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Life is Like a Homemade Cake

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I loved this post from “Morning Story & Dilbert” so much I wanted to share it. I’ve often been asked if I could go back in time and change one thing in my life, what would it be. I honestly don’t think I’d change one thing…the mistakes and hard times we experience mold and shape us into who we are today. It’s in those “yucky” moments that we become the person God is making us.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything… Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” – James 1: 2-4,12

Love,

Dad

Morning Story and Dilbert

A little boy is telling his Grandma how “everything” is going wrong: school, family problems, and severe health problems in the family. Meanwhile, Grandma is baking a cake. She asks her grandson if he would like a snack, which of course he does.

“Here, have some cooking oil,” she says. “Yuck” says the boy.

“Then how about a couple raw eggs?”

“Gross, Grandma!” he replies.

“Would you prefer some flour then? Or maybe some baking soda?” she asks.

“Grandma, those are all yucky!” he replied.

To which Grandma replies: “Yes, all those things seem to taste bad all by themselves. But when they are mixed together in the right amounts and the right manner, they make a delicious cake!”

She continued, “God works the same way. Many times we wonder why he would let us go through such bad and difficult times. But God knows that when He puts these…

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Do the Hard Stuff

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My unofficial time is 03:33:28. That’s my estimate, not official timing. Nothing I’m particularly proud of…but no easy feat either. I certainly have better potential within me. But that potential won’t be reached unless I train for it. My heart was willing, but my body was unable. I’m so much more sore today than after any other race I’ve run. My legs are done…the muscles totally spent. My back stiffened up halfway in. My ankles followed shortly afterward. I’m sore in places I forgot I had.

I knew it would be bad. You just can’t wake up one day and run 13.1 miles effectively, and expect to not totally trash your body, without training for it. It takes months of preparation to condition the body for the beating it will take over the course of 13.1 miles. I knew that my time would be much slower than I’m capable of, and I knew my body would be beaten. It would have been easy to skip this race, to bow out because I was not prepared. But my not being prepared was by my own choices. I signed up to race, paid the fee, and said I’d run. I didn’t promise anyone else but myself I’d do it. But God is teaching me that the easiest person to lie to is ourselves. If we’ll break a promise to ourselves, what makes us think we’d keep our promises to others.

If I could give you something from this experience it would be this. When you say you’ll do something, do it. Regardless of how much it hurts, man up and honor your word. Live with integrity and the resolve to do the hard stuff. Even when you don’t want to. Nothing that’s worth having is ever easy. The more challenging the task, the more rewarding the prize at the end of the journey.

Dream big. God-sized big! And go after your dreams with all you have. Don’t settle for the limits others will place on your ability. “(One of) the greatest pleasures in life is doing the things people say we cannot do.” – Walter Bagehot You have the power within you to do great things! Harness that power and get out there and do them! Glorify God in all things.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run , but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Every one who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” – 1 Cor. 9:24-27

Run the race of your life in such a way as to get the prize God has waiting for you.

Love,

Dad

Conveniently Committed

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“There is a difference between interest and commitment. When you are interested in something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses; only results.” – Kenneth Blanchard

As I sit here on a park bench in downtown St. Louis, the cold morning wind whipping around me, I’m nervous. A different nervous than I was this time last year. This will be my third half marathon, and the anxiety I have this morning is that I’m not ready for this race.

Last year, I trained for four months leading up to race day. I was prepared. Physically and mentally. I’ve not run in 6 weeks, and even that was the only real running I’d done in a month. My nerves are calm in that I know what’s ahead of me. The shock factor of that first race has worn off, and I know the task ahead. It’s not an easy one, and as I sit here worried that I may not finish I can’t help but regret all those missed opportunities. All the times I could have trained. Should have trained.

It’s kind of like our walk with God really. I had a conversation with a good friend last week…a Godly man who I respect very much. I was sharing with him some of where I’ve been emotionally in the months following the call. I’ve not felt like reading the Bible. Not been committed to studying God’s Word. This friend shared with me that while what I’m feeling is not uncommon, sometimes we have to read the Bible, not because we want to, but because we know we need to. Some days, it takes resolve and commitment to pick up the Word and read. And while our reading time will not be as fruitful as it is when we want to read it, it still impresses the Scripture upon our minds. It can still be fruitful.

I think of all the missed opportunities in the development of my faith. All the situations I could have been a blessing to someone else and wasn’t. Missed opportunities to be a light for Christ. Missed opportunities in my career, my family, my finances, my life in general. Missed because I failed to prepare.

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:10.

If the Creator of the universe took time to prepare, shouldn’t we do likewise? In fact, God calls us to prepare. To be on guard. To stand at the ready.

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” – 1 Peter 3:15

I’m not prepared for this race, and I’m not prepared for all that God has planned for me in my walk with Him. I’ve missed opportunities. I’ve not taken full advantage of all that God has given me. I’ve made choices that reflect an interest instead of a commitment. I’m thankful He allows us to start fresh and renew our commitment.

Lord, may you find favor on your servant. May I find the commitment and resolve deep within to know and follow hard after you. Strengthen me so that I am no longer conveniently committed.

Amen

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

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As I write this, it’s been only two hours since the media has reported on the verdict in a “high profile” murder trial.  A mother was accused of killing her 2 year old daughter.  I didn’t follow the case very much in the news, because I have found that the media reports what they want, when they want.  Reporting in the news is jaded to reflect what the reporter believes to be true, not true, relevant or irrelevant, and they more often than not throw in their own personal commentary rather than simply reporting the facts.  This usually ends up in the public finding guilt within the accused before the trial even takes place…guilty until proven innocent…and once “proven” innocent, still condemned in the eyes of an unrelenting public opinion, the life they face will never be lived without the stigma and reputation that will follow them.

That’s not how the system is supposed to work.  Innocent until proven guilty is a thing of the past.  I’d like to think that back before the time of instant communication making information accessible across the globe, the accused truly were innocent until proven guilty.  Now that we have radio, television, email, internet, cell phones, texting, Twitter, Facebook and the like…the times have changed.  Innocence for the accused is now a pipe dream.  Moral of the message here is this: take what you watch, read and hear in any media form at face value…with a grain of salt.  It’s most likely someone’s opinion rather than fact.  You’ll learn this along the way as you grow, as I’m sure you’ll see it lived out in your own experiences.

Such is the case with this recent news…the reading of the verdict.  This mother was found “not guilty” on the counts of murder and child abuse/endangerment.  But because she was found “guilty” on the counts of falsifying information to law enforcement officials, the public has condemned her as being guilty on all counts.  Really, the public had already condemned her and “found her guilty”, so the reading of the verdict was more of a slap in the face to a lot of people I know than anything…people who believe she is guilty.  I’ve been reading posts on Facebook all afternoon from “friends” who are shocked at the verdict…surprised she was not convicted of murder…angry at the justice system for what they perceive as a failure…condemning her for getting away with murder.

What is truly saddening to me is how easily we forget how guilty we all are.  We all deserve to stand before a just and holy God and face accountability for our actions…our sin.  God makes several things VERY CLEAR:

1.  There is but one Man who is not guilty of sin.  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”Romans 3:23  There are other Scriptures to back this up, but this is the one we’re most familiar with.  Regardless of companion verses, it can stand alone.  The truth here is simply that we are all sinners.  In Exodus 20, God lays out a foundation of right and wrong…lists the Ten Commandments and provides for us a moral footing upon which to live.  When Christ came to the earth, He went a step further: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.  But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.  Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca, is answerable to the court.  And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”Matthew 5: 21-22.  He goes on further: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”Matthew 5:27-30.  Any violation of the rules He has set out for us in His Word is sin.  Simple as that.  Sin came into this world through man.  We all sin.  We’re all guilty.

2.  Judging others is not our job.  In the first 11 verses of John 8, Christ makes this crystal clear, summing it up in verse 7, “When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Luke 6:37 is a great companion verse, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.  Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”  God alone is holy and just.  We are not God, and because we ourselves live in sin, it’s not our place to judge or condemn someone else for theirs.  In fact, as believers we are called to forgive others:   For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”Matthew 6:14-15

That’s not to say that we are not to be held unaccountable to the laws of our land.  God has allowed the laws of our land to be put in place for a reason…for His plan.  Those placed in positions of leadership and authority over us (judges, congressmen, senators and other elected officials) have been put there by God, so they are in effect doing what God has ordained to be allowed…regardless of whether or not they are believers.

  • “For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good.  But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason.  They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.  Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.”Romans 13:4-5
  • Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.” Titus 3:1

A jury of our peers and/or a judge in a lawful courtroom has authority to judge our actions according to the laws of the land.  And if we’re found guilty, we’re to submit to their ruling.  This would be the only time that “judgment” should be allowed from one person to another.  And for the rest of us not privy to all the facts or placed in the position to lawfully hold someone accountable, we are to accept the ruling of the court and let God deal with all parties and their action or inaction when the time is of His choosing.

3.  Sin has a punishment…a sentence.

  • “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”Romans 6:23.
  • “remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”James 5:20

4.  God loves us enough to offer forgiveness rather than condemnation, although we will all face judgment. and deserve condemnation  You’re surely familiar with John 3:16…it’s one of the most popular verses in the Bible.  But let’s take a minute to look at it in context starting in verse 1 of chapter 3:

 “1 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council.  2He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”  3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.   4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.  6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spiritgives birth to spirit.  7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘Youmust be born again.’  8 The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”   9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

   10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?  11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.  12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?  13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.  14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.  19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.  21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”

There are three things within this passage that immediately stand out to me:

  1. God loves us so much that He gave His son…to die an unimaginably painful death on the cross…for me, and for you…and for the mother found not guilty today.  “The world” in verse 16 isn’t just the righteous…the good…the people who work hard…the ones who do the right thing.  Nope.  “The world” means just that…the world.  Everyone!
  2. Verse 12 speaks a powerful truth that is hard at times to digest.  It does me no good to try to explain to someone who lives without Christ in their heart how the process of forgiveness and judgment and “heavenly things” works.  Not to be interpreted as saying we shouldn’t speak the truth in love and show non-believers the truth in the Word.  Just that we need to leave the results to God.  Not everyone is going to get it, and there will be many who don’t.  Many of the people we know and love may never understand, and will then miss out on the redemption found in the blood of Christ.  It’s not our job to convince them, because only the Holy Spirit can talk to a person’s conscious.
  3. There is only one way into heaven, eternity with God.  Belief in Jesus Christ and following Him as your personal Lord and Savior.  Good deeds alone don’t get us there.  Living a morally righteous life doesn’t get us there.  Attending church doesn’t get us there.  Being good people doesn’t get us there.  Belief gets us there.  Belief takes more than knowing God exists.  Even the demons and the devil himself acknowledge the existence of God.  Doesn’t mean they’re going to heaven.  A true belief and acceptance of Jesus Christ as being the Son of God, coming to earth as Man, living a sinless and perfect life, being wrongfully accused and crucified on the cross, rising three days later,residing now in heaven with God, coming again one day for His followers.  True belief in all of that is reflected in the life we live, the words we choose, the actions we take, the people with whom we associate…the fruits of  our life.

A few companion verses for this passage:

  • Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” – Mark 16:16
  • But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.”Romans 6:22
  • For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.” – James 3:18

The long and the short of it is this.  I don’t know whether or not this woman is guilty or not guilty.  Quite honestly, I don’t care.  That may sound harsh, but in reality, I don’t.  Why, you ask?  Because if I care, then in a way, I’m looking to find justification within my own  mind to condemn or not condemn her.  I wasn’t on the jury.  Nor was I presented with all the facts.  Only those in attendance for every portion of the trial were.  The jury of her peers alone is capable of determining guilt or non guilt of the crimes for which she was accused here on Earth.  God alone is the capable of determining her guilt or non guilt when she faces His judgment.  It’s my prayer that she accept Him if she hasn’t already…that she draw near to Him and renew her relationship if she has…that others may be drawn to God through this…that I may be slow to anger or judge others and quick to forgive…and that the family of the 2 year old little girl, including her accused mother, find peace and comfort in Christ through this loss.

For you, my children, I pray that you are slow to judge others and quick to forgive also.  I pray that as you grow and begin to be influenced by the media (in all its forms) and your peers that you take it all in with the wisdom and discernment that can come only from God.  Stay in the Word.  Stay near to Him, and that will come easier than if you do not.  I also pray that in the times you are accused of wrongdoing by this world (whether with cause or not), you can rely upon Him for your strength and peace.  When the tide of public opinion may find you guilty until proven innocent, may you grow in your faith knowing that even the  apostle Paul endured years in prison for his faith, and He’s basking in the glory of heaven right now.  Even Christ knows what it means to be wrongly accused, sentenced to die for crimes He didn’t commit, to be guilty until proven innocent…death for our sin, not His own.  Even now, Christ endures the fate of a public opinion that continues to find Him guilty until proven innocent.  Rest assured, when He returns to usher in His kingdom, all will finally know…once and for all…that He is innocent.

Love,

Dad

A Change of Plans

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Summer. When you hear the word summer, the mind takes you down memory lane, and there are several activities that quickly come to mind that are forever associated with summer. For me, I remember spending almost every day at the pool. It was only 3 blocks from the house, well within walking distance, and we were there almost every day. As I became a dad, I found myself longing to be able to provide awesome summer memories for you…spending the hot days in a pool. It’s a little more difficult here, though. The nearest pool is 2 miles away, so it’s not like we could easily just walk back and forth throughout the day. We tried the inflatable popup pool here at the house for several years, but it seems we kept popping holes in it, so it never really worked out for us. I’d given up that dream until about three weeks ago. Some dear friends from church offered to give us their pool, because it seems they hadn’t used it in a while and knew that our family would get some enjoyment out of it. The fire in my eyes and the dream of providing a pool for you was once again alive and well.

I enthusiastically went and helped take it down, disassembling it piece by piece and bringing it home in two trips. I borrowed a hand tiller from a friend and got to work tearing up the grass and top layer of dirt. With your mom’s help, we hauled out all the loose dirt and grass, placing it in varying spots throughout the yard to build up the grade of the yard for better rainwater drainage. That process alone took two days. You all even helped in your own ways, using your snow shovels or my little hand garden trowel to move dirt from the circle into the wheel barrow. And then, the plan was put on hold.

It started out with a day of rain. And then it rained again…and again…and again. For the last three weeks, when I’ve been at work for two days straight, it’s been beautiful and sunny…great weather to be installing a pool. And then I come home…and it rains It’s rained so much that the circle of mud is taking 2 days or more to dry out after each rain. I even went out last night and spent 45 minutes bailing water out by hand with a scoop shovel. My hope was that by getting the bulk of the water out, the rest would evaporate and/or run off quicker, allowing me time the following afternoon and evening to get out to finish leveling the stones and moving dirt. Well, I’m typing this note now instead of working on the pool, so you can guess how well that worked. I woke up this morning to find as much water as the day before…before I bailed water for 45 minutes. It didn’t rain overnight, so the ground is so saturated that runoff from the neighbor’s yard and other parts of our yard is all collecting in the circle. I work the next two days, and it’s supposed to be nice and warm…no rain in the forecast. So it will have had a good 3-4 days to dry out by this weekend. My first day home is supposed to be no rain, followed by rain in the forecast the following day. I have a short window of opportunity it appears.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not completely the fault of rain that has kept me from working on it. Last Saturday was a perfect day to finish the project. Problem there was that I worked Thursday and Friday, had only 6 hours of sleep in those 48 hours, and came home to run in a 5K. After the race, my body felt like I’d just finished a half marathon. I was spent. So I laid down for a nap in the mid-morning and crashed for 5 hours. When I woke up…it started raining. I blew my opportunity to get some work done.

Last night as I was bailing water out by hand with a scoop shovel, I had bailed for about 10 minutes in one area, and I had that little low spot almost clear of all water when I stopped to revel in my accomplishment. As I sat there resting, proud of clearing the water from that hole, I noticed it. Water was slowly running back into the area. I thought the area I had chosen to toss the water would direct the water out of the yard, but it didn’t. It slowly trickled its way right back into the hole. That was it for last night. I’d bailed as much water as I could. At least the other 35 minutes of bailing water would help. Nope. By morning, water from around the yard and the neighbor’s yard had worked its way in, negating all my hard work.

Our spiritual life is like that too, I think. At least mine is. I work for days…weeks…months to develop a stronger relationship with God. I read the Bible, do a daily devotion, attend church 1-2 times a week, take part in a small group, am actively involved in several ministries, fellowship with other believers…live the life. And then wham! All that hard work is ruined by my weakness. I fall into sin again. Sometimes the fall is brief. Other times, it’s for longer periods. Either way, all my effort is negated by a momentary act of weakness. I work tirelessly and with passion to seek after God and to be more like Christ each day…and then I make a choice to let my flesh win out over Him. The water I’m bailing from the yard, comes right back. And so does the temptation to sin. In the yard, there are times I can see the water coming in, either flowing in on the surface or falling from the sky as rain. Conversely, there are times I can’t see it coming in, as it seeps up from the ground underneath the surface.

In my spiritual life, it’s really not much different. Sometimes, the temptations are right there in front of me as they flow back into my life. Other times, they seep up from the under the surface and catch me off guard. Like I have no control of the rain, there are times that temptations are placed before me outside of my will. Other times, like the water that flowed back into the hole because of where I chose to toss it, the temptations are in my life because of my own actions. Either way, how I choose to react to them is my choice alone to make.

As I write this note, it’s been almost three weeks into the pool project with very little progress. I had hoped it would take a week, maybe two at most. I’ve found myself becoming more and more frustrated in the lack of progress. Then this morning, I read Proverbs 19:21Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” And just like that, I’m humbled at my frustration and now see that in my frustration, I’m sinning against God. To think that I have the right to be frustrated because something is not going according to my plans. I’m learning…again…that the plans I have made are not mine to make. It’s not that I’m not supposed to make plans, because going into any project without a plan would also go against God’s will. “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you,” – Mark 14:28-29 It’s just that I need to be flexible enough…and willing…to adjust my plans, acknowledging all throughout, that God’s plans are bigger than our own, and that my plans are secondary to His. I know He has a plan for this pool, and I know it will get done…in His timing, not mine. I’m sure He is trying to teach me something through this, and I will try better to work my plan around His.

And so goes it with life for you. As you grow into adulthood, you’ll be faced with more and more decisions. As you face those decisions and choices, tackle them with God by your side. Set your own goals aside in lieu of God’s plans for your life. When you’re in the middle of something and it’s not going as you’d planned or hoped, make sure you’re respectful of what God is doing through you…and for you. Take time to reevaluate what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Make sure your plans are aligned with God’s plans. And be prepared to embrace a change of plans now and again.

Love,

Dad

My Quiver is Full

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I’m sitting here in a flood of emotion today, and it occurs to me that I think I was wrong in what started this passion for writing to you all.  When I started this blog in February 2011, I credited this post for the inspiration behind it all.  This morning, I just finished this note to SD, and as I sit here reflecting on the years gone by, I’m reminded of a little “song” I put together several years ago.  It’s been so long since I’ve seen it, it took me awhile to find it.  I call it a song loosely, because I have no musical talent…I couldn’t put together the musical composition needed to actually create a full-fledged song if I had to.  But, this is the song of my heart.  When I wrote it, I had a desire to really tell you…to show you through words and music how I feel about each of you.  I actually first wrote it shortly after NE was born, in August of 2007, and I went back after SI was born to add a section for you, adding your section in the summer of 2010, shortly after your first birthday.

It’s a dream of mine to be able to sing this to you one day…to have a song we could call our own.  Maybe a musically gifted person will read this one day and help us out with that.  🙂  For now, I’ll have to settle for sharing it here in letter form…if it never goes further than this, I’m good with that so long as you know it was written in love and lots of tears for each of you.  You each mean so much to me that words could never accurately display.  Without further delay, here is the inspiration that started it all:

Psalm 127:3-5
Sons are a heritage from the Lord,
children a reward from Him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are sons born in one's youth.
Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their
enemies in the gate.

This song is inspired by each of my 4 “arrows

My Quiver Is Full

SD
When we took you in, my walk was weak.
Trapped in my sin, of God I didn’t speak.
Doctors said your heart was broke; needed repair.
To my knees I fell, in desperate prayer.
God’s plans are bigger than our own.
And now I know, it was my heart He needed to sew.
 
DW
Through no fault of your own,
Strangers came in; took you from your home.
I can’t grasp the pain you’ve seen, the hurt you’ve known.
God’s plans are bigger than our own.
It was I who needed healing, more love in my life;
He blessed ME when He brought you to our home.
 
Chorus:
As arrows for the warrior, our children are born
I’m the soldier He chose to reward.
My quiver has more than I ever dreamed
He’s given me more than I’ll ever need.
You’re the arrows of my quiver
Straight, strong, and true.
My arrow, my child from God
My reward from Him is you.
 
NE
Doctors said we’d never conceive.
In the world’s eyes, you were never s’posed to be.
The day you were born, to my knees I fell; cried like never before,
In awe of how perfect you were.
God’s plans are bigger than our own.
God’s gift to me…to bless me despite my sin.
 
SI
With news of you on the way, I laughed aloud; a sign from above
I needed more joy; more room still, for love.
Your laugh, your smile, you light up the room
God’s plans are bigger than our own.
In rhythm now, our lives in harmony
In you, God completed our family.
 
Chorus:
As arrows for the warrior, our children are born
I’m the soldier He chose to reward.
My quiver has more than I ever dreamed
He’s given me more than I’ll ever need.
You’re the arrows of my quiver
Straight, strong, and true.
My arrow, my child from God
My reward from Him is you.
 
My quiver overflows with my reward.
My child, you’re wonderful; beautiful.
Created in His image; phenomenal.
My quiver is full.  My quiver is full.




Love, Dad

At War with the Weeds

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There was a time when I had a gorgeous yard.  Not that I put a lot of time, work or effort into keeping it well groomed, mind you.  When we bought the house, the previous owners had apparently done a great job of investing time, sweat and effort into meticulously keeping it well groomed.  The grass was lush and full…not a single bare patch to be found.  There were no dandelions…no crabgrass…no weeds…it was golf course quality grass, that’s for sure.

When I took over as the primary groundskeeper, I put in a valiant effort at keeping it groomed to that standard.  Within a year, as SD made friends with all the neighborhood kids, it became painfully obvious that I was in for a battle of epic proportions.  We bought the playground, and almost instantly our yard became *the* yard to hang out in.  The following year, the trampoline followed, and so did the circle of dead grass under it…and all the socks and shoes left behind from your friends in the neighborhood!  Then came the pool…two years with an 18′ pop-up pool gave us another “crop circle” in the back.  The pool didn’t survive past the second season, and the grass around it has never been the same.  I’m not sure at what point I gave up, but certainly by the time NE and SI came along, I had resigned myself to the notion that I could either raise a yard or raise kids…but not both.

So for several years, I neglected it…only mowing it.  No watering…no over-seeding…no aerating…no weeding…no fertilizing…nothing but the weekly mow.   Within about three summers, my yard had gone from a beautiful landscape of plush, vibrant green to a hodgepodge of barren spots, crabgrass and dandelions…with some good grass mixed in every so often.  My neglect had tarnished what was once a sight to behold.

Fatherhood is like that isn’t it.  I can spend (and certainly will) years, even decades of time, sweat and tears pouring love into you, showing you the love of Christ.  I will devote all my efforts in the next 18 years to bringing you to Christ and helping you strengthen your relationship with Him.  I’ll do so because I have no greater commandment from God but to love Him and love others.  It’s my love for Him…and for you…that drives my passion to live with you on the over side of eternity.  However, once you’re out of my care, I have no control over the person you will become…the choices you will make…the life you will live.  Like the homeowner before me who dutifully tended to my yard when it was in his care, leaving it to me to carry on its care…or neglect…I too must face the day that you are responsible for your own walk of faith.  I will soon face the day that I have to sit back and watch as you continue to flourish in your faith…or allow weeds to grow along your path.

Weeds.  I’ve let the weeds in the yard take over in the past few years, so this year I’ve struck out anew…on a mission to reclaim my little plush plot of land.   Like any good warrior, I spent time learning about my enemy…its tactics…its survival instincts…its strengths…its weaknesses.  I learned all that I could because it’s not until we know our enemy that we can overcome him.  Did you know that the root of the dandelion can grow 10″ deep?  I didn’t…until now.  Had I not known that important piece of information, my methods would not have worked, because I would have simply pulled the visible part of the weed out of the ground…fruitless!  Turns out they also thrive better when there are patches of dead grass.  They seek out and thrive in those areas because there is less competition for sunlight, water and nutrients in the soil.  Makes sense really, but not something I’d given much thought to before now.  Which is how I came to one of the lessons I’ve learned in all of this…that it’s okay for a guy to read the instruction manual from time to time.  Yeah, I know.  I’ll catch all kinds of grief for admitting that.  Guys are notorious for not reading directions.  I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve read the instructions when assembling a new project…or read the owner’s manual on a new electronics purchase.  It’s our thing…guys just know how to fix things…without being told or shown, we know.  However, I’ll openly admit that it’s okay to read the owner’s manual every now and then.

Yeah, just this month I broke down and resorted to reading the owner’s manual.  I bought a new trimmer last season.  It came with a spool of line that ran out earlier this month.  It also came with some shorter 10″ lengths of line that are supposed to fit into the head of the trimmer differently, so that once they’re loaded they lock in place…and are used in place of the longer spool of line.  I struggled for days trying to figure out how to lock those little suckers into the head.  I’d work on it for awhile one day and get frustrated to the point that all I wanted to do was throw the whole stupid trimmer away!  Aagghh!!  So I’d set it down and forget it.  The following day, I’d pick it up again and work diligently to figure it out on my own.  I reasoned that “it can’t be that hard…I don’t need to read the book.”  After days of frustration, I finally broke down and pulled out the book, and within only 10 minutes of reading, I was able to figure out how to accomplish what I wanted.  Ten minutes!  Really?  Had I just read the stupid book two days ago, how much time and frustration would I have saved?  By the way…it wasn’t that hard to figure out.  In fact, the solution was right before my eyes the whole time, but I was too blinded by pride and frustration to see it.  Ssshhh.  Don’t tell your mom that, okay?

So, back to the weeds.  Once I’d done my research, and my recon was complete, I launched my offensive.  I meticulously sprayed every one of those pesky little dandelions.  I kept them mowed down before they could sprout and spread their seed to propagate their species.  I over-seeded, laying down new seed, and have kept it watered.  I’ve spread fertilizer at just the right time, and I’ll continue fertilizing every 2-3 months as scheduled.  I’ve kept vigil throughout the last month, not letting down my guard and quickly jumping on any of those little suckers that have sprouted up…yep, I’ve waged an all-out war to turn the tide in favor of healthy grass.  So far, it’s looking good for Team Dad, but only time will tell if my efforts will prove successful.  Certainly as next season approaches, some will return, but hopefully not in such large mass.  Hopefully, what I’ve done this year has laid some good groundwork to reducing their numbers as the years pass.

Weeds.  There are some eery similarities to the weeds in our yard and the weeds in our lives.  The weeds that grow in our yard lurk just below the surface, out of sight…until just the right conditions are present to strike.  When they attack, they spring up with little warning.  Left untreated, they spread their seed so that even more come up the following year.  Even one weed left untreated can quickly spread out of control before you know it.  They can very quickly drown out the good grass, suffocating it as they compete for nutrients, water and sunlight.  The root of these weeds can grow deep down into the soil, making it difficult to uproot.  Simply attacking what is above the surface is not sufficient to kill it, because the root remains and will certainly re-sprout the following year.  Yep.  Unattended, these weeds will quickly take control of a yard so that no sign of the good healthy grass even exists.

The weeds in our spiritual lives are exactly the same!  So many things compete for our attention and affection that when left unattended, our relationship with God can quickly be suffocated by the world.  The weeds in our spiritual life come in many forms.  Work.  Money.  Pride.  Greed.  Selfishness.  Anger.  Resentment.  Family.  Friends.  Ministry.  Yes, even family and ministry can be weeds if we allow.  Anything that competes with our attention and affection for God has the potential to be a weed.  God is to be our number one love…above family and above ministry.  One of the things I’ve learned through three seasons of leading the Upward Sports ministry at our church is that even service to the Lord can distract us from the Lord.  You wouldn’t think that would be possible, but trust me…it is!  We can get so wrapped up in what we’re doing that we forget to take time to connect and grow with God.

So what is the plan of attack for the weeds in our spiritual life?  First, and foremost, we need the intel.  Just like the time I put into learning about the weeds in the yard, we need to read up on the enemy…his tactics…his methods…his strengths…his weaknesses.  Who is the enemy?  Satan.  The devil will use anything possible to win his war for our soul.  He will even use our relationships with family to pull our attention and focus away from God.  In Upward, he has used my love for children, my attention to detail and my commitment to serve in a way that exceeds expectations… to pull me further from God.   So, take time to read the Owner’s Manual.  Where can we find such a manual?  Not on Google, Wikipedia, Yahoo, Britannica, or any other worldly source that may come about between now and the time you’re old enough to read this.  Nope, the Owner’s Manual for life is God’s Word.  It’s the best-selling book of all time, the beginning and the end:  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.John 1:1

The Bible is the Owner’s Manual for life.  It has all the answers for everything you’ll ever need to know.  It’s in reading the Word of God that we learn more about Him and learn about how He wants us to live.  It’s not simply enough to read it though.  To truly know God, we have to be able to hide His Word in our hearts so that we can draw upon Him in our time of temptations and suffering:

  • “Then he taught me, and he said to me, “Take hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands, and you will live.” – Proverbs 4:4
  • “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” – Pslam 119:11
  • “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.” – Deuteronomy 11:18

I find that I struggle most when I fail to read God’s Word consistently.  When I roll out of bed and get my day on…without taking time to read what God has prepared for me in His Word for that day, I find that I’m more susceptible to temptation, and I wander from the path that points toward Him.  I have also found that in reading the Word in the morning, my mind and heart are better equipped and prepared to deal with the specific problems I will face that day.  I can’t count how many times I’ve done my morning devotion, and at some point in my day have faced a spiritual, emotional or physical battle that God prepared me for through that morning’s devotion.  That’s not a coincidence…that’s God knowing all…and working it all through His plan…for His glory!

One of the other major components in our battle against the weeds in our life goes hand-in-hand with Bible study.  Prayer is our direct pipeline to God.  It is our opportunity to praise God for all He is and all He’s done, to ask Him to meet our needs, to ask Him to meet the needs of others, to tell him the desires of our heart.  He knows the desires of our hearts already, but He wants to hear us…He wants to communicate with us…not just to listen to us, but for us to hear Him.  Praying is as much about talking as it is about listening.  In your prayers, take time to simply sit and listen for Him.  His voice comes as the soft, gentle whispers on the heart. ..as the breeze blows through the trees, His voice comes to our heart.  If we don’t stop to listen, we won’t hear Him.  Prayer comes in many shapes and sizes.  It can be aloud with family.  It can be alone in our fear.  It can be silent as we face an obstacle.  It can be a short sentence…even one word.  Or a lengthy conversation.  It should be an opportunity to praise Him for being God and acknowledging that we’re not.  However you pray, pray often.

  • “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” – Romans 12:12
  • “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” – Matthew 6:4-6
  • “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” – Mark 11:24
  • “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” – Ephesians 6:18
  • “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” – Philippians 4:6

I’ve also learned that in our time of hurting, we rely on our relationships.  While God’s grace carries us, it’s our relationships within the body of Christ that He uses to strengthen us.  It’s the accountability I have within my circle of believers that helps to keep me from veering into sin.  It’s fellowship with like-minded people…people that are strong in their faith… that encourages me to continue the fight.  I can call upon them for help in finding scripture to address the specific weed I’m dealing with at the time.  Even with all the Bible study I can do, I have encountered times I can’t find the answers I need right away.  It’s fellow believers who can point me in the right direction.  It is in “over-seeding” my relationships with the good seed that the lush, green grass of my faith grows and drowns out the weeds.

  • For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” – Matthew 18:20
  • ” Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down,  one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
  • “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” – Hebrews 10:24-25

Obedience is also important in fighting off the weeds.  That word can sound scary, but it’s not if you look at it in the right context.  Practice makes perfect.   In my job in the fire service we practice like we intend to work, or in other words, we play like we work.  The theory is that if you practice how you intend to perform in the heat of the moment, it becomes habit so much so that you don’t have to think about it when you’re in the moment…instinct.  When we’re obedient in small things, it becomes instinct to be obedient in bigger things…not because we have to be, but because we want to be…instinct.  God gives us free will, so it’s up to us…because it’s His desire that we’re obedient because we want to be. Mind you, it’s not that I particularly enjoy going out and being obedient to the work it takes to stay ahead of the weeds in the yard.  I am obedient to the work, though, because I want to be.  If I don’t want to go out and do the work, I don’t have to…no one is going to make me do it.  I want to though…because I know the reward will be worth it in the end.  And once I’ve turned the tide in my favor in the yard, I know that if I spend a little time each day and week to stay ahead and deal with each weed that sprouts up immediately, the work is easier than it is when I’m starting off with a yard full of weeds.  It’s not much different spiritually really.

And, lest we forget that even Christ himself was obedient.  Mark 14 tells us that as the time was drawing near that Jesus was to be arrested and crucified, He prayed to the Father that He might “Take this cup from me.” and continued on, “Yet not what I will, but what you will.”  Obedience at its finest hour…

  • “rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name.” – Philippians 2:7-9
  • “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.” – 1 Peter 1:13-15

In Matthew 13, Jesus tells the Parable of the Sower.  There are similarities to what He is saying there and what I’m trying to say here.  Rather than try to bring the two together, I encourage you to do as I pointed out above.  Do your own research.  Gather your own intel.  Go read it for yourself and allow God to talk to you through it.  Gather from it what He would have you to know.

And so, it is my prayer that as you grow, your relationship with Christ is solid and set deep in the soil of your heart and soul.  Because the weeds will come for you.  We each have our own weeds to face…and yours will come.  It might be a day…a week…a year after you’ve left my care, but they will come, and you will be faced with your own war.  It’s my intent and goal in the coming years to help you foster a lush, green yard of faith and to equip you with the tools to battle the weeds in your spiritual life.  Because, just like the homeowner before me cared for our yard, it was up to me to continue to care for it…or to neglect it.  The same is true for you.  Your walk is not mine to make.  It is for you to decide who you will become.  I’ll struggle with that when the time comes to let you go, and I’ll continue to pray that when that day comes God will strengthen me to face it.  But for now, you’re mine to groom.  I’ll start by waging an all out war with the weeds in my own spiritual life so that they are not an obstacle for you in yours.

Love,

Dad

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