Road construction is an ever present reality no matter where you live. It’s unavoidable and necessary as the places we live must evolve the streets we drive to keep up with the demand we put on our infrastructure. Just as one project finishes, another seems to break ground whether we’re ready for it or not. God blessed me with many opportunities this past week to realize that the same is true for the construction he has in place in me for Him. Even though I know that my former self is no more, the new person God is building is going to be constantly under construction in order to fulfill his will in the ever changing world we live in. I struggled a bit with this reality at first. Selfishly desiring a finish line or and end point to the process. Foolishly thinking that the work is done. Did I get frustrated? Yeah, I did. But I went to God, and he lead me to my mentors and to his word. Here, his voice was loud and clear. The final message was also delivered to me yesterday at church. It came through a passage out of 1 Peter 2:5 “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (ESV). The key words that our preacher highlighted were “being built”. At that moment the last bit of frustration I was holding onto seemed to evaporate and God filled me with the understanding that His process has greater meaning than anything I desire. God does this because he loves us, and needs us to be equipped for all the scenarios that will come our way as we live in our earthly home. More importantly, we will be equipped and ready to take on anything that God asks of us to fulfill His will.
Impulse spending is a regrettable hobby of mine. It’s a little bit of a rush. Standing in front of the item while it stares back at me on the shelf, almost taunting me, just imagining it gets me jacked up. I can’t wait to add this to my collection of useless crap I don’t need, but have convinced myself one time or another that I must have it. I must have it?! Sitting here looking around my living room full of these things, stuff that hasn’t served any real purpose in my life, fills me with buyer’s remorse. Imagine if we approached a relationship with Jesus with the same fervent mind set. A mind set and a way of living that yells out “I must have it!”. For too many years I fought having a relationship with Jesus. Believing a false narrative, convincing myself that I knew what was best for me, has led me astray. I thought I could make life easier and simpler if I did things my way. The reality was the exact opposite. Life was harder, complicated, heavy laden, and without any purpose but to attempt to protect myself. My life was all about me. As difficult as it was to hand my life over to God, the result couldn’t be better. But what I’ve now come to realize, it wasn’t for me. Early on in my quest I craved the moment I would receive God’s grace and love. Early on my craving was very selfish. I wanted these gifts for my benefit. Relinquishing my control has brought me peace, and life is simpler. But God has not blessed me with these gifts so that I would “feel better”. I was given them to share with everyone. Life is simpler, not because God promised me an easy life, but because my purpose has been made clear. “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15, ESV). All I have on my plate is to share God’s love. When it comes to dealing with buyer’s remorse, I can just as easily return the item as easily as I purchased it. But when it comes to moments in life, we only get one chance within that moment to give to others what God has graciously given to us. Don’t hoard these blessings to yourself. Share with everyone, love everyone. It’s really is that simple.
Today is the last day of summer. It might not say so on the calendar, but where I am it is. We’re going to have our last hot day today, then boom, twenty degrees cooler tomorrow. I love all things “fall”, so entering into the season fills me with excitement, but also usually with and a touch of anxiousness. As much as I look forward to this time of year I typically find it hard to not be a little fearful about the approach of winter. It’s funny how we can embrace change, while trying our hardest to rebel against it as well. Change is inevitable, but at times I found myself fighting it. Fighting a battle I was never going to win, which subsequently was damaging to me and anyone that found themselves in the wake I created. Anything that I perceived to be difficult or challenging, that I didn’t decide to take on myself, I fought with everything I had. Label me a brat for not getting my way, or arrogant to think I knew better (the judges will also accept cowardly, selfish, childish, immature, and…) Whatever the label that can be placed with that approach isn’t going to be one that I am fond of, but badges of dishonor that are rightfully mine. The change of the season is a little reminder of the changes that are taking place in me, the changes that God is making possible. Some of the challenges that come with a journey like this are ones that I’ve willing embraced and ones that I’ve had to learn to embrace unwillingly. Accepting all challenges in order to maintain control over a foolish, deceitful, and mythical desire of independence hasn’t always been easy; but as always, all things that really matter don’t lead you down the easy roads. God has transformed me into viewing this new season as a season of hope. I will continue to work on myself, but past mistakes or who I was do not hold me down anymore. My journey is not over, but God has destroyed the person I once was. I pray that I continue to have the courage God has blessed me with to continue down the path He needs me on, and that my desire to fulfill His purpose and spread His love continues to grow with each passing moment.
Sharing your story can be an intimidating process, especially when you’re not fond of portions your story may have. I’ve discussed some of mine in this blog, but I have intentionally left one out. In fact, I kept this part to myself for probably twenty years.
Back Story: Around the time I turned 30 I met someone, and I immediately fell in love with her. For the first time in my life I felt safe in her presence, I opened up to her like no other, and I will forever be grateful to God that he placed her in my life. I would not be where I am today without knowing her. He brought us together to lead us down a path neither of knew we needed or wanted.
I told her of a moment that happened on two different occasions when I was very young, a moment I kept from anyone for two decades or more. I will not go into detail, but this part of my story is centered around sexual abuse. By speaking up and sharing with her what happened granted me a feeling of releasing an enormous weight I was carrying around for far too long. The grace and love she received this new information will stick with me forever. But even as healing and as beautiful this moment was, I did not speak of it again until recently (4 years later). In fact, as of two months ago I’ve shared this with six people. One of whom a close family member that I later learned dealt with a similar story line. We both reacted the same way, tried our best to hide it, and take on the struggle for ourselves. After a lengthy conversation with them a few nights ago, sharing with them the amazing things God is doing in my life, they recently expressed a desire to seek out help to heal their own wounds. None of this would be possible without God. He has blessed me with the people I need, the courage to be vulnerable, and the humility to finally realize I can’t do this alone. It truly is amazing what will happen when we finally hand it all over to God.
Who are you doing this for? Why are you on this journey?
God is questioning my motives this morning. Am I seeking to change in order to get what I want or am I on this quest to acquire what God wants? If I answer his questions honestly, I have to admit that I struggle with my mind set and my motives are selfish more often than not. Even if what I want appears to be good on the surface, the core of my approach is rooted in my own desires. If I continue in this approach I will fall short and I will fail him. I struggled yesterday, feeling sorry for myself, and I couldn’t figure out how to shake it. Subsequently my behavior was less than loving and absent of even the slightest hint of grace or joy. One instance in particular sticks out. A group of us were helping a friend move his chicken coop to his new house. I wanted to document our adventure by taking a picture of the group standing in front of the coop we just placed in the bed of my truck. One of them asked to look at a picture I took, and I shot back with a snide remark that brought shame to him. I immediately felt remorse and tried to take the shame I delivered away by showing him the pictures and complementing him, but the damage was done. These moments are due to the bitterness I feel when I’m not getting what I want, and the venom I spew does nothing to reflect God’s love. I hurt a friend because childishly I was angry that I was not getting my way yesterday. In order for this quest to unfold the way God wants it, I have to remove myself, get out of the way and release my grip of my selfish desires.
I was filled by the spirit this morning with the strongest urge that I needed to read. My usual course is straight to the coffee maker, but today it was to a book (The Shack by: Wm. Paul Young) that was recently recommended to me. I’ve been purposefully setting aside time each morning to do this anyway, and what once was a new task I gave myself has developed into habit. Whether it’s reading from The Bible, a daily devotional, or a book that I’m currently reading. Which ever it may be, a lesson is usually learned, and a new tool is placed in the bag ready for for me to do God’s work. This morning I was shown (once again) how important is to live, in the present, with God. I often find myself either dwelling on the past, more specifically mistakes I’ve made from the past. Or trying to find ways to dictate and take control of my future. Both are futile and always leads me no where I need be. The lesson God blessed me with this morning is that it’s healthy to spend brief moments reflecting on the past, if you allow yourself the time to learn something and not live in it. Easier said than done, but just like introducing my new morning ritual of allowing space for God first thing in the morning; if you’re intentional and devoted to it, eventually it will become second nature. Oh how I look forward to that time when this is the case for me in regards to reflecting on my past behavior and patterns that I’m not particularly fond of. The same can be said for attempting to control ones future. I do this out of fear of the unknown and hoping I can create a space that is comfortable and safe. First off, I know that a comfortable and safe place is so confined, your are given absolutely no room to develop and grow. But secondly, and more importantly, you will not find yourself in any scenario that allows God into your life and for His purpose to be fulfilled. Finding yourself in either spot is finding yourself lost and searching in the dark. But living in the present is where God is waiting for us, and a search for him isn’t necessary. Just imagine what that will feel like to forgive the past and release the insane attempt to control the future. God has already forgiven us and has the future mapped out. What are we waiting for?
Good chance you’ve had a cut or a scrape of some kind that has developed a scab. Or even worse (after an adventure of clearing away overgrown areas of a friends yard), found yourself having to deal with the misery of poison ivy. If you’re like me, it’s nearly impossible to muster up the discipline to not pick at the scab or resist the temptation of scratching your skin off, in hopes to rid yourself of this wretched skin irritation. I know these afflictions are small in comparison to what life can sometimes offer into our lives, but this bout with poison ivy has delivered me a lot more than a minor inconvenience. As much as I crave the instant satisfaction that might occur from scratching the areas of my skin that are littered with poison ivy, I know it would do more harm than good. Scratching these portions of my skin would hinder the process that requires the necessary time to allow these areas to fully heal, and probably delay the outcome I desire. I’m reminded that if I resist the urge to try and “speed up” the process of allowing God to transform me into the man I am meant to be, the outcome will finally be what God needs rather than what I want. Like a kid on Christmas Eve, I want so badly to open and receive my gifts. But if I’m patient, and I let God’s plan to play out on his time, I will truly treasure the blessings He has graciously given to me.