The heart of a mom

Today is Mother’s Day. As I reflect upon this day, missing my mom, I think of the wonderful gifts to us that mother’s can, and should be. Sadly, there are many among us who do not experience the best of what mothers bring. For them, I have to imagine that this day can be hollow.

One need to look no further than the life of Jesus to understand that the mother/child relationship is intensely significant. We’re left to speculate about Jesus’ younger days. This also means we do not know what it must have been like for his parents. Because he was perfect and without sin, we can infer that he obeyed her when she asked him to take care of chores. If he was given a curfew when to be home, we can rest assured he was home on time, if not early. But this doesn’t mean it was easy. It is unnatural for a parent to outlive their children. How this mother’s heart must have been torn to shreds as her beloved son went from hero to villain in the hearts of the people in the span of one short week. The torture, the mocking, the brutal public death. All within view of his mother. And yet, from the cross, as his breaths were drawing few and far between, he looked down and made assurances his mother would be taken care of.

When I think of my mom, I think of her unwavering, unconditional love. Sadly, she had to Quotation-Richelle-E-Goodrich-strength-love-god-motherhood-mom-mother-Meetville-Quotes-223792deal with a kid who was fluent in sarcasm. I could crack wise at the most inappropriate moments. As I became a teenager and a bit more independent, I pushed her away. Everything that made her so amazing was rejected because it wasn’t “cool” to her unappreciative son. Yet, everything that made her so amazing was expected of her. In her last years, as she battled illness and was confined to a bed at least 20 hours of the day, she loved me endlessly. When I lived 2 hours from her, we would speak by phone. She loved to hear about how my day was. She wanted to know every detail. For one, it made her feel connected to me. It also allowed her heart and mind to move freely through life when her body wouldn’t allow it. As her days drew down to the end, her concern turned to who would love me and pray for me when she was gone.

Last year, I met another amazing mother. Sarah-Jane is so loving, gentle, kind and caring. The relationship she has with her boys is beautiful to behold. The love her sons have for each other makes your heart melt. The love they have for her makes my heart so warm, yet, it also grinds at my heart in remembering how it wasn’t until later in life that I became more expressive and appreciative of the love I shared with my own mom. Sarah-Jane is humble. When she receives a compliment of how uniquely special her boys are, she agrees with the compliment as it relates to their character, but bristles when it is directed to her as being such a powerful influence on the young men they are. When her boys enter the room, her spirit glows. When they leave the house for the day or longer, there is an immediate emptiness. She loves her boys with all that is within her. One day, when her sons are older, with families of their own, she will hopefully then be able to reflect on these years and see that she has done a fine work. That she has been a worthy steward of these lives left in her care.

I know an amazing mother when I see one. I was raised by one. I am in love with one. I know, first hand, the often unspoken impact the love and devotion of a good mom can have on a life. As a grown man, so close to an incredible mother, I see first hand all the behind-the-scenes elements that warm, and break a mother’s heart. “You are only as happy as your least happy child”. How profound, and how true. I am growing in understanding as to what my mom must have felt in times when I went through difficulties, and triumphs.

My heart is full today. I had the most amazing mother, and now, I am sharing my life with one cut from the same cloth. Understanding, seeing and experiencing the heart of a mother, and how God designed it, inspires me. I’m so blessed and grateful to have a place in the lives of these wonderful, godly women.

Experiencing God through emotions

Last night, Sarah and I were talking about what place emotions hold in experiencing and worshiping God. I don’t know that we broke any new ground, but it was really cool to discuss our thoughts on this. We are both very emotional people, yet deep thinkers.

God has given us emotions. They can be very powerful. Sometimes, they can even run away from us and lead us to bad behavior and decisions. However, our emotions are also a vehicle for depth in relationships, both human and divine.

Today, I stumbled upon a video of a young boy who was born with some serious medical issues. It told his story, and finished with the young man standing on stage, before thousands of people, singing one of my all time favorite songs. He isn’t the best singer in the world. Yet, he touched my heart in such a way that tears flowed from my eyes, and love pulsated through my spirit.

I, for one, need my emotions stirred. They help me feel alive. They release the floodgates of thoughts and feelings that pool up inside me. They draw me into a more profound relationship with God and people who are important to me. They enable me to put my fears and stresses in their proper perspective. They allow me to be inspired.

I am a very logical man. I do not need emotions to do these things. But at times, I truly need that release. I’m not just logical. I’m creative. I’m passionate. I’m expressive. There are times when it is absolutely necessary to let my emotions out in a healthy way.

I love worship. I love singing. I love music that grabs my heart and soul. I feel as if I’ve crawled onto God’s lap and am held in His loving, warm, safe embrace. I don’t expect that everyone is, or should be like me in this regard. We are all different. I just know that for myself, I absolutely need this level of emotional intimacy with God. It’s not about seeking for anything other than being close to Him. That is why this song, in particular, is so special to me. Is my mom, whose body was broken down by illness, dancing and leaping before God, or is she, as she was unable to do in the last dozen years of her earthly life, kneeling before Him in humble adoration?

The cares of this world are real. Sometimes, however, we just need to simply crawl onto God’s lap, and let Him hold us. It’s not always enough to just know He loves us. Sometimes we need to feel it, and offer Him whatever is in the very depths of our hearts. Just let it go. Allow it all to come to the surface.

For me, this song, this video, this young man ministered to me. I’ve heard better singers. But this isn’t for entertainment. It is a glimpse into God’s love for us, and our love for Him when we imagine what it will be like to be with Him in the place He has prepared for us, in which we will have eternal, and perfect fellowship.

Please take a few moments and watch this. Don’t be afraid to let Him touch your heart.

Easter 2014

Disclaimer: What I’m about to share is my story. My purpose is not to denigrate a church or denomination. It is simply my experience and observation as it relates to my spiritual awakening.

I was raised Catholic. Even so, that was more a rite of passage than a lifestyle. My parents were Catholic. Their parents were Catholic, and so on, and so on. I went through the different practices as I grew up. First Communion, Confirmation. A typical Sunday involved me waking up, getting ready and walking to church by myself. I went in, God took roll, I sat down, stood up and kneeled when everyone else did, then left at the end. The mass could have been in Swahili for all I took with me from the 60 minute experience.

Fast forward to when I was 18 years old. I was in the latter stages of my senior year in high school. My parents had embarked on their own spiritual journey nearly a year earlier. In the latter days of 1982, my parents had “accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior”, whatever that means. Then, they turned their focus on getting me to go to a Protestant church. It was complete culture shock.

Without going into great detail, for the sake of brevity, it was April 4, 1983 when I quietly empty_tomband privately committed my desire and intention to have a relationship with God. It was the day after Easter. For the first time in my life, at least in a manner that stuck in my heart, I realized that Jesus wasn’t a statue or stained glass window mounted to a cross. He wasn’t a chain around a neck. In His death, He took upon Him my sin. As a Catholic, pretty much in name only, all I ever observed or knew about was His death. There is nothing wrong with that, except that’s not where the story ends.

It was about an empty tomb.

Jesus left behind His grave wrappings, and brought with Him my redemption for my sin. I never really knew that.

Easter is precious to me. It wasn’t just the death and resurrection of Jesus, but my own death and resurrection. My sins were nailed to the cross. His blood was shed as He quietly  accepted His fate in order to secure mine. Love isn’t love until there is sacrifice. Life is the result of sacrifice. Love is forged and purified in sacrifice. He did that for me.

He did that for you.

Count the cost

There are times in our lives when we face significant challenges. When these times come, we are often presented with different options in how we resolve, or cope with these difficulties. These times, and these decisions, will reveal who we are at our core. Do we handle them with dignity, or do we look for an escape, or the easy way out. Do we face our difficulties, or do we curl up in the fetal position and pray it will all go away.

Every now and then, we face the temptation to go the easy route. But inevitably, that 10174800_10152333212342863_1643042142151823382_ncomes with a very high cost. Sure, the easy route can make things go away quicker, but at what cost? Relationships? Integrity? Maturity?

We must embrace these difficulties. When I was driving from California to New England, I spent the first two plus days going through a rather desolate stretch of highway. During this period, it was very easy to just kind of set my brain on autopilot. You lose good driver discipline. It’s so easy to get distracted. But when I started to reach populated areas, especially Chicago, I hit traffic. No one likes traffic. But this forced me to really pay attention and focus on what I was doing. Life is no different. Challenges force us to dig in to our values. To see what we’re made of. To see and prove what is of greatest value to us. In times like these, I often reflect on this quote:

What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything it’s value.

~Thomas Paine

I would dare say that if you’re in a difficult stretch of life and there seems to be an easy way, and a longer, more difficult way, the correct way is the one you really have to work for. By grinding, by enduring, by persevering, we grow in so many important areas. Just like lifting weights, the resistance of gravity pushing down on us, and us pushing back, is what builds our strength and muscles. The path of least resistance yields only temporary relief. We will not be any better equipped for the next challenge that is sure to come.

Romans 5:So now, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith in his promises, we can have real peace with him because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. For because of our faith, he has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has had in mind for us to be.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady. Then, when that happens, we are able to hold our heads high no matter what happens and know that all is well, for we know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

~Living Bible

I hate that I need grace

Life can be so overwhelmingly humbling. When that happens, it seems as if bad news comes from every direction. It’s relentless. How much easier life would be if I were never in need of grace. Whether that’s God’s grace, or grace in human relationships.

One thing I have learned throughout my adult life as a Christian; God is not concerned with my comfort zone. That’s not to say He’s not interested in my comfort. It’s just that He doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He allows troubles to come into my life. Not because He hates me, but because He loves me.

If you’re a parent, how does it make you feel when your child(ren) approach you when they are hurting? Life is heavy and complicated. They take time to sit down with you, pour out their heart, and just take time to listen to you. God is no different. When life gets heavy and too much for me to bear, He wants me to come to Him. He wants me to pour it all out to Him.

The thing about grace is that you must be humble to receive it. If you have a sense of entitlement, you’re not going to receive it. Being self sufficient is great. It’s wonderful. But my life is meant to be Goddependent. Even when I have the means to get through any problem, He wants me to depend on Him. He wants me to seek Him. His wisdom. His direction. Even ways that seem right to me, He may have another plan.

One thing I have learned is that the presence of troubles does not mean the absence of Sometimes-the-Lord-calms-the-storm.-Sometimes-he-lets-the-storm-rage-and-calms-his-cihld.God’s love and favor. It doesn’t mean we’re doomed or cursed. God’s glory is revealed in us when we trust Him. When He enables and empowers us to survive beyond what we think our breaking point is, He is glorified. When we overcome, through His power and grace, He is magnified.

I want you to know I’m not writing this because I have attained this. Not even close. I’m writing this for myself. I don’t expect this is for anyone but me. I know the answers lie within me. I have to put them out there like this, as if I were giving advice and a pep talk to someone else.

I can’t do this on my own. I end at the water’s edge. God lives not only on the shore, but in the stormy waters. He is calling me to reach out trust Him. I am human. I am flawed. Where I end, He begins. I can get so much further when I rely on Him than being self sufficient.

How I love that I need grace.

 

Where there is doubt, believe

When I first began getting to know Sarah-Jane, we were sharing deep and simple things about ourselves. Among the simple things was sharing information like what kind of cars we drive. When she told me about her car, I have to admit, I couldn’t picture it. I had heard of the model, but what it looked like escaped me.

You have, no doubt, experienced this phenomenon. Now that the make and model of her car has entered my consciousness, I see hundreds of them.

Did they all of a sudden appear, or have they been there all along, unnoticed?

Of course, they were around me all the time.

As I enter into this new chapter of my life, in faith, the road has not yet shown itself to be smooth, simple, and as had been planned. I certainly didn’t expect simple, but I had a game plan factoring in the understanding there would be inevitable obstacles. Even as much as you think you have planned contingencies, faith can only be stretched when the obstacles are greater than your plans and abilities. And like the phenomenon I described above, it seems that everywhere I turn, I’m seeing God’s assurance to me in a variety of formats, even in unconventional ways.

This morning, I saw this cartoon on Facebook. It is amusing to see it illustrated this way, 1238709_10152286434268469_691967694_nbut when you’re looking up the hill at the course, it certainly doesn’t give you an entertaining feeling. As I sit here at my computer contemplating the day ahead and the road before me, it is critical that I not focus on the road, as much as my Navigator.

Here is what He tells me:

Deuteronomy 3:22
Do not be afraid of them; the LORD your God himself will fight for you.

 

Deuteronomy 31:8
The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

 

Joshua 1:9
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.

 

Psalm 23:4
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

 

Isaiah 12:2
Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.

 

Lamentations 3:25
The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;

 

John 14:27
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

 

Romans 15:13
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

As I was researching these amazing, comforting scriptures of hope and assurance, I came across one that, for whatever reason, stuck out above the others. There are times in our lives when things look so bleak, so discouraging, so fraught with challenge, that those who truly love us and have our best interest at heart, will look at the “signs” and try to speak logic to us. Their hearts and intentions are pure. But in Mark 5, we find the story of a desperate father of a dying 12 year old girl. He pleaded with Jesus to lay hands on her and heal her. While they were on their way, news had come that the daughter had died. Those around the father, trying to help him face reality, spoke logic to him. “Your daughter is dead.” They urged him not to bother Jesus about this any further. But then we see verse 26.

Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

Sure enough, as the chapter continues, Jesus spoke, and the girl was healed.

In the face of what seems lost, in the face of overwhelming obstacles, in the face of logic, remember His words:

Don’t be afraid; just believe.

 

 

 

I want a faith like that

This morning, I felt a certain urgency to receive a specific word from God. Some people read horoscopes, some seek encouragement and direction from fortune cookies. For me, when I “randomly” open my bible or teaching from a trusted source of godly wisdom, and the word I receive feels like it should have been preceded with the words, “Dear Corey”, I know God has simply been waiting for me to stop and listen.

This morning was one of those moments.

I took a moment to open up Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest. Today’s installment was about a life of faith, specifically referencing the life of Abraham. In it, he said the following:

Living a life of faith means never knowing where you are being led. But it does mean loving and knowing the One who is leading. It is literally a life of faith, not of understanding and reason—a life of knowing Him who calls us to go. Faith is rooted in the knowledge of a Person, and one of the biggest traps we fall into is the belief that if we have faith, God will surely lead us to success in the world.

I sure don’t consider myself to be anything like Abraham. However, I do feel like my life has Life-of-Faithbeen something of an odyssey that has required a certain measure of faith. Where my life is at this very moment is no exception.

The final sentence in the paragraph above is the fine print that causes us to reconsider such an endeavor. To me, the key word is “surely”. I don’t think Mr. Chambers is saying we will not have success. It’s that it is more important that we achieve success by God’s measure, not how our culture has defined it.

God is concerned with our success. He is invested in us. It is not His will that we are homeless and destitute “in Jesus’ name”. He is glorified in our lives when we are willing to let Him direct us, even if it means He takes us in a direction that contradicts our logic and comfort. He is glorified when we trust that He will see us through the challenges that confront us that are bigger than our ability to resolve. We trust Him when we know His strength and character. We experience his strength and character when we trust Him.

No matter how big my challenge, my God is bigger.

Releasing greater love through an uncomfortable conversation

Greetings from frigid New England. The drive from California to Rhode Island was, thankfully, smoother than I dared to hope. I had incredible weather all the way, and my nine year old car made it look easy. I even had a wonderful opportunity to spend the last night of my trip near Cleveland in the home of great friends I knew in San Jose.

So now, I’m here. Starting over in a new land. It’s exciting, and it’s quite an adventure.

The adjustments haven’t only been mine to make.

As our relationship transitions from cross country to cross town, Sarah and I are realizing that doing so isn’t as simple and smooth as one might think. It has been a wonderful, and sometimes awkward process of self-discovery. As much as you are mindful and prayerful about being realistic and not idealistic about long distance love, there are significant adjustments we must make as individuals, as well as a couple.

The other day, Sarah and I went on a day trip to Boston. It was a beautiful day, but there was black-couple-having-conversation-e1350829038851something of a dark cloud hanging over us. In fact, it had been lingering on and off for the better part of a week. As we got to the subway parking garage, we each knew we had to have an awkward conversation. One of us was holding on to an observation that wasn’t awful, but carried a lot of personal weight. It wasn’t a comfortable topic. There was a concern that discussing it could cause anger or hurt in the other, which neither of us would want to inflict on anyone, much less each other.

Finally, it was out in the open. It was awkward at first, but there was no anger or hurt. Throughout the next 20 minutes, we went from an initial state of angst, to sharing a variety of very personal quirks that we don’t necessarily broadcast to others. Healing had come. We were able to console and understand one another on a new, deeper level. We were even able to laugh and be ourselves.

The cloud was gone.

We ended up having a wonderful day and evening in Boston. We walked hand-in-hand throughout. We laughed, we took pictures, we dreamed, we explored.

We lived.

As I reflect upon that day in its entirety, I think about how much more than that, God loves it when He points out things in our lives that maybe no one knows about, or would have the courage, authority and sensitivity to discuss. God isn’t afraid of our reactions, as we flawed humans are. But when we receive His conviction, His word of correction, His rebuke, His tender words of admonition, and we embrace them, we achieve a new level of intimacy with Him. The roadblock that may have existed before is gone. Transparency leads to a greater depth of love and trust for God, just as it does in human relationships.

Human nature says to ignore difficult truths. Sweep it under the rug. Ignore it and it will go away. In truth, this is deception. A relationship of any kind cannot be healthy when there is deception at any level, to any degree. Where there is humility, there is no humiliation. Where there is transparency, there is intimacy. Whether in marriage or with God, we can only discover and live a life of trust and faith when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable in their presence, and receive the uncomfortable truth that leads to greater intimacy, and a healthier, deeper relationship.

Ch ch ch changes

In late August of 2008, I felt the winds of change coming. At the time, I was living in San Jose, California. I had been there for 12 years, and loved it. I was part of a wonderful church, very active in ministry there, had the most wonderful friends I’ve ever had, and lived in a world class city with so much to do and enjoy. David-Jakes-on-Change-2.jpg.scaled.1000-400x533

But I knew God was sending me off into a new direction. I could have stayed where I was and been happy. But I felt God was calling me to the Sacramento area, for reasons I didn’t know. All I knew was that in following His direction, I would grow and mature in ways I wouldn’t experience by staying comfortable in San Jose.

Not to rehash stuff I’ve written before, but for the benefit of those who may be new to Crossing Paths, my first six months in Sacramento were among the most difficult of my life. I had been laid off from three jobs in those six months. The third of which came the day after my mom’s funeral. I seriously questioned why God would take me from where I felt at home and useful, to a place that seemed to be kicking me out of everything I did.

Now, five and a half years later, the winds are blowing again. In what will be no surprise to many of you who have been following the events of the last six months of my life, I am moving to New England.

In my head, the plan was that, if I were to move, it would most likely be summer, at the earliest.

But God has His own plan.

After the early professional frustrations in Sacramento, I started my own business. Building a clientele was a very slow process. Through a series of connections made through my clients, I ended up landing an association with a firm with offices in 29 states, in 80 cities around the country. When I began toying with the idea of New England, I checked out their website. No offices in the New England area.

Then, in late January, one of the attorneys in the Sacramento office asked me where Sarah-Jane lives. I explained to her where she lives in relation to Boston, the largest and most widely-known city in the region. The attorney then said, “well, you know we’re opening an office in Boston, right?”

Uhhh, no, I didn’t.

After more than 20 years in business, this firm chose February 3, 2014 to open an office in Boston. I happened to know and have a good working relationship with THE right person in the company. The one who makes the decisions on vendors for their offices around the United States. So, with one phone call, I landed the Boston office.

Without a doubt, God’s favor and blessings are working together. I don’t expect things to be easy. And other than the phone call that secured the Boston office, nothing has been easy.

By the time this entry is posted, I will be on the road toward Boston. The drive will be some 3,000 miles, and over four days. The weather will probably be challenging. There is much I’m leaving in the rear view mirror. But much lies ahead. I have been on the road of faith before. The entire experience of getting from California to New England is a metaphor for life. I don’t know how to get there, specifically. I’ll have to rely on a source to guide me to my destination. There will likely be storms and obstacles along the way. After the first two hours or so, none of what I see will be familiar to me. I will have to be smart with decisions, but also exercise some blind faith.

I will try to post updates along the way. In the meantime, your prayers are greatly appreciated!

Proactive waiting

I know it has been several weeks since I’ve last posted anything. Soon, and in due time, you will understand why.

Suffice it to say, life has been a bit crazy in the past few weeks. I will explain more soon. In the meantime, know that things are good, and your prayers are greatly appreciated. I look forward to sharing with you what God has been doing. Heck, I look forward to seeing what God still has yet to do!

There are times when we thing that silence means nothing is happening. Maybe you’re in a period where it seems God is silent, and your life is in a holding pattern. Rest assured that God has His hard hat on, and is active in your life. It’s a good time to put your hard hat on, as well. When God begins to unveil what He’s been working on, the time you spent in preparation will help you take the next glorious steps.

Remain faithful. Remain diligent. Keep looking forward. This is what I call, “proactive waiting”. One day, God will begin to reveal things to you that will put your life in motion in an exciting way.

Stay tuned!