Tag Archives: Decisons

Awakening

Sunrise

Have you ever had something bad happen to you but in the end, became a blessing in disguise?  We may all have had such occurrences that we just chock up to a “happy accident” or perhaps a strange coincidence.  Such was the case in a rather recent adventure I’ve been on.

Somehow, sometime around two months ago, I injured my lower back.  Who knows how I did it but my lower back suddenly screamed for attention and was relentless in getting its’ own way.  I made an appointment with the doctor and he said basically to “take it easy” and if it got worse, he would prescribe something for the pain.  I went home wishing I could put the doctor in a little pain.  Finding my medical professional to be less than helpful, I thought I would try a different approach and asked my daughter if she knew a good chiropractor in the area.  After polling her friends, she gave me a couple of suggestions and I landed on one that seemed to be pretty reputable.  Having no prior experience with a chiropractor, I knew this would be a memorable experience.

I went for my first appointment where they poked, prodded, measured and x-rayed this not so perfect specimen of a body and announced they could help me with the pain along with my out of alignment situation and a few other “since you are getter older” scenarios.  The next appointment, the chiropractor began the vertebrae manipulations along with electrical stimulation for the back.  After about a week, the lower back started to feel better; after two weeks, something else started going on.

One of the areas he was working on was the C2 vertebra that was a little kinked.  During every visit as a course of treatment, he would have me lie on my back while he maneuvered my neck followed by a quick pause and a subsequent cracking sound as he jerked my neck this way or that.  (I still subconsciously check my extremities for paralysis after that manipulation).

I have been totally deaf on my right side for the past fifteen years due to Meniere’s disease which I mentioned in my blog post, “Sshhh…Listen”.  A couple of weeks after the neck manipulations began, I noticed when I used a cotton swab in my right ear there was a slight sensory response.  I didn’t think anything about it until it became more pronounced the next time and I also thought I could hear a little something from time to time.  It got to the point where I was convinced I could actually start hearing a little from my right ear and made an appointment for a hearing test.  Sure enough, I was at fifty-two percent or better and eligible for a hearing aid to make up the difference.  You see, my auditory nerves were in a dormant state until the vertebrae manipulations began to stimulate the nerves and made them active once again!  WOW, talk about a two-fer!  I had a sound back AND my hearing restored?!  All it took was the right stimulation to awaken what I thought was permanently dead!

This experience made me think about our spiritual lives.  So many people today are walking around either spiritually dead or sleep walking while wasting the time God has given them to be the best for Him.  And instead of Meniere’s disease causing their deafness, it is sin in their lives that deadens the sound of His “still small voice”.  We get so caught up in our own wants that we block out anything or anyone else that goes against our wishes.  So what do we do?  What kind of stimulus do we need to wake us up from this ungodly slumber we seem to be in?  I have an idea; open your eyes and look all around you!  We are living in the last days folks and all you have to do is turn on the news to see what’s going on.  This world and our country are in a complete political and social upheaval. Recently, there was even news of an after school program called “Satan Club” aimed at elementary aged children and teaches freedom and fun as an alternative to Christian superstition and paranoia.  Does this sound any alarms to you?

Isn’t it time we stop playing church and be the church, set apart to be God’s people not entertainers?  Shouldn’t we be used by God as tools to proclaim the gospel as it actually is reflected in the bible instead of dictating to what people think they want to hear?  Yep, I’m sounding kind of preachy but I think we will be held accountable for taking the non-offensive approach to the gospel instead of doing what is right. By the way, on August 17th I get my hearing aid so I can once again hear life in the full and in stereo!  Isn’t it time to awaken from your slumber so YOU can fully hear what God has in store for you?

Mark 4:9 (NASB) — And He was saying, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Revelation 3:1-3 (NIV) — To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.

Mirror, Mirror

mirrorSometimes when I’m driving around our neighborhood, it seems like everyone has disappeared even though I know someone has to be home because their cars are in the driveway and the lights are on.  We seem to be an antisocial society anymore; “won’t you be my neighbor” appears to have been replaced by “I’m busy, what do you want?”  We truly seem to be living in a “ME” driven world and have equipped our cocoons with everything to entertain and tantalize.  We have everything from cable to the internet to our very precious cell phones to keep us occupied.  It even seems like we have replaced the window glass in our homes with mirrors so we can concentrate on all of “OUR” wants and needs; forget anyone else including, at times, other family members.

What’s reflected below was primarily written for all of us as a wake up call, to heed the warning and change the priorities of our lives; God first, others second, and finally ourselves on the tail end.  Who knows; we may just get a different perspective on life standing in the back of the line looking forward…

2 Timothy 3:1-4 (NLT)  You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times.  For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred.  They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good.  They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God.

Mirror, Mirror

By Stephen R. Wilson

One more selfie, one last tweet

A glance at Facebook before I leave,

I’m dressed to impress with a killer smile

It’s all about me and my impeccable style.

I’m off to my career, I’m highly degreed

They are lucky to have me and my pedigree,

Even though I’m just starting, I demand a high pay

Entitlement is my game and I know how to play.

Mirror, mirror on the wall

Who’s the fairest of them all,

I would think it must be me

For my face is the only one I see.

My parents call but have no time for such stuff

I may call them next week if they have any luck,

They said they were concerned and would pray for me

I would rather they leave me alone and let me be.

I don’t have time for Jesus or make believe

I’m doing just fine, just being me,

What would my friends think if I changed my view?

They love me the way I am and I do too.

Mirror, mirror on the wall

Who’s the smartest of them all,

I used to be backward and so naïve

I proved them all wrong just look at me!

My new apartment is something to see

It has every amenity, fits me to a T,

All of this room and it’s only just me

Until I find that someone and give them a key.

Suddenly a shout and a trumpet sounds

My whole world shakes and comes crashing down,

I cry Lord, Lord save me please

“I never knew you” was the response I received.

Mirror, mirror smashed on the ground

Fragments of myself just lying around,

 I feel so lost and so very afraid

I traded my soul for a selfish charade.

The Devil’s Food Made Me Do It

425It happened just this morning without warning.  I was quietly perusing my e-mails and there it was; a notice from my doctor’s office that I have an upcoming appointment on Wednesday morning.  A sickening sense of loathing enveloped my very being as I mentally went through the clinical dialogue that would occur.  “Oh, it looks like you have gained a little weight since your last visit” the doctor would say with furrowed brow; this profound message coming from a healthcare provider with a physique resembling a pretzel stick with hair.

I know I need to lose weight; this problem is literally right in front of me.  Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” HHhhmmmm…even though I have not defaced this temple with graffiti in the form of tattoos, it appears as though I’m attempting to build on an annex to that temple the scripture was talking about.

Currently, I have the perfect Bubba body.  This body type looks remarkably like a Buddha body, including the distended belly but since I now live in the South and wear a lot of plaid shirts I thought the phrase “Bubba body” made more sense.

I actually took steps to begin an exercise program before Christmas.  I purchased a previously owned elliptical machine from my daughter and son-in-law since I was used to using one at the YMCA some time ago.  I climbed aboard and was worn out in no time; then I started moving my legs up and down and really got winded…baby steps, baby steps…I even purchased some resistance bands from Amazon for Christmas.  I always thought the term “resistance band” was an indicator it was time to go up a size in underwear.  Now I know they are nothing more than giant rubber bands with handles that provide resistance to your muscle groups.  They also hurt REALLY badly when you accidentally let go of one of the handles.

It is not like I haven’t been successful losing weight in the past.  I lost almost fifty pounds through Weight Watchers around five years ago.  There were times I even went as far as to schedule my blood donation the afternoon before the “weigh in”.  (Did you know a unit of blood weighs a little more than one pound?)  I also took off my shoes, belt, and contents from my pockets and even got a haircut if I thought it would make a difference at the scales.  I finally reached my goal weight and became a lifetime member which is when the struggle began.  The other participants didn’t really care that you were on the maintenance program.  I mean, how could you share your successes in a room full of scathing looks and snarling teeth?  I guess I could have sweetened them up with a box of donuts…

I blame the Devil for my plumpness as I consider anything that tastes so good but is so bad for me as Devil’s food.  For what pain and suffering must one go through to resist luscious chocolate or the smell and taste of fresh baked yeast bread slathered in butter?  It must be inherently evil to tempt mere humans as it does.  And don’t forget the Devil’s henchmen; the seductress Little Debbie or the conniving Sara Lee or even the sly Sister Schubert.  They are all out to get us!

Of course to be perfectly honest, it is I who is ultimately responsible for what goes in this mouth of mine.  Paul may not have had weight in mind when he wrote in Romans 7:15 (NIV)—“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” , I find this passage fits in this particular part of my life at the moment.  For it seems so difficult to eat wisely when I know I should but so easy to slide a Big Mac down my throat. And even though I don’t relish the thought of sitting in front of a plate whose contents look more like a Chia pet than real food, I have to take control of my intake and make better food choices.  It is a matter of being disciplined and accountable, two powerful but seldom used words in our society.  It is a matter of making time for exercise and using portion control to win this particular race.  So here I go, making an effort to make God’s temple once again what it should be; fit and ready for service.

So wish me luck!  (…hhmmm…wish…wishbone….wishbone dressing…BLEU CHEESE!!…I’m doomed…)

Well, that’s not FAIR!!

surprised smiley

As I was growing up, our family never really had a whole lot of material things to hold on to.   In fact, my youngest sister and I still joke about being so poor, all we had were catfish heads to play with instead of toys.   But what we did have made all the difference in shaping our lives to adulthood.  We had food on the table, we were clean, we wore clean clothes even though they were seldom brand new, and we had love in our home.  We learned how to count and perform basic math in our heads by playing dominoes.  We were taught respect, how to use our common sense, and the necessity to implement the common courtesies we learned along the way.  I’ll never forget one of those “lessons learned”.

One day when I was just a boy, my mom and I were walking down the sidewalk in our small town, running errands.  I was walking to mom’s left side and she quickly corrected me by urging my slight frame to her other side.  I looked at her a little puzzled and she saw the question on my face.  “Men and boys are ALWAYS supposed to walk on the outside of the female, closest to the street” she responded with a matter of fact persona that begged the question “why”?  Mom’s response was enough to send me into a tailspin.  “Well, because if a car swerved toward the sidewalk, it would hit the male first as protector, protecting the fairer sex.”  “Well, that’s not fair!!”, I screamed inside my mind as I had mental images of being sprawled out in the middle of the street, teeth littered around my body as the maiden in distress stood over my lifeless form, hands clasped together and pressed to one of her cheeks declaring, “my HERO!”

It took me more than a few years to completely understand what Mom was trying to teach me in that moment.  You see, we all have the grave responsibility to be more than what we are; to step out of ourselves, our comfort zones, and to be made available to meet other’s needs; even up to and including death.  What parent wouldn’t think twice about running into a burning home to rescue their children but what about your special needs neighbor?  What about the stranger you see every day walking to work because they can’t afford a means to get from point A to point B?

The news this past couple of weeks has been full of unsung heroes doing what they did not because of a possible fifteen minutes of fame or a handshake and “atta boy” from our POTUS but because it was the right thing to do.  Whether it was the hero who would rather take seven bullets from a madman than to fathom another life lost or the stranger in South Carolina who went from door to door in his boat, trying to save anyone in need instead of thinking about his own loss of property, there are true heroes out there but there needs to be more.

Here is another example.  Jesus Christ was sent here from His home to dwell among strangers and haters, not because He enjoyed deprecation but because it was the right thing to do; not only was He being obedient to His Father but He loved/loves us with a fierce love we cannot comprehend.  Jesus had the ultimate reason to cry out “well, that’s not Fair!!” as He hung from that cross, completely broken and humiliated, bleeding and aching from the weight of OUR sin.  Perfect love conquered His own need for preservation as a man on this earth so we wouldn’t have to suffer an eternal separation from the One who made us, our heavenly Father.

What about you and me?  Isn’t it time we turn away from the deceptive mirror of self we have been staring in to far too long and instead, peer out the window of our safe, selfish little cocoon to a world full of need.  And even though we can’t save the whole world, why don’t we just start with the world around us; our city, our neighborhood, our own home.  Pray for the courage to be THAT person who makes a difference, that man or woman who is brave enough to put away the “Me-Me’s” and embrace the unique needs of others.

As for the lesson learned so long ago, I still irritate the people around me, stepping forward to open the door for a lady, whether they be nine or ninety or to walk on the outside, closest to the street.  You see, the common courtesies have been engrained in my very being along with another sentiment; sometimes life isn’t fair…but life is a privilege and passes too soon so we have to make the most of every opportunity to serve those around us.

John 15:12-15 (NIV)– My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

Imitators

Over the edge 2

Our granddaughter is almost eight months old now and is beginning to imitate other’s actions such as waving bye and attempting to move her finger up and down across her lips while making noises; she prefers her entire fist though, resulting in a saliva fest.  It seems our entire life is spent either following someone else’s example or being a role model for someone else to follow.

I remember growing up during my influential years in the 1960’s and 70’s where everyone seemed to be expressing one’s self in different ways.  Smoking was one of those things taken for granted and a lot of my family participated in this freedom to inhale toxic fumes.

Living in the country afforded a few freedoms as well.  For instance, the freedom to burn trash in the open air.  Being the imitator as a kid but without having the means to try smoking with an actual cigarette, I found some dry hollow reeds down along the creek bank by the square brick burning pit while I was burning trash one day.  The gray-white fibers of the reeds resembled the white paper of the cancer stick.  I decided I wanted to look and act as cool as my older siblings so I broke off a four inch section of the reed and put the tip of the “cigarette” in the flames until the end glowed red from the embers.  I put the imitation cigarette to my mouth like I had seen others do many times before and inhaled.

What happened next was nothing less than life changing.  Small flames entered my throat along with smoky air, singeing my esophagus in the process.  My eyes grew wide from the pain as well as the smoky pungent smell of burning reed racing down my lungs. I involuntarily coughed uncontrollably, the blackish gray smoke bellowing out as if more anxious to rise to the surface than I was to get it out so I could breathe again.  I stood there, continuing to cough violently as well as mentally kicking myself across the yard.  I desperately glanced in all directions to see if anyone else had witnessed the blatant stupidity of a young boy trying to imitate the foolishness of others.

Fast forward more than a couple of decades and I find myself once again in the present, hopefully much more wiser and aware of the consequences of imitating others or following someone’s example without first analyzing and reasoning out their intentions and possible negative outcomes.  However, I am greatly concerned and have been for some time that it seems many blindly follow and imitate the latest trends, fads, popular people in the spotlight, and yes, even governmental politics bent toward entitlement and socialism without first stepping back for even a split second to think of the eventual consequences of said blind following.

Don’t you think it is past time to be the responsible, accountable “grown-ups” we are supposed to be and pray to again become the examples of those growing up around us?  And before you judge me for seemingly being such a self-righteous hypocrite, brandishing my pistol of one-sided opinions, may I remind you that I only write what is on my heart that God is also speaking to me; I’m certainly aware of my own shortcomings—and I need help.

Ephesians 5:1-2(ESV) reads, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” What an awesome reminder of whom we should imitate constantly in thought, word, and deed so we have a chance to be that example others are looking for to follow.  And now that I find myself in the position of tribal elder in our little family nucleus, I am once again reminded of the grave responsibility we have as humans to impress upon our next generation not only the common courtesies and manners of life, the do’s and don’ts that separate the civilized from the savages but especially the eternal.  For it is only through the grace of God that we are still here, breathing on this earth and it is only by His mercy through His son Jesus Christ that we have a hope for a future far better than our present circumstances.

The next time you see a child doing something they shouldn’t, even to the point of foolishly ingesting noxious fumes from a weed, fight the inner adult child within that wants to sit back and see what happens so you can be entertained, and use this as a time of instruction, of lovingly guiding that student on to a better path of wisdom and understanding.   And remember, those eyes are on you whether you want them to be or not, imitating your every move; make the most of it.

Proverbs 14:12 (ESV)—There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.

Transplants—Cultivating the Best from Change

wilted

My wife and I are weekend garden warriors who like to piddle in the yard whenever we get the chance. Our new home is basically a blank slate on the outside and I’m sure we will have red clay up to our elbows in no time. But it seems no matter how long we have been gardeners, there appears to be a mystery surrounding the act of transplanting.

Depending on the flora species, most plants get a little touchy about having their root system manhandled.  Many times, they tend to be perfectly happy in their root bound state and transplanting that plant to a new, different, larger home may result in a temporary sagging of leaves and pretty much a visually sad state. You see, the plant needs time to scope out the new soil, stretch out its roots in the larger expanse, and nibble on the new aromatic fertilizer but temporarily as a result, some of the leaves may get droopy and yellowed and the whole plant may seem depressed. It doesn’t understand that in the long run, this change is necessary for its very survival.

My wife and I have been experiencing some droopiness of our own. For you see, our physical move has been very much like that displaced vegetation. And even though we DO know long term it will be very beneficial for us, the adjustments to the physical surroundings, culture, and lifestyle are sometimes pretty overwhelming. “What do you mean you don’t have a Gold Star Chili or donut shops down here?” But we both know who the master potter is and that He will give us exactly what we need, when we need it so we can continue to grow and bloom for Him. However, the fertilizer, the spiritual nourishment we most desperately need to grow bigger and better than ever before is yet to be determined; we need a church home.

Whether you are a believer in Christ or not, attempting to integrate or graft one’s self into the right living organism called the local church is as important as finding the right sized pot and proper fertilizer for a houseplant and the very act of finding a church home is not a small feat. You cannot force yourself in to just any environment and expect to grow spiritually. Many times due to traditions (we have always done it this way), infighting, or just a simple lack of vision, a church body can become stagnant and unhealthy. Maybe in those circumstances, a little weeding needs to be done. And on the other end of the spectrum, a growing, vibrant church can be just too “busy” to cultivate and nurture the souls of new converts or those looking for a church; they may have a “live long and prosper, now scoot!!” or “danger, stranger!” mentality that leaves the individual wondering what just happened. Yep, sometimes even a healthy church “plant” becomes too large and needs to be separated and replanted from the main plant to remain healthy.

We have confidence that God, our master Gardener, has the perfect spiritual “garden” in mind and that He will plant us among other believers in His time, all different but yet the same, to grow and prosper for His glory and purpose. And even though the act of being transplanted to a new “pot” can be more than a little stressful and yes, painful at times, we can cultivate the best from change and grow to appreciate its’ abundant rewards.

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.  2 Peter 3:18 ESV

For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.  Romans12:4-5 NASB

 

Pacing in the Waiting Room—Part Deux

…the rest of the story

hash marks

Before you go any further, if you haven’t read Part I of this story, please retreat to that earlier post.  If you have read the first part, you might be interested in how our story has played out this summer.  You may even be interested in re-reading the first post to refresh your memory…truth be told, I had to…

Part I basically ended with getting an offer on our house in Ohio.  That was definitely an answered prayer but we were suddenly presented with the “Oh no, what we gonna do now” question as we basically had forty-five days before we had to move out of our house and into what and where?  Even that was a real answer to prayer as it commonly is a thirty day turn around to close on a property but the buyer asked for extra time due to going through the VA for a loan.  As I had time off saved up, I quickly called my daughter and asked if I could crash at their place for a few days so I could look for homes and a job.

Having updated resumes and reference sheets in hand as well as a fresh suit and shirts, I headed south to North Carolina to pursue living accommodations and a new IT position somewhere while my wife kept the home fires burning up north.

My wife and I had been looking on the web for homes and had several listed that we were interested in and it wasn’t difficult to schedule showings on these homes.  With iPhone in hand so I could Facetime my wife and integrate her in a “virtual” tour of the candidate homes, I followed the surrogate realtor from one property to another.  After seven showings of prospective properties within our budget, we came up short, not one property meeting our needs.  Needless to say, we were bummed.

Since I had worked in healthcare related Information Technology for almost thirty-four years, I hit the area hospitals and soon found out that all applications needed to be completed online.  After leaving the last job prospect feeling completely rejected and defeated, I meandered back to my car, wondering if this was really God’s will that we make this drastic change in our lives.  I turned the car on and started down the hilly streets of Morganton headed toward the interstate.  I had recently purchased a new CD from Danny Gokey and it was playing in the background.  As I headed on to the interstate, the third song from the CD was playing and my complete attention was drawn toward the words highlighted below.

“Tell Your Heart To Beat Again”

Written by Matthew West, Bernie Herms

Broken like you’ve never been before
The life you knew in a thousand pieces on the floor
Words fall short in times like these
When this world drives you to your knees
You think you’re never going to get back to the you you used to be.

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away, step into the light of grace
Yesterdays a closing door you don’t live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you’ve been
Tell your heart to beat again

Beginning just let that word wash over you
It’s alright now, love’s healing hands will pull you through
So take one step, look back up
See the rise and feel the sun
Because your stories far from over and your journey’s just begun

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away, step into the light of grace
Yesterdays a closing door you don’t live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you’ve been
Tell your heart to beat again

Let every heartbreak and every scar
Be a picture to remind you, who has carried you this far
‘Cause love sees farther than you ever could
This moment He is working everything out for your good

Tell your heart to beat again
Close your eyes and breathe it in
Let the shadows fall away, step into the light of grace
Yesterdays a closing door you don’t live there anymore
Say goodbye to where you’ve been
Tell your heart to beat again

With every fiber of my being, I knew God was speaking to me through these revealing lyrics.  I was now an official “distracted driver” as I was praying and thanking God for His goodness and guidance.

Unbeknownst to me, my daughter and son-in-law had talked to his next door neighbor about selling our home so quickly.  The neighbor’s response was, “you know, we are currently building a house on other acreage and had planned to move out of our house so we could prepare ours for market.  Do you think your in-laws would be interested in looking at our house?”  On the last night before I was to return to Ohio, my son-in-law and I toured their home, iPhone in hand so my wife could tour as well.  My heart leapt as I wandered through the rooms and garage.  Later my wife told me I was moving around so fast, she could hardly see anything!!  Once the tour had concluded, I asked the homeowner what the asking price was  for the home. His response sent me into shock as Justin and I just stared at one another; as it turns out, his asking price was below appraised value!!  You see, the house was PERFECT for the two of us and right beside of our daughter and her family!

I returned to Ohio on that next day which was on a Wednesday and my wife and I returned to North Carolina two days later.  My wife was able to tour the house in person and after giving the nod to purchase the house, we went about securing the loan from the local Credit Union and met with the attorney that would handle the contract.  We flew through the inspections and on June 11th, we moved out of our home of almost seventeen years.  The next day, on the morning of the 12th, we closed on that house and immediately hit the road for North Carolina where we met our movers on the 13th to move in to our new home.  On the 15th of June, we closed on our new home and were able to pay off our two year old car loan as well.

And now here we are in September.  I went back for my last week of employment which ended on June 26th.  We are now a one income family for now and are doing just fine.  My wife and I decided it be best if I began the employment search after our vacation in October.  I no longer have the sense of urgency for a high salary/high stress career; rather, I have a peace that God is truly in control of our lives and we were redirected to this area not just to be with our daughter and family but for another purpose, a holy purpose, yet to be revealed.