Monday, April 11, 2011

Last week I had the privilege to support a friend through one of the hardest days in their marriage. It was a day that they had been dreading, anxious about, and fearful for many weeks prior. It was a day that could change the fate of the next several years of their lives, marriage, and future. That day was their day in court for judgement. The weeks and days that led up to last Friday were filled with what-ifs and I don't know how to handle this. It was also a time of constant prayer, reflection on decisions that were made, and preparation for the worst outcome. In the end it was left up to the judge and ultimately God.

Andrea and I sat in the courtroom and watched as this person's whole life was laid out before the judge and all who were present. Any good thing was presented as well as all of her offenses were revealed. Any bad decision, illicit word, or action was presented by the prosecution in order to justify her punishment. I could not help but think about myself and all the bad decisions and sins I have committed over the my 38 years being paraded for all to see. It was like a huge weight being tossed in my lap. I kept thinking is this what it is going to be like when we come before almighty God at the end of our earthly existence? He will read aloud all of our sins and offenses and ask us to defend ourselves as we are laid bare before Him?

After all arguments had been heard it was left up to the judge himself to deal out the punishment. He decided to take a recess for 10 minutes. Well, his recess turned into about 40 minutes instead, but something happened during that recess touched me to my core. The accused who was sobbing uncontrollably got to wrap her arms around her husband one last time before her life would be shackled from his touch for and unknown period of time. The man she had hurt and cheated on did not hesitate, he did not question, He just stood up and wrapped his arms tightly around her. They embraced the entire recess standing in the courtroom as if no one else was there, or even existed. He held her because He loves her unconditionally like Christ loves us. Sure he is hurt and still is from the pain she caused to him and their family, but He wants to forgive and continue growing a new life with her.

As they embraced she calmed down and you could see a peace fall on her spirit. By the time the judge was re-entering the courtroom she was collected and ready to hear her fate. We all prayed diligently prior to and during the hearing that God would show up and grant mercy. It was so evident that He made himself felt and heard that day. I can still vividly hear the chimes to the 12 noon clock ringing. 1.2, 3, 4,....12. The came back on the twelfth chime. Then the bells starting ringing as they do everyday at noon for all the city to hear. That day it was different. The judge was reading his decision for almost the entire time of the ringing bells. In my mind I kept saying,"man these bells are lasting a long time, when will they stop so I can hear what the judge is saying!". As the verdict was delivered, she was given exactly what was needed to further her healing, her relationship with her family, husband and God.

I look back on that day and see that God showed up and made himself heard and felt. On the next day my wife went to visit the jail where she is being held currently. The first thing both she and her husband said was "did you hear the bells during the sentencing?" She said there was peace in my heart and I knew no matter what He was going to be with me.

No matter what you are facing today, you are never alone, He is always there. It is just a matter of choosing to see or hear Him. When we do come to that judgement day and all things are revealed to condemn us, we have one who steps in to defend us. One who has paid the penalty already. Jesus paid for our sins, He has stepped in and taken our punishment. All we have to do is accept Him and live life in a relationship with Him. Have you made a decision for Him?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Are you good soil?

In the parable of the sower and the seed in Bible Jesus compares the seed to the the truth of God and the soil to the people who are receiving it. We all have the ability to be good soil and nourish what God gives us through His word. He has designed each one of us to be in a relationship with Him and others so that we will glorify Him. Just as the parable states there are many types of soil. He explains each type:

The rocky soil: The truth is heard but does not take root because there is no room for growth

The path: The seed cannot take root because the soil is so hard and will not accept it.

The thorns The truth is heard and starts to grow but suffocated by the thorns and weeds.

The good soil: The truth is heard and the seed grows and flourishes because the soil has been open to tending and cultivating.

This parable was discussed in a book I have been reading called "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan. He talks about how we have dismissed a God is unbelieveably crazy about us even though we reject Him and abandon His design for us. As I read this section about the parable of the sower Chan posed this thought to me that hit hard. Chan said "Don't assume that you are the good soil" When he said this it made me take a deep look at my life. I had assumed that since I was basically a good person and I accepted Christ that from that moment on I was in the good soil category. After I allowed this sink in and examined my life I realized I would fit more into the thorny soil.

Thorns are anything that distracts us from our relationship with God. When we want God and a bunch of other stuff it chokes out God. These things can be money, sins , addictions, commitments, or anything that competes with our relationship.

It caused me to ask has my relationship and life changed since becoming a follower. Am I becoming more like Him? Am I being transformed? Is my life showing fruit or am I trying to fit Jesus into my nice little life? Am I trying to live a "balanced life"? Has Jesus become another section of my resume in order to project a "good image" prove to God I am worthy? This is a dangerous trap to step into, but so easy.

I find that I am going through a process of taking the thorns out of my soil. Removing habitual sins, allowing Christ to lead me in removing what He wants instead of allowing the influence of the world control me. It is painful and scary at times though. Christ asks us to trust Him fully....that is scary. Why though? Has He ever hurt me? does He not have my best interests in mind? Has He ever led me down a path that was not fruitful? The answer is a resounding "NO"

"What soil are you?"

Friday, February 25, 2011

What Are Your Intentions?

The Room of Good Intentions

This is going to be the time it is different. I am going to do better, be stronger, work harder and then I will have that closeness with God. If I can just work on my sin and stop doing the same things over and over again then I God will be pleased and the blessings will flow. How many times have you done or said these same things? For me it is an all too familiar tune that keeps replaying in my head. I think that if I can just be better or do things in a way that is acceptable to others then I will be liked and ultimately loved. Performance based conditional acceptance is the trap that I put myself in time and time again. Does this make sense? Does it strike a chord in your heart? Is this the way that God works?

I thought that God worked this way and I had to please Him, if I didn’t then he would punish with disapproval and bad circumstances. So in order to fight this I would put on a mask to everyone. The mask was by creating this person that I thought everyone wanted to see or the person that would be accepted. This guy was great……He always said “YES” so he would not disappoint others. He tried his best to excel in sports, school and career. Failure was not an option. Failure happened but I was good at hiding it so no one could tell. Minimize the damage to the mask.

Of course we all make mistakes, we are human and flawed. I struggled and fought to accept this though. I worked extra hard to not make mistakes. Perfectionism became my god. When I unconsciously chose this life, I heaped a pile of trouble into my lap. By hiding my mistakes meant hiding my sins as well. By doing this I was creating a breeding ground for more sin because sin needs darkness and seclusion to grow. Only when it is exposed to the light will sin slow and dissipate. My mask became bigger and greater as the years progressed. The funny thing is that my mask was created so I would feel the love and acceptance of others. Why did I still feel so empty and tired all the time. I was doing all it took to be loved in public and secretly trying to fill that void in private with an addiction to pornography and lust. It only created momentary satisfaction and then deep despair and depression. I had the intentions to be all that God would be pleased with, but was failing miserably. I had two lives and my mask had to become bigger so I could get more love and flee from the darkness I felt inside. It was ripping me apart! If people knew what I was really like then my world would come crashing down. My acceptance by others would be turned into disapproval and condemnation. If they knew what my daily thoughts were my mask would be crushed.

The scary part was the internal struggle of who I was? Was I this evil person riddled with sin and no way out or was I the man that I thought God wanted me to be? I could feel his presence and at times saying lay down the mask and trust me. The problem was the mask was too big and fastened too tight. It was the only true security that I could tangibly hold. How could I let anybody in? They would surely see me as the evil one that I felt inside. I knew that they approved of the person that they saw on the outside. So I just thought I needed to try harder and be better. My intentions were good. I thought I would be fine.

Does this description of who I was stir up any similarities in your own life? This was who I was a few years ago. Do I still have these thoughts? Yes, at times they creep back into my mind and heart when I allow them. How did I stomp out these lies? I came to conclusion that I could not, it was only by God’s power that my heart and mind was changed. That is when I walked out of the room of good intentions and into the room of GRACE. The room that I am learning to live in each day.....the key word is" learning".

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What is the Tune of Your Life?

Today is day 3 of the show here in Baltimore. We are at the halfway point and my body is growing weary and tired. My mind is tiring and wondering how God will show up for my business....or will HE? I keep returning to the fact that HE has always taken care of me and will continue to give what we need....not what we want or desire.

Looking beyond the show today I want to reflect on something that happened to me yesterday morning. I had to make a service call to a customer in the morning, but had to get into my booth at the show because I had forgotten the address and customer information there the night before. Security is pretty tough in the off hours of the show, so I had to beg the guards to let me in that early in the morning. While I was waiting, another gentleman came in and needed to get in to his booth as well. As we talked he explained that he had to pack up his booth and get on a flight back home to Oregon. He proceeded to tell me that his son called and said his wife was in the hospital and not sure what her status was at that moment. He explained that he feared a stroke or anuirism. He was obviously stressed and worried. When I said my name he said that he remembered me from last years show. He said that he read my biography that I printed in the front of my catalog and thought it was interesting and nice. Before he left I asked for his wife's name and said I would pray for her and him as he traveled back. He thanked me and moved on quickly.

I was thinking about the encounter later that day when I really wondered what he meant when he commented about my bio. Was it my reference to my faith? It made me think how am I presenting myself? Do I allow others to see the real me? Or do I give them a he mask that I feel comfortable showing them? (Will share more about masks tomorrow) Obviously something touched him enough to remember what I wrote about. It opened my eyes to the fact that we make impressions on people even when we don't realize it.

I have been moved by this song by Need to Breathe called The Garden since I heard it the first time, but God penetrated my heart with it today. It spoke to me in way that I could draw new inspiration that would regenerate my tired and weary body and soul.

My prayer today and as I move forward is found in the chorus of this song...."Let the songs I sing, bring to you, Let words I say profess my love, Let the notes I choose be your favorite tune, Father let my heart be after you!"

What is the song you're singing, the words you are saying, and the notes of your daily thoughts and actions?

I know mine are not always in tune, but when I submit myself to HIS, my key changes and aligns in beautiful harmony with HIM.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Putting Yourself Out There

This week I am exhibiting at the Baltimore Fine Craft Show. It is biggest show of all that I exhibit in each year. It is kind of the Superbowl of shows. It has a great buying public and has consistently been a lucrative show. As I stated yesterday traveling and exhibiting at shows has been very taxing on my physical, mental and emotional self each show season. I am separated from my routine, family and all that is familiar. I have made decisions while on the road that has hurt my family, my marriage and my relationship with Christ. I can honestly say that it is only by the grace of God that I am still married, doing a job that I love and able to serve others with a love and grace that was given to me by Christ.

I mentioned earlier that this show season was going to be different. I felt as though God has something more for me reaching beyond just selling furniture. He has been increasing my awareness to my feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness. They seem to peak at the beginning of each show. I see all the competition and immediately put myself in a category that is inferior. In my mind I hear things such as "you don't belong here", "your pieces are crap", "you won't sell anything". My eyes have been opened to see these as blatant attacks of the enemy. He knows that if I would allow those thoughts to consume me then the hook is set for me to walk a path to ways of medicating those feelings of worthlessness.

What has changed now? I have worked hard to learn about these feelings, understand when they happen and how to combat them with truth. It has only been by counseling, thoughtful friends, a loving wife and a gracious heavenly Father that my awareness has been increased and my ability to transparent to others and especially myself.

As I thought about this yesterday, I realized the parallel between how being open and honest in my life and exhibiting my work can be drawn together. As I put a part of me into each piece and put it out for all to see it opens myself up to both praise and criticism. I can either allow both the praise and criticism to define me or I can allow God's truth to define me.

In the past I would allow what others thought and said, along with the lies of the enemy to define who I was or could be. On the outside I was trying to be ok, but on the inside I was dying to thoughts of worthlessness and self deprecation. Once I realized how damaging this was to myself and others I learned that true transparency was the only way for me. I am a work in progress, but my furniture is an extension of who I am as a furniture maker, but not a definition of who I am.

I am:
- A child of the King
- redeemed by the Blood of Christ
- a father
- a son
- A husband
- A friend
- A leader
- An encourager
- loved no matter what I have done
- given Grace not for I have done, but because of what He has done for me

And the list could go on. I am working on sharing my story with whoever asks whenever they ask. I know that if I can share my sins and shortcomings, it only gives more praise to God because what He is doing in my life. So as people praise the furniture, it flows through me to HIM. He gave me the ability and the stage to proclaim Him from.

What about you? How are you defined? By the world or by Christ?

Life as a "carnie"

The months of February and March are my busiest months of the year for travel. I exhibit at 4-5 shows in about 8 weeks. I feel like one of those carnival people who set up the rides and games and then tear them down and move to the next town and do it all over again. It wears on me physically, mentally, and emotionally. Not to mention that it wears on my wife and kids too while I am away. We call it the trade off for being able to work at home and spend most of my days with them. Nevertheless it takes its toll.

As I approached this season I felt a strong urging to make sure this round was different. I felt as though God was saying to me" I have something for you this year if you allow me to show you". Honestly the shows are my weakest point in my relationship with Christ. I am separated from all who know me and my routine is completely different. In the past my struggles and sins happened while on the road. It was easy to be picked off by the enemy when you are separated from the flock! So I share with you today because I have found that transparency allows light into my dark places and gives glory to Him, not me.

2 Corinthians 11:30 NIV
If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.

Many of you have been curious about what I do and how these shows work. This week I am in Baltimore and want to share my experiences with you. He has laid it on my heart to do so for me to focus away from what distracts and drags me down as well as maybe what I am feeling and writing my touch your life some way. I don't know where you are with Jesus, but maybe He is knocking on your hearts door and you are busy hiding.

Tomorrow I want to share about how putting my work out for others is parallel to exposing your true character to others. It can be scary and freeing all at once!

Today I want to share an experience that happened last night as we walked back to the hotel. Mark and I were making the 15 minute walk back last night and a man came up and introduced himself. Then he proceeded to tell us a long story about how he is here for a conference and as he was going to leave the key broke off in the car door, then the police opened the door for him, but it was the key was also the ignition key. His wife could not be reached on his cell phone, and he needed $17 to combine with his $3 to take the train home to get his spare key. I know you are probably saying this guy is scamming us. Most would but I was not qualified to make that call. He proceeded to tell us he is not homeless and this is the truth. As I gave him a $20 bill he said "God bless you guys." I asked him if it was alright to pray for him and he responded "sure!" So there we were three guys holding hands in the middle of a busy Baltimore street praying. When I finished he was in tears and astounded that we helped him. He looked up, kissed the cross on his neck and said thank you to the sky.

We did no miracles, no great public deeds, just listened to a man reach out for help and were compelled to give. I think how many times have a I walked by someone and judged whether or not they are scamming people or really in need? To my own fault I tend to believe the best in people. Maybe they are not homeless or in need, but I can only do my part to help when I am asked. That night I believe God placed me on that street to see whether or not I was wrapped in myself or in HIM.

How about you? Are you willing to see what HE sees or are you blinded by yourself?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Can You Have Me?

Once again it has been some time since I last wrote my thoughts down to share with others. When I ponder the reasons I come up with many excuses and reasons I have not taken the time, but deep down I felt like I had nothing to share that would impact the lives of others. Has my mind changed.....not really......but I decided that when I write it helps me collect my thoughts and gain some more understanding to the mystery and journey that I am on with Christ.

Since I last shared in Sept. so much has happened. Andrea and I continue on this journey each day wondering what could be next? We felt called to leave our home church last summer and step out to be in a new church plant here in Springfield. If you have ever walked through that was hard. Through it all though I felt like God kept saying to us. "What are you holding onto more than me?" Did we want to hold onto the comforts the familiarity of friends, areas of service, and all that we had been accustomed to for the past 10 years? Or did we submit to His calling and step out in faith to trust that His plans are greater than what we can conjure? We took the step out because the recurring theme that has guided us for the past year let go of all you hold onto more than God himself. It is tough and easy all in the same breath. It is hard to let go of your human tangible comforts. On the other hand when you realize that those comforts are short lived and fleeting, it is easy to grasp onto the unchanging and unfailing love of Christ. He won't let go, won't lead astray, or let you down.

Proverbs 19:21 says "Many are the plan's in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." I have had so many plans in my life, plans that I thought were good and ashamedly plans that I had for sin to quench my lustful heart. No matter what the plans I made, guess what? God's plans always superseded my own. I can't out plan, out think, or out smart Him. Believe me I have tried, but when my desires don't mesh with His plans.......failure!

So where does this leave me? I resolved to try and follow His plans. My plans have led me down paths that were selfish and destructive. When I take my eyes and focus off Christ life becomes a mess. Why? We have an enemy that seeks to hurt and destroy us to wound God. Whether you acknowledge it or not the enemy lurks around you waiting for the right moment to pounce!

How do you let go and follow His plans? I recently heard this song by Sidewalk Prophets and the words have burned into my memory. The lyrics:
"If I saw you on the street and you said come and follow me, but I had to give up everything, all I once held dear and all of my dreams.....would I love you enough to let go or would my love run dry when ask for my life?"

Listen to the link below and see if you find an answer to what God is calling for your life? I realized that I had to let go of my selfishness and perception of what the world says for my life.
"If you're all you claim to be, then I am not losing anything" My life has changed for the better with this perspective. Am I perfect no....just human striving to mirror God's heart!