Are You Aware?

Today my bride and I made a trip to Sam’s Club. Getting into the parking lot was an experience as we had to wait for cars to move before we could even turn off the street into the parking lot. Once we parked and got inside, my wife said she wanted to look at some fuzzy house slippers to help keep her tootsies warm. Well we tried looking at them, but another lady was standing right in front of the display, and even though we were talking to each other about the house shoes, she was totally oblivious to our presence. We chose to leave and come back later, since it was obviously more important for her to make her choice than let us do likewise.

And this kind of thing happens all the time. I know it’s happened to you before, you walk into your favorite store to pick up a few items, and as you enter the doorway, the person right in front of you stops to look around and decide where they should go first. After almost running smack into them, I always think, “Are you kidding me? I mean come on, you can’t take five more steps and get out of the way of whoever might be behind you?” The trouble is, most of the time these people don’t realize there is anyone behind them, because they are not aware of their surroundings.

Now before you think this is just an old man’s rant about how people disappoint him in every day life, let me say I understand a lot of times why people do things like this, and I’m always gracious to them (at least out loud, inside my mind may be a different story). We live in a society where it’s all about “me” and what “I need”. It’s been going on a long time, ever since Burger King started telling us we could have it “our way”. But this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be aware of those around us.

I’m not talking about letting people walk all over you, but being aware of the bigger picture. Sometimes this involves me letting someone into traffic instead of forcing them to wait. I mean if I let someone in front of me, does it really take that much time off of my busy schedule? No. So I arrive at my destination thirty seconds later, it will be alright. None of us are truly in that big of a hurry.

I leave at 5:30 AM for work every day. Maybe a minute or two faster or slower, but always around the same time. For a week, there was a pickup who was also leaving at the same time. This particular truck always drove five to ten miles an hour under the posted speed limit; usually because of paying more attention to a cell phone than the signs. I found myself getting aggravated every time I would see the pickup, but then I decided what did it really matter? I mean it caused me to get to work two minutes later than I was accustomed too, but I was still on time, it really wasn’t that big of a deal.

If it really bothered me that bad, I could have left five minutes earlier. But allowing this person to get me aggravated, only hurt me, I’m pretty sure they never even knew and it didn’t bother them at all. There was a choice for me to make every morning; get aggravated and say things I probably shouldn’t, get all worked up and make my blood pressure rise, with no resolution anyway, or I could just let it go and stay calm and collected. Well I opted to stay calm and truthfully, didn’t see the truck any more after about a week.

There is an old saying which goes, you can’t keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair. What this means is there are some things which are out of your control, and there is nothing you can do about them, but the things which you can control, these you need to. I couldn’t keep the truck from leaving at the same time as me, but I could control how I would react to it. This is what it really means to be self aware.

Next time you feel the need to get aggravated or upset at something going on in your life, ask yourself, is this a bird flying over my head, or one trying to build a nest. Then fix the situation accordingly. You got this!

For the Kingdom and the King, shalom!

Where’d That Come From?

I don’t know how many times I’ve been driving in my truck, listening to some music and drifting off in thought when I arrived at my destination only to realize it wasn’t the place I was aiming for. I remember when my bride was pregnant with our third child Noah, she was plagued with kidney stones and we went to St. John’s hospital so many times my vehicle knew the way almost as if it were on autopilot. I had to physically restrain myself from taking the exit off the highway for years afterwards.

The thing is, in my life, I almost feel as if I’m on autopilot a lot of times when I arrive at something I wasn’t intending to find. I think God uses these times to reveal things to us perhaps we weren’t able to see, or perhaps have blocked from our lives. I know for me, grief is this way. It just kind of sneaks up on you from out of nowhere. And if you’re not familiar with grief, then it can be quite a shocker.

In the past ten years I’ve lost three people who were important to me; my youngest son Noah, my best friend Terry Scott and a mentor, Craig McConnell. I’ve grieved for each of them, but sometimes I don’t think we’ve fully reached the closure we need in order to continue on in life for years and years. The only thing I know about grief is it’s a real pain in the butt. I mean it may help us in the long run, but I’m all about getting things done, so I want my grief to fit into this mold; three weeks and we can move on. But unfortunately this doesn’t seem to be the case.

I was having dinner with my bride and friend Linda a few weeks ago when this topic came up and I made a statement about losing these three people and how I’ve not completely recovered from it. It just popped out of my mouth in the course of conversation, and truly wasn’t something I have given much thought too. But as I thought about the comment, some things began to fall into place. Not bad things mind you, but situations and the way I’ve been handling things for the past several years.

When something happens in our lives, we either enter into it or we pull back and wall it off. A lot of these things we wall off because of the pain or discomfort they cause us. And who wants to be put into a place of discomfort? So we wall off that area which brings with it things we may not want to directly deal with, sometimes it’s even an unconscious decision our soul makes which we aren’t truly aware of. I think this is why it takes grief so long to get out of our system.

When my youngest son committed suicide in 2010, to say I was shocked is an understatement. But I leaned into the presence of God and stood strong for my family, after all, someone had to. I’m not saying my family wasn’t strong, they were and thankfully we were all there for one another. I remember the first night lying in bed when the tears overtook my ability to hold them back. My bride’s hand on my shoulder and her softly praying for me helped so much. And for the next few weeks I was able to step back and see from the outside in, I thank God for that ability.

As write this, I do so in the room where my youngest son took his life. I transformed this place into a place where I could write words of healing and freedom to help others. This is my call, my passion and everything to me. And to do so in this room helps me to reconcile the loss of Noah, even though there’s hardly a day which goes by I don’t think about him and the man he would have been. I’m not sure it’s actually grief still, but his presence is there with me every day.

One of my mentors in becoming a more true and authentic man of God was Craig McConnell of Ransomed Heart Ministries. Even though I had only interacted with him once at a men’s weekend in Colorado, the words he shared through his blogs were like food to a starving man for me. Whenever he spoke through a podcast or video or his all too few blogs it was as if he “got” me. I understood where he was coming from and it appeared he knew me as well.

When Noah died, I reached out to the Ransomed Heart community of men I knew for prayer, and it was Craig who actually found the phone number for my business and left a voice message for me. To this day, it brings tears to my eyes when I think about it. When Craig contracted cancer it was a shock but I knew God and believed he was going to kick it. After many years of fighting it, he seemed to be on the mend, when things took a turn for the worse and the cancer aggressively took him out in a few weeks. I remember watching the memorial service online and mourning the loss of this man who had helped so many.

Within a few months of Craig’s death, my best friend Terry died unexpectedly while on a mission trip overseas. I think of him often, because you see Terry and I had this love of pop culture which we shared with each other; almost daily. We were especially fond of living out what we called “Seinfeld Moments”; these are little things we would experience which had been the subject of a Seinfeld television episode, and would text each other immediately when they happened. One of my favorites was the time we were in Hong Kong on a trip and saw an actual Kenny Roger’s Roasters restaurant. We stood in front of that sign hollering, “Kenny!” as loud as we could while people looked on. I’ve always laughed at that moment.

Grief for Terry reared it’s ugly head a few months ago, when my phone crapped out and I lost a voice mail Terry had left me on a day I was having a really difficult time. I had gotten in a habit of going back to that voice mail message when things were difficult in my life and losing it was just like losing him all over again. It was a kick to the gut, and this time I felt even more alone. Grief for the loss of my best friend is still pretty fresh and every time I see a show he would have enjoyed it makes me realize how alone I am.

Maybe you have faced grief in your time on this planet, and perhaps you’ve had better luck with it than I have, but if not, understand this one thing, when something causes it to show up, don’t add bricks to the wall, ask God what He’s wanting to do with it and move through it. As a motivational poster I saw stated, don’t run from the storm, your victory is on the other side of it. Grief is a difficult landscape to navigate to be sure, but if we will allow the Holy Spirit to work through those difficult times, we will still miss those we’ve lost, but we will end up better people able to help others who are on the same journey we’ve taken.

For the Kingdom and the King, shalom!

I Should’ve Worn My Steel Toe Boots Today

One of the things I love about God’s Word, is how it will let you know when you’ve missed the mark. As I sat listening to my Pastor teaching about the many fruits of the Holy Spirit, it occurred to me how much I was not walking in them. Ouch! God spent most of the morning stepping all over my toes; reminding me of all the times I had missed it with my boss last week.

Now one of the really cool things about God is even when He’s showing you where you’ve missed it, He does so in a way that reveals His desire for you to reach your full potential. He doesn’t do it in a way which makes you feel bad about yourself, but challenges you to do better.

As my pastor listed the nine fruits of the Spirit, it dawned on me I had missed using the first one…badly. Love is the first fruit and honestly if you get this one right, the other eight pretty much fall into place.

What does it actually mean to love however? I know a lot of people think of the mushy, hearts and roses, I love you stuff we are inundated with at Valentine’s Day when this word is used, but really this is more of a by product of love, and not actually love itself.

Scripture gives us the answer in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. It says;

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Love never fails.”

First off, in order to be sure I am walking in love, I have to ask myself a few questions; am I being patient and kind? Do I get jealous? Am I boastful, proud or rude? Do I demand my own way, am I irritable? Do I keep a list of who’s done me wrong and go over it again and again? Do I rejoice at injustice, or when truth wins out? Do I give up and lose faith? Am I always hopeful, and endure (without complaining) through every circumstance? Do I fail?

Honestly, I cannot answer these questions in a positive way right now, therefore it is evident I have not been walking in love. It’s a sad reality to face, especially at 53; you’d think I’d have this one figured out by now. The good news is though, I can make changes today and begin learning how to walk in love, changing the trajectory my life has been on. It won’t be too long until I won’t need my steel toe boots in church any more…

Living for Jesus and taking Him at His Word daily…

Let The Ignorant Be Ignorant Still

The Bible is a great book; one I believe can lead and guide you into a life you may have never expected was even possible. It is one of life’s greatest tragedies that people just don’t read it. For many, many years the general population wasn’t even allowed to read it for themselves, let alone have their own personal copy. It wasn’t until the 16th century when England’s King James commissioned it to be written in the common tongue, and the rest as they say is history. No longer do we have to have a man tell us what God is saying, we can discover all He has for us on our own.

It amazes me how many people in churches all around the world, sit in their sanctuaries waiting for their leaders to spoon feed them the Word of God. People I talk to who tell me they really don’t read the Bible, often use the excuse, “Well I didn’t go to Bible School, so there is no way for me to understand it.” How ignorant, but then the Bible does say to let the ignorant be ignorant still. (1 Corinthians 14:38) If you are a born again believer in Jesus, then the Holy Spirit dwells within your heart, and it is He who is the great teacher.

I remember back when I was a new Christian I was trying to decide what my next step was going to be; whether to just work, or go to bible school. I had been praying for weeks about it, and one night at church we had a guest speaker who walked up to me and in front of the entire congregation said, “This is what God wants me to tell you. Just as I have used ignorant and unlearned men before, I’m going to use you.” There was laughter and my friends ribbed me saying, “He just called you ignorant.” But what this man of God said to me brought peace to my heart and I knew right then that bible school was not for me.

This didn’t stop me from becoming a student of the Bible however. I have been reading it for almost thirty years now, and I am amazed every time I see something new and different that I had never seen before. Scripture says the Word is alive (Hebrews 4:12), it is unlike any book ever written or ever will be written. It leads, guides, directs and corrects us no matter how old we are, what education we have or don’t have. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to bring back to our remembrance every thing Jesus has said, which is found in the Bible. (John 14:26)

Maybe you haven’t been reading the Bible like you used to, or maybe you haven’t read it at all, let me encourage you to start today. Download the YouVersion bible app here, it has so many different translations of the bible, you’re bound to find one that appeals to you. Don’t wait, start today!

Living in a story much larger than my own…won’t you join me? You Can Do It!

Who Changes Your Mind?

“I should’ve done more!”  “I could’ve done more!” “What could I have done to make them change?”  “I should’ve said more!”  “I should’ve loved more!”  

These are all thoughts which have run through my mind at one time or another when it came to situations I’ve had in my relationships with people. These thoughts usually come during a time where things aren’t going the way I think they should, or had hoped they would. For many years I tried, (unsuccessfully I might add) to get people around me to see the error of their ways by trying to get them to live by my convictions. It took several years, and many arguments for me to realize the impossibility of this.

I really came to understand this when people would try to get me to make changes in my own life by telling me what I needed to do. I found it very aggravating when they didn’t agree with things I felt were okay in my life, and would try to force me to change. They were never able to get me to see their convictions as my own, and consequently I came to the realization I couldn’t change anyone else’s convictions either. This was one of the most freeing in days of my life too. It meant I no longer had to try and police the lives of those around me, and was finally able to focus on my life and what I was doing.

In James 4:17 it says, “Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.” Look closer at what it says here, it is sin to know what YOU ought to do and then not do it. James is not telling us to pay attention to what others are doing, he is telling us to focus on what we ought to be doing. This is where I was missing it, and where so many other people miss it too. God never called anyone to point out the mistakes or missteps of others. He called us to follow Him and to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12) In plain english this means God wants you to focus on your own walk with Him and not so much the walk of others.

I don’t mean God wants you to ignore the lives of the people around you. He wants you to be a positive influence on everyone you meet, He just doesn’t need you pointing out everything they do wrong. One of the things I’ve learned in 53 years is I already know when I’m doing something wrong and really don’t need it pointed out. Most of the time, I’m already beating myself up about it anyway. The thing which helps me the most, is seeing someone live out what I’m struggling with in a positive way. When I see someone else overcoming whatever thing I’m struggling with, then I know there is hope for me as well.

Truthfully when someone points out what I’m doing wrong and tells me about it, I just want to scream, “Don’t tell me!” like Arthur Spooner from the sitcom King of Queens. I’m sure it’s the same with you too, none of us like to be told what to do. I’ve found out if I’ll spend more time on what I’m supposed to be doing in my life and stop telling others what to do with theirs, things become much simpler. And as the old acronym K.I.S.S. says; “Keep It Simple Stupid”.

Let’s stop pointing out the things other people can do to change their lives, and work on our own. Because I believe when we get our house in order and follow the Lord the way He wants us to, it will cause those around us to do what it is says in 1 Peter 3:15;

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

Living for Jesus with an honest and transparent life…

For I Am Costanza…Lord of the Idiots

My best friend Terry and I shared a love for the television show Seinfeld. We spent many years quoting lines from this hilarious sitcom and even would call or text each other on every occasion we were able to live out a moment from the show. (Finding a Kenny Roger’s Roasters in Manila was a highlight for both of us.)

One of the more memorable and funny episodes is called The Apartment, and in it George Constanza is wearing a wedding ring in a social experiment to try and get dates with more women. Towards the end after having his plan backfire, he makes the statement, “For I am Constanza, lord of the idiots.” It makes me laugh even as I’m writing it now. I have picked up this line and use it whenever I’ve had an idiotic moment in my own life; something which happens more often than I actually care to admit.

In my fifty-three years of life on this planet, I have had plenty of opportunities to play the idiot, as I’m sure we all have. There are times however when I feel I’m actually setting the bar for idiots everywhere to be judged by. But during the times of my lunacy I don’t think this way, it’s usually after the fact. And once this realization hits me, I really feel dumb. Those are the times where I want to crawl under a rock and hide, it can be so embarrassing.

This past week at work I had a couple of extremely difficult days and a Constanza moment raised its ugly head. It was so bad one day I actually thought about fleeing; just going to my truck and leaving without saying a word to anyone. In my entire adult life I’ve never wanted to run away from anything and this shocked me. Thank God it did, because it was this shock which woke me up from my lunacy and got me to asking what was really going on my life.

These Constanza moments come to me whenever I perceive things are not going my way. It’s like my default button is to act like a fool whenever things are not going the way I want them to. Yes I realize this sounds horrible, but truth is truth, and as they say, the first step in fixing a problem is realizing you actually have one. The man who is not self-aware is the man who really has a problem. I realized the issues I’ve been having and have begun to rectify them, making the necessary changes towards becoming a better man, which will be another blog altogether.

What I want you to realize today is you’re not alone, there are millions of us out there. And just like in the Seinfeld episode as George is confessing his idiocy to Jerry, a lady in the background starts yelling out the window to the runners, “You’re all winners!” to which George says, “But suddenly a new contender has emerged.”

 

 

 

 

How Highway Driving Changed My Life

I wrote this a few years ago, thought I’d share it this morning.

Driving my bride and daughter to school this morning, I was struck with an interesting thought, at least interesting to me. As I merged our Dodge Caravan onto Interstate 44, the early morning commuter traffic seemed heavier than normal.

Accelerating my little four cylinder school bus towards the 75 mph speed limit as quickly as possible, I realized that I had become a part of a pack of vehicles in the passing lane trying to pass several semi trailers.

Wolves usually run in packs; they do so because there is safety in numbers. It is unusual to find a wolf running alone, or “lone wolf” as it is called. Also, normally being described as a lone wolf is more of a derogatory term, rather than a good one.

However driving down the busy thoroughfare with semis on my right and six cars in front of me and three more behind. It was at this time I decided while driving on a busy highway, I would prefer to be alone without anyone around me. This also revealed something in my heart; I have this tendency to want to be on my own, rather than running in a group.

Even though I can easily justify my desire on the highway; seeing the safety factor of not being dependent on the abilities of those around me and the possibilities of them making a mistake which could cause harm to my family not to mention damage to my property. In view of my own personal life however, this lone wolf attitude is not something good for me. When trying to apply the same reasoning to my personal life, it comes across as selfish and short sighted.

What this surfaces in my heart is the need to delegate more; to try not to do everything, but allow those who are running with me the opportunity to use their gifts and talents. Thank You Jesus for revealing things in my heart to help me to grow, and to help those around me have the opportunity to grow as well. Who could have known that me driving my van on a crowded highway could have brought change to my life? It’s the little things in life isn’t it?