stones 2

Her cry was haunting. The type of cry that comes from deep wounds, abuse and years of unfulfilled longing. She wore her shame like a discarded garment never intended to display a sense of style. No, this was a garment used to cover up her nakedness, and the pain of accusation currently being hurled at her soul.

I watched as an observer, but my inaction made me part of the accusing crowd. It was a crowd I knew. It was my crowd. And suddenly, that began to bother me. I knew it shouldn’t. I mean, my crowd was right.

We were doing the right thing. We were the crowd who knew right and wrong. Our accusations were not born out of opinion. No, our accusations were based on the law that I had spent my entire life learning, memorizing, living and enforcing. And there was no question this woman here before me was guilty. She was caught in the act. And we had to do the right thing. We had to defend right and wrong. This woman had to die.

I held the stone in my hand tight enough to cause the jagged edges to cut into my fingers. Blood dripped down almost unnoticed, as I intently looked into the eyes of this woman I was accusing. Her cries continued. Loud and painful, but I heard nothing. All sound stopped. For a moment I forgot anyone else was around. It seemed this woman was only looking at me and her gaze pierced my heart.

A few seconds passed. Then a minute. Maybe two. I am not sure how long I stared into those eyes. But in that moment, her eyes spoke without speaking. Years of neglect, hurt and pain flooded out of her soul and into mine. I wrestled with the conflict of the moment.

Then…

He appeared.

This man, Jesus. We all knew him, or at least we knew of Him. And of course, we hated him. He did not respect us. He did not care about doing what was right. And now, we were going to expose him.

Here it goes. My crowd is addressing him. They let him know that the woman was caught in the act of adultery. And now comes the moment of truth.

They are reminding him that the law says this woman should be put to death.
They asked him what he thinks. Let’s see what he says.

What?

What is this?

What is he doing?

Why isn’t he answering us?

He is just writing in the dirt.

Now people are walking away. Why is my crowd leaving?

Wait. Now he’s writing in front of me.

What? How did he know that?

Now I am walking away.

But, I did not walk far. I stayed close and watched.

That Jesus knelt down in front of the woman we were going to kill. He looked her in the eye and he told her that no one was left to throw stones at her. She was going to live. He saved her. He would not condemn her and he told her she should go and live life, and leave her sin behind.

————————————————————————–

It’s been awhile since that day took place, but I have not been able to stop thinking about that moment. I’ve thought a lot about the crowd. My crowd. I’ve thought a lot about why I was so willing to pick up a stone and throw it. I’ve thought a lot about what he wrote in the dirt. And, I’ve thought a lot about that woman and the pain I saw in her eyes when I looked at her.

But what I have really thought about is the peace and joy I saw in her eyes when he spoke to her. The change in her countenance was like nothing I had ever seen. I have spent my life doing what was right and letting people know what they were doing wrong. It was a painful moment when I realized that if he was providing life, then I was providing death.

It was even more painful when I realized that my pursuit to defend right and wrong was not as important or noble as his pursuit to bring life in the midst of death.

I do not know how to change without leaving my crowd. I don’t even know how to talk to my crowd about the thoughts I have.

But what I do know is this, right or wrong, I can never pick up another stone.

Possible Musings of A Conflicted Pharisee
Based on John 8:1-11

the desert

So…what do you do for a living?  Where do you work? What are you going to be?

Questions of identity. We ask them every day in casual conversation. And we are asked to give an answer. We live in a world in which we are identified by our titles. Somehow what we do equates to who we are.

But what happens when those titles no longer exist? When you no longer wear the label that has defined you in the eyes of others.

For years, I was known as a Minister, Worship Leader, Youth Pastor, Evangelist. But then, I walked into the desert. Theologically, we could debate what lead me there. Was it God? Was it just coincidence? Was it the Devil? Was it situations of my own making? Or an inevitable end brought about by the decisions of others.

Regardless of how I got there, I cannot deny for many years the desert became my home, my dwelling place, and eventually a classroom in which I have learned some valuable lessons.

                Here’s one of them: Titles do not Define You

Titles are like clothing. If you wear them to long, they get dirty and begin to smell. They become stained with the experiences of life. And those stains become your identity.

Like the old saying goes, “Clothing makes the Man”.  This saying feeds another motto, quite often used in business and when prepping someone for a job interview, “Dress to impress.”

Using this analogy, the real problem comes when we wear our titles in order to impress others or to define ourselves.

Until the clothes are taken off, or in other words, we are stripped of our titles, we never know who we really are.

Every day, I get dressed and in doing so I cover up the imperfections that can only be seen when I am totally naked. Yeah, it’s true. I do not have washboard abs and a beach body.

I never realized it was the same with titles. Until…I was in the desert and no longer able to wear the labels through which I had been defined for years and from which I thought I had discovered my identity.

In the desert, titles mean nothing. In the desert you are stripped of the labels that have defined you. At first it hurts. It stings. It can even be embarrassing. It seems confusing and you frantically try to “get dressed.” Putting on a new title, a new identity. Hoping you find one that fits, because who wants to be seen naked; allowing others to see the scars and imperfections we hide every day.

But, the amazing thing about being stripped of labels and titles, is the raw honesty that it produces. When you no longer have to live up to the expectations that come with titles, you can finally discover your true identity.

Because, in the desert, there is no one to impress. In the desert, titles mean nothing. Resumes are irrelevant. In the desert there is nothing but you and the sand.

In the desert is where we are truly honest about who we are. And…in the desert is where we can truly find God.

Because in the desert I did not and could not come before the Creator of All Things with any title or accomplishment. I did not come as a Pastor, Worship Leader or Minister.  I did not come with my education, experience or resume. I did not come with my lists of what I had done for him or people I had tried to help.

              I came with nothing.

And the reason the desert changed my life, was because I discovered a God who loved me as I am: stripped, naked, scarred and bare; with nothing to offer him but the beating of my heart and the breath of my lips.

And though I am no longer in the desert, I still carry the love and grace that was bestowed on me in a season in which no man could help me.

If you find yourself in a desert season in which you feel alone, abandoned, stripped and unsure of the future or your identity, I want to encourage you. Embrace the desert and receive the love and grace of the God who made you and who is right by your side. Whatever you lose of yourself in the desert season, you did not really need. And what you discover… just may be what you were looking for all along.

             Titles do not define you unless you let them.

Be who God created you to be and allow his love and grace to strip away all the titles we wear that conceal our true self. For who we are was created by Him, everything else is just apparel we put on in an attempt to hide our shame.

Our move to Colorado Springs a few years ago included many changes and pursuits. Included in those pursuits was the search for a home. We spent many days driving around attempting to find a place that met all of the needs of a family of six. Number of bedrooms and bathrooms was crucial. Plenty of storage space and enough room for us all to eat and hang out together was also very important.

However, our drive by conversations when sizing up a potential new Casa De Hobson began to turn to a more important topic driven by this question: How well would we be able to defend ourselves in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse?

Yes, at that time we had two teenagers who were spurring on this discussion, but I must admit…I joined right in! I mean… who doesn’t want to make sure your home is defensible if and when the Zombie Apocalypse takes place!

This experience in searching for the ZOMBIE DEFENSIBLE HOME is just a sign of the times. There is definitely a vast amount of fascination with zombies in our modern culture: The Walking Dead, Endless Movies and Video Games, Jeeps – The Zombie Apocalypse Edition (which I have seen two driving around my hometown of Colorado Springs!) and you can even find Zombie Preparedness on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Website!

Though it seems like Zombies are a modern day creation and rage, they have actually been discovered in many historical books and writings. In fact, according to one definition, Zombies have actually been mentioned in the Bible!

One of the definitions of a zombie is: the body of a dead person given the semblance of life, by a supernatural force.

So…using that as a reference point, read what we find in Matthew 27:50-53, right at the end of the story of Jesus’ Crucifixion:

Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead.

They left the cemetery after Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people.

WHAT?!

When Jesus died, dead people came to life by a supernatural force! And when He was resurrected, they went into town and said hello!

This story causes me to have so many questions, like:

What did these people say when they went into town? Did they continue to live? What did their friends and family think when they just showed up for dinner? Did they look the same as before? Did they smell bad? Were their clothes, hair and teeth all rotted? Why hasn’t Steven Spielberg made a movie about this yet?

And the last question: did Jesus create a Zombie Apocalypse?

Well, maybe Apocalypse is the wrong word to use here. However, according to the definition given above, a Zombie Uprising might not be too farfetched! Those who were dead, were now alive and empowered by His Spirit.

The life in Jesus must have been so powerful that at His death, the life that was released from him caused dead, rotting flesh to reanimate and literally bring people back to life. That’s a powerful picture and one I believe we can learn from.

We could debate all day on whether Zombies are real and if an Apocalypse of the Undead is coming. That would be an entertaining conversation, but at the end of the day it would be just that…a conversation.

I would rather ponder the lessons that might be hidden in the story of Jesus and the “Uprising” that occurred at His death.

However, to get there I am about to make a hard right turn and I ask you to come with me, no matter how crazy what I am about to say sounds.

I believe a Zombie Apocalypse has already taken place, and it is an Apocalypse of the worst kind.

The Apocalypse I speak of is one that creates spiritual and emotional zombies who fill our streets, neighborhoods, schools, churches, and cities.

It is the type that causes:

  • Young men and women to take their own lives before they even reach their prime.
  • People to live out their existence online and through video game personas because real life hurts too much.
  • Individuals to check out of Church and other social gatherings because though it is community they crave, the pain involved in real, raw relationships is too much for them to endure.
  • A generation to fake happiness and mask pain, because no one is allowed to be truly honest.

Unfortunately this Apocalypse is real and one that we cannot ignore.

The question is…What are we going to do about it?

I believe the only option we have is to follow the example of Jesus and create a different kind of Zombie uprising; one that is filled with life rather than death, builds rather than destroys, and that causes people to come out of the tombs of demise we as a society and culture have created.

The first and most important step is this: We must do what Jesus did and die to ourselves. It is the only way to stop the epidemic that is taking place. We must be willing to lay down our lives, reputations, and self-serving pursuits. Death to self is the only way that life will spring forth and alter the wave of lifeless emotional and spiritual zombies that is spreading in our world.

The moment Jesus died, immediately an army of those who were dead rose up from their graves. When He was resurrected, they filled the streets. Life and death are more contagious than any air borne pathogens known to man. And we are the carriers of both. We read in Scripture, “Life and Death is in the Power of the Tongue.”

We must begin to speak life into this generation. We must live out real, raw, transparent lives filled with mistakes, times of doubt, and moments of bad judgment and yet still full of LIFE! While death is the language of the day, we must stop speaking it, even when it is masked in religious overtones and well-meaning intentions.

I am very thankful for a group of men God has allowed me to be a part of whom have helped me came alive once again. And from that group I have learned a very powerful principle: Real life is not about right and wrong, it is about life and death.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes unto the Father except by Me.” Powerful words from one who has known death and who is the very essence of Truth and Life.

Through our words and actions, we must stop beating the life out of people which is creating Spiritual/Emotional Zombies who are void of life. We must be willing to die to ourselves, opinions, style, and differences.

Jesus brought love and life into every sphere of culture He encountered. As we have read, He even brought life to those who were dead! The only people who were unable to embrace and receive the life He brought were the religious crowd.

The Zombie Apocalypse we currently face will not be stopped by our Theological grand standing or immovable personal stances we make. No… All that will do is create more death and the epidemic will just continue to grow.

The awesome thing about THIS CURRENT ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE is that ALL ZOMBIES CAN BE CURED AND BROUGHT BACK TO LIFE! I know…because I have been one.

And no amount of religion or well thought out arguments could bring me back…

No, strangely it was death that brought me back to life. The death of one that is life. And the death of others who were willing to love me as I am, accept me in my emotionally and spiritually dead state and fill me with life once again. (It is a strange paradox that to overcome death and bring life to the walking dead of our generation we must die.)

It’s never too late to “turn” a zombie in this current Apocalypse. But, stop trying to fix them – they are a Zombie…they don’t want to be fixed. Stop filling them with well thought out Theological arguments and opinions – they are dead…they cannot hear you. Stop judging them – cutting into a zombie does nothing but cause limbs to fall off of that which is already dead.

Instead…pour a big bucket of life on their soul. Love them until their heart beats once again. Don’t worry if they don’t respond. They are a Zombie, don’t be surprised when they act like one.

And, Last of all…..

Well, the next point will have to wait. For you see…there is more than one Zombie story in the Bible and another powerful lesson to learn.

Until then…Go be like Jesus and spread life. You have an Apocalypse to stop and an alternate uprising to begin.

Image

There’s something about being in my forties and heading toward fifty that got me thinking about my life… what have I accomplished? …will I leave a worthy legacy?  …what will I do next?

Mid-life crisis?  Maybe.  Natural progression of thought of a man growing older? Possible. Or is it something more dark and sinister? Could it be the roots of years of trying to measure up… years of being graded…. a lifetime of living for the accolades of others… worrying about making my mark… ambition fueled by the need to be recognized.

And, many would say, “What’s wrong with any of that? Isn’t it just being human?”  Well… maybe that’s true. However, whether it’s natural or not, I’m done with it. Finished with chasing false finish lines, and living up to my own self-induced standards of defining success; I’m through with collecting proverbial trophies in some lame attempt to justify my existence and earn my next opportunity.

I know… that is the way of our modern world: build your Resume in order to move ahead… get a better job… make a better life… make your mark.

Unfortunately…. That’s not going to work for me anymore.

You see… I BURNED MY RESUME. Yep…that’s right. Not only did I burn it, I shredded it.  Yeah, I literally took copies of my RESUME and shredded and burned it.

You know why? Because I am FREE!

Oh yeah… that’s right!

I have checked out of the pursuit of selfish ambition that leads to nowhere! Because I have realized that I have been a hypocrite. Yep… that’s been me… the selfish, prideful hypocrite building a resume that does not matter.

“Have you lost your mind?” you may ask.

Well… Maybe. But I don’t care. Because I am happy and free. Free from what? Free from me.

I have realized that to many times we allow our past mistakes and failures to rule our lives and guide our steps. However, an even more dangerous dilemma is when we allow our past Successes to hold us back from the great adventure that beckons us each day. We’re to busy “polishing trophies” and talking about “the good old days.”

Success can make us just as afraid of failure as failure can, because we become paralyzed by the concern of whether we can measure up one more time.

You know what…Who cares?!

Does it really matter!?

NO… NO and again I say NO!

Success is temporary. Failure is seldom fatal.

So what do I think matters?

Life…. Living… embracing the moment we are in.  And… knowing who we are regardless of what we have accomplished. Like I’ve said, I’ve been a hypocrite.

Hypocrite: a person who’s action do not match their stated beliefs.

As a stated follower of Jesus Christ, I have said that all that truly matters is what God thinks of me; my self-worth and value are determined by who I am in Christ, not in what I do or what others think of me.

Hypocrite! Hypocrite! Hypocrite!

Well… I’m done being a hypocrite. I want to walk in what I have preached and stated: I am loved by God and He is who I live for. What other people think of me or my own self-induced list of requirements to be successful is not what defines me.

And… I am free!

Free to truly love people as they are, because I’m not trying to prove my worth to them.

Free to take risks, because I am not bound by my past… good or bad.

Free to laugh, free to cry, free to live, free to give.

Free to delve into new relationships even though I’ve been hurt before.

Free to Forgive.

Free at last… Free at last… Thank God Almighty, I’m free at last!

So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.

                                           John 8:36

Yeah… I burned my resume, and yeah I might be crazy. But I’m free… I’m happy… and best of all… I can love and… I can love again. I can forgive. I can stop looking at others through their resumes and just see people who God loves unconditionally, and I can do the same.

So… here I go… into a life without resumes. Measured only by the love of Christ and measuring others with the same.

It’s gonna be fun!

Wanna come along?

(Thank you to my friend who looked me in the eye and said, “Harlan, it’s time to shred your resume.” I am forever grateful.)

UnWritten Chapter 12

Posted: May 23, 2013 in Life
Tags: , , , ,

The Following is an excerpt from the book, UnWritten. The book follows Raphael, an Angel on a special assignment.  He delivers final messages from selected individuals, in the form of letters.  The book has offered many hope and encouragement to live life to the fullest and to leave no moment UnWritten.

UnWritten Chapter 12

Conner Mason stepped out into the cold mid-winter air. A
stifling chill traversed up his spine. A combination of thermal
underwear, purple running suit, green sweat pants, and an old faded
sweatshirt proclaimed his pursuit of warmth over style. A torn,
knitted, grey hat and mismatched gloves completed his chaotic
ensemble. A vision of fashion he was not; but he was warm and
endeavoring to remain dedicated to his newest resolution. Conner
made a vow to run two to three miles four days a week. So far, he had
been faithful. Four months had gone by and he was still at it. Even
his wife, Amber, was impressed with his commitment. She was not
only impressed but she was also thrilled that he had lost twenty-five
pounds. Conner was not obese, but he could definitely afford to lose
a little weight. He had become very concerned with his health after
numerous visits to the doctor revealed high cholesterol and the
symptoms of clogged arteries. Conner was only forty-six.

Amber smiled and waved as Conner began his morning run. The
Mason family resided on the outskirts of a small town in Western
Colorado. While the town was in the valley, their home was up in the
base of the Rocky Mountain range. Their property was exquisite:
hidden away amongst an extraordinary display of evergreens and
pine trees. A blanket of snow completed the picturesque scene. The
closest home to them was almost a mile away.

Conner and Amber were high-school sweethearts. They followed
each other to college and married during their junior year. Conner
studied marketing and Amber became an accountant, which people
always found difficult to believe. She did not possess the stereotypical
personality of an accountant. She was an optimistic, joyful, “life
of the party” cheerleader type. In fact, she had been a cheerleader all
throughout high school and college. Conner would often say to
Amber, “You know, your unforgettable smile is the inspiration to all
of my success.” This was an enormous compliment and true. With
overwhelming student loans, an old 71 Imperial LeBaron, and no
assistance from their families, Amber and Conner worked hard to
build their own marketing business from the ground up. They
started in the spare bedroom of their old apartment in the town
below. Conner was a classic over achiever, and Amber was brilliant
with numbers and finances. She also possessed the natural beauty of
a homegrown supermodel. In addition, her smile was the inspiration
for the name and logo that had become the calling card for the
Conner empire: Unforgettable Inc.

Conner waved back at Amber as he continued down the driveway.
He could not help but grin as the picture of her smile invaded
every portal of his senses. As he reached the end of the drive, his
grin began to fade. He slowed down his pace until he came to a
complete stop. He stood and stared into the trees while looking at
nothing. Once the cold winter chill had pilfered the last drop of
warmth from his well-insulated body, he moved. He put his head into
his hands and knelt down in the snow. He began to cry; his tears
froze upon his face. With deep sorrow, realizations emerged. He
would never see that smile again; he would never kiss those lips; he
would never hold her just to hold her. Amber was gone and she was
never coming back. Nevertheless, Conner still saw her waving to
him, still saw her unforgettable smile, and still heard her encouraging
him to keep running. This morning there would be no running.
He had tried. However, all he wanted to do was go back to the house
and achieve drunken stupor status once again.

Raphael watched from the trees as Conner slowly made his way
back to the house. It had been two months since Amber left the
earth. Two months since Amber poured out her final words. Two
months since Conner started drinking.

It’s been two months since Amber placed her words in my care. And
two months since…I failed, Raphael thought.

The words she used in her letter to Conner moved Raphael.
Unfortunately, every attempt to deliver her letter had been unsuccessful.
He left it on Conner’s bed, on the nightstand, on the bathroom
sink, by the TV remote, on the kitchen table. He even tried putting it
in the refrigerator and in what had become the liquor cabinet. Conner
never saw the envelope with his name on it; or, he chose to ignore it.
His sorrow and pain had driven him to a place of depression that
made it difficult for him to care about anything or anyone.

Raphael watched Conner stare at Amber’s picture for hours at a
time. Staring was not bad. The problem was the habit he paired with
his staring. Guzzling, that was the problem: bottle after bottle of
whiskey, gin, rum, cheap beer, and wine. Raphael did not know
much about the consumption of alcohol, but he did not think it was
good that Conner was gulping down bottle after bottle of every kind
of liquor he could get his hands on.

Next to the picture of Amber was another picture, a picture that
remained turned over, a picture of three children. Conner attempted
to ignore this picture. In the early years of marriage, Conner and
Amber stayed consumed with earning degrees and establishing the
business. They did not even talk about children. Once college was
complete and the business was established, Amber yearned for a
child. Conner, consumed with the business, was not sure of the
timing. However, his undying adoration for Amber caused him to
change his mind. They began to attempt to build a family. After three
years of trying and an abundance of medical testing and advice, the
medical community informed them that Amber was unable to bear a
child. She was heartbroken. Conner was frustrated and deeply
distressed; his heart ached for Amber.

After facing the reality that she was unable to become pregnant,
Amber warmed up to the idea of adopting. As she researched the
possibility, she realized what an incredible gift adoption could be for
the child and the parents. She researched many adoption agencies
and read every story on adoption she could find. Locating a baby
consumed her. On March 19 of that year, they adopted their first
child, a baby boy whom they named Daniel Conner Mason. Two
years later, they adopted another boy whom they named Christopher
David Mason.

Amber was a wonderful mother and Conner quickly embraced
fatherhood, as the boys became the center of their lives. At the same
time, Unforgettable Inc. was becoming one of the most sought after
marketing firms in the nation. Amber stayed as beautiful as the day
he met her, and the boys made her smile seem to shine even brighter.
Conner was feeling on top of the world and very blessed with his
God-given family.

One day, when Daniel was nine and Christopher was seven, existence
at the Mason household changed. It is a day that Conner will
never forget. He worked late that day but was anxious to get home.
Amber left work early, picked up the boys from school and rushed
back to the house to make dinner. She called Conner to confirm he
would be home by six. He told her he would try. He pulled into the
driveway at 6:45 p.m. Amber met him at the door and greeted him
with her radiant smile. She pulled him close, placed that unforgettable
mouth on his, and kissed him as if her life depended on it.

“What is this all about?” he inquired with a grin.

“What, can’t a wife passionately kiss her husband when he’s late
for dinner?” she replied as she playfully tilted her head and smiled.

Now Conner was a little confused, “Yeah…I guess I was
expecting a smack from the frying pan, not a smack from your
pretty little mouth!”

He pulled her close and kissed her again, enjoying the moment.

The boys watched from the living room, gave each other looks of
disgust, and then yelled out together, “UGH…that’s gross, Dad!”

Conner yelled back, “Oh yeah!”

He ran in and tackled both of them as they started a wrestlingtickling
match. Amber laughed as she watched from the kitchen. Joy
filled the house as she called them into the dining room for dinner.
They sat to eat and enjoyed small talk of the boys’ day at school and
talk of their sporting tryouts. Conner shared good news of another
major client he signed with Unforgettable Inc. Amber listened
intently, enjoying the manly exploits of all three of her boys.

Conner noticed she was not talking and turned to ask, “What
about you, babe…what’s going on with you?”

Her eyes twinkled as if she had been waiting for him to ask the
question. She turned toward him, and he stared intently into her
eyes. Her smile conveyed a joy that words could not express.

“Are you…?” Conner asked.

“Yes…” she said, “I am pregnant!”

The boys yelled out, “What…pregnant?”

“I can’t believe it, I thought it was impossible! I mean, the
doctors said…” Conner breathed out every word. “Are you sure?”

“Yes…It’s true! I went to the doctor today. I didn’t tell you
because I wanted to be certain before I said anything…please don’t
be mad!”

“Mad? Are you kidding? This is wonderful! This is a miracle child!”
Conner jumped up from the table and picked Amber up in his
arms. He hugged her and kissed her cheek as he swung her around
in the air.

“Uh, honey…” Amber spoke up, “I’m pregnant; you may want
to be a little more careful?”

“Oh yeah…sorry. I just cannot believe this. This is amazing!”

Christopher said, “Does this mean that I won’t be the youngest
anymore?”

“Oh man…what if it’s a girl!” Daniel blurted.

Conner pulled Amber and the boys together for a group hug.

“Listen, everything is going to be just fine. Boy, girl…it does not
matter. We will just have one more in the Mason Clan to love!”

Almost seven and a half months later, the new little Mason
edition arrived. Conner announced, “We will call her Amber Grace.
Amber after her amazing mother and Grace because it’s a miracle she
is here.”

It appeared the Masons had the perfect lives. Three beautiful
children (one of which, according to the medical experts, should not
have existed), a thriving business, and a love for each other that
seemed to grow by the moment. It was a season of joy. A season
Conner thought would last forever. It lasted for almost three years;
then came “the news.”

Where?

Posted: February 10, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

Image

Where?

One of the things I enjoy most about living in Colorado is being so close to the mountains and great hiking trails.  Often, when we hike, my children enjoy it when we go “off trail”.  It’s adventurous to delve into an unknown section of the mountain and forge a path that is not exactly like anyone else’s.  However, in doing so, there are greater risks involved.  There is the possibility of getting lost; being caught in a briar patch; slipping and falling off a cliff; or becoming stuck in a ravine.  Sometimes, you have to turn around and backtrack in order to find your way through.

Though my wife would probably disagree, I always think the rewards far outweigh the risks.  My kids love the adventure.  They enjoy being part of choosing our direction and creating a new experience.  Sometimes we make up stories about fictional creatures that might live in the mountains.  We use the unique trees and protruding rock formations and streams as points of interest in a story that is not just being told, but is being lived. All in all in, it is quite fun.  UNTIL…

Do you remember growing up and hearing your mother say things like… “It’s all fun and games until someone get’s an eye poked out?  Or  “until someone get’s hurt.”

Well, it happened!  Not the poking of an eye…but, the getting hurt part.  While we were hiking off trail down a ravine, one of our children – I won’t mention who (She is the oldest…female…getting married) – slipped and fell.  Sat right on a cactus…OUCH!  And, while trying to break her fall, she put her hand right on the cactus.  It looked like a pin cushion!

At this point, the adventure switched gears and became a rescue mission in which we attempted to hike over a frozen stream and up a ravine while assisting our wounded team member with the throbbing hand and porcupine buttocks.

The younger children began to make up new stories about a creature named CACTUSBUTT.  The wounded team member was not amused!

She survived and we discovered that the best way to remove cactus needles is Elmer’s glue! (thank you Donovan, Google and smart phones for that discovery).

Even with the risk, I love adventures. And I love the parallels I find in real life.

Life is full of the unknown.  It is full of risks. And everyone approaches life differently.  Some attempt to play it safe and only journey on well –lit paths where many have traveled.  Others only go where no man has gone before. Some make it up as they go along.  Others attempt to prepare for every obstacle and schedule out their travels to the minute.

I would say that I’m somewhere in the middle.  I enjoy studying the trails and history left by those who have gone before me. And yet, I still like to risk it all and venture off where others have feared to go. Either way, even with careful planning, life events have a way of catapulting us into the unknown.

Maybe it’s supposed to be that way.

Maybe that’s the only way that God can get us to relinquish our desire to control our lives and truly trust Him.

Proverbs 16:9 Says:

The mind of man plans his way,

But the Lord directs His steps.

In recent years, a lot has happened in our lives that I have wanted to control; I have wanted to change. The path has been rocky; new, full of the unknown.  And while I embrace the adventure, in the midst of it all, I truly just want to go where God wants us to go and lead my family into the adventure He has for us.

However, as much as I plan… sometimes I get it wrong.  Sometimes I don’t know where I’m going or what the next step is.  Sometimes, I have to humble myself and ask for help.  I need directions.  I need to say I was wrong.

In times like that, I’m so thankful that no matter what, even when we get it wrong, there is a God that loves us and is directing our steps!!

He is directing the adventure and going ahead of us forging the trail that even our best-laid plans could not create!

His direction is always more powerful than our plans. Out of love, He directs us to our ultimate destination.

Why?

Posted: January 21, 2013 in Life
Tags: , , , ,

incline

“Why?”

The question slipped passed the old man’s lips. Effortlessly.  Like water poured out of a glass, and I was drinking.

I turned and looked up at the mountain.  The old man smiled at me as he patted me on the shoulder, and began his trek up the monumental staircase looming before us. I would soon be joining him.

But not now, not yet.  At this moment, I was pondering – mulling over; thinking about the simple question uttered by the grey haired man with black knit cap and comforting smile.

It’s amazing how at just the right moment, one word…one question…can cause us to pause and consider. Here I was…standing at the foot of a one-mile staircase up a trail, known as the “Incline”, and all I could think about was… WHY?

I had been here before, the Incline that is.  The Incline is a daunting physical challenge made up of old railroad ties from an abandoned Cog Rail from days gone by. It is located near the base of Pike’s Peak in Manitou Springs, Colorado.  Every day, hundreds of locals as well as out of state visitors make the trek to the top. I have been up this challenging mile of hiking glory multiple times, but on this day, I was wondering WHY?

The old man had asked me a simple question. A question that caused me to stare up at the mountain before me and begin to wonder, “why was I doing what I was about to do?”

I mean, people hike the Incline for many reasons.  Some simply do it for the exercise; others for the view at the top. Many do it for the bragging rights that accompany such an accomplishment. Others hike it, simply because it is there.  Moreover, there are those who go up with friends and enjoy the camaraderie of conquering the summit together.

However, as I stared at the mountain before me, the “why” I was pondering was not about the “Incline” or “getting to the top”.  No, I was truly asking ‘Why?”… About everything!

The simple “Why?” asked by a well-meaning old man, released a metaphorical mountain of “Whys?” that had been building in my heart for quite some time. Moreover, most of the “whys?” now swirling around my soul were centered around my own struggles with Faith.  A  Faith in a God I said I loved, adored, and would do anything for.

And at the root of all the questions was this…”Why was I climbing the mountain?”

Not the literal mountain in front of me, but the symbolic mountain of life we each face every day of our lives.  Why am I taking the next step? And of course, “why?” leads to “where?” which leads to “how?” and “when?”

I know, I know… this little story is getting a bit too philosophical.  In fact, if you are reading this early in the morning, please stop and pour yourself a cup of coffee!  I have always found this to enhance the experience, no matter where you are at on your journey.

And now, hopefully with coffee in hand, let me share with you where the simple “why” asked on the side of a mountain led me.

I have found that mountains of “whys” especially concerning our Faith, can lead to several places:

One… it can lead to a quagmire of confusion that keeps us from doing anything.  In other words, the journey just does not seem worth it and we simply stop climbing.

Two… it can lead us to a place of self-producing solutions, answers, and excuses.  This is where we climb, but we are always uncertain about our next steps.  We create reasons for going forward that sound good, but do not resonate in the depths of our being. Excuses for going forward can never replace conviction and purpose.

Three…it can lead us to a place of judgment and criticism. When we are unsure of “why” we are taking our next step, we become critical and suspicious of others who are attempting to climb the mountain. Lack of purpose and conviction in our own journey, creates suspicion in the motives of others. 

Four…it can lead us back to simple Faith.

One of the most powerful verses I find in Scripture is this:

Matthew 22:37-40

Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

The mountain of “whys” that so often swirl around my heart and mind seems to melt away in the wake of an ocean of simple truth.  Love God, love others, love yourself.  Seems too simple.  I mean, isn’t the journey supposed to be more complex?

And yet, on the day the kind, grey-haired old man asked me “why?”, I finished my climb up the Incline.  For his question had led me back to the secret of completing the Incline: Keep it simple.

 Focus on one step at a time;

Encourage others who are also climbing;

Remember, the view at the top is worth every step.

Our journey of Faith that we travel each and every day is not much different.  Keep it simple.

Love God.  When we do that, then we can focus on the step in front of us instead of being overwhelmed by the mountains we may face. When we love God, our hearts open up and allow Him to remind us of how much He loves us.

 Love others.  When we love God, loving others becomes very natural.  Instead of being critical and judgmental, we become encouraging to others.  We know how difficult life can be, and we want to support people in their journey.

 Love yourself.  Difficult task for many.  But when we understand that we were made in the image of God with the purpose of having a relationship with Him, it becomes difficult not to love ourselves.  This is not arrogance; rather this is acceptance of our creator’s simple plan for our existence.  He made us for relationship with Him (and others).  Everyone, when honest, has things they don’t like about themselves… to tall, to short, to fat, to skinny, abrasive personality, to loud, to quiet.  These are all attributes of our unique humanity.  However, God loves us!  He made us with purpose and our distinct traits are all part of His design. Don’t let anyone or even yourself undermine the beauty that God has created in each individual.

Well, that’s my story of asking, “Why?”.  Brought on by a man I may never see again.  However, if I do see him hiking up the mountain once more, I will make sure I say, “Thank you!” as I smile and simply enjoy the journey once again. Because of all of the “whys” I could give for climbing, the simple joy of the journey, no matter how difficult it may be, is the best “why” I have found.

I am thankful to God for using a little old man on the side of a mountain to remind me once again of the simple power of truth.  Love God, love others, love yourself.

Keep it simple.

(to be continued)