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?