Balloons in times of crisis

Remember when we were kids…or for those of you with kids, maybe you did this. You would take a latex balloon and rub it against your head. The static cling would build up so the balloon would stick to walls, or if you held it close to your head, your hair would stand on end to touch the balloon.

I have a theory that relates this phenomenon to relationships. First, let’s start with the science.

Balloons_(static_electricity)

If you have two balloons and rub them each against your hair or fabric, the friction causes each of them to become negatively charged. When this happens, the balloons will not stick together. In fact, they will repel one another.

On the other hand, when only one of the balloons experiences the friction and is negatively charged, the balloon that has not been negatively charged will cling to the negatively charged balloon. They will be drawn toward one another, and stick together.

There are times in our relationships when one or the other is going through a difficult time. When two people are not fully committed, the friction in the one’s life will also create friction with the other. This will cause the two to drift, or even push each other apart.

However, where there is love and devotion, the one without the friction will draw close to the one with the problem. They will cling together. When you have a relationship that is healthy and strong, that friction will not push you apart, but bring you closer together. When one faces difficulty, or friction, the other will be drawn to them. They will actually become closer than they ever were before. It’s easy to get along and enjoy a bond when things are going well. But what happens when the friction happens?

While difficulties are not something we enjoy, we can embrace them because by virtue of the friction, the bond between us will only draw us closer together. The bond between us is strengthened. It’s critical to stick together. When we are so drawn and committed to the person in need, our devotion provides strength and empowers the one in crisis. As this happens, we will get through it together. Our relationship is forged. But if we push the other away or shut them out by not being open and honest, we create more friction with our attitude. We will repel one another.

How liberating and unifying it is when you can say to one another, “I will stick with you, I will walk with you through it all, no matter what.”

Sole mate

Several years ago, a couple from my church invited me to their home for dinner. They were friends, so naturally, I agreed to a nice, home cooked meal. During the course of the evening, the conversation turned to asking me about my, at that time, non-existent love life.

“What is it you’re looking for in a woman? Obviously, aside from her being a singer.”

They had assumed that since I was a singer, that this was some kind of “must have” for me. Not only was that not something I wanted or needed in a mate, I actually preferred that she wouldn’t be a singer. As much as I enjoyed singing, and it was a huge part of what I did, it wasn’t and isn’t who I am. It doesn’t define me. It wasn’t and isn’t some kind of foundation for a relationship.

All along, God was molding my desires. Not only what I do want and need, but what I don’t. 

Fast forward to present day.

In God’s infinite and undeniable wisdom, He has given me a woman who is precisely what I need for life. In short, her strengths are my weaknesses. At the same time, I have strengths in areas where she is somewhat vulnerable.

I have had conversations with single people about the topic of soul mates. Is there one person out there who is perfect for you? Is there more than one person who is perfect for you, and it’s just a matter of finding one?

I honestly do not know. What I do know is that I’m a month shy of my 49th birthday. I’ve never been married. I have had numerous relationships in my life, but obviously, we were not perfect for one another.

Perfect. There’s a word. You might be reading this and thinking, “well no wonder you’ve never gotten married. You’re as flawed as a marble boat. How can you expect to find perfection, never mind attract it?” Good question. I look at Facebook, and I see so many spouses touting their mates as “the most wonderful in the world”. Is that hyperbole? How can hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of spouses all over the world be “the best”? That’s impossible. There can only be one best. And by what standard is this measured?

The key is finding “perfect” for me. And I have. Obviously, we have each been in other relationships. We were fundamentally the same people we are today. But we have each experienced excruciating heartache, and we have each broken the hearts of others. But in each other, we have found ‘perfection’. I certainly am anything but perfect. Good grief. I am riddled with flaws. But I have qualities that make me the exact right fit for her life. And she has qualities of which I am in awe.Picture-Quote-about-Love

Speaking for myself, this is not to say that those from my past are bad people. They are not inferior in any way. It’s just that we weren’t right for one another. I have no bad feelings about those in my past. I wish them unbridled happiness. It’s simply that I have found the one who, from the very beginning, understood me in ways that others who have known me for years don’t get.

Whether there are 1 or 100 “soul mates” for me out there, I have found my sole mate. No one has ever spoken to my heart, mind and spirit as she does. No one has confronted my deepest fears, and filled me with the strength to face and overcome them. No one has ever seen me so vulnerable, and responded with even more love.

It’s been a long time. There have been many heartaches. Being patient has cost me some life experiences that I wish I could have had. But I’m so thankful that I didn’t settle for someone for whom I was not right, and who was not right for me. We are all better off with the way things are turning out. No regrets.

God saved his very best for last. Sarah-Jane is absolutely perfect. For me.

No greater love

A new movie was released over the weekend. It is one I am so eager to see, I’ll actually go alone if I have to. I’ve never gone to a movie alone before. The only other movie I was willing to do so for was The Passion of the Christ. I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise to see the similarities in these two movies. The new one is Lone Survivor. Yes, one movie is about the sacrifice of Jesus for all mankind, and the second is the level of love and sacrifice of brothers in arms on the battlefield.

Most of us will never face situations where we will be called upon to lay down our lives for Screen Shot 2014-01-13 at 8.20.53 PMsomeone else. John 15:13 tells us that there is no greater love than when we lay down our lives for our friends. Does this mean that we are doomed to a lesser love unless we’re facing a life and death situation?

Absolutely not.

It’s very likely that we are presented with this “no greater love” opportunity on a fairly regular basis. The simple application is when we love someone more than we love what we want for ourselves. As a man, as a steward over the heart, mind and body of a wonderful woman, it means that I show her I love her more than I love having my own way. It means showing her, not just telling her, that she is more important than my own desires. That she is worth any cost or sacrifice.

As a Christian, it frequently means making choices because I love God more than things that would damage my relationship with Him, or my reputation as a Christian.

As a friend and neighbor, it may mean that rather than spend a relaxing day or evening at home, or taking care of personal business, we make ourselves available to help or spend time with someone in need.

We are all blessed with opportunities to serve someone and something that is bigger than ourselves. By doing so, we put them, and ourselves, in proper perspective. In doing so, we bless others, and we experience and receive a greater depth of love in our own lives.

Today, demonstrate “no greater love” in some way, to someone.

Contentment

I must admit, I am not one who is easily content. It’s not that I’m so goal-oriented or anything like that. I’m not the guy with motivational quotes posted all over my home. It’s more like I’m just not easily or frequently satisfied.

I have been in New England since December 18. As I type this, I should be at the airport, waiting to board my flight back to California. Instead, I’m sitting in the kitchen at Sarah-Jane’s home, brain/heart-dumping into this post. A significant snow storm literally blew into the region yesterday and through the night, so I changed my flight to Monday.

As I sit here at the kitchen table, and as I’ve spent a relaxing morning and early afternoon with her and her boys, I find myself in an unfamiliar territory. No, not Rhode Island.

Contentment.

When I was showering this morning, which is often when and where I do my best thinking, a thought popped in my head. I often times get so caught up thinking about my past and the disappointments I’ve faced, and worry about how they might affect my future. But in doing so, I miss out on living in the moment. What I do in the moment, or what I miss out on by not doing, has much more of an impact on my destiny than worrying about what was, and how it might affect what will be.

be-in-the-moment_Snapseed

Even in the quietness of today, when we’re somewhat confined to the indoors due to the bitter cold outside, I find myself appreciating every detail of the moment. The future is going to be busy. The future is constructed by each current moment. Being so concerned with the enormity of what lies ahead can be overwhelming. But by taking in each moment, we allow ourselves, and God, to operate in our designed roles and abilities.

God is not bound by the limits of time. I am. I cannot live tomorrow today. He is already in tomorrow, in six months from now, in one hundred years from now. He knows the end from the beginning. Why am I worried or consumed by the past or the future? He will guide my steps. But my steps come in ‘the moment’. Thinking about what must be done tomorrow is good. Learning from the past, also good. Obsessing on it? Not so much.

Live in the moment. Enjoy it. Embrace it. Appreciate it. Maybe you’re not exactly where you need or want to be. I understand that. Believe me. Take this moment and do something with it.

The fact that you have ‘the moment’ is a blessing not to be wasted.

2014, bring it on

1 After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. 3 I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. 4 Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. 5 No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.

7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 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.”

Joshua 1:1-8

As I have taken time this morning, New Year’s Day, 2014, this passage of scripture has risen to the surface of my heart and mind. Wiser, more learned people can speak to the historical and theological depths of this passage better than I. If that’s what you’re needing or expecting, be prepared for disappointment.

Instead, I am looking at it from my personal perspective. How does this apply to me? To me, how it becomes relevant to my life is that to move into my Promised Land, something first had to die. In Joshua’s case, it was Moses. In my life, it is my expectations of how my life should have played out. It is my preconceived ideas on how God’s promises should have looked, when they should have taken place, and where.

Had things gone they way I thought they should have, the admonition that appears three different times in this brief passage wouldn’t be necessary.

Be strong and courageous.

If I were the author of my own story, I control all the elements. It’s the lack of control that requires strength and courage. These lead to faith and trust. When God breathes into our lives, we can have a tendency to say, “Okay Lord, I’m good. I’ll take it from here.” That’s often where we get off track. But His plan requires we follow His instructions. That is where verses 7 and 8 come in to play. We need to follow the instructions.

For me, courage isn’t in making big decisions. It’s not in being responsible for others. It’s in making those decisions, being the leader when you don’t have a charted out plan. It’s in knowing the destination before knowing the route, or following the path without knowing the desitination. It’s in trusting your Resource, not your own intellect.

This passage concludes with these assurances from God. When we trust Him, when we accept the call upon our lives, He promises us prosperity and success. That may mean materially, but it most likely doesn’t. I am learning more and more each day that what defines a man is not what he owns. It is not what he drives. It’s in being a good husband, father, member of his community. It’s in helping those who need help.

As was the case in Joshua’s promotion, God’s promise wasn’t just for him. God had first made a promise to Moses and the Israelites. Moses made mistakes that cost him the blessing of seeing the promise fulfilled. But God stayed true to His promise to the Israelites. He chose Joshua. In my life, those I love and am assigned stewardship, they have been given their own promises from God. Others may have lost the blessing of seeing those promises come to fruition. At least, first hand. And God is offering me a promotion. The responsibility, and rewards, are mine if I stay true to the calling. dsc00536

That can sound intimidating. But God finishes this passage by saying, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

That’s all I need.

 

Best Christmas ever…so far

Like a good play, life has acts. Act one is the “kid” years. Act two is typically those middle years when many go off to college, experience independence, get married and start families.

For me, the second act has been much longer than I had anticipated.

When we assess our lives and our experiences, we do so in some form of context. I had a good childhood. Great memories. I never was left wanting for anything. Well, there were the times I wanted bikes and cars when Santa didn’t exactly come through, but I now understand that those things were not always what I truly needed. Understanding the difference between what we want and what we need comes with maturity.

As I am now in Act 3 of my life, the gap between my needs and wants has narrowed. The things that mean most to me are not even things. The best gifts I was given this year didn’t have price tags on them. The elements that made this the best Christmas ever were linked to tears and smiles that came from expressions of the heart.

I received two priceless gifts this Christmas. In chronological order, the first was a journal. It is a prayer journal Sarah-Jane started on October 25th, 2013. My mom’s birthday. As I opened it to the inside cover, she had attached a closeup photograph of my mother on the right hand page. On the inside cover, opposite her picture, Sarah wrote her first prayer for the journal. She expressed her desire to take the baton from my mom, and accept the role as the one who would pray for me, as my mom had until she died.

It took me five minutes to get past the inside cover of the journal.

The journal is an ongoing, never-ending work. So I will have to surrender it back to her before I return to California. I absolutely can’t wait to read it all over again, as well as the new installments that will await when I get to see it again in February when she comes to visit me in California.

Scrapbook

The second gift was equally touching. She created a scrapbook of our story. The very first page included wonderful details that brought us together. The book is filled with sentimental thoughts, pictures, notes and keepsakes. It was so amazing to see us through her eyes and heart.

There is nothing she could have bought me that could have meant more to me, that would have touched my heart as deeply as these two gifts. She just gets me. She knows how I think. She knows what touches my heart. God knows every detail about us, and places just the right person in our lives who knows how to love, respect and feed those parts that make us who we are.

I’m thankful that things aren’t as important to me as they once were. I’m thankful that sacrificially blessing others, speaking into their lives, sharing your heart, and thoughtful expressions of love and appreciation are the things that will span the test of time. No assembly or batteries are necessary.

This has simply been the best Christmas ever. So far.

What Christmas is ALL about – One Solitary Life

One Solitary Life By James A. Francis 

He was born in an obscure village the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in still another village where He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty, and then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.

He never wrote a book.
He never held an office.
He never had a family.
He never owned a house.
He never went to college.
He never visited a big city.

He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where He was born.

He did none of the things one usually associates with greatness. He had no credentials but Himself.

He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away. He was turned over to His enemies and went through the mockery of a trial.

He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.

While He was dying His executioners gambled for His clothing, the only property He had on earth.

When He was dead He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Twenty centuries have come and gone, and today Jesus is the central figure of the human race, the leader of mankind’s progress.Nativity

All the armies that have ever marched
All the navies that have ever sailed
All the parliaments that have ever sat
All the kings that have ever reigned put together

Have not affected the life of mankind on this earth as much as that one solitary life.

Merry Christmas from my family, to yours.

~Corey

Thankfulness during the storm

As we enter Thanksgiving week here in the United States, so many people have been and will be taking time to express things in life for which they are grateful. That is something we should all do constantly.

I have much for which to be grateful. I don’t know if I would have had the same attitude six months ago. That’s because I was in one of those cycles where life was more challenging and uncomfortable than we like. But right now, my life is in an upward swing. Why am I more grateful now than then? I’m ashamed that I fall into the trap of forgetting the blessing of life when things are difficult.

Even as I am celebrating good things in my life, I don’t have to look far to see people who are in pain. Someone very close to me is on the verge of losing his mother to cancer. I know more than one person who is enduring serious marital problems. I have another friend who had a recent medical scare. She got relatively good news from the doctor, but they recently contacted her to say they want to take a closer look just to be sure it’s not something more significant.

There, just off the top of my head, are a handful of people facing serious difficulties. In one way or another, I have communicated with each of them in the past couple of weeks. Even while facing the fear of the unknown…and inevitable, they see the blessings that they must lean on in order to get through this difficult time.

I am making it my personal mission to pay attention to the need that surrounds me. So iStock_000004330295Medium-300x200many times, I get caught up with tunnel vision. I lose sight of the things going on around me in the lives of others. I don’t expect that there is anything I can or will do that will make life easier for anyone. But I can’t let that stop me from praying for them. That can’t stop me from making myself available to them in case there is something I can do. That can’t stop me from asking God to use me in some way to bless them.

Life is cyclical. I know that despite this calm I now enjoy, it’s just a matter of time. May I find the strength to be like those in my life who still see the blessings during the hardship.

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

~Philippians 4:6-7

A new voice

About a week or so ago, I received an email from a lady in the choir of my former church near where I live. As you may know, singing has been a big part of my life going back to when I was 19 years old. But within the last couple years, my opportunities to sing were decreasing, and with them, so was my desire. My friend from the choir was reaching out, inviting me to come back to sing. It was very nice and sincere, but there was nothing in me that felt any desire to return.

I took a couple days to really ponder my response. To do so, I had to truly examine myself and where I am in my life these days. I had some legitimate frustrations that led to my decision to stop singing publicly. But now, a good year and a half later, I want to be sure that my reason today isn’t rooted in bitterness.

As I contemplated my feelings and attitude, I am really at peace. I loved singing. I still do it from time to time while in my car. I have some songs that are special to me on my iPod on a special playlist. They are background tracks so I can just sing the songs my own way.

But it’s just for my audience of One.

As I crafted my email response, I wanted to focus on where I am today, and where I’m headed in life. It’s not about what I did for all those years. It’s about what is ahead of me. I am not a songwriter. As such, when I sing, I’m communicating the words, inspiration and experiences of other people. Now, I feel more liberty and fulfillment in communicating my own words. In a way, God is giving me a new voice.

There are simply times in our lives when we need to hit the reset button. I don’t feel as if I’m reinventing myself. I’m simply tapping into an area that was largely overshadowed by other things. It’s a little weird calling this my “new voice”, being that this post is literally my 400th on Crossing Paths. But I do feel a surge of energy and new significance in writing.

I don’t have any idea to what extent my focus on writing will go, for how long, or how often. What I do know is that it’s not unlike God to take us in new directions in later stages of our lives. My parents were a great example of that. When I was growing up, they had always threatened to move to another country to get away from me. Of course, in jest. (Or was it?) But several years after my dad retired, they made good on their promise. But it wasn’t to get away from anything or anyone. It was to follow a new path, led by God.

New things are on the horizon in my life. Maybe they are in yours, as well. Maybe you don’tfind-your-voice even yet know about it. Or maybe you have some hidden talent or desire that you’ve been putting off. Whatever it is, what are you waiting for? I don’t know about you, but the past couple weeks have brought me painful reminders that life is short and unpredictable. Whatever it is, put your touch on it. It’s your voice. Don’t try to be someone else. Do what you do in a way only you can do it!

On the shoulders of a giant

Today, October 30th, is my dad’s birthday. Yes, if you’re keeping score at home, my parents’ birthdays are five days apart, each born in 1935. Yes, my mom robbed the cradle.

As I have done for my mom, I have written many posts about my dad. I’m not going back to review them, so please forgive me if I inadvertently repeat some of my thoughts and memories.

My dad is an understated, humble man. Highly, highly principled. He was a bit of a thrill seeker in his younger years, which carried over into his professional career as a cop in San Francisco. In the 60s and 70s, being a cop in any city was not for the faint of heart. But in San Francisco, it was an especially volatile time and place to be in law enforcement.

In his private life, Dad was a little league baseball coach who eventually rose through the ranks to become the president of the league for several years. He also built numerous haunted houses for my schools, floats for the Boys Club during the annual city parade, as well as dressing up as Santa Claus to entertain and amaze children.

Together with my mom, they were an amazing team. In later years, after Dad had retired from the police force, they bought a motor home for the purpose of making numerous trips to a Mexican orphanage for which they were on the Board of Directors. They loved those kids with such a heart of tenderness and compassion. After a career of seeing the worst in humanity, he easily saw the best in children.

At nearly 60 years old, my dad approached my mom about a radical direction he felt God was leading them. He asked my mom to begin praying about the possibility of moving to Costa Rica to begin a ministry there. For a year, they prayed. They made frequent visits to the area they felt would be their eventual home. They then bought some land down there. And that’s about all that could be said about it. It was land. A hillside cow pasture, to be more precise. After they had made their move to Central America, they transformed a cow pasture into a well-manicured paradise. I’m sorry that I don’t have any ‘before’ pictures, but this ‘after’ gives you a little idea of the natural beauty of only a sliver of the land on which they worked so hard.

Costa Rica lawn

It’s hard to tell anything by the picture at this size, but this land was beautiful. None of the structures existed before they bought the land. The house at the top of the picture was their home. The purpose for this land, and their being in Costa Rica, was to minister to pastors and their wives. It wasn’t a retreat center. It wasn’t a place for pastors to vacation. It was a place for them to get counseling, seek God, get good teaching, good meals, and love. Many came with serious marital problems. My parents saved many marriages and ministries in their years in Costa Rica. Something they were too humble to talk about.

While they intended to live the rest of their lives there, my mom’s health became a factor. After eight years there, they were forced to return to the United States in order for my mom to receive better medical care. It broke their hearts to leave, but they made an incredible impact in such a short period of time.

The next several years were the most amazing years, in my opinion, of their entire marriage. As my mom became less and less independent, my dad had to take on the role of caretaker and homemaker. This man among men, who never had to make a sandwich because my mom was always willing and able, now had to learn to cook, do laundry, and all those other chores that my mom took care of as he worked. As she continued to deteriorate, the things he had to do to take care of her had to be awkward for each of them. But love, true love, sacrificial love empowers you to overcome any and every obstacle.

My dad has always been my hero. But never more than in those last years in all he did to take care of the woman who brought me into the world. He completely gave up his life in order to do anything and everything he could to take care of her. The way he watched over her, prepared her substantial regimen of pills each day, fed her, helped her dress and undress. Absolutely heroic. At the same time, he was no spring chicken. He has his own health issues. But he would wear himself to the bone to take care of his Love.

Mom has now been gone for four and a half years. The woman God brought into his life long before he would completely understand why, was no longer by his side. My dad, who couldn’t speak a word of Spanish, was married to a woman who spoke it fluently. No big deal, until decades later when they would take on such active roles in Mexico and Costa Rica. God knows what we need before we do.

My dad is a giant. Not in physical stature. I am much taller and larger than he is. But he casts a tall shadow in every other way. His influence in my life is immeasurable. The man he always was, and the man he became in the face of extreme heartache is the greatest example of the attributes of love, listed in 1 Corinthians 13.

7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails.

I pray I can be half the man my dad is. His life has been, and always will be an inspiration to me. What an honor to be the son of a man of his stature.

Happy Birthday Dad. I love you.

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