Life from the rear-view mirror

The road from here….Vol 57

cropped-378273_10200570900728692_299940381_n.jpgInsight is always valuable, but it’s not automatic.

Insight comes from experience…both good and bad. If you’ve never had any experience…you’re not going to have much insight.  And it’s not just that we gain insight…it’s what we do with it once we have it.

Many use insight they have gained to move forward…applying what they have learned from one experience to help them through a similar circumstance. But sometimes the journey to get to that place where there IS meaningful insight can be pretty painful.  It all depends on the road that got you there.

I’m married to one of the most loving, thoughtful, intelligent and articulate females on this planet. She is beautifully complex .

We first met in third grade, but it wasn’t until High School that we had much to do with each other besides being friendly. And even when we did start spending more time together, I couldn’t see very far beyond the fact that she was extremely attractive and I wanted to be with her every chance I could. We dated for about 3 or 4 months our junior year and I thanked God every night that he had allowed this beauty to be my girlfriend. I was as smitten as a 16-year-old male could be. Food tasted better…the sky was bluer…my clothes fit better…all that stuff.  I don’t remember if we used the “L” word…but man, I was thinking it. I was moving at the speed of light hoping to take this girl off the market. But shortly after our Jr. Prom…she no longer felt the same about me and was ready to move on. I was devastated.

“The road from here” begs the question…”where to next?” For me, at sixteen, after a painful break-up, the road ahead was nearly obscured. I had to get through the pain and rejection which felt overwhelming at first…I didn’t want to take the next step down that road… because it was going to take me farther from her and from what I knew. But the pain eventually eased as other things and even other girls filled the hole in my heart that I thought was there to stay.

We both moved on down the road. God had other things in store for Kathy and me.

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

I love this old Irish blessing.   A gentle walk, tender mercy…fair weather. That blessing is wasted on someone who never leaves the house…or never starts a journey. They would never come to feel God protecting them or the soft rain and warm sunshine…well…not in the way it was meant for the traveler who might also experience dark days,  foul weather and challenging circumstances along the way. The blessing is for those of us on the road, out in the elements, facing danger and pain but also joy and celebration. The road is life.

I often wonder why some Christians don’t trust God with their lives. Is it risk avoidance? Is it fear? Is it lack of faith? Immaturity? What is it that makes us think we can manage our lives better on our own than with God. If we say we need God then we think we’re weak. If we say we need direction…we just buy a GPS…not implore God. If we’re lost and lonely and looking for comfort…we just need a friend or a support group…surely God can’t put his arms around you. It seems that we are willing to put ourselves and sometimes our families at risk just to avoid the appearance that we are “needy.” I’ve been that person…I’ve been in that prison…my guess is that you have been too. When we finally are “so low that we have to look up to see a worm’s belly,” as a former pastor of mine used to say…then we reach up and reach out to God who gladly lifts us up and sets us back on the road.

None of us like that kind of desperation…but we often allow ourselves to get into that position.

Why?

I think pride and presumption play a huge role. We feel entitled and we think that God  gives us extra points if we do it ourselves. God is only there if we can’t hack it. Thankfully I woke up to the fact that God has not only saved me but  he wants to be a vital part of my life…all of my life…every day.  I realized that pride does come before a fall…it’s dangerous and foolish… and I have to deal with my own pride daily. I realize that my purpose for being comes from God alone and that He loves and directs his kids despite us running after wrong things down wrong roads…even when we know better.

God brought Kathy’s and my road to a junction one more time last July, and it changed both our lives once again. It was an unexpected turn. Neither of us were looking for each other…our roads had diverged in High School and I never thought I’d see her again. But each life circumstance, each painful experience, each bend in the road was bringing us to that intersection of faith, renewal and love.

We are eternally grateful for God’s sovereignty and direction….and for the road that brought us here.

 

dugz4 August 25, 2013 1 Comment Permalink

Tired backs…sore bottoms…big smiles! Vol 56

HD2Yesterday Kathy came with me on her first real ride on the Harley.  Just about 250 miles round trip with a couple coffee and potty stops thrown in… and a quick stop in Cazenovia at a road-side farmer’s market where we caught a glimpse of mom displaying her hoola-hoop skills.

I did my preflight check around 8am and we hopped on the bike around 8:30 to meet up with Joanne and Jim who were riding Jim’s Goldwing out to meet us at Bass Pro Shops in Auburn for the hour ride back to his house where an amazing Spaghetti lunch awaited. (I can say it was amazing before I ate it…because I’ve had mom’s spaghetti dinner!)

The ride from Auburn out Rt 20 through Skaneateles and Cazenovia was gorgeous. Rolling hills, quaint villages, and big beautiful blue sky with those dreamy puffy white clouds. All taken in atop the big Harley, blessing us with that deep throaty rumble I have come to love.

Kathy used a few muscles she didn’t remember she had climbing on and off the bike…and HD1I’m guessing she would have liked to been able to move around a little more than she could…or have a cup of coffee within arms reach…but it was great fun having her with me. It meant that a weekend getaway on the bike was now a possibility where before…it was just a nice thought. We had proven the concept…she had fun and loved being with me on the bike. It was an adventure. I’m sure it was a bit scary for her when she had to lean into corners with me…but she trusted me to get both of us to our destination safely.

We got back home just before the setting sun burned through my retinas. Parked the bike in the garage…. complained a little (with a smile…) about how certain body parts were sore…and then took a nap. We both agreed that the day and the ride…and the experience was worth it and that we’d do it again.

 Here’s a tip for better marriage. Find something you and your spouse can do together…and do it. Find the joy in it and celebrate that joy with each other. 

We are on a journey with God…each day of our walk with Him holds experiences in faith and love…in perspective and  perseverance that build on each other. We are building an archive that we can access any time we choose, to remind us of how faithful God is.  Our memory banks might not always be filled with happy things…mine sure aren’t. But God walked with me, often carrying me through the painful, hurtful times…and he promised never to leave or forsake us.

He loves it when we enjoy Him and enjoy the life he’s given us. He’s given us a challenge to invest ourselves first in Him and to build His kingdom, then in our spouses and family and finally what he’s put in our hand to do. But through all of it….He wants our joy to be full.

Some of us are so caught up in what we can’t do…that we never do what we can.

Get on the road and ride friend. See what vistas of truth and grace  and faith God allows you to discover to build a joyful life for your benefit and His glory.

dugz4 August 11, 2013 Leave A Comment Permalink

And then he was….GONE! Vol 55

LUI went to a very small college in the late 70’s.  It is now a very large University. Back in the day, LBC  was more like a glorified high school with a big dream. It was hard to tell when you were on campus or at church. There were no real classrooms or college-like buildings back then…and my dorm room was on the 3rd floor of the Stewart Arms hotel in downtown Lynchburg, Virginia. I’m sure it was a lovely hotel at one point…with doormen bustling about helping travelers to their rooms…but that day had long past with one exception. We still had a bellman (who was almost as old as the hotel) who operated the elevator during the day. Everything in the building was old…including the elevator. Occasionally the elevator brake would slip allowing the car and its occupants to fall a few feet before the brake caught.  It was a real life thrill ride! This was especially amusing when it happened after picking up a load of girls on the 6th floor.

The accommodations and learning environment didn’t really matter much to me. I was wasn’t there all that much. I was recruited to sing in one of the groups that was tasked with supporting the fund-raising effort for what now is Liberty University…one of the largest Christian universities on the planet. Two or three days a week we were in another part of the country trying to keep the dream alive. It was an exciting time and an incredible experience.  It changed my life in a lot of ways… and along the way I made some great friends.

Every year at homecoming the school held the Miss Liberty pageant. There was the obligatory “big game” of course and afterwards the college would host the pageant complete with a former Miss USA. There was great music and big hair… it was about as red carpet a deal as a small school could have…and it was a great opportunity for Dr. Falwell to do some vision-casting in front of the very people who made the college possible by their support.

Those of us who traveled and sang would often be asked to help out with music at these events. I had been asked to sing the opening song of the program. I chose a Barry Manilow tune “Daybreak” …(quite edgy for this VERY conservative Christian College)  The program was held in the Thomas Road Church auditorium. That evening the auditorium was packed with  5000 people. Friends and family and alumni there to enjoy the homecoming festivities.

Thomas Road Church was, and still is,  a very large church.  The Old Time Gospel Hour television program was broadcast around the country from this very auditorium. That meant there was a full complement of broadcast quality lighting already in place and our stage crew brought in two additional  carbon-arc, Super-Trooper spotlights to add some “pop” to the lighting. (If you are not familiar with the Super-Trooper spotlight…let’s just say it’s like discovering a Quasar in the room with you. They are like a go-zillion candlepower….you could get a sunburn bright…OK…they are blindingly overwhelmingly  bright.

I’m backstage warming up…and just a little nervous as I was singing in front of everyone that was anyone at the college and I had yet to get approval to do the Barry Manilow song I was about to sing in about 60 seconds. I was hoping…nay… praying I wasn’t going to add to my frighteningly long list of demerits for what some were sure to consider a musical trespass…but I was committed…it was Barry or nothing.

I heard the piano player start the vamp into the song…that was my queue. I opened the door from back stage and it was as if someone had turned off all the lights…which of course they had, in preparation for the first musical number…me. As my eyes tried to adjust to the dark, I could  make out the faint glow of the orchestra pit and carefully made my way toward the light and the runway that jutted out into the auditorium.  Just as I started to sing the first notes, the guys hit me with both Super Troopers. Searing shafts of intense white-hot light hit me like the sun. My poor pupils which had been fully dilated trying to gather enough light to find my way across the stage in the darkness… were now completely overwhelmed … leaving me momentarily blinded…but I wasn’t on my mark yet. I had to keep moving..not knowing if I was headed in the right direction or not.  It didn’t matter.  My ill-fated trajectory was set. I got three words of the song out and walked directly off the runway into the orchestra pit…in full voice. Both spotlights dutifully trained on the now empty stage where I used to be just a second ago. It was a YouTube moment if ever there was one. The place went quiet.

Thankfully, magically, I landed on my feet ( in the clarinet section I think.) Slowly I clawed my way out of the orchestra pit…up the stairs to the platform and back into the spotlight’s glare. Now that  everyone knew I was ok, the whole thing was suddenly hilarious. The audience was laughing and applauding. I could hear the tech guys in the back laughing so hard they were crying as they played back the video again and again…There he is…now he’s gone…there…gone! Mark Lowry was sitting up front and came up to the stage to offer a joke to save my embarrassment. It was a Miss Liberty pageant for the record book.

I can’t help but think about unintended consequences as I remember this infamous night from so long ago. I had no intention of walking off the stage. The orchestra pit was not where I wanted to be or should have been. But sometimes God let’s us step off the stage as we are blinded by the light of pride or some other foolish thing where we have made him play second fiddle. . Sometimes the fall is just embarrassing…sometimes it’s a full face-plant…sometimes we have to call the ambulance.

In all cases, after we get up from the fall… God has a much more attentive audience. Well at least I know I listen better…

 

dugz4 August 9, 2013 4 Comments Permalink

54 down and 311 to go….Vol 54

cropped-sthomas.jpgFor a long time I have been wanting to write conversational style devotions. Little snippets of life that I hope will engage, entertain….maybe even encourage. I passed the 50 volume mark a couple of weeks back without any fanfare…but it was a milestone for me.

When I started this journey I felt sure I could write a few devotions a week. I thought the ‘ole memory banks contained enough stuff about life and my experience in it to round out a year’s worth of devotional material. Truth is there’s probably more than enough stuff there….it’s just trying to get it out and put down in some way to be worth the time that some of you kind readers spend with me.

The other (and larger) issue is the status of my own heart. When things aren’t going well in life, it’s sometimes hard to regroup and dig even deeper to a place where the present circumstance doesn’t totally blot out my vision to the reality of the joy I have found in Christ, despite the circumstance(s)

There are so many times when I wish God had a face on. I wish there was someplace to go to meet with Him one on one. A place where we could sit across from each other, have coffee, talk, and develop this relationship normally…well what I would call normally anyway. Now I know I’m not going to have that kind of relationship with God…at least not this side of Heaven. (I don’t even know if God drinks coffee…surely He must!) And God has already said all the neccessary things He’s going to say to me relationally in Scripture. So why do I feel the need to talk-through or talk-out some of these challenges I face on a day to day basis. What is it about the human condition that requires a regular face-to-face connection with someone we know and someone who knows us. Why do we (I) need to hear a verbal response, retort, correction or encouraging word?

Well here’s my take. We as believers need to be totally dependent on God…and…interdependent on our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Our gifts aren’t fully utilized until they are exercised…

And our gifts are most fully exercised as they are utilized in the body of believers.

The past few weeks have been hard. I’ve felt disconnected. Maybe you can identify. I’m reminded of this Steve Camp song…”Living in Laodicea” from a long time ago

Oh Lord, take Your plow to my fallow ground
Let Your blade dig down to  the soil of my soul
For I’ve become dry and dusty, Lord I know there must
be
Richer earth lying below

Chorus:

For I’ve  been living in Laodicea
And the fire that once burned bright, I’ve let it grow
dim
And the very Word I swore that I would die for all has
been forgotten
As the world’s become my friend

We have turned  from Your Law to try to find a better
way
Each man does today what is  right in his own eyes
We will pay the price for our sinning
We can  never know true living, we’ve exchanged His
truth for lies

CHORUS

It is no small of a thing that He’s done for you
By shutting the  gates of hell upon the cross
We were sentenced once but now we are pardoned
And He chooses to use us though we fall

So while we’re living  in Laodicea
Keep the fire burning bright, don’t let it grow dim
For  the very Word we swore that we would die for, it
must not be forgotten
Fear the world become a friend

For the very Word we swore that we would  die for, it
must not be forgotten fear the World become a friend

And that’s the story…There’s life in Christ and life with Christ. Joy, hope and peace flow from the union of those two privileges of grace.

So I will write on…if for no other reason than to chronicle my journey with the one who has loved me beyond comprehension.

Blessings!

Doug

 

 

dugz4 August 8, 2013 1 Comment Permalink