struggle with the desire for more? We want more power, more influence, more money, we want more! We buy a new computer and it has everything we need. We are perfectly content. Our friend buys a computer that is newer and nicer and has more features and all of the sudden we want more. We want more speed, more memory, more software, more features, more compatibility. We were content, but all the sudden a seed was planted in our minds that we needed more.

We have a car that gets us from point A to point B. It has decent gas mileage and is reliable, but it seems to not be enough. We see a commercial or ride in a friend’s car that has more features. Soon we want more power, more features, better gas mileage, we want more. We are no longer content, we want more. the desire and pursuit for more begins to drive us.

We want more – but at what cost? Adam and Eve had great fellowship with God, but their desire for more caused them to be banished from the garden and suffer a disconnect from God. Their desire for more cost them everything. They ended up with more work; more pain; more suffering; more rebellion; and a murdered son. They got more than they bargained for.

I find it interesting that the first thing Adam and Eve do when their eyes are opened to their sin is to cover it up. They try to hide their sin. The fig leaves are symbolic for all of mankind to follow. We feel the need to hide and cover our sins. Their response is not one of realizing they have sinned and seeking to make it right; it is instead to realize their sin and seek to hide it – to cover it up. Our own pursuit for more often makes us want to hide. What are you trying to hide? What are you covering up? What is in your life that you do not want others to know about?

This post is titled Making a Mark. We are all making a mark in some way. Adam and Eve left a mark that has affected all of mankind. When they realized the mark sin would leave in their lives, they tried to hide from God. What will your response be? Sin has left a mark on you – will you go to God and confess your weaknesses; or will you try to hide from Him? The choice is yours – what mark will you decide to make?

Joshua’s leg was red and swollen. He found it difficult to walk and we could tell it was infected. He went to the doctor last Monday. He was prescribed a couple of antibiotics. We came back to the doctor Wednesday, he was given a shot of antibiotics. We checked him into ER on Wednesday night and he was sent home. We took him back to the doctor on Thursday and they immediately admitted him into the hospital. It was scary to Kellie and I.

We sat there at the hospital holding our precious child wanting so badly to protect him. He was given an iv with a steady flow of antibiotics. It broke our hearts to see our 1-year-old child laying there with an iv. We were not sure how bad the situation was until the doctor and nurse began to explain that when we brought him in, it was close to being fatal. That thought still haunts us.

Joshua is a strong kid and he managed a lot of smiles during his hospital stay, but what sticks out most are his screams. He hated to have anyone touch his leg, yet the doctor and nurses had to touch and examine it. They had to see that it was progressively getting better. When he was admitted, his white blood cell count was at 31,000. The normal is 5,000-10,000. He was in bad shape. The lab workers had to prick his finger to get his blood for testing. He screamed. We had to hold him down. There was a time when his iv came loose. He had to have it moved to the other arm. Three nurses and Kellie held him down. I entered the exam room as they were trying to insert the iv. He somehow managed to get a leg loose and kick one of the nurses. I came in to help. It was so hard to look at him. With tears in his eyes, he looked at Kellie and me. Though he was unable to speak verbally, his eyes and tears told us what he was thinking. “Why are you letting them hurt me? Why are you helping them hurt me? Can you pick me up and hold me? Can you tell these people who are hurting me to go away?” It broke our hearts. How do you communicate to a one year old child that we are not hurting him, but helping him? The nurses and Kellie and I knew something he didn’t know. We knew that without this pain, there would be no healing. The pain was a part of the healing process.

I learned something that day. From a father’s perspective, I did want to just pick him up, hold and comfort him, and tell the ladies with the needles to go away and leave my son alone. But had I done that…I don’t want to speculate. I realized that this pain was part of the healing process. I had an image of Jesus as he was being beaten and nailed to the cross. I thought of his prayer in the garden where he asked God if there was any other way. I thought of the pain His heavenly Father must have felt as he saw his son having nails driven through his hands and feet. Jesus words on the cross were “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” It is as though he is questioning, “Why must this happen?” And I pictured God, the heavenly Father looking down at His Son and answering, “Without pain the people have no true healing.” Without the suffering Savior, I have no healing. Without his pain, I am lost. Without his pain, I am hopeless.

I find myself sometimes looking toward the heavens and begging God, ” Why are you letting this happen? Can you make this pain stop? Can you take the hurt away? Will you make these people who are hurting me go away and leave me alone.” His quiet answer is “Without pain, my son, there is no real healing.” My pain helps me realize my need for God. My pain reminds me that although I may not realize it, my condition is severe – it is fatal. If I do not have the pain, I may not seek the doctor of my soul; the healer of my soul. Without the pain, I have no real healing. What about you? Do you have times of pain? Have they caused you to look toward the heavenly Father who is the healer of your soul? Look to Him – he has the cure for your heart’s condition. He is the healer.

I am not a fan of politics. I never have been. However, I do keep up with politics. I feel it is important to vote. I love living in a country that I am free to express myself in. I am free to vote for any candidate I choose, and for that I am thankful. I am thankful to our country’s founding fathers who laid a foundation that still stands today. I am thankful for the many men and women who give themselves in service to our country. I pray that those who gave their lives for the freedom of our nation will not be in vain. I love America. I weep for America. I pray for
America.

There are things that I hold as very important. Those things shape me and make me who I am as a person. Many of those things are labeled as politics. I must admit that I honestly struggled with this election. I struggled with who to vote for. I received lots of forwarded emails from friends and family that talked about why or why not to vote for a particular candidate. Most of the time when I researched the accusations, they came back false. I quickly dismissed those and began to wonder and pray about who I should vote for and not who others thought I should vote for.
Early on, I was really excited about Barack Obama. His work as a community leader who spent himself on behalf of the poor was something I really respected. He seemed like a man I could support. He understood challenges. He is a bi-racial man and if you work among bi-racial or African American people, you understand the challenges they face on a daily basis. I have spent most of my adult life working among poor minority families and I understand they have stuggles. I have a son who has black skin and I see the stares and hear the comments and my eyes are open to the struggles of minorities that are often sterotyped simply because their skin is darker than mine. I respected the fact that Barack Obama overcame those issues and was working to better people who were in poverty.

As for John McCain, he was not my first choice as a republican candidate. I prefered Ron Paul or Mike Huckabee. But I respected McCain. How can you not respect a man that was a P.O.W. and has done so much to serve our country? But I do not like the fact that he left his wife. Yet, in all honesty, we all fail and make mistakes – huge mistakes sometimes.

Let me say some of the things I believe and that ultimately swayed my vote. While like any other person I am concerned with the economy, I could not base my vote primarily on the economy. Something about that goes against my conscience – I never want to make a decision solely based on money. I am pro-life. I beleive that abortion is not the answer. I beleive that life starts at the moment of conception and therefore to have an abortion is take a life. I understand there are circumastances that people need to wrestle with and that I find myself wrestling with in regards to abortion. What if a person is raped? I still beleive we should not punish the child – and I understand that I have never been in that situation. What if the mother will probably die if the child is not aborted? I understand those situations are going to be tough, but ultimately I believe that abortion is taking a life.

I beleive that homosexuality is a sin. I do not know how a person can read the Bible and come to any other conclusion. Yet, I also believe that if a person is a homosexual (they are attracted to a person of the same gender) that it is not a cause for me to treat them harshly. While it is a sin, so is having sex outside of marriage – yet we seem to be more forgiving of that than homosexuality – Why the double standard?

I beleive that all people deserve to be loved and treated as being created in the image of God, yet I do not want to allow that to turn into accepting every kind of lifestyle. I love the homosexual person because God created them. Yet, I do not accept that lifestyle and do not believe God accepts it either. So I do not want to support a candidate that will compromise and make it seem perfectly acceptable for a homosexual lifestyle. Does that mean we mistreat them? No. Does that mean that we do not allow the homosexual person to be a part of our society? No. It means that we love the homosexual person with a true, authentic, genuine, Christ-like love while not compromising and being acceptable of the homosexual lifestyle.

So, you may have guessed that I voted for McCain. I will say it was not as easy as it has been in the past. I did not see a lot in McCain that would change the current situations we are facing as a nation. I loved the message of change that Obama kept talking about. Yet there was never any specific examples of the change. It seemed as though he really believed in the change, yet I question whether things will be any different. I think it is unfair that the very people who kept talking about Sarah Palin’s lack of experience (I agree) overlooked Obama’s lack of executive experience as well. Those who said Palin never answered a question directly (and, once again, I agree) overlooked the fact that it seemed Obama rarely answered a question directly either.

So, as a man who loves all people I want to congratulate Obama. I am so glad to see that we have come so far in regard to race. I love diversity. That is part of what I love about the United States. We have so many different cultures and different people groups, yet we are all people. God does not look at the outward man and neither should we. One of my American heroes is Martin Luther King, Jr. I wish he could have lived long enough to see a man of dark skin become president. I still believe in his dream. And every time I look into my son’s eyes I believe it even more. So, I celebrate the fact that our country is learning to overcome racism. While I do not agree with Obama on the issues, I can rejoice in the victory that we are learning to get along.

Let me conclude (as this post is getting extremely long) that as a Christian, my hope and trust is in God. No political system will ever solve the greatest problems we face as human beings. No political system has ever cured world hunger. No political system can make everything right. But God can! When we seek afted God, we can make a difference. When we give God total control, then true change will take place. So I must be honest and ask myself – do I vote for helping the poor? That vote is not for a presidential candidate, it is for getting off my couch and going to the poor and serving them. Do I want to see a world where people are free from homesexuality? Then I must learn to stop holding picket signs and start loving the homsexual person with a deep, Christ-like love and perhaps they will see I actually live out what I claim to believe. Do we value the sanctity of marriage? We fight to make sure that marriage is not granted to homosexuals, but do we fight just as hard to protect families from divorce? Divorce rates are just as high among Christians as they are among non-Christians. Do we value life? We fight against abortion, but do we treat people with the love and respect they deserve as being created in the image of God? Do we spend ourselves on behalf of the poor? Are we reaching out to all people in the name of Jesus? Are we showing love? Do people look at us and say, “I want what they have,” or do they look at us and say, “Those people claim to follow Jesus, but they are so full of hatred.” Are we showing Jesus to the people around us? While I think it is important to vote on election day, I think it is so much more important to live out what we claim to beleive every day. Are you pro-life? then honor the life of each person and treat them in a Christ-like manner? Do you want to see poverty come to an end? Then spend your life on behalf of the poor and marginalized? Do you want to see all people have a voice? Then speak on behalf of those whose voices are not heard. Don’t just say it – LIVE IT!!