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Anticipation

November 27, 2012 — Leave a comment

christmas-tree2

Right now, my kids are going crazy. Because we are aggravating them. We had our Christmas shopping done before Thanksgiving, and the day after T-Day we went out and bought a nice new tree, wrapped all the presents and put them under the tree. The very first thing Trinity asked was, “Can we open one present early?” “Nope” was the only answer she got.

She went to the calendar, started counting and realized that she would be staring at those gifts for over a month. Zoey doesn’t care as much, but she kisses her presents goodnight before going to bed.

What is it about anticipation? It’s maddening, but still often it’s a very sweet feeling – you know something good is coming, you may not know when, or maybe you do. And you’re so excited you can hardly wait! It’s going to be so good! Your heart is pounding, you’re out of breath, your mind is churning! Anticipation can be fun sometimes!

Sometimes, though, anticipation drives us crazy and just leaves us there. Anticipation can make a person bitter. That’s what happened to me.

I knew something good was coming, I didn’t know what or when, and it stopped being something I was looking forward to. It was taking too long. I was restless, impatient, so I stopped waiting. And the anticipation – the fun kind – ended and I got angry.

Anticipation is supposed to be a good thing – it’s supposed to be the waiting period between where we are or what we have and the awesome/wonderful thing that is to come. We are supposed to be excited every time we think of it, we are supposed to daydream, we are supposed to contemplate how different things will be when the time comes.

I knew God had something good for me, and I lost focus. I forgot that he is good. I forgot that he loves me, that he wants good things for me. I forgot who I was in him – and I became someone I wasn’t supposed to be.

I became angry, resentful, apathetic. I didn’t care what God had for me anymore. He wasn’t going to pony up, so I would get all I could out of life on my own. That plan never really took off, either. And then it got even worse. All because I forgot that I’m God’s kid, living in his kingdom already, and that the down payment of all that is to come has already been given, that I can live victorious and free regardless of my circumstance.

So I wallowed in anger, hate and self pity. I was a Scrooge, year round, until I began to be reminded of everything I had forgotten. I began to be encouraged, prayed over, loved by others who had no reason to love me. I began to heal from the past – the self imposed things and the imposed upon me things that had broken my spirit

Something I just heard today from Steven Furtick - sometimes we have to wait because God is preparing us for what he has prepared for us. Sometimes we are not ready to step into our destiny! Sometimes we need to grow, learn, trust, pray and over time become who God dreamed we would be – then he gives us what he has prepared for us.

And that is some sweet anticipation! I can’t wait! I’m like a kid at Christmas! My present is right there, staring me in the face – all wrapped up with loving care, with pretty paper and bows and when God says, “Ok it’s time” all the pretty wrapping in the world will not stand between me and what he has prepared for me, and what he has prepared me for.

It’s slow going right now though. I know some very specific things I need to work on. Other things I have a vague idea about. I’m getting there. But I know that the future God has for me is right there! My current thinking is I could probably step right into that destiny at any time. I think if I continue on my current path, It’ll happen and all of a sudden I’ll wonder, “what just happened?”

Psalm 27:13-14 says, “I am certain that I will see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and courageous. Wait for the Lord.” I know what’s coming, just not when or how – and I’m ok with that!

How about you? Have you lost that sense of wonder, of anticipation? These are some of the sweetest things in life – unless you get too impatient, unless you try to do what only God can do. You can’t force your way into destiny – it’s a gift that God will give you when you’re ready to receive it!

Set Apart

November 10, 2012 — Leave a comment

unique

I’ve been struggling for a while about something major – what sets me apart? What makes me unique? What is there that’s special about me?

My wife is a musician. She sings, writes songs, plays several instruments. With just a little nudge, she could be a pro. She could be famous.

My daughter Trinity can draw. Not just draw. She sees unique and original pictures in her head and can transfer them onto paper or canvas and they are beautiful creations. She’s only 11, but she has some serious talent.

I could go on – and I guess I will. There are people who are extremely gifted in this world – whose abilities outclass the mere mortals around them, and wherever they go, whatever they do, people take notice. They change things, they challenge themselves and those around them. They are, more often than not, heros.

Well, what about the rest of us? What about me? I’m not being down on myself. I’m very smart, and I’m really good at a lot of things. A LOT of things. In fact, almost everything I’ve ever done, I’ve been really good at. But not great.

What am I great at? What will define me and my life? What will I contribute? What will I do that’s important?

Everyone will agree that I’m unique, and I have a certain way of seeing things that’s different. At work I approach things differently than most people, and its been that way regardless of what job I have had. But at the end of the day, unique is just a way of saying different but mostly the same. I’m just me, and I’m really not that much different than any other person.

I really only have one thing that makes me special. And I’m not all that good at it. I’m God’s kid. He’s my father, and I’m his son. Maybe if I can be a better child, I will find what I’m really supposed to do or be.

Thing is I can’t make myself better. I have to rely on the father for that. I have to follow his lead, and live the life that his Son lived. That’s something I’m still learning. I’m more of a prodigal who has been off squandering and is just now waking up in the pig pen wondering what brilliant idea I can hatch to get me out of this mess.

The problem is the same one that everyone faces. Not what am I going to do with my life, what am I going to be, but who am I? It’s all about identity.

We all struggle through life trying to find our place, carve out an existence, muddle our way through. I used to think (and still stuggle with thinking) that there were some really lucky people who knew someone or had the right daddy who actually got to be someone in life, and the rest of us just got regular jobs and lived and died and were forgotten.

I really don’t want that to be my life, but I don’t know anyone, and I’m not too terribly lucky. But I do have the right daddy.

In spite of all of my wrong thinking, which I am obviously still working through, I’m still set apart. Those are not my words and I stuggle to believe it. I know it in some part of me, but I don’t act like it sometimes and have trouble believing it in my head. It’s funny how different parts of your body can be in a war against each other sometimes.

My spirit tells me I’m living in the Kingdom, I’m God’s child, he has a dream for me. My soul tells me I’m pretty much average and pretty much out of luck. My heart yearns for freedom and to know what God’s plan is for me so I can just do it already.

Basically I’m out of whack.

So I have to keep on going. I’m at least pointed in the right direction right now. Three years ago there was no hope at all. No. Hope. I have to keep giving more of myself to God, I have to keep keeping less for myself. Because one thing I do know – it’s not about me. All those things I’m good at…what are they but gifts from God, that I used for my own glory for so many years.

We are set apart – unique, different. The bible says we are aliens – not of this world. Or maybe that’s an old Petra song. Either way – what we need when we are stuggling with these things is to remember that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds. That’s Romans 12 right there by the way.

The battle for my spirit is complete. My body will keep getting older, then fail at some point. No way around that unless Jesus comes again while I’m alive. What stands in the middle is my mind, and it’s still crammed full of the world. This is why I stuggle – because my mind needs to be transformed. As Bob Hamp puts it – I don’t need to think different, I need to think differently.

The problem is I’m in bondage to being me. Jesus came to set me free from that. I need to repent from that – I need to think differently. Right now I’m trying to think different – I’m trying to control my thoughts by plugging other things in – good things! Classes at church, Christian music, listening to great sermons. It’s all good! The content of my thoughts is not so much the issue, though, as is the actual way in which I think.

I can’t exchange bad thinking for good thinking and hope to do any better. This is my effort – and it’s in vain. It’s fruitless.

To repent means to think differently – not new content, but a whole new way of thinking and seeing things. The renewing of my mind. And as I’m discovering, like everything else, it’s a process – one that I’m in the big middle of.

So I will keep on going. But sometimes I may still wonder from time to time – who am I, why am I even here? I think that is thinking the old way and only glorifies me. I don’t want to do that anymore. Maybe it’s a baby step, but that’s where I am.

Where are you?

Roach Motel

October 20, 2012 — Leave a comment

roach motel

I used to live here. This is a google street view screen shot of where I used to live. It was a long time ago. The place doesn’t look any better than it did back then.

No heat, no AC, about 100 square feet of living space. I had a sleeper sofa and a 13″ tv, a little bitty fridge was built in and it had a small sink and a single burner on top. The person who lived there before me must have had a dog because of the smell and the fleas.

There were asbestos ceiling tiles, dark fake wood paneling, and a single, bare light bulb hanging down from the middle of the ceiling, which was plugged into the only outlet in the room. Basically it was an extension cord with a light spliced on at one end, and it was stapled to the wall and across the ceiling. And yes, it had a pull-chain on it.

The bathroom was 5×5 and had a 5 gallon water heater. I would fill the tub up with hot water only, wait 30 minutes and fill it again for a lukewarm bath. The door would not lock or stay shut. It had a padlock on the outside, and I put a box in front of the door at night.

I lived here for a year. The rent was $100 a month, plus utilities and cable tv. When I moved in I was making $0. I didn’t know where I would end up or how long I would be allowed to stay.

None of this was the worst part. Not even close. The worst part was the roaches. Now, in a regular home, if you get up at night and turn a light on, there might be a roach, but it’ll disappear pretty quickly – under the sofa, behind the fridge. This is when you know it’s time to get an exterminator out.

The roaches in my little slice of heaven had no shame at all. They didn’t bother hiding because this was their domain. I was the interloper. They would sit and stare at me, waiting for me to go to sleep so they could try to eat my face off.

I tried to get rid of them. I complained to the landlord and she gave me a can of spray. Which they laughed at. I tried glue traps next. I was going through about 12 a week and didn’t put a dent in them. I didn’t know what to do next.

Now, at that time I was working at a local Ace Hardware. I had a lot of roach related items to choose from. Bombs, glue traps, sprays, powders. The only thing I never tried was a roach motel – I figured, I’m already living in one, why buy another. So as a last resort, I got a pack of 4 bug bombs.

I knew I was going to be gone for a weekend, so I set off all 4 of them on a Friday night, and went on my way. I came back on Sunday around 5. When I opened the door, this nasty, greasy mist came out and hit me in the face. It was covering everything. I turned on the light, expecting to see a bunch of dead bugs. Out of the literally hundreds of roaches, maybe only 5 had been killed, and I’m pretty sure they died of old age, or maybe a laughter induced aneurysm.

So I did the only thing I could do. I gave the owner two weeks notice and found a better place. A way better place. A nice little place.

When I did that, a lot of things changed. I got promoted at work, I met Cheryl, I got a new to me car that actually ran, and I started getting heathy. It’s a wonder how healthy a person can be who doesn’t have bugs crawling all over them at night.

None of this is a metaphor. It’s all true. But on the other hand it is a metaphor because I was in a very dark place – physically yes, I lived in Satan’s armpit, but it was really bad mentally and spiritually as well. I was depressed and felt abandoned – by friends, by family and by God. All my dreams were crushed, my spirit was crushed. I felt like I deserved to be where I was because I was a terrible person, and terrible people suffered like I was suffering.

Did I ever mention my neighbor? A very old man. VERY very old. He coughed all night and during the day he watched soaps. One day I was working on my car, trying to get it running, and he came out with some iced tea for me. He asked me if I went to church anywhere, and I said no, I had been a pastor, but now I’m working at Ace.

He invited me to come to his church, and I did. Just a sweet little church out in the middle of nowhere. After a time, I became their youth pastor. I was so messed up when I went there, but they were patient with me, very gracious, very loving. I didn’t do much more than play games with the kids on Wednesday nights and lead singing on Sundays. But they loved me and after a time, I began to feel better about everything. And then I met Cheryl somewhere along the way and we moved to Texas and got married.

Listen – it was no accident – not any of it. The roach motel, the old man, the church, meeting my wife. God led me through all of that. He was with me at rock bottom when I had roaches biting at my fingers, and he is with me where I am today.

The situation is, I still need a little rescuing. Who doesn’t, right? We all go through times where we forget that God is there, that he’s real, that he is in control. But he is. Things are so great right now! Family is good, cars are running, we have a nice house and great kids. Any or all of that might change tomorrow. But today I will praise God for what he has given me, and when tomorrow comes, I will continue to praise even if its all torn away.

My lesson from the pit was to learn to be thankful – and I am so thankful!

Where are you right now? Mentally, physically, spiritually? Thank God for it even if you can’t see anything to be thankful for. He will hear you, and things will improve. I didn’t just get lucky, I was blessed, and the same God that pulled me out of the roach motel wants to bless you too! Learn to give thanks in everything, and everything will change in your life!

 

Zen Bowling

October 11, 2012 — Leave a comment

bowlingI really stink at bowling. I always have. I do it about once a year and look and feel stupid the whole time.

Today, my unit at work had a team building outing. We ate some lunch, and went bowling. The first game did not go well for me. I didn’t even break 100. The second game was going the same way until the 10th frame. I got three strikes in the 10th and actually won!

The weird thing is, it was just a weird thing. I don’t know what happened, how it happened, why it happened. I just happened.

I got the ball, took a deep breath, and time stopped. I couldn’t hear the music playing, didn’t hear the voices of all the people around me. Before I released the ball I knew it would be a strike, and it was. Same for the second shot and the third. I just knew it was going to happen.

This same thing has happened just like this four other times in my life. I wrote about one here where I hit a bumblebee with an acorn. Once in the third grade during a baseball game (which I also was no good at) I hit a grand slam to win the game. Eight years ago I won an XBox 360 in a raffle, and the same thing happened about six months ago when I won a Wii.

I knew I was going to bowl three strikes. I knew I was going to hit the bumblebee. I knew I was going to hit a home run, and I knew I was going to win the raffle. It’s like time stopped during each of these events and I just knew.

What is that? Have any of you ever experienced anything like that?

I called it “zen bowling” today. Everyone with me agreed that something weird/special happened. I know it’s not zen – I don’t believe in that philosophy. But on the surface, it was a very peaceful experience where I had an insight, ability or intuition that I normally don’t have. Which, if you think about it, is actually kinda zen.

Do you think the Holy Spirit can give a person this kind of insight or ability? Do you think in each of these situations of weirdness, I was given something I don’t normally have so that I could do something I don’t normally do? Is this what being filled with the Spirit is all about? Or did I just get lucky and feel really good about it?

A big question is, why would God care if I did these things? Was he glorified in each of them? I wasn’t thinking about God, I know that for sure. I was thinking how crazy it was. If I give God the credit for these things will they happen more often?

So many questions. You know what I’m talking about, right? Or are we just in the Matrix?

Comment below if you have answers or similar experiences!

Fear

September 28, 2012 — Leave a comment

scared_face

Fear – not something that’s easy for me to talk about or even think about. I feel like I have to be strong, hold it all in, deal. But it’s there, showing itself in a variety of ways – panic, blood pressure, negative thinking, various minor illnesses.

My church has a wonderful healing ministry. Every Monday night, people come from all over to be prayed for, with, over. Many of these people have experienced healing from illness and injury. It’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.

I went last week because I’ve had constant allergy problems for over 40 years, including sinus infections, tinnitus, vertigo, hives, and other pretty nasty symptoms. I was assigned to a prayer team and walked into the room and as I was walking in I looked at everything going on around me – people crying, praying, laying hands on people. There was laughter, too, and excitement and some shouts of joy. I didn’t know what my experience would be – I just wanted to be made well.

I was led to my prayer team and saw the look on their faces – there were three people all looking at me – eyes wide, mouths slightly open, like in shock. I thought maybe my zipper was down or something…And I’m going to tell you what they told me. It’s hard to talk about and I’ve been processing it all week. I’m not making this up either -

The first lady shook her head and smiled and told me there was a glow about me and something that draws people to me. The second lady said she felt calm and secure in my presence, then all three of them started telling me I would minister to multitudes of people – “thousands” they said. But at this point it is just potential – I need to deal with my fear.

This is the point when I told them about my sinus issue. It’s like they didn’t even hear that part. I was dizzy, my ears were ringing, and I hadn’t tasted anything but snot for days. Gross, right? And I went to be prayed over and experience a miracle healing event and never have to blow my nose again.

They did pray over me. They prayed that God would show me the root of fear that was holding me captive, keeping me from my destiny. They layed hands on me and prayed that I would be strong and courageous. They got on their knees around me and prayed even more that I would learn to trust God and his provision for me instead of focusing on what people have done to me or against me.

And this is when it gets weird. Some very specific things came to mind. Things I don’t think about much.

When I was five my dad walked me to school and said he’d be back to get me but he didn’t show up and I walked home by myself. I was afraid because I’d never done it and I didn’t know what happened to my dad. I didn’t see him again until I was nearly 40 years old.

I got home, and my mom was there but had to go out. She said she’d be right back. My little sister was there with me. We were left alone for several days and finally rescued by my aunt and uncle, who eventually gained custody of us and adopted us both. I saw my mom several times after that, but never lived with her again.

After that, I never really trusted anyone. I was afraid to trust. I did things to keep people away, to make people not like me. I was rude at the very least and even violent a few times. I prayed that God would kill me sometimes. I never felt on the inside like anything was right.

Before all this, I knew things weren’t perfect, but I felt loved and protected. Then that was gone. I thought it was gone forever. I’ve always, always felt that way. Even as a Christian, I’ve felt and acted like I was on my own, like I had to do everything under my own strength.

My fear is the fear of abandonment. Everybody leaves. Everybody dies. My real mom died years ago and I still don’t know how to feel about that. Sad? Relieved? Happy? My Grandmother died next. I miss her every single day. I still feel like I need her. Same for my dad – the one who adopted me. I miss them both so much.

I had a wife a long time ago, and she left too. Will Cheryl? How about my kids? They’re growing up so fast. Yesterday they were babies, tomorrow they’ll be living in Possum Trot Indiana with kids of their own.

I’m afraid that God will abandon me, too. I’ve felt like that for a long time, like he already has. I know in my head that’s not what he does, but I feel like he has anyway.

All of this goes back to the day when I was so happy my daddy was walking me to school and that he’d be there to pick me up at the end of the day. And he wasn’t. And I never saw him again until almost 35 years later. With no good explanation of what happened. I was never sick before that either. And I’ve been sick ever since.

Crazy, right? How an emotional wound can turn into a spiritual wound which can turn into a physical illness that can keep you from being who you were born to be. How it can cause you to hold people at arms length your whole life. How it can cause you to wonder if anyone really cares or if they are just saying that because that’s what people say.

I need to get past this. I know where it came from, what it has caused. And I know I can be free from this.

I don’t know if this is helpful to you or not. But whatever is blocking your path, whatever is keeping you from being who God created you to be – you can’t turn it around by yourself and neither can I! Now that I know, I’m taking it to God, and he will be strong for me. He’ll tear it all down and I may just turn out to be who he dreamed I would be. You can do it too!

How do you honestly see yourself? And how do you think God sees you? God thinks you’re amazing, wonderful, beautiful and worth dying for. If you see yourself as anything less, you need to realize you’ve been lied to, and it wasn’t by God. He’s not going to condemn you or make you feel guilty. He wants to free you from that! Learn to trust him, and trust him to be everything you need. Trade your fear for freedom and be his child. He won’t let you down, you’ll never walk alone.