It’s Almost As If He Hears Me

Last Friday was pretty close to a perfect day for me. I had a good and productive day in my business, followed by a beautiful drive to San Jose, a wonderful visit with some of my dearest friends, topped off by a great night of hockey shared with some special people.

During my 2 hour drive home, I was on the phone with a friend, sharing the fun details to my great day. At one point in the conversation, we were talking about how it seems that there are days like that sprinkled in among the rest of the days which can seem so challenging. In this context, I used a metaphor, which I’m prone to do. As I was driving, I noted that I was on a very smooth freeway surface. All I could hear was the hum of the engine as I chatted on the phone. But every now and then, I would come across a patch of road in which the asphalt was chewed up from road construction.

It then dawned on me that faith in Christ is like shock absorbers on a car. Shock absorbers dissipate the energy created by bumps and pits in the roadway. As I rolled on down the highway, in the cab of my car, I could barely feel the difference between the smooth asphalt and the construction areas. The shocks on my car significantly minimized the effects in the cab of my car, even with the inconsistent road quality. I wasn’t being jostled about my car as I hit the rough surface. It was then that I confessed to my friend that while things were fairly smooth in my life, I wanted my faith in Christ to be such that even when I hit the rougher roads, I would remain consistent and not tossed about due to difficulties and uneven terrain.

Not one hour later, I arrived at home. I then checked my mail, in which I found something which felt like a large foreign object lying in the middle of the road as I sailed down the highway.

Really Lord? Putting me to the test already?

For a moment, I almost regretted making that statement to my friend. Then, I silently thanked God for the opportunity to put my faith in action so quickly. God doesn’t delight in rocking our worlds. But when we mean business, He is eager to provide us opportunities to develop. My comment on the phone didn’t lead to the unfortunate contents in my mail. Instead, God was speaking to my heart in that last hour of my trip, knowing full well what had been sitting in my mailbox for the past 12 hours.

Monday night in bible study, the pastor uttered this quote which reverberated in my heart, practically drowning out everything he said for the next 5 minutes.

God is more interested in my eternal well being than my temporal comfort.

I don’t know how God is going to work out this latest complication, but I know He will. The pressure isn’t on me. I can only do what I can do. Instead, I walk by faith, not sight. My faith makes the rough paths smooth. Instead of worry and fear, faith dissipates those negative instincts and replaces them with a blessed assurance. The human reality is the same because we’re subject to time and space, but the supernatural reality is that the battle is already won. Eventually the time will come when it will be revealed.

In the meantime, I have more road to travel today. When reminders come of the uncertainties of life, when the road beneath me is chewed up and abrasive, my faith in God will change the natural inclination to worry and change it into praise.

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From Victim To Victory

In response to my post last week about Breaking The Victim Mentality, I received an email from a friend and reader of Crossing Paths. Because I found her story to be extremely inspiring, I asked her permission to share with you some of the things she confided in me because I know it will inspire you, too.

For the sake of her privacy, I will refer to her as “Ruth”, after the character in the biblical book by the same name.

Ruth is a very warm and gentle woman. She was married with three young boys. Ruth became a victim of spousal abuse. This abuse served to change her forever. Not just who she was, but what she thought of herself as a wife, mother and as a person. As one who was abused, she felt the shame was all on her. Whether the shame was heaped on her by her husband, by society, or by herself. At the same time, she was responsible for raising three boys whose lives were being molded by the environment in which they were living.

Now, 10 years later, Ruth is no longer a victim. As she stated so eloquently to me, “it’s not that time has healed all wounds, it’s that by His wounds I am healed.”

This was a powerful statement. The passage of time, without proactively involving yourself in getting over it, only perpetuates and prolongs the victimization. But Ruth made significant changes in her life. First, she got out of the abusive marriage. I may be treading on controversial ground here, but I am a firm believer that God does not intend for us to be in abusive relationships. He does not desire for you and your children to live in an unsafe environment.

After moving on from the marriage, she and her boys began new lives. The most important factor in her life was getting back to the place of knowing who she was in Christ. So many victims relegate themselves to being lesser than “normal” people. They feel like damaged goods. They carry the baggage of victimization with them wherever they go. Ruth didn’t do this. Instead, she poured herself into healthy relationships. She poured herself into her church. She poured herself into making a difference in the lives of others who were less fortunate than herself. She poured herself into being an incredible example to her boys as to how to overcome obstacles in life, and to use them instead as something to stand upon to gain a better view of the world, reality and God’s grace and mercy.

Today, Ruth is sponsoring children in countries where what you and I spend on dinner and a movie can sustain them for a month. She goes on missions trips. Ruth volunteers each week at a center for women who are transitioning from prison back into society. A majority of these women have histories of being abused, themselves. She is making relationships with women who so desperately need an advocate. Rather than returning to lives of desperation and crime, they are finding people like Ruth who are willing to love on them and not judge them by their past. Instead, Ruth is making a difference. She’s showing them God’s love, and that they are not branded by their pasts, just as Ruth has proven.

Ruth has made the incredible turnaround from victim to someone who is thankful. She’s thankful for the friends who have walked with her through it all, who have loved her when she was unlovable, and still love her to this day. She is thankful for her now adult boys who see her as an example of how to handle and overcome life’s extreme difficulties. Instead of being ashamed of her, they are proud of who she has become. She is thankful for the strength, joy and peace she has come to find in pursuing a new life, and allowing herself to be embraced by a unconditionally loving God. In doing so, she allows God to reveal Himself to those in her life.

And right now, there are women and children around the world who are thankful for Ruth and what God has done, and continues to do through her.

So Close…

What do you do when you feel so close to finally getting what you’ve wanted and prayed for, then for no reason at all, it feels like it got ripped away from you like a schoolyard prank? I can’t tell you the number of times this has happened to me…within the last couple weeks!

In communication with different friends over the past few days, I’ve been made aware that there are quite a few of us going through similar frustrations. I’m not surprised so much that others feel it. I’m surprised that so many of us are, simultaneously.

I don’t know about you, but after awhile, I’m tempted to say “fuggetaboutit”, and run away with my heart wrapped up in a little nap sack on the end of a stick. But like every story I hear about kids telling their parents they’re running away, I make it about as far as the end of the driveway, think about it for a bit, then return to the house, none the worse for wear.

Thankfully, God is patient. Me…not so much. Well, I guess that depends. I can be patient about many things, but when you are talking about stuff that is exciting and good, I’m like a 5 year old on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa. You’re in bed, all the lights are off. You’re trying to sleep, but every little noise, every little shadow that dances in your bedroom from the tree outside…”that must be Santa!

I’m relieved that God is every bit as real as Santa is not. That being said, sometimes my excitement at things appearing to be what I want can be as deceptive as those shadows.

In those times, I put too much pressure on myself to have to be perfect. If I make even the slightest mistake, I’m doomed to disappointment. Sometimes that same pressure is heaped on us by people in our lives. Maybe we’re guilty of giving people more power and influence over our lives by letting them taunt us with something tantalizing, only to have them snatch it away from us at the last moment.

I’m doing my very best in remembering what I know. I’m doing my best not to rely on what I see, or what I think I see. I know who God is, and I know He is not one to taunt me. I know that the gifts I really want in my life can only come from Him, not from people. People will let me down, and I will let them down. We’re human. But God will not, and has not let me down.

Ever.

I’m reminded of a familiar verse in Philippians. I was reminded of it a couple of weeks ago from a dear friend, and I received it Sunday night as my verse of the day. I am not one to believe in coincidence. God is trying to tell me something, and quite possibly, you too.

As I wrap this up with this simple, yet profound verse, I pray for each of you who read this. Don’t give up. Don’t be fooled by the shadows. Don’t look for God in the deceptive subtleties. God is very obvious. When something looks good and promising, but it doesn’t work out…I know it’s frustrating. But God is building in us perseverance. God is building our faith. God is building our trust. God is driving us to our knees.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
~Philippians 4:6

At The Good Ol’ Hockey Game!

Tonight I am going to experience one of my great spectator passions, an NHL hockey game. I discovered hockey relatively late in life for a guy who loves sports. I actually went to my first hockey game at the Cow Palace in San Francisco when I was about 14 years old. I saw the San Francisco Shamrocks who only existed for two seasons. Actually the league they were in, the Pacific Hockey League, only lasted two seasons. I remember repeating one simple phrase numerous times throughout the night as I sat in amazement of what I was watching.

They can do that?

I was blown away by how physical the game was. The hits these guys put on each other at such high speeds. The way they whacked each other with their sticks. The fights. It was AWESOME! As a fun addition to keep the theme going, I’ve put a hockey song here on my blog page. (Facebookers, click on the link just above the comment box below to go to the original post to hear it and see other features on my blog page, if you like).

So tonight, I’m going to a hockey game. With this as a theme, I want to tell you a little bit about my friend who has been nothing short of an enabler in my passion for the game. Let’s just say he’s something of a mucky muck in the San Jose Sharks organ-eye-zation (as the Canadians pronounce it). Out of respect of his privacy and character, I’m only going to share his initials. I know this guy fairly well, and I think you’ll understand a little better as I go on why I’m not mentioning his name. Many of you will read this and know who I’m talking about, and that’s fine. If you know him, you already know what I’m about to share from your own experiences.

For the rest of you, I want to introduce you to my friend KC. KC is a guy who has worked hard throughout his life. I don’t know a lot of details about his life except for what I’ve read because he’s not really one to talk about himself or his accomplishments. He’s much more comfortable listening to you and what makes you tick. KC knows everyone. I like to jokingly remind him to never let his cell phone out of his sight because his address book has a who’s who of names and contact information. Hall Of Famers, politicians, CEOs, bazillionaires…you name it. I’m really warning him not to leave me alone with his cell phone because I’ll start digging through it and calling some of these guys up!

How did my Forrest Gump-like path cross with a guy like this?

At church.

For several years, KC and I attended the same church. Before I had any clue about his professional background, I knew him as an usher and Sunday School teacher. He knew me as a singer. He was just an ordinary guy. He loved talking with the junior high and high school kids about their football games from the night before. He loved talking about golf. He loved just being one of the guys. After all, that’s who he is.

(Yeah, one of the guys who can buy and sell me about 10 million times over.)

If I were to sit down and tell you about the people who have been most influential in my life, they all are different. Different backgrounds, different ages, different financial situations and such. But they have one common factor, though it manifests itself in different ways. They all have qualities I admire and aspire to acquire. Ha…I just had to phrase that sentence that way. It made sense, and rhymed in an annoying fashion. Bonus!

What I love about KC is that despite who he knows throughout his professional and personal paths, he is not one who is impressed with status. When we’re at a game, eating a teriyaki bowl, sitting down to breakfast at Hobee’s, talking on the phone, or whatever, he’s completely engaged in our conversation. He’s not looking at his watch and cell phone sending signals that he’s eager to move on to something or someone else. As an usher, he was not too proud to look people he didn’t know, and who didn’t know him, right in the eye, smile and welcome them while escorting them to the best available seats in the auditorium.

Humility.

It’s a powerful and empowering quality that you don’t see to such a degree in people very often. I have no problem being humble because I’m a big dork. If I ever start to get too big for my britches, I have hundreds of people who will be more than happy to remind me of my impressive level of dorkosity.

I see Jesus in my friend KC. While God is the Creator of everything, the One who is timeless, the One who has power over death and the grave, the One who deserves a level of praise we can’t even begin to satisfy, much less understand…He knows my name. He knows the number of hairs on my head (which isn’t the task today that it once was). He knows the desires and dreams in the secret corners of my heart.

Through my friend KC, I realize how much greater it is that God is not too busy to spend time with me and listen to me. He’s not more interested in someone else who is more important that He won’t send me a love note to remind me that I’m on His mind. You see, in this life, we’ve got the philosophy backwards.

It’s not who you know, it’s Who knows YOU.

Waiting For The Next Assignment

I’m at an interesting position in my life right now. I look back on some of the incredible opportunities and experiences I’ve had in my adult life, and it blows my mind. I’ve gotten to do things, go places and meet people throughout my life which defies logic.

Hey, I’m a guy. Logic is an essential element in an equation.

I’ve said it many times, and my life proves it. God doesn’t choose the qualified, He qualifies the chosen.

Having said it again, and this time putting it in writing, I’m feeling a certain burning in the belly. It’s a churning sense of anticipation. Perhaps I shouldn’t have used the reference of belly and churning back to back, but whatever. It’s my blog.

I don’t have any real idea of specifics, but I have a sense of anticipation that this next chapter of my life will be a fulfilling one. I do have some ideas, but I don’t dare put them on ye olde world wide web at this point.

The past several years have been an intense course in patience, endurance and introspection. When that happens, you better suck it up and deal with the things which need fixing or you’ll never get to move on from that class. I probably should have been out of that class on onto the next level many years ago, but I can sometimes be dense and not figure stuff out the first, second or eighth time around.

The thing is, I don’t feel that this period of learning important life lessons is over. I don’t think we ever move beyond that if we’re honest and humble enough to accept it as truth. I just feel that I’m at a place where I can communicate stuff I’ve learned, and continue to learn in a way which may help others. Encouraging and empowering others has always fueled me. It’s no different today. In fact, it just may be even more intense a desire now than it ever has been.

So if you’re the praying type, I would ask you to pray for me as I seek direction as to how I move forward from here. It’s easy for me to dream big for you, but it’s counter intuitive to dream big for myself. But I don’t want to be limited by my own unbelief in myself and who I am, and the gifts God has given me. I’m finding a new passion and comfort in exploring the depths of His influence in my life and looking for ways to take these things to a new level in changing lives.

Many of you have contacted me over the past weeks in a variety of forms. Some with phone calls, others with text messages, emails, and even comments on Facebook. I can’t begin to express what your feedback means to me. I just pray that anything I share here will serve to inspire even one person each day. OK, make that two people. I get inspired everyday by the lessons I’m learning.

Breaking The Victim Mentality

(If you’re on Facebook, you may need to click the link directly beneath this post to view it on the original page in order to watch the video)

In one way or another, we’re all victims of something. It can be the family you were born into, the town you were raised in, the fact that you are undersized to be a football player, but oversized to be a jockey.

There are many, too many people who have very legitimate claims of victimization. Their stories are absolutely tragic. Others, well, let’s just say that they hold the keys to their own freedom from whatever they feel keeps them down.

In any case, we must break the mentality of being a victim. Typically, whatever happened to us is in the past. Yes, we may have to deal with consequences or lingering effects of whatever it is, but there just comes a time when we have to stop being victims. We spend too much time looking backwards for excuses which keep us from moving forward.

As I was thinking on this topic, a particular man came into my mind. This man’s story is very powerful and inspirational. Sometimes those things which happen to us, the things we have no control over, serve to give us power. They give us a unique identity. They enable us to encourage others and make a difference in their lives. Rather than holding us down, we become liberated.

Or we can stay mired in self pity, hindering us from an overcoming life.

Watch this video and think about whatever it is in your life. Are you going to let it keep you down, or are you going to resolve to overcome the obstacles and still lead a fulfilling life?

20/20 Vision In The Dark

No doubt, you already know that people who have been deprived of one or more of their senses have developed a heightened sensitivity in others. For instance, those without sight tend to rely on their keen sense of hearing, touch and/or smell.

There are times in our lives when we feel left in the dark. We’re at a fork in the road, and there is no real obvious indication which is the way to go. Or maybe circumstances look pretty promising, yet turn out to be nothing but disappointment.

In those times when it seems like we’re in the dark, it’s important to not depend on our sight as much as we should rely on what we know to be true. Sometimes what we see can be a distraction from what we know. Madison Avenue has turned this concept into an art form to convince us we really need to buy that thing which, in reality, we don’t really need.

These are the times we must, as Psalm 46:10 says, “be still and know that I am God.” It doesn’t say, “be still and watch me”. Even in those times when we can’t see or understand what in the world is going on or when it will end, God simply tells us to remember He is God and that He is in the midst of doing something good. When we can’t see what He’s up to, relax and know who He is, and that He is in our midst, loving us unconditionally.

No one enjoys being in the dark, but that’s why it’s called “blind faith”. We are to trust in what we cannot see. Things are not always as they appear to our sight anyway.

See with the eyes of faith and knowledge of God that can only come from a true relationship with Him. It’s not an intellectual thing.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
~Hebrews 11:1