Afflictions Eclipsed By Glory

Stealing a line from a David Crowder Band song, the phrase clicked this morning, shortly after reading the books of 1st, 2nd & 3rd John.  I have been the worst offender of late, getting caught up in the circumstances and frustrations of life and the seemingly, never-ending on-goings thereof.

Never-ending on-goings. There’s a paradox for the day.  Say that five times and smile. You’ll feel better.

During the same period of time, the radio dj of the christian station that I was tuned into, shared a concept that a co-worker expressed,that in the gyms, the rooms don’t have clocks, so that you stay focused. Alternatively, the dj shared that being aware of the time helps focus on the fact that it will end.

I realized that been a significant portion of my frustration has been, partly in wondering if it will end (which I know it will), but when it will end…which obviously remains unknown.

The pessimist is me thinks it will be 1 day short of 40 yrs, so when I ask God what took so long, heavenly sarcasm comes forth with the following response: “Well, it was shorter than the Israelites’ time in the sand.”

Never the less…while the times and plans and purposes for the circumstance and struggles we face are frustratingly difficult to navigate, it is the over-shadowing glory of God that illuminate our way through this time we call life.

The same dj also shared, that the original word for Yahweh had no vowels. When written, appeared as Y H W H.  It practically rolls of the tongue, almost without effort…like breathing.  So as we have been given the breath of life, so our breathing can be considered a form of worship to the giver of Life. A pretty powerful concept, seemingly reinforced through numerous scriptures where we are encouraged to “trust in the Lord” and “cast all our cares on Him” or the one I struggle with most; “be anxious about nothing.”

Easier said than done, God!

To which I can hear the sarcasm again…

“Easier than breathing?”

No…breathing is easier.

“Then do that… and let me work out what I will.”

In the end, what would your rather remember. On what would you rather devote your time, energy, focus and resources? The cares of the world, which will pass away anyway or His glory which never fades and His Word, which will never return void.

The afflictions are only made more frustrating when God isn’t glorified in them. Then it feels like a waste. An unworthy cause. An undo process. An incompletion.

There is no half-way or half-done. Unbound by space and time, God sees completion and wholeness and is the same, in his character.

My present struggles pail in comparison to the greatness of God. Yet, God, in His greatness cares for my present struggles.

Afflictions Eclipsed By His Glory.

I need to make the effort to focus on God more. Perhaps things will change, if for nothing more than my focus will have changed and then we’ll gain some traction in accomplishing the plans and purposed He desires to fulfill in and through my life, as well as your own life.

What Future “Selfies” Want To Know!

Well…has it changed?

Did you do yesterday what you said you would do tomorrow?

Did you learn your lesson(s)?

Did you fail at repeating same mistakes?

Did you defeat procrastination?

Did you become what you always looked up to?

Are you still wishing or finally living?

I hope for the sake of Christ, you have influenced the Kingdom of God

I hope for the sake of Christ, you put yourself together and made in impact in the world

I hope for the sake of humanity, that you have lived honorably; with integrity.

I hope for the sake of humanity, that you were not a burden to those around you… that you did not wear them out with your frustration.

I hope for the sake of your family, that they thank God for how you have lived and what you have accomplished.

I hope for the sake of your family, that you have lived real & genuine… having known God and kept the faith.

Have you found and fulfilled your purpose? For it would be a shame that you wasted your life on something other than that which someone was waiting for that was of the utmost importance and relevance.

I trust for your sake, that you did not hide or bury your talent in the dirt. For you would be deemed as stupid as you once thought that you were. And we both know, you are not.

I hope for the sake of the world, that you raised your children in the fear of God, not the fear of Dad. Not that you aren’t important, but unlike God, you will one day be gone from their lives.

Have they discovered their calling? Fulfilled their purpose? Did you teach them how to do that, since you once struggled with the same?

Are they prepared to take on the world, not because of who they are, but because they know the power of Christ of with them?

Do your enemies envy your life…not because of your self-greatness, but because of the great blessing of God upon you?

Have you learned from the generation before you?

Have you participated in the generation you live?

Have you taught the generation that follows you?

You used to try and get as much as you could for one dollar. Have you offered the same value from your one life?

Have you produced as much as you have consumed? For one who always takes is a leach. One who contributes will be sought after, shared and respected. That which simply takes up space and collects dust is often not kept for long.

Have you learned to live in a manner of which no one in your circle of influence desires to rid of you or have you leave their life? For if no one will miss your passing, then perhaps you have made the mistake of passing through life without participating in the lives of those who needed you most.

How I Almost Missed God

For the past three weeks now, I have found myself attending a church service, not of my home church…all 3, in fact, far from home. Interestingly enough, the themes built upon each other…in sequential order of all things. The first two tied into how we focus on our circumstances, then proceed to doubt our ability, when we should believe that we are indeed capable of great accomplishments. The alternative, is that we focus on the same circumstances, then proceed to doubt God’s ability to bring us through what seems insurmountable. Both these sermons utilize the story of the 12 spies of Israel that checked out the land of Canaan, promised to the people of Israel.

The third and latest service, discussed again, how we miss the greater picture. We ignore God and His Word and what He calls us to do and be and how to live…we do things our way, diss those who have mistreated us, get all bummed about the affairs of life and then wonder why God’s not there, not speaking, not helping us out of our plight. We do the opposite of what King David did, which was to acknowledge, despite the storms of life, that his good days outweighed the bad.

OUTWEIGH. He gave more worth, focus and attention to the good that had transpired in his life and what God had done for him on his behalf; sentiments later re-iterated by the Apostle Paul writing more on than one occasion, his circumstances “serving to advance the gospel” and his ability to be content regardless, as he had known plenty as well as insufficiency.

So, even as those in the third service were challenged, so was I, in that God does work in our lives, but it’s only recognized if we are paying attention to it. Spending time with God with His Word.

Meditating…reflecting…focusing…concentrated thinking.

So I sit with my Bible and find myself, getting drawn back to Scripture… Proverbs 29 leads to looking up a passage in Deuteronomy which results in reading the last 14 chapters of Job. (29-42)

Job, in an entire conversation with his wife, 3 friends, a man named Elihu and God, work out a righteous man’s worst nightmare. And in the end of it, Job acknowledges before God and man what many in modern society fail to recognize the respond appropriately with:

…”I know that you can do all things…surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things to wonderful for me to know…therefore I despise myself and repent…” Job 42:1-6

What does this have to do with my missing God?

The first service, I ended up attending because I made a bad decision. But God had me there for a reason. The second service was a prompting, that that was the particular church I was to be at the Sunday following the first service. I thought otherwise, but couldn’t shake what I genuinely believe was God directing…don’t look for a closer church; I told you where I want you to go. So I did.

And the third service? Yet again, God arranged the day for me to be a in particular area. I pick a church to attend, only to get there and hear that service was cancelled…a pipe had burst earlier that very day.  I check the GPS for surrounding services…4 nearby churches weren’t even having services that evening. Finally call on a church and service had started 20 minutes prior to my call. “Really God? Is it gonna be worth it go?”

So, it’s the next closest one….I guess this where I’m supposed to go. And God knows what He is doing and where he is placing me to get my attention and help me understand.

It’s what we all need to understand.

When we do as Job did and speak of things we do not understand, we do what the Lord describes Job as having done: “Obscure [His] counsel without knowledge.”

This is how we miss God. Three occasions, I could have dug my heels in frustration to my circumstances…this isn’t working out and I’m not bothering to go to church. The first service…I was that frustrated. That decision 2 days before, I really struggled with, for most of the week that followed.

The second service wasn’t exactly next door. I had to decide the night before, if that’s the church I was going to step into the next morning.

And who but God directs you to one church, by having the pipe burst in the attic of another church…the Pastor, by the way told me had left a meeting early that morning to head back to the church and it burst just minutes after his arrival. He’s been at the church 6 yrs and didn’t know there were even water pipes in the attic.

I did actually consider still not going to that third service because they were going to be 25-30 minutes into when I arrived. Yet it was still a powerful, practical, relevant message.

Funny enough, the pastor of the 3rd service was talking about how we blame our bad decisions on outside influences or people or the devil. Yet, step into any jail cell and ask them about the moments leading up to the arrest and you’ll hear “Something told me NOT to do it…just knew, something wasn’t right” We don’t hesitate for he or she or they made me. Adam says “This woman you gave me.” Eve says, “the serpent deceived me”. Yet when our spirit is prompted by advance notice, we don’t attribute to God watching out for us, but it’s “something told me.”

How belittling to God. And this how we miss Him. Failing to recognize His desire for relationship with us, we’re quick to tell everyone our troubles and fail to trust God. Or if your me, spend more time online wasting time than on my knees in prayer, investing time.

God is working out the details of your life, as much as He is mine. But if you are not looking for His way, especially when things are not working out “your” way, you’ll miss Him. I was watching an episode of The West Wing the other night, and Chief of Staff Leo McGarry is trying to push for the Defense Missile Shield. During the test run, the target is missed…by 137 miles. While discussing with some senior staff the results, Toby asks how much the miss was and embarrassed, Leo says something to the effect…”it doesn’t really matter”, as a miss is a miss…by how much is irrelevant.

This is how it is with God and the Kingdom of Heaven. Close isn’t gonna cut it. The only that is going to matter that can be described by the word “close” is our relationship with God. And there will be evidence to support that, just like one would ask what makes you close with your best friend or your spouse. And it needs to be deeper than, “Well we were tight back in college” or “We live under the same roof.”

Like any great friendship or marriage, your relationship is never complete. You can always be closer. And God has literally had me travel many miles to help me realize that I could and need to be closer in my walk with Him.

Don’t let your circumstance obscure your knowledge of Him or interfere with your ability to draw closer to Him.

How I Survived The Bullies…

…does it still count that it was before the days of social media??

Probably, yes. Because for the select few that really went out of their way to pick on me, they would not have access to my facebook page. My parents, to their credit, would have been pretty selective in watching and teaching me discernment on who I connected with on line and what got posted. I know this for a fact, because even in adulthood, every once in a while, one of them inquires offline, about something I posted online. *Love you, Mom & Dad.

To their credit, I still factor in the quality of my relationships with people in real-life to interacting with them online. Why do I do this? Because communicating in real life is challenging enough, with facial expressions and body-language, non-verbal and verbal cues and environments, background noises and who knows what else.  Plus, who knows every emoticon symbol and how many of them need to be included in your post, to truly express your excitement, sadness, sympathy, empathy, or how hard you hit the ground from falling out of your chair, you were laughing so hard.

That being said (or typed-out for you those that thrive on technicalities), real-life drama and the reduction thereof consumes enough time and energy and skill. Such drama online has caused people to simply check-out from the activity or worse, the relationship altogether. Granted, that may not be a bad idea at times, but how often does such a break happen or is even needed in real-life?

Having heard all the crazy stories about online bullying, I’m glad my experience happened long before such incredibly powerful technology fit in the palm of your hand and could be shared with the world. I retain my belief, though, that what brought me through still applies.

1) Strong family-support system.

I can’t recount the times I came home frustrated over some kid behaving like a jerk, picking on some physical feature or attribute that I had no control. Often times I was in tears. Was it worth crying over? As my brother continues to advise me, even to this day, on larger matters of life, “In 100 years, will this even matter?” Inevitably, the answer is and always was, no. But in grade school, with few friends, it’s hard to imagine 30-something years down the road, being able to share your thoughts on the matter with who knows how many readers of blogs. So yes, at the time, it might not have been worth it, but it seemed like it.

My parents, however, almost daily, depending on the events, repeated the statement: “God loves you and we love you and that’s all that matters.” My brother was usually there when it was said, so I knew he was part of the “we”, and if for some reason he wasn’t in the conversation, they made a point to include him specifically for loving me.” Those constant words of affection drove home the point, that my identity was in Christ and what God thought of me and not man. Furthermore, they reinforced the principle that if someone is not going to get to know you and spend time with you based on the positive things about you, then what they negatively say about you really doesn’t carry much weight….in fact, none to be exact.

The difference between criticism and constructive criticism, is whether or not, at the end of the statement, you have been given something you can use to make yourself or the circumstances better.

Otherwise, they’re just expressing negativity, which probably comes from a negative attitude or spirit and unless they admits a willingness to change that about themselves, then is really no reason why they shouldn’t carry it themselves and take it somewhere else.

2) Strong church involvement.

My family has attended and been involved in church since before I was born. And even though, I attended Christian schools since I was 5, it didn’t mean every kid exhibited Christ-like behavior and attitudes. This was especially true, as I got older and parent thought their problem kid in public school would suddenly get their act together in a private, or Christian-setting. I don’t deny the possibility of that happening and I now, understand parents motivation for hoping it might help, but often it did not. Please don’t take this the wrong way…I’ve had many friends do well in public education and many more who went into education for a profession. I have read and understand the arguments for the education system in this country being broken on many levels, and particularly in the public sector. I don’t say that to say Christian schools are inherently better…that’s a decision that each family needs to make.

I state these things though, to bring a point of understanding to the fact that the culture is different b/w schools, both public and private. I switched from one Christian school to another Christian school during my Junior year, and even there, the culture difference was noticeable…so much so, in fact, that I came home that first day and asked “Why didn’t we make this decision sooner?” If you have a problem child in school and a change needs to be made, I understand that decision and I pray you get wisdom regarding the matter. But having been on the receiving end of someone’s kid with a bad attitude, expect some hard conversations, and meetings, with upset kids and unhappy parents. I know it’s hard for you as well and that’s why a change was made, but it’s not gonna happen over-night; and the kid is gonna do quite a bit more disrupting before it catches up to their life. So……*deep breath. How does that play into a strong church environment? Culture.

Compared to school, the kids at church were different. They wanted to be there, it was fun and engaging and they were coming from homes that exhibited Christian values and beliefs. Having such an environment reinforced what Mom & Dad were teaching at home and church was a place outside the classroom where you could get to know people and hang out, after church or on weekends. This was especially true once I got my license. I think my friend Ben and I were hanging out after every service and or every Friday or Saturday night. Ben’s Mom quickly become my adopted mom and Ben’s little brother, my little brother (which worked out well, since Ben was the oldest and I was the youngest.) And then there was Erin. She was and is an incredible woman of God. The three of us had great times. Church was the place that I got make true friends, that we could laugh and joke and share life and learn about God. And obviously good teachers and pastors played a substantial role in the process.

The value obtained there was a force-field against the knuckleheads who working on their career as class clown. Or the transferred, “problem kid” practicing their pitching arm with an orange while in the classroom. I think my head was supposed to be the glove, but I ducked and ended up wearing the orange as it shattered against the brick wall next me. *true story.

3) Speaking of Teachers and Pastors…

The teacher I had during my 3rd-4th grade years was incredible. To this day, she remains one of my favorites. Mostly, because I remember her paying close attention to knowing what transpired in her classroom. This, being an important characteristic when being a victim of bullying, as inevitably, when questioned, the bully’s default response is something along the lines: “What? I didn’t do anything! It was his fault…he started it.”  Almost sounds like some politicians, these days.

I remember one instance in particular where she stood up for me, and I remember the person who got in trouble and what was required of that student, when the teacher said….”OK, the next person who……” (I don’t remember the rest of the line.) But I remember what happened a few minutes later when “next” happened. I don’t know if she’ll see this or remember the incident, but I do and I remember she was in tears. Not sure if it was genuine sorrow or bummed she got caught, but a teacher who stood up for this kid made my day. And it wasn’t that she got in trouble. It was that I was defended as being a person of value…and obviously, almost 30 years later, it was engrained for life.

4) This too shall pass.

Famous last words from friends and extended family members. An aunt in particular, who continues to pray and speak blessing over me. I believe that to still be true, from the notes she sends at birthdays and during Christmas. And when I was younger and they lived in-state or we would visit when they moved away, she would re-affirm, God had a plan for my life. The continual reminders that school was for an education, not a social life; that kids will be kids and some will never truly grow-up, that my worth was in the eyes of God and not in man…these were hard points to comprehend at times and keep in focus, but the fact that they were coming from trust-worthy adults who had my best interests at heart carried a lot more weight than a problem kid w/ acne and good throwing arm or another who was probably a little overweight. Which bears stating….each of us have our inadequacies and we each need to learn to deal with them in our own way. If it’s something you can change and are desirous to do so, then what are you waiting for. If it can’t be changed or the desire isn’t there, then ultimately you have to live with it.

It boils down to this…”Are you comfortable with you?”

Others might have opinions and suggestions on the matter, but again, that is ultimately their comfort level and not yours.

So how do I know survived and came out thriving?

Because someone dared to speak up, speak the truth and follow-through on their actions.

My parents and brother remain among the biggest believers in me. They feel for me when life gets rough, pray over me and offer me encouragement and advice.

I have remained involved in church, throughout college and adulthood. I know who I am in Christ and that God values who I am and that He has a plan and purpose for my life. To this day, my closest friends and second families have come from churches I have attended over the years, and even when I’ve changed churches, those relationships still exist.

The bullying passed. I learned valuable, life lessons of discernment and to this day, I carefully consider my level of interaction with friends and acquaintances and who is trusted with what info. The Bible calls it “guard your heart.” It is a skill worth perfecting, because a damaged heart will cause more damage until it’s repaired.

Repairing of the heart does happen. With time. Through love. By examination. The orange story was embarrassing. Now, it’s pretty hilarious. Being told God loves you and has a purpose for life outweighs any worthless words of a person who hasn’t been told or experienced God’s love and purpose themselves. In fact, that’s probably how you should respond. Examining those situations will help you understand yourself and others and the cause behind it. Come to think of it, it was through examination, that my response was never a physical altercation. Sure, I threw out some responses that caused more static and I realized I probably should have stayed quiet. Especially when talking with Dad and he would ask me why I didn’t stay quiet. He and I have even shared moments, years later and thought, maybe just once I should have defended myself physically. But somewhere in there, not doing so, really was taking the high road.

I love my family. I love my friends. I love my wife and kids. And while I’ve had plenty of life moments of “why isn’t this working out like I want it”, this remains….life will move forward.

You can engage, make the most of it and live life to the fullest.

You can sit static and let yesterday repeat itself.

One decision is significantly more healthy for you than the other.

Thanks for reading. I hope this helps.

Welcome 2014… And The Words Of George Carlin That Remain Profound.

Came across the sage wisdom of George Carlin, posted on Pinterest, of all places, and since we are barely 90 minutes into 2014, I thought these words appropriate as we envision the coming year.

May 2014 be the best year ever and may God bless you all. Thanks for the reads, comments, likes and shares of the posts on this blog to date.

“The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness. We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to life not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We’ve done larger things, but not better things. We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We’ve conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less. These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete. Remember to spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever. Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side. Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn’t cost a cent. Remember, to say, ‘I love you’ to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you. Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again. Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind. And always remember, life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by those moments that take our breath away.”  – George Carlin

I AM NOT.

Two brothers were talking on the phone one night, the younger, incredibly frustrated, again, about how things were going in his life, each situation seemingly compounding on each, making figuring what to do in each category border-line depressing. The older brother, in his wisdom, attained through his own battles, suggested that perhaps something was amiss with God…not necessarily a lack of faith or salvation being questioned, but as we do from time to time, trying to figure what in the world is going on and why God is working the way He is.

If confession is good for the soul, then it should be interesting to see what transpires next. The following words, as written by the younger brother, the night following that phone call.

Dear God.

I know I am yours, yet I feel that I am not.
I know you care, yet I feel forgotten.
I know you are providing, but it feels that it’s just towards more frustration.
I know you have made me whole, yet something is missing.

You’ve given me time and I’ve wasted it.
You’ve given me talent and I’ve buried it.
You’ve given me opportunity and I’ve missed it.
You’ve given me chances and I’ve blown it.
You’ve given me blessings and I’ve complained about it.
You’ve given me a body and I’ve neglected it.
You’ve given me a voice and I’ve silenced it.
You’ve given me life and I’ve destroyed it.

You’ve given me everything and I’ve done nothing.

You’ve prepared me for greatness and I’ve settled for mediocre.

My problem isn’t really with you. It is with myself.
And yet to begin working on myself, I have to sort this out with you.

I can’t do this on my own, as I have often tried.
I have only succeeded in failing… backwards in sin, instead of forward in grace.

I can’t pinpoint the problem, but You are the solution.

I don’t have it without you.
I can’t implement it without you.
I can’t manage it without you.
I can’t succeed in it without you.

You never fail and I forever will.
Thus, my circumstance won’t change as I long as I think it’s on me to change it.
I know I have a part in making it happen, though, therefore, I need you. Now.

Come in Your sovereignty. Quickly.
Come in Your majesty. Quickly.
Come in Your glory. Quickly.

Before I fall again.
Before I fail again.
Before I miss again.

It’s Your will. Not my way.
It’s Your plan. Not my idea.
It’s Your purpose. Not my position.

It’s all You. None of me.

God says to man: “I am”.
This man says to God: “I am not.”

*and if the conversation were to continue, I think God would smile and say: “Good, now that we got that out of the way…”

The Marriage Bed

While I have come across a number of articles and blog posts recently regarding marriage difficulties and abstinence among those not yet married, this “joke” showed up in the “What’ Hot” section of my Google+ news feed.

While, sadly humorous, this is exactly what society has created as acceptable after decades of attacks on conservative and moral values.  This is the best example yet of why we need to be careful the priorities we pass to the next generation…as well as why the current generation needs to get its’ act together.

Son:”Daddy, I fell in love & want to date this awesome girl!” Father: “That’s great son. Who is she?” Son: “It’s Sandra, the neighbor’s daughter” Father: “Ohhh I wish you hadn’t said that. I have to tell you something son, but you must promise not to tell your mother. Sandra is actually your sister. “The boy is naturally bummed out, but a couple of months later … Son: “Daddy, I fell in love again n she is even hotter!” Father: “That’s great son. Who is she?” Son: “It’s Angela, the other neighbor’s daughter.” Father: “Ohhhh I wish you hadn’t said that.Angela is also your sister.” This went on couple of times and the son was so mad, he went straight to his mother crying. Son: “Mom I am so mad at dad! I fell in love with six girls but I can’t date any of them because dad is their father!” The mother hugs him affectionately and says: “My love, you can date whoever you want. Don’t listen to him. He isn’t your father

Every relationship you have before you get married, will in some shape and form make an impact on how you handle and manage your marriage.  A part of your heart and soul is invested each and every time and its’ impact is profound when any level of sexual involvement is found outside the realm of marriage.

 

 

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