A New Beginning

It doesn’t seem that long ago that my wife and I were coming home with our first child. We had our oldest son Trey when we were both 24 and I remember that first day home with him was filled with both excitement and fear. I’m responsible for this little human that does nothing by sleep, eat and cry it seems.

Then as the days wore on, a smile here and there from him would light up the day for all of us, making us forget the late nights and constant barrage of diapers. Seeing him slowly become mobile and active was not only exciting but again, still fearful. How could we care for this child that was slowly becoming more independent (not really, he was still just a baby, but it felt like he was growing up so quickly over the first few months)

Years went by and we saw that baby become a young boy, full of his own personality. And again, I had that excitement and fear. Here was a young boy who was soaking in all the information he could in his environment and that was forming his personality. And the fear came back, because I realized he was watching us and learning from us. So I quickly understood that now I was responsibility for raising this young boy to become a young man who was kind and gentle, yet fun loving and strong.

Fast forward a few years and we’ve moved into his teen years. Much of his personality is formed and he has become that individual and we hope we’ve taught him well. The rebellious teenage years kick in and while he was not very much trouble at all, the fear set in that now would I have to go from being his best friend and teacher, to being more of an enforcer of rules meant to keep him safe and from making stupid decision that would affect the rest of his life. Again, I didn’t have too much to worry about, I must have done my job well enough during the younger years, because Trey was turning into a respectable, hard-working, loving and funny young man.

No here we are today…this first-born of ours is 22 and a completely independent young man. He is hard-working and fun-loving. He respects and loves us as parents and he has come back to being one of my best-friends. He loves and will do anything for his family, his brothers and sister, his grandparents and extended family can always count on him to be there when we need him.

And now, he is beginning that journey into the next phase of his life, one that seems not that long ago for myself, where he got down on a knee and asked for his girls hand in marriage. He has found a fine young lady, one that cares for my son as fiercely as we do. One that has become part of our family as much as if she were truly one of our own. I couldn’t be prouder of them as they begin this journey.

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. – Genesis 2:24

We’ve done what we can, but I think we’ve done OK as my father did with me. He will make a great husband and someday a great father. And I hope that in 20 years or so, he can reflect back on his life and his children as I am today and see that the love of our children never fades no matter how old we and they get.

I would love to have those days back when he was young and all he wanted to do was throw a ball with me out in the yard. Those are some of the memories I cherish most with him. But I can’t wait to see where life takes him as I know he will go far in life, much farther than I could have ever imagined when we brought him home that first day.

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Just Do it!

I’ve been trying to do everything other than write this post. Why? It’s not a great revealing post nor one that I will reveal a great sin. This post is nothing more than a statement of what I feel God is calling me to do. And by putting it down on virtual paper, it feels more real, more ‘official’ if you will. Something that know that it’s down on paper and out of my head, I have nothing left but to take action on it.

Why do I struggle even putting this out there? I’ve been looking for this for a long time. I’ve written many posts here about seeking God’s will and purpose for my life. I’ve spent a few years now seeking and waiting. I don’t want this to be just another one of those posts of “This is what I will or should do” and then never take action and a year from now I’m back looking for my purpose.

So that’s why I struggle. If I write it down, I will need to take action upon it. Two things happened recently that triggered this post (despite me writing different posts first in a unconscious attempt to avoid this one).

First, I’m just browsing around Facebook and stumble upon a person with whom I not even friends with on there. He is on a long journey across America seeking out the homeless, the down-trodden and helping where he can. That could be as simple as buying a meal, paying for a hotel room, or simply just a good conversation. Despite his own sinful nature, he is making an impact on people’s lives and planting the seed of Christ in many. Some of the stories I read, touched me in the few minutes I spent. I felt God asking very clearly, “How have you helped people lately?”

As I went to bed last night, still thinking about those stories I read and trying to contemplate what God is telling me, I do what I do most nights, I lay down to do a little reading before turning out the lights. Currently I’m reading a book (restarting it actually) by John Maxwell called The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth. As I’m reading through the first chapter , called “The Law of Intentionality” it strikes me how I still can’t take my mind off the stories I had just read on Facebook.

This chapter is sub-titled “Growth Doesn’t Just Happen.” It talks about how you have to be intentional about personal growth. You can’t just sit back and wait for growth to happen. You can’t just say “I’ll do it tomorrow.” You know how easy it is to put off things. I’m a natural procrastinator…if I can wait to do something until later, I probably will.

As I read through to the end of the chapter, one thing stood out to me…the call to “Just do it now!” Start now. Schedule time in your day if you have to. Put it on your calendar. Whatever you have to do, just do it and do it now! Maxwell pulled this quote by Jennifer Reed in the April 19, 2011 issue of SUCCESS magazine;

Can there be a more insidious word? Later, as in “I’ll do it later.” Or, “Later, I’ll have time to write that book that’s been on my mind for the past five years.” Or, “I know I need to straighten out my finances…I’ll do it later.”

“Later” is one of those dream-killers, one of the countless obstacles we put up to derail our changes of success. The diet that starts “tomorrow,” the job hunt that happens “eventually,” the pursuit of the life dream that begins “someday” combine with other self-imposed roadblocks and lock us on autopilot.

Why do we do this to ourselves anyway? Why don’t we take action now? Let’s face it: The familiar is easy; the uncharted path is lined with uncertainties.

What a statement of my life. I seem to be waiting for stuff to happen. Meanwhile, the world keeps turning, lives go on and opportunities that God has put before me pass me by.

Dose of real life

Then not too long after, I received news that a young man of just 20 years old was killed in a motorcycle accident. This young man, whom I had coached in baseball and was friends with my daughter, in fact they even went on a date or two a few years back, had everything headed in the right direction for him. He was a good kid. He was studying to be a nurse and was on the path to graduating, being married soon and making a difference in many people’s lives.

However, in just an instance, his life ended. A senseless tragedy to be sure. But what was remarkable was how our small mid-western community gathered around the family and each other to comfort each other on the loss of this fine young man. God used this tragedy for good. It doesn’t necessarily take the sting from the loss, but we know that God can use a bad situation for His glory.

So what came out of this tragedy? Well to start, we know now that a community can rally around a family in the midst of their suffering. But also, on a more tangible note, a scholarship has been setup for graduating students at our local high school for students entering into nursing.

The world keeps turning, lives will go on, but this opportunity to take a tragedy and create something helpful out of it was not missed by the community. He will forever be remembered through this scholarship and the good that it does for others.

How do I start?

So how do I begin? Well I still don’t really have that answer. But what did I just learn? Just do it and do it now! My inclination is to wait until God has showed it all to me. But by then, it could be too late. I feel God calling me to step out in faith, even a small step, but step nonetheless into faith that God will guide my path. My Facebook friend may have had only a vague sense of direction and places he wanted to travel. But, he let’s the road take him where it takes him and be on the lookout for the God appointed opportunities that cross his path.

This post is putting me on notice. God I feel calls us to be more than just ‘good’ people. God calls us to so much more;

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. – 1 Timothy 6:11-12

God is calling us to take action, to just do it. I will find ways, even small ones, to step out in faith each day. I will pay attention to the life that God presents to me every moment, the opportunities to help someone in need, to smile at someone or just to listen to a broken heart. I will resist the temptation to ignore those that I may percieve as more “troubled” as me. I will resist the urge to strike out at those that ridicule me, try to deter me or tear me down. I will make a point each day to do one more thing towards the growth of God’s kingdom. God doesn’t need me, but he wants to use me so why wouldn’t I want to be part of his work.

What does Jesus mean to me?

I struggle at times finding purpose in my life.  I have a great family with an awesome wife and 4 great children, and I feel that I’ve had a great purpose in raising them up and supporting my family. I’m involved in a lot of different areas in my local community, mostly revolving around the youth and sports and that keeps me very busy outside of work.   But there are days when I feel something missing, as if I’m missing some calling that God has given me, but I’ve not responded.  This week has been one of those weeks, where I’ve questioned what I’m doing as it seems I’ve just been going through the motions of life.

Early this morning I woke up with this heavy on my mind and the question came to me, What does Jesus mean to me?   I mean, what does he REALLY mean to me?  Is he more than just a figurehead, someone I can relate to when people ask about my beliefs?  Or is he really someone who I identify with and whom I have daily interaction with?  I think if I can figure out the answer to that question, I can find what I need to fill that void I feel at times.

So what is my plan?

First I’m on a mission to discover what Jesus really means to me and how I fit into his plan.  If I don’t learn what Jesus means to me and what I mean to him, I fear that the following steps may be in vain.

Secondly, I intend to find (or draw closer to) my purpose here.  This I think will be done largely in parallel with step 1.  I may discover that I’m already living his plan for me and I need to just embrace it or I may find that he is calling me to something quite different.  I’m not sure how I’m to do this, but I suspect as I learn some revelations in my first step, I may soon discover that step two becomes much easier.  I’ve read Rick Warren’s – The Purpose Driven Life in the past, but it’s been many years.  I’ve pulled it off the shelf and plan on working my way through that as well.

Finally, I plan on living out my purpose.  I plan on living my life with abandon, in pursuit of what God has put me here for.   I talked about this a lot at the end of last year, and while I had some plans and great motivations, I’ve stumbled in truly living this out as I hadn’t gone through step 1 and 2 yet.

So why am I telling you this?

Why indeed.  Well for a few reasons.

  1. Encouragement – I hope to encourage others that may be going through the same trials and thoughts as I am.  Perhaps seeing what I’m doing and discovering about my own life’s journey, will help others in pursuit of theirs.  So please, let me know if something I’ve discovered has made a difference to you.  This leads right into #2.
  2. Encouragement – Yes this is here twice.  I’m hoping to be encouraged to continue on.  I know that I’ll struggle through this in the long term.  I know that if I begin to be impactful in my life or in others, the enemy will mount an attack, to discourage me.  I hope to strike up some friendships through this process. so please feel free to reach out to me.
  3. Accountability – Along with encouragement, I need some accountability in this.  Not only do I want to be accountable to continue the process and to follow up when I reach step 3, but I want to be sure that what I’m sharing is building and encouraging others.  “For where two or three gather together because they are mine, I am here among them.” – Matthew 19:20
  4. Validation – There is a point where the things I’ve discovered need to be validated against scripture and against other righteous people.  “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” – James 5:16

So join me in this journey to discover what Jesus means to me and in my quest to discover my life’s purpose.  Maybe I’ll discover that I’m right where I’m meant to be, but regardless I plan on learning so much during this journey, I can’t wait to get started.

 

What does Christmas mean to you?

What does Christmas mean to you?  That’s a good question that is worthy of some time in thought these next few weeks.  We’ve just come off arguably the biggest shopping day of the year.  I admit, my wife and I did a little shopping on Friday.  No we didn’t shop at crazy hours and we didn’t cut into family time on Thanksgiving.  It was a matter of, we needed a few groceries (as a side-note, grocery stores are not that crowded the day after Thanksgiving…great day to go get some food if you need to)and while we were out, we stopped at a few places that were not very crowded.   After some more family time in the afternoon, my wife and I went to a charity Christmas auction that lasts until the wee-hours of the morning.  Didn’t buy much, but great time spent with her.  But is the shopping what epitomizes what Christmas means to me?

Christmas is about Christ!

Christmas remains for me a holiday about tradition, about family, about remembrance and about celebration of the birth of our Savior.  The shopping, the lights and colors, the commercialism is all at the bottom of priorities.  If we did nothing else than gather together on Christmas to share some simple gifts that were made or bought with love and to celebrate with some good food that would be enough.   Remembering the birth of Christ is what matters.  Without that, there would be no holiday, there would be no celebration, and honestly no hope beyond this life.

Christmas is about giving.

Christmas for me is a time for giving and being a blessing to others.  No, I don’t necessarily mean giving the best gifts, I mean giving of ourselves to those in need.  My regular readers you’ll know that I’m big on trying to be a blessing to others.  This can be as easy as a kind word or a simple service to someone else.  During the height of the “occupy” movement of protests around the country, I wrote a lengthy blog that I refer back to from time to time.  Occupy Charity at Christmas was a reflection on what it means to be a charitable and giving person (and nation for that matter).

With my goal of living a year of Thanksgiving, I’m announcing here in this post first that I’m in the planning stages of avenues for me to show my thanks to some local charities that I can in part be a blessing to my community that I live in.  Also in stretching myself spiritually and living with abandon, I am working on ways to have this blog and my other writings help me in this goal to be a blessing to others.   This is all still in the planning stages and the only reason I’m even mentioning it on here is so that my readers can lift this up in prayer that God guides me in the ways I can best serve his kingdom.  I hope over the coming weeks, I’ll be able to announce more concrete plans and thoughts here.

What does Christmas mean to you?

Ask yourself this question.  I think it is a personal question and the answer that I’ve come to above may not be the one that you arrive at.  But honestly ask yourself that question and reflect the direction that God leads you.