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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.

Call Me Louder

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“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13

Two things stick out for me in this verse today:

1. We have the power and strength living within us (through the Holy Spirit) to bear any temptation we’re faced with. ANY. We can bank on that because He’s promised us here in this verse that “he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” So, it doesn’t matter what temptation we’re fighting right now, we have the power to resist it.

2. This promise does not allow us to continue sinning. While we can rest on the promise that “he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it“, this verse is certainly not a blank check payable to “a way out” for us to use at our pleasure. First, God will provide the “way out“; but we have to be in close fellowship with Him to recognize the “way out” as a “way out“, not simply an annoyance that delays us from the gratification and pleasure we find in our sin. Second, if we continue to ignore His attempts to help us “out” of our temptation, He will eventually stop helping…or harden our hearts so that we don’t see the “way out“…or both.

Take the story of the man trapped on a deserted island. He prayed and believed that God would save him. Hours later, a passing boat came to the rescue, but the man told them not to worry about him because God would save him. Some time later, a helicopter flew over but again the man told them he was fine…that God would save him. Several days later, a plane flew overhead but again the man refused help, saying God would save him. When he died of dehydration, he went before God and was upset because he felt God had failed to save him. To which God replied, ‘I tried. Three times I sent you help, but you refused to be helped. All you had to do was grab my outstretched arm, and you would have been saved.’

In my addiction, I can look back at each time I was ever tempted to slide into that sinful behavior and see that God provided an “out“. Many times, I recognized it and succeeded in resisting the temptation. Unfortunately, more times than I care to admit, I willfully ignored it and went right down that sinful path. And every time I ignored it to continue in my sinful pleasure, it got easier and easier to ignore His voice the next time…to the point that I was so far out of fellowship with God that I stopped seeing the signs He was giving me.

For me…right now in this moment…I’ve been fighting my temptation all day, and simply writing this note is my “way out“. Temptation sucks, and it knows no bounds. Except one…that that Satan and his ability to tempt us has no authority in the life of the believer who calls on the name of God. The temptation will always be there, but we can have success in it…through the power of the Spirit in our lives.

What sinful temptation are you facing today? Does it feel like more than you can bear? Rest on the promise that God will provide you a way out. And then open your heart to see it and stick your hand out to grab it.

“God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” – James 1:12

Love,

Dad

Gracious Abba Father, I come to you with a burdened heart. Burdened with the temptation to walk down a path I don’t want to follow…a path I know leads to my destruction, yet calls me with so loud a voice that I cannot help but turn my head its direction. As I stand here tonight on the edge, I pray. Holy Lord, I pray. Call me with a louder voice and draw my attention away from this temptation, and instead to You. For I know that when I am looking at You, I am walking toward You…and with You. Call me louder God. Please, I beseech you. Call me louder.

Where is God

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He’s everywhere…you just have to open your eyes and be attentive. – Dad

Morning Story and Dilbert

He was just a little boy, on a week’s first day. He was wandering home from Sunday School, and dawdling on the way. He scuffed his shoes into the grass; he found a caterpillar. He found a fluffy milkweed pod, and blew out all the “filler.”

A bird’s nest in a tree overhead, so wisely placed on high, Was just another wonder that caught his eager eye. A neighbor watched his zig zag course, and hailed him from the lawn, Asked him where he’d been that day and what was going on.

“I’ve been to Bible School,” he said and turned a piece of sod. He picked up a wiggly worm replying, “I’ve learned a lot of God.”

“M’m very fine way,” the neighbor said, “for a boy to spend his time. If you’ll tell me where God is, I’ll give you a brand new dime.”

Quick as a flash…

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Hope Comes in Many Forms…Where I Am Today

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My head is full. It needs to do what it does when it’s full…vent. There is no order to what comes next, so be forewarned that I’m simply letting loose of the mess currently in my head. My apologies if what you read next is not what you’ve come to expect from me. I’m human, and this is where I am today. Writing is my outlet, so here goes.

Since Saturday, I’ve been in a sort of fog. Haven’t felt close to God. Haven’t felt like much of anything. Worship with dad and my brothers here at church on Sunday was okay, but I just didn’t feel connected to God, ya’ know? Last night, I was searching for the lyrics to a song that express how I’ve been feeling…and all I could remember was “oh God my God, your beloved needs you now.” I don’t remember the song, so it’s probably good that that’s all I can remember.

This morning, a text from my wife asked how I’m doing. I am…

Numb. Alone. Trapped. Spent. Drained. Overwhelmed. Lacking hope. Disconnected from reality…From life…From God. I’ve been better. I’ve been worse. I’ll push through though because that’s what we do. I just want to put closure to this period of life and move forward. I’m an action guy. Waiting is not something I do well. Too much waiting…not enough moving. I’m ready to crawl into the arms of my best friend and our kiddos and not have to make a decision or problem-solve for awhile. I’m ready to come home.

Dad, as you first read this, please know it’s not you or anything you’ve done or not done. It’s just my process. Being with you this week has been a blessing for me more than I’ve shared here yet…sharing that part of all this will come after we have some closure this week…and I hope I’ve blessed you in some small way by being here. I wouldn’t take any of it back or change my choice to stay…it’s just part of being out of routine…away from my wife and children…feelings I’m sure you either already have had, or will, soon after we all leave this weekend.

Yesterday’s hope came through an email from a dear friend on staff at church. The day before that, it came in an email from our Men’s Ministry leader, another good friend. Before that, it came daily in various emails, texts, phone calls and conversations with friends and family back home. Today’s hope comes from a thirteen year old angel…God has been employing her as my angel since the first day I met her in the hospital. Her momma sent me a text this morning that simply read:

Your daughter just prayed for you all by herself. It was so sweet. I looked over at the table and she had eyes closed, head bowed, hands clasped in front of her. And said, “Dear God, please keep my Daddy safe. Amen.”

So yes Lord, your beloved needs you now. Do not forsake me Lord. Your hope comes in many forms…and I have not lost sight of the truth that my hope comes from you. You have met my daily need for hope this past week and a half. SD’s prayer this morning has provided me the hope I need to sustain me today. I’ll take it. Thank you Lord for providing me hope though I deserve nothing.

“but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” – Isaiah 40:31

Love,

Dad

110 Cars of Faith

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“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” – Hebrews 11:1

“Dad, there are a lot of cars driving today.  I bet every car in the whole world is driving right here now.”

“Yeah, son there are a lot of cars this morning, but I don’t think every car in the world is right here…that would be a whole lot more cars.”

“Yeah, cuz there are 110 cars in the whole world, and that would be a lot!” (Imagine that said with the awe and wonder at how a 5 year old sees the number 110 as infinity.)

This morning, I was driving NE to school following an early morning doctor appointment when he said that, and it made me smile…and got me thinking about how much of a child I really am in my faith.  Have you ever found yourself putting limits on what God can do?  Silently thought to yourself, “this situation is hopeless.  I don’t see how this is going to work.  This is not possible.  There’s nothing we can do.  It’s just too much…too big for me.”

I remember the first Upward Sports season for us at FBCW.  When God laid it on my heart to bring this ministry to our church, I never envisioned starting the first season with 241 kids.  After all, there was a league being played at the same time right across the street with 250 kids already.  I planned for 100 that first season…and thought that would be a lot…I set my limits on what God had planned.  In season two, I planned for 300…and the league across from us disbanded, and we had 458 register.  By season three, I started dreaming big…and planned for 500.  God again demonstrated He’s bigger than we are, and brought us 518.  So in season four, I thought…I’ll show Him…and I planned for 600.  He brought us 621.  As we planned for the men’s Bible study we recently started, we ordered materials for 30 men, thinking that was more than enough…believing we’d never get 30 guys to attend this study…and 45 committed to the 8-week study!

These are just the most recent instances I can look back on in my life and see that I have a habit of limiting what I believe God will do.  Maybe it’s that my faith isn’t that strong or deep, but I think it’s also that in my humanness I can never really know how great our God truly is.  After all, our limited perspective feels like on most days this is all there is.  When we walk around this world we see things from a human’s eye…because that’s who we are…how He made us.  We can’t truly grasp what infinity is because we’re a visual people.  Even the universe we live in is defined by a boundary, so infinity seems an impossible concept to grasp.

Like 110 is the highest number known to a 5 year old, so it is with us.  We think that our vision limits God’s visions.  When what we need is to reverse that and realize that it’s God’s vision that sets the limits of our own understanding.  He placed in us a desire to know and follow Him, and limited our vision to what is seen for a reason.  The vision we have in us to see the unseen is only a small portion of what He placed within us.  I choose to believe He did so because if He had completely revealed to us the fullness of His vision, then of what purpose would faith be to us?  Anyone can believe what is seen…it’s the unseen that takes faith.  On this side of eternity, we’ll never fully comprehend the fullness of His vision and the limitlessness of His power and love.

When NE was first learning to count, ten was it.  That’s all the fingers we have, so that must be as high as we can count, right?  I remember the amazement at learning there’s an eleven…a twelve…and even more…but not seeing it made it hard to believe.  So to help him understand and believe, we hung a number chart on the dining room wall.  Numbers all the way to 100!  Wow!  As he mastered that which he could see, we again rocked his world when we revealed to him that it doesn’t end at 100.  Next is 101…102…103, and that you can keep counting numbers forever.  He had to learn (by faith) that it doesn’t stop at 100…to imagine a world where you can keep counting forever and ever.  Like his understanding of numbers grows over time, so does our faith.  Let your faith grow beyond what you can see…beyond what you feel…beyond that which you can understand and comprehend…beyond what you can grasp.  Because faith in what you can see and grasp is not really faith at all.

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:11-13

Love,

Dad

Gracious Father, I’m thankful that you’re not limited by my vision.  Forgive me for placing limits on what is possible through You.  May you continue to grow my faith through whatever means you find necessary to do so.  Please enlighten the vision within me to better see all that You would have me to see.  Ignite a passion within me to daily follow after you with all I am and all I have.

Amen

I Bit My Cheek

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I’m sure at some point, everyone’s done it at least once.  On the way home last night, I was minding my own business, just enjoying my strawberry shake, when it happened.  The inside of my cheek got in the way…and I accidentally bit it.  I don’t do it often, but when I do, it hurts…bad.  Sometimes for only a brief moment or two…other times, longer.  In the moments following that bite, there’s not much you can do but sit there and wince as you suck it up and wait for the pain to subside.  After a minute or so…the pain gone, with just the uncomfortable sore in my mouth…I continued drinking my shake.  And though aware of the sore in my mouth, I soon bit it again…which hurt worse than the first bite!

Which got me thinking…living with an addiction to pornography (or any addiction for that matter) is a lot like that.  It’s been so long since I’ve bitten my cheek, I can’t remember that far back.  I don’t set out to bite my cheek, because I’m not into the whole causing myself pain thing.  Likewise, we can be doing really well with our addiction, winning battle after battle for months on end.  We can be in the Word regularly, talking with God daily, and staying in close fellowship with Him.  And all of a sudden, with no warning at all, Satan strikes!

A seemingly innocent picture here.  A tempting commercial there.  An attractive woman looks our way.  An overheard comment at work.  And before we know it, one thing leads to another…one glance leads to a second glance…a third…fourth.  One comment leads to a discussion, which fills our minds with thoughts that entice us.  Those thoughts become overpowering, and we forget to cloak ourselves in the Word.  As we slowly slip down a path we didn’t set out to be on, we’ve fallen prey to Satan’s attack and before we know it…bitten ourselves.  We didn’t set out to cause ourselves this pain, but here we are…immersed in pain and guilt for having done this to ourselves.

And like the sore in our mouth after biting our cheek is protruding…making it easier to bite again and again, so it is with addiction.  It’s in the aftermath of our sin, that the devil ramps up his efforts, making it easier to repeat the sin again and again and again.  He uses that first opening to continue his onslaught against us.  And as we struggle through feelings of guilt, shame and unworthiness, it becomes easier and easier to allow him to keep pushing that door farther and farther open.  And before we know it, he’s made his way back into our heart and our life.

“In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.” – Jude 1:7

“As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.  For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.  It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.  The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

Fortunately, we have a Savior who loves us enough to forgive us.  All that is required of us is to seek forgiveness and repent.  To repent does not simply mean to feel sorry…it’s defined in the dictionary as “to feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one’s life for the better“.  Not just to feel sorrow, but to feel such sorrow that we turn away from the cause of the sin…and not just to turn away from it…but to turn and run!  When we’re running  from something (sin) or someone (Satan), we’re also running to something (holiness) and someone (Jesus).

Love,

Dad

Lord, may I continue running toward you and continue to leave the sins of my past behind me!  I’m on a path toward you now, and I long to stay on this path.  I long for the riches of your kingdom…for the fellowship with you that you desire with me.  Lord, continue to strengthen me in my walk and clothe me in your Spirit…that I might be cloaked in righteousness and faithfulness.  Help me to secure the armor of the your Holy Word around me that there would be no hole for the enemy to penetrate me.  Fill me with your Spirit, that I would have the wisdom to stay on this path you have set me upon, veering from the constant onslaught of the path the enemy desires I follow.  Father God, thank you for your forgiveness, and thank you for the wisdom you show me daily.  I am unworthy to be called your child, and yet you find me worthy of love.

Amen.

Welcome To My Vulnerability

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To my friends and family in the EMS community,

Thank you for taking a moment from your day to drop by. I am honored and blessed that the creator of our Facebook page “EMS for Christ” allowed me to become an admin for the page. It has been a blessing for me to step out of my comfort zone and share some of my walk of faith with you. And I’ve enjoyed watching the “fan base” grow to just over 900 at my last check-in. I have been reluctant to share my personal blog on our Facebook page’s wall much, because I don’t want to come across as though I’m pushing my blog for my own prideful gain. I just don’t want to come across that way at all, because it’s not who I am. Most of what I write here is written as notes to my children, so they’re not things that are necessarily “appropriate” to share on our Facebook page, given the mission and goal of the page. But I’m having such a difficult time processing my emotions following a recent incident at work, that my last four blog entries have been devoted to this alone, and not really addressed to my children. Which brings me to why I invited you here today.

There was some great discussion on our recent post about dealing with on-the-job related lost-traumatic stress. I’ll be honest, I asked that question somewhat selfishly. I responded this incident about two weeks ago that started affecting me almost immediately, and the last two weeks have been a whirlwind of emotion…emotions I’m not comfortable with, and feelings that are overwhelming. My partner and I were on the confined space entry team to perform this recovery, which is about all the incident-related specifics I can share here. I posed the question on our Facebook wall, in part because I’m looking for some reinforcement for myself…but I also know that with over 900 followers on that page, there are others out there who are dealing with this too, or have dealt with it in the past. My goal was not only to help myself a little bit, but to maybe help someone else who’s in a similar season, or will be in the future.

You see, although I feel isolated and alone, I know I’m not. I know others in our “family” have gone through their own post-traumatic incident-induced stress. And I believe in drawing upon the strength of those who have walked through a similar valley. We who work in this field, be it EMS, fire, police, dispatch, hospital, public, private or military are unique. The people around us don’t get it. Honestly, I don’t blame them. Until you’ve walked side-by-side with death, you can’t understand. We truly are a family of our own, regardless of whether we work together or not. Quite honestly, I’m closer to my crew than I am some of my own flesh and blood family, not counting my wife. Love ya’ baby. 🙂 But there are some things I can’t share with her. I can’t share the specifics of my incident with her, for her own sake. She and I have talked in general about my battle, and she’s completely on board with supporting me in whatever capacity I need. But our EMS “family” can help each other in ways even our spouses cannot.

For me, I’ve had a rough couple of weeks, and I’m plowing through this minefield of emotion in several ways. I was able to seek guidance from my senior pastor two days afterward. The perspective offered by a neutral friend, who is also a believer is priceless. It didn’t hurt that he served in the field prior to being called to pastor. I’m also good friends with a new pastor who recently left our department after over ten years as a firefighter to answer God’s call to pastor a church nearby. I’m blessed to have these two great resources. I’ve also tried running to burn through the stress. Exercise helps me to focus my mind and my thoughts into something understandable. And I’ve blogged. About this topic and how it’s affected me, I’ve blogged a lot in the last two weeks.

I’ve been encouraged to share my writings in a wider circle. And I believe some of what I’m dealing with during this time of my life may resonate with someone out there on the job. I could be way off here, but I hope not. You should know, though, I’m certainly not the man with the answers. I am the WORST of the worst sinners, and I don’t consider myself worthy to help guide a fellow believer along his own path, because more often than not, I’m the one that needs the guidance. I am who I am only through the saving grace of my Savior Jesus.

I don’t like putting myself “out there”. My site here is pretty simple and quaint. I have a small following, mostly family and friends. And I’m comfortable like that. The thought of opening myself up to a bigger world is scary. I don’t like being vulnerable. And yet I believe God is asking me to do just that. To allow strangers into my little world, so someone somewhere can see that they’re not alone either. Because trust me, I feel alone and isolated in my feelings right now. I know I’m not, but that doesn’t change how I feel.

So here goes a leap of faith. If you’re walking through a post-traumatic stress-filled world, you are NOT alone. Seek the help and support you need. Reach out. To someone. I know reaching out to people at work is not always feasible. I get that completely. I haven’t shared what I’m going through with any of my coworkers yet. I think only one or two might actually take time to read my little blog, which is fine. This is part of the scary part of opening myself up like this, because I do know that several of my coworkers “like” the Facebook page, so they’re seeing this for the first time, and I’ll be honest…I’m not sure I’m completely ready for this next part of the ride. But it’s a leap of faith for a reason, right?

Whether you are in the valley now, have been there or will be in the future, I hope you can find God’s voice talking to you in what I’m sharing. Remember, I’m not the man with all the answers. But I know the man who is. He suffered everything we’ve ever suffered and more…endured everything we’ve ever endured and more. Felt everything we’ve ever felt and more. Walked everywhere we’ve ever walked and more. His name is Jesus Christ, and you can know him too if you don’t already. You can catch up with me on where I have been, and see where I’m going, by visiting my new page dedicated to this new part of my life’s journey.

Thank you for stopping in and allowing me the opportunity to share my most personal, vulnerable thoughts and emotions with you. If you are walking in the valley right now, seek support. You can comment or email me through here. You can comment on our Facebook page, or send a message to the page’s admins. You can share a general prayer request or be as specific as you want to be (and can be in a public forum). We are here for you. We are in this together. We are not alone.

“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:12

I will continue to share my walk along this particular path with you on our Facebook page, for as long as you’ll allow me. I pray you don’t see it as a selfish pride for me, but as a desire to 1. Help in my own healing; and 2. To be an encouragement for someone else’s healing. Have a blessed day and be safe out there.

Jay

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