Life from the rear-view mirror

The trouble with “Much” Vol 127

When I have very little, I don’t struggle with choice.

Decisions are more clear…outcomes more obvious.

When I have much…choice often becomes an obstacle, rather than a reward.

Wisdom pit against want can be a frustrating and dangerous competition.

So I pray for WISDOM…and not to give in to WANT, where every “win” often demonstrates a lack of discipline, immaturity and pride.

 

dugz4 January 19, 2017 Leave A Comment Permalink

Reverend Warner? Who’s that? Vol 126

For the past couple of Sundays, I’ve had a chance to preach at a local church who is without a pastor.

I’m introduced as either Rev. Warner or Pastor Warner….both of those titles sound surreal to me, although I know the folks who are referring to me in that way are just being respectful…(and I actually am licensed and ordained)
Most of the lead pastors and church leaders I’m around today have forgone the titles in referring to themselves, as they feel that people can be intimidated by them and treat them differently once they know their occupation. I get that…but for the few times a year I get to preach and happen to hear any title other than “butt-head” or “Jerk” applied to me…I’m struck with the responsibility and accountability I have to communicate God’s word truthfully and accurately.

I never want to bore people so I work hard to make the 30 minutes or so I have with them interesting…to communicate truth to the best of my ability… but to present the truth of God’s word clearly above all else. That’s where  life-change emanates from…not from anything clever turn or phrase, funny analogy or my preaching style…and not from the fact that a church or denomination has (courageously) given me a certificate and license.

I guess what I’m really saying is that I’m humbled and more aware of how sinful I am when people use Rev. or Pastor to describe me. I know what a sinner I am…chances are you do too…know what kind of sinner you are I mean.                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
And now that I think about it…maybe that’s not a bad thing to be reminded of how much I’m forgiven, how much I still need to be forgiven and of what a loving God we have to allow a sinner like me to stand in front of his people with a message of God’s love, passion and purpose for their lives. What an honor and privilege. 

 

dugz4 January 19, 2017 Leave A Comment Permalink

We are severely screwed up! Vol 125

I don’t love naturally. I’m not a hugger. I have to remember to say “I love you” to my wife and kids. I’m a horrible romantic and my kids would tell you that when I’m trying to communicate something to them I “monologue” them…often in a steady crescendo of spit, sermon and sound.
As the reality of all that sinks in…I’m hit with the sad fact that those qualities are not all that attractive in a husband, father, brother…heck…they aren’t attractive in a man at all. But despite my baser tendencies and leanings…I still do tell my wife and kids I love them. I try to listen more and I do my best to do my gender proud…but it’s not natural for me. I have to think about it. I have to prioritize it. I have to work at it…all the time.

Now…understanding that little scary slice of me…there is this other side who is easily offended, easily hurt and tends to overthink just about everything. How do all those opposing forces exist in one person? Well…meds help take the edge off…

As it turns out…I truly am my own worst enemy. Armed with this information…one would think that i could boldly take the rudder of the “ship of me” and make some course corrections to calmer, sane-er waters.

Nah…who wants to do that? I’ve gotten used to me. This is who I am…people just need to adjust. I’m fine. You want ME to change? Give me a reason. Why don’t YOU change?

Here’s what I know for sure about me…and about a lot of you too.

We are severely screwed up. We need someone to save us from ourselves…and you know what?

Someone has.

His name is Jesus.

He has saved us not only from ourselves…but he has saved us to a life of real purpose, a life of possibility, a life of promise. He tells us that we can be more that we ever thought we could be and he empowers us to be that person through the working of the Holy Spirit.

To some that will seem too mystical…too magical…too easy. But it will resonate with others. They will invite Jesus into their life to be the forgiver of their sin and the leader of their life. Their lives will change from the inside…and they can trust the one who changed them to keep them changed.

The cost to us for this amazing regeneration of mind, body and soul? Nothing.

The cost to Jesus?
Death on the cross…but death was not the end. The Bible tells us that in three days he rose again…conquering death having paid the ultimate cost for our sin forever.

This is amazing love. This is amazing grace.

dugz4 October 5, 2016 Leave A Comment Permalink

There are ALWAYS dirty dishes to do ….VOL 124

dertyI’m never sorry when I see something to do around the house…and I do it. (It doesn’t happen as often as it should thanks to multiple  “Kathy” interventions) But for instance…last night the kitchen had taken a licking from the day’s activity. Someone had mercifully loaded the dishwasher and now the green “done” light on the front panel was glaring at me. I looked around and there were dirty dishes in the sink awaiting their turn in the machine.

It had been a long, hard day. I was tempted to go back into the living room, sit down, finish my movie and go to bed…leaving the mess for someone else. But I dug into the dishes. it took me about 15 minutes. Kathy came out for a drink and saw I was working. Thanked me and pitched in. That made the job even shorter and now at 6am, I see a clean kitchen from my perch at the computer.

I’m not a neat-nick. But there is something about “clean and orderly” that is stress reducing. Kind of like going to work and starting with a clean desk rather than have to work through the pile from the day before just to get to the work of the day. It’s not always possible, but it almost always feels better to start fresh.

Lamentations 3:22 – 23 goes like this. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions (mercies) never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

The dishes will get dirty again today…that’s a fact. Here’s another fact…I will need God’s mercy and forgiveness many times today as I slog through some of the day’s challenges that I already know about…let alone the “surprises” that are bound to “pile on.” And God will be there…walking with me…guiding me…convicting me…convincing me…forgiving me…strengthening me…encouraging me…blessing me…helping me to be a blessing. He always loves…he is always faithful. He is the ultimate good father. It is the privilege of living in the house of the King.

dugz4 September 16, 2016 Leave A Comment Permalink

Jesus “In Focus” …..VOL 123

telescopeTonight I got a chance to take a look through my buddy Jim Ford’s new telescope. I’ve never had the occasion to do that before. It was extremely cool.  Jim pressed a few buttons on the telescope’s internal GPS and after some whirring and clicking, the telescope focused on Saturn, some 834,000,000  miles away (give or take). For a moment, it was just a bright point of light in the night sky but in a few seconds, the telescope brought Saturn into clear view. Throughout the next 30 minutes or so,  I saw a couple of satellites pass by , saw the red glow of Mars and truly enjoyed God’s handiwork in the heavenlies.
The telescope was able to bring far away Saturn into focus. We could see its rings and even one of the moons. It’s been right there since creation…I’ve seen pictures in books…but discovering it for myself last night was an amazing moment.

As a believer…I’m all about people discovering Jesus for themselves. He too has been there all along, even before creation. Man’s attempt at finding Jesus or God or the creator has lead to what many would call “religion.” A “man-made” attempt to reach God by the performance of a set of rules. As many have found…religion is loveless and empty. And it has one major flaw. There is nothing we can do to earn a relationship with God. We come to God by grace through faith alone. It’s all about accepting a gift from God that is freely given.

A few days ago I heard a “conversation” (read that: sermon) by Andy Stanley, lead pastor of North Point church in Georgia, It turned out to be quite controversial for some. In his “conversation” he talked about some people’s struggle with God because of the Bible. Many people struggle with how the Bible got here. It’s validity, authenticity and inerrancy, infallibility.  And while it is true that the growth of Christianity did explode prior to the Bible being written…the Bible is the only book today that brings Jesus into focus for many still far away from him.

I know where Andy was going with all this. But I think we need to be careful if we attempt to disconnect the Bible from God and Theology simply to address the concerns of people far from God or even those who once were close to him but are moving away…even if we mean it for their good. People far from God (people who don’t have a personal relationship) are unable to discern the things of God. People need a clear message of how much God loves them and the sacrifice that was made by Jesus for them as found in the Bible. We never have to defend or make excuses for the Bible. It stands on it’s own as God’s holy, written word. And I for one, stand with it.

Not everyone will accept the message of salvation, the forgiveness of sin, found in the Bible…but the message is meant for everyone.
“He (God) was not willing that any should perish (go to Hell) but that all would come to repentance (find forgiveness of sin and go to Heaven)

We are never going to convince people who are struggling with God and Christianity with any argument that we can present. We can’t convince them that Christianity is true or that it is right for them. That is the Holy Spirit’s job. But we can present the truth of Scripture time and time again…and let the promise of God’s word do it’s work. The promise goes like this in Isaiah 55:11…So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
Today we have the Bible…God’s word. Today all God’s revealed truth lies within it’s pages. It stands on its own. It is true, relevant and prophetic. It tells of amazing grace that is ours… freely given.

I find it interesting that we will pick up a magazine or book to learn something of diminishing value at best…but read the Bible to learn of eternal value? Talk about reading the Bible as God’s revealed will for his creation? C’mon! That’s just nuts!

Well…maybe to some. But to millions of us…it has been what God used to draw us to himself and what He still uses to keep us close.

dugz4 September 5, 2016 Leave A Comment Permalink

Leaving Texas… VOL. 122

ToyotaLynchburg, VA August 1980

I loaded up my little orange 1973 Toyota Corola that I’d purchased from Les Speakman in Nashville a couple years before, and headed southwest to a little town in Texas on Lake Ray Hubbard…Rockwall.
Rockwall was truly a sleepy little town back then…I still have fond memories of Grandma’s fried chicken, sweet tea and late nights with the boys ( Stan Kellam, Mark Roberts and Mark Hoffman ) at the Truck Stop. These days, Rockwall, TX would no longer be recognizable, or so I’m told.
But anyway…I was on the road once again to what I thought was going to be home…and a place I could settle down. I’d meet and marry a nice Texas girl, buy a pair of boots, get a big belt buckle and maybe starch my jeans…buy a horse or two…oh yea…and finish my pilot’s license, (a quest I had started when I was 16.)

I was close to having life all figured out…or so I thought.
Eight years into it and life wasn’t so “figured out.” I was broke, didn’t have a girlfriend, wore out my boots and had my horses repossessed. ( I actually did have horses)
I hocked everything I had to get my pilot licenses, spent a night in jail for writing a $15 bad check to Kroger’s for food (they are tough in Texas) and was late on my rent.

Something had to change.
Thankfully it did…and I’m writing this from Rochester, NY and not Texas…married with 4 kids and a dog. (I’ve given up on horses…)

So what does this have to do with anything?

This morning as I was putting dishes into the dishwasher I saw two old white bowls on the shelf that I had brought back from my first real, on my own, apartment in Texas, 28 years ago. They are both pretty weary, but they are the only things that remain from my sojourn in the Lone Star State…except for memories.
They are a reminder of the journey that I had been on. I would like to say, “The journey that God led me on…” but God wouldn’t have wanted to take any credit for that crazy 8 years…

In 1988 I left Texas in a big U-Haul truck with Mom and Dad stuffed into the front seat…towing my car. It was a long 1434 miles back to NY… and one of the lowest points of my relatively young life. I’ve only been back to Texas twice. Once for a friend’s wedding and once to do some business. I truly miss my friends there…but I don’t miss Texas…not even a little.
You know…I really should just throw those bowls away. They aren’t much good any longer. They are chipped and cracked and we only use them if there is nothing else clean. But I digress…again.
For many years now I’ve been more attuned to what God is doing in my life. I’m in the Word more…I’m trying to lead my family well…and I’m involved in ministry once again. Life doesn’t look anything like I imagined it would as I was driving to Texas so many years ago…but that is a good thing.
As I feel the rough edges of one of the old white bowls that is holding my cereal this morning (I forgot to run the dishwasher…) I’m reminded that God is not finished with us…until he’s finished with us. If you can still fog a mirror…God can still use you. If you’re available. It doesn’t matter if you have rough edges, cracks or chips. God can still fill up your bowl with good things from his hand.

dugz4 August 17, 2016 Leave A Comment Permalink

A heavenly love tap… …VOL. 121

Speaking for myself, the hardened, skillful sinner that I am…when I’m being disciplined or chastised by God, I often know why…and usually within that period of discipline, I’m convicted of whatever it is and seek to restore the relationship claiming 1 John 1:9.
But Hebrews 12:6 says “For the Lord disciplines him who he loves, and chastises (disciplines) every son whom he receives.”
I have become a big fan of Walter Henrichsen over the past few weeks. Rarely have I looked forward to my devotional reading more. I see myself in the pages and come away with new insight and encouragement…that is if I’m not burdened and broken because of my failing. But my devotional time has never been more profitable.
So according to this verse…the only prerequisite for God’s discipline…or chastisement is that you are a son/daughter, loved by God. The relationship with God must exist first for you to fully understand this meaning.
The discipline may come as a result of disobedience or it may come simply to make us more like Jesus. As Henrichsen implies, it makes little difference as to why…it is all for our good. It is all to help us reach our potential in him. I hope you got that. Whether we are disciplined towards repentance for wrongdoing or disciplined simply to make us a better, stronger follower of Christ…we benefit either way. Love and discipline or maybe Love with discipline. As parents who love our children…we discipline them. We don’t discipline another family’s kids…that would be inappropriate…there is no relationship there.
So it is with God. He disciplines his family. And we are his child if we have trusted Christ to save us. And if we are his kids…we should expect to be disciplined both for our good and for His glory.

dugz4 August 10, 2016 Leave A Comment Permalink

“You’re free to go”….Dude!…Really? VOL. 120

TrooperI always slow down at the same spot on Rt 590S… except for today. I’d just gotten off the phone (hands free speakerphone for all you distraction nazis… ) And as the conversation intensified, so did the pressure of my right foot on the gas pedal. By the time I realized what I was doing and where I was…I saw the State Trooper…hiding in plain sight. I got right off the gas and glanced at the speedometer…72mph. I just signaled and pulled over.
By the time the Trooper got to my window I had all my docs out ready for him. He was a young guy… mid twenties maybe and he was very pleasant, with Tom Cruise-ish looks. He took my license and said he clocked me at 72.

Embarrassed…I said I knew…and that I hadn’t been paying attention due to a rough phone call with my 17 year old who was in crisis. He smiled and quipped “Aren’t all 17 year olds in some kinda crisis?” I chuckled and had to agree with him there too.


He walked around the car to make sure I was legal, then to my surprise (and relief…) handed my license back and thanked me for pulling over so quickly and being respectful. I put my stuff away… signaled, put the car in gear and pulled away. No points on my license. No increase in insurance premium. No speeding ticket…not even a stern “don’t do that again!”


The truth is… I was guilty. I knew it and he knew it. He didn’t have to show me grace, but he did just the same.
I know there’s a big difference between getting a speeding ticket and going to heaven or hell. But I couldn’t help noticing the one common thread…grace. Unmerited, undeserved favor.


I’m thankful I didn’t get the speeding ticket I deserved…I’m more thankful that I won’t get the hell I deserve. I am the benefactor of God’s amazing grace found in Jesus and his death and resurrection. I could never deserve it. It can’t be earned. It is freely given but comes at great expense. The life of Jesus. There is no greater love… No greater demonstration of Grace than Christ’s death and resurrection. It’s a gift of grace to be claimed simply by believing in the gospel message.
John 3:16

Don’t beg God for what He says he won’t give you….VOL 119

beggingI have started reading my own devotions again. I found a book through a FB post from a college friend of mine called: “Thoughts from the Diary of a Desperate Man” The pilot verse this morning was Ephesians 3:3 and goes on to say “…how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly.”
When the Bible is clear about something, we can understand and apply clearly. We can’t (and don’t) always apply that logic to its mysteries. We sometimes approach them as if God is challenging us to “figure it out.” I think those folks who want to run with that “false challenge” may have missed the point. Conjecture and educated guessing are fun, even encouraging us in thinking about the greatness of God…but we should be careful. There are definitely mysteries both in God’s character and his plan that we don’t (and won’t) fully understand now. They are mysteries on purpose. By not understanding fully everything of God and his plan, these mysteries do help us understand that this present life requires us to “walk by faith.”  To trust God even through the fog and uncertainty of mystery.
I have friends who are passionate about eschatology. They can hardly speak of anything else because of the attraction and challenge that the mystery of “end times” provides them. Nothing wrong with that kind of passion and the reading, digging and research that goes along with it. It’s great discipline. However it is not terribly profitable to our main job of teaching and preaching the gospel…bringing as many folks with us to heaven as we can. I’d rather someone come to know that God loves them and has made a way to heaven through Christ and the cross than be able to explain (read that: guess at…) the meaning of the 70th week of Daniel. Again…the desire to fully understand God’s word is noble…but in the case of the mysteries of it…not practical.

Check out this excerpt of the devotion:
“No one can know the future but the One who decides it. Although He has revealed a great deal about the future, much of it can be misunderstood. His promises are true; your understanding of those promises is prone to error. Hold tentatively your convictions regarding the future. Your hope rests on His return, but you know little about when He will return, the exact order of events after His return, and what heaven will be like. Some mysteries have been revealed; more will be revealed when Christ comes again. Speculation may be fun, but it is not all that profitable. God does not want you to know all; He wants you to walk by faith.”

And so I encourage us all to invest in your understanding and application of what God has made clear…and trust God for those things that puzzle or perplex you now.  Just like Morpheus said to Neo*…The answers are coming.

  • The Matrix

It’s not all about the “LOSS”… VOL. 118

LORIMy kids lost their mom to cancer just over 6 years ago. That was a defining moment. Their lives were forever altered. As much as I wanted the outcome of Lori’s illness to be different for their sake…it wasn’t.  And all the things I believed about God, his sovereignty, his mercy and his plan…were tested. Are still being tested…
“Why?” is a question that doesn’t necessarily apply just to big divides over theology and the mysteries of God. There are plenty of “why?” questions that pop up all on their own. (and it’s not like we don’t want to know those “why?” answers too.) And some of them are knowable…or at least guess-able…some not so much.
These days…and for the most part…I leave the big God whys? alone. My feeling is that once we’re in heaven we will just know the answers. I don’t think we’ll need to “take a number” to talk to Jesus about any burning question we had here on earth. I can’t prove that in scripture…but I think you’ll find I’m right. If I’m not…come find me in heaven and I’ll apologize 😉 I might give you my place in line!
Losing a parent creates a lot of conflict and questions in a child’s mind and heart. I don’t think there’s a lot of blame that they take on as sometimes happens in divorce…but when a parent dies, it’s a different dynamic.
I’m no doctor, and all I can do is observe my own kids. I’m not trying to draw any psychological conclusions or provide any answers ’cause I don’t have them. Our family is still a work in progress. I just want to point out a danger and a conflict I go through on a daily basis for those parents who may have a challenge with their kids after a huge loss like our family experienced.

Don’t try to tie every behavioral issue back to the loss…like I often do.

You will create a box for them, a box around them that you will try to keep them in…to protect them (you say to yourself.) In that box that you’ve created, no real-life rules apply. You can justify just about everything because of the loss of mom or dad…but you keep them from the growth that comes from consequences (their own consequences)…good and bad. That should be evident to us…but somebody needs to inform our hearts of that truth. Or maybe it’s just me.
I tend to live vicariously through my kids when it comes to the loss of Lori. How would I react to this? What would I be feeling? Am I mad at God? I wish mom were here now…and a thousand other things…none of which are helpful or encouraging by the way. In the end I can, and often do, end up making excuses for questionable behavior…bad decisions. For friend choices…for life choices.
Here’s a truth I’m having to learn…they are young adults and they WILL make mistakes, have bad days…choose friends I don’t like…have car accidents…have broken hearts and experience life as God gives them breath. They will all deal with Lori’s death differently and in their own time…but they are all alive and moving through adult life. They don’t need me to live vicariously through them…they need me to allow them to live their own lives. They will take each decision as it comes. I am there to help and gently guide and direct… but ultimately they will make the decision and (for the most part) live with the consequence…good or bad.
Part of the wisdom that we should have as moms and dads is knowing when the right time and age is to simply let them go. Step back. Watch them fly.
Listen…all wisdom comes from God. Some of the more practical wisdom comes from experience. I am thrilled when I’m smart enough to apply both correctly. That doesn’t happen as often as it should.