Over a year ago I sat here at 11:30 at night (checkout my most “recent” post, Crossroads) not knowing what to write but just feeling the need to put my fingers on the keyboard. Here I am again, doing the same thing…coincidentally, it’s 11:26…not quite 11:30, but almost.
As I look over that post from February of last year, I realize that I stumbled upon the realization that I have a huge God on my side to push me through my struggles, settled on this massive plan that I envisioned working out miraculously…and then promptly forgot all about it, stopped posting, and went right back into my old ways of struggling to find my place in the world. I’ll never understand the propensity I have towards self doubt and my amazing ability to change my mind every other hour of the day. I’ve always had the uncanny ability to give advice to everyone around me, and take none of it for myself.
Warning: when I started this blog I said it would be used as an avenue for myself to pour out my thoughts and feelings in the hope that what I’m going through would benefit others. I don’t always have instant resolutions to things, and because of the nature of “me” these aren’t always the most inspiring of things. So…if you aren’t interested in learning more about the inner workings of my mind, please feel free to stop reading now. If you are interested (or just don’t have anything better to do at the moment, take a second at the end to type up a comment, anything you want…prayers, words of encouragement, questions, ask for advice, or just to start up a conversation…)
While I still have a lot of plans and thoughts to dig through, one of the first steps on my journey to finding myself again is to get this blog back up and going. Writing has always been a passion of mine, and I’ve put it off for too long. Whether it’s business, laziness, procrastination, or just plain not wanting to do it sometimes. I’ve always felt the call to write. So, the first step is to write at least one post per week.
Second goal? That’s a little more in-depth, and I’m already behind. I want to get the book that I’ve been “working” on for over 20 years finished and on its way to publishing. I don’t know how I’m going to do this, I don’t know where I’m going to find (or make) the time. However, in my post from last year I said something that I still believe in very strongly:
“If the size of your vision isn’t intimidating to you, there’s a good chance it’s insulting to God.”
I don’t enjoy insulting God, and getting a book published by the end of the year, when I still don’t even have the entire plot fleshed out, intimidates the heck out of me.
This post got away from me a bit, but I have a thing where I never change things that I write because I feel like they were said for a reason, even if I started with another topic in mind. I wanted to spill a lot of the struggles I’ve been going through recently, but now that I’ve gone off topic and had the chance to think about it I believe those things would be better said in individual posts over the coming weeks.
Sorry it’s been over a year since I’ve posted anything, but I plan to get back to a regular weekly posting schedule. You can expect personal insights, mind dumps, and the occasional inspirational or teaching post about topics/scriptures that I’ve had piling up for 2 years now (there’s about 40 half written posts that I need to finish up sitting in the post queue right now…)
Lastly, before I make my way to bed, it wouldn’t be a normal post if I didn’t include a song that I’ve been listening to a lot lately. To tell you the truth, I’m not even sure WHY I have been enjoying this song so much. But I do know that at 4:50, the raw emotion that Melissa Helser displays speaks to my heart every time. The need to experience nothing but the presence of God, ignoring everything else like she is doing here…I long for that again.
Heavenly Father, you know my needs more than I know them myself. When I can’t put the words together to explain how I’m feeling, I know that you already know. I pray that you would continually lead me towards the path that you have laid out for me, even though I may not be able to see it. You know that I focus on so many things and lose direction so often. Lord I get distracted by so many things. I just ask for your guidance and wisdom to do the right thing, to say the right thing, and to realize when I need to pay attention to other peoples needs and not my own. I want to be a light to others even when I may not be one to myself all the time. I long for Your presence. Lastly Lord, I pray that you would use my experiences and words to speak into the lives of others. That they would know there is always someone else out there going through something similar, and that no one has to go through life alone, Your hand is always extended and waiting for them. Thank you for your amazing love, and unending forgiveness.
11:30 at night and I can’t go to sleep. I have to get up for work in a few short hours, yet for some reason I am sitting here listening to the same song over and over again with the feeling that I need to get a post out tonight. I don’t even know what I’m going to talk about while I type this…so whoever you are that needs to hear this right now, I pray that God just moves in a tremendous way right now as you read this. I might not know who you are, but God does…and He has you right where He wants you.
This is the song I was talking about, and there are some crazy strong lyrics in there. My favorite part…”Then you crash over me, I’m right where you want me to be, I’m going under, I’m in over my head. Whether I sink, whether I swim, it makes no difference when I’m beautifully in over my head.” It’s amazing just how accurate other peoples words can be.
I’ve been trying to figure out what to post for a few days now, knowing I need to get something written out but not know what. I actually sat down last Friday with an awesome friend and brother and we did a little bit of soul baring. I’ve been feeling trapped at a crossroads for a while now…seeing many options before me but not knowing which one I’m supposed to take. They all feel like the write choice, but how is that even possible. That conversation, plus the repeated playing of this song over and over again, has helped cement in my mind that “I’m right where He wants me to be”. Oh…and prayer…there has been lots and lots of that as well!
What do you do when you are staring at a sign pointing in many different directions? Well…apparently you let a really good friend convince you that all the roads lead to the same destination, and that maybe they aren’t as far apart as you thought they were. I’m a writer. I’m a talented “tech” guy. I’m skilled at web management. I have a heart for those in need. I love managing communities. I need to fix things. I desire to see God move visibly in a mighty way. Why can’t all of these things lead to the same purpose. Why do I need to only choose one as my “purpose” in life. That’s the question I have been asking myself for so long.
I finally found the answer. I don’t. I don’t have to choose only one. God gave me the gifts that I have for a specific reason, and while I don’t know exactly what the end result is going to be; after months of prayer, months of questioning, months of wondering, months of seeking, months of begging for a sign for which path to take…I finally realize that I might not be able to handle them all on my own, but luckily I’m not on my own.
So I decided to take all of my passions, lump them into one big, crazy, vision, and trust that God’s got this. Details of that vision will come soon enough, but that’s for a later post.
Now I just have to figure out why I have been so naive for so long. Being scared of handling the size of my goals just seems silly to me now. I’ve been trying to figure out my purpose for so long now, when I’ve had the motivation literally staring me in the face the entire time. I made a graphic years ago that is on my computer desktop…so I see it all the time.
“If the size of your vision isn’t intimidating to you, there’s a good chance it’s insulting to God”
How did I manage to read that every day and still come out scared of doing something big?
Well, I think I’ve rambled enough. Sorry for the unorganized thoughts that I’ve just thrown up here so quickly tonight. But as I started out, I didn’t know at all what I was going to write…I just knew I needed to do something. And for the person that I’m writing this for…I don’t know who you are, but I know there’s something you are seeking. Don’t stop.
Heavenly Father, I don’t pretend to have it all together. I know that I am flawed and that is the reason I need you. I thank you for showing me the path that I need to take, and I thank you for being there to hold my up along the way. I pray that you would be there tonight with the person that needs to feel your presence. I know you know them, and that you have plans for them. Please help them to find it. Amen
After my post from a few days ago, I’ve been in a pretty crappy state of mind if I’m going to be completely honest. Back and forth between anger and sadness, confusion and understanding, guilt and sorrow. I always thought I was a strong person. Peoples opinions of me don’t really matter much to me, I can take criticism, I’ve always been able to find the best way through a situation, I can handle things on my own…etc. But for some reason I am finding it so difficult to push past the feeling of uselessness that I feel every time I close my eyes and think about the fact that I may never be able to do the things that I thought maybe one day I might be able to do again.
I’ve been spending a lot of time listening to music, mostly music that is supposed to be helping me cope but which seems to just be reminding me of the mistakes that I’ve made and the faults that I have. If anyone has ever dealt with depression…you might know what I’m talking about. As much as I try to see the good in things, I end up coming back around to see the bad side. I used to be such a positive person and I really want to get there again.
I have also been doing a lot of soul searching with a Bible sitting in front of me. It’s easy and hard at the same time. Easy enough to open the bible and search for scripture that pertains to suffering, hard to look past the suffering itself and see what’s on the other side (mostly because at the moment it’s hard to even see the possibility of the other side).
But, despite all of that, I still manage to find glimpses of hope. And although I may be struggling, and I might not feel like I’m deserving, I KNOW that God does everything for a purpose, and that purpose is good. My mom sent me a song last night to listen to. I didn’t notice it until this morning right after I finished my morning time with God, during which I was seeking answers for why I have to go through this (on a side note…I feel really selfish about all this, me, my issues, my pain, my suffering…I know there are so many others out there going through worse situations!). But when I finally did listen to it this morning I realized just how much it fits what I’m going through right now. Take a few minutes to listen to this song, then come back…I’m not done yet.
Broken beyond repair | Healing beyond belief
Look in the mirror and find someone you never thought you’d be | Lift your eyes to Jesus
Nothing but damaged goods | Something good in the making
My worst mistake | Covered by the price He paid
The scars from when you fell | The stories they will tell
Worthless | Priceless
Pain | Purpose
Unworthy and Undeserving | Seen through eyes of mercy
I’d love to say that listening to this song will make all of your troubles go away and you will instantly realize that there is a purpose and be happy with your situation. I’d love to be able to say it, but I can’t say it for myself so I doubt it will work that way for you either. However, it gives me (and you!) a guide to cut out the enemy. The enemy knows that our struggles and suffering are for a better cause, a cause that is always opposite of what he wants. So the enemy makes the effort to use those struggles to pull us down before we can firmly get our faith planted in Jesus.
I feel like I’m caught in the middle of that process. As I’ve already said, I KNOW that there is a good purpose at the end of this, but I have trouble being content to not know WHEN that is going to happen. Especially added to what I found out earlier this week about the permanence of my issue, it’s a battle I have to fight, to fight to force my brain to agree with what my heart knows.
I listed many points from the song above, the bad thoughts on the left and Jesus’ responses to them on the right. There were more in the song, but these are the ones that pertain directly to a situation in my life, or a feeling that I can associate with. It’s so easy to relate to the ones on the left but sometimes (right now) so hard to accept the ones on the right. It’s hard to explain, but it’s not due to lack of belief that they are true…but more because as much as I KNOW that the right side is 100% accurate…I struggle with feeling deserving of that column when I know how much is wrong with me on the left. I know I don’t have to earn God’s love, but my human nature (as a result of sin) makes me feel like I still don’t deserve it at times.
Don’t get me wrong, my relationship with God I feel is growing stronger than it has been in a while. I’m studying His word and spending time in prayer on a daily basis. I have dropped to my knees and cried out for Him. I pray for strength and understanding, and at times I am at peace…but then for some reason the depression just keeps coming back. It’s like a never ending cycle that needs to be broken, but I don’t have the strength to break it. Luckily I know that there is someone in my life that can carry me through and take the heavy burden as soon as I’m willing to let it go…of that I have no doubt.
But how do I get there? How does anyone get there? We just have to push on. Plant our feet on solid ground and take one step at a time. We were never promised an easy life…what we were promised was an eternity with our Creator as long as we are willing to accept His grace. I guess it starts with knowing your limitations and asking Jesus to step in and cover them for you. In response to that, I’ve decided I need to start doing something more to get past whatever this is that I’m dealing with now. Can God heal me of my afflictions? He sure can! Will he? I don’t know…why should he? I want this to go away because it’s painful for me…not because I want Him to get the glory. That’s where the fault is…learning to put Him first. I’m slowly getting much better at that on the outward side of things…but it’s still something I’m struggling with on the inside.
I mentioned I’ve been doing more scripture reading and searching for stories of others going through the same things that I’m dealing with internally. One thing I found that I’m hoping will help is a book. I didn’t know about the book, I wasn’t searching for a book…I just happened across this quote in an article I was reading and it struck so close to home that I realized I had to read it. Maybe it was a God thing, maybe it wasn’t…but the book arrived in the mail today (thanks Mom!) so we will see how it is and how it helps. I’ll follow up on that in a later post down the road.
So far, I’ve stuttered and stammered so much in this post…I don’t even know if I’m on the topic that I originally intended to talk about. I just let the fingers do the typing and hopefully God is working through them so I say what He wants me to say. The quote above is the one that I mentioned (with a link to the book if anyone reading this is going through something similar and thinks it might help them as well). Talk about a slap in the face and a stomp on the feet. There’s only one type of suffering that I need to fear and it’s one that I don’t ever actually have to worry about since through Jesus’ sacrifice I’m completely safe from being cast aside from the presence of God.
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:8-9 ESV)
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance. (Romans 5:3 ESV)
Rejoice in our sufferings. I hope someone reading this post is feeling the exact same way I am right now. Sarcastically saying in my mind, “heh, easier said than done there buddy…how the heck am I supposed to rejoice over what I’m going through”. Well, I’m sitting here talking myself into how…so here’s the stream of thought that I’m going through right now: I can see Him working in my life right now. I feel Him closer right now than I have felt in a long time. While I still have this depression, I see holes of light poking through from time to time so I know there is a way out, it’s just forcing myself to push on to get there that I need to focus on. While there are certainly sufferings I am dealing with right now, chronic pain, depression, feelings of uselessness, general unhappiness, boredom and a lack of focus…there are so many more good things that I need to focus on. I am finally getting my finances straightened out. I have a loving and supporting wife that would do anything for me and will always be here by my side to help pull me through. I have two beautiful daughters that while they can be trying at times…they are children of Christ right along with me and I don’t have to worry about their fate. I have more options for medication and pain management that haven’t been talked about with the doctors yet…so I should probably stop fearing what I don’t know and wait to find out what options there might be. I’m alive (sad to say this hasn’t always been on the good list of things). My relationship with God is growing stronger by the day. I’ve given up some idols that were consuming me and I’m 1000 times better for it. I’ve set goals to work on and am doing very well with them…though I still need more effort in that department…I am at least finally attempting to live instead of doing nothing but waiting.
I don’t know what’s going to come out of this. Maybe my back is going to get so bad in the future that I can barely move. Maybe God is going to completely heal me. I don’t know, no one does. But I have to learn to be OK with that. I’m not rejoicing in my sufferings yet…but I know that someday soon I am going to be there….I just have to push on and keep my eyes focused on God’s will and not my own.
Heavenly Father, I thank you for the sufferings in my life. As much as they are painful to me, I know that there is good coming out of them. Lord I pray for anyone reading this blog that may be in the same or similar situation, and also for those that I know are worse off. I may not understand your reasoning for the things that happen, but I do know that there is no one else I would rather put my faith in. Lord help me with the faith to see that I don’t owe a debt anymore, there is nothing that I have to do to earn the love of Christ. If there is anyone reading this post that doesn’t know you Lord, I pray that you would pull them towards you. Let me be a vessel for you, show me the open door. Lord I thank you for your grace and ask for your forgiveness for the doubt and worry that I have been experiencing and just ask for you to empower me to push through it with your guidance. Lead me closer to you, and help me to lead those far from you to where you need them to be. Amen.
Bad news is hard to take some times, it really is. When I started this blog again more than a year ago, I said that I would use it to provide an unfiltered look into my life and my feelings, that through my life I might be a guide to lead those far from God to Him. It’s been a struggle.
I’ve had some ups and I’ve had some downs, and truthfully the past year has felt like a lot more downs than ups. And even though I know that I am supposed to be thankful in everything, and that God has a plan for good to come from everything, I struggle horribly with accepting that some times.
Thankfully I’m allowed to be broken, and I most certainly feel that way right now. I have struggled with chronic back pain for the past 9 years, sometimes it’s bearable, sometimes I can’t get out of bed in the mornings…but there has always been a hope that eventually things might get better. Multiple x-rays, multiple MRIs, steroid injections, narcotic medication, nerve blockers, etc…the past 9 years has been full of different doctors telling me that there isn’t much that can be done for me because they can’t tell WHY I am in pain. But, not knowing has always allowed me to look to the future for when the right doctor comes along and finds the answer. Well, I got my answer yesterday…and I have to admit that now I’d rather have just kept not knowing because I feel like the hope has been ripped right out of me.
Apparently, over the past 9 years, doctors have either missed or forgot to tell me that I have an extra vertebrae. This seems to actually be a pretty common occurrence (1 in 10 people might have it I guess) and it usually isn’t an issue. But because of a genetic condition that I have, mine is deformed and the deformity is where the pain is most likely coming from. I’m not going to get into the medical diagnosis and reasons of it, because truthfully I wasn’t focusing much on it as he was explaining it. The end result was I was told that in many years of Physical Therapy, he has never had a positive result with the very few people he’s seen with this issue…and that he didn’t think there was much he or anyone else could do to help the pain. Medication is really the only solution right now and that’s not even a full solution since the only things that can help the pain to a great extent is narcotics, and I refuse to be stoned all my life just to get rid of the pain. Unless of course I can find a surgeon that would be willing to do an operation that is pretty much 50/50 if it will work or not, on top of me being willing to take that chance…which I’m not.
So yeah…despite everything that I know I should be doing in light of this situation…I’m just mad. Why. I just want to know why, why me, why this, why can’t I have relief, why do I have to deal with this, why does my family have to deal with this, why do my children have to have a dad that can’t rough house with them too much, why do I have to sleep on the couch sometimes because it’s more comfortable than the bed, why does my wife have to sleep by herself on those days, why do I have to watch other people do all the hard work while I stand and watch being useless, why can’t I help lift heavy stuff, why can’t I be a man. What use is this, what good can come out of this. Why God, WHY!
I know there is light at the end of the tunnel. I KNOW there is something good to come out of this. I know there are others that are much worse off than me. But I can’t see it and I’m selfish. I don’t want to be broken, but I know broken is where I’m supposed to be. I’m imperfect. I’m broken.
But despite it all, I know God is still by my side, and I’m here, broken and waiting to be used for whatever purpose He has for me.
Sorry for the splurge of probably way too much personal information…but as always my fingers type faster than I can think.
Lord, I know that I am supposed to count everything as joy. I know that there is a purpose and something good in every plan you have. But I’m struggling to find that joy. I do thank you for all of the blessings that me and my family have received over the past few days/weeks and I feel guilty to let this one thing ruin all of those feelings and push me back into this place that I don’t want to be. Please forgive me. I pray that you would give me strength. Give me the strength to handle this situation and find the joy. Increase my faith. But through it all, I love you Lord and I will serve you. Amen.
I have been focussing on my relationship with God a lot lately. I’ve mentioned it in a previous post recently, but I’ve just really had it laid on my heart that all of the things I see in my life that need a little bit of fixing up can all be solved through my relationship with God. I know this, and have known this, but for some reason it’s just hard to put in the effort to do it sometimes! Whether it’s the busyness of every day life, the temptations of procrastination or general laziness. Something always comes up to replace God Time it seems. As part of my new philosophy of changing the underlying reasons instead of feeling guilty, I figured it was time to put a stop to all that mess.
For some reason, most people, myself definitely included, don’t put in the effort required to maintain a relationship with God. If you will notice the word I used there…effort.
Think about your closest friend. It could be your wife, your girlfriend, one of your parents, someone you’ve known for years, etc. Whoever it is, think about how much time you spend with them. How much do you call them? How much do you text them? How often and for how long do you talk to them? Do you go to the movies? Dinner? Hangout until the middle of the night? What about their passions and desires, I bet you know them. I bet you know what makes them tick and I bet you can tell almost instantly when something is wrong with them before they even say a word. You are trained like a hawk to notice their mannerisms and body language. You do LIFE with them.
Now, about that relationship with God that you care so deeply about. Does it compare?
Relationships require effort, and for some reason, beyond my comprehension, humans just don’t seem to easily understand the fact that you can’t have a “God First” relationship unless you are willing to put in the effort.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. – Matthew 6:33 (ESV)
I’m going to go more in-depth about this in a future post, but I wanted to mention it briefly here since it pertains to this topic. God wants us to seek him first. Notice what Matthew says in the verse above. It specifically says the word first. This isn’t the only place the Bible says this. There are so many examples of God saying that he wants to be our everything, he wants to be the first thing in our life, he doesn’t want our leftovers.
Another issue we have in our relationship with God is that we don’t treat him the way he deserves to be treated. While he wants a personal relationship with us, he also demands our reverence. And if you think about it that makes a lot of sense…who would want to be friends with someone that didn’t respect them?
The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net. Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. – Psalm 25:14-16 (ESV)
A slightly different translation of the same scripture words it a little differently, showing the real meaning of the use of the word “fear” above. To fear the Lord is to honor and respect him, to give reverence.
Friendship with God is reserved for those who reverence him. With them alone he shares the secrets of his promises. My eyes are ever looking to the Lord for help, for he alone can rescue me. Come, Lord, and show me your mercy, for I am helpless, overwhelmed, in deep distress. – Psalm 25:14-16 (TLB)
And yet another stumbling block we experience on our road to building our relationship with God is not hearing him. And it isn’t that he isn’t speaking to us; it’s that most of the time we are too busy or their is too much noise in our life to hear him.
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” – Psalm 46:10 (ESV)
“Be still” – that is a hard thing for us to do, but it is something that is necessary to building a relationship with God. How do we be still? The first way would be to make sure you are spending some quiet time alone with God. Just like any other friend, relationships get better when you spend time together. And just like any other friend, it’s a lot easier to do that when it is one on one and you are listening intently to each other. Getting to know someone in a crowded and noisy place is no easy task, that’s why God specifically tells us to “be still…and know that I am God”. Be still, and know Me…
I have struggled with this, I still do. And I tell myself that I have a valid reason, I mean, I am busy! Just look at a normal day for me:
Wake up early
Read the news for a few minutes while the coffee is brewing
Do the morning requirements…
Catch the bus to work
Work all day
Catch the bus home
Do some overtime for my second employer from home
Find some time to hang with the kids and wife (I fail at this a lot too…)
Maybe eat dinner somewhere in there
Work on things for Church
Play some video games, watch some youtube, etc…have some me time
Go to bed
Seriously…this is pretty normal for most of us these days, where is the time to spend with God? I will just use my own list for example since I’ve told myself quite often that I just don’t have time. I could read my bible instead of the news. I’m on the bus for at least an hour both ways (I’m writing this post on the bus right now actually), plenty of time to spend there. Those video games and “me time.” These are things that I do. I am used to them and they make me happy. I am putting them before God, when all he wants is to be first. Luckily it’s a simple fix, but simple isn’t always easy.
You have to MAKE time for it. You have to actively choose to spend time with God. Believe me, God is a wonderful and powerful God. He has built time into your day to spend with him, all you have to do is choose to use it for what he intended it for. I guarantee you there isn’t a single person that could prove to me they don’t have time to spend some time alone with God today. The time is there if you choose to use it.
Why do we expect our relationship with God to be awesome when we aren’t willing to make the time to spend with him. We are willing to drop items from our todo lists to go hangout with friends if they ask us. Maybe a new movie just came out that we want to go watch really bad but it’s only showing during that one meeting with those people…that’s ok, we can move the meeting. But for God? No, can’t move the meeting for God. We rationalize this by saying, “God loves me and doesn’t mind because he wants me to enjoy life”, “God understands that I will pray later (even though we don’t…). But he doesn’t! He wants us to put him FIRST! Real life friends get offended if they don’t come first…how much more so do you think God feels to be second place when he wants to be your Everything.
Can you imagine keeping your friends if you have no time? I’m sure we have all experienced it too. What happens when you run out of time to spend with friends for long periods of time? Things change. Things get awkward. Eventually you get to the point where you are talking once a month or less. The relationship fades and things aren’t the same anymore. But, if you start talking again, spending time together again, all of a sudden the old days are back and things are awesome again. It’s the same way with God! You have to spend time with him to have that awesome relationship. There is no way around it. And if you truly do want that awesome and strong relationship with God, you are going to want to spend time with him too. You are going to want to spend more time with him than you do with other things…and you are going to start putting him first.
So, stop being busy. Stop making excuses. Stop putting him second. And I know that’s easier said than done…but it shouldn’t be…it should be the easiest thing in the world!
Lord, I pray to you today to open up my eyes to see all of the time that you have built into my life to spend with you. I pray that you would increase my desire and willingness to be in your presence more than you already are. I don’t want anything to get in the way of our relationship, I want you to be the center and first of my life. I want to get to the point that nothing else matters to me, I want to die to myself so that I can serve you more fully.
I pray that through my words today someone else is feeling the same thing I am feeling. That there is someone out there who is lost and searching, searching for something to make them whole. I know that something is you Lord, and I pray that you would lead them here, that the words that I have written here today have come from your direction and not my own. I believe that you intend to see people changed through the power of words and through the power of these words. I pray that you would use me in whatever way you see fit, and that I would have the courage to say yes, no matter what the cost.
It has been almost a year since I restarted this blog with the intention of posting at least weekly. So at a minimum, there should be 49 posts already. Sadly, this is only the 3rd. I’ve been feeling guilty about that for a while; which makes me not want to write because I don’t want people to see my failure yet again. I had a re-awakening last night in which I rediscovered something I already knew. I realized that I don’t need to feel guilty about it, I just need to make a change and move on from here.
If you have the time, go read my first post, almost nothing has changed in my life since I wrote it. Normally that would upset me and make me feel guilty about it. While I’m certainly not happy that I haven’t changed in all the ways that I’ve wanted over the past year, I’m not going to be guilty about it…I’m just going to change.
A quick list of a few of my goals and how they normally make me feel when I don’t quite hit them:
Pray. Every. Single. Day. – guilt
Read the Bible, even if it’s only one verse – guilt
Don’t yell at my kids, correct them in love – guilt
Do the dishes (seriously, this is HARD for me…I have no clue why) – guilt
Manage my time better – guilt
Don’t procrastinate, DO IT NOW! – guilt
Some of these goals affect more than just myself when I fail at them. Sometimes people that are relying on me get nervous because I’ve waited until the last minute to do something they needed. I hate when this happens, because I have always prided myself on being reliable! I affect my children negatively when I yell at them. I’m not talking a stern talking to here; I mean full on at the top of my lungs yelling.
Some of them affect my relationship with God, which should be the most important thing in my life all the time. But if I’m honest, my relationship there struggles just as much as the rest of my relationships. And then there is my wife, who has more work to do when I don’t help out around the house. I am sure it makes her bitter with me at times, which is completely understandable.
I’m not going to list every single way I fail at these goals, but I think you get the point. I am not perfect, both you and me know it. But one thing they all have in common is that they make me feel guilty when I fail at them.
Guilt puts most people into a never-ending cycle of inaction. For me especially, I’ve come to realize that when I feel guilty about something I end up avoiding it and then I feel even more guilty about it. “Now I’m behind on my devotions and have to catch up”, “my kids won’t love me because I’ve been mean too often”, “it’s too late to fix it so I might as well keep it up”, etc. Lies that fill my head to prevent me from doing the only thing that can fix it…CHANGE!
So, from now on instead of feeling guilty about my failures, I’m going to attempt to change the underlying cause of them. Without that effort how can I, or anyone else, expect something to change? There is an old saying that makes perfect sense and I’ve always applied it to specific areas in life (technology problems mostly) instead of to life itself. “You can’t do the same thing multiple times and expect different results.” It’s time to apply it to life.
Read the below verse a few times and let it sink in. It doesn’t say “I will forgive them yet still hold their sins in my mind”, it specifically says that “I will remember their sins no more.” As in, you are forgiven…and then it’s gone. There is no list of “well you did this that one time”…the slate is completely wiped clean. God isn’t limited to our human view of justice that requires payback and memories of the past. Don’t let your guilt weigh you down when all you have to do is repent and it’s completely erased.
“For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” – Hebrews 8:12 ESV
So much has happened over the past few days that I don’t even know where to start this post, or where to end it, or what to say between those two points…but I figure I’ll just put my fingers over the keys and see where it goes from there.
7 weeks ago I sat down in my living room, opened my heart to Jesus, and asked Him what my next steps needed to be to break a habit of apathy I was beginning to experience more and more. Almost instantly I felt the need to begin getting the words out of my mouth onto paper (or screen in this case). I setup the site, I wrote a post, I started 9 more drafts of other posts, I felt refreshed, I felt excited. I set a goal to sit down at least weekly to continue this outpouring of my soul into a readable form, to daily come before Jesus in prayer, to change my life for the better. 7 weeks ago I decided to restart blogging. 7 weeks ago I decided to break the chain of apathy that had been forming in me. 6 weeks ago I failed yet again.
For the past 6 weeks I have not done what I set out to do. Simple proof of that is this post…6 weeks have gone by since I set a goal of posting weekly…6 failures right there. 49 days ago I said I would start every day with time before my Lord. To be honest…I’ve done that maybe twice since then; tack on another 47 failures. I said I was going to focus on getting things accomplished and not wasting all my time on things that don’t matter…yup, you guessed it…more failure. I’m not trying to belittle myself or be super negative…I’m just saying all this to show that I’m not perfect, I’m just an ordinary person that makes mistakes on a daily basis.
Over the past two days I’ve been blessed to be able to attend the Send North America Conference, a conference filled with awesome music and awesome speakers that decided to come spill out their experiences and knowledge to 13,000 people in attendance to help ignite a movement of missions in the Church again. While I took a lot away from this, some of which I’ll be telling you about shortly…one of the most refreshing things I heard was a rather simple statement by David Platt. I don’t remember the exact quote, but he said that a lot of times at conferences like this they will end with a call to be extraordinary people doing extraordinary things for God…but that’s not something he would do. He said that we aren’t extraordinary people, we are just ordinary people…and that’s how it’s supposed to be. Ordinary people, people with jobs, people with lives and family, people with issues…just people. It’s not our job to be extraordinary…that’s God’s job. We just have to be ordinary…which is awesome, because I’m really good at doing that. Ordinary people that listen to the words of Jesus and just step out to DO what He has told us to do…God will take it from there. Let God be extraordinary, don’t take the glory from Him by trying to do it yourself.
I can’t name all the speakers, or even talk about every single aspect of the things that were flowing through my mind and heart over the past few days…it would take many, many posts to get an accurate description of everything that I’m feeling right now…and even then it might not even be accurate because truthfully I still haven’t processed it all. You can checkout a list of the speakers here…you might know a few. While all of the speakers were excellent, I have to say that David Platt (one of my all time favorite pastors to begin with) and Vance Pitman were the two that really hit my heart the most. I think I got the most out of what they spoke about because they were two topics that I realize I need to work on a lot. Coming to the Lord in prayer often and always, and having a heart for people in need.
I’ve always thought that I had a huge heart for people in need. For a long time I’ve had a desire to help the homeless, the poor, the hungry, the needy, the downtrodden, etc…but I’ve always thought about them as groups of people instead of individuals…I unintentially detached my desire to help from my feelings. While I’ve cared about them, I’ve never wept for them…I’ve never had my heart broken for them to the extent that I would drop everything to do whatever I could to help a single individual or the entire cause. I’ve always thought I was doing all I can to help those in need but I realize now that it’s only when it suits me, only when I have the time, only when it won’t affect the plans that I already have. I feel like I’ve been doing what I can to help in order to make myself feel good rather than just to help them. I let pride get in the way of what I was really trying to accompish by offering help.
I was also made vividly aware of how horrible my prayer life is. I read about prayer, I know I need prayer, I know the power of prayer…but for some reason I don’t get down on my knees nearly enough. A lot of times I find myself praying reactively instead of proactively. I guess I’ve always thought that as long as I’m praying a little bit I’m good. Praying is praying right? Even though I know that’s not really true, that God doesn’t listen to prayers if they aren’t coming from the right motivation, I’ve done it anyway. While I can’t say that all of my prayers have been filled with selfish motivation…they have been filled with things that don’t really put God first. I guess you could say I am sometimes selfish with the needs of others…which seems good on the surface but when that’s the ONLY thing you are praying about it’s most certainly not good. 99% of my prayers are in reaction to the pain of others, to the need of others, etc. I don’t often start a prayer with praising God. I don’t often thank God just for being God…thank him for his Grace, for his Glory. That is something I would really like to change…and I think the number one thing that I’m going to focus on going foward…because with that, with getting my prayer life straighted out I can come before my Father in the right way, in a way that is pleasing to Him.
Vance Pitman told a story about how a woman that he didn’t even know existed had been praying specifically for his sending church to send a church planter to her city to start a church because she knew that that church would be a gospel centered church aimed at furthering the mission of the Gospel first and foremost. She prayed for a year and a half. Every. Single. Day. That church has now been furthering the Kingdom of God in awesome ways for more than 15 years now…because of one persons prayers. To see a pastor drop to his knees in tears during a sermon because he is so in awe of seeing the Glory of God in person is eye opening. It made me realize just how little faith I have sometimes. Sure I pray, sure I believe that God can do anything. But I usually pray once and that’s that…I leave it alone, because it’s done. I believe God CAN do something…but a lot of times I realize that I don’t believe he WILL do something. That needs to be the first thing that changes in my life…and I think tons of things would only look up from there. I talk to people that are having problems and tell them “God First” and I give advice about having an unwaivering prayer life…but I haven’t been doing it myself. That changes today.
I learned so much more than this over the past two days. But these are the two that stood out to me the most and what I felt that I really need to fix before I focus on other things. Starting with a heart change just seems like the most common sense thing to do.
That’s enough of the deep stuff, now to talk a bit about the conference itself!
Me and 7 other people from The Pines came out to experience an awesome move of God and to learn things that we can take back to Summerville and to change our lives so we can lead by
example. I certainly believe we accomplished this!
So many awesome speakers, so many awesome singers and bands. I knew David Crowder was going to be there, but I thought he was only going to do a song or two…much to my surprise he did an entire concert on Monday night. That was an awesome experience in itself!
I got to see one of my favorite speakers, David Platt, in person and to see the passion that God has given to some people is just amazing and inspiring.
Certainly not least was the time I’ve gotten to hang out with a group of people that I’m living life with on a daily basis. From attending the conference, to escaping from a locked room, to cliff diving…it’s been an awesome experience. Amber, Brad, BJ, John, Mary, Nikki, Tara…I’m so thankful for you all and the things that we are doing as we live life on mission together. I can’t imagine where I would be today without you…and can’t wait to see what awesome things God has in store!
The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. – Psalm 34:15
Heavenly Father, I come to You today in amazement of the vastness of Your Love and Grace. I thank You for the forgiveness that You so willingly gave to me through the death and resurrection of Your Son. Over the past few days I’ve felt a need to come closer to You. I pray that You would give me the strength to do this without hesitation. I pray that You would help me overcome the apathy, the laziness, and the procrastination that I so often put ahead of You. I ask that You would just empower me to come before You in any and all situations. That I would grow in awe of You and that I would just fall on my face in front of You in sheer amazement of Your Glory. Help me to put You first in EVERYTHING that I do. Use me for Your will, no matter what that is. Make my life point only to You. Remove me from my own thoughts and point them to You. Move so greatly in my life that others will have no doubt that it is You and only You that could have accomplished it all. Lead Lord, and I WILL follow.