Just In Time

The Glorious Unfolding is Steven Curtis Chapman’s newest album and, since the first day I pressed play, it has become a go-to album for me, in particular, because of the profoundly relevant and comforting message that is conveyed throughout many of the songs on the album. Without a doubt, despite the fact that I’ve had a number of notably difficult periods in my life, being my dad’s caretaker for the final sixteen months of his life, as his health and independence declined after diagnosis of a stage four glioblastoma brain tumor, was the darkest and most difficult experience of my life. I can definitely speak from experience when it comes to the notion of trying to maintain some thread of faith in God’s providence at a time when it was so dark that I couldn’t see my own hand if I waved it in front of my face. Surely, there were momentary flickers of light from caring and gracious people who knew about his situation that would briefly reflect off the golden thread that God had hanging for me where I was at every moment of that journey. But, it was all too easy to lose my focus and to not be able to find it again when I was at my weakest and in my greatest need. I was broken and empty and felt, surely, like I had nothing to hold onto. But, His thread of hope was still there whether I could see it in a given moment or not. He never left and, because I had nowhere else to turn, I never gave up seeking Him. While I often felt like I was lost in a free fall, he was holding me and carrying me through. Eventually, a new purpose and peace would be revealed (read about that part of my story here, if you’re not already familiar), but, it was only in His time, just in time, that I would learn just how powerful faith in His plan can be.

1 Kings 17 reminded me of that dark period in my life as I read about the widow that the prophet Elijah met at the gate of Zarephath of Sidon. During a time of famine and weary from his journey, Elijah asked the widow for a drink of water and a piece of bread. Verses 12-16 reveal the widow’s circumstances and lay the foundation for a lesson in faith that she learned by trusting God despite her struggles:

“As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread – only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat and die.”

Elijah said to her “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: “The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.”

She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.

My dad passed away February 20, 2012, but, not before accepting the idea that God loved him and that he had good reason to accept hope in Christ. In fact, the last thing that I said to him that I’m confident he actually heard and understood was that my uncle (who was there in the house with Dad and I at that time) were doing all that we knew to make him as comfortable as possible and that the rest was up to Jesus and that He would take care of him. Dad had been extremely restless and agitated that morning and he couldn’t talk due to the brain cancer’s progression, but, after assuring him that Jesus was in control, he settled down and rested through the rest of the day until he eventually breathed his last breath around 12:30 AM with my arms around him for the last time. His present peace and eternal future is brighter than any of us here can even imagine.

The nearly two and a half years since my dad passed away have been tough at times, to say the least, but, in that time I have also experienced a gradual increase in my awareness of the beauty of God’s glorious unfolding story. I know that there will likely be challenges ahead in my life during which times I’ll need to remind myself of this life lesson that I’ve been learning, but, it is certain. He knows what He is doing and wherever you are in your journey, you need to know and remember that “this is going to be a glorious unfolding…just wait and see…and you will be amazed…”

The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying

graceMark:

This blog post is spot-on and certainly worth sharing, re-reading, and adjusting one’s perspective on “blessings” as a result of…

Originally posted on The Accidental Missionary:

*Writers note:  After reading your comments, I have been moved to revise the following piece.  In a post where the main point is to encourage others to be aware of how our choice of words can get in the way of conveying our true intent, I realize the irony that my choosing to refer to my lack of understanding of God’s purpose as “dumb luck” caused some folks to miss the meaning of the post itself.  Silly me.  While people may still disagree, I think this slightly revised version better captures my honest intent.

I was on the phone with a good friend the other day.  After covering important topics, like disparaging each other’s mothers and retelling semi-factual tales from our college days, our conversation turned to the mundane.

“So, how’s work going?” he asked.

For those of you who don’t know, I make money by teaching leadership skills and…

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Be Independent

If you’re a friend of mine, you likely know how passionate I’ve become, just over the past two years, about the people of Haiti and the work that The Hands & Feet Project, and other organizations, do to address the deep and desperate need that exists there in the poorest country on the western half of the globe. But, let not my passion for the people of Haiti diminish my appreciation for where I live and the generations of leaders and soldiers that have maintained the freedom that I enjoy today.

Going back to the colonists who were tired of taxation without representation and the government leaders that guided Thomas Jefferson as he wrote the Declaration of Independence, to declare to Britian the colonists’ rationale for taking a new direction, it is evident the only time the world changes is when somebody gets up and acts. I consider this at a time when the biblical notion that God expects those who he’s blessed greatly to extend their blessings in service to others has been weighing heavily on me.

So, on this 238th Independence Day, it is due to a combination of my gratitude for those who’ve played a role in making and keeping the United States of America free and independent and my recognition that I’ve been greatly blessed in my life that I will celebrate this day and extend my wishes for you to do the same. But, I will also recommit myself, today, to not look away when the needs of those around me, here in America, in Haiti, or elsewhere, are so evident and I will ask you, too, to not wait around for somebody else to address their needs. Be independent. Get up and do something about it. Happy Independence day.

In Our Lives: The Glorious Unfolding

“…From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke 12:48

My cup is absolutely spilling over. I’m sitting here on a Friday morning on my couch drinking a special select blend of Starbucks coffee that a good friend sent me (Thanks Shirley!) that I ground up just two days ago and brewed in a French press this morning. Fortunately, it isn’t my coffee that’s spilling over. No, all of that is being enjoyed the way it should be. What IS spilling over is my recognition of all of the good that is happening in my life that I have to be thankful for.

I’ve witnessed God’s plan, devised long before I drew my first breath, unfolding in a wonderful way over the past two years. In the words of Steven Curtis Chapman, it has been a very “glorious unfolding.” Yes, for those familiar with my story, it has had A LOT to do with The Hands & Feet Project (you can read more about that here), but, I’ve noticed other ways that His plan has been spilling out before me, too.

God has been doing amazing things with my family. We’ve been settling into a new church over the past year and seeing the positive effect that this new environment and community has had on my wife and kids has been nothing short of a privilege to witness. Without knowing my wife and kids, you wouldn’t have any point of reference to notice the dramatic change that I’ve seen in them, but, trust me when I say that my faith in the notion that God knows what He’s doing, and that He will do amazing things if we just get ourselves out of the way and let Him work, has been affirmed and emboldened many times over in the past two years.

So, what now? Now, I will continue to seek His purpose for my family and I. A friend recently introduced me to the word sovereign. It is a word that I may have heard before, but, had no idea what it meant and I had certainly not ever used it. Just in case you, the reader, don’t know what it means, I’ll give you an in-my-own-words definition of sovereign: God is good and everything He does, as a result, is also good whether we understand it or not.

I recognize at this point in my life that there is nothing in my house, my garage, my shed, or my bank account that can offer me any security. Sure, I could work my tail off to fill each of those with things that I think will make me feel more secure, but, the fact is, there is nothing that I can do to protect myself or better myself as a person.

There will always be external circumstances that can compromise, if not completely destroy, what I think I have. So, instead of building up my stores, focusing on the substance of life is my goal. In Randy Alcorn‘s book, THE TREASURE PRINCIPAL, he emphasizes the biblical principle that whatever possessions we gather here on earth are subject to forces and circumstances beyond our control:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.”

Matthew 6:19

Alcorn makes the point that while the material things that we collect and gather over the course of our lifetime are finite, treasure that we build up in heaven by living out God’s will in our daily lives, is eternal. Whatever we think is good here is temporary and fleeting in comparison to God’s infinite purpose.

Yet, this is not a matter of working hard to serve others here so that I can benefit down the road. No, from my perspective, there is great satisfaction that can come from serving others here and now and, hopefully, giving them a chance to see the hope that lives in me. It is out of gratitude for the blessings and purpose that God has given me that I seek to help and serve where I am called to do so.

If I were $10,000 in debt and you handed me a check for $20,000 to cover that amount and give my bank account a little breathing room to boot, I would, without a doubt, feel compelled to, at the very least, shake your hand and say thank you! But, I am even more compelled to let His will work in me and to serve in the manner that He has called me, since He has taken my life, void of vision and deeply in debt to all of these things in the world that I thought were worth my time and, instead, has filled my days with a real and tangible purpose and awareness that He can do things with and through me that will have far-reaching positive consequences for his kingdom beyond what I can possibly comprehend!

I truly believe that it is our responsibility as believers to look for where the need is greatest and, then, to look for ways that we can address that need. That is precisely what Christ did and what I will continue to do going forward. His grace has and will continue to be sufficient in my life and I will gladly move forward, one step at a time, without as big of a concern for a final destination, but, instead, with every breath, a prayer of thanks and a request for guidance to know where to land each new footfall on the path that He has prepared for me.

Randy Alcorn, Kevin Max, and Infinite Providence

I came across a blog post this morning by Randy Alcorn called “Surrendering To God’s Wisdom,” and it proved to be quite a worthwhile read. In it Alcorn highlights the dynamic between Job’s limited understanding and God’s infinite providence. Time and time again, God has proven that He can take my messes and reshape them into His victories. As I was noting to a friend today during a lunch conversation, I am starting to notice a pattern in my life: challenges, trials, and circumstances that weigh heavily on me, making me uncomfortable, if not completely disorienting me, keep turning out to be the fertile ground out of which His providence proves true. He knows what he’s doing! It’s really not that complicated, but, too often, I tend to over-analyze each and every circumstance in my life, letting trials and challenges pull me under a rising wave of fear and depression. Because I place too much emphasis on my own need to know what’s going on and to understand all of the variables, I miss the chance to trust God. I miss the chance to live without fear. I place the limited confines of my own brain next to the limitless expanse of the mind of God and then, like an idiot, get flustered and scared when I can’t make sense of the narrow view that I might have of His big picture. The fact is that, whatever I think he is, HE IS INFINITE.

Reimburse

Thanks and gratitude I have
Most frequently leaving me
Powerless to reimburse
Creditors who gave free
Grace
The form of any good
At my side and in my wake
The fruits of seeds they scattered
At my feet despite the odds
Levied by drought-stricken soil
Long parched and left barren
But never beyond the reach
Of strong and ever-growing
Roots that lead down and below
The thin top layer of parched
Ground on which I chose to tread
Drawing from a living well of
Water that will surely quench
My thirst and ever sustain
Steps taken toward a city
That I can only reach by
Letting Him carry me

My Expeience In Haiti with The Hands & Feet Project

A video recap of my January trip to Haiti set to “Believer” by Audio Adrenaline. If you’ve read my posts about the trip, you might be interested in this. If not, take a gander anyway. The Hands & Feet Project is a phenomenal organization doing critical work.