Eight Hundred and Five Feet

So I own 800 feet of prime Morgan County pond front. That’s how long it is if you walk the edge of my pond all the way across my property.

I set out yesterday to trim the tall grass around the pond. When I do trimming I typically just fill the gas tank and work till it runs out. I can’t do all my property in one day anyways – time and energy don’t allow it. So I’m getting near the end and wondering if I’m going to run out of gas before I finish… it has been long, hard work. And I ask myself, “What will I do? Will I stop short of my goal, or will I go get more gas and finish the job?”

I get to the end of the pond and am amazingly not out of gas. So I do like I always do and keep trimming, planning to go until I run out of gas. I run out of gas not FIVE FEET after I left the edge of the pond. And of course, what’s playing in my ears? A song by Lincoln Brewster about a passage in the book of Isaiah about God giving us strength to walk and not faint, run and not be weary, etc.

 I had just enough “gas” to do exactly what I set out to do and nothing more. I didn’t totally plan it, didn’t monitor it, and didn’t pray for it. It just happened.

God showed me that I can trust my trust.” Of course I can trust Him… He’s always faithful. But I’m not. Sometimes I doubt my trust IN Him. But if I will just set out, do the little things I know I need to, and not sweat the big stuff, He will come through…

Just.

   In.

      Time.

That’s my story.

God of the Compost Pile

I love this analogy by John Piper and figured I’d better get it recorded here so I don’t lose it (again).

The Compost Pile – John Piper

So what about the compost pile? Picture your marriage as a grassy field. You enter it at the beginning full of hope and joy. You look out into the future and you see beautiful flowers and trees and rolling hills. And that beauty is what you see in each other. Your relationship is the field and flowers and the rolling hills. But before long, you begin to step in cow pies. Some seasons of your marriage they may seem to be everywhere. Late at night they are especially prevalent.

These are the sins and flaws and idiosyncrasies and weaknesses and annoying habits in you and your spouse. You try to forgive them and endure them with grace.

But they have a way of dominating the relationship. It may not even be true, but it feels like that’s all there is—cow pies. I think the combination of forbearance and forgiveness leads to the creation of a compost pile. And here you begin to shovel the cow pies. You both look at each other and simply admit that there are a lot of cow pies. But you say to each other: You know, there is more to this relationship than cow pies. And we are losing sight of that because we keep focusing on these cow pies. Let’s throw them all in the compost pile. When we have to, we will go there and smell it and feel bad and deal with it the best we can. And then, we are going to walk away from that pile and set our eyes on the rest of field. We will pick some favorite paths and hills that we know are not strewn with cow pies. And we will be thankful for the part of field that is sweet.

Our hands may be dirty. And our backs make ache from all the shoveling. But one thing we know: We will not pitch our tent by the compost pile. We will only go there when we must. This is the gift of grace that we will give each other again and again and again—because we are chosen and holy and loved.

Video here:

http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=12CNNN8U

Full text here:

http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/marriage-forgiving-and-forbearing

Piling Rocks by Moonlight

I suppose to be more accurate I should say that I’m blogging by the backlight of my laptop’s screen, but piling rocks by moonlight sounds much more idealistic. Plus, I AM outside on our deck, at 10PM, with a cup of coffee, and everyone else in my household either in bed, in a stall, or out for the night. (And no, Erin is not the one in a stall.) And it’s not at all quiet. The bullfrogs are out. The peepers are out. Occasionally the sound of an unmufflered ATV drifts across the fields. And junebugs. They appear to have shown up early.

Nonetheless, here I am. Finally quiet. It’s been a busy, yet not so busy, week. So often I get lulled into this idea that I’m either succeeding or NOT succeeding based on how busy I am. So during a week like this week, I’d be utterly confused! I picked up a nice sized project for a client where loyalties go both ways, and have another project on the horizon that is so big in scope that it defies my imagination; yet my role in it is to scale it down to the point that it works for my client… and yet, it could still change the world. Literally. It really could. Don’t believe me? Just wait. 🙂 We also did some maintenance work for some other clients, and I accomplished some things on the home front, including another Thursday of quite a bit of time with my boy at the park and at Hardees (we now have to buy 3 breakfasts for the two of us), and a Friday night with both of my kids (Dukes of Hazzard and Frozen Pizza – YES!).

On the other hand, there were some lulls in this week. I’m a bit behind on some work with my business coach (although tonight has afforded me much progress), and it’s one of those hard to get started again types of things after a week of doing other things. There were a couple other downers as well, but in the end, here I sit. On a calm night, outside on the deck I close to love. With an hour of ME time. I’ve got a couple books I want to read, and a couple more I want to read after that. But before I start filling my mind and heart with other people’s thoughts, I’m letting out some of my own. Mainly just to mark this week, to book-end it, I guess.

I can’t change what’s brought me to today; but I take responsibility for what happens tomorrow.

That line is written above my home-office desk. I don’t notice it as much anymore, but I know it well now. What has brought me to where I am today has brought me here. I am where I am. And that’s a good place. Because it’s the launching place for tomorrow. As I look back over this week, I remember moments where I noticed that my heart was beating, where I noticed a smile, where I felt a hug, where I loved. And when I put all those other things – cold calls, unreturned calls, gained projects, lost projects, PB&J sandwiches, frozen pizza, and 3 mile runs that wear out my ankles – when I put those in perspective, it has been a great week. I can sit back and say that while I did not accomplish all that I perhaps set out to do, I did set out to do something, and I accomplished much of it, and them some.

God has a way of reminding me of these moments. Much of it is due to the way he’s taught me to finally get words off of my brain and down onto paper – or this blog – or my business planning notes… But He also has ways of reminding me in the moments that I stop to listen. When a song comes on that I’ve heard a million times before but am finally listening to, when the commentary to my daily Bible reading is interesting, and I take note of it, and then 4 hours later I get the “aha!” moment as to why God was poking me telling me to listen. I love those moments. I’m sure there are many I miss, but it’s less than I used to.

And you know what I love most? It’s spreading. Not because of me or necessarily even through me, but it’s spreading, nonetheless. People I know are listening. People I don’t know are listening. People are telling others to listen. It’s as if every once in a while, a large enough group of us stops, takes a breath, and breathes out slowly that we can actually hear, do, and accomplish something Great.

Well that’s enough typing for tonight. Back to the business planning – I think it’s time for the marketing and sales plan – which I really need at this point, as that’s the biggest area of “shooting in the dark” that I feel I’m working on right now. I can visualize my target, I can explain it to others, but actually getting out there and knocking on the right doors, at the right times, with the right approach; that’s the tough part of trial-and-error for me right now.

Oh yeah – had a couple books recommended to me this week. If you’ve read them I’d appreciate your thoughts… or maybe you’d like to check them out yourself.

Unfunded, by Nick Carter. Nick is in my local networking group, and now that I’ve heard a bit of his story, I want to pursue this.

Fail Up, by Tavis Smiley. I originally thought this was called “Falling Up,” but that seems to be a 15 year old children’s book; and this was supposably a new release. So maybe or maybe not this is the right book… not sure.

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More than Conquerers – Stories of Two Chets

A few days ago, Mark Layton (our associate pastor) put a post on Facebook about testimonies for the revival services we’re having right now: “I am asking for volunteers to share a testimony about how God has delivered you from a difficult situation and made you ‘more than a conqueror.’” I’ve been through my share of spiritual ups and downs in my life, and sure, some of them have felt like victories… but “more than a conqueror?” I wrote back and said “I find that some of my best of days are simply battlefield victories and skirmish triumphs.” When I think of conquerors, I think of people like Brian Jennings, our guest speaker, referred to yesterday. Missionaries who give their lives to their work and don’t live to see the results of their labors. Martyrs who die for their faith. People that really give up something valuable, you know?

People like this guy – Chet Bitterman. Not only does he have a cool name, but he also had my dream job when I was in college. He was a Bible Translator working for an organization called Wycliffe. This organization has translated the Bible into over 700 different languages, and is in the middle of 1,500 translation projects right now.  All those thousands of people groups Brian was talking about yesterday? Wycliffe has given millions of people God’s word, in their own tongue. This guy was ONE OF THOSE GUYS. And not only was he a cool guy with an awesome name and an outstanding job, but he gave his life serving where he loved. In fact, it was on my birthday that he was abducted by Columbian terrorists, held for ransom, and eventually killed.

Here’s what someone wrote about this man and the book written about him: “Chet Bitterman is the All-American boy. He has a great sense of humor, a strong work ethic, the ability to love deeply, and a strong dedication to his faith. However, his biggest asset is his heart. Chet Bitterman is a giver. He wants to help others and finds himself in Colombia with his wife and two young children. Called to Die is a tragic book. It is such a pity that a fine young man who posed no threat to anyone and is in Colombia to help the Indians is killed. This book is a tribute to Chet Bitterman. He will never be forgotten.”

Tragedy? That guy sounds more like a heroic tale to me. Now THAT is a conqueror. Right? That’s the kind of guy I’d love to be.

I spent quite a few years trying to be that kind of conqueror. Whether it was through hard work in high school that got me to a top 10 list, getting a college degree in Bible with minors in Greek and missions, or starting off my career with a good paying job that gave me freedom to explore my dreams… I was on what I felt was the fast track to being the person God wanted me to be… except, come to find out, that’s not the kind of heroric role God was asking me to play.

So instead of becoming the person God wanted me to be, I fell into trying to be the person I thought God wanted me to be – which was bad in two ways. First, it was under my own strength. That “trying” to be someone I wasn’t made to be. Second, I elevated the mental image of the person I “thought” would please God. I had a picture in my mind of what a conqueror would look like, and I was all about becoming that type of person.

As Brian spoke about on Sunday morning, that was nothing more than idolatry. I was worshiping the role I wanted to play in the kingdom instead of the King Himself. It led me to constant feelings of disappointment and inadequacy, which led me to even deeper and darker attempts to find comfort and acceptance in everything from drivenness with my work to pornography to what could essentially be called emotional blackmail. I was anything BUT a conqueror.

When I was at the bottom of my rope, I don’t even know what was keeping me hanging but prayer, a few friends that cared about me and not their own reputations, and God’s grace, I was rescued. Through counseling, more prayer, more friends, and more grace, I realized that not only would God restore me to a role of a normal Christian, but he could re-make me into exactly what HE wants me to be. Even after I failed Him, miserably.  I truly believe that this broken part of my life represented the level of brokenness I had to come to until I could let God truly make me new.

I’m not ‘there” yet. I hope I don’t get “there” until I reach Heaven and finally come to understand true Son-ship and true Father-hood for what they really are. Sure, I want to be known as a good and faithful servant. Sure, I want to be involved in changing lives, even right here and now. But I’m finally discovering that it’s not the feelings of accomplishment that mean you’re more than a conquerer. It’s the day-to-day obedience of simply doing what God has asked you to do, right then and there. SIMPLY OBEY has come to be my reminder phrase. When I’m lost: Simply Obey. When I’m confused: Simply Obey. When I’m excited and what looks like awesome opportunities in the far off future: Simply Obey, right here and right now.

And you know what? It’s kind of coming full circle for me, now that I look back on it. You may know of my love for the Daily Audio Bible podcast. I love it first of all for what it’s done in my life, and also for what I’ve seen it do for countless others. It’s brought us back into a daily relationship with our Father, with our Creator, with the Savior of our Hearts.

And you know what I get to do!? I manage the 10 servers that spread the spoken Word of God across the globe to tens of thousands of people every day. I help take the gospel to places it’s never been before – to IPhones in India, to Blackberries in China, and to MP3 players in the Middle East… all across the world in languages I’ll never learn.

Am I more than a conqueror? That’s not the point. But my King is. And I serve at his pleasure.

 

Compelled

“The flower falls and the grass fades away, but the Word of the Lord stands forever.” (something like that)

God, I want my life to MATTER. I want TODAY to matter. Is that selfish of me?

You are the maker of all things, the master of the universe, the designer of DNA… and yet I find it so easy to wake up in the morning focused on myself… my success, my purpose, my lack of sleep, or my need for coffee.

Re-center me on Jesus today. Remove me from the equation. Solo Gloria Deo.

Does just saying that make it happen? Of course not. What DOES, then? How DO I put the focus back on you and take it off my own joy, misery, busyness, and rest?

Perhaps I’m somewhat like Sampson. Destined to bring you praise, but living futility in my own strength. Glory eventually did come to you, Father, but not until he was literally removed from the equation. I choose to give you my life. Make me a living sacrifice. I want my days to LIVE for you (although I’d be fine with dying for you, too).

I am compelled to come to you. Walk with me. Help me. Strengthen me.

Right here and now, as my friend walks in the door. Let us give LIFE to each other, not death. HOPE, not misery. CLARITY, not just more disillusionment.