Today is a great day for reflection upon the loves in our life. It prompted me to share this portion from my book with you. It’s a little bit of the love story between my wife and I, to which God is an active participant.
When I was in my teens, rather than wanting to “sow my wild oats”, I began feeling this nagging emptiness and loneliness inside for who God had for me as a life companion. I remember after my first heart-break (what one really could term as a complete “heart crushing”) asking God for answers, crying and distraught. He has spoken to me hoards of times through His Word, devotionals, people, sermons, etc. – all very specific to my current situations at the time. Although in this instance, something happened that probably only occurs once in a Christ-follower’s life, if that. As I was asking Him why and where “the one” was for me, I heard a very audible whisper say, “She’s in Germany.” It was spoken in my ears, but the voice didn’t come from the outside. It was as though the words were spoken from inside of me. It scared me to say the least, especially since I was in the house alone. Completely startled, vaguely understanding what had just happened, I responded from my wet, tear-wrenched face with a dumbfounded voice questioning what I had just heard. “GERMANY?” I was definitely not expecting an immediate, audible answer, and this was so not the one I would have wanted to hear. None of it made sense (God’s ways often never do).
Being a teenager, and the bizarreness of it all, made me just slough it off as something weird that I didn’t understand. When I met my wife years later at the age of twenty two (another instance where I simply had to wait on the Lord) and became aware that she had lived in Germany for eight years, I remembered and now clearly understood the once confusing encounter with God. He knew my soul mate was an ocean and years away, and the prize, no matter how distant, would be exceedingly worth enduring the momentary present loss. He even went an extra step to comfort my spirit with the assurance that He knew exactly where she was. He had His timetable for getting her back to the States and knew all the details about how our paths would cross. Sometimes you just have to trust Him and hold on to what He promises when nothing makes sense. I’m so thankful that He has our backs even when we can’t understand everything that’s happening.
Last year we celebrated our thirtieth wedding anniversary. It sounds corny, but she completes me. I’m better at everything with her by my side. Her deep love, her unending support of my dreams and her encouragement when things seem impossible make me cherish her all the more. I feel fortunate to have had the patience to wait for her and the courage to step into our future together all those years ago. For those of you out there still searching for your soul mate on this Valentine’s Day, take heart, be of good cheer and enlist God in your search! And for those of you who have found your soul mate, cuddle them close and make sure today you tell them beyond the candy, the cards, the flowers and the romantic dinner how much they enrich your life.
I first wrote this post a little over a year ago. Incredible how much my life and surroundings have changed since then – a move to another state, empty nest, the beginnings of seeing fruit from a career I love. It is very clear God has moved me to the exact place He wants me to be. And yet, the path ahead is very unclear and not prudent to the logical mind. I’ve once again reached the inevitable conclusion that on my own I cannot move ahead without His steady hand to hold me. I reread these words I wrote below and once again drew courage and strength from them. I hope that they in turn will strengthen and encourage you in your journey – today…right where you are.
Trusting God When You Feel Stuck In The Desert
To trust or not to trust, that is the question. Or, maybe I should say, “Do I trust or do I not.” If we continue to clearly inhabit the dominion of anxiousness, not believing in God to bring harmony and fruition to our unsettled circumstances after an earnest appeal for His involvement and allegiance, then we really haven’t trusted Him at all. “Hoping” that the Sovereign Creator and Master of the universe will accomplish the task, “thinking” that He is able to deliver resolution and accord to our crucial plea is not the same as “believing” that He WILL do it -“knowing” that He has the devoted intention and omnipotent power to produce an amazing finish, whether His passage or route in our struggle requires just one month or a span of ten+ years. Genuine sincere trust also implies that we thank God in advance for an outcome that we cannot yet see. There is an expectant confidence and reliance in Him to occupy our situation, withstanding every intrusion that attempts to subvert absolute victory.
When young David enlisted himself for the seemingly impossible, choosing to confront the massive stature and taunting insults of the giant Goliath, his focus and dependency was completely centered on the undeniable authority of God. He foresaw the finished result and jubilant ending that only The Almighty could bring to pass. When we listen to God with a heart that is utterly committed to Him with selfless motives, acknowledging it is not about what we are going to do, but what He intends to fully complete in accordance with His ultimate plan, our capacity to actually see our petitions as a “done deal” ignites our faith and perceives our longings as an already present reality. It defies all logic, but God isn’t confined by the limits of our logic. He is boundless. Truly trusting Him necessitates a change in our mindset, consequently provoking a change in our hearts. We really are able to trust that OUR God – the God of David, CAN make it happen.
We might be stuck in the desert because God is still working on us or we have some vitally important things yet to learn. Are we ready thus far to receive what He has for us? Maybe the goal and approach that we have fixed in our mind isn’t the same exact target that He has purposefully ordained. God’s design for our life is very often fashioned differently from the method and model that we envision. He may well be permitting an abundance of sand to mound up and around our comfort zone as a means to move us out and onward to the selected destination for our advancement and decisive increase. Whatever the instance may be, we can whole-heartedly believe in Him and His promises by continually focusing our eyes on the Lord. We don’t need to waste our sorrows on the current setting we are in. We don’t have to feel anxiety while the demand for answers reverberates from a heavily burdened spirit. When we are constantly focusing our eyes on the Lord, any obstruction that comes into view gets blotted out. It is this uninterrupted faithfulness and consistency that provides us the lens to see a future where impossible wins!
I wrote a song with a message that is relevant to this issue of trusting the place God has you. Please enjoy a preview of Right Where I Am!
A message for all of us dad’s on our special day:
Make your ripples count within your families and ultimately within the sea of humanity!
Typically we think of Father’s Day as a day to honor our fathers and express how much we love them. However, I like to look at this day as my own report card – an introspective look at how I’m progressing and improving as a father. Am I being the dad that God wants me to be? Am I instilling in my children the confidence and security that the deep love of their father brings? Am I recognizing who God made them to be and allowing them the freedom to become exactly that?
God the Father is all about family, relationship, and sharing His existence with the Son, the Holy Spirit, the angels, and ultimately mankind. I think that was MY initial desire and aspiration for wanting the enjoyment of a family. God blessed me with my very own specially appointed soul mate to become one with as an extension of myself. To further experience and share the wondrous gift of life together with children was a matchless bonus and perfect fulfillment to that purpose. God knew exactly what He was doing when He created us in His image with the ability to produce and delight in offspring that would make every day of our lives positively awesome, sometimes trying, but most surely extraordinary.
The family unit is interconnected with unique personalities, each with a divine purpose appointed by Almighty God. Yes, we may have traits from one or both parents, but we all possess distinctive qualities and thought processes of our very own that are straight from the creative hand and mind of God. He fully intends for His unique creations to live out their lives in the midst and truth of His creative brilliance. This means that while our children are under our care and guidance, we should never try to change who God made THEM to be. Striving or demanding that children act exactly as we do, or carry out and execute every task the way that we would, can only result in bitter resentment in the heart of a son or daughter as well as the unfavorable possibility of stifling their God–given potential. The rewarding success or fruitless failure of a family in many ways depends and hinges on the extent of understanding how imperative this principle is in rearing children.
I would encourage every parent to show nothing less than pure unconditional acceptance of their children in the area of identity and individuality. I’m not suggesting the condoning of blatant misbehavior or allowing set boundaries to be breached with obvious disobedience. I am saying, however, that judging them with a complete lack of perception concerning their design and makeup will surely build barriers in your relationship. Each verbal comment that assaults who they are, whether said maliciously or in jest, will be like bricks that build a wall between you, growing stronger and more impenetrable with every invading offense. Just as gold’s luster is different than silver, and a diamond’s sparkle is distinctive from the radiance of a ruby, all are valuable elements that can be fashioned into magnificent objects of artistry. Likewise, the totality of our individual distinctive parts are precious adornments offered by God for the world to experience and appreciate – ALL uniquely crafted, but never intended to take the place of one another’s definitive attributes and individuality.
I have observed many parents who often want to relive their lives through their children, leading them down the same desirable path upon which they ventured, trying to recreate identical memories and experiences, or even attempting to hijack, to a certain extent, and steal their lives, in an effort to live out their own unfulfilled dreams. They never consider the aspiration and passion God has implanted into their children’s being, His purpose and plan for them conceived long before He made use of us as parents to deliver them into this world. A key area of accountability imperative to a parent is acquiring the ability to step outside of ourselves, recognizing that our children have their own appointed and predetermined lives, each with individual and unique God-given gifts. Ours is the supreme assignment of helping them discover these gifts as we extend complete uninterrupted support that enables them to develop, hone and someday flourish with those talents and skills, understanding even when exceptional abilities are discovered, their interest may be elsewhere. The final choice and direction of their lives is ultimately between them and God.
Parenthood is tough, but any success worth having is indeed worth working hard for. If selfless love continues to prevail as the fuel that sustains the relationship, you can truly conquer anything that comes your way. It will take you totally and completely out of your comfort zone, but you MUST be willing to go there. It is solely up to you as a parent to cultivate this life you have produced and nurture the relationship daily with unselfish accord, whether your children are still under your roof or are now under their own. Taking the reins of parenthood will no doubt lead you through some very trying valleys and daring canyons. It’s definitely NOT for the weary or faint-hearted. It has required courage and fortitude that I never thought I could muster. I fully realize these were only God’s strength and abounding grace, infusing and inspiring me as He guided me around and lifted me above the pitfalls of failure.
It is never too late to become the parent God intended. You CAN be the parent that provides and presents your children with the protective wings and stable foundation to become all God has purposed for them. This Father’s Day, as we honor our own fathers, let’s dare to take that look inside and ask God to show us how we are fitting His standards as parents.
As you got into your car to drive to work this morning did you feel frustrated or discouraged with where your life is headed? Are you overwhelmed, uninspired and burned out? Does there just seem to be this heaviness that surrounds you? Well, I’ve been there and I am grateful to have found the key to making positive changes.
I talk about this in greater detail in the first chapter of my book, but I had reached a point in my life where I had become very disenchanted and unsatisfied with my career. I remember going to work every day with this heaviness, this unrelenting weight squelching my spirit. I’m not sure if it was God trying to get my attention, attempting to make me face my complacency and false sense of security, or if it was maybe the intense stress of my position which had all but broken me. Perhaps it was the disappointment in realizing that all the years of sacrifice, toiling and allowing my work to dominate every facet of my life, were in reality all for naught.
It could have been a mid-life crisis. Although, I really think a mid-life crisis, for most of us, isn’t about buying a hot new sports car or trading your companion in for a newer model. It’s about reaching a point in our life where we just start asking ourselves, “Are my efforts and what I’m doing with this existence amounting to anything significant? Are my days here making any kind of lasting difference?” It was probably all of the above, but one thing was for sure – I had become a pretty miserable person even though my life was filled with countless blessings. I knew that I couldn’t continue on this weakening physical and emotional tightrope. I was dying on the inside. If the stress didn’t destroy me, the overwhelming numbness I was feeling certainly would.
I finally woke up and allowed myself to acknowledge that I was finished. I understood that my ultimate destiny would never be realized at this place. I had somehow found the courage to walk away and rise above the oppressive helplessness that I had allowed to overtake me. I recognized that more pain, brokenness, and eventual life threatening health conditions would result if I prolonged the inevitable.
I’ll be the first to say that God’s ways are often hard to understand. In my case, if He had not allowed all the distressing conditions to break me a little more year after year, I would have settled in, never to achieve His full purpose for me – probably dying from a heart attack, if not from a broken spirit. He had to bring me to that point of submission and emotional desperation so I could see a small glimpse of His plan for the next chapter in my life. I believe that God allows some bad stuff to come our way in order to help us reach our full potential and become a part of His greater plan. I had my life laid out nice and neat. But God’s love is far greater than our plans.
I find more and more that our life as a Christ follower is daily consulting and communing with Him about both the large and the small or what we might think trivial decisions, then waiting on His answer. It does require an enormous amount of patience (faith), but the results are much more rewarding than going out on our own. When He created the human race, I don’t believe that He intended for us to be so independent. After all, we were created in HIS image, and HE never does anything alone. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit always work together as one, with everything they do. It’s always been about relationship with God. We were created to experience life WITH Him, but for some reason we always want to try and go it alone. It must have something to do with that thing about free will.
God had to change my attitude, and teach me to be content and trust in Him daily with my life. I believe that’s what it takes to ignite action from God in our lives. It’s difficult for Him to do anything for us if we have a sour attitude. However, a simple decision to change and trust in Him sparks action, releasing His power and loving involvement into our lives. Just as God has used the struggles of countless individuals for a greater good, He has taken what I often thought were wasted years filled with memories that I longed to forget, and used them to touch the lives of people in ways that I’m sure I can’t even imagine. He truly CAN work ALL things for good no matter how painfully or horribly the reality of a fallen world makes itself present to us.
So I would plead with anyone reading this not to discount your life or wish away any part of it. The One who fixed the stars with their glistening shimmer, who makes the planets rotate and orbit through immeasurable galaxies, is capable and has already decided to make our lives an integral part of His master plan if we are only willing to allow Him the task. He wants us to get down in the dirt with Him so He can teach us some things about ourselves, as well as things about Himself, most significantly His unfathomable, impartial love for each and every person – just like a true Father would.
So don’t get too comfortable. He might get your attention right away, or wait on you for years while He prepares you for the task. But one day you’ll feel that tap on the shoulder. And because of His love for you, it might even need to be a hard shove. It may require Him allowing you to become so miserable that you have no other choice than to lay your life at His feet. You might end up watching the world you’ve built with walls of false contentment crumble down all around you. Still, take heart. God’s ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. But it’s a good life ahead – the best – and a wonderful adventure with Him at the helm.
I read a devotional recently that has been rambling through my brain. For me, those are the times that God is speaking to me, trying to work on something within me that needs refining.
The heart of the devotional was about who we are as Christ-followers and how His Spirit speaks to us – through loving words and ways rather than in condemnation or shame. It touched on the essence of James 1:9 “..be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry,” in essence because in that slowness to respond, we allow His Spirit to respond through us rather than spewing forth the crushing blows we often let escape our lips as humans. Hasty responses take that opportunity away from Him and are a result of living life on our own and not with His Spirit.
I touched on this in chapter 4 of my book – how important the words of affirmation are to our children, words like “I love you,” “I’m proud of you,” and “I’m sorry,” and how these words are really the essential glue in all healthy relationships.
However, it goes even far beyond that. Hasty words leave a permanent mark in the hearts and souls of the recipients. I have struggled with the aftermath of being the recipient of hasty words all of my life. I’ve come to realize that a lot of my struggle comes as a result of my artistic personality. Take my wife, for example; her personality is logic driven. She has dealt with the hurts in her life from the standpoint of logic – seeing why the offender acted as they did, fully comprehending who she is in Christ, knowing she is not as those hasty words and actions of others might imply. Because of this understanding, she has been able to move past those hurts into healing. For me, on the other hand, the struggle is deeper. Being an artist, my personality is driven by emotion. My creativity thrives on what I feel – it’s the place where all of my songs are born. It’s also the place where all of my hurts are lodged. I can’t reason my way to healing; I have to daily take those struggles to Christ and allow Him to speak truth to them until it sinks in deep enough to allow the sting of those hurts to diminish.
In my case, when I react hastily to situations, I tend to react from this place of hurt, allowing negativity to pass from me to the person I am in relationship with at that moment. This, in turn, opens the distinct possibility that they will respond to someone else with the same negativity they received from me, in essence passing that along. So rather than having been an opportunity for me to pass on the love and spirit of Christ in this endless ripple of my actions, I have passed on something destructive.
There is more at stake from the ripples we make than just simply passing through this life. We can be part of a miracle; the sharing of God’s light and love to all we encounter, whether those with whom we have a close relationship or those we meet casually along our journey. What will you choose today?
It’s Monday morning again…..the beginning of a new day and a new week. I am an artist right down to my body chemistry. I really have a hard time starting the day alert and alive. I tend to really come to life around 6:00 pm and have a hard time winding down before 12:00 am. I’ve come to terms with this and work my schedule accordingly. But I still have to wonder if some of my morning blues could be changed with “mind over matter”. Psalm 118:24 says: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Sometimes it’s hard to stay positive; to let the passion for the mission God has given us be more dominant than the negatives that come our way; to want to jump up every morning and rejoice in a new day. In our own strength, it can be a daunting task.
But then that’s the key, isn’t it? It’s not by my own strength. “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). And “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13). God’s voice is the only one we need to listen to. The closer we get to Him, the louder that voice will become over all of the other negative voices that try to discourage us on this journey.
So take courage, lean on His strength and rejoice in each new day He has given you!