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This Silence

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I cry out, longing to be heard.

Where are you?  Why have you left me?

I feel alone, caught in a whirlwind of emotions I can’t explain or control.

The darkness sweeps over me like a flood raging out of control.

When I cry out, all I hear is silence.

The silence is deafening.  It reminds me of this hell I’m in.

Where are you when I cry?  Can you even hear me?  Do you care?

Can you not lift a finger to offer me some comfort and take this pain?

It wears on me like a weight I can’t shake off.

How can I be happy one moment and melancholy or withdrawn the next?

Where is the joy I once had?  Am I a lost cause?  Have you given up on me?

This silence.

Reach out to me and take my hand.

I’m grasping…reaching…flailing like a drowning child hopeful to be saved.

Where is my savior?  My hero?

Who will hear my cry and take this from me?

I long for joy and laughter to return to my life.

For the energy and life to thrive, not merely exist.

Lord, I got nothing left.  I’m at the end of myself.

Oh, this silence.

Will you hear me and come to my rescue?

Will you take pity on me and pull me from the depths of this darkness?

Will you shine a light into the darkest corners of my soul and expose me?

Will you pour out your cup of grace and mercy upon me?

This silence is deafening Lord.

I long for your voice.

I long for joy.

I thirst for peace within my soul…for a stillness to overtake me.

Lord, you alone can save me from this anguish.  How long will you leave me here

In this silence?

 

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Lighthouse Strong

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God tells us in scripture to let our light shine that they would see our good works and glorify Him. A lighthouse doesn’t need to fire a cannon to call attention to its shining – it just shines. Used to be 25+ years of marriage was the norm, but nowadays people in our culture marvel at a marriage that lasts as long as ours has.

It’s been said that a strong marriage requires two people who choose to LOVE each other – even on those days when they struggle to like each other. I certainly haven’t always been likable (or lovable, for that matter), but you’ve loved me right through it. And I admit I haven’t always liked you. But I’ve always loved you…always will.

Father, thank you for the gift of marriage…that you’ve made us one flesh. She knows the worst of me and still chooses to love me because Your love is in her. The world around us has devalued the sanctity of marriage, and yet here we stand…stronger than ever, and we praise you for that! Abba Father, let our marriage shine bright for our sons to see…first and foremost that our example gives you glory, but also that they each desire for their future marriage to bring you honor as well. Lord, may Your love and Your light pierce the darkness of the world around us as we stand strong and faithful for You like a lighthouse, today and through the years ahead.

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Sit a Spell

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God: “Pull up a chair and sit a spell.”

Me: “Sure, I’ve got a few minutes. This is nice…to slow down for a minute.”

God: “It is, isn’t it. Did you notice how beautiful the rain is this morning?”

Me: “Yeah, that’s quite a lot of rain. It’s keeping me from fishing this morning, though. You know that’s why I came down to Kentucky this week, right…to fish.”

God: “I thought you came to get some rest and restore your soul. You mentioned being spiritually empty and needing some time to be re-filled with my Spirit.”

Me: “Yeah, I just really think I could do that better out on the boat with hooks in the water than stuck here at the house in this rain.”

God: “But this is nice, right? This rain sure is peaceful isn’t it?”

Me: “Yeah, sure. I like the way it sounds hitting the trees and ground.”

God: “I knew you would.”

Me: “Sure would be nice to be out on the water, though.”

God: “You’re not the only one of my creation that needs restored and fed, my child.”

Me: “Oh. Yeah, I suppose you have quite a few others to think about in that regard, eh?”

God: “…”

Me: “This coffee sure is nice. Thanks for making that possible.”

God: “You’re welcome. I like giving you the things you enjoy.”

Me: “I enjoy time in the boat. 😉”

God: “…”

Me: “So, what’s new? I just read this passage here, and I suppose you have something for me in that somewhere, right?”

God: “Do you see how the rain is bouncing off the leaves there and making it look like the bush is dancing? Isn’t that awesome!?”

Me: “Ummm. Sure, yeah that’s cool. Doesn’t really have much to do with this passage from your Word that I just read, though.”

God: “It takes a lot of work to aim each rain drop just right so it’ll hit the right leaf at the right time.”

Me: “Mmm. Yeah, I don’t reckon I ever gave that much thought.”

Me: “Well, this has been a nice few minutes, but I’ve got to get going if I’m gonna serve you today.”

God: “You just got here. Can’t you stay just a while longer?”

Me: “Father, you know I’d love to, but if I’m gonna be fruitful for your kingdom today, I better get going now.”

God: “Can’t you stay just a bit longer. This is nice.”

Me: “Maybe just another minute or two, but that’s all I have time for today.”

God: “Isn’t this nice, though?”

Me: “Yeah it is, but we can talk throughout the day about the specifics if you want. I really should get started with my day. I’ve got a lot going on today.”

God: “…”

Me: “What, you’re gonna guilt me for wanting to get out in the field doing your kingdom work?”

God: “I didn’t say anything.”

Me: “Oh, I thought that was you.”

God: “Since you bring it up, I don’t really NEED you to do the work, you know that right?”

Me: “True. I guess you could just snap your fingers and it’d be done, but you called me to it right? So it really is something I should get out there and do if I’m gonna do it well and bring you any glory today.”

God: “Even the leaves on that bush are bringing me glory as they dance in the rain.”

Me: “So, you’re saying I should go dance in the rain?”

God: “I’m saying you don’t have to be busy to bring me glory. In fact, you simply being brings me much glory.”

Me: “Oh. But you built me to move.”

God: “I created you to bring me glory.”

Me: “But I’m wired to be busy and moving from one thing to the next.”

God: “You’re ‘wired’ to bring me glory.”

Me: “But I don’t know how to do that just sitting here doing nothing.”

God: “Sitting with me and watching my rain is ‘nothing’?”

Me: “Well, when you say it like that it sounds harsh.”

God: “…”

Me: “I know it’s not nothing. I’m sure it’s quite the orchestration of events to make rain happen like this. It’s just that…”

God: “It’s what?”

Me: “I don’t know. Its just hard to sit here this long.”

God: “I understand.”

Me: “Do you? I mean, you’re God. You can be everywhere in the world all at the same time.”

God: “I had to sit and watch my Son die on the cross.”

Me: “Oh yeah, there is that. I don’t know how you did that.”

God: “It was hard, but worth it. I did it so that we could sit and talk this morning.”

Me: “What do you mean?”

God: “It’s through Jesus that you can know me.”

Me: “Oh. Well, thank you for that.”

God: “You’re welcome.”

Me: “So I can go now?”

God: “I was never keeping you.”

Me: “But you made me feel guilty for wanting to leave.”

God: “No, I was WANTING you to stay and spend time with me.”

Me: “I do want to, I just have a lot to do today.”

God: “I understand.”

Me: “We can talk throughout the day.”

God: “Sure, if that’s what you want.”

Me: “Isn’t that what you want too, to talk to me throughout the day?”

God: “I want you.”

Me: “You have me.”

God: “…to spend time with you.”

Me: “We can spend time together doing the things I have to do today…two birds so to speak.”

God: “It’s not the same.”

Me: “But you’re God. You can make it the same.”

God: “That’s not how it works.”

Me: “Oh. I wouldn’t know.”

Me: “Well, I best get going. This has been nice.  See you out there.”

God: “Ok. I’ll be here when you’re ready.”

The Parable of a Trash Bag

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Some days, these notes are as much more to encourage me than you…a reference point for me to use in recalling something later in life as my memory fails me. This is one of those notes.

Last night, while changing the trash, my nine year old NE stops halfway through the task, turns to me and this is what followed:

NE: “Dad, I’m going to tell you a parable.”
Me: “Cool! I like parables. Whatcha got?”

NE: “This trash bag is us. Well, it’s like us, cuz we’re not really trash…”

Me: 😗😉

NE: “And the wind is Jesus. When I open the new bag to let the air in, it fills up. It’s like our hearts…when we open our heart and life to Jesus, He comes in and fills us up.”

Me: “Yeah man! That is SO true! I love it!”

NE: “See there, I just told you a parable, because parables are stories about things that are the same. I really like parables.”

Me: “Me too buddy. Where’d you learn that one?”

NE: “I didn’t. I just thought of it myself while I was changing the trash. It just came into my mind so I told you.” (Walks out of the room carrying the trash to the dumpster)

(Mic drop…like, literally! I’m left standing there in silence with my mouth wide open in awe.)

It was one of those Eight-Second Bull Rides, where I’m left standing in the dust wondering what just happened.

You have no idea the depths to which my mind had taken that parable in the 45 seconds that our conversation lasted.

No, really! I mean I could’ve done a full 40 minute Sunday sermon on that baby right there on the spot… in the middle of the kitchen, tripping over spilled trash, dirty dishes still in my hand…stopped everything and called the family in for some impromptu, down right deep bible study that would’ve touched the souls of most biblical scholars type-stuff. Yowza, baby!

He doesn’t know it yet, but I think he just found the Upward game day half-time devotion he wants to write and share himself this season. 😉🙌

I literally just never cease to be amazed at how and when God uses His children to work in the lives of others. Like…seriously! Awesome!

And, even more, I just totally adore watching my boys mature in their understanding of who God is and who they are in Christ.

Love you boys! Keep on keepin’ on!

Dad

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for making yourself known to these two precious little ones you’ve entrusted me with. Please keep working in their lives to guide and lead them along the path you’ve set apart for each of them. Would you please just continue setting a firm foundation in their lives of who they are in you so that they can withstand the trials they’ll surely face without me. Please, speak to them in a way that they know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they will ALWAYS have you. Lord, bless these little hearts and keep them in your arms. Oh…and if you could just take my mistakes and shortcomings as their daddy…you know, all the things about me that I’d toss to the curb with the trash…and maybe just overlook those and use them for something good in their lives, that’d be like.just.really.amazing. I know you got my back. 😉👍

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Pre-Plan for the Day of Battle

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Have you been in a battle of your will recently…struggling to flee evil and run toward God? Maybe you’re in that battle now?

I confess that in my weakest moments, I sometimes give in to the temptations of my flesh. I am human, after all. But all too often, I think we tend to use that as our “out”…an excuse to sin. At least I know I do anyway.

It’s as if the argument I have with the devil in my head seems to start like this, “you’re only human; what’s He expect of you? You can’t be perfect. Just give in this one time, and you can seek forgiveness afterward because He is always faithful to give it.

Then when I do fail and succumb to the tempting of the devil, he keeps going by shaming me with my guilt, “you’re not good enough for God. He’ll never accept you back, look what you just did!”

And when I give in to that conversation, I forget what follows one of my favorite verses, Galatians 2:20, in verse 21.

I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.

Oh, how often I have treated the grace of God as “meaningless”. For you see, when we I return to our my sin like a dog to its own vomit, that is precisely what we I do. We I cheapen the grace…degrade the sacrifice…minimize the offering…undervalue and render worthless the gift that forgives and cleanses us me in His eyes.

As a dad, if I were to freely give my 6 year old son to die in the place of another person, I would expect the person he saved to live differently…not because he knew I expected it, but because he recognized the gift as meaningful…and as a natural outpouring of his appreciation for the love he was shown first.

Doesn’t God deserve the same from us me?!

A battle for our soul rages within us! We win the battle when we claim Galatians 2:20 as our own personal experience, crucifying our flesh and allowing Christ to live in us.

Speaking for myself here, I often…too often…fail Him in choosing poorly. When I fail to apply Phil 4:13 to my daily experiences during temptations, I take for granted and render meaningless the grace of God. I step off the path He has set out for me…even if only for a moment…and that first step is ALWAYS a slippery one.

When we take that first slippery step off the narrow path during a personal battle, we allow the flesh to succumb to temptation. It’s like we use Paul’s illustration of the battle against the sin within us (found in Romans 7:13-25) as an excuse to sin rather than applying it in claiming victory OVER sin through Christ in us.

Convicted of a recent failure of my own, this verse from Proverbs jumped leaped off the page at me:

Unfailing love and faithfulness make atonement for sin. By fearing the LORD, people avoid evil.” – Proverbs 16:6

Wait what?! How do an unfailing love and faithfulness atone for my sin, and more importantly, how do I achieve those two qualities in my character?

In having captured my attention, He hit me with this one five verses later:

The LORD demands accurate scales and balances; he sets the standard for fairness.” – Proverbs 16:11

And then again five verses later with this:

The path of the virtuous leads away from evil; whoever follows that path is safe.” – Proverbs 16:17

Which led to a bit of a word study that in summation looks like this

Confused? Yeah, me too. But bare with me for a few more thoughts, and we shall indeed be one blind beggar leading another to a morsel of nourishment.
Let’s dissect verse 6 word by word:

  • Unfailing – constant; everlasting; never-ending; inexhaustible. We see God’s unfailing love for His people defined throughout Scripture, particularly in Psalm 117:2 and Isaiah 55:3.
  • Love – love is so many different qualities that it is a book all its own really. Quickly defined for today’s purpose,
    • Love is obedience (John 14:15, John 14:23-24, 1 John 2:3-6).
    • It is NOT an emotion we feel or express; rather it is a choice me make (John 3:16).
    • Love is God…and God is love (1 John 4:7-8).
    • Because God is love, love is also confident and fearless (1 John 4:16-19).
  • Faithfulness
    • a steadfast loyalty (2 Thessalonians 3:3 and 2 Timothy 4:7)
    • a firm adherence to promises (John 14:16, 1 Thessalonians 5:24, 2 Timothy 2:13)
  • Atonementforgiveness, reconciliation, cleansing (Col 1:20 and 1 John 2:2)
  • Sin – an offense against God

Simply translated, verse 6 of Proverbs 16 says this…an obedience and steadfast loyalty in adhering to our commitment to sin no more cleanse us of our offenses against God and that people who fear the LORD will avoid evil.

Simple enough…until we question why we should fear the LORD.

Simply put, the answer comes five verses later in verse 11,

The LORD demands accurate scales and balances; he sets the standard for fairness. – Proverbs 16:11

We should fear Him because He is a fair and just Judge…handing down discipline to those He loves for breaking His commands. His justness requires atonement for sin, and His standards are fair and balanced…we are all held to the same standard. When we are continually disobedient, we demonstrate that we don’t love Him.

My sin deserves a punishment. I cannot accept the gift of grace and forgiveness and continue in my sin. What just judge would allow that? My debt is paid, but it does not give me free reign to continue breaking the law.

Our hope can be found again five verses later in verse 17,

The path of the virtuous leads away from evil; whoever follows that path is safe. – Proverbs 16:17

  • Virtuousmorally excellent; righteous (Philippians 4:8 and 2 Peter 1:5-7)

But how do we “follow the path” when the temptations come?

When we turn from that which seeks to destroy us and instead seek Him, we keep our feet on the path. When we flee from Satan and draw near to God (in prayer and studying Scripture) Satan will flee us and God will draw near to us, filling us with His Spirit (see also 2 Timothy 2:20-22 about running from anything that stimulates youthful lusts, a study all its own but worthy of honorable mention here).

So the next natural question is, how do we do that…follow the path of the virtuous?

Success in this endeavor comes through proper pre-planning. God tells us to plan, then instructs us throughout the Proverbs that while we make our plans it is He who guides our steps and directs our path.

I’m a planner. I believe in planning for success…not just because God calls us to it, but because I’ve seen firsthand how planning well works in real-life applications.

In the fire service, we pre-plan everything.  I mean…EVERY. THING. In particular, we pre-plan what we call our “target hazards”, our high hazard incidents and locations. Our pre-planning process involves the following:

  • A Goal. What are our mission priorities? What’s the end game? The mission objective? The measure for success?
  • A Response Plan How will we respond? What route will we take to get there? What alternate routes are available if our primary one is not available? What resources will we deploy to assist us in mitigating the problem?
  • An Action Plan  What are the steps we will take to achieve success? What actions will we implement to achieve the goal? What is the back-up plan when the first plan isn’t successful?
  • Hazards. What dangers are out there waiting to entrap and entangle us? Where could we get side-tracked? Murphy says what CAN go wrong WILL go wrong, so how do we avoid those unnecessary dangers and pitfalls?

The saying rings true that “when we fail to plan, we plan to fail.”

Much like our efforts to pre-plan in the fire service pay off, God rewards us when we plan to avoid evil.

Which brings us full circle to find the answer in Proverbs 14:22:

If you plan to do evil, you will be lost; if you plan to do good, you will receive unfailing love and faithfulness.

There are those two qualities again…unfailing love and faithfulness! And it bears repeating because those two words started me on this day-long study.

Proverbs 16:6 says,

Unfailing love and faithfulness make atonement for sin…

and when we question how to achieve those two qualities, we come right back to Proverbs 14:22 for the answer,

…if you plan to do good, you will receive unfailing love and faithfulness.

In planning “to do good” we need to develop a plan that:

  • Identifies our goal.
  • Identities how we will respond when temptation comes and what resources we will deploy to assist us in achieving success.
  • Identifies our Action Plan…what steps we will take to achieve the goal.
  • Identifies what hazards Satan has lurking around the corner to ensnare an trip us up.

I encourage you to write your plan out.

Honestly, the entire process of typing this note out was as much for me as for anyone else. I followed the flow and bouncing back and forth of my hand written study because I wrote it out, but in taking the additional time to explain it to you, I better understand it myself. And in better understanding it, I can better apply it when I need it. I pray you can too.

Now, stop reading what I have to say about it and get to studying for yourself what God has to say about it.

Love,

Dad

Have you pre-planned your next response to temptation? I’d love to hear what practical steps you’ve put in place to ensure success in your faith journey.

A Post-It Note From God

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As I rushed out of the house at 9:00pm last night on the way to the hospital, I didn’t think to take a Bible with me.  By the time it crossed my mind, it was too late to turn back for it.  How could I not grab my Bible!?  Ugh!

Stopping to fill the car with gas and grab a coffee for the long night, I sent a text to some brothers in the faith asking for prayer.  My phone almost dead and my access to a digital Bible thus limited, I had no written Word of God to take with me so I also asked for some Scripture to share.

Praying for the 45 minute drive downtown to comfort a friend in his hour of need, I asked God to reveal to me what to say.  I asked for SO much in that time.  I asked…and asked…and asked some more.  I praised, and I glorified.  I sought Him, and I sought His Word.  I sought to recall it, knowing I would have to rely on my weak memory alone to speak Truth into the lives of a family hurting in the dark hours of the night. 

Stepping out of the car at the hospital, I looked at my phone, on its last minutes of battery life, to see the texts from the brothers praying for the situation and the various Scripture references they pointed me toward.  And I prayed, “if only I had a Bible with me.” In that instant, it’s as if God whispered directly in my ear “look in the back seat.” Finding NE’s children’s Bible, I laughed and praised God for it…and then walked inside.
Isn’t it awesome how He provides exactly what we need when we need it!

Hours later, as midnight approached, I opened it and read through some Psalms.  In turning to find what I was searching for, I turned too far and landed right dab on Proverbs 15, and this.  
Proverbs 15 This.  A post-it note written by my son in his newfound faith, as he seeks to know his God better…seeks to know the Jesus that died for him in a deeper, more intimate way.  This was the calming voice I needed to remind me that I don’t have to have all the answers when life happens.  

Because I don’t.  And I never will.  But I know who does.  He’s the Jesus/God of the Bible.  And I love Him …and His Bible!  Thank you, Lord, for speaking to me through my son.  And thank you, son, for being faithful in your quest for Him.  In your youth, you are witnessing to those around you (i.e. me) more than you know.

Love,

Dad

Lord, help me lead him and his brother in YOUR ways.  Help me to die to self so that I may live for you.  Guide me as I guide them.  Let them see you in me, and let them follow you, not me.

Amen

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