Saturday, December 22, 2012

Gastroenteritis (Stomach Flu)

Just very recently, I got over a stomach bug that has been going around.  First of all, I want to thank God for this bug.  It wasn't the norovirus, which has also been going around, and takes a long time to get over.  I thank Him that I had a much more standard variety of Gastroenteritis, the gory details of which I'll simply leave to those of you who even want to imagine such a thing.

Even while miserably unable to move, in pain, and generally feeling icky (that's the technical term) God was teaching me a lesson about His love.  For, you see, no matter how terrible I got to feeling, I also got to feeling better.  In this case it really didn't even take very long, at least considering how bad it could have been... cough... norovirus... cough.

It taught me another lesson, as well.  Bugs like this are most easily transmitted due to more direct contact with people.  In the winter time, we spend more time indoors, so we spend more time in close physical proximity to others, and in turn in close proximity with communicable illnesses.  But, God wants us to spend time with people.  He wants His family to spend time together, get to know each other, and learn about each other in Faith.  Illness is simply a common setback, but certainly not one too big for God.  We should do our best to keep our hands clean, though - so that we don't get other people sick.

It's a fitting metaphor for evil or sin.  We should always do our best not to spread evil to others, even unknowingly, by committing sin (or, getting them sick).  We can get others sick by sharing our disease (our human nature to sin) so we need to do our best to keep our hands clean (washed in the blood of Jesus).

Thank God for lessons like this one.  And, thank God for healing my body so that I can reflect on it properly.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Remember, and Pray

Our nation experienced a great loss of life today, at the hands of evil.  However, the man who shot all of those people, while apparently misguided by the whispers and cries of Satan, there's no way that we can know what was in his heart.  He committed a heinous act, of this nobody disagrees.  However, the action of a man cannot, in any way, overshadow the work that God was doing in the moment, and will continue to do after.  I pray that the people directly affected find peace in their hearts, and find healing in Him.  I pray that the family of the shooter finds a way towards the peace of God, and I pray for the soul of the shooter.  For, the shooter lost his way, and Satan had a firm grasp on his soul.

God, please help these people find you in the moments that follow, for without you, surely we would all be lost.  Amen.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

An Empty Freezer

My always-practical mother-in-law bought us a large chest freezer for Christmas this year.  I've wanted one for quite some time, so I'm glad that she did.  However, it struck me as a fitting metaphor for my relationship with God and Christ.  For, you see, right now the freezer is completely empty (my relationship isn't, I'll get to that in a minute).  It's turned on, waiting for frozen things to fill it, but for now, it's just a box full of cold air.

This is much like God's love for us. No, not cold and empty, though I could see how it might seem I was going in that direction.  No, his love is always available and waiting, ready for us to accept it as we become more like Christ.  As we fill our God-Freezer with love, the God-Freezer has more and more of its purpose fulfilled.  An empty freezer represents to me an empty relationship, or a complete lack of one, with God.  It has no real purpose, and it's impractical to keep it plugged in.  However, begin filling that freezer with food to preserve, and suddenly its purpose becomes obvious and very practical.  This is much like our lives in respect to God.  Empty of God, we wander without purpose.  Filled with God, and our purpose is obvious.  God is always plugged in, waiting for your heart and mind to fill His purpose.

One reason I think a freezer is a good metaphor, sometimes we take food out of the freezer to eat it. Taken as a metaphor, this is our sin.  Jesus died on the cross to give us the currency we need to buy more food to put back in the freezer.  For, all of the supermarkets of Grace were closed before Jesus died for us.  Now, all we have to do is truly desire forgiveness and seek it appropriately, and our God-freezers will be filled to the brim with nourishment again.  Surely, it won't always stay full, but we should always strive to keep it as filled as possible.

My own personal God-freezer isn't likely full right now.  I hope it's pretty close to full, but I'm also human, so I know I'm selfish, easily distracted, and otherwise not someone that's an obvious choice for elevation to saint-hood.  Even people like Mother Theresa probably had times where their God-freezer wasn't full, but I imagine hers was close to full much more often than mine tends to be.

I pray that God will help me find my way to filling up my freezer (the metaphorical one, not the literal one) and into his Kingdom.  It seems fitting, after all, since winter has arrived around here (mostly). Amen.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Responsible Grandchild

Me with Grandpa and Grandma
I have the privilege to have a living grandfather.  While a "young" member of the greatest generation, I think he still qualifies as a member of such.  I respect and revere the man, and love every chance I get to spend time with him.  He has a wonderful clean sense of humor.  He always has a story to tell that lightens the heart.  And he always seems to be smiling, no matter what.

My sister started writing letters (yes, snail mail) to him a while ago, and has told me a little about the content of said letters.  It's inspired me to start doing the same thing.  For, while he's still young at heart, he has a great-grandchild (my child) so he is not physically young.  The time will come much too soon for my mortal heart that God will call him home.  I'm sure he will go willingly, for God called his wife home many years ago, and to this day still speaks of her with more love and fondness than I've seen in some living marriages.

I don't know what will come of our letter conversations.  I expect I'll learn some things about my family that will excite me and surprise me.  I'm sure I'll learn some of the more personal stories of American history.  But, most of all, I'll learn as an adult the kind of man that I can grow into being someday.  While he's far from perfect (just ask his children) he certainly gives me something to aspire to in terms of my character.

Pray for me as I embark on this journey.  I have no idea what to write to him, honestly, because I've only ever known him as Grandpa, and never really thought of him in grown up terms until recently.  I'm sure the pen-pal relationship will be a great one, as I'm sure God brought the idea to me in the first place.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Responsible Parenting

God blessed me with a wonderful child, thus making me into a father.  God represents the ultimate in parenting, as He is The Father.  Therefore, I think one of the best ways I can learn to become more responsible as a Christian, ultimately becoming more Godly, is to become a better father.  I've come to find that the most direct and simple way to do this is simply by being there with my child.  During normal waking hours, we partake in normal routine activities together.  I cook, the kid watches (or pretends to cook too).  The kid colors in a coloring book or on an easel, I spend time sharpening the drawing skills God gave me.

I think this provides me with regular and important opportunities to remember that parenting is a form of worship.  Since God so loves spending time with His children, by reflecting that in time spent with my own child, I feel more closely connected to God's presence.  I realize that the joy that He experiences watching me grow up as a Christian greatly dwarfs the joy I experience watching my child grow into adulthood.  But, in terms of our faith, we all have some growing up to do.  And, with a little help from our Father, I think all Christians can grow into responsible and strong stewards of His shaping.

I love spending time with my child.  It provides me great joy, wonderful laughter, and an intimacy that can only be experienced between a parent and a child.  The kind of love my child gives me comes about as close to God's true love as I can imagine.  It's unconditional, it's raw, it's powerful, and it's always there.  My child constantly wants more of my time (if only I had more to give), and so does God.

While I work on becoming a more responsible father, so too am I working on becoming a more responsible Christian.  By modelling my fathering after The Father, as best I can, I can be assured that I'm doing the best I can to raise a well adjusted child.  God bless all of the fathers of the world, and help them to care as much as You do. Amen.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Kids Without God

I imagine God shed a few
tears seeing this created
I was reading the blog of a fellow believer here: Taylor, Made for Him which pointed out to me the existence of this website: Kids Without God.  This website promotes atheism to children.  While I worry about the youth of this country, and what would drive them to such a life, I want to echo a point.  As believers of God, we are not afraid of atheists.  We pray for them, and we hope for them.  While Dr. Taylor finds this website intolerable, I like to think of it more as a telling reflection of our society today.  While I cannot bear a life without teaching His way to my child, I also know that He knows all about the people who are not His followers.

The website talks about parents of atheist children being afraid of Hell and Damnation for their children.  While I think this is correct, to a certain degree, I do not agree that it is fear that drives faith, neither does Dr.  Taylor.  While I do worry for children that turn away from God, it's not because I am afraid of what God is going to do to them.  I am afraid for all of the Joy they do not know, and the love they have given up. God loves each and every one of us so much, that he gave us a free spirit to express our beliefs in ways that make Him proud.  I know the joy of parenthood, and each child of God, when created, probably brought Him joy unlike any I've ever experienced.  For each child that turns away from Him, I imagine the amount of sorrow He experiences would be enough to crush a human soul.  If my child were to ever turn away from me, no longer trusting in or believing in me, I would be devastated.  Stories abound in the bible of those who turned away from God.  And, in the end, some became believers, and others lived an incomplete and unfulfilled life.

I don't know what will become of the atheist movement in this country.  I hope that as believers, we can help to direct the unfaithful back into a life of His servitude, but some are so convinced of a reality without Him, they cling to that reality vehemently.  While I don't think Christians should bear to hear the name of God blasphemed, I also don't think we can simply respond in kind with angry words and harsh retorts.  If we really want the atheist community to understand the grace of God, we have to love them. Hard, and completely.  We have to show them why we love God so much, because he loves us so much.  He still loves them too.  It's like a bumper sticker I once saw, "God loves you, whether you like it or not."

So, God Bless the atheists.  May the strongest non-believers find their way home, for once they do, they too can help others to understand the glory of Our Father. Amen.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Darkness, or Light?

While I intend on spending my writing and devotional time thinking about being a more responsible servant of God, He gave me a message this morning that I feel inspired to share.  I was sleeping on the couch in an upright position with my daughter, because it soothes her coughing.  As I woke up with the sunrise, in the kitchen I saw a couple of objects belonging to someone close to me (not my wife), which I assumed were something completely different than they actually turned out to be.

I saw these objects in the dim light of the rising sun.  Veiled in the darkness, I made an assumption about them that made me concerned and confused.  Because I couldn't see them clearly, I thought they were something completly different than they turned out to be, and the things I thought they were carried a negative connotation with them, or at least one to raise alert in my mind.

However, the objects themselves turned out to be completely innocuous.  So, the message that God sent to me had nothing to do with what was actually on the kitchen table, but instead about the way I make assumptions about people.  I was dead wrong with what I assumed, because I assumed it based on an idea veiled in darkness.  When I finally saw the truth, and in the light, everything was revealed as just fine.

So, God was asking me a very important question.  One that I'm going to have to spend way more time considering, for sure.  Am I seeing life veiled in Darkness, or Revealed in Light?

He was also asking me another important question.  How do I make assumptions about people, and what right do I have to judge anything based on those assumptions?

Though this person isn't even awake yet, I'm going to have to ask for forgiveness for what I assumed.  I could say nothing, but that's not the way Jesus would teach us to interact with others.  Open sharing is the only way to strengthen an important bond.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Call Me Irresponsible

Irresponsibly Mad for God
It's a funny thing, that word responsibility.  There's a good chance that I'll use it again, and often. I created a strengths finder profile some time ago, and my number one most obvious strength came back as responsibility.  God created me to be responsible.  According to strengths finder, this pretty much means that  I believe in the idea that honesty is the best policy - if I promise something, I believe in fulfilling that promise.  It gets me into trouble, sometimes, because responsibilities can and often do, conflict with one another.

Imagine promising to deliver a project on time to your supervisor.  Now, also imagine promising to your family that you will take more time to spend quality time with them.  Uh oh... here comes a potential conflict. If the project timeline starts to slip, do you give up time with your family?  But, then, family should rank higher than work in order of importance, shouldn't it?  Like I said, responsibility can get me into trouble. I believe that I have to earn the trust of those around me, but the most important trust I have to earn belongs to God.  He provides me with challenges, which in truth, are opportunities to prove that I deserve the responsibility he gives me.

Responsibility given by God sometimes provides interesting and challenging barriers, some of which put me into positions that are counter to the idea that I am, first and foremost, responsible.  I trust that God made me the kind of soul worthy the responsibility he gives me, even when I do screw it up sometimes.  I know I'm only human. And, sometimes when I'm trying to be a responsible steward in some cases, it makes me irresponsible in others.  I'm still actively learning how to prioritize my responsibilities.  I'm also still learning how to shut my mouth and open my ears so that God can help me put first things first.  I can even say that I've made some serious mistakes recently, counter to the core of my responsible being.  I've been irresponsible recently (though, not lately) and I intend on spending time reflecting and working on earning the trust of those I hurt, and also showing God that I am the responsible person He made me and wants me to be.

So, I have some things that I need to be more responsible for, and I have some things that I need to move away from, because it would actually be the responsible thing to do.  With God's help, the next few posts I write will actively concentrate on several things:

  1. Putting God in first place in my life - Being a better Christian
  2. Putting my wife in second place in my life - Being a better Husband
  3. Putting my daughter in third place in my life - Being a better Father
  4. Learning to trust others, and myself, with my professional quality at work - Being a better Employee
As I continue down the path to being more responsible for these things, I thank God that he will offer me enlightenment as I work on them.  I also ask Him to help me make my journey a successful one, because there are times when I will fall. He knows that I fell hard recently, and He knows I have a long way to go in rebuilding some broken trust. But, He also knows that I'm seriously committed to working on it, and for the fact that he gave me a heart committed to being responsible - I am certainly thankful.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Fiscal Responsibility

While I could probably write a lengthy bit about our family and what we do to maintain fiscal responsibility, instead I'd like to focus on why He wants us to have fiscal responsibility.  Even now he has an eternal home prepared for us.  He also has a role for us to serve in eternity.  He expects responsibility, and trusts us to follow through in the life eternal he grants us.  So, we must prove to him in our mortal lives that we are worthy of our eternal gifts.  If we manage our family finances with grace and without worry, then the larger eternal gifts and responsibilities that await us will surely bring Him a smile when we receive and manage them properly.

One of the most important aspects of achieving personal fiscal liberty lies in having the ability to support others who are unable to support themselves.  Only when our own family finances are in order and responsibly managed can we afford to give to others without fear.  Tonight my wife wrote a sizable check for a  Good cause, one that I know He would be happy to see us donating towards.  If we didn't take care of our financial gifts properly, there's no way this would be possible.  I've heard of families with incomes double or triple ours, yet unable to give due to squandering their financial gains.  I won't call it wealth, because the truly wealthy are those that respect what they have been given by Our Lord (in my opinion).

Now, this isn't to say that my family is "financially perfect" with our responsibility.  However, I can say we strive very hard to take care of our financial independence and growth.  We truly see debt as four letter word to be avoided.  Credit is a close second, and must be treated with great respect when used, because credit really is just another fancy word for debt, at least if we buy things we cannot pay for in cash.

I thank God that my wife and I are on the same page about having a family budget, and about just about every aspect of managing that budget.  As our financial wealth continues to grow (God willing), I hope that we can use our finances to help His purpose in our lives evident.

I ask God only for the wisdom to continue to grow our finances for His glory.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Don't Worry, Be Happy

"Do not be anxious then, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'With what shall we clothe ourselves?' "For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. "Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." - Matthew 6:31-34
I find myself being human much to readily.  Granted, God designed me to be human, so that's OK.  But, I also find myself worrying too much about every day things.  Now, some of these things do matter in the context of my mortal life, and even matter in terms of eternity - as our role in this life directly impacts our place in the next.  But, much too often I forget that there's a difference between human business and God business.  I forget that some of the things I worry about are really none of my business at all to worry about, God will take care of it for me.

Something that I believe as helped me in the past, and will continue to help me as I grow spiritually, is to look around at the things God has provided for me. Much like a father provides for his family and children, God provides for his spiritual family.  He certainly does love me, and I know this because of the love that I have for my child.  While my love is grand, His love is immeasurable and He desires nothing more for that love to come back to Him. When I remember the fact that I have a happy and healthy child, a (usually) happy and healthy marriage, and I am healthy, I see no reason not to be happy.

Anxiety comes completely from humanness and desire to control things that are beyond our own grasp.  I know the anxiety demon well, I grapple with it on a regular basis - often many times a day. Satan really likes it when I worry, he plays tricks on me and gets me to thinking I can handle things on my own.  Thankfully, God knows how to brush Satan aside, sometimes it takes me a while to ask for His help though.  I need to remember that all of my strength was given to me by Him.  All of my abilities and know-how, He ensured I'd have in place when I needed them.  When the anxiety of mortal life becomes a burden too great to bear, I find it important to remember Him.  After all, on the last day of each of our worries, we will meet Him face to face.  And, for that, I am certainly most thankful.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Make Good Choices

At my daugter's daycare they regularly tell the children "make good choices."  Sometimes this comes when the children step out of line and need a reminder.  Other times it comes as praise, when in deed they do make good choices.

I think it's important to apply this life lesson into a God-driven life.  For grown ups, we need a reminder sometimes not to step out of line. When we forget our purpose in life came from God, I beleive we can expect him to remind us to make good choices. And, if we decide to stop listening to Him, He might even have to put us in time out. Not because it gives Him pleasure to do so, but because He loves us and wants us to grow up into good people.

We are always growing, learning, and shaping into the spiritual adults that He designed us to be. How we choose to reflect that in every moment proves to our Father that we, too, make good choices.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Mailbox Down

Our Mailbox Had a Bad Day
What you see in this image is a picture of what our mailbox looked like this morning after I went into work.  Some time between the time I pulled out of our driveway and the time my wife got out of bed, this happened.  The driver, being the courteous and responsible sort (forgive my slight cynicism here),  decided not to come to the door and wake up my sleeping toddler and wife, instead just driving away as if nothing happened.  Yes - this was a hit-and-run situation.

Now, I'm upset that this is the fourth time in a couple of years that we've had to put up a mailbox.  However, I hope that God can find a way into the heart of the person responsible for this, and let said individual know that this has been forgiven.  To repair this will cost me a little bit of time (including fixing any minor damages to the box itself), energy, and less than $50.  The amount of damage done to the vehicle that hit this mailbox will easily surpass that number.  Plus, since there were car parts scattered all over our front lawn, we contacted the police department.  While I doubt the police ever find the person that did this, I hope that God does.  It had to be scary, hitting this mailbox.  I'm sure it made a lot of noise, and hurt their car badly.  It's hard to be genuine in a textual blog, but I hope my message to this anonymous driver doesn't come across as cynical - I really do feel bad for the person that felt like they couldn't take responsibility for this accident.

Because we've had many cases of mailbox baseball, we decided to "armor up" our box a bit.  That 4x4 sheared clean off of its concrete base, so the driver that hit the mailbox had to be travelling pretty fast.  Plus, the post is set back from the road approximately 2 feet, which means they probably jacked up their suspension, too.  We suffered a minor property casualty.  I have to imagine the person that did this has been shaken to their core, at least briefly.  Hopefully, this will make them a little safer of a driver, whoever it was.  Thank God that nobody was standing near that mailbox at the time this happened.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Made to Learn and Grow

"Do yourself a favor and learn all you can; then remember what you learn and you will prosper." (Proverbs 19:8 TEV)

I have absolutely no doubt that God made me to learn and to grow.  I find almost no greater passion than when I can learn something, or when I can get better at something.  This applies in just about everything I do, so I hope to make it a point of glorifying God when I learn or improve.  God made me to desire this kind of growth, so I will do everything I can to embrace it.

A few areas that I know I need to continue growing my compassion, understanding, and love, in order of importance:

  • God
  • Becoming Like Jesus Christ
  • My wife and daughter
  • My career
God knows what He intends for me. I pray to continue to learn His will, and find guidance in all that I do.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

I Love My Job

This sounds like a funny thing for a guy to say who has been putting in tons of overtime recently, and will be likely to do it again if I need to. Working overtime, while a strain on my family, I find highly rewarding. When you love what you do as much as I do, overtime is a burden worth bearing. Hardly a day passes in which I do not wake up thanking God for the day ahead if me.
Sure, I have stressful days, and even weeks.  But the stress never overwhelms me for a long time, because I am so enthusiastic about what I do at the office.
Now, I love God for giving me something to do that I love so much. So, I do my best to glorify Him in my work. Sometimes, though, my love for my work causes undue stress on my family. I still need Gods help making sure that my family comes before my career, and that He comes first overall.

For those of you who read this post before now, I apologize - I wrote it on my phone, and didn't error check it before publishing it.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Fellowship Thoughts

Since this blog is public facing, and I don't yet have permission to do so, I'm going to keep the names of the two men I share fellowship with off of this blog, for now.  I assume that they wouldn't mind being mentioned publicly, but I'd rather be sure, first.

One of the most important things I've come to find during my time of fellowship with these guys is an increase in accountability towards my faith in God and Jesus Christ.  Admittedly, I haven't made the right kinds of effort in getting my butt into a pew, though I realize that sentiment probably detracts from the real truth.  I don't go to church right now, I haven't in many years.  I intend on changing that pattern very soon, but it's something that weighs on my heart as I continue to dive more deeply into my faith.  It was uncomfortable for me to admit this to them today, and even more-so for me to say so openly.  However, if I'm going to be accountable for what I do (and don't do) I have to admit to my shortcomings.  Faith isn't always comfortable, or easy - and this admission is no exception.

I know I'll be in church, soon. I know I'll be in a church that will help me strengthen my relationship with God and Jesus in ways that neither strong fellowship or personal devotional time can.  I will need your prayers in helping me to ensure that "soon" really is soon, and not just an empty word without promise.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Ordinary Miracles

Before I go into my reflections for the day, I would like to ask for prayers for the family of my wife's uncle, who will pass into eternal life in the next few days.

Today, I would have been on time for work, were it not for a Semi driver looking for an enigma of a destination. He blocked the drive to the office and spent a good 10 minutes turning around in much too small of a space. The moment a clearing showed, a car zoomed into the parking lot behind me. That was lesson one, two years ago that was me.

By the time the truck had cleared the portion of the lot where I park, I was already 10 minutes late.  So, I used the next five to go help the very perplexed driver find his way. God worked through me today, putting me in a place where I could help with something so simple. Lesson two. Both say the same thing. What we do in our short time here on earth matters. So, I am going to do a little better not to rush and notice the important things.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Why a Lion?

Well, I've actually found two reasons to consider myself a Lion of God.  First of all, my surname translates to "Lion Valley" (Valley of the Lions) which seems pertinent.  Second of all, C.S. Lewis imagining Jesus as a Lion has helped me connect personally with a metaphor that has potency in my own life.  Therefore, I consider myself in the same metaphor of the Lion.  Strong, for certain.  But, that strength ultimately comes from my creator and King, our God.

As time allows, I intend on focusing my attention on becoming one of God's warriors.  A Lion warrior, if you will. It won't be easy sometimes. But, easy is not the point. Unshakable faith is. Something I still need lots of work on.