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I’ve searched for meaning
I’ve searched for peace
I’ve sought the Father
And the battle’s brought me to my knees

Yeah, I know anger
I know despair
I know the darkness
And it knows me
Oh, it knows me

I’ve fought dejection
As it reached to my core
I’ve fought desire
Oh, but I lost that war

My sin accusing
I tried to disagree
But I know the shame
And it knows me
Oh, it knows me

Crying out for hope
Came the gospel memory
He bore my pain
And He knows me
Praise God, He knows me

Rest my soul, grace set me free
He knows my sins, yet He loves me
And He knows what I will yet be
**********************************

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; 
But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities;
The punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.

The poem I wrote above was inspired while listening to the song “It Knows Me” by Avi Kaplan. It reflects my journey.

Be a Bush

Be the best of whatever you are!

Today is Martin Luther King Day – a day for remembering King and what he stood for in terms of freedom, civil rights and advancing us toward the ideal set forth in our Declaration of Independence regarding all being created equal.

Two months before he was assassinated, Dr. Martin Luther King delivered a sermon titled “The Drum Major Instinct.” He described this instinct as “a desire to be out front, a desire to lead the parade, a desire to be first.”

By contrast, Jesus defined greatness as service. “You know that those who are considered rulers … lord it over [others] and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be servant of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life…” Jesus “became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son[d] from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Dr. King noted: “By giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second law of thermodynamics to serve.

“You only need a heart full of grace [and truth] and a should generated by love. And you can be that servant.” 

In taking with a group of junior high students six months before he died, he used the words of Douglas Malloch to remind: “Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.”

Thanksgiving Thought

“I will praise the name of God with song and magnify Him with Thanksgiving.” Psalm 69:30 (NASB)

The above passage is taken from the NASB translation of the Bible. However, the word “magnify” above is rendered “glorify” in the NIV translation. 

Many people like the idea of “glorify” versus “magnify” for this verse. Magnify, seems somehow, inappropriate. There is nothing that I can do to make God any bigger than He already is goes the reasoning. “Glorify” is a perfectly good word, but I think “magnify” is appropriate, and particularly needed in my own life.

You see, the older I get the smaller the print on the page looks to me. I need glasses. Sometimes, I even use a magnifying glass to read small print. My magnifying glass does not magically make the text on the page bigger, it just enlarges my perception of what was there all along.

This is exactly what our thanksgiving does regarding God. There is more of Him than we will ever grasp. Our praise does not enlarge Him, but it certainly enlarges our perception of Him. God instructs us to praise Him, not because He needs the compliment, but because we need Him magnified in our lives. Give thanks in this Thanksgiving Season. Warm Thanksgiving wishes to all — may He be MAGNIFIED in our lives and homes!
******************
A shout-out to my friend from college, pastor Dr. Glenn Young, whose words I have used (with some personal twists) above.

41BuYD+W4OL

I’ve been reading much on the fantastic and inspiring life of Winston Churchill.  This volume, the eighth and final is the masterful series by Randolph Churchill (Sir Winston’s son) and Martin Gilbert (who took up the task when Randolph died), brings to life the final 20 years of this tremendous leader’s life.

What stands out, as it does in earlier volumes, is Churchill’s devotion to duty and his courage in life — as does his uncanny foresight and vision.  He saw (and acted on) what it took (and has taken) so many others to figure out years, even decades, later.  And he understood that truth is not subjective and that effective policy and effective, impactful living must be built on truth.

This monumental effort will take significant time and effort to properly read and truly absorb. Its strength is also its weakness – namely it’s exhausting attention to daily and minute (and sometimes tangential) detail.

This detail, to the observant and insightful reader, will reveal and enable a greater understanding of what was truly happening and being experienced as it happened (where hindsight is of no help). It will thus also provide a true look into how, what and why Churchill and those around him thought and acted as they did.

Finally, it will so provide, if you have the eyes to see, true lessons on living life, even into extreme old age.

But this exhausting detail brings frustration in that it can detract from the overarching and main themes, lessons and critical points of history because they are lost in the day-to-day detail.

Nonetheless, this is a remarkable literary achievement and an excellent addition for those who have a good understanding of the major events of history and who seek deeper understanding of what made Churchill great and what animated him on a deep and “in the midst of life” level.  Perhaps more importantly, Churchill’s life provides object lessons in living life well.

 

Three related thoughts which I’m noodling around:

1) If we feel guilty for not measuring up to God’s standards, we often try to ease this guilt by lowering Him to ours.

2) Don’t act in ways that justify your critics. A Spanish proverb suggests, “If one person calls you a donkey, think nothing of it. If three people call you a donkey, buy a saddle.” Will Rogers’s advice is worth remembering: Live in such a way that you can sell your family parrot to the town gossip.

3) Jesus noted, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.” A country saying notes: “If you’re not running against the devil, you’re probably running with him.”

What to take from all this? I’m still learning (a life-long journey), but I think it’s summed up in this: The basis on which one makes choices matters. Choose wisely.

Christmas1974

Today, 79 years ago, my Dad was born (yes, he was a Christmas Eve baby). In the pic above, that’s him holding my baby brother with my sister and me many years ago celebrating Christmas when we lived in Virginia (1974, I believe).

Sadly, he did not see his 55th birthday, abruptly and unexpectedly taken from us as a result of a heart attack. This grievous and dreadful event capped an approximately 18-month period when a dear uncle, my precious grandmother and my respected father were all seemingly snatched away, leaving us with wounded hearts, fractured faith and voids in our lives.

Growing up, Christmas always represented a time of hope for me. Year after year, I would ponder and reflect that God showed He is faithful to His promises and to us in the sending of His Son, Immanuel, God with us. Year after year, I anticipated that life would become more and more fulfilling; that my calling and purpose would be revealed and, with sincere effort, fulfilled; that my loved ones would find and grow in Christ and God the Father.

But as I’ve grown older and witnessed & shared in the pain of dear friends losing children during pregnancy or childbirth; of the unexpected and unexplained loss of family; of the life-changing/world-shrinking effects of Parkinson’s and other diseases; of the immense struggle to adapt to the results of stroke, Alzheimer’s, Lupus, aging – I’ve struggled more and more with belief. Hope has often seemed a light disappearing from view as I travel farther down “the race set before me.” And I battle feeling as if my life has been invalidated as the institutions I’ve counted on seem to have declared my accomplishments as inconsequential; my beliefs as ignorant, my faith as unprofitable and counterproductive. Immanuel? God with us? Sometimes, I confess, I have misgivings as to whether that is true…..

But I’m continually brought up by the fact that the evils of this world do not contradict God nor His Son. “In this world you will have trouble,” He told us. Trouble of my own making and trouble resulting from a world increasingly spurning God and His Son. We are described as imbued with the dignity of God and yet infected with death, fear and self-defeating tendencies. “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” It was into this world that He came. For you. For me.

I continue to be rescued by this Immanuel, God with Us. This God who did not consider equality with God as something to be held onto and used to His own advantage. Rather, He emptied Himself and became human. He experienced what we experience – He experienced our reality. And, in order to save us, He became obedient unto death.

The Christmas hope (Immanuel) is a future hope – for a place where the kingdom of God is actually and fully realized. Where creation, now broken, will be made anew. Where the losses, the wounds and the voids will be redeemed, healed and closed.

The Christmas hope (Immanuel) is also a present hope – those who seek God, who come to God through His Son, will be sustained through present sufferings and will know peace and purpose in this life.

So, for grieving widows to abuse survivors to those suffering illness, disease, depression, doubt and fear.

For those who have made bad choices and despair of ever being able to repair what has been broken as a result of those choices.

For those who have experienced or are experiencing heartbreaking and confusing loss.

For those who were not loved growing up and have developed a hard layer to try to deaden the pain and insulate from any more pain.

For the widows alone, unable to sleep at night, remembering nights past and the laughter of family filling the house.

For the parents who feel overwhelmed and wonder how to build a family.

For those who feel insignificant …. lost …. alone.

For those who are weary and ready to give up.

For those who worry that the hour is too late for them to return.

This night, and the birth of this Child so long ago is meant to bring the hope of salvation.

He came to bring light to the world.

He is the gift.

May this gift bring you the hope of the realization that you are loved. The hope that a way to God has been made for you. That abundant life and abundant living can be found even here and even now.

Merry Christmas.

 

My son turned nineteen years old today.  Today he is recognized as a full adult by our great state.  I’ve had this date marked for some time as “the milestone” for his launching into adulthood.  Today has been an emotional day for me.  Having children was not something I decided on lightly.  My wife had desired children for years, but I had been most reluctant — because I didn’t know or think I had what it took to be a good father.  It was only after 10 years of marriage and much soul-searching and prayer that I made the very personal and life-changing decision to father children.  I have not been a perfect father — I can think of many occasions for which I wish I could have a “do-over.”  But, in the really important things of life, especially in faith, knowing right and wrong, being a man of integrity, my son is largely where I have prayed and hoped he would be.  And now we have begun the transition of his leaving our nest and setting out on his own.  Bittersweet doesn’t begin to describe what this transition, just now in its early stages, has been like. 

Today, on this milestone day, I drove to his college to spend time with him and have a little private “ceremony” recognizing his transition to manhood.  It was important to me that I do this — and I hope it was meaningful to him.  I presented him with a serious gift in the form of a book regarding what true manhood involves and also a letter in which I wrote from my heart and which I hope will be one he treasures, keeps, and re-reads many times over the course of his life.

To my son on his 19th birthday:

Nineteen years old – the beginning of life as an adult (per the great state in which we live 🙂 ). Where have all the years gone? Why does life have to go by so fast? I wish I could hit rewind and pause buttons and just savor the blessing of you as a child and adolescent.

But as much as I might like that, there is no stopping time. It’s a bittersweet moment because we are saying goodbye to the child we raised and embracing the young adult you have become.

This is how I feel today, buddy. You’re no longer a little boy, no longer an adolescent. You are a grown man who is beginning to make a life of his own. BUT, that doesn’t mean you are simply “on your own.” I (and your mother) deeply want to be in your life and you in ours.  We know we are not in the “parent-child” stage anymore, but we still remain your loving parents – ready to provide advice, support, friendship; we pray for continued involvement in your life – the ability to share in the up’s and down’s it brings.

I’ve often thought of what I would tell you as you launch into manhood. I’ve wanted to give you thoughts that you will hide in your heart and practice in your life. Here they are:

  • Take time for introspection (thinking about who you are and what you want to be in terms of character, integrity, calling). You will find that life sometimes gets more complicated the older you get. Sometimes it’s very easy to figure out, and sometimes it will take you years to find the answer.
  • Dare to dream. Work hard and persistently to make your dreams reality. Don’t get discouraged when you fail – learn from it and move on and keep trying.  Everyone has failures in life as they work to succeed.
  • Be brave.  Don’t be afraid to stand for what is right and for truth (especially among your friends).  Remember Deuteronomy 31:6 & Joshua 1:9.  Be selective in your close friends – you really do take on the characteristics of those you surround yourself with.
  • Keep your family in your life.  We love you and we want to share in your life; remain a part, a supportive part, of your life.
  • Most of all, commit yourself and your ways to the Lord, and you will succeed in life (that desk ornament I gave you years ago and insisted you keep on your desk? I did for a reason – to remind you of this very thing – Proverbs 3:5-6 🙂 ).

I have great confidence in you because you have a good heart, good character and most of all, you have faith in Jesus.  Live that faith!  I say again, LIVE YOUR FAITH.

It’s an exciting time, a time of transition, of looking to and planning for your future. You’re now fully responsible for your decisions and actions. Remember your actions and decisions have consequences (for good or bad; now and in the future).

Establish in your heart and mind that being a man is a purposeful effort which does not come about by simply growing older.  Being a man is more about character, compassion and courage than it is career. A man has character when he is a person of integrity who can be depended on. A man has compassion when he is caring for others by putting their best interests ahead of his own. A man has courage when he does what is right even what it’s difficult. I believe you have come far on this journey to becoming a man. You have learned so much already. Continue faithfully on!

You will make a difference! You certainly have in my life. You are heaven sent.  I thank and praise God for placing you in my life. I know I’ve not been the perfect parent, but I hope I have been a good one and that you are able to live well in part because I have been (and continue to be) your loving father. I am a better person because you are in my life.  I love you fiercely and as long as I have breath, I am here for you.  If you need to talk, need advice, just give me a call or a text or a visit.

Your loving and proud,

Dad