27 Feb

Surviving this crazy life

Some would say that from the very beginning I have been a survivor. My mother was pregnant with me at the age of 15. Despite being forced to drop out of junior high school and having to walk the aisle with a man 8 years her senior, she made the brave decision to give me a chance at life.  She is my hero. Her courageous decision has resulted in two sons and 14 grandchildren!  Way to go mom! Look at all you have done!

My dad was a farm kid at heart but somewhere along the way his life decisions led him down a road of self-destruction. Alcohol, wild living and bar fights left him nearly dead on more than one occasion. His life was often out of control as he took his frustrations out on his wife and kids. He was just flat out mean and lacked the basic life skills to be a good husband and dad. It cost him his family and what could have been a life filled with great memories. But all is not lost. There is more to his story.

When I was a teenager my dad bought a handgun, took me to a creek bed and shot at me. I was lucky to have survived. It was crazy and terrifying. He threatened my brother’s life in a hostage, murder-suicide type situation in an attempt to get back at my mother. If not for the bravery and intervention of my favorite uncle, I’m not sure how the story would have ended. On another occasion my dad tried to run my brother and I over with his car. He broke into our house and I held a 12-gauge shotgun on him until the police arrived. To no one’s surprise, my mom eventually divorced him.

Despite growing up in a life of domestic violence, alcohol abuse and plenty of dysfunction, I eventually found hope and a future among a group of friends and leaders who loved me and forever changed the direction of my life as I came to know the Lord in a very personal way.

Yes, it is a story of hardship and pain but it is also one of hope, forgiveness and amazing reconciliation.

I recently sat down on my birthday and reflected on the story in a little video shoot. I hope you will watch it.  I pray it inspires you in some small way.

https://youtu.be/isPNS_wVshk

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24 Feb

Chosen for testing

Nobody wants to be that guy. No one would wish what Job went through on their worst enemy.

Yet, he was chosen to be tested. Here was a guy that had done everything right. His reputation was stellar. He was known to be blameless, a man of integrity, God fearing, avoided evil, a family man and a successful business man who had earned a great amount of wealth.

He hadn’t cheated, wasn’t crooked, didn’t manipulate or take advantage of others in order to advance his own agenda. Job was a good guy and if ever there was a poster child for the rewards of making good choices and working hard, Job was the guy.

He lost it all. No, he didn’t make a mistake. It was simply tragic. He was a victim of crime, natural disaster and oppression. Job had been chosen for testing.

He lost his livelihood, house, kids and health all within a short timeframe. Everything he loved, cherished and had worked so hard to maintain was ripped from his hands.

Why?

Do you ever feel like Job? “What have I done to deserve this mess? I may not be perfect, and I have made my fair share of mistakes, but what did I do to earn this? It’s not fair. It’s not right,” we shout to the heavens.

Our responses tend to be a little different than Job’s. For sure he acknowledged the losses. He grieved. He expressed his pain and mourned. It was so bad that his friends scarcely recognized him. They sat with him for 7 days without words because the suffering was too great for words. Can you imagine?

Job’s wife seemed to make the most sense. “Just curse God and die,” she begged. Just end it. End the misery and pain.

Job’s response is profound. “Are we to only accept good from God and not the bad?”

Wait a minute. Good and bad from God? Now we have a crisis of belief. How could a loving God allow bad things to happen to good people?

Job must have been given the same incredible insight that Paul was given in Romans when he said. “We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

Somehow, someway Job realized and recognized, that even though it didn’t make sense, even though he didn’t understand why, God would use it all for good. All of it. The good bad and indifferent.

Let’s be honest, we are probably not ready to be chosen for testing. But what does it say about the person who is? Does it not say something about the  faith of the individual? To be tested is not a sign of weakness but of strength.

A survey of the scriptures soon reveals that it is hard to find anyone that God uses that wasn’t chosen to be tested. Not even Jesus.

I have noticed that those who have been chosen to be tested have a deep sense of God’s presence and grace. While they may not understand, they know he walks with them, sits with them and comforts them in ways they may not of experienced otherwise. They pay a high tuition for this insight. They are in the ivy leagues of suffering. They didn’t wish for it, ask for it or deserve it but they do acknowledge it and seek to use it for the greater good.

It is sobering to say the least. No doubt Job had questions and he and God had some definite one-on-on-times. In the end, Job’s words are heavy and give insight on what it is like for someone to come out on the other side of suffering, pain and tragedy. “God, I have some questions for you, and you must answer them. I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes.” Somehow, once Job encountered God in a deeper way, nothing else mattered other than being with God.

What’s the point? We may never know why things happened the way they do on this side of heaven. But one thing we can be sure of, someday, when in His presence, our questions will melt like butter as we see Him and His ways clearly.

Does this leave us grasping at vapor and left empty handed? No doubt it does in many ways. But until such time, we can take comfort in knowing the one who has allowed the testing never wastes pain and suffering and will use it in ways we may never understand or imagine.

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20 Feb

Do you remember the original quarantine?

The year 2020 will forever stand out as a benchmark in human history. Pandemics were thought to have been a thing of the past. Quarantines were once required of astronauts following feats of courage. In 2020, we were introduced to new terms like social distancing and COVID-19!

2020 taught us that despite all the advances in medical marvels and technological wizardry, we were human and we were vulnerable. We were not in control of our own destiny. We were subject to the powers of nature and without the grace of God, we would likely not survive as the human race.

As much as we like to focus on our own misery and suffering, it has given us a great appreciation for human contact and the joys of stepping outside without a mask.

This is not the first quarantine that the world has endured. From the early days of history, we learn of a man and his family that escaped the floods of nature by quarantining for more than a year cooped up in a boat, not only with his wife and kids but with a barn full of animals! How does a man survive without his cell phone, Netflix and Wi-Fi?

The days and nights had to have grown long and tiring. The smell alone would make one want to jump overboard. But, Noah, the captain of the ship, endured. He stayed the course and he got through it. His sea legs eventually found a hilltop and he gladly leaped for shore!

The most encouraging part of the story is the phrase, “God remembered Noah.” Oh, to be remembered by anyone is to feel the love but to be remembered by God, now that is special.

Don’t you know that Noah wondered if the supplies would last? Would the boat hold together or take on leaks?  Was it reasonable to ask any man to live with his in-laws for more than an extended holiday let alone inside a wooden box for more than a year with a bunch of wild beasts?

Life has a way of being filled with the unexpected. A lost job, a bad medical report, betrayal by a close friend, a natural disaster or the loss of the favorite family pet. Sometimes life floods us with so many overwhelming circumstances that we just want to run and hide and wait for it all to pass. A quarantine starts to sound like a great option. Have you been there?

Regardless of your circumstances, good times or bad, it helps knowing that we are not forgotten. We aren’t left to drift about in a rudderless boat waiting to be fed by seagulls.

We have a God who loves us. He cares for us and he knows what we are going through. We may not understand why he didn’t calm the storm or stop the disaster but we can know that he hasn’t left us alone.

The sun will come out, the sky will clear and we too will regain and begin again.

Regardless of what comes our way and no matter what the outcome may be, we can rest assured that when our hope is in him heaven is where it all ends. Not even Mount Ararat is as good as that!

What’s that? Is that a rainbow I see starting to peek through?