It’s Saturday. Start something

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…and so is a plan without goals. Both are necessary ingredients.

Basic steps to making change:

  1. Determine what needs to be changed (and how badly you want it changed–this is a great place for prayer!).
  2. Develop a plan of action.
  3. Set reasonable, measureable goals.
  4. Count the cost (what do you have to add/subtract in your like and is it worth it?).
  5. Tell somebody. Make yourself accountable for encouragement.
  6. Implement the plan.

Today is a great day to get started!

Is there something you would add to these steps? Let me know.

Things that make you scratch your head

I walked into McDonald’s a few minutes ago and ordered a sausage and egg and told the lady that I have Celiac Disease and so my food cannot touch anything that has touched food with gluten.  The lady behind the counter said, “Oh, ok.  I know about that. I will make sure they change gloves before they fix your food.” I said, “Yes, ma’am.  Thank you.”

After a few minutes she handed me a tray with my food on it. It was then that I realized they had kindly changed gloves before they put my egg and sausage on the biscuit! 😳

Demonic Distraction

I’m not likely to elicit the services of a prostitute. I’m not likely to get a bottle of scotch and polish it off in a sitting. I’m not likely to hunt down someone I dislike and take them out with one, ridiculously accurate shot between the eyes. There are probably a thousand different things I can list here that I probably won’t do (though, because of my sin nature, I can never say I’m incapable. There’s nothing a sinful heart is incapable of). However, there are simply things that don’t tempt me very much; tactics the soldiers of darkness would be foolish to engage me in.

What I’m coming to realize more and more, though, is that there are some things that I seem to be predisposed towards. Things that always seem to cause me a great fight and, sometimes, I just can’t seem to hold up. Of course, some of these are shrouded in clouds of deception; covert attacks in which I am outflanked and hit without even so much as knowing I’ve been outwitted, outlasted or outplayed.

“Squirrel!”

Take my most susceptible area of weakness: distraction. I have rarely been able to detect this one, mainly because there’s nothing particularly “evil” about the things I’ve been doing. It’s not like I’ve jumped online to check out the latest porn features or spent time chatting with “lovely Korean girls who are waiting for your call”. In fact, many of the things that have been used against me are quite inoccuous. We’re talking watching a funny video that someone posted on Facebook or “cute kittens at play (after all, I’ve been told that laughing at cats falling off of slippery cars and jumping into screen doors is therapeutic) and not realize that I mindlessly just let the next 5 or 10 funny videos that follow autoplay. Maybe I do a “quick search” for something I’ve been wanting to check out only to get lost for the next half hour in the endless tree of links that are related. Simple stuff. Innocent stuff.

Not So Innocent

It’s crazy how easy it is for the “innocent” or morally neutral to cause me to sin. Now, I know that to call it sin might be debatable by some, but it’s certainly not for me. Here’s why. If there is anything that has kept me from making the things of God primary in my life, I am guilty of idolatry. After all, idolatry is, most simply, anything that takes the rightful place of God. When I let anything detract my affections away from the primacy of Christ, idolatry has been birthed and will not stop until it is full-grown and has become a major sin in my life.

Again, there is nothing inherently wrong with pursuing interests, spending time on Facebook or anything else that can be either good or bad, but I know me. I tend to get sucked in and all of the time I’ve been given to pursue that which I SAY is of primary importance in my life is now gone because of all the little things that have robbed me of the opportunity I had. Man, I’m telling you, if I was out to get you to take your eyes off of Jesus, I wouldn’t need to make you bad so long as I could make you distracted; if I could make you too busy or preoccupied with the mundane.

Taking Back the Land

Military history all the way back to biblical days has shown us that, even after terrible defeats, if an army can manage to rally and take back even a little previously-lost territory, it can lead to greater confidence to take it all back and win the war. That’s what I have determined to do, even though it’s surprisingly difficult!

I’ve only been off of social media for 24 hours and I feel like an addict going through withdrawals. I was so accustomed to mindlessly picking up the iPhone during moments of down-time and seeing what everyone was posting, that I find myself wanting to re-download the apps. I’m starting to realize just how frequently I was checking those stupid things. Why? I allowed myself to be fooled into thinking it was no harm, but little by little, the joy of the Lord in my life was fading because I wasn’t pursuing it. How could I? Every spare minute was spent trying to see what everyone else BUT God was saying.

So, I will work through the withdrawals, endure the cold sweats and refocus my time and attention on the most important things in my life. I will retake the land and determine that I will no longer allow demonic distractions to rule my life. I will practice the skill of self-examination and submit my free time to the freedom I have in Christ to grow into the design God has for me.

Maybe God isn’t calling you to give up social media, even for a season, but are there “demonic distractions” in your life that are secretly keeping you from living up to your potential? Is there something or even someone in your life that has quietly and slowly led you into idolatry? Time is fleeting, the moments are passing…grab them! Take control of your time and submit it under the control of the Holy Spirit. Do it now while you still have TIME.

Peace.

A Stitch in Time

Today is the day. At 2:45, I go into surgery for the second time to get this left shoulder fixed.  I appreciate all of you who have said you will pray for me.  Also, pray for my surgeon, Dr. Dorizas, a godly man I’ll “introduce” you to later, if I get the chance.  I’m going to attempt to keep updates on my website, if you’re interested.  I’m not sure if they’ll all show up on Facebook or not, so if you want to keep up, you’ll probably have to check back from time to time here.  

Many people have asked me if it’s depressing having to go in for a second surgery for the same problem.  Honestly, it’s not.  Yeah, I had to process it for about half of a day when I first heard the news, but I’ve been dealing with this shoulder pain for about three years with the first surgery two years ago.  I probably would (and should) be depressed over chronic, everyday pain, except the grace of God as He taught me, early on, the lesson He blessed Paul with:

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

No, unlike Paul, I didn’t recieve a special revelation, so there’s nothing for me to boast about there, but I can brag about the grace of God in my life.  He has shown me so much about myself and Himself through this that I would not trade the pain for.  I have prayed for it to go away, for sure, but He’s taught this pride-filled, stubborn guy much about His grace and the power that comes through it.  So, I will brag about that and pray that His power will rest on me, even if this surgery doesn’t accomplish what we hope for.  I am content.

Shoulder Surgery, Part Deux

I’m not sure what the Lord is teaching me, exactly, but after nearly two years since my initial shoulder surgery, I found out today that I have to go under the knife again…as soon as possible.

It turns out that one of the anchors that was put into my shoulder to secure the repair has somehow partially worked it’s way out, which means not only is the repair not holding, the anchor is causing damage to the surrounding tissue.  My doctor is concerned that, if not fixed soon, long-term damage could result.

So, here we go again.  I would appreciate prayers as I deal with increasing pain prior to surgery and, of course, the surgery, itself.  I’m not looking forward to the 12-week recovery (read: no golf or cycling), and the possibility of yet a third down the road, but God is good.  Through this entire leg of my journey, Paul’s response to his own suffering has been an encouragement to me:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

His strength is certainly sufficient!  Besides, where’s the adventure without some mountains to climb, right?  The tough times are when we learn the most, both about ourselves and the provision and faithfulness of God.

A Liberated Mess

mountainLast week, I took a couple of days for a personal retreat.  I had a lot of things unresolved in my own mind and heart and they were starting to take a toll on me (physically, spiritually and emotionally).  Karen suggested I take some time to get away, alone with God, and try and work it out.  So, off to the mountains I went, Bible and journal in hand, ready to explore the depths and climb the heights of whatever God needed to show me.

I spent time sitting by creeks and climbing mountains, biking through valleys, praying and reading, begging God to reveal to me the truth of my situation and to work out the internal struggles I was dealing with.  I had no idea just how much I had to be shown.

As the time went on, more and more began to unfold before me: past issues that had shaped me (both good and bad), recent events that had hurt me, and Truths of Scripture that were now delivering me.  The pieces of the puzzle began to come together for me in ways they never had before.  I began to experience healing in ways that were very new to me.  I want to share a couple of the revelations God gave me that should be obvious, but are often overlooked, “hidden in plain sight,” if you will.

The first truth that became clearer to me than ever is that we are all screwed up.  Really, I mean it sincerely.  Not a single one of us has it together, probably nowhere near as much as we even think we do.  I’m talking nut-jobs.  It’s easy to see it in others, but really, how good are we at calling it out in ourselves?  We’ve basically got it together, right?  No, we don’t…none of us.  Why is this truth important?  Because when we realize we most decidedly do NOT have it all together, we can stop pretending that we do.  See, if I had it all together, I wouldn’t really need a Savior.  Instead, I am desperately in need of Him every single day, not just for my eternal security, but my daily sanity.  Much of the problem in churches is that they are full of people who say they need a savior but act as though they don’t.  In truth, we are blind to our own weakness.  We are gullible, believing just about anything Satan tells us about ourselves (and each other!) because the truth kills our pride and soils our spotless reputations.  I had to leave Fantasyland and sit down in the dreadful truth of my own ugliness.  That was a painful blessing!

Secondly, I kept being drawn to Colossians 3:1-5a:

IMG_4189If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death

therefore what is earthly in you…”

Here’s why that is so important:  if we are not constantly seeking things that are above and considering ourselves dead, it is so easy to let everything that happens to us shape us.  If we get praise, we become prideful.  If we get criticism, we become reactionary, defensive and angry.  If we are ignored, we get lonely.  In some way or another, we tend to get our value from the externals.  We can feel loved, hated, abandoned, praised, and on and on it goes based on what others think and the circumstances that come our way.  That’s wrong!

When I think about what Paul said in this passage, I picture an unborn child in the womb.  It is (generally) protected from all outside influences.  Everything that affects the child comes through the mother.  Spiritually, it should be the same way.  I am dead and my life is hidden with Christ in God.  Therefore, outer circumstances shouldn’t affect how I think about myself or how I react to outside forces, replaced by the nourishment and protection of the Father.  My defense mechanisms that create walls will come down as I realize the protective covering of the Father is so much stronger and infinitely less damaging.

External circumstances should not affect or determine how I react in the world.  What people think of me shouldn’t change how I think about myself nor should how they act change my attitude towards them…after all, they’re messed up, too, whether or not they realize or acknowledge it, themselves.  I am hidden in the womb of God’s love, righteous because He has declared me righteous.  Accepted because He has accepted me.  Successful because He defines success, etc.  This is nothing of ME, but all of Him, so there is no room for pride in the equation, but there is plenty of room for grace, for myself and those who affect my life.  If I set my mind on things above and get my worth, strength and value from Him, I’m now free to love others, deal with criticism, handle anxiety, overcome circumstances in a healthy way without needing to be or feel vindicated.  I can release bitterness.  I can forgive anyone who I felt hurt from regardless of their attitude or posture towards me.  I can live in freedom because Christ has set me free, *not submitting myself again to a yoke of slavery!

When you understand how messed up you really are, you understand what great news it is that a Savior loves you and has hidden you within His protective care.  You get a clear sense of Him working out all the details of your journey down this rugged road called life, up to the mountain tops and deep into the valley…because He’s Lord of that, too!

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Taking Heart

“Take heart.” Since I preached on this Sunday at The Gathering, I’v been thinking about what this means, and what this means to me. One is objective and the second is more subjective…how it changes me. Last night, I posted a quote from the message Sunday on Twitter and Facebook. It was the part where I said, “Take heart! In the middle of your suffering, take heart. In the midst of your pain, take heart. When the storm is blowing all around you and you can’t see beyond the wind-swept sea, take heart! The Great I Am has overcome!”

As soon as I hit “Send,” I went downstairs and met Karen with a troubled look on her face. She said that Andrew had broken out in a rash all over his body and his face was swollen–symptoms listed under the category “rare but dangerous side effects” on the insert that came with the medicine. My comfort level immediately dropped, as well. What were the next few hours about to bring? We called the doctor on call and waited nervously for the phone to ring, watching for any changes or developments in Andrew’s condition. I headed upstairs to get dressed, certain we would be making a trip to the E.R.

When I got upstairs, I walked into the bathroom, glanced in the mirror and it hit me…take heart. I had just written those words multiple times not ten minutes earlier. Was a storm coming? Would something happen that would rock my world? I couldn’t know at that point. What I could determine was whether or not I was going to take heart. Did I really believe what I had written? Did I believe that the Great I Am was there and had this under control? Would He comfort His children? I could not leave that room…I couldn’t walk away from that mirror…until I had determined the answer.

Before long, I walked down the stairs back to where my family was. Concern for my son was still present, but it was only what Andrew might have to deal with in the next few hours. My confidence in the Great I Am was secure. As we talked to the doctor and it was confirmed that he needed to be seen immediately, we headed down to T.C. Thompson Children’s Urgent Care at a relatively elevated rate of speed, but a confidence, nonetheless, that God was going to take care of this. Andrew was going to be fine, regardless of what the next hours looked like.

It turned out that Andrew was fine. Everything checked out fine and the rash and swelling turned out to be related to the Strep rather than the meds…but what would have happened had everything not gone so well? How would we have responded? Honestly, I don’t know. I hope to never know. What I do know is, the grace of God would have met us wherever we ended up. Power and peace would have been provided and, though the storm may have been allowed to blow wild, there would have been peace as He comforted His child.

Taking heart doesn’t mean we don’t suffer, we don’t hurt, we don’t grieve and we don’t cry. It means that in the middle of it, God’s presence is there to provide the peace and strength to ultimately take heart!

A Super Saturday

Great morning leading a discussion in one of our Institute classes. It’s such a privilege for me to participate, much more lead a group like that. I love seeing the growth that’s happening as a result.

Late this afternoon, Jacob and I went for a run together at the campground at Chester Frost Park. Actually just got back. I really enjoyed spending time with him and finishing our 2.5 mile run together. It wasn’t easy, though. It’s the first time I’ve run since shoulder surgery on August 25. Went better than I thought, but not sure you would know that from the pic.

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I think we’re going to relax on this incredible Fall evening by a campfire in the backyard. Love this time of year!

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