Saturday Rerun: October 7, 2008 on the topic of Worry

It’s been nearly 2 years since I wrote the post below. It’s encouraging to “hear” my own voice as I was at that phase of my life. As background, I had been in my new home town for 3 months. My mom was, to the best of our knowledge at the time, in fairly good health. I was just a couple weeks away from landing a new job. Life was uncertain, but I had my faith. Little did I know what the coming months would have in store for me.

But God knew.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Worry, Enemy of Confidence

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”
~Matthew 6:25-27

Worry is a cancer. It consumes confidence, logic and faith. It’s paralyzing to better judgment. It’s the engine of panic. Worry is an accuser. It puts thoughts in your head which war against logic and faith. Worry tries to tell us that the worst is bound to happen. It tells us we don’t deserve the very best.
I have often joked about being born into a long line of worriers. My grandmother on my mom’s side was the queen bee of worry. When I would talk to her, whether by phone or in person, she would ask me a familiar litany of questions. Was I eating ok, do I still have a job, is my car working, and so on. This is no exaggeration. When I would assure her that things were fine and there was nothing to worry about…that would worry her.

I was not raised by my grandmother, but my mom was. My mom is a woman of great faith. She is a prayer warrior. A strong woman. But when it comes to her children, she takes on the familiar tone of my grandmother.

Worry is a battleground for us. Read the paper and watch the news today. You will see that worry is gripping our nation. For me, 2008 has been a buffet of life issues which could cause one to lose their minds and faith with worry. But I’m pleased to say that I have honestly and consciously pressed in to my faith in order to see myself through. But lest I feel I have permanently conquered this psychological menace, God reminds me that in some areas in my life, there are still battles to be won.

I have said it many times. There are many things we can control, and a great many more which we cannot. In the past several months, I have taken the bull by the horns and made some significant strides in making some tweaks and adjustments to things within my control. The true test comes when you can honestly let go of the things you can’t. When it came to my job search in my new town, I think I did pretty well. I did all that I could to position myself for God’s blessing. In finding a church and getting involved in ministry, I did the same thing. I’ve even undergone some more personal transformation in shedding some weight and heading back toward a physical standard to my liking.

Faith requires discipline. Worry is the complete absence of faith and discipline. Walking in faith, walking in confidence that God is with us and will never leave us or forsake us, can be as natural to us as breathing.

I am created in God’s image. Psalm 139 goes into great detail about the degree of insight and familiarity He has with every microscopic detail of my being. Who am I to question my Creator? What do I hope to gain by worrying?

Today is a new day. His mercies are new every single day. And today, worry has no place in my life.

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Saturday Rerun: October 6, 2008

The following post was inspired after watching the Vice Presidential debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden. More accurately, it was inspired by one particular phrase. It never ceases to amaze me how something that lasts only a second or two in time can stick with you and not let you rest. That was pretty much what happened to me that night.

Here is what I came from it.

Letting Go

Last Thursday night, I sat glued to my television (in HD splendor, I might add), watching the Vice Presidential debate. There was an interesting back-and-forth that I haven’t heard discussed much, but it caught my attention. The Obama/Biden ticket has been doing their best to tie the McCain/Palin ticket to the Bush Administration. They’ve even gone as far as saying that by electing McCain, it would effectively be Bush’s third term. Where it got interesting to me was when Governor Palin rebuked Senator Biden for focusing on the past. Biden’s response to that was a pithy phrase which has been replaying in my head since I heard it.

“The past is a prologue.”

I go back on forth on whether I agree with this statement. I guess it depends on your perspective. A prologue is something which essentially sets up a main body of work. I do not believe that past failures condemn one to a lifetime of similar defeats. The context of Senator Biden’s use of this phrase was basically to do just that. In that context, I do not believe it is absolutely true. However, if we learn from past failures and mistakes, yes, it can be a prologue to a rags-to-riches story.

Every one of our lives is an example of this. The alcoholic or drug addict who comes to a place in their lives where they turn it around and beat their addiction. The person with a long trail of failed relationships who identifies their own shortcomings in order to contribute to and recognize healthy relationships. The person who is so riddled with insecurities that they are paralyzed by fear of failure and they don’t experience the best that life has to offer.

I have been contemplating this particular topic for some time, and as is becoming more commonplace in my life, that usually means that God will go out of His way to drive the point home to me. With that being said, guess what the new sermon series is at my church. Yep, Letting Go.

Yesterday, it was about letting go of your past. We are not doomed to failure and disappointment simply because we have some major events in our past which have scarred us. I think of the biblical story about Jacob when he wrestles with God and man…and overcame. That was an absolute turning point in Jacob’s life. After which, God literally changed Jacob’s identity. However, Jacob was left with a limp. The limp was a constant reminder, a symbol of that pivotal point in his life in which his passion drove him to unprecedented tenacity and boldness.

Learn from the past, but don’t dwell on it. Move forward. There is a reason we have only one set of eyes…which happens to be on the front of our heads.

This is my public declaration. My past is just that. Today is a new day. I am determined to be better today that I was yesterday. I want every decision, every word and every action to be toward my own betterment, and that of those around me. I’m letting go of the past and not dragging it with me into my future.

I feel better already.

Saturday Rerun: October 3, 2008

This post is a year and a half behind me, but the message is just as true to me today as it was then.

Putting Yourself In Position

Being in the right place at the right time is one of those maddening, impossible-to-quantify truths of life. So many times, it just happens without any forethought. In other cases, people go to great lengths of study and analysis to determine when the perfect confluence of where and when that place and time will occur.

I believe that I have learned something of great value over the last couple of months. As I write these words, I don’t think that what I’m expressing is actually some new thought for me, but something that has become more of a day-to-day way of life. Being in the right place and right time is a partnership between man and God. The “right place” is pretty much all on us. I truly believe God is always willing and eager to bless us. But more often than not, at least in my life, I’m not in the right place in my heart to receive the things I truly want in my life.

This season, this move that I’ve made, though physical, was more spiritual than anything. It was an outward manifestation of my heart’s unyielding desire to grow to a place, and at a rate I had never experienced before. This has nothing to do with the city and church I was in, or am in. It was solely due to my own stagnancy in my heart.

Being willing to move to a new town, a new church, new job, new friends and so on, was both overwhelming, and exhilarating. I knew deep in my heart that I was putting myself in a position where I had no choice but to depend on God for my very survival. Every single day has required of me things that I could go months without doing before. There is something about being stripped down to nothing which causes us to instinctively return to the fundamentals of life. In my case, the fundamentals of my Christian life.

As I am taking care of the “right place”, I am seeing God begin to take care of the “right time” things. As I was sharing with my friend last night, I am striving to be the man He
wants me to be. As that happens, I have faith that He will release blessings to me. I don’t expect that to mean that life will be easy. That’s unrealistic. But He has been faithful as I have worked to draw nearer to Him, and putting myself in position to receive from Him, I’m confident He has good things in store for me, and the lives of those I touch.

Saturday Rerun: September 6, 2008

The following post was inspired by Barack Obama’s acceptance speech for the presidential nomination of the Democratic party. There was one particular portion of his speech that really caught my attention, so I wrote this post.

Created Equal, Not Equally

During election season, you will almost always hear the arguments between members of both political parties accusing the other of significant flaws in their philosophy of government. I watched Senator Obama’s speech at Invesco Field at the culmination of the Democratic National Convention. During his speech, he declared the Republicans have a “you’re on your own” philosophy. His words:

For over two decades — for over two decades, he’s subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy: Give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. In Washington, they call this the “Ownership Society,” but what it really means is that you’re on your own. Out of work? Tough luck, you’re on your own. No health care? The market will fix it. You’re on your own. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, even if you don’t have boots. You are on your own. Well, it’s time for them to own their failure.

This got me to thinking. Is that really the way I think? Am I that heartless? Is Obama right?

As I began to really analyze my beliefs, and those of the leaders for whom I tend to vote, a light turned on in my head. I remembered these words from the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

You’ll notice that the founding fathers said that we are created equal, not equally. As Americans, we are afforded the right to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. But this also means that we have the right to fail and underachieve. It is not the responsibility of those who have achieved to carry those who have not. The fact is, there are churches and agencies all over our great country available to assist people in need. That is where this belongs, not in government. We are born with “certain unalienable rights”. From that point on, we’re the responsibility of our families or guardians until we’re adults. Then…it’s up to us.

In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus shares a story of a man who was going on a journey. Before leaving, he left some money to his servants, “according to their ability“. His point in doing so was essentially a test to see what they’d do with it. You’ll notice in this story that none of the three men to whom he gave this money were given equal amounts. To one he gave five talents, another two talents, and to the other, one talent. When he returned to them after his journey, the men with the five and two talents, respectively, each doubled the amount they were given. The third man literally buried what was given to him, doing absolutely nothing with it. What he was originally given was then taken away and given to the man who now had ten.

Well that seems hardly fair, doesn’t it? I mean, that guy already has ten. How can you take away from the guy who only had one? Shouldn’t the guy with ten give up some of his to help the poor dude with only one?

Justice can be harsh.

Notice the reasoning given by the man who buried what was given to him. He blamed his master saying that he was harsh and cruel. He didn’t take personal responsibility. He was given free money, but did nothing with it because he had a knot in his boxers over his boss.

And you thought class warfare was something new.

With all this being said, I come to this conclusion. These three men had developed their own resumes. They had their own personal histories and reputations based on their own abilities and work ethic. Not based on their parents, where they were born, where they went to school or anything else. They were each servants of the same master. The first two men were given different amounts. They each doubled what was given to them. Their master’s response to them was identical. He was not more pleased with the man who now had ten than the one who now had four. He was pleased with their results and their integrity. And to them, he gave more.

When we’re “on our own”, what is in our hearts will be revealed. Had the third man doubled his money, though he would have had only two, he would have pleased his master equally. Heck, maybe he could have tripled it and changed the story completely!

But he did nothing with it.

I commend Barack Obama for coming as far as he has considering the family life and racial confusion he must have felt and endured while growing up. That’s very impressive and inspiring. However, I still subscribe to the ideal that we are on our own to pursue those unalienable rights described by our country’s founding fathers. I do not expect or want government to be my great equalizer. I do not have the same abilities as others. To whom much is given, much more is required. I have to look in the mirror when I consider my own personal journey.

There are many who are born with disabilities. For one reason or another, and to one degree or another, they are dependent upon others. Poverty, underprivileged, lack of motivation or intelligence…these are not disabilities. These are obstacles. To one with resolve, they are opportunities.

God is my equalizer. In cooperation with Him, I can do “all things”. That is, as long as I don’t bury what HE has given me.

 

Saturday Rerun: August 26, 2008

The following is a post I wrote roughly one month after I moved from San Jose to Rocklin. If you’ve ever taken a gigantic step of faith, you rarely experience the payoff immediately. If you’re anything like me, (God help you), you go through a period of time asking yourself, “are you SURE you did the right thing?” The following post was in the midst of one of those moments, and God once again calmed me and assured me that no matter what it is, no matter where it is, obeying God is always the right thing.

Amazing Love

You know, I really have to apologize to God sometimes. I’m not talking about asking for forgiveness for some horrible act. What I’m talking about is the ways I seem to forget about His nature and underestimate him. One thing that drives me nuts is being underestimated. When someone who I think ought to know me better just doesn’t get me when I think they should. That hurts me personally.

I’ve been a Christian now for 25 years. You’d think stuff about God just wouldn’t surprise me anymore. You’d think I’d simply come to expect Him to meet me where I am when I stop and put myself in a position to have such a meeting.

Today marks one month in Rocklin for me. As I sit in my office, I looked at my bookshelf and noticed my Oswald Chambers book, My Utmost For His Highest. I’ve had this book for many years. I used to read it every single day, but I must confess, it’s been quite awhile since I’ve cracked it open. I silently challenged God to defy the odds and have today’s entry be somewhat relevant to where I am in my life today. I mean, c’mon…it’s probably going to be something about loving your wife, tending sheep, running a marathon or some other equally irrelevant thing when looking at my life.

Psst, here’s a tip. When challenging God at something, the smart money is on Him.

Click here to read today’s entry for yourself. This is one of those cases where not only did God give me a word that speaks directly to me, I’m almost convinced this entry applies to me only. I mean, everyone knows this stuff, right? Heck, I’m pretty sure I know it. But at the same time, I really needed to read this today.

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, and it’s only been going since July 8, you probably sense that I’m in this intense faith phase. But faith isn’t really faith if it comes with worry and stress. Do you really trust someone when you hand them the keys to your car and they have to pry them from your white-knuckled kung fu grip? Faith must be accompanied by peace. There are times when I’m completely surrendered and at peace. Then there are other times when I’m clenched up in my spirit.

This is yet another example of how good it is for all of us that I’m not God. If I were Him, I would have made one significant pillar of salt out of someone like me.

Saturday Rerun: July 13, 2008

This week’s rerun was inspired after a Sunday morning experience in San Jose, CA. As I re-read this post in considering it as a rerun, the mental and spiritual movie began to play itself over in my head. I hope this touches you in some small way, as it touched me in a very profound one.

Fingerprints of God

This morning in church, I sang the Steven Curtis Chapman song, Fingerprints of God. It’s a very good song which is, in essence, a contemporary view of Psalm 139. I’ll post a video below so you can hear it, in case you aren’t familiar with it.

Because the song was embedded toward the end of the sermon, I sat on the platform so I could make a relatively smooth move to the microphone without being too much of a distraction to the congregation. From my vantage point during the message, I could only see about 1/3 of the congregation during the first service. In my absolute line of sight was a little girl, all of about 6 or 7 years old, confined to a wheelchair. It was plain to see that it wasn’t a broken leg or something temporary. She is permanently and devastatingly disabled. As I looked out to her, even 20 minutes before we’d get to the song, my heart was deeply touched as I ran the lyrics through in my head while considering this sight.

My emotions were so jarred by the combination of the powerful lyrics of the song and the plight of this young lady that I barely made it through the song. I don’t know if she heard a single word, but I sang that song to that girl with everything I had in me. Following the song, I left the platform, made my way around the back to make sure I was awaiting this young lady and her family as they left the sanctuary following the service. I had the pleasure of meeting little Hannah and her family. She’s a precious little thing, and I will never forget her.

The world will look at Hannah all her life and see someone who is flawed, even damaged. But God created her, and He just doesn’t make mistakes. Little Hannah touched my heart in a very powerful way today, and I’ll never forget her. I complain about so many trivial things, and little Hannah had the biggest smile I’ve ever seen as I talked to her and told her how pretty she is. She is a masterpiece.

Saturday Rerun: One Year Ago Today

Today, Saturday March 20, marks the one year anniversary of my mom’s passing. As such, it seems fitting to share with you the post I wrote the following day. If you’ve lost a loved one, I pray this comforts you as you remember them. If you haven’t yet lost someone close to you, I pray that when that day comes, they will enter into God’s presence peacefully and as ready as my mom was.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Here She Comes!

Last night, within 10 minutes of my completing a post about my mother’s “transition”, I received the call from my dad. It was 10:26 PM.

“She’s dying.”
That was all that needed to be said. The next thing I knew, I was slipping on some shoes that wouldn’t require the time to tie. I grabbed the first shirt and pair of jeans I could find, and I was out the door.

At 11:01 PM on March 20, 2009, I was pulling off the exit to their house. Just then, my phone rang again.

“She’s gone.”
I prayed as I raced down I-80 and Highway 99 that she would hang on until I got there, but she was ready to go. The final stage of her transition didn’t last as agonizingly long as we were told it could. We’re told that those who cling to life, those who are afraid to die, hang on and suffer. Those who go quickly are at peace, knowing their job is done.

At different times, in different ways, we each released her. We each told her that her job was done.

For the past several weeks, I mentally had this particular post crafted already. In all honesty, I only had the ending of it ready. The first part was waiting to be written, and God wrote it last night. I just interpreted it in the first half of this post.

My planned closing to this post is about the short story Hospice gave us. I’ll share it with you, in my words. It’s about us standing on the seashore watching a ship disappearing into the horizon. We watch it seemingly get smaller and smaller as it drifts further and further away. Then finally, she’s gone from our sight. At that moment, we say “there she goes.”

However, on the other side of that horizon is her eternal home. Those who are there, ready to celebrate her arrival, shout, “HERE SHE COMES!”

Goodbye for now, Mom. I’ll always be your baby, and I’ll always be proud to be so!

Enter into your rest, good and faithful servant!