He’s In The Room…

When I became a dad, my perception of who God the Father is changed pretty drastically.  Now, every night I tuck in my girls and we go through a big routine.  Maybe I have a soft spot based on my fear of the dark growing up that I talked about in my last post.  Maybe, I am just a softy as my wife likes to call me.

There are two truths to these times and I will start with the simpler truth.  Often, part of this routine if for me as much as it is for my little girl.  Every night after I put her in bed, she will say “daddy, sit” and point to the bed.  And I usually sit there for about 5 – 10 minutes.  It is for me, I enjoy the stillness.  I enjoy the quiet and I enjoy the moment of peace where ideas and thoughts come to me.  This simple post included.  That is for me.  It is often the only 10 – 20 minutes, I actually feel disconnected from technology and away from the noise that is daily life.  That is a time for me.

And then there is the part that is for her, and it made me think of the Lord, our Father.  It is simply this.  He’s in the room.  You see, as I sit there listening to my daughter breathe and toss and turn, I do not always respond to her.  Sometimes, the darkness in the room hides her ability to see me and she will start to cry.  I often remain silent.  I do not rush in and calm her, nor do I speak.  I simply sit and listen.  It hurts.  It is hard not to solve her problem of fear and re-asssure her that “daddy’s there”, and this is how my perspective on God has changed.

Just like she wants to cry out for me, I often cry out for Him.  I often question why I am scared in the darkness.  We all do don’t we?  I cry out for him and doubt He is there, but He is in the room.  He is always THE Father and He is helping us to grow.  He is in the room.  He hears the cries, and while it may be naive, I like to believe that on some small scale it hurts when He cannot simply rush in and calm the fears, but we must grow.

The nights I let my little girl cry for me are hard, but she must learn that even in the darkness, I will be there in the morning.  She must learn that we have to go through scary moments in order to grow.  That while it is scary and hard…your father will never give you more than you can handle.  And we know that this is true.  As a parent, you learn to become in tune with your children and you learn their cries.  You learn the ones that are scarier than I simply need comfort.  You learn the ones that are pleas for help…and so you intervene.

As I have been a father my faith has deepened and been stretched because, there are lessons that you cannot learn until you are a parent.  There are passages in scripture that take on a whole new meaning when viewed through the eyes of a parent.  As a dad, I see my heavenly father differently and while it may be selfish, He becomes more human to me.  I sympathize as He hears His son cry out on the cross in the darkness.

I see him sitting in the corner hoping that His son will remember that He is in the room.

And we all have this same blessing and gift.  We are all welcome to scream and fuss and cry out for the father, but we must also remember that even in the silence…He is in the room!

Afraid of the Dark

Confession time…I was scared of the dark for most of my life.  Since I was a kid and up until my mid-twenties, I hated being alone in the dark.  I would often watch my brother so that my mom could go to school and I hated the hour or so after I would put him to bed and was in charge of a quiet house.  As I got older and moved out, I hated being at home alone and turning the lights out.

Maybe it was the fact that my car had been broken into on two occasions, or maybe it was just the weird noises that a house makes.  But I would stay up until my body could not function any more and would have to force myself to sleep.  I would rather watch those late night infomercials selling food dehydrators and magic hoses, than turn out the light.

This was true for most of my life, then the darkness changed but I was still afraid of it.  I quit being afraid of the darkness, but went through a season of darkness in my life.  My life was consumed by darkness entering my heart.  My parents divorced and my father and I did not speak.  I went from being a strong student to one that barely passed.  I went through a rough relationship that damaged my sense of self-worth.  I also probably did plenty of damage to others on my own.  I have tried to apologize to any parties I might have hurt.  If I missed someone, I pray the Lord eases their heart and heals the wounds that I inflicted.

I went from a place of fearing darkness to letting is abide in me.  It took hold of me and I wanted to commit suicide on more than one instance.  Depression is this darkness that entered my life.  I still fight it to this day.  I still battle the urge to see myself as less than worthy of love or belonging.  I get wounded easily and the darkness can creep in from time to time.

After everything attacked me, I can safely say that the first thing that pierced the darkness and helped me to start down a different path was the Lord.  He did not reveal Himself to me in some great moment of clarity, but rather through the people that continued to love me despite my shortcomings.  These people included my family and a few close friends.  They were not pastors or priests or preachers.  They did not pray the darkness away, they simply loved me for me.

Through them, I found the strength to not take my life.  I found something worth living for.  Slowly through them, I started a journey that one day lead me to the foot of the cross.  They did not disciple me or expect me to recite scripture, they simply asked me to seek the Lord.  That is it.  They reminded me to not give Satan a foothold in my life, or he would win and deceive me.

Fast forward to college and the darkness came back.  I was once again primarily on my own.  I was not a bad person, but the depression battles became more and more frequent.  I graduated and life went on.  I battled the darkness and tried to grow in my walk, but I was afraid of the dark.  I was afraid of being nothing and being worthless.  I needed to know I had value.

I would say this is when I finally met with the Lord.  I wanted to meet Him on my terms, but we all know how that works.  I actually hit the bottom.  I found myself depressed and there He was.  I did not have a mentor, nor did I have a close-knit group of believers to help me.  I just had the promises I found in Scripture and a few books I was reading on the character of Christ. I read a book on how Christ desires a relationship with me and intimacy.  That book stirred a spark in my life and sent me on a quest.  To find the real Christ.

So I started a bible study on that very book.  It became a new source of light in my life.  For the first time, I felt like I was actually changing and revealing Christ to others.  I hoped, I was.  Through this study group, more light was found.  I met my wife here.  She loved to argue at times (or discuss with passion if you want to use those terms) but she was a light and she poured that light into my life.  From there we got married and now have two kids.  More light, more reasons to not fear the dark but rather to reveal the light.

I do not hide that I battled and still battle depression.  I get down on myself and sometimes the darkness can creep in.  But I have more and more light around me.  I have more and more reasons to seek out the light with boldness and without fear.  The Lord’s hand has been in it all and He is using it for His glory.

I never overcame the darkness, the Lord just moved enough light into my life so that I stopped being afraid.  There is always hope if we can hold on for one more day and no matter what…He loves you!

 

Convicted…

Last week was a very difficult week.  I could not shake a funk that I was in.  I just felt like it was baby peaks and extreme valleys.  I battled all week to just be ok with how everything was going.  I am not 100% certain if I was overwhelmed with everyday life, feeling beaten down, or tired.  I really did not know.

It was almost impossible for me to even step back and celebrate small victories.  It was hard for me to be content with the simple truth that I was blessed beyond measure.  It just seemed like everything was stuck in neutral or reverse.  And sadly…it was everyone else’s fault.

Or maybe that is where my mind wanted to go.  Maybe that is what I wanted to believe.  I wanted to tell myself that no one really cares about how their actions affect you or hurt you.  But that CONVICTED me…

What am I doing, or not doing that might be hurting someone else?  How are my actions affecting those people that mean the most to me.  Maybe, just maybe, I feel that everyone has a problem with me because I simply am acting like I have no care about them.  Am I not respecting what they want or need?

I ended up waking up extremely early for me on a Friday and just sitting in stillness.  I read, I prayed and I was convicted.  It was hard to look into your own heart and say, that these things need to change within you.  It is hard to say, these things hurt, but what can you really do about it?  It is hard when you truly have to accept people for who they are and not for who you want them to be in your life.

I was convinced and convicted that I cannot change anyone and more importantly, I should not want to.  They are who they are and that can hurt at times.  People have been raised in different situations and different behaviors have been accepted as good and other behaviors as bad.  I am not here to redefine good and bad based on what I want or what I expect.  That is foolish of me.

I was convicted that the only person that I can control is me.  I must look and see what I can control and what I am doing that might be hurting someone else’s walk with Christ.  If I am to call my self a Christian, then I am a part of this thing we call the Church or Body.  It is hard to be honest with ourselves in this day and age.

Culture as a whole has shifted to the “it’s someone else’s fault” model or the “if you don’t like what I do, that’s your problem” not mine.  It is always a way to shift and divert attention from ourselves.  We end up finding more and more ways to remain in the dark about how to truly grow in Christ.  He will convict you of the things that you need to let go of and change.  You will know He is speaking to you.

The question is, how will you respond?  How will you answer His call?  What are you willing to change for the betterment of His Kingdom?

Struggles

It seems this week, that many people that I know and care about are struggling.  They are facing any number of battles from stress, to relationships to just an overwhelming doubt of their own self worth and value.

The fact that anyone is struggling hurts and makes me wonder why.  It always leads to that question about why do we hurt, why do we struggle with things like depression or anger.  Why is it that as a believer, I struggle.

Believing is not enough.  I am sorry to say but simply believing does not help us.  We have been trained to say tell ourselves that we will get through this and that we will be stronger on the other side.  We are told that God does not put an obstacle in front of us that we cannot conquer.  And we truly want to believe this and we want to will our way into belief.  But believing is not enough, we must put our trust in Christ.

We must not only believe the things we tell ourselves about nature, but we must also trust that through faith we will come out on the other side.  We must believe that the sacrifices that we feel we are making, are worth it and are what the Lord desires of us in this moment.

There is growth in the struggles and the pain.  The struggle is there to increase our dependence and trust in Christ.  It is not something that is easy to accept or go through.  Depression still sucks (I battle it more than I want to admit), but I am slowly starting to see that my depression is nothing more than my letting selfishness take hold of me.  This is in my case, and I do not presume to know what everyone else is going through.

But often my struggles come because I want to fight Christ or fight with someone else so that they will do things my way or give me what I want.  My emotional struggles seem to stem from this desire of mine to control my situation and not put Christ in control or larger not trust Christ with the small details of my life.

I cannot speak to what anyone out there is dealing with, but I can encourage you to trust in the promises of the Lord…daily!

Faith RX’d – Faith Workout

Decided that the Faith RX’d Workout for today resonated with me, so here are my thoughts…

READ

Romans 5:1-11

REFLECT

Peace is something we all desire – in our relationships, in our world, and in our own hearts.  It is what we seek, but what does it really mean?  And, how is it attained?  Biblical peace is defined as “the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is” (Thayer).

So, our quest for peace is really a desire to be safe with our God.  It is a state of contentment that only comes from knowing how we stand with our God.  This week’s passage teaches the only true pathway to peace and contentment is through Christ.  “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6)

RESPOND

1.   Do you feel at peace with God?

2.   What parts of your life still lack peace – family, friendships, work, school, etc.?

3.  What times of difficulty in your life have actually helped you seek peace with God?

“But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace. (Psalm 37:11-ESV)


 

The biggest thing that I felt am impact with is the idea and notion that we should feel at peace, no matter what is going on around us.  No matter what trials and obstacles sit in front of us, peace can be found within us.  As I have gone down the rabbit hole so to speak, it seems that the human body was designed to be at peace.  That we can lead healthier lives by keeping stress down (look up the impact of cortisol on the body).

Christ desires us to see the bigger picture and that is that all the chaos and things that keep us from finding peace are irrelevant and honestly, meaningless.  The drama at the office or even within your own family is not something that we should allow to take control of our lives and distract us from the Grace that is given to us.

As I read through the verses in Romans referenced above, the fact that there is a line that can be made from perseverance to hope is something that I really needed to hear and focus on today.  I struggle with many things and a lot of them simply come down to wanting to do everything right.  I want hard work to pay off, but I often want it to pay off immediately.  And many times it seems that it is going the opposite direction.

I lack the peace that comes with BELIEVING that perseverance can and will lead to hope.  That my job(s) and my job performance are irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.  I have a higher calling and part of that begins with demonstrating peace in the storm.  I am working on finding that peace despite my circumstances and not always having the results show up when I want them.

How do you find peace in the storm?

My little girl is one…

This past weekend, I celebrated the one year birthday of my youngest.  It was a great day.  It was also a day though where I am reminded of what my commitment is to her as a father.  I have a commitment to both of my girls as a dad, just as I have a commitment to my wife as her husband.

The biggest thing that I am reminded of is that I am not perfect…I will never be the perfect dad to them.  I will make a million mistakes.  So as you turn one (and even my older one who is four) there are some things that you always need to know and remember about me.  You might call these my promises to you…

I will always love you…nothing can change that

I will not always be your friend…I have to be your parent first and that means that some times I will make decisions that you don’t agree with.

I will discipline you…see the above statement

I will fight for you and alongside you

I will do my best to set a good example for you.  When I succeed in life, I want you to see the journey that is involved.  When I fail, I want you to see someone who is not defeated.

I will make mistakes and have to apologize…so will you

I will do my best to show you what love is and keep love strong in our house.  Love isn’t always pretty, but it is worth it.

I will do my best to encourage your passions.  Always have passion for something.  Never be afraid to be different or to be passionate.

I will teach you as much as I can, but there are some lessons and decisions that you will have to make on your own.  Sometimes you might not make the best choices…it’s ok…you are allowed to fail, just not see yourself as a failure.

That is the start to the list.  I am sure there are many more things that you need to learn as you grow.  The biggest lesson is also that there is someone who loves you more than me.  As a Christian, I believe that with all my heart.  Someday you will meet this man called Jesus.  As I put together your first year, there are two songs here.  One is from me, admitting that I cannot fulfill your every need (hard truth for me) and the other is a love letter from heaven.  They are two songs that mean a lot to me, just as you do!

Happy Birthday Emma!  Daddy love you!

 

Nothing is Wasted

A lot of times, I hear people talking about shifting their paradigms or changing the way that they look at the world.  There is this notion that the lens we look at the world through is broken or just flat out the wrong lens.  So I am taking a moment to offer the following “lens” to add to your bag.  I am going to offer up the following perspective and hope that it helps you out in some small way.  I have to admit that the inspiration for this was a Jason Gray song.  I give to you, The “Nothing is Wasted” lens…

Over the course of the past month, I have struggled with many battles.  I have stood beside my wife as she buried her Pappy.  I have felt my value decline in the office I work at.  I have struggled with the idea of why do I work so hard to turn around at the end of the week and feel like, I have nothing to give my family.  I have also had plenty of highs.  I have met new people, inspired new people to try new things.  Over the course of my life, I have battled depression and fought back the temptation of suicide.  I have almost lost my brother before he saw his first birthday and like many of my generation, I survived my parents divorce.  I have questioned my faith, questioned God, and been flat out mad at Him.

But then comes this song…by probably my favorite artist.  And it is simple, it is basic and it hits me every time I listen to it.  Nothing is wasted…in the hands of our redeemer.  So what?  What does that mean to you and me.  It means simply that.  It means nothing is wasted, when we put it in his hands.  It means that when we stop looking at things from the whoa is me state or how can God do this to me, and start looking at it from the TRUTH that nothing is wasted, we can find the strength to pull through.  The strength to trust and more importantly the truth that we are loved.

Nothing is wasted.  Nothing.  NOTHING.  In the hands of OUR Redeemer.  That means the divorce that hurt at age 10…is being used by God for a purpose, if I trust Him with it.  Pappy, while the pain is there, nothing is wasted.  We start to see the lessons Pappy taught us, or anyone that we have lost has taught us.  We start to realize that the pain we feel is because of the loss of something that was never ours to begin with.  That man, belonged to our Redeemer.  Those moments of failure as a husband or a father (or a wife or a mother) are not wasted in His hands.  When we can see those moments as meaningful and powerful we might just find the lesson that the Lord is trying to teach us.

And the biggest lesson that I can take from this is for that kid that was wanting to take his own life.  Nothing is wasted…in the hands of our redeemer.  That means your life (my life) is not a waste.  I am not a waste, no matter what depression sinks in.   Nothing is wasted…not even the parts of myself that I don’t like.  The parts that scare me, the parts that are hidden.  NOTHING is wasted in the hands of our Redeemer.  I do not know who out there struggles, but STOP putting everything on your shoulders…put them in the hands of the Redeemer…Nothing is wasted!

Tonight I Didn’t Go To Bible Study…

Tonight, I did not go to Bible Study.  I pulled myself out of the loop.  I had a really rough and long day.  In the past, I might have run to this group and put on the happy face, shared my stories, my revelations, and all things me!  I could have read the chapters and been just fine.  I probably would have even been encouraged and touched by many of the brothers and sisters that are in the group because there hearts are there.

But tonight I didn’t go to Bible study…and I am still standing.  Lightning didn’t strike me down and more importantly than anything…I felt like I finally got some real time to experience Christ.

I had a terrible day and needed the Lord to do something.  I had felt abandoned and abused and on the drive home…I was reminded of the gift that is a marriage and parenthood.  The Lord tapped my shoulder and said…no matter how bad your day, I have given you these people to come home to.  They love you in spite of your flaws.  They have learned to love you and see you the same way I do…as “perfect”.  Just as you have chosen me…they have chosen you.  They trust you to be a leader in the house and set an example for them.  You not only represent them, but you represent Me.  You had better decide to love like I love.

I started to perk up and not feel quite so down.  So I rejoiced a little…and sat in silence hoping to hear more.  One might call this prayer – only I didn’t say much.

Again, I “heard” some truth…I realized it isn’t about church services and Bible studies.  It is not about religious activity but about sharing Christ.  It is not about always talking about Him.  It is not about the Scriptures I have memorized or can use to demonstrate my superiority.  It is about “sharing” or revealing or living out of Christ.  It is about Christ and when you love people, you are sharing Him.  When you choose not to judge, you are sharing Him.  When you choose to listen, you are sharing Him.  When you choose to put yourself on the cross for 15 minutes and be what one person needs you are sharing Him.

The biggest thing that kind of struck me, is they might not even know you are sharing Him with them.  He has changed me, and that is what I am sharing.  I am sharing the new me…and He is the builder of that new me.  People need to know that they are loved…unconditionally.  And that includes me.  And that is something I can do…if I am willing to let Him live through me.

And ultimately, I ended up at the Subverisve blog…It was refreshing to be reminded that I am valuable to the Body as a whole.  That while the world may dump on me, possibly even reject me, there is a place for me in the Kingdom…and bigger than that, I am a vital piece of this thing known as the Church.   I have been at the center of many a discussion or debate about the “right” way to do church.  Is it with a pastor or is it in the living room?  And tonight, I cannot say that one way is the right way, but I can say that if it points you to Christ and I mean makes Him come alive in You, then that is where you need to be.  If your church experience leaves you with knowledge and no fire or passion for the son of God, then you might want to re-evaluate where you are at.  If you cannot share the Christ that is in you, in your church world…then maybe you have to move on.  If your church life sends you out into the world feeling empty and forsaken, then it is not Christ.  The power of the Spirit from Christ will send us each out into the world ready to share Him with all.  It will allow us to love with grace and compassion.

I am reminded of a lyric from one of my favorite artists…Andrew Peterson.  In a song about marriage he has a line that goes:

“The only way to find your life, is to lay your own life down.  And I believe that’s an easy price for the life that WE have found”

I know the song is about the marriage between a man and a wife, but it is also about the marriage between Christ and the church.

The only way we find our life, that is our life in Christ, is to lay our earthly life down.  And I believe that’s an easy price to pay for the life that WE, a united body of Christ with one another and with Christ, have found.

 

Be Different…Be Relevant…Be Real!

We like to talk…I like to talk.  I like to think that what I am saying is relevant.  I like to believe that what I am sharing IS for the Lord, but I have a confession.  A lot of the time, it probably isn’t.  Don’t get me wrong, I dress it up in a nice Christian package.  I will use words like Jesus, Holy Spirit, love, forgiveness, and abide.

BUT…

The words are hollow because no one needs to hear them.  In a continuation from my last post..it is time that the words we share are relevant and not just a simple regurgitation of other things we have heard.  It is time that what we share is not something that we have said 100+ times and always seemed to get a pat on the back for.  It is time to be different…be relevant and be real.

That is to say that when we look at the verses in Scripture that encourage all to share when we gather, we take those seriously.  But we have to share what is being revealed to us.  We have to share the questions that arise in our weekly walks, in our daily walks.  We have to quit looking at the Bible, just to simply…well…look at the Bible.

I am guilty and I confess this to all my brothers and sisters out there, that I have, on occasion, phoned it in.  This though is my call and request that we finally commit to changing the script.  We have to care about those in our communities and the times that we are together needs to add to their needs being met.

I have found myself frustrated lately with things like prayer requests that only last a week.  A brother or sister will ask for prayer, only to have that request forgotten the next time we get together.  Another member in the body may be struggling with someone else during the week and we ignore it because it was not on the schedule for this week.  We must continue to read our assigned book, or to read our assigned Scriptures.  The whole time we ignore a real need that is in our midst.

It is time to be different…be relevant…be real!

If we want to witness Christ moving, we have to do two things.  The first is that we have to be honest with our brothers and sisters about what we might be struggling with…AND we as a body have to move and act on those needs.  When the Lord shows you something, share it…someone might need that reminder.  When you have a need…share it…someone might be able to meet it.  OR maybe we can meet it together.

If we are truly going to be the manifestation of Christ in this world, we have to stop being in love with the sound of our own voices…we have to stop thinking that we are simply here to share our knowledge.  We have to be like Christ and actually be in the world.  We have to be in the lives of our brothers and sisters.  We have to share our lives with our brothers and sisters.

We have to be willing to be different…be relevant…and be real…with one another.  God Bless!

New Year’s Resolution…Be a Better Believer

It is that time of year again.  It is the time of year when we all step back and look over the past year and look forward to the next year.  We put on our critical glasses and find all the areas of failure in the past year, and sprinkle in a few of our successes.  We look to the new year with all the areas we are going to improve and hope that we can make them happen.  We look into the next year with the hope of changing many things.  For many it might be something with our physical appearance.  We are going to stick to that diet, or we are going to get to the gym more than twice a month.  We are going to run more, eat less.

For those of us who are believers, we also will take this time to start beating ourselves up for not being a good enough believer.  For not loving enough, for being selfish, for failing to be perfect.  We might start making resolutions to be a better Christian, to be a better believer.  We will read the Bible more, pray more, spend more time with God.  We will bring more people into the fold.  I am here to encourage you to not think that way.  I am here to say that you cannot be a better Christian.  Or maybe I should say you cannot WILL yourself into being a better Christian.  You cannot put God and faith into a checkbox.  Reading Scripture more, will improve your relationship with Scripture.

It is impossible to be a better Christian.  It is like saying, this year I am going to be saved MORE!  Go ahead, try it.  Try to be saved more.  The truth of the matter is that salvation is not on a scale, it is a simple yes or no.  If one is drowning, and we all have been at some time in a figurative sense, and someone saves you, you are saved.  You cannot turn to your rescuer and say, next time…save me more!  What happened at Calvary took care of everything. The belief in the salvation at Calvary is what makes us Christian.  That is it.  It is FINISHED!

Sure in the new year, we can do all the things listed above, but what good are those things, if we live in a state of neglecting the relationship with the Father?  My encouragement for everyone in the New Year is to trust Him more.  That is all.  Through trusting Him more, we might find ourselves in meaningful conversations with Him as opposed to simple petitions of prayer.  As we learn to trust Him, we might find true wisdom in the Scriptures as opposed to knowledge of what 1 Corinthians 1:1 is.  We will find the life of Christ in our lives.  We will move past the mundane to-do list, and enter into His kingdom.  We will make His kingdom known to those around us by more than just our words.  We will make Him known by our love for those around us and putting the Scriptures into action.  We will use them to truly guide our lives and not just our discussions.

We will wake up one day and find the somehow without even trying we have taken on the same mission of Christ, to reveal the Kingdom of God.  We will make the Kingdom tangible and real to those around us.