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Writing – A Means To An End

I was twenty-one when I read my first book. The Godfather by Mario Puzo. I loved it. I loved the story, the characters, the violence, the mafia. For the first time in my life I was transported by words into someone else world. Unfortunately it would be quite some time before I read my second novel. As a child I was not encouraged to read.  I can not remember my mom and dad reading anything other than a cookbook or daily newspaper.

I failed English I in high school twice because I refused to read the assigned books that were part of the curriculum. I stayed away from school on the days I knew the students would have to stand up and read for the class.

It wasn’t until I became a christian, joined a church and was given a bible  that reading became important. King James was the only bible we were encouraged  read, right from the horse’s mouth I was told. So being a slow reader to begin with, learning a new language (King James’ ), mixed with dead brain cells from years of drug abuse and you can only imagine how slow a process it was for me. I had to re-read a sentence up to three or four times before the words would register. I was so spaced out I could barely retain any information.

The bible and writings based on the bible and Christianity was all I read. This suited me just fine. Slowly but surely I was able to overcome, with God’s help my reading disabilities.  As the years passed I started reading Time and Newsweek Magazines with a dictionary at the ready. I was expanding my vocabulary at a rapid pace.

When I left my  church quite many years ago I started to read other books outside the God, Jesus and Christian genre. I particularly loved lawyer court room drama and murder mysteries. There was a whole new world out there I never knew existed and I devoured fictitious novels as though they would be banned at any time. Add christian writings, throw a little self-help in the mix and I had  what I believed was a good balance.

Because I didn’t read when I was younger, writing was out of the question also. During a period of  time when everything was free hand with a pencil or pen my writing skills were non-existent. Yuk. If you saw my handwriting you would understand why. I couldn’t even read what I had put on paper seconds after I wrote it. It was a no win  situation for me.

I engrossed myself in these marvelous, well written novels by  great authors. I could only envy such gifted men and women. Wait, envy is too soft a word, I was jealous of their writing abilities. If I entertained these jealous thoughts for too long a time  I started to despise these writers. What did they do but write a good book. I wanted to be like them yet I wanted to keep an open mind so I could despise them at the same time.

I’m smiling now as I write this as I look back about eight years ago when I decided to write my own book. The only expertise I had on any subject I felt comfortable writing about was my me, my life. So I set out to write a novel, like the big boys and girls. I wrote every day until I finished a fictional account of my life. Over 300 pages. A first draft on my first attempt. Man, I was empowered by the whole experience. I don’t know where those 300 pages are now.

I found it was easy for me to write first drafts but I had no idea what to do after. I didn’t know anything about editing, re-writing, language structure and all that goes into the process of making a book. I was out of my league. Then I stumbled on blogging. Once I got my head around this new way to write it became my best writing friend. Through blogging I learned the basics. Write, edit, re-write, edit, hit the ABC button, correct spelling, hit the publish button,  categorize, tag, read other blogs, like button, comment.

Reading blogs from writers who I knew had the education (Bachelor, Master degrees and PhD’s. Not to mention light years of writing practice under their belt and did I forget to mention that every author mentions the books they published. “I’m a published author you know” I felt like a fish out of water most of the time.

Then there are those who testify that writing has been a passion in their life since they could hold a pen. Carry a notebook or journal at all times, write stories, read them in class. Work for the school paper, learn to edit at ten. There is no doubt the passion that oozes out of these wanna be writers. These people will write until Jesus comes back no matter the outcome. Passion is passion regardless of its success.

I lacked passion for writing.  It was quite obvious to me that I didn’t love writing. I kept writing hoping that someday I would fall in love with the craft. Then I would be passionate like the millions of those who make it their calling in life. Without the necessary love and passion needed to write my story how could I ever succeed.

That is why it was so easy for me to stop writing eight months ago. Not even think about writing a single line because I could live without it. Writing was not in my blood. It was not my calling.

The eight months without a word written opened up other opportunities for me. I used the extra time to read, specifically memoirs. Story of people lives, experiences and memories. I taught myself to read outside genres that resonated with my thinking. I read some fantastic books and my eyes were opened to something I never saw before in relation to writing.

One of the things that came to me while reading these memoirs is that many of these authors did not have the background in creative writing nor the passion for writing. Writing was a means to an end. A way to get their story out to the world. A way overcome their past. A way to be open and honest about life, their life. What did these memoir writers have that I didn’t have. They had a love for their own life, their own stories and they would make a way to talk about it. Writing was the way they chose to do it.

Up until this time  I thought my life not important enough to talk about. Not exciting enough that others would want to read. Nor honest enough to be able to bear my soul on paper. God has give me, each one of us, for that matter,  a very special gift. Life. Every memory, every experience is recorded somewhere in our hearts or mind. My life is special.

Before I was blind but now I see, if not blind then very blurry. My life is becoming my passion, my stories, those hidden treasures of experience and feelings. Those deeply engrained memories that are just bursting to find their way out of the place I have buried them.

It”s about honesty, transparency. Humiliating myself by allowing others to read about my shortcomings, mistakes and the matters of the heart. Like getting undressed in front of a stranger. They see the good, the bad and the ugly.

My blog, Surviving My Son’s Suicide is a testimony to that. It is also a prelude to the bigger picture in my life.

Writing is not my passion. At least not today.

Today, writing  is a means to an end.

Who Said I Had a Choice

I read an article a few years ago.  A journalist was interviewing a successful author who made his living on writing horror.  Many of his books were made into movies, TV Teleplays and TV shows. One of the questions the journalist asked, “why did you choose horror as a genre?” I can envision the author staring right through this journalist as he answered, “who said I had a choice?” He didn’t expound on his answer neither did the journalist ask a follow-up question.

“Who said I had a choice” as though some unseen force was on his shoulder whispering words as his hand worked furiously putting pen to paper trying not to miss a word. Whether his answer was meant to be literal or metaphorical it had quite an effect on me  non the less.

A question I have been asked over the course of my christian life. Why did you choose to become a christian. That question confused me but  I had my stock answer at the ready. “When I was 22….and I went on like a kookaburra”. This was a gray area for many years. I never gave serious thought to the answer.

Growing up in the Jewish faith I was sheltered from the knowledge of Jesus and Christianity.  I had no idea what the the Christmas hype was all about or the billboard signs that read, repent or perish. As I got older the name of Jesus was quite popular in bars and pool halls and I could never figure why this guy Jesus was so popular with some of my girlfriends when they shouted out his name with delight.

I travelled across America from the east coast to the west coast  when I 21. Stopping in Los Angeles to visit my sister I felt like  I  was transported into a strange new world. Charles Manson was on trial for his gruesome murders. Girls walked around in flowing dresses that almost touched the ground. Young people my age wore jeans with patches and rips in them, not the kind that the young people  get in shops today. Hippies I believe they were called. To top it off I was walking down the street in short sleeves in January. Not at all like my eastern seaboard upbringing.

Meandering down Hollywood Blvd I could see two lone figures up ahead seemingly engrossed in conversation.  As I walked past I heard these words. “Jesus was Jewish”. I thought, Huh, so Jesus was a real person. I continued on without breaking stride.

Some time later as my friends and I were leaving California heading back to New Jersey I was sitting in the back seat watching the sun set over the pacific ocean. I had this peacefulness that came over me. The seed was planted.

Eight months later I was hitching across Canada with my dog Sunfish. A beautiful Shetland Sheepdog that some hippies gave me while camping in the Blue Ridge mountains in New Jersey just a few months prior. She was my best friend and greatest travel companion. No problems getting rides.

Pitching our tent at a free campground I  borrowed a bicycle from a fellow camper. Peddling  down the  country road with Sunfish jogging behind I heard a thud. Jumping off my bike and turning to see where the sound came from I saw Sunfish lying on the ground lifeless. She was hit by a car. My first and only dog was killed. I carried her back to the campgrounds and buried her in the woods. That would become the saddest day in my life.

Numb from my loss I packed up my belongings and headed towards the highway. I took a ride as far as the driver could take me. Dropping me off virtually in the middle of nowhere I walked aimlessly and took the first dirt path that lead off the highway. Open fields on both sides with cattle or sheep far in the distance grazing on the lush flat land. Up ahead a loan oak tree standing with its heavy branching almost touching the ground. Beyond the tree was nothing as far as the eye could see until rolling hills met with the skyline.

Dropping my pack at the base of the tree I slumped to the ground my back leaning up against the oaks trunk. My mind dull with the thoughts of not having my new best friend by my side.  The last thing I remember was tears sliding down the sides of my face as I fell asleep.

Waking the next morning the sun breaking through the boughs of the old oak I realized I hadn’t moved my position. Something was noticeably different. The sadness was gone,  replaced by a sensation I had never experienced before in my 22 years of living. I was overwhelmed with the an unmistakable feeling  of happiness. I recognized this feeling as love and it was so overwhelming I thought I would explode.

Grabbing my pack, with a smile that was starting to hurt, I hurried down the path to the highway to catch a ride to God knows where. All I understood at the time that I had this great feeling of joy, happiness and love that I somehow had to share it with others. To this day I cannot explain what happened to me during that night as I slept under that oak tree. What I do know is this, it changed my life forever and I knew right away it was Jesus.

Much later I learned that my experience was a phenomenon known as being born again.

Now if I am asked why I chose Jesus being a Jew I can say with complete confidence, “who said I had a choice”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Words That Work – Peace of Mind? Oh What A Feeling

When Paul wrote to the  Philippians, “the peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)  I am sure he was talking from experience.  Peace in our hearts and in our minds at the same time is like taking a vacation in Heaven.

In the early years after the death of my son, peace of mind went missing and my heart was a constant raging sea. Months could pass before experiencing peace that I am sure I had taken for granted my whole life.

Watching my 36-year-old son suffer with bipolar I have failed to understand his pain. When he writes from time to time on his Facebook page that he had a great day and was enjoying peace I started to realize what was important to him.

When my good blogging friend, from Missing Peace struggles to find meaning to life the title of her blog tells it all.

Through my own experience I have learned that peace of mind and heart are as important to the soul as is water, food and sleep to the body. Without them we will not be at our best.

All Paul pointed out, the peace that God gives passes all our understanding. Like turning on a light switch. Most of us don’t understand electricity and how it works but we know we can see when the light is turned on. Peace is a similar necessity of life.

Peace comes more regularly these days although the visits are usually fairly short but I have learned to appreciate and be grateful for when it does come.

So, if you want to ask God for peace of mind for yourself or for someone you know who really needs it just claim Philippines 4:7 when you pray, “Lord bless my loved one with the peace of God which passes all our understanding knowing that our hearts and minds will be protected by Jesus himself”

Peace of mind? Oh what a feeling.

The Old Fashioned Way Suits Me Just Fine

Last week I received an unexpected call from a dear friend. I hadn’t heard from her in almost six years. Our families had been friends years ago and as it happens when we moved cities we lost contact with each other. We chatted away for a few minutes going through all the politically correct conversation when two people haven’t talked or seen each other for some time.

I finally had to say, “Janice (not her real name), I know you didn’t call out of the blue to talk about the weather, what’s on your mind”. She laughed as she knows me too well. Get straight to the point is my middle name.

“You’re right” she said, and went on to tell me about a self-help program that she had been using for about a year and how much it had helped her and her family and even friends that I also knew well. She was adamant it could be a blessing to me also.  She reassured me that she still believed in God and Jesus but this program helped her so much she just had to share it with others and thought of me.

If you know me you would know that I should have chosen to be a detective or prosecuting attorney as a career path. I opened up my investigation by asking, “what’s in it for you Janice?”.  She told me nothing. She just wanted to share some good will. The next ten minutes she must have felt like she was before a grand jury or worse under the spotlight being coerced  into a confession to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

I know Janice and her husband and I know the type of people they are. Honest, of good character and I know she would never offer me something if she didn’t think it would be good for me and Rhonda (my wife).

I have had my own experiences with self-help programs, one I was fully into for a year. AT the time I felt this particular program could help me in certain areas I was having difficulty in so I made the decision to commit to the program lock stock and barrel for one full year. This I did and I threw myself into reading, learning, researching, listening and watching everything I could get my hands on and it wasn’t cheap.

When I completed my year, precisely  to the day I had a good look at my progress, where I was at in my life compared to a year ago and I had to admit this particular program had been a blessing and had helped me in areas that I had been quite weak in. It hadn’t changed my life radically but I got enough out of it to feel satisfied that the year was well spent.

Weighing up the pro’s and con’s on deciding if I should continue the program was a blessing in disguise. It made me look at what I had in my life that brought me to where I was before committing to this self-help program and where I could go if I continued.

The scales seemed to be evenly balanced but I eventually decided to let the program go and not continue. What tipped the scales for me was this; I had realized that this program was so much like a religion in itself. Everything outwardly was working some good in my life but I was becoming dependent on this programs doctrine. I knew it was starting to become like a religion to me and I had no room in my life for two religions.  My beliefs and commitment to the Lord over the past forty years of my life were in jeopardy as I could see that this program albeit very good outwardly was eroding some of the basic fundamentals of my relationship with the Lord that I had painstakingly built up over the years since I was a young man.

I had to think about why I felt I had to commit to this self-help program in the first place. I wasn’t happy with my life, too many ‘bad things’ were happening to me, my personal struggles seemed like they would never go away  and I felt God was not working for me any longer. God seemed distant and unapproachable. I was starting to doubt God’s place in my life and my place in the world. I was looking for another way to find truth and purpose.

It was a wakeup call, I decide against continuing the pursuit of happiness with this new way of thinking. In plain english, there was no room in my life for two religions, two beliefs, two God’s. The one who had worked well enough throughout my life, He could just as well work well for me the rest of my life. I just needed to get back to basics.

I did look at the material Janice gave me via the programs web site but I already knew my answer. I communicated with Janice that this particular program was not for me. She understood and we promised to keep in touch. We said our goodbyes and I thanked the Lord for the opportunity to reaffirm my faith and love in a God who although sometimes seems distant and unavailable is always there either right next to me, walking in front leading the way, a step behind to make sure I don’t stumble and fall and then there are times when He even has to carry me because I am to weak to make it on my own two feet.

Trusting God has a lot of merit, its been tried and proven over countless years by millions of men and women of God. It’s the old fashion way and it suits me just fine.

(Footnote: I want to make it clear that self-help programs can help in areas of our lives that need work on.  Medication can help, it takes away the pain, even if for only a short time to give us rest and peace of mind. A good movie helps keep our mind off our troubles if only for a few hours. Helping those in greater need than us is also rewarding. Laughing is a great way to feel good. Talking to someone who understands is encouraging. Reading a good book takes us out of our world for a short time. The list goes on but most of these things do not cure or heal the greater need. Trusting God does.)

No Fast Tracking Spiritual Maturity

My relationship with God is the most important factor in my life and my growth as a Christian and as a human being. I’m not sure God had a lot to work with when I came out kicking and screaming. I was determined from the git go to ‘do it my way’. So God had His work cut out for Him. Fortunately for me God got ahold of me early enough (twenty two yrs old) to try to make something out of nothing. The next forty-four years was always going to be a work in progress.

As in the physical realm it takes time, experience and lots of failures and hard knocks to form the type of person we are going to be. Fortunately most bad habits and defects in our physical makeup can be overcome as we try to better ourselves, especially when we get to an age of maturity when we realize that unless we make certain adjustments we could find ourselves in a place where it is very difficult to change.

It’s not easy to make these adjustments especially when bad habits become imbedded in our life, even addictions which as you may already know are very difficult to overcome.

There seems to be a million ways on the market to help us in our growth areas. Good diets, exercise programs,, coaching for success or being a better person. Therapy in all forms, even medication to help with our mental defects, pills to make us feel better, think clearly, to lose weight, to slow us down, to speed us up, to help us sleep.

Then there is God, a spanner in the works. Those of us who at some time in our lives, whether it be as a young child, an adolescent, teenager, middle age or senior citizen, something unexplainable overcame us. At the best of times is difficult to put into words for those who haven’t experienced it. Being born again is a term used and best describes what I consider a phenomenon.

An overpowering spiritual experience for some, for others a growth and learning process and even for others like the apostle Paul a good slap across the face.

At what ever age this occurs we must then learn how to live a spiritual life in a physical body and somehow try to keep both happy and walking hand in hand. Not an easy task.

I heard it said we are spiritual beings in a human body. That may be so but we need to give due respect to both sides and keep a good balance between the two.

Easier said than done when all you can think about is how you are going to pay the bills, find a girl or boy who likes you for who you are, staying up all hours of the night for a newborn who is intent on being number one in your life. At the same time trying to give due respect and  attention to God.

This new relationship with God in a spiritual realm is not always by choice, its something that grows in you whether you like it or not.

So how do we obtain  this spiritual maturity and how does it differ from the natural maturity we find from our normal human life.

To use king David in the bible as an example. Here was a man who was chosen as a young boy to be the king of Israel. He was given the power to take down a giant to save Israel from defeat in war. He led the armies of Saul so the people praised him as the greater warrior than the king himself. He pissed off Saul who was suffering from his own mental distresses and David had to run and flee for his life living in caves in the wilderness and mountains. He had to look non stop over his shoulder for those who would bring him harm and had to deal with his own personal demons. He constantly prayed to God for deliverance not only from his physical enemies but also from fear that overcame him to the point of near defeat and giving up. God helped him out of all this but in my opinion these trying times is not  what made David a great leader or spiritually mature.

We all know the story of David and Bathsheba, what David did to get his hands on the most beautiful women he ever saw. He had one of his most faithful soldiers and servants, the husband of Bathsheba sent purposely to the front lines to put his life in danger and hopefully killed so David could claim rights to the women he wanted for his own.

His plan worked, he got his woman, they married to live happily ever after and had a son.

Now it was God’s turn to help David grow in a way that he couldn’t possibly do on his own. God sent word to the prophet Nathan that David needed to be paid a visit and be confronted with the truth. God was not  happy with his anointed king. Nathan confronted David, told him a story about a man in his kingdom that did a very bad thing. David was furious and demanded to know his identity so he could bring this man to justice. When Nathan revealed that it was David himself who had done this wrong the king crumbled. Now facing his own demise David repented and God forgave him BUT, God wasn’t finished, he wanted to make sure David got the point. He wanted to make sure that David would not ever do it again but help him grow into spiritual maturity.

He took something very valuable from David (and Bathsheba), their only son.

It sent David over the edge and when he came out of his depressed state he became the man and king that God knew he could be from the beginning. He grew into spiritual maturity through broken-ness. Now God was ready to bless David, not as a the great warrior king but a man who now knew what it was like to lose something so valuable that for a time did not want to live on. This was the beginning of spiritual maturity on David’s part and from there it’s all history.

In the first thirty odd years of my spiritual walk with God I was blessed. Full of life, faith and trust in Him. Together we were a great team, but God knew that I needed to grow in a way that I was not willing or able to understand without the proper nudge.

I am just starting to understand the importance of spiritual maturity myself. Over the past years I have suffered some devastating losses. It broke me in so many pieces I thought there was no hope in every putting me back together again. But God did and He knew what He was doing with me and my life and used these times to help me mature in ways I never thought possible.

Spiritual maturity helps to redefine what is important in life, it helps to put priorities its proper place but most of all it keeps a more natural balance between the physical world we have to live in and the spiritual world that awaits us.

Proverbs 51:17 says, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”  (KJV)  I have learned that being broken is not a weakness but a stepping stone for what is most important in life.

We live in a do it now generation and christians have fallen into that trap wanting God’s blessing now, get me to the mission field now, make me a leader now, wanting the trials to stop now, heal the hurt now. I have learned that there is no fast tracking spiritual maturity but when it does start to manifest itself in one’s life it brings  “a peace of God that passes all understanding.” (the Bible)

Struggling Forward

Whenever I find myself struggling to find God’s purpose and plan for my life I am tempted to think that somehow God in his infinite wisdom and his excellent organizational ability somehow either forgets about me or has placed me in the to do (later) file.

I have been struggling for many years, not being content in the state I find myself. Some how I have made myself believe that God has not listened to my insistent nagging that some may call prayers. I know God’s not deaf, I know he has promised to answer our prayers. What I don’t sometimes understand is why it takes so long to answer and why there is no obvious manifestation of these prayers.

I’m not talking about the every day “give us this day our daily bread”, that a given. The Lord has continued to bless us, keep us safe, healthy and relatively happy. I’m talking about the life changing stuff. My big picture purpose, mission in life, the big calling. The stuff real saints are made of.

Over the years I’ve sometimes felt like I’ve made my big splash. That the Lord has been dragging me (kicking and screaming mind you) out to pasture where I can live my days in relative ease and security.

I think many of us christians are faced with this continual battle. “Lord I need to do more for you, point me in the right direction, give me one last shot at the basket before the buzzer goes off, one last chance to prove myself so I can show you what a great believer I am.

I’m sure the Lord is pleasantly amused at our (me and you?) zeal and desire to make a big splash he doesn’t necessarily see things that way.

About a year ago my thirty-six year old son was diagnosed with bipolar. This explained his strange behaviour over the years that we couldn’t quite figure out what was up in his life and had come to conclusions that were not necessarily in line with this illness. With the proper help and medication he is able to feel and act normal in-between the severe up and down mood swings that goes with the territory.

I spent much of my reading time researching the illness and trying to understand what he goes through and why.

I recently read a book by an ex-preacher who told his story of living with bipolar. This man became aware at the age of 15 that he had something peculiar about him, it took another fifteen years to be diagnosed with this bipolar disorder. Many more years battling the mood swings and depression it brings on resulting in many visits to the mental wards plus loss of his ministry and even family. He has in time learned had to neutralize his illness which has helped to normalize his life somewhat.

I had believed in the beginning that my boy would be able to overcome this illness like you could cancer or any other similar disease that cure and remission is possible.

A statement this author made in his book helped me understand the severity of this illness. He said that bipolar is something that lives with your forever. You just have to learn how to live with it.

With this thought in mind I had to be prepared to accept that my son would have to deal with this illness for the rest of his life and at the same time continue to work toward a happy, peaceful and relatively normal life, not only for his own benefit but for those he holds close to him.

This mini revelation shined the light on my life and my constant struggle to find God’s highest will and place in my life. Something that I have allowed to eat at me for too many years and even possibly has been the major cause of holding me back from not only enjoying the life that God has given me but to also be the blessing to those who I hold close to me.

I too am learning to accept that the high calling I hold so close to my heart, the one last mission that seems so important to me to show God I still got the stuff, the desire to know that God can still use me that would give me more purpose in what I have considered a mundane life these past years always seemingly just out of reach.

I am starting to accept that it just might not be God’s highest for me to attain this higher calling that I continue to reach towards.  In fact I am sure that my desire for these unseen blessings are keeping me from understanding God’s true purpose in my life. To continually live each day like it was my last where I am, with the people I am with the talents and love that God has already given me.

With this in mind I know that Jesus words stands out when he says, “peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth, give I unto, let not your heart be troubled neither let it be afraid.”

All the missions in life, our high calling or the thrill of purpose God gives us is nothing without peace in our hearts. I know my son would prefer to have peace of mind heart and soul as he battles his illness more than any success the world has to offer.

As I continue to struggle forward God is helping me to re-evaluate my priorities in life.

Learn To Say ‘I Don’t Care’ and Mean It

From time to time my wife will bring home some clothing given to her by some of her clients. Most of the time they don’t fit, the style and color doesn’t match my personality or I just don’t like it. But on this occasion we struck oil. A polo shirt that was a good color for me, a style I would be comfortable with but most importantly it fit over my every growing midsection.

I was pleased with the find and as my wife straightened the collar and smoothed out the wrinkles she  told me how good it looked on me.

As we looked in the mirror together I couldn’t help myself. I said, “ugh it makes me look fat”.

My wife replied, “I don’t care”, and so the deal was done. I got myself a new shirt.

As I was taking some time this morning to reflect on my day for some reason I was reminded of the polo shirt and replayed the mirror scene over and over in my mind. So what was the big deal, what was I not seeing or why was I being reminded of a seemingly ordinary encounter between my wife and me.

Then it dawned on me, it was what she said when I told her I looked fat in the shirt. She could have lied  and said, “no honey, you don’t look fat, it’s a perfect fit and I love that 8 pack you’re working on”. She didn’t say this and I know she wasn’t even thinking it.

But she did say, “I don’t care”. In other words, sure you’ve gained some weight over the years and its difficult to find shirts that hide the obvious but who cares, I don’t. I love you just the way you are.

I couldn’t help but think it’s exactly how the Lord looks at us when we come to him, head down, repentant over some glitch in our character or personality. He tells us, ‘I don’t care, I love you just the way you are, after all I made you and I am quite pleased with how you are turning out.’

We Christians love to carry our own cat-o-nine tails around with us to give ourselves a good flogging when we need it, but really.  As my wife looked at me in the mirror and said, “I don’t care”, I knew she loved me in spite of me. She sees me differently than the way I see myself.

And so does God, he looks past our physical imperfections and looks at our soul. He is more interested in how we are progressing and growing spiritually.

Jesus encourages us ‘to love God with all our heart, mind and soul and to love those we come in contact with in the same way we would love ourselves’.

This is difficult to do when we are always picking on ourselves and seeing the physical imperfections in others.

Like my dear wife, we need to learn to say, ‘I don’t care’ and mean it.

Careful What You Pray For

I can’t remember how long ago it was but for arguments sake let’s say about a year ago I prayed “Lord, I want to be a doorkeeper in your house”. Now God knew what I meant, He knew I wasn’t literally asking to be a doorkeeper in His house becasue that would leave this post up for major discussion among the theologians. He knew I meant that I felt I was ready to be what He wanted me to be no matter how insignificant it seemed as far as service was concerned. At the time I had felt I was in Job’s inner circle and had some major internal heart surgergy with God as my surgeon.

I poured out my heart and left it in God’s hands.

Time goes on, the prayer fades from memory and it seems the struggles persist.

I came across this verse again this morning  I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.” Ps 84:10 It reminded me of what I had committed to God and a chance to see what progress He made in answering.

Outwardly it seemed that He had more important matters to attend to. You know the homeless, the sick and dying, starvation in foreign lands, personal tragedies, earthquakes and natural disasters, tax cuts. The list seems endless yet somehow I knew with all that He had on his plate He was tending to my request.

As I sat back and close my eyes taking one last sip of my morning coffee I saw a picture of God in overalls covered in paint. He was to paint a room in a run down house. It looked as if it had been years since its last facelift. Before painting he had to clean the walls, strip off any excess dirt and paint, fill any holes and smooth outs its surface. Then an undercoat or two.

After applying the final coat of paint He stepped back. Smiled and said.  “Now this room is ready to be used”

I was that room. I asked for a do over and a chance to be restored and used in even the smallest way in His house. He accepted the challenge and started stripping away the dirt, filled in those holes in my heart, put some undercoats on to make sure that the final painting would be nothing less than radiant.

It has taken longer than what I would have liked but God knows that any prayer answered is worth answering right.

It may take a bit of cleaning up, stripping away the old, filling in the holes, putting on a few undercoats. When you are ready for the final coat of paint you know that you will be a room worth living in.

Just be careful of what you pray for because God will answer but not always the way we expect.

Do Your Best and Keep An Eye On Eternity

God put us on earth for a reason. Each one of us with a special task or anointing, calling, mission or purpose, however you want to tag it.

As two snowflakes are not alike so is our relationship with God.  If you have been blessed with many children like I have you understand that although your parenting may not differ from one to the other if for no other reason than making an effort not to show favoritism.

There is a special place in your heart for each one. You may not be able to manifest this openly but as we love all our children with all our heart so God loves each of us with all His heart and has a special place in His heart for you and me and every other person who sees Him as their father.

In growing up spiritually from a babe in christ, to a young adolescent, a young man or women and then a mature adult we strive to do our best to please our God.  We make a life for ourselves on earth  only wanting to please Him.

He gave us life, he presented us with a mission or purpose and even if we don’t fully understand our place in the pecking order of our Christian world  we want our Father to be proud of us and to be able to look down and say, well done good and faithful servant (child) enter into the kingdom of God.

So we strive as children of God to please our father so he can accept us “again” in His kingdom or house. It is easy to lose sight of the overall picture. We tend to make our stay on earth the most important factor in our relationship with God.

So why is it that we continue to struggle and  never seem to be  content or completely fulfilled?

Paul stated …”If in this life only we have hope in Christ we are of all men most miserable.”  (I Corinthians 15:19)  In other words if we put all our eggs in one basket in  our life here on earth and view our calling or mission in this life  as the most important thing in our lives and service to God we can be assured that we will end up feeling “miserable”.

In all our good works, our faithfulness and desire to make our life on earth a legacy to be remembered we must keep an eye on eternity.

So how do we do that?  How do we keep a good balance of  doing the best we can  and pleasing our God with the gifts and talents he has given us and keep our ultimate goal of always moving toward our eternal home?

In Heb 11 we are told about  Abraham who God blessed richly while on earth.

God gave him a massive promise that his seed would inherit the earth, a promise that was clear Abraham would never see in his lifetime or the life time of his immediate heirs, Isaac and Jacob.

In fact “these all died in faith not having received the promises but having seen them afar off, were persuaded of them and embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth”.   They knew the promises were real and yet they understood that their reward was not in this life, they lived on earth as continual gypsies, strangers and pilgrims  just passing through to a better place.

That is how we keep a proper balance, by not let the cares of this world and our mission and calling in this life consume us so much by trying to please our God on earth.  Keep an eye on eternity while doing your best on earth and your life will take on a balance that will ensure more peace and happiness.

This world is not our home. This we must accept and live our life accordingly.

God Owns Us, So Relax

The modern-day mantra this generation has embraced is, “you can be anything you want to be, you can do anything you want to do”.  Everywhere you turn, life coaches, motivational speakers, the swimming champ giving a talk at a primary school, TV ads. This philosophy has  also infiltrated the pulpit and our christian teachers. Yes its good advice for doing your best, going for gold, pushing yourself to be the man God wants you to be. Or is it?

Does Jesus see it that way? Is that God’s message to the true believer? How does that mantra fit into the very fiber of our spiritual walk with God.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7 that we are bought with a price. That each of us when we gave our lives to Jesus, when we came to the Lord and said, I’m yours now Lord, do with me what you will.

I don’t believe he then goes on to say. “OK buddy, now go out and do the best you can, be the best you can be and be what you want to be.  If God owns us then He knows exactly where we fit in, who He wants us to be.

Many of us struggle with this because as the months and years pass we still are confused with who we are and what place we are to fulfill God’s plan.  When in fact we are exactly where we are supposed to be, with those we are supposed to be with, and in the exact place we are to be. Of course we always want to do more, be more for God and show God how much we love Him by doing the best we can with what He gave us.

There is a fine line between doing our best for God and letting God do His best through us because what God may see as His best for us may have gotten garbled in transmission some where along the line in our communication with Him as we pursue being our  best for Him

So if we are bought with a price then God owns us. If God owns us then it is up to Him how He wants to use us, what He wants to use us for and when He wants to bring it altogether.

If you are struggling with your God identity which is a common affliction with us Christians, just relax, God owns us so let Him worry about all the rest.