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!

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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!

Two Movies…Two Vastly Different Messages…Unconditional Love and Knowledge

Tonight, I actually watched two movies.  I took a break from my usual routine with my wife and girls out of town to go out.  I watched two movies that made one think about their purpose here on earth.  What are we supposed to do with our time.  For the record, I watched “Lucy” and “God’s Not Dead”.  While, I am obviously a believer in the Lord above and Christ, this is not my attempt to say one movie was better than the other.  It is not my attempt to even say that both movies were not interesting.  There were good points to both.

I would even say that “God’s Not Dead” does not touch on what the first stirred in my from a belief standpoint.  The truth of the matter is that after watching the first, I felt that I was pulled into the world of trying to figure out what it would look like for us to live up to our full potential.  This is not to say what would life would look like if we used 100% of our brain, but about recognizing what our highest calling is.  As I watched the first movie, I saw what one person would do in order to serve themselves and serve the world at large.  It was based on knowledge and understanding how things work.  There were some great things touched on about our interconnectedness with each other and the world around us.  But ultimately terrible things were done in the name of protecting this gift of knowledge and ultimately power.

For me though, I struggled with this as I am a firm believer that to reach our true potential we must learn to live and love unconditionally.  This is just my opinion and I am always willing to be proven wrong.  But in my life, the greatest piece of growth that I have had comes through giving of myself.  I have had people tell me that I need to take care of myself and not everyone else, but the truth of the matter is that by serving, I recharge.  I do struggle, I do find it hard to give some days.  I get angry, I want to quit, I want to run from the people that I think might take advantage of me.  But I also recognize that the people that push my buttons, probably need someone to not have conditions on helping them.

I would say that if we truly want to advance to our highest self, then we must always be willing to give.  We must be willing to let go of all the things that we hold so tightly and give those away.  That is the way that we pass on the power of who we are to others.  This world is crazy right now; wars all over and economic scares.  But we get over all of that through finding ways to love and sometimes that means loving someone who seems unlovable.  For me that is what it means to be Christ-like.  For me personally, to withhold love is to judge.  To withhold love is to fail to acknowledge that we are fallen and that I am undeserving of love.

What a lot of things boil down to for me, is ultimately what do I value?  What has the higher price in my opinion?  You see, to me…love has the higher value.  And I say that simply because knowledge is rather easily attainable and cannot truly be lost.  Other people can acquire the same knowledge and we can always be pushed to gain more knowledge.  Love on the other hand, and more importantly unconditional love, is something that cannot be attained through our desire to have it.  We cannot be loved by someone because we want it…they must give it.  Someone has to give a piece of themselves to you and they trust you with that.  We do it as parents, spouses, brothers and sisters  (although that can feel forced at times).  We do it in our friendships and we do it as the sons and daughters of our parents as we mature.  We choose to love them and give of ourselves for them and instead of dealing out pain for the acquisition of knowledge, when we love we take on most of the pain for the sake of those we love.

We are willing to accept someone else’s burden and take ownership of it when we love them.  Love seems to be the ultimate calling for us as it is to accept that we will hurt and be okay with it.  It is to accept the truth that when we love someone without conditions, then we are living out this thing we call faith.  Genuine unconditional love, is the message of the cross.  It is an amazing message that we often miss in our daily lives.  And other times, we say that we know that is the message of the cross with our mouths, but we do not believe it.

I have learned in my life that it is not about proving how much one knows.  I have learned that there are people smarter than me with more knowledge than me.  I used to get into arguments to prove my faith was strong.  I would debate and study and acquired vast amounts of knowledge about my faith and other faiths.  I had this arsenal of knowledge and no matter how many arguments or debates I entered, I was doing little good or furthering the kingdom in any way.

But what happens when one chooses love?

My Life…How I Became Whole

And here we are at the conclusion of this little series.  Here we are at the most recent point in my life.  It is the reunion show at the end of a reality tv series where you find out what has happened since every one left the wilderness, the proposal was or wasn’t given and everyone has moved out of the house or ranch and returned to living real life.  For me, though the journey had just begun when I decided to put the gun down and start on a slightly different path.

Over the next several years, I spent a lot of time reading.  I studied religion and looked at all of them.  I looked at every Christian religion that I could and tried to find out what was the “right” one.  I tried to discover the one that truly had God’s blessing and was the correct way to follow Him.  During all that time, I discovered that for the most part in almost all of the religions that I dealt with, they look ed a lot like the world that they were supposed to be different from.  They wanted to get people to want to be in their building and call themselves by their name.  I heard references to denominations far more than I heard references to Christ and so I pulled myself back from the ledge of religion and turned to Christ.

I sat down in His lap and tried to listen for Him.  I went on a solo journey for years.  I went on a journey that allowed me to not try to find the one true religion in Christianity, but rather one that said, do not be afraid to go anywhere with another believer.  Do not let their religion keep them from loving them and walking with them.  Share Christ and not a name on a building.  I found that to be the first step in slowly becoming somewhat whole.  I have continued on that path for the remainder of my years up until now.  I have never been let down because I am not depending on the religion to fulfill any of my needs, but rather I am relying on Christ to lead me to the people that will love me for who I am.

That is what brought me to my wife.  She filled another gap that was missing in my life.  She was on a similar quest of following Christ.  She wanted to be in fellowship with anyone that wanted more of Christ and I was drawn to that.  In marriage I was allowed to experience what it is to be Christ in a whole new light.  I no longer was just a lost sheep or the bride of Christ, but rather I was now the groom.  The verses in Ephesians started to mean something.  I started to grasp what it meant to be called to love my life as Christ loved the church.  The calling to love my wife as Christ loved me.  My wife is extremely special to me and she is an amazing person with a huge heart.  It is a joy to have her by my side.  She has taught me about the heart of the Lord as it equates to loving us.  I am able to better understand what it means to live as Christ since being married to her.

A few years into our marriage we decided to have a baby.  We were blessed with a daughter.  She has taught me more and more about the heart of our Lord than I ever thought possible.  I get to experience the joy of being a father.     Through becoming a dad, another part of my life that was missing was filled.  It seems like every time I turn around, she is teaching me something. Being a father has allowed me to grow closer to the Lord as I can understand in my little brain a little bit about why He created me.  Or rather, why I think we were created.  It seems to me that we were created, not so that God could have people worship Him, or to live life by a rule system, but rather we were created to be loved and to learn to return that love.  When my wife and I decided to have a baby, we knew we were taking on a challenge, but we wanted to have a family.  Sometimes, I sit back and think that we have made God, far too complex.  He desired a family.  He desired to love us and share His life with us, so He created us.

It is simple, but it is the simple things in my marriage and in being a father, that bring the most joy.  When my daughter laughs or took her first steps. When she smiles big when I come home, those are the moments that I remember.  When my wife sits beside me on the couch or surprise me at work with an afternoon drink from Sonic, or just when she tells me why she loves me, those are the things that make me happy.  Those are the things that make me slowly start to understand what the heart of God might be like.  It is through those little moments that I can start to see what God truly desires from us.  He does not desire that we change the world as individuals, but rather He wants us to love Him and follow His example.  He desires to see us learn how to walk, as well as see our smile when we know He is present.  He desires us to be a family of believers.

I am sure that over the next several years, I will see and experience more, but for now…that is my life and I am content.

My Life…My Death

I did not know the caliber, the make and model, but I knew that it was loaded.  I knew that by pulling the hammer back and pulling the trigger, I could end it all.  I was eighteen years old and felt like it wouldn’t matter one bit if I was here or not.  In my heart, I thought that death was the best and at times only option.  For days at a time, I thought that if I left, things would truly get better for everyone.  My father and I were not talking and had not talked to each other is almost 4 months.  My girlfriend at the time was not sure about our relationship and if it was worth it.  I felt as if, all the things that were important to me, didn’t care about me at all.

I remember dreaming one night about my funeral and no one was there.  I remember being able to see everything from above and every seat was empty.  A priest said a blessing and then they rolled the casket out.  That was, that was the sphere of influence I felt that I was having on people.

When I went to school and went to class, I put on the happy face for friends.  I laughed, joked, and cut up a little bit even, but then I went home.  Then I found myself alone.  I though about my life and what it all meant.  I pondered on all the things that I had heard in church about suicide being your get-into-hell free card.  That thought scared me a little and gave me pause.  But at the same time, I wondered about this whole Jesus thing.  I questioned faith, God and if He was really there.  I started to look at Him in the same light, I saw my dad.  Someone that did not want to talk to me at the moment and someone that had little time for me.

God was just a man in the sky, laughing at the turmoil we felt.  I was angry at Him and did not understand how he could allow someone who believed in Him to have so much pain.  How He could sit up in his mansion in the clouds with all those rooms and be all about loving His creation, and yet, I felt like I was meaningless to Him.

I had no church family that I could truly call my own.  The Catholic church group that I was a part of at the time, did not want me around because I carried an NIV Bible with me and studied that, and the local Baptist church group did not think I had a whole lot to offer because I had love for Catholics.  Somehow even those that were supposed to love unconditionally couldn’t love me.

So I thought about pulling that trigger.  I even cocked the hammer back and raised it to my head.  But I couldn’t pull the trigger.  Was the Lord in the room with me when I chose not to pull the trigger, I am not sure, but I know who was.  While not physically there, my brother was in the room.  I started to think about the simple truth that if I went through with this and pulled the trigger, he would most likely be the one to come home and find me.  He would be the one that would be terrified and horrified and scarred for the rest of his life.  He loved me when no one else seemed to.  My brother wanted me around when everyone else was too busy to care.

And I could not let him be the one to find me.  I decided that I had to set an example for him and this was not the one that I wanted to set.  I put the gun back where it was stored and walked back to my room.  I cried for a while, no knowing what to do.It was in this moment, that I once again started to fall in love with Job.  It was in this moment that I started to feel Christ calling out to me.  I had found rock bottom and there He was waiting for me.  I did not pray a sinner’s prayer that night.

I prayed a prayer of letting go and trusting Him.  I yelled at Him and told Him that I was tired of doing things on my own.  I died that night.  I died to self and decided to let Him take control of my life for a while.  I am sure that I believed that I could take it back if things didn’t get any better.  The gun would always be in the same place, if I needed it.

On that night, I became crucified with Christ though.  As the days passed on, I started to feel like I was carrying less and less baggage with me.  I started to trust Him more and let go of myself.  I questioned religion and slowly gave up on it, but I started to love my brothers and sisters in Christ.  I started to look beyond others for my self worth and focus on helping others see their value.  I told my mom, dad and brother that I loved them.  I started to look for ways to reach out to my dad instead of expecting him to always reach out to me.  I let go of my anger with him and the bitterness that I still tasted from time to time from the divorce.  I was dying and I loved every minute of it.

As I look back at that point in my life, I am constantly reminded that Jesus asked that the cup be taken from Him before He started on the path to crucifixion and even He cried out in confusion about being forsaken by His father, but that is not the end.  The death of Christ and our death to self is not the end and I hope that you will continue on this journey with me as I wrap it up in my next post.