Saturday, September 18, 2010

How Can You Love Me?

I cry out to God "How can you love me?"

Didn't you see me as a child when I looked around to see if anyone was watching while I took that candy bar and put it in my pocket without paying for it? Surely that breaks one of your rules. Or how about a few months later when I swung that roller skate around and hit my sister in the face with it? Didn't you see that? Didn't you see each and every time I told a story? Weren't you there when I was only concerned for me? Weren't you there when I didn't even claim to know who you were?

Didn't you see me as I got older and used others to find what I thought was love? Didn't you see me go through relationship after relationship after so called relationship using people and then discarding them because they could never, in my mind, give me what I needed? Didn't you see me take advantage of those less than me to feel good about myself? Didn't you see me?

Didn't you see me commit to things and then walk away? Don't you see the lack of character in me? Don't you see the selfish part of me? Don't you see how shallow I am? Don't you see my arrogance, my pride, my discontent for not so smart people?

I'm sure you saw when I walked away from responsibility, over and over again. I know you were watching as I turned my back on my friends, family, and most of all you. You had to be there when I cursed at you for giving me the family that you did. Or cursed at you for taking away that same family. You were watching as I as a young man took my needs over those needs of those who needed me. How can you possibly love me?

You had to be there when I learned to manipulate people to get what I wanted. Again using for my own selfish greed. You must have been shaking your head when I learned the true art of reverse psychology. When I could let people to talk themselves into whatever I was pitching to get them to do as I wanted. You must have turned you back when I walked away from my family to follow the god of money. You must have been disgusted with me. You couldn't possibly love me.

I cry out to God, "How can you love me?"

"Because you are my son. Because I gave you life, I breathed into you your first breath when you came from your mother's womb. Because you were created out of my love for you. Because I knew you were going to mess up before you did. Because I knew that one day your heart would be softened. Because I knew that one day you would look back on your life. But most of all, because you cry out to me, your Father, and ask me, "How can you love me?".

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sticks and Stones...

Remember that kid with the big ears? You know, the one that everybody had to point out the fact that his ears had reached adult size before his second-grade body even knew what adult meant? Or that little boy that his parents dressed up in plaid pants with a western shirt and cowboy boots? Or how about that little boy who had such great hair that his parents let it grow a little long which encouraged people to say "what a pretty GIRL"! Those of you that knew that particular little boy, knows that it was me.

It has been a really long time since I have thought about that part of my childhood. Something happened recently in my life that took me all the way back to when I was seven years old. You see, when I was a kid, I always got teased about my big ears. DUMBO was a regular name I heard. At first it bothered me to think that I was not as "normal" as the other kids with their, in my opinion, under-developed hearing appendages. I remember going home after the first time I was teased and explained to my mother what had happened. She looked down at me, told me they were jealous of my...blah blah blah. Then she gave me my zinger for the next time anything like that happens again. Just tell them "Stick and Stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!" WOW! What wisdom that was to my young gargantuan ears!

The next time anyone said anything about my...anything, I simply muttered those magic words and wallah! I felt better! That little saying got me through many years.

Eventually, I started picking out my own clothes, voiced when I thought I needed a haircut, and the rest of my body caught up to my ears, I think.

We can all remember when we were kids and used to jump in whenever someone pointed out something that was different on somebody and start chanting whatever chant the lead smarty pants came up with. Most of us have been on the receiving end of those chants also. But really, all they were were words, right?

Today, I don't play on the playground so much. Okay, maybe some. But the social setting is much different when you grow up. People learn to hold their tongues a little bit better than when they were kids, don't they? Social circles today don't have those nasty little sayings that there was when we were kids.

Hold on a sec,

Okay. Enough of the bull(ony). Fact is, grown-ups are far worse than kids!!! I hear it every day. "Did you see the ...she was wearing? Made her look like a ...!" Or, "I can't believe that he lets her..." Or, you get the point. Those are the gossipy kind of things that goes on all around us every day. Just words, right?

Here is my recent epiphany. I would rather have sticks and stones hurled at me than to hear hurtful words! My body most likely will heal, emotional scarring may never go away.

I have people in my life that I love dearly, people that I care a great deal about, casual friends, and everybody else. Of course I would like to say that I have treated everybody in the same respectful manner, but that would not be true. Ever notice that you will sometimes treat a complete stranger nicer than you sometimes treat your spouse? Ouch, I know, but think about that for a sec. When was the last time you walked up to someone at the mall and just yelled at them? Or a stranger asking you what you think is a stupid question that everyone should know the answer to, so you make them feel like they need to go back to kindergarten? Or snap at a stranger because you have just been up for the past three nights with no sleep trying to meet that deadline?

Sounds ridiculous, right? Then why do we do this to the people we know? The people we call our friends? Or even worse, the people in our own families?

If you don't have anything nice to say to someone...

Words hurt. Those of you that know me know who I am. You know my stubborn, thick headed, fearless, emotionless, nothing gets to me, self. Well...people can be mean. I know that God loves me and has created me in his image and is proud of me and looks constantly like a proud papa looks at his son. But I'm still human. I do have feelings and they do get hurt. I hate that feeling.

Why then would I be the cause of that to someone else? Why would I not treat everyone as I want to be treated? Sounds infantile, doesn't it? It should, but every day we say things because we are in a bad mood. We say things because our cable went out during the big game. We say things because we are angry, or hurt, or confused about something. We need to stop taking it out on each other and start taking it to God more! That's what he wants us to do anyway!

We need to be what we are called to be and not what we think we should be.

We need to BLESS each other and not BASH each other. I guess all I wanted to say is be kind to one another.

If I ever said anything to hurt you, I am sorry. Please forgive me.
(pass it on)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Watch Where You Are Going!

In today's world of fast paced, gotta know everything, and gotta get info right now world, it's easy to occasionally not see where you are going. I think everyone can relate to the fact that when your cell phone rings, you stop WHATEVER you are doing and see who it is that is calling you. Because we all know, that knowing whoever is calling is more important than watching the road!

Remember when things were simpler? When we were focused on one thing at a time?

I remember that as a kid, I had the same problem as I mentioned above. Since some of you know how old I am you are probably wondering what I'm talking about. There were no cell phones when I was a kid. What I am talking about is much simpler...walking.

You see, that gene that makes me look every time my phone buzzes has been with me my whole life. But in younger days, it was revealed in the simple act of walking. Here it is. Have you ever been walking forward when something happens behind you that makes you turn your head but you keep moving forward? BOOM. Every time, there seemed to be a wall that popped up that I always seemed to walk into.

One time, as a kid, I was playing football in our neighbors yard with friends from the neighborhood. I went long to catch a pass to run it into the end zone (driveway) for a touch down then do my little "I caught the ball and ran faster than you then scored" dance. At least that was my plan as I was running. I turned my head to catch the ball, then woke up laying on my back with all my friends asking me if I was OK. It seems that someone forgot to put the padding around the stone lampposts at the end of the driveway that introduced themselves to my head while I was at full gallop!

I seemed to do this a lot. Not running so much but turn around to look back while I'm moving forward and run into something. I am proud to say that my lovely bride shares that same trait and together we have installed a double portion into our son. (He has it pretty bad)

It has occurred to me here lately that we view life in the same regard. We get up in the morning and start our day. From the time we awake, we are moving forward to get things our routines done. We are moving forward.

When we get to our daily occupations, whether you clock in somewhere, or you are that underpaid mom, you are moving forward to get things accomplished. Working towards that promotion, teaching your children to say please and thank you, what ever you do, you move forward.

Recently, I discovered a truth that has laid deep within me for years, but I have ignored for a great deal of time. While I am trying to achieve my goals that I believe that God wants me to accomplish, I seemed to keep coming to a screeching halt. I never knew why I would get so off track. But here is why.

I kept looking behind me. I kept bringing up things that happened in the past and would get stuck there and that's always when I would run into that wall, by not focusing on where I was going, but worrying about where I have been.

As we go through life, we are constantly learning new things. As we move forward towards what God has created us for, we are going to have many, many, many (and for some of us, many more) trials in life. The trial is not what God wants you to focus on. It's the lesson that he wants you to learn from it. I kept getting caught up in the trial. I kept getting caught up in the "that person did that to me" part. I kept getting caught up in the "she said that about him" part. I kept getting caught up in the "I can't believe they could do such a thing" part.

It's not the parts. It's God tempering my heart to be more like his. It's the lessons that have been chosen for me to learn. I am learning not to look behind me by realizing that God is not done with me. I guess it just comes down to a matter of perspective. I will gladly remember everything that happened yesterday, but I am not going to live there. I will use the lessons that I have learned to carve a better future. I hopefully will not make some of the same mistakes...but I may. That's OK though. I will not be stopped by that wall because I am focused on what has happened, I will reflect, then keep moving forward.

I my recent revelation, I have also discovered another truth. If I am not the same me that I used to be, how can I expect that that one person from my past is the same person they used to be? God is not just working on me, he is working on them, and you, and that person that wronged you in the past. That family member you still have that grudge about that thing that they did, whatever it was, whenever it was.

Don't hit your head on the wall. Treat every day as a new one. Be thankful for all those in your life. God placed them there for a reason.

One last thing. God has forgiven you...your turn.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Chocolate or Vanilla

As it gets a little bit warmer outside, I cannot help but to reflect back to my childhood and all of the things that came along with the warm weather. The smell of the freshly cut grass, the sound of the birds chirping, and the sound of the musical jingle that every kid in America knew...the sound of the ice cream truck! You could almost hear it from miles away. Remember stopping whatever it was you were doing just to listen to hear if it really was the familiar jingle of the frozen wonders? I do. The world would stop for just a few seconds, kickball games stopped, freeze tag stopped, hide and seek stopped, and our ears perked up just to verify that sound. Remember what happened next? "ICE CREAM" someone shouted! Then there was a mad dash to our houses to beg our parents for money then back out to the curb to wait for the truck.

Then it pulled up and stopped. Our hearts raced from all of the excitement. We stood in the makeshift line of kids as we looked at the menu of treats on the side of the truck. When we were little, it seemed like the choices were endless. I, however, mostly got the same thing.


That was my favorite. Neat, clean, and to the point. I had tried others before the push up, but after many, many taste tests, I had settled on the gushy half melted when I got it push up pop.

These days, we live on a farm and don't have the neighborhood truck that drives around bringing frozen joy to children everywhere. Nope, not on the farm.

Today, we stand in the frozen food section at that big, buy everything at one place, box store, and deliberate for an hour what flavor that we can all agree on. Not quite the same. Fundamentally, we still stand and gaze until we make that decision, but still not the same.

As I look back a this wonderful event that happened at the beginning of every summer, I can't help but to notice that as an adult, I go through the same emotional process before I get to the point where I have to make a choice. Today, I don't get sooooo excited anymore, but I realize that the same thing happens every day of our lives.

You may have to bear with me here on this for a bit, but in my bean, it all makes sense.

I have come to realize that we cannot control what happens around us. I can't control the weather. I can't control the government. I can't control my neighbors. I can't control other drivers. I can't control gas prices. I can't really control much of anything except for one I react to whatever is put before me. I have the ability to CHOOSE how it, whatever it is, will affect ME. I'm not saying that I never get angry or upset, I do. But I have a choice whether or not to stay there.

I got into a rather long discussion with a friend of mine about this very subject. Maybe I am over simplifying things, but this is how "I" see it. Knowing that I have no control over anything but my ability to choose makes me go through life asking one question "God, what do YOU want me to do here?". This is where the discussion began. "Things aren't that simple", my friend says. I think they are.

I have been referred to as an eternal optimist. I look for the good in any situation. I don't think that that is the case at all. With most situations, I am simply presented with a choice as to how I will react. Do I go this way or that? If I decide to do this, how would the outcome affect me or someone around me? I have a choice. That is the one thing that God Himself doesn't even mess with. Your ability to choose. He even wants YOU to CHOOSE HIM! But you don't have to. It's up to you. In the bible it even says that the greatest gift is for those who CHOOSE to receive it. Eve even had a choice. So did Adam. So do you.

I have had a lot of hardships that I have endured in life. I have not always made the right choices. But on thing no one can argue with, is that they were MY choices. People have let me down, they will again. The church has failed me, it will again. Our government has let me down, it will again. Things around me have gone the wrong way, they will again. But GOD has never let me down, that's why my choice always goes back to him.

People used to frustrate me. One day I made a choice. They don't anymore. Simple choice. I used to get annoyed. I don't (as much) anymore. Simple choice. I used to get angry. Still do. But I choose not to stay there. Little bit harder choice.

You cannot control what happens to you or around you. All you can do is choose how YOU will react to it.

What kind of person do you choose to be? How do you choose to treat others? What kind of an example do you choose to set? What kind of father, mother, son, daughter, husband, or wife do you choose to be?

It's your choice.

Please choose wisely. If you have any questions, ask God.

Oh, one last thing...where do you CHOOSE to spend eternity?

It's your choice.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

You Don't have to Play Baseball

Little league baseball was probably on of my fondest memories as a child. Everyone in my town always made a really big deal about baseball. I mean a really big deal. On opening day we would have a parade through town where all of the teams would march int their new uniforms. The crowds on the sidewalks were filled with parents, neighbors, and anyone that happened to live around that knew about opening day. The parade would go all the way through town and end up at the baseball fields where vendors were set up. You could get hot dogs, crab cakes, lemonade, and sno-balls. At night, sometimes, there were even fireworks. Little league baseball was a big deal.

I can remember begging my parents to let me play. I was only seven or so at the time and it seemed like it was the most important thing to me. I knew that most of my school friends would be there, and some kids from other neighborhoods. I just knew that it would be fun. I really wanted to play.

My parents said yes.

Like I said, I was about seven when I started playing. I remember my first team I was ever on. I remember meeting kids that didn't go to my school. My best friend to this day was on that team. As the years went by, kids on teams get switched around, and we get to make new friends. Pretty soon every kid in town knew every kid in town because of baseball. Baseball is cool.

There are many aspects to the game. You get to hang out with your friends, you get to get dirty, you get to learn important lessons about teamwork, and most of all, you get to spend a little time with your parents to and from games. Baseball is cool.

I played shortstop mostly. Sometimes second, third, or even pitched a game or two. I was a pretty good player. Nothing ever got by me and I hit the ball more times than I missed. I got to play a lot. Baseball is cool.

My dad used to come to my games and watch me play. This made me happy since he never seemed to be to concerned with me otherwise. Whether or not that's how it was, that's how I remember. Anyway, he did come to my games. I can remember year after year he sat in the bleachers and watched me play. How I knew that he was watching is every time that I made a great play, I would look to see if he had seen it. Whenever I hit the ball between right and center to give myself more time to get to third, I would look to see if he was watching. He was. When I stole second, he was watching. When I scored the winning run, he was watching. Most of the time he was even cheering! At the sight of this I knew that he was my dad and I was his son. This was great! It seemed the better I played, the more my dad loved me. Baseball is the coolest!

This is where I learned a behavior that stayed with me through most of my life. Perform loved.

When I entered into the work world, I naturally fell into positions that were performance based. Budgets, sales goals, cost cutting, anything with a measuring stick, I became good at. I was all about performing well. This actually did me quite well in the work environment. I became the best at what I did.

I did learn the hard way that this principle doesn't fair too well in the relationship world. I have had my share of failed relationships because of my need to perform well to be loved. I spent most of my life feeling alone because I couldn't understand the difference between "what I did" and "who I was." Maybe at the time there was no difference. Baseball isn't so cool anymore.

The truth of the matter is this. God doesn't really care if I play baseball well. I AM his son and He IS my father. For God so loved the world, not because anyone was performing anything. He loved us because of who we are. Not what we do. Unconditionally. I don' t have to be a rock star. I don't have to be a surgeon. I don't have to be anything for God to love me. I just have to be me.

I love the people in my my life. I ask you to do the same.

Love is patient, love is kind, love is not when you score a home run.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Building Fences

My family lives on a farm. On the farm where we live there are cows, horses, ponies, goats, dogs, and a donkey. This means that there is fencing everywhere to keep the barnyard buddies safe.

A few weeks back, we got a little ice on the roads and I witnessed a truck skid from one side of the road to the next, down the embankment, and right through the front fence. (The driver was okay, just a little shaken) After everything got settled I remember thinking to myself "good thing he went through that side of the fence". What I meant by that was the fact that there were no animals currently in that pasture.

People usually build fences for two main reasons. One is to keep things out and the other to keep things in.

I hadn't spoken to my father for twelve years. Prior to that, and even during, there were many situations that I had felt wronged in some way or another by my father, so I thought. I started separating myself from him, building my fence one board, or wronging, at a time. As I got older and I was able to reason a little bit, I got better at building my fence. Pretty soon I was throwing up boards to separate me from him or him from me as fast as I could. One day I remember tearing down that fence that I had spent years working only to start replacing it with a wall. One big section of block at a time. Block after block after block. Pretty soon I had a rock solid barrier between me and my father. That was the beginning of the twelve years.

I had a nice wall. I maintained it well. Back when it was just a fence is when I started weed whacking around it. Anything that tried to deteriorate my wall was quickly cut down and disposed of. I liked my wall, it was serving it's purpose well. It was keeping me in, and my father out. That was it's job.

One day, as I was maintaining my wall, blaming something on my father that he didn't have anything to do with, I noticed something. I took out my ladder and climbed to the top of the wall and looked over the other side to see what my father was doing. He was going about life as normal. This made me very angry. "How can he not see my great wall?" Then it hit me.

It was MY wall. I built it. I maintained it. I trimmed around it. It was MY wall, not his. He had no idea that I was even constructing a fence. I had done such a great job of separating myself...I never let him know even about that first board. This is when I made my final decision concerning my wall. It had to come down.

What I find most interesting about God is that he doesn't mess with our ability to choose. We even have a choice when it concerns him. With my father, I made a lot of choices. My choices all were geared to separate me from him. Then one day I chose not to do that anymore. I CHOSE. Simple as that. I used my father and my wall as an excuse for every bad thing that happened to me. He was my scapegoat. This was unfair to him. I also chose not to let him know how I felt. Thus, securing the footing of my wall.
But once again, it was MY choice.

Are there any fences in your life that you have built?

Do you have a pretty good Maintenance Program?

Do you tend to your fence on a regular basis?

My fence cost me twelve years without my father. I built that fence, I maintained that fence, and now I realize that I didn't have to. No fence is that important. There is a peace in letting things go.

I hope this may be able to help someone. There are a lot of broken relationships in the world and the more people I talk to, the surprising reality is that only one side has built a fence. Yes, you may have had a giant disagreement about something, but remember this, it's YOUR choice.

As I dig up that last block in the destruction of my fence, I have one last thing to do...


I am sorry for building my fence...please forgive me.


Your Son


Monday, February 15, 2010

Garbage In- Garbage Out

"Your face is going to freeze like that!"
We have all heard our mother, grandmother, or teacher tell us these very words. That was my grandmother's immediate response whenever I made a face at my little sis. I had to stop and think for a moment as to what life would be like of my face did actually freeze with my tongue sticking out!

As I get older, I realize that things much worse are happening than peoples faces freezing in certain unbecoming positions. I think what is being pointed out in the previously mentioned statement, is that if we engage in a certain ugliness it will become a part of us.
My tongue has been sticking for a long long time.

Just like your face, when you are put in certain situations, you tend to pick up parts of that situation that become a part of you. When you are exposed to bad things, you pick up bad things. When you are exposed to good things, you pick up good things. They say that in a five year period, you become who you hang around with, what you watch, and what you read. (I don't know who "they" are so don't ask me) What I personally know is that when you go to boot camp, spend three months around well trained killing machines, you become a well trained killing machine. Slightly different, but you get the point.

I know a pastor that deliberately avoids people that are Debbie Downers. Although I personally do not agree with this, he says it's because he doesn't want the negative to rub off on him. I know that exposure to negativity is like a cancer, it can quickly spread.

How do you protect yourself from the world though? We live in a fallen world, full of ugliness, commercialism, t.v. shows that expose everything about human nature, divorce rates through the roof, I think you get the point. It seems that the bad has outweighed the good in our lives somewhere along the line. We take advise from people that have no business giving advise. We watch to see what everybody else is doing before we make a move on anything. No wonder we are referred to as sheep!!!

I think I may have rambled a little there. I will try to stay focused.

We have no choice but to live in a world that is fallen.
We will be exposed to things of the world, both good and bad.

What do we do then?

I see this very simply. If you are a Christian, as in follower of Christ, you have a built in filtration system. (For the longest time, I did not have any kind of filtering!) What I mean is, God says that we should daily read his Word. Not to memorize scripture, or be able to have that zinger when confronted about something, but for the simple fact that "you are what you eat".

I can only relate this fact as to how I see it. When I am presented with something that is worldly, my filtration system kicks in and protects me from the worldly outcome. No don't get me wrong, I do hit the override switch probably more than I should, but I eventually come back to filtering things through God. It's like your water that comes out of your tap. You could drink it and at first you would be okay. But over time those particles, or whatever is in tap water, can make you sick. So what do you do? You by a filter to protect you from the sickness. God is your filter for life. Plain and simple. I can go on forever with examples in my life where I didn't turn the switch on, but my fingers would fall off with all the typing.

This is what I know. I have made a mess of things more than once. I have run out of ways to fix things. I haven't seen hope on the other side of things. When I started going to God with things, things started to not be so bad. And even when they were, He was able to show me the other side, the CLEAN water, with no crud.

I don't know where most of you are in your life. I don't know what problems you face, or are facing. What I do know is my journey. Most of you reading this have known me at some part of that journey. Each one of you has played an important role in shaping who I have become and I thank you all for that. Above all, I thank God for putting you in my path. I thank Him for the lessons that I have learned, and hopefully along the way, one or two of you were blessed at the same time. I also thank God for the chance to be able to share what he has placed on my heart. (yes, Larry, I have one)

I hope that this may help someone. I was a big mess. Now, not so big. I pray the same for you.

When I turn around and look for my crud, it's always stuck on the cross.
Thank you, Jesus, for being my filter.