Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Resoulutions for the New Year

I am not a big New Years Resolution person, but I often set goals for the coming year. And usually I come up short.

I have two goals for the coming year. One is physical and it will require discipline. I want to weigh under 210 and maintain it. Many years I have been able to stay in a range from 215-220, though I fear if I step on the scales right now it may be closer to 225. This goal is not for vain reasons though most of us want to look better and there is no harm in that. My hope is if I can do this it will be less weight on my troublesome ankle and other ailing body parts. I also hope it would lower my cholesterol back to the good old days of well under 200. I love exercise so that is not a problem but this will require even cleaner eating, less cocktails, and a lot a prayer on my part, which leads me to my second goal which is spiritual.

Recently I have been feeling frustrated and disconnected over my prayer life. The words that came to me and that I shared with Jesus is I want more weight to my prayers. Simply a better prayer life. My thoughts on how to achieve this is to make the quiet time. Turn the machines off and find that place of calm and peace. Begin the day, every day, not with the Internet but with the Bible and prayer. Sometimes I can be pretty good about this but other times not so good. It just seems to reason if God is who is really most important in our lives than we might want to begin each day with him.


Do you notice how often when you read the Bible that words like first, all, and everything emerge? I spent most of my life skipping over those words because I wanted what I wanted, not what God wanted for me. It is so easy to trust our judgment, our plans, then a God who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us...Ephesian 3:20.

I don't know about you but I have a big imagination. 

Here are two additional scriptures that have resonated with me lately.

Matt. 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.


Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us...

Happy New Year to everyone.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

That Perfect Christmas

It is Christmas Eve morning and my son sleeps in his bed and my wife stirs in the next room. Sydny our little Chihuahua mix is happy, his belly full, and well into his first nap of the day. Life is good. Better then ever.

Christmas is always a time of great reflection for me. Most have been consumed by more sadness than joy brought on by my unwise decisions. Even now Christmas retains bittersweet moments mixed in with times past that I treasure. Pretty sure it is that way for most of us.

One thing I have learned is to place little demand on Christmas. Imagine how truly wonderful Christmas could be if families would just turn the pressure valve off? Stop trying to have people conform to what we want them to do. Be where we think they should be.

I was tested last night when plans went awry and my son was pulled in another direction. There was a time I would have been more than just a little sad, and I would have sulked that he did not abide by the original plans. Not now. It is not his fault that he is the product of a long ago divorce. That blames lies solely with his parents.

For many years I have hosted a small gathering before Christmas. We call it Christmas Lasagna. I use to worry about picking the right date where everyone would be free to attend. Now I set the date weeks in advance and God bless everyone that attends as well as those that can't. This might seem like a small thing but it is about letting go. Let go of expectations, the right gifts, the perfect dinner... Breathe and let it go.


This Christmas I have a new gift. I have a new wife who loves me the way I have desired to be loved my entire life. We have our moments as any couple does but we both can go to each other and say, "I am sorry. I was wrong." During the difficult times we try to remember that neither of us are the answer and we press into a loving Father who so desires intimacy with his children. 


Let's call this last section the Jim Glasgow influence, my friend first, my minister second. Would it not be a great time to let go of any harsh feelings? It does not matter who is right or wrong. Rarely is the blame solely on one party. This applies regardless of how right you believe yourself to be.

Regardless of the presents that I will open tonight and tomorrow, I have a wonderful gift already and it did not come wrapped in fancy paper. I lay my head down at night and hold offense to no one.  I wish harm on no one. Regardless of how they feel about me I want them blessed.

Reaching this point is not because of me. It is because my Father granted me a new heart.


Psalms 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

Merry Christmas Everyone...

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Duck Dynasty & My Solution

We can spend our time arguing about what is sin and which sin is greater than another. We can just resort to name calling if anyone dares to disagree with us. It is obvious to see how successful that is by just looking at the Duck Dynasty saga that is currently being played out.

I am a simple humble man and the only thing really unique about me is that I know Jesus Christ on an intimate basis. That is not a boast. There are enough people in the Christian/Religious community with egos so large that it would appear they don't think God can get the job done without them.

There are ministers screaming out making one sin greater than another while ignoring their sins and there are ministers who soft peddle the gospel conveniently changing it to the times in which we live. Both feel like religious behavior to me. Yuck.


I have a simple solution to all this ugliness for those that claim relationship with Jesus Christ. Each day of our life we press into the intimacy the Father desires for us and we pray...

"Father whatever it is that I believe I need in my life. Particularly the things I place in front of you. I ask you to show me and remove that idol from my life. Help me to focus on my walk and what I can do to love more, be kinder, be way less judgmental.  Let my walk encourage rather than discourage those that do not know you."

And let it begin with me. Leaving the solution in the Father's more than capable hands.



“Christians get very angry toward other Christians who sin differently than they do.” 
Author Unknown..








Monday, December 9, 2013

So This Is Christmas

The disappointments of life never seem so magnified as they are at Christmas. There were so many where I was angry, hurt, and though surrounded by people I felt as if I were living on a one man island.

Each year hoping the next one I would have the right things in my life to be happy. You know that picture of the perfect Christmas we want. It would actually be a Christmas where I did not want to just throw a bag in the car and drive to a place of isolation.

I must have emerged from Mom's womb angry at God for daring to include me in what I perceived as His great mistake of creation. As a kid I created an imaginary world to escape too. During my teen age years I turned to drugs and lived the party life full tilt. I could have easily died several times and some of those from that time did. 

Through it all I knew there was a God and nearly every night I spoke to Him and more times than not in anger.

The king of darkness aided my fury and prohibited me from seeing a loving Father. I have had two great callings on my life. The urging of the spirit. The details of which I can only see in hindsight.

My blinding Damascus Road when I was 19 and a more gentle, but just as powerful calling in my 50's. I began to realize my anger was dissipating. I don't know if it is this way for everyone but deep down I knew that for me He was waiting for me to seek Him first and would settle for nothing less.

It was this time two years ago that I felt compelled to write "The Journey." It was a paper about the changes in my life. This was before a blog was even an idea. 

I believe that God wanted me to document where I had been just before He took me on this great ride that began December 30, 2011. Standing in the fellowship hall listening to Peter Mattis and his friends play music. "I will make you young again." The voice so clear that I looked around to see if someone near me had said it.

 Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Now those are pretty words aren't they? But I lived my life seeking what I wanted first. And there are many days now where I fall back to the same pattern. But my Father knows it to be truth when I say, "I want to walk hand in hand with you on the path and any door regardless of how much I desire it please close it if we are not walking through it together."

So this is Christmas and I am humbled by my God. I am a writer so I can really dream. My wife, Julie exceeds any dream I ever had in a wife... lover... friend. And next year maybe my book is under someones Christmas tree. Wow.

There are many people all around us that will feel about Christmas the way I did for so long. Let's remember them and show kindness. I have shared many of past Holidays with the Olivolo family who God placed in my life. They never let me be alone and I could not feel closer to them if they were my own flesh and blood. I was the baby with three older sisters and now I have a younger brother and two little sisters. Tell me God does not have a magnificent sense of humor..

MERRY CHRISTMAS, & LET'S BE KIND TO EACH OTHER.
EVEN IF WE DISAGREE


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

10 Moments of Thanksgiving

Most of us will think at this time of year what we are thankful for. I chose for purposes of this simple blog to select ten moments that have occurred this year that I am grateful for. It is not by any means the top ten most important. Obviously I could write dozens for Julie and my wedding day alone. Mom slipped through the veil in July and God gave me a hundred moments I could share.

1. My last conversation with Mom when she was already one foot on the other side. I believe God allowed her to hear my every animated word. But my last words that I am grateful I could share was to say to her with all the pride I possess, "I am my mother's child."
2.The day I was emailed a publishing contract for my novel, "The River Hideaway."
3.Todd Osborne and part of the following Facebook post he wrote in October.
Let me tell you something. When someone sees potential in you as a 10 - year old, and continues to believe in you and encourage you when you're almost 39, and that person isn't blood-related, words cannot even convey how that feels. The best coach I ever played for, hands-down, both on and off the court, still makes an impact on me to this day. Coach Billy Beasley I love you my friend! Thanks for your encouraging words and telling me what I need to hear, not always what I want to hear.
4.My son Micah giving a loving eulogy about his sainted Mimi. 
5.The wedding toasts given by Jack, Todd, Katie, and Micah. Such heartfelt words. 
6.The night my new wife got angry at something I said and thought she was going to sleep in the other room. I simply and calmly said, "No, we will not start down this road."
7.The phone call from my sister Ada just before sunrise telling me that Mom was gone and I knew she was at her party with all the saints. My wife holding me as I cried when I put the phone down.
8.During a difficult time when I was exhausted and Julie held me and said firmly, "Billy, you are not broken."
9.Jim Glasgow my friend first, my minister second, when asked about performing our wedding replied, "I would be honored."
10.After Jim pronounced Julie and I husband and wife, and obviously after I kissed her, the sharing of a group hug with Micah and Julie saying to him, "You always have a safe place to come home too with us."
11.I know this is #11. I could write a thousand. The moment captured in this photo when I saw my beautiful wife to be walking toward me on April 6. This is a favorite picture for Julie.

12. Allow me this last addition. My sister Ada read this and spoke of something I shared several times with Mom, including the time written about in #1.  Mom never gave up on me. She prayed without ceasing over me, particularly during times so dark I could find no light. That last day with her I told her she could go home and that all her prayers over me had come to fruition. I was heart to heart with our God. Walking humbly, waiting, praying for His direction on all things. That I had a wonderful spiritual woman to share my life with. Thank you Mom once again for never giving up on me. As Micah once so eloquently stated, "Mimi taught me everything about grace that I know." Amen Micah, Mom was the picture of grace.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO EVERYONE. MY PRAYER FOR ALL OF US IS THAT WE PUT ASIDE THE THE ENTANGLEMENTS OF THE WORLD AND PRESS EVER CLOSER TO JESUS. HE DESIRES INTIMACY WITH EACH OF US.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Billy Graham, Passion 2012 & No turning back

How many of you watched and listened to Billy Graham last night? Many things he shared resonated with me but none more so then when he spoke of what an offense the Cross is to so many.

"Our country's in great need of a spiritual awakening." There have been times that I've wept as I've gone from city to city and I've seen how far people have wandered from God." Billy Graham
USA Today wrote an article about the show on Fox. I could not resist the urge to scroll down and read a few comments. The viscous remarks about a simple man who preached a simple message were of course present. I wrote an earlier blog, "Ugliness in a Fast Paced World." People lashing out from their deep seeded anger and often with no facts or incorrect ones at best. Aw the age of technology at its finest.

It made me think of many things. I don't know if Billy was aware of the ugly comments but if so I am confident he did not respond in anything but love and prayer for those that attacked him. He has seen the cross, preached it, lived it. He understands the gift and the sacrifice better than most. But even he said he does not understand it all.

If he can't understand it fully then I surely can't. So I share what I know. It was the greatest victory in all of mankind. Please don't confuse this with religion. I am talking about the supernatural gift of the cross. I do know that well.

Lifting weights with Julie this morning I played the song "No Turning Back," from Passion 2012. I never knew as I was leaving that event how much my life was going to be impacted. I knew I had experienced something wonderful but I had failed so many times that I did not trust myself. But that was okay because I begin to trust God. He has not failed me. I believed that lie for a long time. My anger toward him is gone. Replaced by a peace I can scarcely comprehend.

Thinking of Billy's message of the cross and his prayer for a spiritual awakening in our country reminds me this morning of a simple song. I believe it was the last song played at Passion 2012.

No Turning Back

.....This is my heart cry
Though none go with me
The cross before me
The world behind me
I will follow You
I will follow You....


Yes the cross before me the world behind me.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IInEYb3hd_k


Monday, October 28, 2013

Modern Day Pharisee

A few years ago my friend Jim preached a message that hit pretty close to home. As I was exiting church he stood at the entrance and as I shook his hand I said, "You know if you are going to talk exclusively to me you might as well send the rest of these people home." 

I have more faults and shortcomings then this blog or all the blogs of the world could contain. One thing, however, I don't lack is introspection. The ability to be honest not just with others but with myself. On Sunday morning I don't assume that the minister is talking about the person behind me.

One thing among many I enjoy about our church is our ministers often rail about religious behavior. Of course it still exists in our church and I am pretty sure it does in yours as well.

What are the signs of religious behavior for you? Is it judgment of others who are not on a perceived spiritual level? Maybe because they have not missed church in ten years, or never go a day without reading the scriptures. Is it being comfortable with how the service should be conducted? How about when someone puffs up their chest and brags about how many people they have led to the Lord? The list is endless.

What I notice is not what they have it is what they often lack, and that is warmth. I see no benefit in cold religious behavior.  Jesus must not have either considering the company he kept. One thing I love about God is the people He chose to do the greatest works through. Flawed people who made big mistakes like David or my favorite Peter. Why did He not choose those who lived an exemplary life? The good religious folks of the day. He knew the scarred, flawed, mistake prone person would realize how much they needed Him on an intimate personal basis. They knew that they could not perform their way to relationship with Him. They knew they were lost without Him.

I have spent most of my life terribly lost but I always respected and appreciated those that radiated God's love. You could just see and feel this warmth inside of them and I knew they possessed something I did not. They had the light of God and with that comes love, caring, compassion, tenderness, and a desire to walk humbly with their Father.

We all have our bad days but if we are not walking with a visible warmth that sets us apart perhaps it is time to reevaluate and realize just maybe the minister's words are not for the person seated behind you.







       
    

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The River Hideaway

On a day when my best friend, Jack and I were at home watching the movie 'A Time to Kill' an idea came to me. I asked, "Jack, what if this rich white guy and black guy meet and become friends back in the 60's when racial tension was so high?"

He looked at me strangely and said, "Where do you get this stuff?"

I took that as he thought I was crazy and at that time there was probably substantial evidence to support that theory. But later when I voiced this he immediately said, "No, I think it is great. I really  meant where do you get this stuff?"

That was 1998 and before I had a computer I began to write a fictional story starting from two young men meeting on a basketball court. My son, Micah reminded me yesterday of all the times we went back to the Park when the office was closed so I could write. I also remember a stretch where the ideas were flowing and sometimes I would wake at four and go to work early and write until my shift began at seven.

The second publisher that I submitted this story too gave me great hope. I received a very personal letter from Anne, the lady that read it. She loved it, however she was unable to convince the board to choose it as the one piece of fiction they published yearly. Still, with her glowing recommendation and five contacts she furnished I thought it was only a matter of time. Despite her recommendation three responded, no new fiction and no new authors. One publisher had decided to publish only children books. The other called and told me how interested he was and that he knew all about it from Anne, who personally had sought him out at a conference. But his company kept me on the hook for two years and despite how much they liked it in the end they decided to pass.

It seemed to play out that way often. I equated it to trying out for the varsity basketball team and making cut after cut but not making that final cut. That is not to say I did not have outright rejections I certainly did. The past few years I rarely tried as the process and life in general was wearing me out.

Some of you reading this may have ventured down the road of trying to get published. The realization sinking in quickly that it is very difficult to even get a publisher to agree to read your entire manuscript. Each company that I dealt with for the most part wanted only the one page query where you try to describe a manuscript that might be five hundred pages long. All in one nice tight page.

Right away you find out you have to rule out publishers of size because you have to have an agent. That is probably more difficult than getting published.

One small publisher in New York wrote something I never forgot. They received 7,000 manuscripts yearly from which they published seven books. Throw in being an unpublished writer and maybe less than half of the seven derived from that category. You do the math.

I can't recall in the past five years if I even tried more than two or three times. I was in a bad place for a long time where I thought I was good enough but that this God that was suppose to love me so much would never allow the desires of my heart to happen.

Many times I have shared the two great desires of my heart that were just for me. One was the right woman and Julie entered my life for good almost one year ago to the day. Today I am minutes away from signing a contract for 'The River Hideaway' and mailing it to a publisher in California.

I wasted so much of my life doing it my way because I thought my plan was better than God's. If you learn anything from my blogs I hope you learn to not be the fool I was. I turned the wheel over and God has so richly blessed me. I have a wife that loves me in ways I can't even comprehend.

Pastor Steve shared something this past Sunday that nailed my life before I turned the wheel over to God. He referenced a book and the following quote.

"The Christian life is so difficult because we seek God's blessings while we live in our own will! We would be glad to live the Christian life according to our own liking."

Absolute Surrender  by Andrew Murrey.

That was me. I was always asking the blessings of Jesus while I lived my way. Walking the path that I desired. Steve said it just doesn't work that way. I concur.

So now I have a writing break. I don't know what will come from it. The biggest dream is that it does well enough that I can get the other manuscripts already written published. But if this is it and this one little book sells 1,000 copies and that is all that ever comes from it I will say, "Thank You, God for your favor."

The publishing agreement came several weeks ago but the contract arrival took until this week. It gave me every opportunity to doubt and I did. I was extremely frustrated yesterday afternoon but even in my frustration as I was inclined to venture down that old path of anger toward God, I refrained. He has been far too generous to me.

I kept the news of this publishing agreement confined because I did not trust that it would not blow up again. I had been disappointed so many times. But it is okay because I have learned to trust God's timing better than mine.

Obviously, I shared the news with Julie who called me as I was reading the initial publishing offer and I was unable to speak. I called my son and he had to read the email to really hear clearly because I could not stop crying. That is my God. He reduces me to tears.

I don't want to leave anyone out and people close to me were all thrilled and your support means so much to me. Still, how can I not mention my adopted sister Katie's reaction? I placed the letter on a shelf under her water bottle one morning as she lifted weights with Julie and I. I told her she needed to drink some water. She did not understand but she picked the bottle up and read the letter. She got as far as the first paragraph before sprinting across the garage and leaping into my arms with tears already flowing. How blessed am I to have the people I have in my life. I am beyond humbled.

My sister Kay shared something when I called her and shared the news. First she was very happy and very proud of her little brother. Next she said, "Who knows Billy? Maybe Mom nudged Jesus and said, Lord, you know how long he has wanted this. Do this for my boy."

I like that. Thanks Mom. I love you and I think Kay was right.





















Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Way We Worship

I spent several weeks early in 2012 working in Pine Knoll Shores, NC. The picture with the beautiful sunset that accompanies my profile was taken there at the end of a long day of work. The small company I worked for received a contract to plant seven rows of Beach Grass the entire length of the beach that winter. We would follow this in the spring with four rows of Sea Oats to enhance protection of the beach strand.

The majority of the beach grass planted was done mechanically. One person drove the tractor and another sat in an attached chair at the rear of it throwing plants down a rotating hopper. The low man on the job walked behind the tractor cleaning up the plants that did not get properly planted. That was my duty.



During the course of the day I could not keep up with the tractor so early the next morning my assignment was to hit the beach and catch up from the previous day while they prepared for the day. It was the best part of the day. The entire beach was virtually desolate as the winter sun had barely risen. My ipod would be playing worship music. This particular morning I was listening to my favorite group, Jesus Culture. But I was doing more than listening. I was so engaged with worship that I was doing my own style of freeing dance movements as I correctly planted plants that the tractor had not. It was then that that I heard that whisper I recognize as my Lord . This is how I want you to worship. Worship like there is no one else around.

Worship takes on many forms. Singing, hands outstretched, dancing, and for me their are times I just want to sit and listen to the music and voices of those worshiping God around me. Sometimes I feel awkward with my worship, or worry how it looks but when this time comes I dismiss it and I return to an early morning at Pine Knoll Shores where the object of my worship said, Worship like there is no one else around.

How we worship is not the big deal but that we worship authentically to our Lord very much is.

 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Path

How do you envision relationship with God? We all have different images and ideas. Some are good and some like mine for a long time were anything but good.

Many years ago when I had a dramatic "Born Again" experience there was a term that was used frequently in those days. New converts said that they were walking with the Lord. I am sure that has a lot to do today with how I view God.

I view my life as a path. Picture a huge forest with magnificent trees, plants, and the natural floor of the forest. Next picture a clear winding path through those woods.



This is my most visual image of relationship with my Father. I see us walking easily and firmly on the path. We are talking and he is holding my hand much like a Daddy would a small child. I choose at times when the path is less clear to wander off the path. Does he punish me or is he angry when I stray? No. Absolutely not. He waits patiently for me to return to our walk together. Does this mean he  pulled his spirit from living in me because I strayed off the path? No, not even for a moment.

These times when I should just rest where I am with him but choose not to and go it alone under the power of my own steam are when I feel disconnect. As I navigate through the brush and find my way back to the trail he is waiting graciously with hand held out ready to resume our walk together.

The path means a great deal to me. Most of my life I had both feet defiantly outside the path determined to seek the things I thought were important. Other times I tried to walk one foot on the path and one foot off. The path no longer smooth I stumble as the terrain is rough.

God knows even in my darkest days I refuse to be anything but honest with him. What's the point? Can any of us deceive God? So when I was angry with him as I spend several decades being just that I told him exactly how I felt.

Now I say, Lord I want to walk with both feet on your path, holding your hand, and when I stray gently lead me back. I have no desire to be off the path whether it's with two feet or even one. I have all I need with so much more to come when I walk hand in hand, down this path of life with you by my side.

That is my image. What's yours?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Ugliness Of A Fast Paced World


We have all stuck our foot in our mouth at various times. Some more than others. Some intentionally and some not. Some of us recognize when we have done it and some don't have a clue because honest introspection is not their strong suit.

I enjoy many aspects of technology but at the same time it allows an avenue to speak to many without having time to reflect on what we are saying.  There is also a record of it that remains forever. Make a foolish mistake today and it may well be on You Tube 20 years from now.
  
That is bad enough but then there are people who live to be ugly. Read an article in a newspaper like USA Today and then scroll down to the comment section. Things that are not even political become just that. Both sides so certain that they are right with no room for error in their opinions. 

Recently former president George Bush underwent a heart procedure and of course it was in all the papers. The curiosity got to me. Sure enough among the well wishes were the vicious ugly comments. One person wrote that the alcohol and cocaine had caught up with him. The person seemed quite happy to gloat about the health concerns of another.

Joseph Prince in his book, "Destined to Reign," wrote, "Today, people don't throw stones, they shoot poison emails. Amen.

What about sports, which I also enjoy? The ugly vicious things said about people on the other team that we do not like. Do we forget that they are someones child, brother, sister, spouse, or friend?

Several years ago a prominent coach fainted during a game. Later I heard a well educated professional that rooted against that team admit that in a conversation with a friend that one of them said, "Tell the truth. Didn't you hope that he did not get up again?"


James 1:19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,

Lord help me to do what James said in all circumstances, even when people view things differently then I do.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Praying for Closed Doors?

It was early last year when after decades of wanting God's favor without my willingness to follow the path that only He has laid out that I surrendered fully. I did not run up a church aisle, or shout from the rooftop. I was driving down the road and I simply said, "God, I have made a mess out of my life. Please you take the wheel."

We are called to be humble lovers of God and people but a valuable lesson that I have learned is that it is okay to pat myself on the back.

Maybe the most encouraging thing for me personally is to at times not even recognize the man I once was. Now please understand I have miles of growing to do. I have not arrived. But a situation will arise and my prospective is so different than what it once was that I can't help but quietly say, "Thank you God for not giving up on me."

Recently I read The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson and the one part that resonated with me the most was when he wrote about not only prayer for open doors but closed ones as well. Sometimes we want a door opened so badly that we want what we want and we ask God to grant it to us. What if that is not the door God wants opened? Most of my life I would have said well let me have it anyway and I will catch up with you later.


I have a dream that I have chased on and off for several years. There was a time it was my idol. It was that important. It was not a bad dream or something evil. It was just an accomplishment that I somehow felt I needed to be fulfilled in my life here this side of the veil. Now while nothing is concrete someone has expressed an interest in possibly making this dream come true.

And I truthfully say, "God if this is not a door we are walking through together then please close it."

And the Father I have come to know joins me with a little loving pat upon my back.

Friday, July 19, 2013

I am my Mother's child.

The two great spiritual mentors in my life have been my mom and Horace Hilton. They both left for their final journey with the sunrise.They were both heroes to me.

I could have asked for no more from God on my final day with Mom this side of the veil. My wife Julie sang "Blessed Assurance" to her and early that morning my eyes were directed to a scripture that I read to her.

2 Timothy 4

6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

I thanked her for many things and I promised her that I would not stray again from the path our God has called me too. 

My spirit sensed that this would be the last time for us this side of the veil. I shared many things with her and I believed that even with one foot out of this life she could hear me. 

The last thing I recall saying with more pride than I can explain was..."I am my mother's child."


Friday, July 12, 2013

Micah's Mimi

As Mom is scheduled to be moved to Hospice today I recalled her move from assisted living to the dementia unit in the fall of 2011. My son Micah came home to assist in that move. Later when he returned to Raleigh he wrote the following letter regarding his "Mimi."



Dad,
Got a little emotional about Mimi today.  You know, yesterday I was distracted by the headache and when it comes to Mimi these days I've really put up a guard, not emotionally toward her, of course, but I have to be guarded walking into that place, or else it'd just eat me alive.  It's hard to see her there and not only her but to see all the other "Mimi's" in the room as well.  I can hardly stand to keep my eyes off the ground.

But, God comforted me today by reminding me of the good.  Of all the prayers and support Mimi offered to so many people over so many years.  So many turned to her for her grace, her faith and her love.  And while, today, she's not what she once was, I thought back to yesterday and Tiffany and the other nurse who talked so fondly of Mimi.  Even in the darkness and despair of this illness, Mimi is still touching lives with the same grace that attracted so many to her.  We both know well by now that God's timing is not of our own, it's hard for us not to question this situation, but it was very evident to me that our Almighty is still doing His work through her and for that I am grateful.


When she looked at me and told me she loved me yesterday, it was one of the most beautiful things I could have ever asked for.  Our God is merciful and gracious--slow to anger, abounding in love.  And now, as she enters her last days, we are called to pick up the torch and lead by her example in our lives.  She has taught me everything I know about grace, dignity and kindness.


I love you.
Micah


Sunday, June 23, 2013

BORN AGAIN


Is it just me or is the term Born Again used less frequently these days? I was part of that Born Again movement of the 70's when it seemed the Spirit was calling people to redemption at a higher rate, and calling many of those like myself that even church people had little hope for. 

How important is it to have a true Born Again experience and just what is it to be Born Again? Jesus said, "Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are Born Again." John 3:3. It appears that it was very important to Jesus. What is it? It is a supernatural experience that can't be found by simply being religious. You can go to church every week. You can read the Bible six hours daily, tithe half your income...be an outstanding person who people look to as good and righteous, and not be Born Again.  

The best example of someone being Born Again for me is my mother. She was fifty three years old. She rarely missed church. She taught Sunday School and served on various committees through the years. She read her Bible and prayed daily. A faithful wife and mother, and to nearly everyone a good person who lived an extremely moral life.


March 20, 1975 I am led away from our home by six narcotic officers. As I was escorted out my mom was seated at the dining table wailing in the most awful torrent of tears you can imagine. She kept repeating, "Why...Why God..Oh why?

I can't recall if it was the next day or several days later. I was stumbling in my own lost world and wondering if I would be leaving freedom for incarceration. But later she would explain the supernatural event she experienced that changed her forever. She was on her knees by her bed crying and asking God repeatedly why. And then she heard his voice. "Bring all your burdens to Calvary." In that moment my mom changed from being a good church going woman to experiencing the supernatural. She was Born Again. Many like me experience this and fall away but not my mom. She loved more and judged less. She admitted difficult things about herself. She often told me, "I was too prideful. I thought I was better than others."

Maybe the most poignant thing I recall her saying was, "I taught Sunday School. I went to church. I served on committees but I had no idea who Jesus Christ really was." I believe my mom was a good believing woman on her way to Heaven but she discovered an intimacy with her father that she had never known previously.

As it turned out I did not go to prison. A year and a half later I would have my Born Again experience. A voice that called to me as I walked down a road with no destination. 

"Come and admit you are wrong. Come and sing my glorious song."

So is being Born Again important? I believe so.















Thursday, June 6, 2013

Gotta Serve Somebody





Many years ago I had a dramatic Damascus Road experience.  A whisper from God one night on a long dark road changed everything in the blink of an eye. I handled being Born Again poorly and made many foolish decisions as well as offending nearly everyone I came in contact with. 

Looking back, I can find one tidbit of wisdom that came to me. I told someone that the Bible speaks constantly of light and dark, but nowhere could I find where we walked in twilight. Many years later when I fell away in anger at my belief that God had failed me I tried to forget all this and think I could walk down the middle of the road.  

Isn't that the lie that we are sold? We are good enough. We go to church enough. We occasionally help our neighbor. It is fine that we do things wrong that society tells us is no problem today. Aw the Bible..that was for back then.. A flawed account written by men. 

Recently I thought about Bob Dylan and his Born Again time. I don't know where Bob is these days spiritually and it is not my business. That is between he and God. I do strongly believe he saw the light and the darkness. Remember the album Slow Train Coming? There were constant references to how he had been deceived by the darkness and embraced the light. And while it may have been far from his best song. The song Gotta Serve Somebody is as true a song as I think he can write. 

But in our society today with the exception of those who willfully embrace evil we don't want to think we walk in darkness because if we are then who is the king of that darkness? Who are we serving? 

This is not about seeing the devil behind every door. He is far more subtle than that. He is more devious with a wink than a sledgehammer. It also is not about being religious because that is its own form of lost. Remember the Pharisees when Jesus walked the earth?


You may be a preacher with your spiritual pride.
 You may be a city councilman takin' bribes on the side.
  You may be workin' in a barbershop, you may know how to cut hair.
  You may be somebody's mistress, may be somebody's heir
But you're gonna have to serve somebody Yes you're gonna have to serve somebody Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord But you're gonna have to serve somebody.


 





Thursday, May 23, 2013

What is it we need?

I was blessed to be friends with Horace Hilton. My wife Julie has learned me very quickly and each time someone speaks of Horace I will feel her comforting hand as she gently rubs my back. She knows it produces waves of memory, emotions, and usually tears. The following is one short event Horace shared with me.

He was asked to lead a Bible study in a very affluent neighborhood.  The person that made this request of him offered their house as a meeting place. He agreed to the request but with some stipulations. He expected people to attend regularly, be punctual, and bring their Bible. He was a humble, soft spoken man, but at the same time he would mince no words when he felt the situation called for it.In short he did not want people dropping by when they felt like it. He wanted a commitment.

The Bible study grew quickly and the house was filled for these meetings. He was once asked why it was so successful by someone that could not envision that in all the wealth these people held that they chose to attend a Friday night Bible study.  I have never forgot his response.

"Because they have everything that you think you need and it is not enough."

Wow. The wisdom and truth behind his words.

Most of us desire financial security. I know that I do. Bigger houses and nicer cars would be good also, right? But regardless of how much of these things we acquire will they bring us peace, comfort, love? We know they won't but yet we desire them just the same. What about that right relationship with that special person? Won't that make us content?

What is it that we really need? 

What price tag does one place on peace? On happiness?

I spent most of my life trying to achieve what I thought I needed and Jesus was always present for me but in the background of my plans. I sought to achieve first and then when my world was right I would turn to him. Trouble is this plan of mine never succeeded.

I have been reading more of the Old Testament of late. The idols that were made of gold and other materials seem silly to most of us I bet. But are they any sillier or less relevant than the idols we place in front of God? Idols don't have to be evil. They are anything we place in front of God.

Our God is indeed a jealous God.  His desire is for us to place him first. To trust him with deciding what is best for us and letting go as I finally did of the foolish notion that I knew what was best for me more so than Him.

You know how when there is something or someone you really want to see but an obstacle impedes us from having a clear view? You tilt your head or move to another position to see clearly but the obstacle remains and all you get is a partial view. I think that is what an idol in our life does. It prevents us from having the full clear view of our Savior. Don't move to another position just remove the idol in front of you.



Thursday, April 25, 2013

16 Months




On April 6 I was united in marriage before God with Julie on Carolina Beach. It was an incredible day. My son Micah served as best man and gave a best man toast that had nearly all the small gathering in tears. As for me it was beyond tears. I sobbed on my son's shoulder as I clung to him, refusing to let go. It seemed for one small moment in time our roles had reversed. I was not holding a small boy and comforting him but it was a man holding his father and drying his tears on his shirt.

Often I had railed at God for not granting me what I wanted and for being so slow. Today looking back over sixteen months I can't believe how much life has changed. My sister Kay said recently that she had prayed for the right woman to be in my life and that she felt she was not getting God's attention. My reply was, "No, Kay I finally gave God my attention." I let go of the wheel of my life. 

Sixteen months and yet it seems that it must have been longer because of the events that changed me and continually change me. December 30, 2011 at a small informal worship gathering I hear as clear as day. "I will make you young again."

Three days later I am at Passion 2012. There were 45,000 people present and most of them college students. It dawned on me one night as I looked at the joyful faces that I was not where they were and I did not know what was holding me back.   Despondent I walked alone to the hotel room and went to bed exhausted in every core of my being. The following morning as worship music played I poured my heart out to God.. I told him I did not even know what I was clinging too any longer but I was so tired, so weary of doing it my way, and that whatever was holding me back to break it from me. The tears began to flow and somewhere deep inside me the pain of this life began breaking away and I was truly in my Father's embrace.

It was later that spring that while taking a shower I hear that unmistakable voice. "Get your house in order." What? I don't understand. What does that mean? After new living room furniture, window treatments repaired, and a new truck I still did not know what those words meant. I forgot them for a time.

July 1, this pretty, warm, genuine woman introduces herself to me after church. I did not know she had noticed me before and the first place was while I was waiting to get gas at Costco. Somewhere during that time she felt God whispering to her to return to church at Myrtle Grove. She obeyed.

Each time we bumped into each other we would chat as if no one else was in the room. I mentioned coffee and she readily agreed but I held back. She was younger than me. I was not believing fully what God whispered to me. Eventually we met for coffee that led to a seven hour first date. We both had been alone a long time and yet we both wanted only the partner God approved of. I am not saying by any means that I believe God is playing match maker for everyone. I do believe He knows if the mate we choose is a good fit for us.

We were on our third date when I felt the nudge to share with her what I heard in the shower. We sat at my kitchen table and I told her. Her eyes glossed over strangely and it seem she left the room. She looked back at me and said, "Say it again. Exactly the way you just told me." I repeated what I heard that morning.

She looked befuddled. I ask her gently if that meant something to her. She nodded and said, "I heard the same thing a few weeks ago. I heard it multiple times. I asked God what it meant." He replied, "The man I have for you is coming and he is coming quickly."

What I want to be clear is that we took from that gave us great comfort in knowing that God would smile on our path if the two paths became one. Still, it was up to us to be honest with each other. We could have clung to past hurts and future fears and allowed this to crumble. God is not forcing anything on us. We have free will. Julie and I chose to hold nothing back even if it meant it would break the love that was already growing between us.We found that not only did our love grow but we helped each other heal old wounds. Some of the most precious moments in that time was the times we shared and cried with each other.

Passion 2012 changed me forever. Each time I hear someone mention Passion it warms me. Maybe it would have happened somewhere else in time but I do know this. God wanted me at Passion. I was invited after church the day before Passion began. I had to decide in a few short  hours if I was going to meet the group at church the following morning and travel to Atlanta. I went because I believed that God wanted me to go. He wanted me to get out of my comfort zone and do something radical. The theme of Passion 2012 was about being interrupted. I allowed  my life to be interrupted.

I believe it was on the trip home when I said, "If I would have known about this two weeks in advance I would have never attended. I would have talked myself out of it."

My friend Jim softly responded, "Billy, God really does know what he is doing."

Yes he does Jim. Indeed he does!


Thursday, March 7, 2013

That One Person

The last day of Passion 2012 the host Pastor, Lou Giglio talked about what one person could do. He spoke of how easy it is to sit back and say, "God will do it with or without me." I lack the answer to that but I do know that one person changed the course of my life by taking a chance on me.

It was late afternoon in early March and I was standing outside the fence of the Little League Baseball field that I played on as a youth and served as an assistant to my old coach one summer when I was fifteen.

The day had been so warm early that I was still clothed in shorts and a tee shirt. As the sun got lower I got cold and started to leave many times but I clung to that fence watching "Coach" conduct tryouts for a new group of kids.

Why was I even watching? I went with no goal in mind. This was during the days when kids had to tryout for a team. The coaches drafted players and the practice time and place for each team was printed in the newspaper. Ironically I had noticed this and for some odd reason I drove to the field that day.

I was nineteen and I had chosen about every wrong path a boy could. There was nothing positive in my life. I was not in school and I was not working. I had a nice criminal record already for marijuana distribution. "Coach" knew this because he came to visit me when I was waiting for trial. That is how it was with him. You played ball for him but regardless of age you remained one of his kids.

He noticed me and had walked over a couple of times and spoken. The practice was nearing the end and he walked over one last time. This voice inside of me mustered up enough courage to humbly ask, "Do you need any help coach?"

The most amazing thing happened. This man, probably 60 years old at the time, with his buzz cut and the boy standing in front of him with a criminal record and hair past his shoulders.  I will never forget his immediate response.

"Coach" had a gruff no nonsense manner of speaking. "You want to help me? Be at the school tomorrow at four o'clock." He turned and abruptly walked away.

I am certain he heard about his decision to allow me to help with the kids from the Optimist dignitaries who ruled with an iron fist and often a narrowness of mind. I never heard any of it. I was one of his kids and I believe that was all that mattered to him.

Why such a crossroad? Did I immediately turn from the party lifestyle I was living? No, but slowly changes happened. I loved sports and I loved being around those kids. I still had ideas of getting back to my illegal business activities. My dad who I rarely paid attention too said to me, "It sure would be a shame if you got into trouble again after the chance he has taken on you."

Ouch, I tried to dismiss that with my usual rationalization. I could not do it. He had gone out on a limb for me. He had given me a positive outlet when I had nothing positive.


I don't know where I would be if not for "Coach." Maybe arrested again like my partners who all suffered serious consequences within that year. Prison, or maybe death from the lifestyle. I was saved later by Jesus Christ, but only after I was rescued by an old ball coach.


I helped "Coach" for four more years and then I became head coach of a basketball team. The boys I coached were the same ages, ten to twelve. Every practice and game I took what I learned from "Coach."

One young man I coached was the grandson of "Coach's" brother, Doc. Their is one moment in those 20 years of coaching that stand out as a true full circle moment. It is 1994 and my team is standing in the hallway celebrating winning the Tournament Championship.  Kevin, my former point guard, was now in college, and was helping me just as I had my old "Coach." Doc's grandson was on that team and he brought his brother, my "Coach" to the game. It was trophy presentation time and Kevin came up to receive his trophy. I said, "Just as I will always be "Coach's" boy. Kevin will always be my boy."  One thing I am certain of is that moment does not happen without "Coach."

I enjoyed great relationships with many kids. I am blessed to be in contact with some of them today fifteen years after coaching my last game. Ironically, when I communicate with them and though they are men with their families. I hope that they think it OK that I still view them as my kids. And if some of them think half as much of me as I do my old "Coach," and mentor Ed Wilson, then I am a blessed man beyond anything I could have hoped to derive from standing in the cold watching a man teach the art of baseball and so very much more. I love you Coach always, and I can never repay you for what you did for me.




Saturday, February 23, 2013

Potter's Wheel


This is one of my first blogs & what occurred that day was instrumental in leading me to that point where I finally let go of the wheel of this life. Not that I don't still try to do the driving at times. But I realize that my life seeking the path God wants me to have is better than what I may think I need. 


Isiah 29:16 You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay!


Would it seem peculiar if I point to a certain Sunday morning service as being instrumental in my seeking the path the Father had already laid out? Probably not, but what if I told you I can't recall one word spoken or one worship song sung that day? What if all I can recall is linked to the image below?



The event occurred soon after I returned to church, after a lengthy absence. I had spent many years being angry with God for my lot in this difficult life. I didn't care what path he desired for me. At times I tried to modernize God. Bring him up to our times. But always placing what I desired first.

A lady spoke while a man with a physical deformity in his hand silently molded an object with the potter's wheel. I don't recall any particular thoughts or any great epiphany as I watched. That would come later.

As I was leaving the service I heard a Father gently reaching out to his prodigal son to return home. "You have tried to mold me into what you wanted me to be. It does not work that way. I am the potter. You are the clay and it is not the other way around."

Imagine the possibilities if we viewed ourselves as the clay to be molded each day by a loving Father. Picture a simple flower pot being created.  It will not be a beautiful work of art each day because we are flawed and imperfect.There will be blemishes but the good news is that they can be repaired and made flawless.

I had no idea as I reflect back on that time that God would bless me so richly. I only knew that I had failed miserably in trying to do it my way. What did I have to lose? 






Thursday, February 21, 2013

Grace

Our ministers have been teaching a series on the book of Galatians. What a fascinating little book. Do we live under the law, grace, or a bit of both? I am certainly no Biblical expert but it appears clear that Paul leads us to grace.

Years ago I took a class in college on Introduction to the New Testament. It was enlightening to study how the New Testament was put together. You could take a cynical view and say this was put together by men and so it is flawed. Another view point might be God breathed spirit into these words knowing we would need them not just then but centuries later and they would be as relevant as the day they were written.

The retired minister who taught the class had a couple of sayings he said frequently. He spoke of how the church used fear and control to keep the congregation in line. He would follow that by saying, "Is that New Testament living?" He also said the reason the church used fear and guilt was that it works. But does it really?


I understood the minister's logic about the church using fear and control. Grace unrestrained would allow people the freedom to live any lifestyle.

As I have sought more the path God would have me on it seems simple enough that if I sincerely ask him to take up more residence in my heart I won't need a list of what to do or not do. Galatians 5:16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.  It says the Spirit, not what society thinks.

I have witnessed people working as ministers pat people on the back and say, "That was for back then." My question is if this is so when did the scriptures become irrelevant? Was it the tenth century, the twentieth, this century? What time was it where God said the scriptures no longer apply?

I find it hard to believe anyone who is seeking intimacy with the Father can read scriptures with an open heart and discount it as something written long ago. It lives and it literally breathes.

Even during the days where I shunned God and wanted nothing to do with him I always took comfort in a simple scripture. Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. We don't get to change him or mold him to what we need him to be. We don't get to fit him into what society accepts. It does not work that way and believe me I have tried. He waited for me to turn back and he welcomed me with open arms. Not with judgment or condemnation but love and yes grace. Abounding and unlimited grace....

Hallelujah...



Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What Is Holding You Back Dad?

My son, Micah has an amazing recall of the events of his childhood. Truthfully, considering the mistakes I made I sometimes wish this were not true. Often he says, "Dad remember when..." and I would think no way this happened. He keeps providing details and eventually I would recall the event. Many times I would joke with him that if he continually held on to every thought, every event, that his head would run out of room and a mass explosion might occur.

It was early 2002 and I was mired in a deep black hole. Often I have referred to depression as the devil's own disease. Those of you who have suffered with it know the hell I speak of. This particular bout was brought on by emotional exhaustion. During a six month stretch the previous year I had watched a Father I battled with all of my life slowly die. I had surgery on each knee within four months. Between the surgeries according to the doctor I either had a strange bacterial infection in my sinuses or a chemical reaction. I lost fourteen pounds in two weeks. I was sicker than I have ever been in my life. I had a whirlwind relationship that began at the time of my father's death and came to a crashing finality on my son's birthday. The sight of my son with dark welts under his eyes on his fourteenth birthday because of my breakup with a woman he loved brought guilt to me that I could not forgive myself for.

I was hurting, lost, lonely, and could not find a moment of peace. Remember Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump in the storm cursing at God? I did that daily but I was far angrier than Lt. Dan. I begged God to take me from this world. Each morning I was angry to find I was still alive.



It was Saturday night and Micah and I attended a church service. The theme of the minister's message was  "What is it that you hold on to that is keeping you from fullness with the Father?" At one point my son turned and looked at me and with clarity and a weariness in his voice and said, "What's holding you back, Dad?" The boy that remembers everything has no memory of this event. He takes comfort in the fact that he knows I have had supernatural moments with God. I tell him that he has experienced this as well. I thought it a strange thing for him to say that night and as time went by I realized God was speaking through Micah but I was to angry and to set on what I thought I needed in my life to listen.


Fast forward a few years later at Passion 2012 where I asked God to break off whatever else I was holding on to that kept me from intimacy with him. Moments later I was weeping, exhausted, and broken. A few days after that I recall driving down the road and saying "Father, I have made a mess out of doing it my way. I am so tired. You take the wheel. I will go where you say." He knew I meant it. Life has not been the same. The things I thought I needed I don't. What he has granted me has exceeded my dreams.

Why is it we insist on doing it our way? The results at least in my case were not good. Still, we cling to old habits, our achievements, and what we think we need to be happy.Is it a certain relationship we think we need? Is it financial security? Pride? Religious behavior, a certain lifestyle? Do we really trust God to give us what we  need? That was a big stumbling block for me. I did not trust.

He is a jealous God and he will not accept the idols we place in front of him. But he is the consummate gentleman and it will always be our choice.



What's keeping you? 




Thursday, January 24, 2013

What Kind of Father?

There are two books I have read recently by Jack Frost that I would highly recommend. Spiritual Slavery to Spiritual Sonship & The Father's Embrace. How do you view God? Sadly for most of my life I saw him as the angry old man in the sky. I returned his imagined anger at me by being angry with him. Many days I cursed him for the darkness in my life. I can't tell you how that has changed for me other than to credit our loving Father. I just know I have changed my views of him and my views of myself as well.





Occasionally an event happens that gently and humbly reminds me that I am not the man I once was. Monday afternoon I went for a bike ride. I am not a huge cyclist and in fact I stay off busy roads as much as possible. Fortunately where I live leads to an almost perfect place to bike to meet my needs. I biked to the boat ramp at Carolina Beach on the waterway and then to the State Park, which is my favorite place to bike. Bike lanes, woods, occasional deer sightings, and the river down by the boat ramp that offers one beautiful sunset after another.

It was near the ramp that I made a mistake. I saw how clean the trail in the woods was and I followed it to the next road. It was exhilarating right up until I stopped in my driveway and noticed my bag had come unzipped and I had no keys or phone. Julie, (my girl friend) had left her little dog Sydny with me and he was barking furiously for supper. What do I do? Here is what I did not do. I did not cuss and bemoan my bad luck as I once would have. I was anxious. There is no doubt of that fact.

I borrowed a phone from a neighbor and left a distress call at Julie's work. I jumped back on my bike to retrace my path. There was very little light left. I prayed and asked God for guidance. Now my intention was to retrace every part of the path but as I entered the main road I felt in my spirit, "They are in the Park." Doing it in my own power I wanted to go to the first boat ramp but I chose to listen to my instincts, God, both?

It took about ten minutes to enter the State Park. I kept my eyes peeled the entire time and asked a few people I encountered if they had seen keys and a phone. I thought about the path I ventured off the road for and thought that might be the best place to search in the remaining light of the day. I walked my bike down the path growing more concerned with each step and then I stopped. I got down on my knees by my bike and poured out my concerns to my loving Father. I continued to walk down the path and right in the middle of the path I saw my keys. I was overjoyed. The phone was nowhere in sight but I thanked God immensely and said if I have to pay for a phone so be it. Thank you.

I was not giving up and I recall something Julie says often. "You have not because you ask not." I asked for a good Samaritan. It was 5:40 and the Park closes at 6. I saw two cars in the parking lot by the river. I biked to one and asked if they had a phone, which they did not. I was going to try the trail one more time. As I reached the area there was a couple loading their dogs into their car. I asked if they had seen a phone and they answered no. I asked if they would call my number every couple of minutes as I walked the trail and they said yes. It was almost dark and I was halfway down the trail and still talking with my Father. All of a sudden I heard Christy Nockels singing 'Waiting Here for You.' (my ring tone) I raced to the sound before the song stopped. I found my phone face down off to the side of the trail. I answered the phone and exclaimed in a voice that might have punctured the poor lady's ear drum.."Thank you Jesus." I calmed down and thanked her repeatedly for their help. She was kind and told me that they were glad to help.

As I biked home I was thanking God out loud and just so grateful that he took the time to help with a problem that was not earth shattering. I prayed that he bless the couple who took time to help.  Mark 9:41 I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.

It was not the end of the world if someone had to come let me in my house and I had to buy new keys and a phone. I once viewed God as someone who grudgingly did something to aid me on occasion. There is no problem too big or too small for a loving Father.  It won't always work the way it did for me in this situation, but how I react is of the greater importance.

As I thought later about the events that transpired, I thought of how I wanted to do the entire route my way. What would have happened? For one thing I would have run out of light sooner but of far greater significance I would have missed that couple who helped me. One more minute and they were driving away. 

Sydny was rewarded also. He gets quite adamant about his time to eat in the late afternoon. I gave him some chili con carne with his dog food. He was as excited as I was to find my keys and phone.

How do you view God? I view him as a Father who seeks intimacy with his children. He wants to embrace us. Think about the two books by Jack Frost I mentioned in the beginning. You can't work your way, follow the law, or be good enough to find intimacy with God. It is his grace that allows that and his grace is sufficient for all.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Who Cut in on You?

Our God has different avenues to speak to us. Many years ago I was walking down a lonely dark street and I experienced a whoosh from head to toe.I heard words so clear, so precise, so life changing that I can only refer to that time as a Road to Damascus moment. I gave up a life of drugs, promiscuity, immorality, endless parties, and was born again.

I was passionate about my discovery that God was indeed real but in the years to come I fell far away, and I never saw God as the loving father that he is. He was still the angry finger pointing God that was taught to me in my youth.

Many years later I found myself back in the church I joined in the 80's but had not set foot inside the building in many years. That was almost six years ago. I connected with virtually no one and kept people at arm's length who tried to just be friendly. I did not belong and yet I kept returning.

There has been no Road to Damascus but ever so gently a loving Father began to call me home. He understood that I was not ready yet to let go of the things that I was drawn too and yet also haunted by. He was the consummate gentleman.

The first significant episode I can recall occurred as I was sitting alone in the pew minutes before the service began. I picked up the Bible held in the rack in front of me and opened it without thought. My eyes fell upon the scripture from Galatians 5:7  You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?

I did not have an answer to his question but I certainly knew he was talking to me and if he was talking to me he had not given up on my returning home to him.