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My god was not my God

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I have come to realize I can’t go a day without it.  It’s 4 o’clock in the afternoon and while I haven’t touched it yet, I Can’t. Stop. Thinking. About. It.

Like, really can’t stop obsessing with how good it’d feel right now.  It’s over on the kitchen counter staring at me menacingly.  Calling me.  Beckoning me to come partake.  It knows I can’t function without it.  It knows!  It’s just sitting there…tempting me with the reality that the fog I’m in right now would go away almost instantly.  With just one cup.

Yes, I’ve come to realize it’s time for a change.  When I’ve become so reliant on something as small as a cup of coffee, I’ve become reliant on the wrong thing.  And I’ve been reliant on the wrong thing.  That’s not easy for me to admit, but there it is.

It’s the second Commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me” – Exodus 20:3, yet there it is staring me right in the face.  Coffee has become my god.  As I sat down to write this note, I honestly didn’t think I’ve put coffee before God.  I haven’t, have I?  Well, let’s see…

It’s the first thing I reach for in the morning.  Before my Bible and before my time with God.  Really, the two go together so well in the morning… a cop of coffee and the Word.

coffee and the Word

a little coffee and a whole lot of Word

But the coffee…oh how the coffee gets me through it.  Wait!  It “gets me through it?”  WOW!  Yeah…it’s time for a change.

I’m thankful that my God is bigger than my coffee.  Ephesians 6 tells us to put on the full armor of God.  It’s time to demolish this stronghold in my life.  With the Helmet of Salvation, I am claiming the mind of Christ as I thank Him that I am His child and praise Him for my eternal life.  I’ve affixed the Breastplate of Righteousness, asking God to search my heart and reveal the wickedness hidden within it.  I’ve confessed my sin and am claiming Christ’s righteousness to cover my sins.  With the Shield of Faith, I am claiming the victory and advancing in faith to quench the fiery darts of the wicked (Mark 11:24).

I am claiming victory in this through Christ.  My coffee is my god no more.

Love,

Dad

P.S. Ironic that immediately after posting this, I place a link to this note on the Decaf Dad page.  God really is good all the time.

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What Do You See?

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What do you see when he passes you, red lights flashing and siren blaring as he clears a path to his destination? Do you see the pain and suffering he will see when he gets there? Do you see it? No? Open your eyes…it’s there.

It’s a darkness that swallows him, pouring over his soul like a raging sea.

It tosses him back and forth, churning him up in a blender that’s mixed with all the pain and sorrow he bears witness to.

He tries to escape the fury of its wrath,
but its grip on him is unrelenting. It crushes his soul and takes away his breath.

He’s sinking into the pits of a darkness that won’t let him go. The raging fire that engulfs his once vibrant, green and thriving soul leaves in its wake the charred remains of destruction and death…each memory of the terrors that haunt him as fresh today as the day they first burned him.

Oh, how the memories that haunt him are more than he can bear. At night they startle him from his sleep in a cold sweat that finds him grasping for breath and fighting to break free from the chains that bind him. At dawn, there is no reprieve as they follow him throughout his day, lurking around every corner and down every path…a constant reminder that they will follow him all the days of his life. His heart grows callous to protect him from the pain of it.

He had no warning, no friend to say “wait!” No idea that what he once loved would become something to hate.

Every day, people pass him by and utter under their breath, “he’s got it made. His job is easy. He’s well paid.”

If only they’d stop and explore his eyes…it wouldn’t take long at all for them to realize

He’s begging for mercy, crying out from the pits of his own hell, “Someone help! Throw me a rope. Where is my hope?”

Is there no reprieve for this man? No light at the end of his present darkness? No one to offer him hope? Will no one come to his side and offer to save him from this misery? Who is able?

I claim Your promise in Psalm 121 today, Lord. I lift my eyes up. My help comes from you LORD. I reach for Your outstretched arm and grasp it with what little life I have left in me. Pull me from these depths LORD. I long so deeply to embrace You and rest my weary head on Your shoulder. What is seen and felt now is temporary. Come now and bring me home.

I May Be Old To a 4-Year Old, But Wait…

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Are you old? I know I am. Well, at least SI says I am. I guess to a 4 year old, 40 probably seems ancient. It seems that lately there hasn’t been a day pass without me having felt my age more so than ever.

Sore after doing routine tasks that shouldn’t leave me sore. Tired. Slow. Aching bones crying out for rest. Joints popping. Hearing loss. Trouble seeing clearly. Memory fading. Grey slipping in where it wasn’t there yesterday. The man of my youth is fast escaping me. I’m certainly not standing on death’s doorstep waiting for a final push into the grave, but there are definitely more and more days that I feel my age.

Satan sure is good at his job of pulling us away from our relationship with God isn’t he? Thoughts seem to invade my mind occasionally that challenge my desire to keep moving forward. Some days it’s all I can do to roll out of bed and face the day. I wonder sometimes what difference for God’s kingdom I’m making. And though I’m still a young 40, I’d be lying if I said that my age never played a role in those thoughts and questions. Because on occasion they do creep in there.

I imagine that’s even more true for someone in his 50’s. 60’s. 70’s. 80’s. 90’s. If we’re honest with ourselves, it can be overwhelming some days. Can’t it?

Don’t be overwhelmed. There’s encouragement in the Word.

“But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. For they are transplanted to the LORD’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God. Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green. They will declare, “The LORD is just! He is my rock! There is no evil in him!” – Psalm 92:12-15

Did you catch that? Even in old age, the child of God will:

1. Produce fruit.

John 15:5 says we can do NOTHING without Christ. When we abide in Him and allow Him to abide in us, we bear fruit. And this brings the Father glory, when we bear fruit (John 15:7). The fruit we bear for God comes in two forms: 1. Leading the lost to Christ; and 2. Living out and exemplifying the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22 (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). Regardless of your age, if you’re not bearing fruit maybe it’s time to reevaluate your relationship with Christ. Are you abiding in Him and allowing Him to abide in you? Are you seeking Him with EVERYTHING you have? If you are, you’re producing fruit and are vital.

2. Remain vital.

Regardless of your age, as a child of God your assignment here is significant. You play a key role. Your life story is meaningful. You have a purpose that is important to God. You are critical to the mission. Crucial to the operation. Fundamental in achieving God’s purpose. Important to the team. Indispensable to God. An integral part of His plan. Don’t ever lose sight of that truth!

3. Remain green.

I recently heard a six-year old on NE’s baseball team say “I know everything there is to know about baseball because I’ve been playing for three years already.” Well, I suppose when you’ve been doing something for half your life, you should know a lot about it, right? Too funny. 🙂 The reality is…we’re never too old to learn something new. If you’re alive in Christ, you’re green. What’s that mean? When a plant is green, it’s growing. As a child of God, you’re green when you’re growing. Being nourished by the Word. Cultivating relationships. Thriving. Stretching beyond your comfort zone. Maturing in your understanding of wisdom and truth. Flourishing in your faith. Developing the attributes of Christ. If you’re reading this, you’re not dead yet. Go live. Better yet, go be alive in Christ!

4. Declare God’s glory.

Our God is faithful and just, is He not? Is He not worthy of our constant praise and adoration for that…and so much more? As a believer in the One true God, our strongest desire should be to declare His glory in ALL things.

“Let the faithful rejoice that he honors them. Let them sing for joy as they lie on their beds.” – Psalm 149:5

I might be old to a 4-year old, but I’m not on my death bed yet. You can rest assured that when I am I’ll be singing His praises and giving Him glory! For as long as I have breath, I’ll “sing praises to the LORD!” (Psalm 150:6) Will you? Even if you are on your death bed, if you still have breath in your lungs and a beat in your heart, God has you here for a reason. Find it. Live it.

Love,

Dad

It’s Time

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Doing what I did earlier today was never part of my original plan.  An array of emotions are coursing through me today…it’s certainly a bittersweet day for sure.  When you give fourteen years to something, I suppose there’s a part of you that just doesn’t want to let it go.  But it’s time.

Fourteen years ago, I walked through the doors of a 911 dispatch center for the first time, completely ignorant of what I’d just signed up for.  No one can adequately prepare you for the job of a 911 dispatcher.  There’s just no way to prepare someone for the stress and range of emotions that you’ll face from moment to moment during any shift.  It’s something you just have to live to understand.  I’ve lived it.  I’ve loved it.  I’ve hated it.  I’m going to miss it.  I’m not going to miss it.  I’m done with it.  It’s time.

resignation, God's Plans, stepping out in faith

My Resignation Letter

The saying goes that when one door closes, another opens.  I’m blessed that God opened the next door before this one closed.  This decision has been many months in the making as God has been preparing me for awhile now for this step of faith.  To walk on the water, we have to get out of the boat and take a step in faith.  I’m excitedly (and with some nervousness) taking my first steps in faith through this new door, looking forward with anticipation to what He has in store for me on the other side.  I’m excited and blessed beyond words to be a part of His plan.  Today might not have been part of MY original plan fourteen years ago, but God’s plans are bigger and better than our own…and it’s time.  More to come…

“Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.'” – Luke 9:23

Love,

Dad

Gotta Get Outa The Way!

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Are you struggling to overcome something today? Are you tired and weary? Is it not working out for you like you’d hoped? Does it feel like you take a step forward one day, just to fall back three the next? You’re not alone.

The first three verses of Colossians 3 opens with,

“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.”

We died to this life. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives within me.” (Gal 2:20). Believers, we’re dead. D.E.A.D. Dead. That’s pretty clear. If I’m dead, who’s walking around in this body of mine? Who’s writing this note? Who’s reading it? Who’s drinking this cup of coffee? Who’s going to work in 20 minutes?

Christ living in our body…In my life, and in yours. We are raised to walk a new life. A new life in Christ. Where we go, He goes. What we do, He does. What we say, He says. The people we interact with every day know who Christ is by our life…Our actions. Our inaction. Our attitudes. Our words. That’s a really big responsibility.

I’ve been struggling for years to put my old self aside, especially at work with my language and speech. That opening passage of Colossians 3 really jumped off the page right at me this morning. In prayer, this is what God whispered to me.

“You are called to, and for, a higher purpose. You are set apart. Live in such a way that reflects such, son. You cannot overcome your behavior challenges at work. But I can. And I will. As soon as you step aside. Get out of my way and let me.”

Yes, Lord.

You are struggling to overcome something too. Stop struggling. Step aside and let God do what only He can do! Will you join me in getting out of His way so He can change our lives? I’m praying for you this morning.

Love,

Dad

God…Knocking Your Socks Off. With Socks!

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It was Crazy Sock Day at our Upward game today. My week leading up to today was CrAy. Zee. To say the least. So I woke up this morning unprepared, having forgotten about Crazy Sock Day, until now.

After twenty minutes searching the house, the only thing I could find was my 4year old’s mismatched soccer socks. Thinking to myself, “there’s no way I can show up without some kinda crazy sock”, I throw them on and head out the door.

Let me just say…socks designed for a 4-year old’s foot do NOT bode well with this 40 year old large man’s body. 🙂 Twenty minutes in, I can’t feel my toes. No, literally! I can’t feel my toes! I’m driving down the interstate, and my toes are completely numb. Obviously, I’m not going to make it ten hours in these, so I’m praying…asking God for an answer. I stop by the church office on my way to the gym to pick up some supplies. Now twenty minutes late for having spent my morning looking for socks that are soon going to amputate my toes, I’m hurriedly walking down the hall past the office when God says something to me…and when I say He said it, I mean He actually grabbed my ear and whispered directly at me. “Slow down. Just. Slow. Down.”

So I stop, dead in my tracks, at the office door. Standing in the hall now, I remember the secretary emailing me earlier in the week to tell me I had a package delivered. Not expecting anything, I pushed it aside thinking I’ll get to it next week. So now, I walk in and open the package. To find this pair of socks from South Carolina! Meant as a marketing technique from Upward Sports with the intent to “knock my socks off” at this summer’s leadership training, I’m literally standing in the office laughing at how funny and amazing God really is. God reached into the life of someone thousands of miles away this week and said, “send that man some socks.” Amazing doesn’t begin to cover it.

Not the craziest pair of socks I’ve worn to Crazy Sock Day, but by far the craziest story I’ve shared about how God answers prayer in the smallest, yet biggest, ways. Can I just say? My God is an awesome God! Always there to meet my need, no matter how big or small. He’s there for you to. If you’ll trust Him.

God…sending socks in the mail so my toes wouldn’t fall off after ten hours in my 4-year old SI’s socks. God is funny! Keep your eyes open for those God Moments. They’re all around us. Keep your sense of awe and wonder and be ready! He may just knock your socks off. With socks!

Love,

Dad!

The First Rule of Holes

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It was the best of calls. It was the worst of calls.

A recent 24 hour shift day is reminiscent of that similar opening of Charles Dickens’ famous novel A Tale Of Two Cities

An early morning residential fire came in at shift change. My crew and I were first on scene and were fortunate to have been notified early enough to arrive in time to effect a rescue (a liberal use of the term ‘rescue’ for those who are reading this who have fire service experience). We assisted a person from the residence, partially under her own power. But at the end of the day, it’s hard to look back on that particular incident and not have a little pride in my colleagues’ performance that morning…knowing that everyone on scene that morning came together in such a way that we changed the immediate course of life for one individual. The best possible outcome.

Fast forward about seventeen hours. The initial call out was for breathing problems. Within the hour, she died right in front of us, despite our best efforts to revive her. The result of an apparent and alleged overdose…with young kids in the next room. The worst possible outcome.

I’ve often said, “if you only knew ten percent of the sins I commit just in my head, you’d be ashamed to call me friend.” In the aftermath of a recent poor choice I made to be willfully disobedient to God’s law and will for my life, I’ve been wrestling with the ensuing guilt. In my confession and prayer time since then, He has revealed three things to me:

1. I have been internally judgmental of the people whose lives touch mine daily through my job. Not so much outwardly judgmental, though some statements I tend to make now and then are indeed judgmental…but the conversations I have in my head that are just between me and God…those alone separate me from a true fellowship with Him.

When I open the doors of some stranger’s house who’s called me and my colleagues for assistance, it’s not for me to judge their ability and choice to live ankle deep in a house covered wall to wall in empty liquor bottles and bags filled with remnants of fast food leftovers, all covered in urine and feces. Nor is it for me to question how someone reached the point in their life where doing crack cocaine in front of kids as young as 4 years old becomes acceptable to them. It’s certainly not okay for me to openly make these observations around my colleagues or support their similar observations, but equally important, it’s not okay for these thoughts to remain in my own thoughts. It’s for me to do my job…and to do it through the lens of a disciple of Christ. To approach every situation looking through His eyes and finding ways to shed His light into the darkness.

2. The recently ‘single’ poor choice that finally brought me to this point of confession and repentance was not a singular choice at all…rather it was a choice made in a long succession of a similarly small choices I’ve made daily over time to not make Him the center of my life.

I have not been walking with God for a couple weeks now…not been in the Word daily like I’ve grown accustomed to in recents months. And it has affected how I act and the lens through which I see those around me. You see, when I’m in His Word daily, praying in faith regularly and fellowshipping with other believers, I fully recognize the truth found in John 15:5…that without the power of Christ living in the center of my life, I can do nothing. When I’m walking as a disciple of Christ, hiding the Word in my heart and mind, I am fully aware that I can do NOTHING of my own power…that I am completely reliant on God to get me through days like this. That I alone cannot win the fight against the devil’s temptations to pull me away from a real relationship with my LORD, Jesus. And I see the world and those around me differently, through the lens of Christ’s eyes, not my own.

3. I am no different from many of the individuals that I meet in any given day at work. I’m not going to go into details about what that means, to be respectful of any privacy issues that shouldn’t be brought to light here…but I’ll say this.

I didn’t wake up on this side of my addiction to pornography one day and look back over 30 years to find one singular incident that brought me here. It was a lifetime of daily choices to make my addiction a priority.

It’s easy to stand on the outside of someone’s life and look in with some level of objectivity and ask the question, “how can someone live like this?” It’s easier when the person into whose life we’re looking is a stranger to us. It’s much different to look into our own life with that same set of eyes and sense of objectivity.

You see, we don’t get to the bottom of the hole we find ourselves in by simply jumping in the hole with both feet and the knowledge that the hole is so deep we won’t be able to crawl out on our own. No, we get there one scoop at a time. We shovel some dirt out from under our feet and stay put. We look at our situation and say to ourselves “It’s just one time.” Then we take another scoop out from underneath ourselves and say, “I got this.” Scoop. “It’s just this one last time.” Scoop. “I’m in control still.” Scoop. “That was the last one, I promise.” Scoop. “This doesn’t control me.” Scoop. “I’m okay.” Scoop. “It’s not that bad.” Scoop.

Gradually. Slowly. Over time. Often most of our lives. This process repeats itself until one day we wake up to find ourselves looking up from the bottom of a hole we can no longer climb out of alone. It’s too deep now. And we wonder, “how’d I get here? How’d it get this bad?” For some, that realization never comes, and they’ll live the rest of their lives in their own personal hole of self destruction. The end of their days on earth will come at the bottom of that hole.

For others, the realization will hit them, but they’ll either be too proud to ask for help or have exhausted their relationships over the years to the point that they have no one to turn to for help. For others, they’ll realize the situation they’re in before it’s too late and ask for help. Not a handout, but a hand up.

The small choices we make daily are what put us where we are. For a believer such as me, it may be a swear word here. A laugh at an inappropriate joke there. Stealing a glance at that pretty woman. Not removing ourselves from a conversation that becomes gossip. Not standing up for someone who’s not there to defend himself. A few words snipped in anger. A white lie to a colleague on the job. A prideful thought or comment at the breakfast table. Not waking up to start the day in prayer and the reading of Scripture. Missing worship service when we’re tired. Skipping a Bible study when there’s a conflict in our schedule.

The seemingly small and minuscule decisions we make daily not only reflect the level of our integrity, but can gradually and slowly accumulate over time to the point that we find ourselves in too deep…wondering how we got here at all. The priorities we choose, while in the moment may seem like decisions that won’t have long-lasting affects, do indeed begin to change who we are and how we live.

I’m fortunate enough to be blessed with a group of Godly men as friends. Men I can turn to and share my failures with. Men who will not say to me “it’s okay…you’re doing the best you can.” Men who will instead say, “I know where you’re at. I’ve been there.” And then ask the tough questions, “What are you going to do to fix it? How can I help hold you accountable?”

I’m fortunate to be loved by a woman who seeks God with all her heart and who extends to me a level of grace and love that is beyond what I deserve. A woman who holds me accountable and keeps me in check in more ways than I can count.

I’m fortunate to serve a God who knows my failures and accepts me for who I am. He is just and does not allow me to continue living in my sin. He extends forgiveness and grace to me when I humbly and fervently fall at His feet in repentance, turning from my sin toward Him. He strengthens me when I am weak. He guides me when I follow Him. He lifts me when I’ve fallen. He carries me when I need Him. He fills me when I am empty. He humbles me when I am prideful. He awakens me when I am asleep at the wheel. He renews me when I am weary. He feeds me when I am hungry. He is an endless fountain of living water when I am thirsty. He heals me when I am broken. He empowers me when I connect with Him. He reveals himself to me when I seek Him. He befriends me when I talk to Him. He defends me when I am attacked. He saves me when I am lost. He lights a path for me in the dark. He provides a stable foundation when I am shaken. He blesses me when I humbly serve Him. He is constant and unchanging when I waver. He is always present, even when I am absent. He seeks me when I turn from Him. He waits for me when I run from Him. He is there when I return. He is faithful to me when I am unfaithful. He loves me when I am unlovable.

It’s my prayer today, that if you’ve found yourself reading this note and are in your own personal hole of self destruction, that you are filled with a godly discernment to see it and a godly strength and endurance to overcome it. If you’ve crawled your way out of your hole, I encourage you to look around you. Someone within your circle of influence is in their own hole. You may just be the one single person who can pull them up.

Love,

Dad

P.S. Your mom would add this gem of wisdom…and thus the title of this note was born. Remember the first rule of holes? When you’re in one, stop digging.

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