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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.

I Love You More Than Dirt

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Twenty years ago, two kids made a pact…a covenant before God, family, and friends. Forsaking all others, they vowed to love, honor, and cherish each other for the rest of their days on earth. Two kids who thought they knew it all, jumping feet first into a world that sought to pull them apart, forged a bond that, through the test of time, became unbreakable and grows stronger everyday.

Twenty years is a long time by today’s “norm”, but they’ll both tell you that it’s passed like a flash of lightning. The story of their lives continues to unfold daily, and only time will tell what the next twenty years holds for them. I can say that with every fiber of my being, I can’t imagine having spent the last twenty years with any other woman by my side. You are my best friend and soul mate. No one but Christ himself knows me any better than you, and I look forward with eager anticipation to what lies ahead for us. I look forward to spending the rest of my life trying to be the husband you deserve, and to show you half the love you’ve shown me in the first twenty.

I love you more than dirt baby!

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Not My Job

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When one child recently told me “not my job” when asked to do a household chore, and another told me “you are not the best anymore” when I was honoring what I’d said about not getting dessert without eating dinner first, it got me thinking…am I starting to become more your friend than your father? That’s a slippery slope to navigate, so, I want to set the record straight right now and be crystal clear in where I stand on the answer to that question…

It’s not my job to give you a cookie when your siblings are eating one for dessert and you want one too. It’s to teach you that there are rules. Eating your dinner before you get dessert is one of them. It pales in comparison to the rules you will experience as an adult…and when you’re an adult, you can choose to eat dessert first if you want. 😛

It’s not my job to ensure you’re happy. It’s to help you find joy…even in your darkest moments.

It’s not my job to ensure you get what you want. It’s to teach you the skills you will use to provide for yourself and your own family some day.

It’s not my job to keep you from falling. It’s to teach you how to get back up and try again.

It’s not my job to get involved in every argument or fight you have with siblings or friends. It’s to teach you how to respectfully interact with others who have opinions and beliefs different than your own…and to show you how to think outside the box…and to admit when you’re wrong.

It’s not my job to think for you. It’s to teach you how to think for yourself.

It’s not my job to pick up after you or to clean up your messes. It’s to teach you how to care for yourself so that you can be a contributing member of society, not a drain on it.

It’s not my job to make sure you never lose, or that you always win. It’s to teach you how to lose without losing your cool…and how to win with grace and humility. There are winners and losers in life. There is no prize for participation when you become an adult. The sooner you learn that, the better your odds.

It’s not my job to keep you from being hurt. It’s to teach you how to see when others are hurting and to help them.

It’s not my job to serve you. It’s to teach you how to serve others.

It’s not my job to pay for everything you want. It’s to instill in you a work ethic that says “If I work hard for it, I can buy it myself.”

Likewise, it’s not my job to give you money (i.e. allowance) for doing nothing. The government is doing that well enough for all of us. It’s to teach you money management so that you have the ability to live a debt-free life if you choose wisely. You need to know that merely existing as part of our family (or society in general) is not worthy of getting a handout. You want money from me? Earn it. Know, though, that in life there are things we adults do without reward or compensation. Likewise, some chores around here are expected of you…without compensation…simply because your existence contributes to the wear and tear on the things we have.

It’s not my job to see that you never experience anger, frustration, disappointment or sadness. It’s to teach you the sanctity of life and that every life matters…and how to control your emotions and to show respect for others regardless of how you feel.

It’s not my job to teach you to avoid conflict. It’s to teach you to approach conflict like you’re walking up to a small fire with a bucket in each hand. One is filled with water…the other with gasoline. How you react to the situation (I.e. which bucket you choose to pour on it), is what will determine the outcome.

It’s not my job to keep you from making mistakes. It’s to help you learn from them. Many of the best lessons I’ve learned in life came from the mistakes I made. There will be times you’ll make the same mistake more than once. Until you learn from them, you’re destined to keep repeating them.

It’s not my job to make sure your heart is never broken. It’s to show you how to lead your heart, not be led by it.

It’s not my job to make sure you have friends. It’s to show you how to be a friend to others.

It’s not my job to make sure you’re right all the time. It’s to teach you truth…and that there are absolutes in life, regardless of what society wants you to believe about this. There are some grey areas in life, but there also exist a set of absolutes that are true…regardless of whether we believe them to be true or not…and it’s my job to equip you to defend those truths.

It’s not my job to make sure you don’t ever miss the school bus. It’s to teach you time management…and how to make a plan and execute the plan, and to have a contingency plan…because “when you fail to plan you plan to fail.”

It’s not my job to stand over you constantly to ensure you don’t sink. It’s to teach you how to swim. In the beginning that means providing you a life jacket to keep you afloat until you can stay afloat on your own. And when you do sink, I’ll be there to extend a hand to help you up…not out…up. Because there’s a lesson to be learned in sinking…one you won’t learn unless you get yourself out.

It’s not my job to fast forward through the commercials and previews for you. It’s to teach you patience and self control…and that good things come to those who wait.

It’s not my job to fight your bullies for you. It’s to teach you how to protect and defend yourself from tyranny. And that in some situations, the best defense is a good offense.

It’s not my job to keep you and your siblings from ever fighting. It’s to remind you that some minor conflict within the family is a natural thing, but that family comes first…we stand on our family’s side in times of conflict from sources outside our family.

It’s not my job to ensure you always have a roof over your head. It’s to teach you to be thankful for what you have…because camping out with nothing but the stars overhead is fun on occasion, but the harsh reality is that it’s all the “roof” many in this world have. We’re blessed beyond what we can comprehend. Don’t take it for granted.

It’s not my job to teach you how you should vote or who you should vote for. It’s to instill in you a love for your country and a respect for those who’ve served, bled and died to protect your freedoms, including your right to vote…and that it’s not your right to vote…it’s your responsibility. When you don’t vote, you give up the right to complain about your elected officials and anything they do.

It’s not my job to solve all your problems. It’s to teach you critical thinking skills…how to explore multiple options until you discover one that works to solve the problem for yourself.

It’s not my job to make sure you catch a fish with every cast. It’s to make sure you know how to fish. When Jesus told the disciples to put down their nets and taught them to be “fishers of men”, not even they “caught” every man for Christ. It’s called fishing, not catching, for a reason. We win some…we lose some. But you won’t win any unless you cast the line.

It’s not my job to respond to your every request for my attention. Likewise, it’s not my job to be with you 24/7…that’s not healthy. It’s my job to teach you independence…and to take care of my spiritual, mental, physical, and psychological well-being…because when one of those is out of whack, I’m of no use to you or anyone else. Trust me, my sanity is important for your well-being…and as much as I love hanging out with you, I need to be away from you sometimes too.

It’s not my job to argue with your teacher for not giving you an “A”. It’s to teach you that we get out of something what we put into it…and to earn the “A” yourself.

It’s not my job to shelter you from the storm. It’s to help you weather it. The strongest trees in the forest are the ones who survived the storms, high winds and forest fires.

It’s not my job to see that you never lack what you need. It’s to teach you the survival skills that will help you overcome adversity. Trees that survive drought do so by sending their roots deeper into the ground in search of water. The deeper roots provide more strength for the tree. They’re stronger because of the drought than they were without it. The deeper your roots, the stronger you will be.

Likewise, it’s not my job to see that your every need is met instantly. It’s to teach you how to recognize the needs of others and to show love and compassion to those less fortunate than yourself.

It’s not my job to provide you the latest and greatest “thing”. It’s to teach you to be content with what you have. I grew up without 24/7 internet access, cell phones, DVR’s, or iPods…and I survived. You will too.

It’s not my job to put only foods you like on your plate. It’s to teach you where your food comes from and how to provide food for your own family some day, whether by working a job for the money to buy it…or hunting it yourself.

It’s not my job to make sure you have fun at school. It’s to teach you respect for your elders and those put in charge over you. For that matter, it’s not my job to provide you nonstop, fun-filled activities throughout the day or to constantly entertain you. You want to have fun? Do what I did…pick up a book. Go outside. Explore your world.

It’s not my job to see that you grow up to become a firefighter like me. It’s to let you see how much I love my job and to instill in you a passion to serve your community. I will love and support you, no matter what you do with your life…that’s what dads do…it’s how we roll.

It’s not my job to love you more than your mother. It’s to remind you that she and I existed before you…and we have to live with each other when you leave out on your own. She comes first…yes, before you. I love you, but I love her more. Get over it. Guess what? I love God more than her. She’s over it.

It’s not my job to force you to believe what I believe. It’s my job to share what I believe and allow you to choose for yourself.

It’s not my job to make sure you never feel lost. It’s my job to show you that you’re already lost. So am I. It’s only through the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ dying for us that we are ever found.

It’s not my job to be your friend. It’s to be your dad…and to teach you how to be a dad someday too. I don’t always get it right, but I’m trying my hardest with every day.

Love,

Dad

Making Arrangements

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Fair warning…this note is less about words and readability than I’m used to writing. It’s more about what’s in my heart than what’s in my head. So if you’re not sure you want to try and sort through the jungle of “stuff” in my heart, then get out now while you can…because I make no promises that what comes next will make any sense.

New Years Day 2013…I was almost two hours into day two of a triple (72 hour shift). I’d only slept for one hour the night before…crazy end to the year at the firehouse. It was a holiday…I was looking forward to getting the work done for the day and getting some rest. I kept saying to myself, “yesterday was nuts…can’t get much worse than that.”

I was wrong.

When I picked my phone up off the table, I had a voicemail from dad. Figuring it to be an early morning Happy New Year call, I checked the voicemail to hear otherwise. “I’m at the hospital with your mom. She’s in cardiac arrest.” I called him back…got a quick update and helped him make another phone call. Aunt Jean, that was the hardest phone call I’ve ever made. I hope I handled it well, because I honestly don’t remember much of what I said. Five minutes later, the second call came…mom was gone.

That was 6 days ago…

It’s been a weird week. When you hear someone say they’re “making arrangements” for someone’s funeral, unless you’ve done that before, you can’t really know what it means. I’ve never taken part in preparing a memorial service…I’ve never helped make decisions in that…or stood beside a husband while he makes those decisions for his wife’s memorial service. I’ve never taken part in “making arrangements”. Until this week, I could only imagine what that really meant. Now that I know, I don’t want to know…ya’ know?

Yesterday, I spent a couple hours going through mom’s emails and online footprint. That’s weird in itself…a part of me felt like I was invading a personal part of her life, spying on her conversations not meant for anyone but the person with whom she was having them. And a part of me felt like she was reaching out from beyond death to comfort me…to tell me “it’s okay, I’m good“. Like the email to a friend where she recounted her recent trip to our house last summer…it was our annual float trip, the first one we camped out the night before the float. She was recounting the story of our overnight visitor…one which I think should now be recorded for posterity sake…so I’ll let her words tell it:

“Delicious pie and cake. We saved the cake for our float trip. We left it sitting covered on a picnic table. In the middle of the night a raccoon enjoyed the last of it. Jay told the young kids that he wrestled with the raccoon and almost skinned it before running off and that he slept in front of the tent entrance to protect everyone. Haven’t laughed so much in years. I wasn’t able to float, but I had a peaceful campsite, a good book, and was able to get just a little sun. It was a good day. After they came off the river we went to Jay’s for a couple days. A good time.”

I had a good time too mom…and I’m thrilled beyond words that you were able to share that with us. However, I should set the record straight…that raccoon was more like a mountain lion. I saved everyone in the campsite from being mauled that night. 😉

We spent the day sorting through thousands of pictures today. Several observations:

  1. For all the years we gave you so much grief for all the pictures you insisted on taking over the years, I can say now that I’m thankful for them. It was a fun, emotional afternoon strolling down memory lane.
  2. I get why you took so many. You told me once that you took all those pictures so you could remember…and I remember we used to give you a hard time about it…teasing you to put the camera down and live the moment so you’d remember it. As I push 40 this year, I’m constantly reminded that my memory is not what it used to be…and after looking back through all these pictures, I can honestly say I am in hundreds of pictures at events that I don’t remember. I guess I inherited my memory from you…because there are just whole periods of time I don’t remember…so I get it now.
  3. For all the thousands of pictures you took over the decades, you sure didn’t let the camera be turned on you very often. We have thousands of pictures of your family…and very few of you. Just sayin’, we should have done a better job of turning the table on you. 🙂
  4. If the old adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words” holds any truth, then we filled a dictionary today…and didn’t even scratch the surface. Boxes upon boxes upon boxes of pictures…with more pictures hidden behind the boxes…and we haven’t even found your stash of digital pictures yet…dozens of memory cards and external storage drives tucked away somewhere in this house, still waiting to be found. (Mom, if you could send down a little help from above with where those might be, we’d sure appreciate it.)

I miss you mom. I’m racking my brain these past couple days to remember you…to remember your face…to recall your words of wisdom…to recollect our times together. I expect (and hope) that as time passes, the memories I’m searching so hard for now will come to me naturally…in times I least expect them. It’s like that song you just can’t remember the name of…it’s on the tip of your tongue, but the more you think of it…the further its name slips away from you. I pray that in the weeks and months following your memorial service this week, those memories will come back.

For now, I just miss you. I miss your smile. I miss your laugh. I miss you touching my shoulder as you walk past me. I miss your hug. I miss you doting on your grandchildren. I miss you. You taught me so much about life…so so much. You taught me how to treat those less fortunate than us. You taught me respect for my elders. How to enjoy life. You taught me how to cook a meal…and clean a house…and do laundry. You prepared me for life outside of our childhood home and raised a young man whose wife would one day thank you for.

You taught me how to be a self thinker…to know what I believe and believe what I know. To fight for what’s right, even if it means I’m standing alone. To stand up for the weak and defenseless…to nurture those who need love. To love the ones who do nothing to deserve our love. You showed me that it’s okay to walk across the street and ask the neighbor for a couple eggs when you come up short for the recipe you’re making…and to return the egg with a generous portion of the cake it helped make. You taught me how to play soccer, when all I wanted was to stop running. You hugged me tight when I was sad…dried my tears with your shoulder and showed me compassion in so many ways. You rushed home when I chopped my toe off…and cautioned dad as he walked to his room in search of the belt with which to spank me, that he should probably extinguish the fire I’d started in my bedroom first…I appreciate that he had a chance to cool off before applying the belt of knowledge. 😛

Your grandchildren are so much like you in so many ways. I see you in them. I will miss seeing your face light up as you were reunited with them after a long time away…and I will miss so very much how my dear SD would scream “granny! I miss you!” and come running for her hug. To be honest, I haven’t cried while writing this…until that thought came to mind. She loved you so stinkin’ much mom. She’s gonna miss you more than I’ll ever understand. I will keep you alive in her heart…and in her memories. Like your mother was, you also were a rock…not just to me, but to so many people. I miss you.

It’s Sunday night…4 days until mom’s visitation and memorial service. I’ll have more to share soon, but for now I’m tired. Mentally and emotionally, I am completely spent. I can think of no more fitting way to end this note than with my mom, your granny, in her own words. We found this buried in the boxes of pictures today, written in August, 1970…long before I was even born, my mother understood that time is a precious commodity.

Love,

Dad

Time, funeral, death, memorial services

Time – Karen Meinershagen

P.S. I never meant this to be my tribute to your granny.  In the days that followed me posting this, I just couldn’t muster the strength to put into words what I want that to be.  Even now, eight days after her memorial service and burial, I still can’t must the words that I would consider to be a tribute to the wife, mother, granny and woman she was.  I hope to be able to do that soon.

Love,

Dad

What If Our Daily Bread Isn’t Steak & Eggs?

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I know this is hard to imagine, but as a child, I wasn’t always the best choice maker. I was known to be stubborn and hard-headed, and could give my parents a run for their money. When I wanted something, I wanted it right now…and no one (not even my parents) were gonna tell me no. With dad often working, 40+ hours a week plus commute time, mom was home with us more than he was, and thus was often the one who bore the brunt of my attitude problems. I can recall hearing mom say something like “we’ll deal with this when your dad gets home.” Oh, the fear those 5 little words would instill. “When your dad gets home…”

Of all the times I remember hearing those words, I don’t ever recall feeling good about what was to come…no excitement. No joy. No peace. Nope…those words meant trouble was on the horizon. I had done something that was soon to be bringing the wrath of God down upon me. (okay, maybe not God, but I was a kid…might as well have been God when the man you admire and respect was coming home to rain down punishment on me).

I would usually wait with dread and despair for what was coming. Hide in my room and hope she’d forget to tell him. Hope he would be too tired to deal with it. Pray for divine intervention. Never did I pray for the discipline that was to come. I was desperately praying for a reprieve from the belt…never once did I pray to actually receive the belt. What child in his right mind would pray to be disciplined?!

Father give us this day, our daily bread…” When we hear that, we usually equate “daily bread” with good things…things like our food and nourishment. When asked how we should pray, Christ’s response was to first show us our need for total reliance on the Father for our daily sustenance…for all we need. When God rained down manna from the heavens for His people, He supplied their need…gave them exactly what they needed for that day…no more…no less. I don’t know how it tasted, but I can imagine after eating the same thing over and over for awhile, what they wanted was a nice juicy steak, cut thick and cooked just right, with some steamed vegetables and warm garlic bread on the side. But they didn’t get what they wanted…they got what they needed.

And that’s just one of the awesome things about God. He gives us what we need, right when we need it…in His timing, not ours. Whether we realize we need it or not. We’re His children. And like children often do, sometimes what we need is discipline. As painful as the discipline can be, as scary as it is to face, as much as we dread it…it’s necessary. We’re children. Children need discipline. Not necessarily punishment…discipline. Punishment is anger-based. Discipline is love-based. God doesn’t punish us…He disciplines us. Because He loves us. So when we ask God for our daily bread, are we truly prepared to accept it, even if it’s not steak and eggs? Are we willing to accept our daily bread, even when what we truly need today is to be disciplined?

Love,

Dad

Lord, may I be willing to accept your discipline, along with your provision. Thank you for loving me enough to recognize my need, even when I can’t. Thank you for loving me enough to discipline me so that I would come back into fellowship with you. Thank you for overlooking my grumblings when the daily bread you provide is the manna I need, not the steak and eggs I want.

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

An Open Letter to Satan

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Satan,

I see you’re doubling down on me today. You know I’ve stepped up my game, and you’re feeling the pressure, huh? You know I’ve called upon the name of the Lord to strengthen me through this darkness. You can feel the power of my prayer and the unity of my family and friends standing in prayer beside me, can’t you? I believe you’re afraid. You see, I know you had plans to win this battle, and now you’re starting to realize you won’t. So you do what you do when this happens…you double down your efforts, hoping that the constant barrage will be too much to handle. Today, you’re using worth.

Unworthy. Feelings and thoughts that I am unworthy to be a child of God. As I’m swimming through this ever-changing and never-ending sea of emotions, you’re telling me that if I were truly a child of God…if my faith was sincere…if my hope was alive…if my heart and soul completely and totally bought into the saving power of the cross…if I really believed what I say I believe…then I would not be filled with these feelings anger, rage, sorrow, sadness and solitude. So since I am right here in the midst of all those feelings, thoughts and emotions (and so many more), I am unworthy to be called a child of God. At least that’s what you’re trying to convince me of today.

You see, the mind tricks you’re trying are good. Logically, I know better. I know I am a child of God, filled with the Spirit and saved by the Son. I know my eternal home is in heaven with Him. Knowing that doesn’t change how powerful you can be in your efforts to convince me otherwise. So I commend you on your effort. Today, I am telling you Satan, you are right…to a point. But you should know something. I came prepared.

You see, I am unworthy. I have not earned God’s grace. I do not deserve God’s mercy. I am not worthy of the love poured out on the cross through Jesus for me. I am not qualified to accept the discernment of the Spirit. I have done nothing on my own to provide the hope that lives within me. The hope that is alive within me (albeit however deep it may currently be buried under the rubble of your attack) is alive because God is stronger and more powerful than you. So yes, I am unworthy. But I have been made worthy through Jesus. And I call upon His name again today…to strengthen me again today for whatever He has planned out in advance for me to endure. My hope is in the Lord.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us…For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. And not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfruits – we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. Now in this hope we were saved, yet hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience. In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirit’s mind-set, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” – Romans 8:18, 22-27

“Therefore, since we have been declared righteous through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” – Romans 5:1-5

You see, Satan, you can double down on me all you want. I may not know what to pray today, but that’s okay, because I have the Spirit of God in my corner, and He is interceding on my behalf. It’s on days like today, when you are constantly reminding me of my mistakes and short-comings…trying to keep me down by throwing my sin-filled past right back in my face…filling me with thoughts of worthlessness…that I look beyond my past and beyond these temporary emotions and remind you of the future. I belong to Jesus!! I can’t win any battle alone, and I certainly won’t win every battle I face if I face it without God, but I’m on God’s team, not yours!! We win!

In Christ’s love,

Me

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