Point of No Return

Point of No Return

Today was a busy day.

Last night, Lee’s sister, brother-in-law, nephew, and his fiancé made the drive from Dothan, Alabama, to our house. They wanted to be here early in the morning so we could get started on packing up Patsy’s belongings into a truck and then make the six-hour drive back to ‘Bama. We spent the morning moving boxes, loading furniture, and getting creative with how best to fill the sixteen-foot Penske truck. My hat’s off to Lee’s nephew Hunter who Tetris’d the inside of that vehicle and made it all fit.

We said our goodbye’s at noon and off they went.

After a brief rest, Lee and I went out for a bite. As we sat at the restaurant exhausted, and while recapping the managed chaos that was the morning, the reality of the situation seemed to hit us both at the same time.

“I can’t believe we got it all to fit.”

“Mostly all of it.”

“True, but at least all the essentials are in the truck.”

*pregnant pause as we looked each other in the eyes*

“There’s no turning back now.”

“Nope!”

And there it was, like a ton of bricks on our table. We knew for a month this day would come. We’d been discussing Patsy’s move for several years. Yet it felt almost surreal to be in the conscious understanding of the situation and having a, “Wow! This really happened,” moment.

As I mentioned yesterday, having my mother-in-law live with us was actually quite great. And although we were sad she was gone, the more pressing feeling at that moment was how we’d passed a proverbial point of no return. It was a tangible feeling of commitment to our call to move into full-time mission work.

Whether or not the opportunity in the Dominican Republic works out (we are very confident it will), the fact remains there’s no deviating from our plan to sell the house. Our next step is in ministry, and our next step does not involve our current home.

Oh snap!

 

Yes, it can be a bit intimidating. If you let it, the anxiety can be overwhelming. But Lee and I have been operating from a place of obedience since we prayerfully decided to heed God’s call and go. And acting out of obedience means placing our full faith in God.

Coincidentally, we came across an ad for MyIntent.org, a site from which you can order bracelets and other items with your special, intentional word. For me, that word is Surrender. For Lee, her word is Brave. I think both words perfectly summarize our situation. We have the courage to move into the unknown because we surrender our fears to God.

Why would we ever want to turn back from that?


So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” – Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT

Frankly, My Dear …..

Frankly, My Dear …..

As part of National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), I am taking part in a daily blog post challenge through the BlogHer website. Today’s prompt:

If you could be completely honest with no regrets, what would you say and to whom?


As a Christ follower, I do not believe in the concept of no regrets. Regrets are essential to keep us grounded and connected to all human beings with whom we interact. In the same way our nervous system protects our bodies (the feeling of heat helps keep us from being burned), I believe the ability to feel regret mirrors that function for our souls. Regret requires us to be critical and thoughtful with our actions and decision making so as to not hurt others or even ourselves.

All that being said, I am torn at the question in today’s prompt. I immediately think about the darkest time in my life, and how I would react then versus how I would react now if given the opportunity to confront face the person whom I hold held responsible.

Bobby Cox
Thinking of you *used* to make me want to go full-on Bobby Cox.

Being eleven years removed from my personal rock-bottom, and having lived a wonderful, God-restored life since then, I’ve been able to both grant and receive forgiveness and, for the most part, not look back. Still, there is something healthy – in a cathartic kinda’ way – to go through the motions in my mind of lashing out at those who’ve hurt me.

Still, in the end, His instructions as dictated by His word always ring true. As a result, I think my exercise for this prompt goes something like this.


“I’ve been waiting a long time to tell you this to your face. I haven’t seen you since you hurt me, and now it’s my turn to do the same!”

Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. – Luke 6:28

“You looked me in the eyes and told me time and time again that you would be there for me. And when push came to shove, you weren’t.”

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. – Colossians 3:13

“I gave up everything for you. I changed my whole life for you. I made you my priority above everything else.”

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. – Matthew 6:33

“We were perfect together and you ruined everything!”

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. – Romans 8:6

“You left me there, all alone and by myself. You left me there shattered, and you didn’t even look back.”

Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. – Psalms 30:2


The moral of the story is clear. For every angry, hate-filled, vitriolic, driven-by-revenge tongue lashing the devil urges us to deliver, God has already provided His response to us via Scripture.

We pick and choose what we say and what we reveal to whom according to our human sensibilities, but because God sees all and God knows all, we have no choice but to be completely honest with Him. When we surrender our pain to God and allow ourselves to operate in forgiveness of others, we can rest assured we’re on the path of truly living a life with no regrets.

revenge


nablopomo

The Stranger

I grew up on the music of Billy Joel. His collection of songs makes up the soundtrack of my youth, and I love putting his music on in the background when I’m doing stuff around the house. It really does take me back to a good time in my life.

I was doing that today and his song The Stranger came on the playlist. I’ve listened to the song a thousand times, but today I listened to it for the first time from a completely different perspective.

Well we all have a face
That we hide away forever
And we take them out and show ourselves
When everyone has gone
Some are satin some are steel
Some are silk and some are leather
They’re the faces of the stranger
But we love to try them on

Stranger

As a Christ follower, I do believe we’re engaged in spiritual warfare every day. Our lives are in the middle of a combat zone, and we’re caught between God’s love and mercy, and the wretchedness of the enemy who will do anything to keep us away from Him. It seems like a no-brainer, right? Who wouldn’t want to be with God? But if there’s one advantage the enemy has it’s that he operates on a plain of existence that’s easily visible to our human brains (and bodies).

I struggle every day with setbacks. From the things I see to the things I do, I know they don’t honor God, but I do them anyways. Why? Because they feel good or provide instant gratification or because they’re easy and fit so comfortably into my pattern of lazy. I truly believe laziness, comfort, and convenience are all tools used by the enemy to distract us and keep us away from God. A perfect example is my being to lazy to set my alarm on Saturday night and oversleeping on Sunday morning, thus missing the opportunity to go to church. As they say, the devil is in the details.

Devil

I know the man I want to be, the man I am trying to be. I see the vision of myself five to ten years from now, living and working in a foreign country, calling God’s will my career. I then try to juxtapose that with the person I am now, with the stranger that lives inside me. The guy who still feels the impulse to flip off the idiot in traffic. The guy who has a Masters degree in the use of the F-word in conversation. The guy who struggles with thoughts of lust and sinful desires (darn you, yoga pants!).

Though you drown in good intentions
You will never quench the fire
You’ll give in to your desire
When the stranger comes along

Yet even though the daily battles are real, it’s still about the journey and the process of walking in faith with Jesus.  God provides so many opportunities and tools along the way to remind me of where I need grow, and to guide me in that direction. Just today I came across this article in Relevant Magazine. It was very thought provoking for me, and my takeaway was how we’re all called to be patient with each other, specifically in the context of social media and Internet comments. This is most definitely an area in which I fail daily.

The culture of hot takes and instant Facebook statuses isn’t exactly conducive to the idea of being “slow to speak and slow to become angry,” but it does provide an opportunity to show grace, humility and kindness. We can demonstrate that the way of the Gospel is different than the way of the world by not being quick to respond with biting takedowns every time something happens that “offends” us.

Then I received an email from my friend. In it, he detailed his recent struggles and how he’s closer to God as a result. My friend’s troubles are real and serious. They’ve cost him a lot, both financially and emotionally. It was a sobering reminder of how blessed I am, and why there’s no reason for me to not overcome my burdens when I see what he’s done (and continues to do) to overcome his. The summary excerpt of his message is below.

This entire experience has reminded me that God can work in our lives. We need to understand that He knows what’s best, and trust Him. I pray daily that God helps me avoid situations and feelings that would tempt me … . I am at peace with what happened, and know that God will get me through the rest of what I need to deal with. … When it’s time, God will provide. I know this now. I’m not happy about it but I understand what I need to do, and I know that I’m not alone. And, the reality is that what I have far, far outweighs what I don’t have – God, family, love, friends, and faith. With these things, I am able to face anything.

The word’s to Billy Joel’s song and from my friend’s email are a reminder of our human nature. We’re imperfect beings loved unconditionally by a perfect God. We will fall and He will pick us up. We will fail and he will forgive us. We will be broken and He will transform us into something beautiful.

Though He may seem, to us, like a stranger at times, God knew us and loved us before He created us. He is intimacy and He is love. When the weight of the battle feels like too much, all we have to do is surrender it to Him, the one who’s been there from the start, and will always be by our side.

Keep On Keep’n On

You know that saying, “How do you eat an elephant? ………. On bite at a time.”? Life is like that.

Elephant

I find myself at work overwhelmed with tasks. What should take five minutes ends up taking fifteen. What should take fifteen ends up taking an hour. 200 unread email messages in my Inbox. I devote an hour to work through them. My reward: 192 unread messages (because so many keep coming in).

I’ve been here before. About two years ago I was staring at my ever enlarging Inbox. It was in the neighborhood of about 350 unread messages. I felt my throat thicken. I started to immediately sweat and quite profusely. My lungs shrunk. It was a full on panic attack. 

I slammed shut my laptop, slid away from the desk in my home office, and staggered into bed, all the while trying to hide the tears from my wife.

I still get anxious – and perturbed and frustrated and exhausted – but now I do two things when those feelings rear their ugly heads. The first is remind myself to put it all in perspective. There are only 24 hours in a day, there is a quantifiable limit to how much I can do, and no matter how much I try to get done, I will never be ‘caught up’. Besides, I decided a long time ago that work does not define me, and I refuse to sacrifice my time with my kids or my wife for the sake of getting one more task completed.

The second thing I do is pray. I’ve written about this before, and the tenants hold true. There is no point in drowning yourself in anxiety, and there’s a freedom in surrendering to God. God provides and God knows what’s best for us. It’s when we try to do it all ourselves that we falter, and it’s only in taking our burdens to Him – be they work issues, home issues, personal doubts – that we find relief from them.

So when you sit at the dinner table, and the main course is one giant elephant, just remember: one bite at a time.

Surrender

Simple Surrender

Wednesdays are my God day. Actually, every day is a God day, but Wednesdays are the days I truly get to be active in my faith.

I have the privilege of being able to telecommute with my job. Normally, that means being able to work from home in the comfort of my PJ’s and with my cats to keep me company (and no, it’s not abnormal to have full length conversations with a cat). On Wednesdays, it means I am able to work from the confines of Relevant Church in Ybor City in Tampa. I come in, log on to work, and in the afternoon I take an hour and a half to go tutor at Booker T. Washington Elementary School. This is my second year as a tutor, and being there for my kid at BTW has been such a rewarding experience.

The logistics of being on-site at church on Wednesdays lead to my wife and I leading a growth group for our church i the evenings. So, every Wednesday, I drop off Lee at work – it is 25 miles door to door – and then I double back just a bit and come into Relevant to start my work day. In the afternoons I go pick her up and we proceed to our growth group. Yes, it makes for a busy day.

Now, I am not a commuter. I think if I had Lee’s daily commute, I’d last a week before I was jailed for very un-Christian behavior. So I relish my ability to work from home, and I openly acknowledge my personal weakness when it comes to being patient in traffic.

This morning, as we do every Wednesday morning, Lee and I turned on the audio version of the book we’re studying in our growth group. It’s our way of prepping for the evening’s session. It was also a way to get my mind off the horrible traffic we faced as we got on the interstate. Normally, my seeing the stream of red break lights would have prompted an expletive or two from escaping my mouth. But this morning, I felt a sense of ease and comfort. In retrospect, it realize it was a sense of surrender.

Perhaps it was the young and playful voice of the book’s author Steven Furtick. Perhaps it was the message of the chapters to which we were listening. Perhaps it was because the caffeine of my morning coffee had yet to kicked in. Whatever the reason, I felt God calling me to surrender to Him. In return, he would take away the anxiety and impatience I normally feel when sitting in bumper to bumper traffic.

I dropped off my wife and made my way to church. Normally, when I arrive early enough, there is on-street parking available directly in front of the church building. This is nice because it saves me a couple of bucks by not having to park in the garage, and it’s also really convenient. However, knowing I was running later than usual, there was no way I was going to find a spot on the street. After 8:00 AM, those limited on-street spots are very much taken.

I made up my mind to turn one block early and go directly to the parking garage. No point in fishing for a spot I was certain wouldn’t be there. But just as I reached up to turn on my blinker, I heard Him say to me, “Keep going forward.” I smirked at the idea because I know God is cool, but He’d already provided for me by making the nightmarish traffic bearable. Still, I figured I didn’t have anything to lose since I can easily access the parking garage from the other street as well. So forward I went.

I can’t begin to describe the rush and the goose-bumps I felt as I turned onto the street in front of my church and saw an open spot. It was like God giving me a playful nudge in the back as He said, “I told you.” Overall, it was simply delightful.

Now, I know this is no earth-stopping nor sea-splitting moment. It’s not any kind of miraculous and skeptics will dismiss it all as overactive imagination meeting sheer dumb luck. But in my heart, it was a reminder of how God moves us and calls to us every day. And in relaying the story to my friends here at church, I was reminded that it is in delighting in God that He delights in us.

There is something very true in the cliché “Let Go and Let God”, and this morning I was reminded just how delightful it can be to surrender yourself to Him.