2012.

Welcome to a New Year, which brings with it the sense of opportunity, change and new beginnings. Don’t you just love the opportunity for a new start!?

But to be honest, as a Christian I often find it a challenge to not just set goals and New Year’s resolutions, but to truly hear from God in a way that not only inspires, but literally catapults me and others into the next season of destiny. Resolutions and goals are great, but a “now” message from God’s Word empowers us to move forward with confidence and resolve.

Here is a scripture we believe God has spoken to our family for the new year:

Psalm 37: 3-5

Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord, trust Him, and He will help you.  

What an incredibly empowering message for us all to take into the New Year:

Trust…

Sounds so easy, but in the midst of everyday life, I often struggle with simply TRUSTING God. How about you?  I need to constantly be reminded that God promises in His word that if we will just Trust Him… we will prosper!

Delight…

to take pleasure in the One who made us, Loves us, and gave His life for us.  When we simply worship God and meditate on His goodness and love for us, He takes the dreams He placed in our hearts and brings them to fruition!  The one who gives the dreams is the one who grants those dreams through the ones who delight in Him!

Commit…

sometimes I just want to “hang out” with God or visit Him at my convenience.  Commit seems like such a “BIG” word!  It seems so complete, so final.  Sometimes I’m afraid of full and complete commitment, because it will cost me! Because I’ve been hurt.  Because I’ve been disappointed. Anyone else ever feel this way?  But, who better to commit to than God Himself? He knows us better than we know ourselves. Our commitment to Him invites His help in any and every situation in our lives!  I sure need that kind of divine intervention in my life.

So… 2012… it’s here.

And my resolutions are simple, because they are not just goals.  They are promises from the One who keeps His promises.  I will TRUST, DELIGHT and COMMIT to the God of the universe, my Savior and my King. That’s it. Pure and simple.

Can I ask you to please pray for me that I will keep these three simple “resolutions with promise” throughout this year?  I will commit to do the same for you as we all seek God’s will in 2012!

God Bless and have a great year!

See You On the Stage!

Posted: August 30, 2011 in Life
Tags: , , , ,

Life is strange sometimes.  Just when you think you have it all figured out…the script changes. Like a play in which you have rehearsed your role but suddenly find that all of the other actors are improving: so you have to join in.  The show must go on. The unexpected takes place. Tragedy makes an unwelcome appearance on the stage of existence and the script has to be rewritten. New actors appear, sometimes uninvited, and you have to rewrite the dialogue in order to include them.

Again…the show must go on.

You stop and ask…who’s directing this strange play?  Am I?  My friends?  My relatives?  My spouse? My Boss?

I keep making choices, so am I the director? But are my choices simply reactions to what the other actors are doing?  Am I following the right script? Who did these rewrites?  Wait…is it time to improv again?

Then the scene changes, and more actors appear.  But the script they are using doesn’t sound like the one I was just in.  This feels like a different play all together. New director? Maybe. But who is it?  Who is controlling the action on the stage?  I thought I was, but I couldn’t be.  I would not write this.  But I must read my lines, play my part.  The show must go on.

The show sometimes makes me tired.  It feels that each scene requires a different role.  But I am just one actor. Sometimes all of the other actors behave as if they are the directors.  Could they be?  Could I be reading the script they wrote for me.  If so…it does not feel right.  But, my improvs and rewrites aren’t much better.

Oh wait…now I hear the voice.  It must be the director.  He just said, “Cut”.  Good time for a break. He’s motioning to me. I think He wants to talk to me.  Just a minute, the show will have to wait.  The director wants some time with me.  I’ll be right back.

Ok…how long was I gone? It felt like hours and just for a moment.  But, I am ready to get back on the stage.  The director assured me that He wrote the script and He is directing all of the action. There are many who are trying to rewrite what He wrote for me, but as long as I listen to His direction…the show will go on. He told me not to worry.  He has it under control.  Just do my best with the lines He has given and He’ll keep directing me into the next scene. Some scenes feel like a tragedy; some like a comedy. There is even some action, mystery and romance. But he weaves them all into the story He has written for my life.

He also said not to worry if the other actors seem to go off script, because they have their own.  Some of them are listening to the director and some are not.  What is important, He said, was that I love them, treat them well, and follow the script…or scripture He has given me.  Keep inviting them into the play I have written He told me.

So, off I go into the next scene of life. So glad the Director has it all under control. Oh wait, I think He’s calling you.  Go ahead, listen to what He says; He wrote the script and makes it all make sense.

See you on the stage.

The Man I Am

Posted: August 16, 2011 in Life
Tags: , , ,

Looked in the mirror

And what did I see

 Not the man I want to be

But a pale reflection

Of the man I am

Some of which

 I cannot stand

I want to be the world’s best dad

Greatest husband, never mad

 I want to be a loyal friend

Always faithful

 To the end

But I slip and falter

 Have a bad day

 I fail and struggle

 I lose my way

Then, somehow I stumble

 Down on one knee

 I pray, I cry

I weep, I plea

I turn me heart

 To the one above

The One who made me

The God of love

He gives me peace

Strength to stand

He gives me faith

When I have no plan

Then I look in the mirror

 I stare once more

At the same reflection

As before

But something’s different

A change I see

There’s a spark of light

Flowing through me

 Imperfect and flawed

Yes, that’s who I am

 But the Savior of all

Lives inside this man

A ray of hope

In a vessel of clay

 Now I’m ready

To face the day

Garbage?

Posted: July 26, 2011 in Life
Tags: , , ,

I recently went to Dunkin Donuts to get some coffee, because… I loves me some good coffee.  When they play those commercials that say, “America runs on Dunkin’” I know they are talking about me!

As I got out of my truck to go in, I saw some garbage, and decided to pick it up and go throw it away.  I threw it away and then headed in for my coffee. Suddenly, I realized that I didn’t have my wallet, so I went back to the truck to get it. But as I went back, I realized that I didn’t have my key to the truck. It wasn’t in my hand, it wasn’t in any of my pockets.  So I got my wallet out of the truck, then I checked all through out the truck, and still… no truck key!

Then, a thought hit me, could I have let the key go when I dumped all of the trash?  So I went to the garbage can, took off the lid, looked into see if I could find my garbage.  I recognized my garbage way down in the receptacle and reached in to pick it up. As I did, I saw it.  My truck key!

Unbelievable!

I was so happy!  However, I couldn’t believe that I just threw away something so valuable, with all of the garbage!

You know, in life it is easy to lose what is most precious, what is most valuable, what is a true treasure because of all of the garbage that can pile up in our lives.  We have the garbage of disappointments, of lost dreams, of broken relationships, of unexpected hardships, of hurts and offenses. Garbage, garbage, garbage!  And when garbage piles up, what is most valuable can be lost.

My truck key is valuable.  Without it, I am not going anywhere.  It doesn’t belong in the garbage.  It belongs with me, in my pocket or in the ignition, being used for the purpose it was created for.

You know what, we are all valuable.  We have all been created by God for a purpose. But, it is easy for us to get lost in the garbage and then, because we are surrounded by garbage, we can begin to feel like garbage.  It is easy to feel thrown away, forgotten, discarded, unusable.

The truth is… you are not garbage.  You are valuable, simply because God created you, died for you, and desires to have a relationship with you.

Check this out:

Luke 15:3-7 NASU
So He told them this parable, saying, “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?   “When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.   “And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’

And here’s another…

Luke 15:8-10 NASU
“Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?   “When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!’   “In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

God looks at each and every one of us as valuable.  To Him, we are like lost sheep to a shepherd, or a lost coin that is worth so much. And just like we read in these biblical parables, God is looking for that which is lost, he is looking for restored relationship with us, His creation.

We are separated because of sin, garbage.  But He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ to pay for all of our sins, all of our garbage.  And He loves us in spite of the garbage! In Romans 5:8 we are told that God demonstrates His love for us, in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us.  This is saying that on our worst day, in our worst moment, in our worst failure, God loved us and sent His son to pay the price for our lives.

So, no matter what Garbage you or I may be facing or dealing with, God loves us more than the garbage and is looking to reach into the garbage can and pull us out and hold us in His hands and then postition us in the place of purpose He created us for.

If I Ruled the World!

Posted: July 6, 2011 in Life
Tags: , , , ,

Have you ever sat and daydreamed about what you would do, if you ruled the world. I mean… really ruled the world. Ultimate power, anything you wanted. Whatever you said would be done. I have thought about this and here are a few things I would change:

 First off, broccoli would taste like chocolate. In addition, so would every other vegetable that is supposed to be good for you but is the table nemesis of millions of kids at dinnertime. “Eat your broccoli… it’s good for you!” Well, if it’s so good for me then it should taste good… like chocolate! There is no way that something that tastes that putrid can be good for anything! Just saying! All of you broccoli fans just keep eating away… I’m holding out for the chocolate version… and it’s coming, because I’m going to rule the world!

Second, and I hope I don’t offend anyone with this, just being honest. I would make all “passing of gas” smell like flowers. Wouldn’t that be great?! I mean, no more blaming it on the dog, or on a child or relative. No more nervous stares in the middle of crowded elevators when the smell is passing by. Instead, people would turn to you and say, “Thank you!, I love the smell of roses!”

Next, everyone would be nice. There would be no mean people! Traffic jams would occur only because everyone was preferring each other, not because of road rage. Moreover, the court systems would go extinct because no one would be prosecuted and no one would sue anyone and everyone would just be nice!

Lastly, everyone would be a millionaire. There would be no poverty or lack of food for anyone. There would be no homeless people. There would be no sickness or need for doctors. All disease would be banished.

If I ruled the world, everything would taste good, nothing would smell bad, everyone would be nice, and no one would have a need.

Sounds like heaven doesn’t it? But… I don’t rule the world, and neither do you. But, God does and He has created a real heaven. Heaven…that place sounds real good. No wars, no disease, no evil, no sorrow.

The hard part to understand is, if heaven is so great, then why didn’t God just put us there to begin with? Because this place called earth is no heaven! There is death and disease and mean people and really bad days. So what’s the deal?

Think about this… if I never saw darkness, I would never appreciate light. If someone wasn’t mean to me, then I would never know when someone was being nice. If I had not experienced pain, I would not truly appreciate comfort.

The reality is if I ruled the world I would create a world without consequences and people would basically be robots who just did what I said, because that is the only way I could make everyone be nice and not let there be any pain! God wants a relationship with us… His creation. And He wants us to choose a relationship with Him. But if He makes us choose Him, then we do not have a genuine relationship. So, He gave us all a free will. And in our freedom to choose, we as people sure do bring a lot of pain, and heartache to one another, don’t we? But, we can also choose to follow God. We can choose to receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. We can choose to repent, say we are sorry for all of the bad choices we have made with our freedom and we can receive God’s forgiveness. And we can spend eternity in Heaven with Him. Heaven will be full of people who chose God. Who received His gift of forgiveness of sins through His son Jesus Christ. And it will be full of people who can appreciate His love, peace, kindness and forgiveness because they have experienced the pains of life.

The bible says in James 4:14-15, “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

Our lives on earth are a brief moment in the light of all eternity. And I think we would all love to rule the world and have things our way. But, if we had everything our way, would we really appreciate what we have? Would we truly understand what a gift life is? And would we appreciate God – the true ruler of the world, who in His infinite wisdom does not give us everything we want, but does supply all that we need for now, and is preparing a place for us in Heaven.

5 Days in Joplin

Posted: June 11, 2011 in Life
Tags: , ,

On Sunday May 22, 2011, @ 5:41 pm, one of the largest, most devastating  EF-5 tornados on record landed in Joplin MO.  

The almost one-mile-wide tornado touched down for an estimated six ½ minutes and when it was done, around 8000 homes and buildings were destroyed, hundreds were injured and the death toll was climbing. To date, the death toll has reached around 150.

My son Bryce and I just returned from a week of volunteering with the relief effort.  We joined a team from Buffalo and went to work with Franklin Graham’s Disaster Relief Ministry “Samaritan’s Purse”. We spent a week working with hundreds of others from across the nation assisting homeowner’s in the beginning of debris removal and rebuilding. Primarily, we were helping to clean up the mess.  Rebuilding cannot truly start, until the removal of rubble is complete.

Many people have asked me questions about our experiences.  However, one question has prompted me to write down some thoughts about the week I spent in Joplin. The question is simple:

 “Did you feel like you made a difference?”

Good question. Maybe a great question. Perhaps even “THE” question.

As I thought about that question in the light of the week I had just experienced, I could not help but ponder something.  Is that not the question that secretly twists and turns in stealth like fashion through the hearts and minds of every human on the planet. Not just when doing disaster relief work, or being on a missions trip, or working on some type of outreach to our communities. But every day.  Living normal life.  Just getting up and doing what we do, then laying our heads on our pillows at night.

Don’t these questions continue to churn through our being: Am I making a difference?  Does my life count? Did today even matter?

Just a thought.  One I will continue to ponder. But for now, let me attempt to answer the question of questions through the prism of my personal experiences and observances of others that I experienced while in Joplin, MO.

Day 1 in Joplin began with our first drive into the epicenter of the destruction.  We were staying in a church that was one mile away.  In the church and surrounding area the only sign that a tornado had occurred was the presence of relief volunteers, organizations and relief provision.  There was an abundance of food, water, portable showers, clothing and other household items available for whoever had a need. However, the buildings, streets, stores, homes, churches in this area looked as normal as before the tornado had come. I did not see the visible sign that anything had occurred. Until…  we drove one mile over. 

That’s all.  One mile.  Because one mile over was the beginning of what I was not prepared to see.

As we drove into the destruction zone, silence invaded our van.  Eyes were taking in what we had only seen on TV or the internet.  It always seems so far away on television. Almost unreal.  But here it was.

We stopped.  We had a job today.  A homeowner without a home had requested our assistance in beginning to clean up the mess.  I stepped out and tried to hide behind my big dark sunglasses. This worked for only a moment, for the tears insisted on making their appearance. The only physical response that matched the heartbreak inside.

And we began… cleaning up.  Digging through what was once a home.  Dividing the debris for removal.  Wood in one pile.  Metal in another.  Appliances, if there, in their own section.  Any personal items thought to be of value or of a sentimental nature were put aside for the owners.  So began a week of digging through the rubble of people I did not know, in an attempt to assist in helping them begin the process of rebuilding their lives.

Here are some highlights and random thoughts:

After we cleared a property for one homeowner, our team of fifty volunteers that day gathered around to pray for him and his wife.  In addition, Samaritan’s purse provides an incredible Billy Graham Study Bible that we all signed.  We prayed and presented the Bible.  The man began to weep as he thanked us for our help.

This man had about a 5 acre piece of property.  On the back of the property, there were three trailer houses that he rented out.  During the  tornado, one trailer was picked up in the air, spun around three times and landed upside down. The tenants were in the trailer when this happened and none of them were hurt.  Miraculous!

Also, the home owner had a friend that came out and worked with us in helping to clear the property.  When we all gathered together, the friend shared how his own house had burned down over two years prior.  He told us that the man we all helped had spent almost every weekend for the last two years helping him rebuild after the fire.  He said now God was paying him back by sending all of us to help. 

We saw homes where nothing was left but a stairwell, and that was where the family gathered and they all lived. 

We cleared one house that had a storm shelter in the front porch.  The family had never used the shelter in ten years. But the dad felt like they were supposed to this time.  Because of this, the family lived.  The front of the house totally collapsed on top of the shelter when the tornado came through and the family, though safe, were trapped after the tornado was over.  Their neighbor came by and dug them out.  The entire family was saved. 

Another homeowner we helped shared how her husband had been the only one home.  A wall collapsed over him, but instead of killing him, it was what held him down and kept him safe.  Again, miraculous.

Besides the question of, “Did we make a difference?”, the other question I have heard is “Where was God in all of this?” 

Well, I don’t claim to have all of the answers, but all I can share is what I saw, and the stories we were told.

We heard one story of a lady who had been estranged from her adult children.  During and right after the tornado, her children attempted to contact her.  They had not talked in years.  They were unable to reach her and feared the worst.  Unbeknownst to them, their mother had been out of town.  When she came back home, a few days after the tornado, she went to see how bad her home was.  It was demolished.  However, when she arrived, she found her adult children in her front yard, cleaning up the debris.  They ran to each other, hugged and cried.  Just thankful everyone was alive and well; their relationship was instantly healed and restored.  The lady called the Pastor of the church we stayed at to share her story.

This was the amazing thing I witnessed; in the midst of tragedy and devastation, we saw and heard so many miraculous stories.  People who were supposed to be home but were delayed, and because of the inconvenience, were now alive. 

I can remember arriving at one property to begin cleaning up. A volunteer looked at the mass accumulation of trees and debris and exclaimed, ” Where do we start?” Almost as soon as she asked, another volunteer member went and picked up a piece of wood and began walking it to the curb. That simple act said it all. Our team of volunteers cleared that property that day. But it started by picking up the first piece.

Meeting many of the home owners and hearing their stories was amazing.  I could go on and on for paragraphs at a time. I saw God working through volunteers from all over the country.  I saw God in the eyes of people who lived through the tornado and were so thankful to be alive.  I saw God in the cooperation of strangers, neighbors, families and acuaintences unified by the hope of rebuilding after the storm.

So did we make a difference? … absolutely, but it was because we were  a part of a mass army of volunteers who were pouring out their lives, time, energy, finances and love.  And, strangely, in the midst of tragedy, I saw, sensed, felt, and observed God at work.  Out of the ashes, beauty is rising.  Out of tragedy, compassion is flowing.  Out of heartache love is being reborn. 

The lives of my son Bryce and I were changed forever.  We were deeply moved by the people of Joplin, by the outpouring of love and by the Grace of God that was undeniable.

My heart and prayers will continue to be with the people of Joplin, and I look forward to going back and seeing the miracle of a town rebuilt.  Please continue to pray for Joplin, donate money to relief organizations such as Samaritan’s Purse, and consider going to volunteer.  God Bless Joplin.

R U Ready to Run

Posted: May 26, 2011 in Life
Tags: , , ,

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 1 Cor 9:24

So…who out there wants to win?  Doesn’t winning sound better than losing.  We generally think that in any race, if we are the winner, then someone else is the loser.  But here’s the great part: God gives each and every one of us a race to run.  He gives us a path to follow.  A dream to pursue. A goal to accomplish.  Our individual journeys, our race, on the way to the finish line looks different for each and every one of us.

We all have different families, different upbringings, different education, different interests, different styles, different tastes, and different ways of doing things.

Nevertheless, God says run in such a way to win your race.  Your race, your journey is going to look different from mine, and yet God wants us both to win.  So, in reality, we each have our own race in which we can win or lose and we can win without making anyone else a loser.  In fact, the way God does things, if we run our race well, if we run to win, then we put ourselves in a position to encourage others.

The best thing we can do in life is to run well, run far, run to win. 

In the end we can say as the Apostle Paul said,  in 2 Timothy 4:7, “ I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

God gives us grace to run, grace to continue, grace to win. 

He gives us a way to win, through His Son, Jesus Christ.  What a gift, huh?!  Jesus takes our sin, our failures, our shortcomings.  And in return, we receive forgiveness, life and grace to run our race.

Most importantly, through Jesus Christ, we are given the ultimate finish line: eternity with God, the creator of all things.

How sweet it will be to hear the voice of God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.”

Oh how those words encourage me as I run.