Thursday, December 17, 2015

Shadows!!! (Stop, drop, and...)

Shadows!

Just before I closed my eyes for the evening, the phone rang. Late night phone calls rarely bring great news and this was no exception. The caller ID listed the call as unknown. I reeled with even greater alarm. It was a voicemail from the school district that my son attends. A district wide threat was made via e-mail that promised extreme violence without specification of campuses.

The threat came on the hills of threats towards school districts in California and New York as well as the multi-sight attack in Paris, France.

Psalm 23:4New King James Version (NKJV)
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

When you really think about everything that is going on in our local, national and global existence, we are constantly threatened with life suffocating circumstances.

If the threat doesn’t take you out, the anxiety over the threat will cause you to contemplate quitting.

In Psalm 23, David the Psalmist gave guidance on how to handle life’s death threats.

Threats are like shadows. Many of them are superficial or lack the substance to do anything substantial. I am not diminishing the fact that shadows can be intimidating, but I am saying that small subjects cast considerable yet innocuous shadows. I read that no one has ever been bitten by a shadow….

We have dark spots in life. The moments are scary and intimidating. But, like the best friend that screams with you on the big roller coaster, holds your hand on the airplane, or walks you through the halls on your first day of school – you have an eternal companion for your shadowy circumstances.

Although you can’t physically see God beyond his outstanding creations, you can find solace in your dark spots. An example of everything you will go through or can avoid is found in the Bible. It is your ultimate teacher’s manual for the open book test called life.

Last week, I asked my son to retrieve something from my bedroom. The room was dark and what I needed was in the back. I decided to follow him and see if he would be successful. After receiving his instructions, my son ran to the room and dropped to his hands and knees before entering. He could see enough to get to his destination but wasn’t tall enough to add sufficient light. So, instead of abandoning his purpose from fear of the shadows or fall over the room’s obstacles, he dropped down and eased his way through.

When you can’t run – walk.

When you can’t walk – crawl.

God has your hand and the moment you drop down to acknowledge His guidance – You will more readily recognize that He will guide you. Instead of fearing the shadows, have faith in the Healer, the Guide, the Comforter, the Protector, the Savior, and YOUR FRIEND.


My son went to school and came home safely – Thank You God!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Perfect blindness...

It was the second round of a highly anticipated fight - UFC 193 in Melbourne. Two undefeated champions with pride, respect, and titles on the line were relentlessly fighting. Suddenly, Holly "The Preacher's Daughter" Holm rocked Ronda "Rowdy" Rousey with a kick to the side of the head. Ronda dropped to the canvas and Holly approached to finish the fight. The ref stepped in and the match was over. The feeling of shock filled the arena and smothered social media. How could this super-woman get caught by a kick to the face?

In a recent article, Ronda stated that although it will take some time to rehab her injuries - a rematch is a no brainer. She will fight again!

This fight made me consider the unexpected face-plants and traps that we experience. Understanding that we are created in God's image and that we are supposed to seek God first regarding everything we do - does that nullify us from falling? I've been there...assuming I knew it all. Life sent a flooring kick and smashed the canvas against my face.

Matthew 5:45New Living Translation (NLT) In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.

Even in your attempts to live perfectly - that does not preserve you from the pain of falling. Life is full of unexpected occurrences that knock us off our feet. Traps happen to the best of people. There will come a time when you will be CAUGHT off guard. Its not your fall that matters - it is your faith in Who can get you up and set you free.

1 John 4:14New Living Translation (NLT)  Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.

It is a blessing to know that your God sent His only Son to be your savior and your healer! Despite the color of your skin, the size of your bank account, the extent of your mistakes, or the depth of your wounds - YOU HAVE A SAVIOR. You will get up from the canvas and you will fight again.

In closing, there is a super cool selfie circulating the internet. Two Canadians found a majestic bald eagle caught in a trap. They saved the eagle from the trap, but before letting it go, they took a picture with it.

Its kinda funny when you think about it.

One of an eagle's most profound features is its eyesight. An eagle has two foveae or centers of focus. This gives the bald eagle ability to see simulataneously in front and to the side of them.

With nearly human sized eyes, the bald eagle can spot its prey from an altitude over 1000 feet. That's like having multiplied perfect vision and a picture better than 4K television.

Yet, even with perfect sight - it was blind to the trap. And, the eagle's freedom came from an unexpected source.

Don't be surprised when the very people you expected to be against you end up aiding you. God sees you in your fallen state and He has prepared your way of escape.

I know you will get up again - I know you will fly again - I know you have a savior - and I know HE will use your circumstance for your good!

The same canvas floor that my face felt a few years ago is now under my feet. I'm up and fighting - you can too!


Monday, November 30, 2015

The Deep End

Life is full of “deep end” moments. Those are the moments you dive into knowing that you are uncertain of how you can stand. Even if your step off the platform is somewhat calculated, there is still an element of fear. It’s called uncertainty. I question whether every move that we make is absolute. There are times when you close your eyes and just hope for the best. Sometimes you sink and sometimes you swim.

If you dive in then come up with ease and leisurely swim to the side, this post isn’t for you. But, for those who have dove in and came up gasping for air and beating the water wildly, keep reading.

Romans 5:3-5New King James Version (NKJV)
3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

I made a huge leap a few years back and assumed I could come up swimming. Unfortunately, I have been swallowing water and grabbing for weights instead of ways to survive. However, a story today has given me a glimmer of hope.

Reece Whitley, a 15 year-old kid from Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania was just named Sports Illustrated Sportskid of The Year, as a super swimmer. He holds five national age group records and his swimming times are fast enough to qualify for the 2016 Olympics. That’s now but read what he said got him to this point.

“I failed that deep-water test the first time I did it. So I told my mom that night and she enrolled me in lessons the next week and this is what happens.” – Reece Whitley

Proverbs 11:14New King James Version (NKJV)
14 Where there is no counsel, the people fall;
But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.

When we fall or fail in the deep ends of life, it is important that we get up and get proper swimming instructions.

I encourage you to not only have confidence regarding your deep end situations but also seek the safety of good instruction. Your success is in whom you seek. Seek God first then have Him show you individuals who can properly guide you.

Swim with good teaching and great tenacity.


Reece Whitley - https://gma.yahoo.com/swimming-record-holder-reece-whitley-named-sports-illustrated-170608726--abc-news-topstories.html

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Life Sized Detox Water!!!!

Lemons

Have you ever had one of those days where it seems like the comments outweighed the compliments. The weight of negativity felt like a cruise ship anchor chained to your waist as you desperately pushed for an end to the day. Yeah...that was my Monday. 

When I arrived home that evening, there was a large nondescript bag on the counter. Curious to its contents I walked over an opened it. LEMONS! It was the personification of my day in an outstanding abundance. My grandparents have a lemon tree and our family was the fortunate benefactor of the day's harvest.

Looking at those lemons with their yellow and sour smile, I had a thought. 

(sidebar: all youth pastors will find a message in ANYTHING)

Philippians 4:8New Living Translation (NLT)
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

When Life Gives you Lemons...

1. Throw them Back.

It's like a game of hot potato. Although you were thrown the ball you don't have to keep it. You will receive things that you don't need, but as soon as you recognize their irrelevance in your life, you must immediately get rid of it! I'm not advocating violence or the verbal back and forth of arguing. But I contend that you must throw it back. Throwing it back is the task of completely dismissing the negative labels, toxic relationships, hurtful opinions, or destructive habits from your life. The bible says in 1 Corinthians 6:12 "You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything." Just because you see it and could possibly enjoy it that doesn't necessarily mean you should keep it. Throw them back and keep moving!

2. Duck!

Imagine lemons flying over your head as you safely dodge their attack. There was a lyric my kids at church taught me that says, "You can miss me with it!" There are opinions and occurrences that do not deserve your audience - so stop giving it to them. The other day, I was gifted a two-month subscription to satellite radio. It is amazing! They have more channels and possibilities than any one person needs. But, even without the annoyance of some commercials, that doesn't mean that I enjoy every song that comes on. The convenience is that although the programmers send vast amounts of information through the air waves and to the radio, I control whether or not I want to listen to it. With the ease of turning my wrist I can deny audience to stuff that I don't want to hear. And even if it is a station I enjoy but a song I don't prefer I still have the power to change the channel. Sometimes the people we care about can say and do things we don't prefer, that doesn't change who they are to us. Duck and keep moving!

3. Make detox water.

One of the grand purposes of detox water is to flush your system of the waste that you are carrying unnecessarily. A simple recipe is to cut up three or four lemons into wheels, fill a pitcher with filtered water and ice, then place the lemon wheels in the pitcher and stir. Place the pitcher in the refrigerator to steep overnight. the next morning, fill a canister with your detox water and drink your water throughout the day. There are some things that are said or given to you that are sour to the taste. Yet, it is those things that will help to rid your mind, body, and soul of the waste that is affecting your well-being. Don't sweeten their words to fit your feelings like lemonade. Let the lemons do their work on their own. Romans 8:28, "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." Detox and keep moving!

How will you use your lemons this week?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day - you can make things right!

One of the really cool things about plants is their ability to grow back or start over after devastation. If you take a portion of a plant or even a seed from a tree and replant it - there is a high probability that the plant will grow again. If it is cared for. You too can begin again even if you feel like life has left you in pieces. It only takes one seed to make a mighty tree! 

Recently, a man who escaped a North Carolina prison in 1972 called his local authorities to turn himself in. After 40 years of hiding, he decided to surrender. When he was asked about his surrender, he responded, "I need to make this right and get through this."

But there’s also this, it’s not too late— GOD ’s personal Message!— “Come back to me and really mean it! Come fasting and weeping, sorry for your sins!” Change your life, not just your clothes. Come back to GOD, your God. And here’s why: God is kind and merciful. He takes a deep breath, puts up with a lot, This most patient God, extravagant in love, always ready to cancel catastrophe. Who knows? Maybe he’ll do it now, maybe he’ll turn around and show pity. Maybe, when all’s said and done, there’ll be blessings full and robust for your GOD! (Joel 2:12-14 MSG)

The message is this - you can make things right - it's not too late.

Instead of worrying about what others think - do what needs to be done. Sometimes the only thing left between your forgiveness, your freedom, and your future is your ability to finally do what's right. 

We can all do our part to save the planet. Everyone won't have the clean earth agenda but that shouldn't stop you from making right choices for the world.

The man from the article was in hiding over 15,000 days but it only took one day for him to feel right about his life. (update) The man has been suffering from a medical condition and knew that he would receive healthcare in prison. I still think that at the end of it all - getting right has to take place - and the catalyst for change isn't always gentle.

We have mistreated the earth, ourselves, and others for too long let's take today to make things right.

Surrender to right living and reap the rewards of healthy living, His full grace, and His total blessings! 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Help in an abandoned place

Shock filled my being as I read the article. It was a hateful story from the City of Brotherly Love. A woman is accused of abandoning her son and fleeing to a state potentially named after the Mother of Jesus. (ironic)


On a brisk Sunday evening, Nyia Parler, a 41-year old mother wheeled her quadriplegic son 150 yards into a wooded Philadelphia park. Once there, She hoisted him from his wheel chair and laid him on a pile of leaves. She covered him with a blanket, placed a bible at his side, then turned her back and disappeared into the night. Nyia was allegedly heading to Maryland to spend a week with her boyfriend. 
For five nights, her son laid in the cold air unable to move or call for help. Beyond being a quadriplegic, the 21-year old man had cerebral palsy and could not speak. I shutter to think about his experiences alone in the woods, hungry, and helpless. 
The fifth night of the horrific ordeal, an individual walking by happened to notice the wheel chair and called for help. 
The Philadelphia police spokesman, Lt. John Walker said,"It's only by the grace of God that he survived this."
It was only 21 years ago that young 20 year old Nyia cradled her new born child and now she decides  to leave him. What changed? 


Psalm 27:10New Living Translation (NLT)
"Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close."

People make unorthodox decisions on a regular basis. Many are one thought away from a tragic decision. And, although they feel that a decision to leave will only affect them, there is often several others that are also affected. The loneliness felt from abandonment is immense. It is often debilitating to such a degree that the person experiencing it feels utterly helpless. For that 21 year old to already be literally helpless and then get abandoned in the woods with a blanket and a book is without words. 

But that wasn't any ordinary book - behind the cover and inked into every page were promises of God's faithfulness and ability to save the abandoned. When we feel left God knows what's right!

Deuteronomy 31:6 Before the death of Moses, he tells Joshua that he is the one that will lead them and affirms him by saying, "Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

Even in your lonely place you are not alone. You have a comforter that holds you in the cold and guides you in the darkness. 

That 21 year old boy could have died. I honestly believe that it was God's grace that saved him and shows us that in our weakest points He is The Father that holds us and won't let go!

I challenge you to read about God's love for the lost and seek to share His word with individuals that you know are battling loneliness or abandonment.

I cannot judge the mom but I am praying for her and her children. I don't know every detail that made her leave but I know who will stay with her and her boys as they heal from this.

Source: http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/13/us/philadelphia-quadriplegic-man-abandoned-mom-extradition/index.html

http://news.yahoo.com/police-seek-arrest-mother-disabled-man-left-woods-065705681.html

Monday, April 13, 2015

My Father hung with criminals

I have heard people say, "God could never be in a place this bad." I've even witnessed individuals admit that because of the hell they have lived there is no way that could see Heaven.

Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst. (John 19:18 KJV)

The final day of Jesus' earthly existence, he was hoisted on a cross between two convicted criminals. I like how the King James Version states it. The verse says Jesus was "in the midst". Even in this dark and painful place our savior was not above it or disconnected from it but rather directly in the midst of it. It is hard to imagine that God could reside in the midst of our most painful places - yet we serve and represent a God that identifies with our pain and has the healing salve we so desperately need.

One criminal mocked Jesus and the other made a simple request, "Remember me."

Here is a glimmer of hope for your dark place - you are always on His mind and He has the exit plan for your pain.

I recently read that the home of former heavyweight champion mike tyson was practically given away. Yep! Given away!

At the height of his career Iron Mike purchased the 25,000 sq foot home for $300,000. Over the years, the house transferred hands many times and gained an asking price that reached $3.5 million. Many of the buyers fell into financial trouble for illegal activity and one of the buyers actually planned to produce a 24 hour internet show with women in the house. It seemed like the house carried a negative stigma. Ultimately a congregation that was holding services in a school, purchased the home for $750.000.

If this dilapidated and misused edifice could be transformed into a dwelling place for worship despite its sordid past - how much more can God use your pain stained past for His glory.

On the third day, the stone that was set to confine was removed and Jesus reigns! Run to God let him remove the stone that is suffocating your success. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Fancy donkey carpet

The Polo Purple Label Donkey Carpet

 

Matthew 21:8 (NLT)

 

8 Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of him, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.

 

I walked into the children’s Sunday school classroom and sat towards the side. It was Palm Sunday and I was intrigued to see what the children were saying. The teacher asked a simple question. “Why do you think the people spread their garments on the road?” The response dropped my jaw and made me laugh a bit. A little kid raised his hand and before being called on blurted, “Because they didn’t have anywhere to hang them!”

 

It was the last week of Jesus’ physical life on earth. Knowing that his time to die was near, Jesus directed his disciples to enter the town of Bethphage to secure a colt for Him to ride. In the Gospel of Matthew 21:2 Jesus said, “As soon as you enter it, you will see a donkey tied there, with its colt beside it. Untie them and bring them to me”. I find it interesting that Jesus asks for both the donkey and the colt yet only planned to ride the colt. The Gospel of Mark explains that the colt was unbroken. The mother of the colt is only mentioned in The Gospel of Matthew. Wait for it…

Could it be that the mother was brought along to keep the colt tame? Parents need to walk with their children as they carry the awesome responsibility of being a reflection of God. 

 

The thought of Jesus on something so simple makes me even more excited about our Savior. With the ability to ride into the city of Jerusalem on any noble steed or even an army of majestic angels – He chose to ride the back of an untamed colt, a child per se - with his mother in tow. Yes, the colt was to fulfill the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.” But when we expect adult revelation Christ speaks as a child. Here is my first point. I believe that we need to get back to the simplicity of who Christ is to us. Instead of the theatrics that we expect from His entrance into our lives and our circumstances, look for the little things. As a matter of fact look for that thing that makes sense in a place that seems senseless. The colt carried the king and not the mother donkey yet Jesus required them both. When we apply our grown up understanding to God’s grasp on our lives we miss the miracle. However we can catch the blessing if we stay connected to the unconventional and TRUST that God always has a plan. 

 

The story continues… 

 

The disciples removed their garments and placed them on the animals then placed Jesus on the colt. As they made the Triumphal Entry to Jerusalem most of the people removed their garments and laid them along with palm branches for the colt that carried Jesus to walk on. The people cried hosanna because they were looking for salvation or better put, deliverance from Rome. They needed a savior for their soul but only desired a release from the circumstances. 

 

The point…

 

I can imagine the regalia that the people donned to witness Jesus, the Messiah, entering their city. Then, to see them remove their fancy clothes to make a carpet for an animal to trample is awesome. The reason many people have not been able to truly welcome the savior into their lives is because they are making gestures and not giving their all. I believe they placed down their good clothes for the Triumphal Entry but was their heart in it? Even so when we give, what is our intent. Remove what is necessary, stop hanging your identity on what you think is substantial, and lay your all at the feet of the one who can make change and provide sense.

 

It’s that simple. 

 

Are you looking for Him? What will you (completely) remove to welcome Him home?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The shade though!

Dark enough to see…

February 26, 2015 one picture nearly broke the Internet. The picture went from one person’s social media site to over ten million tweets worldwide. It wasn’t the most picturesque but it grabbed enough attention to make it a common household conversation. The picture asked a simple question, “What color is this dress?” Some people said black and blue others said white and gold.

There were as many opinions as there were shares of the dress on social media.

The reason everyone’s opinion differed on the same dress was because of lighting.  The light that was used when the picture was taken gave a varying hue to the dress and depending on the condition of the viewer’s eyes and exposure to light, opinions changed. The funny part of the whole ordeal is how long it took for someone to ask the dressmaker about the actual color. (It was blue and black)

I believe the same is true when you consider the way individuals create opinions without seeking the facts. It is often because the circumstance is displayed in the wrong “light”. When Jesus asked his disciples how others perceived Him, they gave answers depending on the light in which He was seen. Peter gave the correct answer because He sought the creator. (Matthew 16:13-20)

Ellen DeGeneres is quoted, “In the beginning there was nothing. God said, ‘Let there be light!’ And there was light. There was still nothing, but you could see it a whole lot better. ”

Light can reveal a lot when used properly.

When I was in High School my mom gave me a super fancy watch. It had a genuine leather band; at least that is what was engraved in it. It also had a gold face, notches on the bezel for the hours, and glow in the dark hands. I loved the watch and only wore it on special occasions. One evening we went to a play. I looked at my watch during the production and realized I couldn’t see the hands. I was annoyed! After reading the manual, I learned that the hands needed to be exposed to light for an extended amount of time in order for them to glow in dark places.

Have you allowed limited exposure or completely avoided the light you need to shine appropriately in a dark place?

Matthew 5:14-16(NLT)
14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

Knowing Jesus ignites a light that makes you glow. The amazing light of Jesus Christ that is living in you is very accessible but it can seem dim if it is hidden by distractions. If it looks fun but fades the light that helps you be the person God created you to be, it isn’t for you. Change locations, remove the shield, and glow the way you were intended.

People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”
- Elizabeth K├╝bler-Ross

In our DARKEST moments we realize our need for the LIGHT…

His light can not only give light to you but also give directions to those near you.

 While taking a photography class, I learned that the negative makes creative pictures based on the shutter speed. The longer that the shutter is open greater amounts of light are exposed to the negative. Light objects blur across the print and dark spots disappear.

If things seem negative for you – open your heart to The Light. Prolonged exposure will spread His Light throughout your outcome and will fade your dark spots.

Get to know The Light (Jesus Christ)

Spend more time in His Light 

Reveal His light in you to others