Life from the rear-view mirror

What’s in the box? Vol 14

Played hooky from small group a while ago to join an old friend at an Amerks game, Rochester’s local Hockey team. Took my oldest son Brendan with me…he wasn’t a big hockey fan then (he is now!) but we had a blast along with a good Philly cheesesteak…and… we won by two!

On the way in that night we were accosted by a street preacher.  It really hurts me to say it that way…but it was the truth. There was nothing kind or loving in his delivery. It was raw shock. Here was  fellow bellowing out the truth in derge-like monotone to people who simply ignored or ridiculed him. The truth, the way he told it was no less true…it just wasn’t very loving,  very compelling or very effective….

it made me think of how hard we are trying at Northridge to be culturally relevant. Not change the gospel. It is, and  always will be relevant to all generations all by itself.  But the “box” in which the product of Christianity comes, should be delivered in a compelling, loving way..by loving people.

Street preaching used to be the mark of a hard-core believer. It was almost a rite of passage. Like somehow there was more honor in getting spit on and ridiculed publicly on the street than anywhere else.

I belive that God’s word will never come back empty. And if I believe that, I must believe I’ll see folks in heaven because of guys like that street preacher in front of the Blue Cross Arena out in the cold that night…bellowing truth at people. I thank God for his conviction…but it still serves as a reminder to me to speak the truth in love. It doesn’t make it any more true…but isn’t that how Jesus speaks to us? The Bible says he knocks on our hearts door. He asks to come in. He wants to come in…but we still must invite him in.

Have you been beat up by well-meaning believers trying to push their way through the door to your heart? The same God who said he was not willing that any should perish may be standing at your heart’s door today….gently knocking. Will you listen for his voice? Will you let him in?

Rev 3:20  – Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hear my voice and open the door I will come in…

Go this way! Vol 13

Happy St Patrick’s Day!  (Happy Birthday Ross…I wish I could have known you…but we’ll meet one day)

The road kept getting narrower and narrower…but the GPS was insistent…almost yelling at me to “GO THIS WAY!”

The snow was falling and what once had been a modern two lane highway was now a bumpy, snowy trail… just wide enough for one car…maybe two if one had good manners. It was difficult to see the sides of the road so I reduced my speed some more and was glad I was navigating this in daylight and not in the dim glow of headlights. I could see the road bend up ahead and what looked like the lights of a farm house. Finally. I wasn’t the only life-form on this deserted stretch of country road.

Just as quickly as I had driven into the snow…I exited. The weather was a brightening gray…a happy expectation. I took a few minutes to look around now that I could plainly see where I was going. Everything was blanketed in snow for as far as I could see. the lights of that farm house and the memory of the squall I’d just driven through were just a dim glow in my rear view mirror. Everything was peaceful now…very still. I drove on a few more miles and noticed a red fox darting in and out of the trees along the road, I stopped and watched for a few mintutes. Even though God had designed this little critter to blend into his world…his reddish coat made him pop off the white winterscape.

I thought for a moment…the snow had covered everything. I couldn’t see anything but white but sometimes with less to see we can see more! I would have missed the red fox if it hadn’t been for all the snow.

A couple of more miles and I turned onto the main road with it’s well defined lanes and safety markers. But I thought about the red fox for a while. I almost never see them and would have missed this one except for the path the GPS chose for me that afternoon.

I’m glad God doesn’t always have us stick to the main roads…the predicatble routes. Sometimes he throws in the country lanes…heavy snow falls, and an occassional red fox.

An Old Irish Blessing;

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

May God be with you and bless you:
May you see your children’s children.
May you be poor in misfortune,
Rich in blessings.
May you know nothing but happiness
From this day forward.

May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the warm rays of sun fall upon your home
And may the hand of a friend always be near.

May green be the grass you walk on,
May blue be the skies above you,
May pure be the joys that surround you,
May true be the hearts that love you.

 

 

How long has it been since you’ve enjoyed God?

Pick me! Pick ME! Vol 12

With just a few clicks of the mouse, a few uploaded pictures and a few hundred bucks…he was back in the game.

What game you ask? The game of trying to make himself attractive to women of the female persuasion. It was a daunting challenge…and one he never thought he would have to be involved in again.

Doug hated answering those questions that were designed to help the computer fix you up with exactly the perfect flavor of Ms. Right. He thought he’d like to screw with those algorithms sometime just to see what happens. “Congratulations…your perfect match is…NOT a human.” He laughed to himself…”I would pay money to watch Mr or Ms “Hopeful” read those emails.”

Anyway…He forced himself to answer all 6272 questions with the expectation that emails would drop from the heavens filling his inbox to overflowing with attractive exciting and wealthy women…….it didn’t happen. It’d been 2 DAYS NOW since he posted his profile and picture.

“What the heck!? This being honest thing sucks…I’ve always been a good liar…think i’ll do a little late night editing of my online love profile….. Swarthy, Clooney-esq dude with rippling abs and very highly leveraged, expensive yet tasteful German automobiles who lives in a modest mansion ( yet in close proximity to Wegmans). Seeking a georgeous, swarthy babe for gobs of sparkling, and witty conversation. Not afraid to spend tens of dollars on a romantic night at Bub’s”….or something like that.

That’s what gonna get me the chicks he thought!  If he only knew who was waiting in West VIrginia!

(Kathy had been waiting in WV…and he married her this past October)

Present day

Looking back…those online dating sites gave us hope that someone “just right for me” was waiting right behind their online picture. All I had to do was spend enough money and time and send enough emails. It was pure frustration with a litte “are you kidding me?” thrown in.

As it turns out, God had been working on the back story for me all along.

You see sometimes we try so hard to find the right one…that we forget to BE the right one.

Proverbs 3:5 ,6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowlege Him and He will direct your path…(right to West Virginia!)

When things go BOOM! Vol 11

One of the blessings of marriage is that now my kids, and me, get to eat…mostly together…mostly every night! We are all enjoying the experience…Kathy loves cooking for us and works really hard to make sure that wherever she on the road (which is somewhere in NY) during the day…she’s home to cook. That is a huge blessing and I love her for that….truth is… she loves that we love it!
A couple of weeks ago now she was preparing a lovely pork roast. She had made this beautiful marinade and hand-rubbed the spices onto the meat, put it into the oven and it was cooking nicely. I was on my way home anticipating a wonderful meal together…
However….when I walked through the door it looked like a SWAT team had lobbed a smoke grenade into the kitchen…the kids were scrambling for gas masks and fire extinguishers…Brett couldn’t remember whether to stop, drop or roll but they all remembered the burning paper towel incident with Leah. The only thing missing from this scene was actual fire and Leah screaming bloody murder while holding a roll of flaming paper towels about 12 inches from the sink…more on that another time…
Come back in time with me oh…about about 7 minutes… and we see Kathy going to check on the roast. As her hand touches the oven handle the ill-fated pyrex cookware explodes sending shards of porky glass bouncing around the oven and dousing the oven flame with all that wonderful pork flavored liquid which immediately turned to thick choking smoke. We opened all the doors got all the fans going…and after the smoke cleared enough so that we could find our way through the house, Kathy defaulted to sloppy joes.
This could have been a disaster…well.. it sort of was a disaster for the pork roast…but Kathy could have been severely burned and litterally shot with that exploding glass. We had no reason to expect that the dish was going to “let go”…but it did anyway. So we had to react…I’m really proud of the way we worked through the calamity. Nobody acused anyone…nobody got hurt…we worked together, got the situation under control and still enjoyed dinner together. The pork made the ultimate sacrifice once more …killed back to death…
This would have been a much different scene a couple of years ago. I would have blamed whoever used that particular dish, they would gotten upset with me…it would have been hurtful and chaotic…could it be we are maturing? Could it be that the lessons of selflessness, patience and suffering are finally paying off? Or was this just a fluke. I don’t know but what I do know is that this time I didn’t have to appologize to anyone. This time I didn’t have to confess that I’d handled the whole thing poorly because I mostly watched everyone work together. Maybe I’ll totally blow it next time..but I’ve seen the light! God is right…imagine that! I bet God has a sense of satisfaction when we obey him and things just sorta work out…maybe not like we intended but in a way that we can see God’s hand in and make sure to give him the honor and praise because He always deserves it!

There is no mess to big for him to make right! No relationship too distant to be restored. No sin too dark that He won’t forgive…

Isaiah 1:18 – Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.

dugz4 March 15, 2013 1 Comment Permalink

I’m a jerk! Number 10!

A few weeks back I realized that I am a jerk. Oh..I’ve always had my suspicions…but I proved it beyond any reasonable doubt.

She was on the phone in the drum department when she handed me the drum sticks I had asked for. I made my way over to the kit I was going to play…no intention of buying mind you…just killing a few minutes…and I began to play. Not obnoxiously…at least not to my ear…when my groove was suddenly interrupted by the same female employee who had just given me the sticks…”Sir…SIR!…I’m on the phone…can you keep it down?!”  It was not really a question. She was barking orders to an obviously talented savant nearly thrice her age. Her bark was accompanied by desperate gesturing towards the phone receiver to get my attention and to let me know that she was indeed talking on the phone and not welding…or sharpening her fingernails.

She was  “harshing my mellow” big time! At that moment it was as if someone had turned up the “suck”  on my performance as my hands and feet went their separate ways creating…well…a lot of noise and clanging. I finally stopped flailing around…and looked to see if anyone  had witnessed the scolding I had just gotten. Nope…whew!

Now it was my turn.

“What? (I thought to myself indignantly)…can’t she see I’m enjoying myself immensely and that someday I might actually consider buying a drum set from somewhere…(although I don’t like the color of this one…and it’s probably cheaper online….still thinking to myself here…) So I sat at the kit just long enough to get all red-faced and waited for her to end her pointless conversation about selling something to some customer…who knows what those salespeople do?

Then i got up with purpose and walked to the counter.  Looked at her in the eye and  from a height of oh …as high as I could reach…I dropped the drum sticks on the glass counter and walked out of the department as the sticks bounced around loudly on the counter top before  tumbling off to the floor. I had shown her. Now she would have to bend over and pick them up…I win.

Now while this whole scenario was unfolding I knew I was being a jerk. Bit It wasn’t until I got to the car that I realized just what a jerk…a selfish jerk… I really had been and still was. And…if left unchecked (and unforgiven,) I could be the idiot that might get in the way of someone, maybe her, coming to Christ.

My story was embellished here a little for flavor but the point remains. If I say I’m a Christ follower, life is much bigger than me and what I want right now. I never saw that girl again but if I had. she might have a couple of choice words for me…I deserved them…but it’s worth any embarrassment to let her know I was wrong and she should have been able to expect more from someone who has been forgiven so much.

Have you been a jerk lately? There’s a pill you can take to help….the gos-pill. (sorry) but realzing just what’s at stake when we act out should be sobering. It should grieve us to know that we could get in the way of people who need the Lord, coming to find Him.

Let your light so shine among men that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven…Matthew 5:16

Starting older…er…over… Vol 9

At 58 I’m starting over in my career. Not that I had reached any amazing pinnacle, but I had gotten realitivly comfortable in telecom after 15 years.

I came home from a company meeting in Kentucky last September sans job…and a little discouraged. I dutifully applied for unemployment, brushed up my resume and began the tour of job websites, networking with friends and former colleagues along the way in an effort to cover all my bases…but nothing. You see when you reach a certain age and salary you become exponentially unattractive to employers…at least that is how it seemed to me.

I began to pray in earnest for the Lord to show me what he wanted for me. Kathy and I were planning on getting married within a couple of months and of course there were the four kids at home that had become accustomed to regular meals. At least I had a paycheck till November.

The last November paycheck came and went. Kathy and I had moved up our wedding date as she found a job up here and after 40 years we were getting to know each other again at a whole new level.

I’ve been blessed to have my brother close by. And he was showing me a logo he’d put together for a mutual friend and client of his who had left a lucrative partnership to open an Insurance agency of his own. An idea started forming in my mind.

Way back 29 years ago in Texas, I had worked in insurance. Surely I couldn’t have forgotten all that I once knew…it was only 29 years ago. Something had to have stuck.  Maybe I could talk to Rick and see if he would let me work with him…mentor me…teach me the business. I wasn’t getting anywhere in Telecom and this waiting around was killing me. Could this be God’s will?

The conversation with Rick went extremely well…like God had something to do with it 🙂 I kept on sending out resumes but at Rick’s suggestion, I kept working on insurance licensing at the same time. Even though there was no salary to be had with Rick, Kathy kept encouraging me to move forward with insurance. She felt this might be just what I needed…and maybe what the Lord wanted.

Today I have my insurance license and a couple of certifications and I’m more confident than ever that this is where God wants me. I’m trusting God to bring all the rest of the things, like income 🙂 along.

Job must have wondered about his ordeal…in fact we know he did. “Why me God? Even in this terrible trial, that I didn’t deserve…in the face of incredible suffering and ultimate loss… I have trusted you”

I have to admit that if I was Job I might have asked God to take my wife along with everything else  especially during the part where she was encouraging Job to die …but Job continued to trust and honor God through the trial (and nagging). It didn’t make sense but he continued on. I”m convinced that God would have us trust him through the un-understandable. When we can’t make sense of it. When life is just hard, I have learned that it’s almost never about the “why” and the answers to the whys of life almost never come anyway (at least not from God)

But God does promise a few things that trump the “why:”

1) I will never leave you or forsake you – (I’m going through this with you..)

2) God works all things together for good to those who love him and are called according to his purpose – (This trial might not be good…but God will use it for good in my life.)

3) The hope of heaven – (Our present suffering is only for a short while and can’t compare with Heaven. Eternity is forever.)

.For some like Job…his pain and suffering were eased while he still lived. God totally turned it around. For others, it happens as they cross the portals of heaven. In either case God ends suffering in joy and peace for the believer.

I think the hardest thing I have ever gone through was losing my wife to cancer almost 3 years ago. I felt so alone and so on my own. The enormity of what was before me nearly dwarfed my faith. I needed “God with a face on” And God showed up…over and over. In my small group…in my family, in my friends, even in our new puppy who greeted me at the door every day. God didn’t take me out of the storm…but he took the storm out of me.

Romans 8:28  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.

 

 

Stinkin’ Lincoln! devotion numero 8

I love hearing the words “Grandpa!” that immediately preceeds an extremely cute little girl running towards me with arms wide open waiting to be picked up, hugged and kissed. It has become one of the highlights of Sunday morning at church for me.

God provides wonderful, and often comical illustrations and life-lessons through our kids and grandkids…It’s kinda like “heaven’s funniest home videos!”

A couple of weeks back Gabriella, my 2 year old granddaughter, was playing with her toys and found a penny. Now I’m just guessing at this next part because we don’t really know what happened…but somehow Gabriella ended up with  the penny in her mouth…and swallowed it. Her dad was there and related the shock on her little face when she realized what she had just done. That shock was just slightly eclipsed by the tears that followed, not knowing what might happen next.

The doctor was called and it was decided that nature should be allowed to take its course and that eventually the penny would be recovered and all would be well.

Sure enough, a couple days later there was a surprise in Gabriella’s diaper! Now I’m not going into any more detail other than to say that Gabriella’s 5 year old sister Annabelle,  was a witness to this exciting exit. After looking at the the now-not-so-shiny penny, she said “I think this penney should be called… Stinkin Lincoln!”  And she was right!

But just when you thought the story was over…

As you might imagine, everyone in the family wanted a conclusion to this copper catastrophe. So after the big event occurred, dad and daughters stopped by mom’s classroom to give her the good news where Gabriella rushed in and  proudly proclaimed… “I pooped a penny!”  to her mom and the startled colleagues who happened to be meeting with mom at the time. Perfect!

What’s in you today that shouldn’t be there?

A bad attitude, selfishness, unforgiveness, fear? Gabriella never meant to swallow that penny. It was an accident. But many of us choose to harbor hurtful things. Why? These are things that defeat us…keep us from being …OK…regular! (I couldn’t resist!)

Col 1:27  To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of
this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Drive it one…fix it three! Vol 7

JagA while ago I posted a picture of my dad’s old Jaguar on my facebook page. It was a bittersweet memory. The picture on Facebook looked nothing like the car when dad first got it. I’m not sure there has ever been a greater labor of love performed on a motor vehicle.

I remember when we got the car. The person that had the car before dad just didn’t understand it…and couldn’t fix it. Honestly, you HAD to love this car to put up with its quirks. Two carburetors, the infamous Lucas “prince of darkness” electrical system, cloth spark plug wires…it was British “bits and pieces” engineering at its finest. It didn’t look like much when dad brought it home…it was dirty, the seats were old and torn and it looked as neglected as it had been. But even though it didn’t look like much, you could tell it had come from good breeding. A hint of that was found on the dash where there was a brass plaque that read “This car is guaranteed to do in excess of 120 mph from the factory”. These engines were completely broken in before they were ever installed in the car. No break-in period needed…just start it up and let the fun begin…

Once we got the car situated in the garage, dad started in working on it in earnest. Meticulously going through every system. Repairing and replacing when necessary..till one day he was ready to fire it up. It hadn’t run in a long time and we weren’t sure what to expect. Dad put the key in the ignition, turned it to “on” then hit the starter button…it turned over and the Jag moaned a bit but ….nothing. Then it was a  spray of ether in the carbs and a few pumps on the gas. Press the start button once more and the engine roared to life…spitting and sputtering at first then settling down to throaty rumble.

From that point on it became a project of love and lust. Mostly love for dad. He’d be out in the garage after dinner working on the Jag with either me or my brother “holding the light” doing our small part for the thrill of a the occasional ride or the opportunity to push the start button to hear the magic under the hood. Mostly lust for me because my 16th birthday was right around the corner and I had visions of me and a cheerleader gracing the new seats. Sadly my dream was not to be as the house needed a roof and money was tight. So we bid the Jaguar good-bye.

Whenever the Jag comes up in conversation with dad these days it’s always accompanied by the phrase “drove it for an hour then had to fix it for three!” But it was never said with any disdain for the work…because the hour that he got to drive the car was worth it.

Do you ever wonder what God sees in us that he would give so much to redeem us? Most of us aren’t running very well, if at all. We are dirty, needy, clogged up, ripped, torn and out of gas…just like the way my dad found that old Jag. At first, it was hard to see what my dad saw in the Jag..but in the end it was there for all to see. It was worth the work to him.

God sees our potential. The Bible says he knew us before we were born and chose us…knowing the great cost to purchase us…and knowing the work he was going to have to put in to us to be able hit the “start” button of our lives and see our spirits roaring under the hood.

I like to think we have a plaque inscribed on our hearts. It reads something like this…”This person who I love with all my heart is guaranteed from heaven to be able to do exactly what I’ve called them to do….signed God.

2 Timothy 1:7  For I have not given you a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind

 

dugz4 March 11, 2013 1 Comment Permalink

I’m almost to the …th! March 9th Vol. no 6

What do you listen to?

Who do you believe?

What do you read?

What filter(s) do you use to determine if something you heard or read gets to find it’s way from sight and sound into your belief system…and to what degree do you believe it? Would you stake your life on it?

What would make you act on what you believe to be true?

These can be pretty convicting questions.

My grandaughter is 5 years old and very bright. She already reads at a 4th grade level now and her vocabulary is startling. But she’s still 5…and the way she reasons out difficult things for herself is really quite facinating.

She has been learning about the Bible at church…and all the amazing stories it contains  including Adam and Eve, Daniel and the lion’s den and of course how Jesus came to die on the cross for our sins. Her teachers have been talking about Faith and how we believe things in the Bible by Faith because we weren’t there to see them for ourselves.  Her mom was telling Kathy and I how she was working through the things she wasn’t sure about. The way she explained it was that if she had Faith that meant that she believed something all the way…but if she didn’t quite believe it yet…well than she only had a part of faith like a  “Fa”…or maybe “Fai” …not all of “Faith” yet. I wish I was that self-aware! She is working through her belief system!

We all believe that Annabelle is going to arrive at the “th” of her Faith very soon…and we’re all praying for her… helping her on her journey.

Sadly there are some believers who have already arrived at the “th” of faith. They understand the concept of faith but lack the courage to step out and live a life of faith that counts for God. Their lives are no richer in grace or mercy than before they came to know the Lord. There are no more folks Kingdom bound because they had faith to believe that God would save them…. and “in faith” ….share the gospel with them.

Maybe you’re like Annabelle…still struggling to understand it all and haven’t quite gotten to the “th” of your faith yet. Or maybe you have, and are trying to figure out what God wants from you. Perhaps you are out there in the trenches, confidently putting your faith to work.

Check out the passage below to see how you are doing. May we all excersise our faith in a way that pleases God this coming week.

 

James 2:14-26

New International Version (NIV)

Faith and Deeds

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless[a]? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,”[b] and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

I’m going to paint a wall this morning… Vol 5

I volunteered to paint a wall at my office. Yes just one wall. This wall will be a different color than the rest of the walls…on purpose. It is designed to draw attention to it. It is called an accent wall. It is no better or worse than any of the other walls, but because we have chosen to treat it special…it will be noticed more. People will comment. “Oh I love the color you’ve chosen” or they will say nothing and change the subject. Maybe they will make a suggestion as to what color we should have painted it. Some will wonder why we painted it at all…and some will never notice …ever. Some just don’t care.

I suppose if the wall had a say here, it might wonder “why am I the one who has to be different?” I was completely fine in beige and now I’m all green and stuff” “I don’t fit in anymore!” or it might say “this new green color rocks! I’m really going to get noticed now”

Well as soon as I take my morning meds I won’t be talking to or about walls…but while I’m still mildly neurotic 🙂 , it seems to me that God paints the canvas of our lives differently every day with purpose and on purpose. We often call this paint circumstance…I tend to see this as God’s will…an act that is intentional and loving. For those of us who recognize his handiwork, we want the world to see God at work on us. But some of us will struggle with the colors God has chosen for us. We get upset. We spend a lot of time fretting about why he chose “that” color and wonder how other people are seeing it on us. Will they like it…will they think God should have used a different color, a different brush? Or…will they even notice or care?

Own the color God painted you today! Rock it! Wear it as the gift from God it is. A unique statement about who you are and maybe what you are going through…and then tell anyone who asks. Over the last five and a half years of my life God has painted me in some very dark colors…and 4 months ago I got a glorious re-paint. I love the color!

God has plenty of paint and he is not afraid to use it.

I’m a huge Bruce Willis fan. A couple of years ago he was a guest on the David Letterman show. He showed up dressed in a Day-Glo orange business suit. Not a jump suit…a business suit. He actually bought the material and had this tailored to fit him. All for a splash and a laugh. To say that he “stood out” was a wild understatement…but no one could help themselves…they had to know about the suit.

I know that as God paints your life canvas today. you may or may not like the color. And God is OK with that.  But don’t stop loving the artist. There are brighter colors coming!

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11