Life from the rear-view mirror

Confessions of a “whack-a-doo!” Vol 69

einsteinI think it was Einstein who said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

So I will admit that sometimes I’m a Whack-a-doo!  I am one catastrophe, one bad circumstance, one misstep away from a straight-jacket. Ever feel that way?

You know how that hamster wheel thingie works? Round and round and round and round…ad nauseum. Picture a large man tearing around that for about 50 years or so. That’s what it feels like today. It’s like I’m on a high-speed freeway with no exits. Oh…sometimes I get tired and slow down a bit…but never enough to get off….I so desperately want to get off!!!!

I’m struggling to take my own medicine today…metaphorically that is. Circumstances have ganged up on me….like thieves…just outside my heart’s door, waiting to steal my joy…my peace…my fellowship.  But I’m not gonna let ’em!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving…well…the holiday is called Thanksgiving. (And because I’m writing this at 3:14am…technically it’s already Thanksgiving…)

During the course of the last few days I have repeated the words  “Thank you Lord” over and over as I witnessed some life events unfolding in a most unpleasant fashion. Sadly, my first reaction was not thankfulness…If I’m really going to be honest…well…my first response wasn’t a proud moment.

I really do want to be thankful IN all things. I’m glad the verse doesn’t say be thankful FOR all things…cause that might be a challenge….in fact, that might be nigh unto impossible.

Wait a minute! IN ALL THINGS?…FOR ALL THINGS? Does it really matter? It’s the same God who delivered me from the Hell I was bound for, to the Heaven I never deserved when I trusted him as Savior. So if He chooses to allow some…let’s say… unsavory circumstances in my life…I can (and should) still be thankful and praise him anyway. Can’t I? Shouldn’t I?

God’s measure of love and grace will always best my most valiant efforts to do right and to be good. I can never repay this debt of love I owe. But God doesn’t ask me/us to. He asks me/us to follow him…to love him, to act like him….to BE like him. We can’t do it by ourselves, but only as the Holy Spirit shows us what that all looks like…and reminds us when we miss the mark.

When we get it right…it looks like Thanks-living!

I wish you all a wonderful day with family and friends…and for those who may miss out on all the fun and food this year…I pray that God blesses you in a very special way today to remind you how much He loves you…and how much He deserves all our thanks…all our praise…all our worship!

Psalm 95:2-3

Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.  For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods.

1 Corinthians 1:4-5

I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.  For in him you have been enriched in every way–in all your speaking and in all your knowledge–

2 Corinthians 4:15-16

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.  Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

2 Corinthians 9:11-12

You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.  This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.

Ephesians 1:15-16

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints,  I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.

1 Timothy 4:4-5

For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,  because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

1 Chronicles 16:34

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Psalm 7:17

I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.

Psalm 28:7

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.

Psalm 100:4

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.

Psalm 106:1

Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Isaiah 12:4

In that day you will say: “Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted.

Jeremiah 33:11

the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank offerings to the house of the LORD, saying, “Give thanks to the LORD Almighty, for the LORD is good; his love endures forever.” For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were before,’ says the LORD.

Colossians 3:17

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

1 Thessalonians 5:18

give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

 

 

dugz4 November 28, 2013 Leave A Comment Permalink

Sometimes I wish my past wasn’t so accessible….Vol 68

Christmas Present Wrapped in Gold and Silver 2000Facebook offers easy access to Memory Lane. Sometimes I wish it didn’t.  Sometimes I wish it was inconvenient to get to painful memories. Why couldn’t Norton make a firewall for our brain?  The problem is there is lot I actually want to remember…have to remember (and a lot that God wants us to remember) but this last hour on Facebook has been tough.

Tonight….er…this morning…I took yet another trip down memory lane.
It’s sad when memories sting instead of soothe. When they are filled with regret instead of rejoicing.

Recently I wrote about some of the “do-overs” God has given me in my past…and I’m so grateful for them. But for all I “know” about doing what’s right…I’m sickened by the times I didn’t. (I was going to say “couldn’t do right”…but that’s just not true.)  At the time of the wrong decision  it’s like I hear God say “Do you want your consequence now…or later?”  It just seems to work that way for me.

Integrity is a discipline that must be practiced in every circumstance of life…not just when it’s convenient. Whether it is a debt that was never repaid, a relationship that was never mended or a word that should never have been said. If I am to be a man of integrity (and if I want my sons and daughter to be people of integrity)…it’s all on me.

Integrity is a decision I have to make at every crossroad of choice.

This morning I am realizing once again that I made some bad choices along the way. Some I have recovered from…others I haven’t. 20 years later there are still people in my life I’m ashamed to approach. And this morning those memories are painful…

Sometimes you don’t get a second chance to do it right the first time.

God doesn’t spare us our memories. If we confess, He forgives and restores…but I’m convinced He leaves behind some of the natural consequences of disobedience…like painful memories.

He doesn’t intend for us to live here….to wallow here…like some of us do. But for me, very early this morning… it’s a marker, a reminder that God has called us to right thinking, right living, right relationships. He not only calls us to them but empowers us to embody them through the Holy Spirit.

So despite my best advice to me…I have parked on memory lane for a bit this morning…and am a bit saddened at the man I should have been in many circumstances. But I’m moving on…I’m not going to stay here.

As long as I can still “fog a mirror” God has something else for me to do…to do right with His help.

I choose to be a man of integrity…I choose to be a man after God’s own heart.

dugz4 November 23, 2013 1 Comment Permalink

I used to be Superman….Vol 67

From about 15 through my twenties, I used to think I was bulletproof. I guess maybe all guys do to some degree…until we get hurt.

Broken leg, broken nose…broken heart….it doesn’t matter the hurt. When we are hurt… we are vulnerable.

Vulnerability reorders our universe (the same universe that has been happily spinning around our navel since we were born…)

Vulnerability triggers some pretty scary stuff in us. Some pretty dangerous stuff as well. But vulnerability  also opens us up to hear God from a place of desperation and new perspective…which can be very good.

I’m a pilot. The most fun I ever had in an airplane was in a Pitts S-2B.  PittsIt was the summer of 1986. I was a fairly new pilot and decided that an aerobatics course would improve my skills…and be a heck of a lot of fun at the same time. I asked around and found a Pitts S-2B with a very capable instructor at Hicks Airport, not far from my home base.  I drove out and met Sandy, my instructor. We talked about the course, the cost…and of course, the Pitts. (It was just like the one to the left but in green.) The day came for the first lesson. I showed up dressed in my green mil spec Nomex flight suit with my David Clark headset and walked to the plane with Sandy to do the preflight.

The Pitts is all motor. It can get to 5000 ft faster than a Learjet from take off. The roll rate is spectacular and there is enough power to do believable vertical maneuvers.  I couldn’t wait to start this little beast to see if I could just keep up with the airplane…let alone really fly it. (Sandy was quite sure I could do neither…and she was right!)

These sport planes look small from the outside…and they are. But to fly them you sort of wear them. Like…there isn’t a lot of room in the cockpit under normal conditions. Throw the instructor in the back and put a 240 lb  guy in the front seat with a chute and it goes from full to overflowing.  Anyway… we both got in, got settled and went through the checklist. Five minutes later Sandy cranked up that 6 cyl, 400hp motor and we enjoyed the prop wash blowing back over us in the 95 degree Texas heat. We taxi’d out to the single active runway with the canopy still open. Once at the end of the runway we buttoned her up…did the run-up and let traffic in the area know we were launching. Sandy lined up the little plane and closed the throttle. My head slammed back into the seat and I watched the airspeed needle leap to life. We were airborne in a flash and rocketed skyward at nearly 2700 fpm. When we cleared the pattern Sandy wiggled the stick to let me know it was my turn. She let me get the feel of this mini fighter for a few minutes before we started working. Slow rolls, 4 point rolls, loops, barrel rolls, Cuban 8’s, spins, knife edge, inverted flight. We talked through the maneuver…she demonstrated it with me following her through… then I tried some myself. The first slow roll was pretty good. We won’t talk about the rest of the lesson…By the end of the hour and a half I was starting to turn as green as the color of the plane…but I learned a lot and was looking forward to the remainder of the course.

If I had tried any of those maneuvers in the Cessnas or Pipers I usually flew….I would have torn the wings off and for sure tumbled all the gauges…which means that the gauges that I needed to show me my attitude, altitude and heading would not have worked at all or showed me bad information. The Cessnas and Pipers were simply not built for that kind of flying.

I just took the long way around to say that when a life event like the consequences of personal sin causes our  gauges to tumble…we can lose our way in a hurry. We can no longer rely on what our senses are telling us. It is then we are flying by the “seat of our pants.” That can be very dangerous. Our self-talk becomes a little more frantic, negative and a little incoherent. We start believing the way we feel rather than trusting what we know.  For the believer this can be a fatal error.  But how do we back up and hit reboot. We don’t. We start right from where we are with the next right decision. Whatever that is. Maybe it’s getting right with God, maybe it’s saying no to the joint, the pill. Maybe it’s raising our dating standards. Maybe we put a filter on our computers. The first right decision for the believer is to trust that God is there with you right now. In the situation, in your room, in your head, in your heart. He knows you…he made you…he loves you. And regardless of how you got here…you don’t have to stay here. God may not elect to take you out of the valley but walk with you through it. It might be really hard for a long time and you might get discouraged…but don’t despair. Don’t waste any pain. Please read this:

In the final sermon of the series inspired by his son’s suicide, Rick Warren encouraged people to learn from their struggles and use them as a springboard to love and serve others more.

It has been a difficult five months for Warren since his son, Matthew, took his own life at the age of 27 after a long battle with mental health.

The Purpose Driven Life author took to the pulpit on Sunday to deliver the last installment of his seven-week sermon series, “How to get through what you’re going through.”

Each message in the series focused on the six stages of grief – shock, sorrow, struggle, surrender, sanctification and service.

In Sunday’s sermon, titled “Never Waste Your Pain”, Warren explained that God could use pain to fulfill His purposes in our lives.

“Our deepest life message often comes out of our deepest pain,” he said.

“I can endure pain if I see a purpose in it. But sadly, most people squander their suffering, don’t profit from their problems, never learn from their losses and are unable to advance from their adversity or gain from their pain.”

He pointed out suffering could make believers become more like Christ as He learned obedience through suffering.

In a similar way, he challenged people to use their pain to draw closer to God and to others.

“God didn’t spare Jesus, His only Son from pain; what makes you think He will spare you?” he added.

“The secret of every winner, whether in business, sport, love, finance or relationships, is resilience – the ability to bounce back from setbacks or failure,” Warren continued.

“Winners have the same problems losers do, but they get back up while losers stay down. The secret to a person’s resilience is perspective.”

Most importantly, our personal pain can be channeled to bless others, he contended.

“Don’t waste your pain, let God heal it, recycle it, utilize it and use it to bless other people,” he said. “Use your pain as a model for your message and a witness to the world. But to touch other people, you need to be honest – with God, yourself and others – and you need to be vulnerable.”

Citing 2 Corinthians 1:4 – 6, Warren said he intended to continue sharing with others the same comfort he himself had been given.

Wow! Can we really do that? Can I really do that? Disengage from ourselves and engage God? Even when we don’t understand why? Even when we don’t think we know how?  Even when it hurts…a lot?

YES!

There are no magic formulas. It is a daily commitment to take up our cross and follow Christ… no matter what.

Listen…you were never Superman and I was never bulletproof.

But if we know Christ as Savior… we are his kids, so important to him that Christ bought us with his blood.

My father used to say “Doug…don’t borrow trouble”  I’m happy to pass that advice along.

Hey! Are you breathing today?  If so…God is not done with you….

 

dugz4 November 19, 2013 2 Comments Permalink

Storms are sneaky…. Vol 66

storm 1I check the weather a few times every day…it’s just habit. I like to know, as much as possible, what to expect. I can’t change what’s coming, but many times I can prepare for it…and sometimes that’s all that’s needed. Sometimes not.

Storms are sneaky. They can show one way then deliver quite another. Kind of like a “bluff” in a card game. You can start playing, thinking that you know what is in everyone’s hand…then…BAM! Someone yells UNO, or GIN or Go FIsh…or…worse, takes all your money.

I am in a storm I didn’t prepare for. I should have seen it coming.  The waters had been calm for a couple of months. The summer storms had passed. We had weathered them. A little more bruised and battered perhaps, but the ship held.

We missed the signs for the storm we just entered. Or maybe we just didn’t want to see them. We were enjoying the brief calm so much that we didn’t hear the thunder rumbling in the distance..didn’t see the lightning flash. So now we are fighting the mounting waves and howling wind once more…trying to get our bearings…trying to navigate well… to keep our ship off the rocks and us out of the angry sea.

It is in times like these where Jesus often says  “Stand aside… this storm is too much for you!” Oh that I would have heeded his words more closely in past storms when I came dangerously close to disaster. But in the blackness of tonight’s storm…I welcome Jesus to the helm…the true pilot of our vessel. I’m not sure if he will whisper instruction in my ear while I steer …or put his hands on the wheel with mine to fight the waves…or simply tell me to stand aside.  It doesn’t matter…He will be with us through this storm.

It’s too early to tell what damage there may be…or if our ship will make it through intact.

But we will not be sailing alone…and with God’s help…we will be vigilant for coming storms…even while resting in calm waters….

Storms are sneaky…

 

Matthew 8:26

dugz4 November 17, 2013 Leave A Comment Permalink

Work now…later we rest… Vol 65

God has given me a LOT of do-overs in my life. I didn’t deserve them and  I didn’t always see them that way as they were happening…there were no flashing lights or wild-looking freaky dudes standing in wooden sandwich signs to warn me of the impending do-over…but it happened nonetheless…a lot.

I’ve lived a very interesting life so far. A life rich with experience. Some of it good…some not so much. Some of it intentional…some consequential…but tonight as I reflect on 58 years worth of living…I’m grateful for it all.

Occasionally I’ll allow myself the time to day-dream about winning the lottery or inheriting a lot of money from a long-lost rich relative. It’s weird, in my dream I start out by winning a million dollars…but I quickly up those winnings to hundreds of millions. (why not? it’s a dream…) I don’t know what that means… why isn’t a million  dollars enough? Probably some kink in my DNA that I should work out in therapy…

Its fun to think about what I might do with the money. Maybe pay off the new construction at church, help missions, take care of our parents, put the kids in the school of their dreams, maybe move to a larger home, buy a Ferrari…. It’s all harmless fun to a point but the wish list never stops. After I get about 10 minutes into the fantasy I decide that with all this money…I should just stop working and relax.  And I’m reminded of the dude in Luke 12 who had so much and nowhere to put it… he decided to tear down the barns he already had, to build new ones.  Remember his motto…Eat, drink, and be merry? The story didn’t end well for him. He was dead within the day.

I’m no theologian but I can pull a couple of valuable lessons out of that story.

Life is not about stuff… life is about the work God has called us to.

There are multiple places in scripture where God requires us to work. We must work to take care of our needs, and work to take care of God’s commands.  Some of us find tremendous pleasure in work…others tremendous pressure…still others find some of both.

I think work is a bit of a yardstick that God uses to measure us. Not to measure our worth…but our mettle. When asked about what we do for a living…the first thing most of us think about is where we are employed…where our paycheck comes from.  Scripture tells us that if we won’t work…we shouldn’t eat. So working for that paycheck to make sure our family can eat is important. But I think the work we do on ourselves because of what God did in us, so that he can do something through us, is more important.

The “mettle,” the resolve, the determination …it is what is squeezed out of us in the fire of life. It is what the world sees…and often how they judge whether or not being a Christian is more than just our soapbox, but the very song of our life. It is often by observing us, Christians, in the pain  of trial where unbelievers determine whether being a Christian is “worth it.”

Today we don’t see God judging our sin as quickly or harshly as He did with the rich dude in Luke. He probably should…maybe we’d pay more attention to Him…(I doubt it…) It’s not that there isn’t still a penalty for sin…or consequences, both natural and spiritual. Quite the contrary. Some of us live with the natural consequences of sin every day. That’s why there are people in jail and on antidepressants. But God is going to “square up” with us on the spiritual consequences one day soon. For those of us who know Him as Lord and Savior, we’ll receive our reward …Heaven…life with Him forever. And sadly, for those who never knew Him…an eternity of separation from Him in Hell awaits.

I’m convinced that there are no substitutes or shortcuts to work. It’s necessary.

It can be hard. It can be long. It can be tedious. But work can also be joyful, productive, and exciting. A lot of it depends on our attitude.

What’s your attitude like today? Is the glass half-full or half-empty?

I choose to see it half-full.

John 10:10

 

 

dugz4 November 13, 2013 Leave A Comment Permalink

When our kids are hurting and other stuff ….Vol 64

534903_4902533715633_1081993460_n.jpgI’m married to a wonderful gal. We celebrated our one year anniversary last week amidst sniffles and a lot of coughing. Thankfully Kathy is on her way back to health and so far I haven’t come down with anything…yet.

One of the things that is unique about our relationship  is that we both have had painful losses that have re-written our lives….and that we are able to talk about it with each other.  You might say “well of course you talk about it…you should be able to talk about anything as a married couple” That’s true…but there is a vast difference in a conversation where there is true empathy and not just sympathy. Where the perspective of a shared life experience opens channels between the two of you that could never be opened any other way.

Kathy lost her oldest child, Ross almost 4 years ago. Not long after that she lost her dad. I lost Lori, my wife of nearly 19 years about 3 and a half years ago…5 months later Lori’s dad took his life in despair over losing his daughter. Each of these losses not only affected us individually but affected our kids as well…and our relationship with our kids.

Over these last years coping with our own grief and trying to understand and love our kids through their grief has been a challenge. Sometimes we have handled it well…most times we haven’t known how to give our kids what they needed to get through it…because frankly the pain never ends. There is always something that happens, some reminder, some life event that tears off the scab and we start bleeding all over again. I don’t know how those without the Lord and a solid church family do it.  I couldn’t.

There is a special switch inside us that gets flipped “on” once you have kids. And once that switch is flipped…it never gets un-flipped. Once a parent…always a parent.

We take on new sensitivities as parents. New hopes, new joys…and new hurts.

My kids and Kathy’s kids have had some big hurts over huge losses. But our kids hurt and struggle over more that just the big things. They can be lonely…scared…lack confidence…lack direction…even in the best of times…even in the best of families… even in families who love and serve the Lord.

When we see present hurts and can look forward to some of the hurts that are coming…how do we  minister to them so that they can not only hear us…but listen to us? I don’t know about you…but Kathy and I are still trying to get that right with God’s help. I can tell you for certain that it requires a lot of prayer all along the way…at a minimum.

What if there is no clear reason your child is hurting?

When we can see the reason for the pain or struggle our course of action is usually pretty clear. Put a band-aid on a cut. Bring them to a Doctor for a broken bone. Make them chicken soup for the flu.  What if the hurt is deeper? What if our kids can’t explain it? Or are too ashamed to try?

Since I have been a young man I’ve struggled with anxiety. I don’t mean the kind of anxiety where you have a few butterflies or maybe end up  fretting over something…but rather the “I can’t breathe…I’m gonna explode if I don’t get outta here” kind. At times, the kind of anxiety where you beg God to take it away or take you home. To date my kids haven’t suffered with any of that…and I pray with all my heart they never do.

I guess my point is that even in times of hurt when the cause is unknown…the remedy isn’t. There is always a “God” component. We can always, and should always pray. Not just when a problem exists…but proactively pray.  As the old hymn says “What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer” Think about it. It is our only conscious  means of communicating to and with our heavenly Father (who has all the answers) yet sometimes it is our last resort. I know that my parents and friends have bathed me in prayer in my worst times…and now Kathy and I bathe our kids and friends and friends’ kids in prayer. Seeking wisdom, understanding, comfort and relief. Praying that God would be glorified even  in the midst of incredibly difficult times as we walk through these challenges with our kids, loved ones and friends.

I have never learned this next concept well…Kathy has.    Talk to your kids. Kathy has a way of connecting that baffles me. I am amazed (and sometimes startled a little..) by what the kids share with her.

I start out well intended. I intend to talk with them and  always end up talking at them.

I  fancy myself  a pretty good communicator to adults. I’m reasonably articulate and not afraid to get up in front of any size crowd. But in real life, I’m horrible with my own kids. My best attempts always come off as an exercise in 50 questions, where I do all the talking and they simply turn me off or shut down.  Kathy can engage them. I think it’s a gift…and I’m trying to learn from her. I think she’s rubbing off on me.  In this last year my relationships with each child has gotten better, deeper, stronger. At least I think so…you’d probably have to ask them…or maybe their friends…or read it on Facebook…:)

Here’s the bottom line as I see it.

Relationship.

Just as our own lives ebb and flow based on our relationship with our Heavenly Father so goes our relationship with our kids. It is an active, all hands on deck “on purpose” living , breathing thing. It is challenging hard work, with amazing highs and lows  mixed with moments of terror. It has us scratching our heads a good bit and down on our knees a good bit more.

Kathy and I don’t have it right yet…maybe we never will. But it is worth every bit of energy, effort, love and devotion we can muster.

Perhaps our kids will be better parents one day because they listened a little, trusted the Lord a lot and never gave up on their kids.

That is our heart’s prayer. That is our heartsong.

Proverbs 22:6, Ephesians 6:4

 

dugz4 November 5, 2013 Leave A Comment Permalink