I just finished taking a cold shower. I didn't set out to, but I ended up having one. Now before your mind begins to imagine too much, let me explain what I'm talking about.
Here's the deal: My family and I are getting ready to go to my Mother in Law's to spend the evening. We are supposed to be there by 6pm, so as soon as the Bengals game ended I decided to hop in the shower in the guest bathroom. As a reminder, we were in Disney all week and I missed my shower. No matter where you go, there is no shower like your own.
Anyway, I'm in the shower, steam is rising from the hot water, my hair is all soaped up, and that's when it happened: Ice water began pouring through the shower head. I let out a shriek that I am sure was heard in Narnia. In fact, I imagined the waterfall scene from the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as the cold water struck me. I huddled into the corner, shivering, as the soap ran into my eyes and the cold water splashed up from the floor.
Unbeknownst to me, my lovely wife had decided to take a bath at the same time as my shower. Since the master bath is closer to the hot water tank, it takes precedent over our guest bathroom water supply. But to make matters worse, a bathtub takes a long time to fill up, so I had quite a while to stand there in the cold, teeth chattering, and knees knocking. But, that's when God decided to speak to me.
As I wondered when the hot water would come back on so that my suffering could end, I was reminded that it's the same as when we wait for God's blessing on our terms. We've all had something that we've desired, prayed for, and asked God to give to us. The problem is, we want things on our time, which is "Right Now", and God works things out on His time which varies. It varies because He uses all things, actions, events, and places to work together for His will, and that can take some time.
So back to the shower: My suffering finally had an end in site when the water pressure picked up. I could tell that she had turned off her faucet and was ready to receive the warmth I so desired. The only problem was that now, I had cold water coming out so hard that it was pushing cold air may way. In fact, I felt like I was standing in front of a fan blowing cold air on me! This reminded me that most of the times that I have received huge blessings from God, things have gotten worse just before the blessing. This is obviously due to evil forces that war against us and can't stand for a child of the King to receive anything good.
To finish my story on a good note, just a few minutes after the arctic air blast started, the hot water returned and I was quickly refreshed and rinsed.
So today, if you are struggling with waiting for a blessing from God, hang in there. He wants to give you whatever you ask when you ask with a sincere heart. It's just that He has to get everything else in the Universe in line before He can send it your way. But, if you still feel like you can't wait any longer or that you can't go on, take a cold shower.
Sunday, December 31, 2006
I just finished taking a cold shower. I didn't set out to, but I ended up having one. Now before your mind begins to imagine too much, let me explain what I'm talking about.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
It's time for a New Years Resolution! You're probably thinking, "Can't we get through Christmas first?!?" Well, no you can't because: 1. I'm going to Disney World and won't be able to blog on New Years Eve, and 2. As Bobby Brown sang, It's my prerogative to do it now. So today's resolution is all about saying "NO" to what other people request of you.
Our generation is the busiest bunch of people that have ever populated the planet earth. So busy in fact, that we often neglect our own families and even God, by putting the agenda of our jobs, personal hobbies, and others first in our lives. I've been as guilty of this as anyone, and my friend Andy wrote a great post here that pushed me in this direction.
First things first, there is nothing wrong with telling people that you cannot commit to their requests. Most of us think this is not so, and we must be servants that will always put others above ourselves. That is true in a way, but should others be put above God and family?
I learned how to say 'No' in Junior High School. Back then, I was bound and determined to do everything, go anywhere, and follow through on every little project I was asked to do by whoever had requested it. I guess I was trying to find self worth by pleasing others while overlooking myself. I probably appeared to be a true servant on the outside, but it was making me miserable on the inside. I realized I wasn't happy with being that busy when my Youth Pastor called me in the middle of a swimming party and asked me to come to the Church immediately to fill in for a puppet show. Yes, you heard me correctly, a puppet show... Of course, I did as he asked, and spent the next few days decorating for my own pity party about how it had taken me away from my friends. That was when my mom told me one of the greatest things that I hold dear to this very day:
Her wonderful words were the permission I desperately needed to kick off a new chapter in my life in which I went from a pleaser to someone that was not afraid of saying 'No' and possibly...(gulp)... upsetting others.
The first time I said 'No' to my Youth Pastor, I had a fear not unlike the when you jump off the high dive and await the arrival of the water below to engulf you. But guess what, it didn't hurt at all. I said "Sorry, can't come", He said, "Ok", end of story. So, from that day forward, saying 'No' to people has never been a problem. In fact, I've ticked off a lot of people by telling them 'No', and I am not ashamed of it because when I say 'No', it is me being honest with them. The hard part for others is that they do not want you to disagree with them and want your 100% cooperation. Oh well, this is me, deal with it.
Today, when I see or hear of how others have taken advantage of my friends and family that can't say 'No', first of all, I want to kick my friends that can't say this simple, one syllable word (no). Then, I want to pick up the phone and start making hateful calls in hopes of getting back at those that are using them. But then again, what a fleshly moment that would be that would accomplish nothing. I just long for everyone to realize that they were not put on earth to please others. Everyone was created to please God and love one another, all the while vigilant that we do not put others desires above God's calling. Think about it, God didn't create you to be a doormat for others to wipe their feet on. He is the door and we are the door decoration (like a wreath for example) that he created to adorn his door, calling others to come enter through Him.
So, if you have trouble saying 'No', speak up today. What you will find is that when you tell someone you will not do what they ask, they might get upset with you, but they'll have to just get over it. And they will, because they'll just find someone else to replace you. Many of us let our pride tell us that we are the only ones that can do certain things. If you think that's the case, I've still got that ocean front property in Arizona up for sale. Anyone can be replaced and the world was clipping right along before you got here and will keep right on trucking after your gone. Or as Bon Jovi said, "It's all the same, only the names change".
Oh yeah, Merry Christmas (Yeah I said MERRY CHRISTMAS) And a Happy New Year!
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
I got an email from John Eldredge today. Don't think I'm name dropping, because I don't personally know him. I get emails from him periodically because I committed to pray for him and his ministry about two years ago and was added to a voluminous email list. But, I do take his emails seriously and when I get one of his messages, I immediately lift it up in prayer. I feel like I owe this to him because I count his ministry as a big part of where I am today in my spiritual journey.
Today's email was about the stress of Christmas and how the enemy loves to sneak in and use holidays, especially ones that glorify God, to steal our joy. This really struck a chord because it made me remember something I had hidden in the recesses of my mind for 359 days. This wrinkle in my brain contained me lying in bed about to drift off to sleep, December 25th, 2005, thinking to myself, "Man am I glad that's over with!" You see, I had dropped my guard and allowed the enemy to creep in and steal the joy that I should have had after celebrating the birth of Christ with my precious family.
But, the enemy's theft of our joy is not only limited to family times during the Christmas season. The enemy hates the concept of family and he is dead set on opposing it. This is due to the simple fact that the love of family is a reflection of the very nature of God. The enemy hates love, God is love, so the enemy devotes much of his time to messing up family relationships and if you look around, you'll see the remnants of his attacks. For example, did you ever wonder why family reunions go strong for a few years only to drop off the face of the earth? Many blame this sort of behavior on everything from age ("The organizers all died off") to busyness ("We just couldn't organize a time to get everyone together"). I'm certain that if you strip off the bark and get to the core why this happens, you'd see the enemy wielding disagreement and condemnation against us.
So, today is December 19th and there are only a few more full days until we start getting together with our families and friends for Christmas celebrations. Eldredge says it this way:
"I’ve come to notice over the years that I need to pray over Christmas. Seems silly, but then again, our joy is opposed and the enemy hates us celebrating Jesus in any form, hates the love of friends and families, hates hopefulness. So, a heads up: Do pray for your Christmas, and the days around it. I want it to be good for you."
It's really up to us to ask God for protection over our relationships as we prepare to come together in this season. Our earthly friends and family aren't called "Loved Ones" for nothing. In fact, our love for our family should be a mirror image of the agape love that Jesus spoke of. I've started praying, how about you?
Friday, December 15, 2006
What would it have been like if the media of today would have been around when Jesus was born? Strange question, but one that I saw a glimpse of tonight. This evening, my family and I went to the parking lot of a local Church to watch a live nativity scene. We've visited this nativity before, but have never been able to be there the minute it starts.
As we stood there waiting for the show to start, I couldn't help but notice how clean and well built the stable and manger were. We've all seen the nice and neat little manger scenes that are sold in your local store. But do you really think they were this clean? If you've ever seen a real honest to goodness pigpen and cattle lot, I think you would see how dirty, smelly, and nasty a stable is to walk through. I can't imagine someone giving birth in such an unsanitary place and not being stricken by infection.
Anyway, at 6PM, here came Joseph leading a donkey with Mary riding on it's back. As they approached the manger, they stopped and talked with a man in period costume that pointed them toward the manger. Obviously this was the Inn Keeper. So, Mary road up, hopped off, placed the baby Jesus in the manger, and she and Joseph took a seat. Next, the shepherds showed up with sheep and goats, then the wise men came with gifts, and last but not least, three angels showed up to complete the performance.
While all of this was going on, I was touched by the fact that my son, who was on my shoulders, asked me "Dad, why are they praying." I got to tell him that they were worshiping Jesus. That was some good father to son spiritual stuff. But on the flip side of this 'spiritual moment', I grew extremely aggravated by the fact that the view we had was repeatedly blocked by several different people that kept taking pictures of the goings on. Every time one of the actors would arrive, move around, or even scratch their head, these photographers would snap away. At one point, the flashes were popping off so rapidly that I was sure one of the wise men would fall over and seize.
I told my wife, "I wish these people would take just take their picture and get out of the way!" and "I guess all the parents, spouses, aunts, and uncles bought a press pass!"
Marci proceeded to tell me that all of these photographers weren't family members at all. In fact, they were from the local paper, a magazine, and another paper in a neighboring town. So, I took my foot and placed it in my mouth... Actually, I didn't, but I sure felt like it because of all the useless crap that newspapers are known for reporting on, this one is truly news-worthy.
But then I started thinking about how it would have looked had the paparazzi been around when Jesus was born. His birth was the greatest single event in the history of mankind and would have been the hottest ticket in town. Forget about Tom and Katie's baby, imagine how much the first photo of the Lord and Savior of the world/God of the universe would have been worth! That is, if anyone would have known about it.
Aside from all the prophecy that had been given, who would have ever thought that the little town of Bethlehem would be the birthplace of the Lord? After all, it was just a small, out of the way town full of shepherds. And, Jesus was born to common folk; highly favored by God, but common in the eyes of man. Looking back, we can easily see that Bethlehem made perfect sense. Not only was it the foretold 'House of David' but it was also where the Levite's shepherds raised the sacrificial lambs for use at the temple in Jerusalem. This fact alone makes it only fitting that the true spotless lamb Jesus be born there
So, now that I have written my thoughts, I realize that if the media of today would have been around in the time of Christ, his birth would have been no different. Just another helpless baby born to a carpenter and his young wife. I'm sure it made some word of mouth news the next morning when the folks around the village lamented about that poor young girl giving birth in that dirty stable and having to lay the baby in a manger. Poor child...
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
I like to refer to the two weeks prior to Christmas as "Running the Gauntlet". In this busy time, all of us at work tend to rush around trying to button up everything we have hanging out there, prior to the new year's arrival. Not only is there a rush to complete the end of the year things, but there is also a certain temptation that comes calling, like clockwork, each year. Don't get too alarmed by the word temptation, because what I am talking about is the temptation to eat things that I swore I wouldn't, and know that I shouldn't.
Around the second week of December, vendors start showing up on our doorstep to drop off little tokens of appreciation for all of the money we have paid them for their services throughout the year. Many of them bring us wall and desk calenders ornamented with everything from Hot Rods to Golf Courses. But the more 'devious' vendors show up with boxes full of cookies, candy, and the occasional cake. The problem for me, is the fact that I am trying to eat right and exercise more so that I can resurrect the healthy lifestyle that I put to bed years ago. I've succeeded with living healthier this year, but it's hard to stick with the program when these delicacies keep showing up day after day. In fact, about an hour ago, a new tin full of cookies arrived, and were just begging me to come have a taste. And, as you can imagine, I gave in, and now I feel bad about it.
It doesn't take a Bible Scholar to draw a parallel between this silly little cookie scenario and the temptations we face in our daily walk does it? Every day, we are inundated with the things of this world by the enemy and his good buddy flesh. There goal is simple: Get them to "take a bite". The problem is, when we take a bite, we are just like a little fish. You see, little fish are only concerned with one thing and that is: Not becoming the dinner of a big fish. Little fish are so busy swimming around, trying to avoid predators, that they are too busy to realize there's a hook attached to what seemed like a harmless piece of food floating in the water. Just like the distracted little fish, we take a bite, the hook is set, and we are reeled in.
So, it's up to us to be armored up every day (Eph 6) and expect the unexpected attacks and temptation that are going to come. Just remember that it's not a sin to be tempted, in fact, it's a daily fact of life. Sin enters the picture when we decide to compromise with our tempter (enemy or flesh) and we give in to something that is the opposite of God's will. This is one of the toughest lessons we will ever learn. And the sad fact is, we normally tend to learn it, re-learn it, and learn it again. Well that's all for now, I've got a tin of cookies to give away...
Monday, December 11, 2006
I started collecting University of Kentucky bobbleheads in 2001. That was the year that my Alma Matter released four of them in the likeness of it's most well known basketball personalities. Since it was hot, new, and had UK on it, I just had to have them. I quickly bought the set and gave them the place of prominence in my home which is just above the fireplace in the TV room. That purchase kicked off a mission to collect any and all bobbleheads even remotely connected with the University of Kentucky. This obsession included a whole bunch of time and money searching ebay, the internet, and visiting this-and-that shops, in hopes of finding the missing piece of my collection. The problem is, there is no list that tells how many UK bobbleheads exist or even how much they are worth. So, I kept looking, hoping for that one that might have gotten away.
I finally realized that my new found fascination with porcelain nodding figures was getting out of hand when I found myself bidding on a Secretariat (the racehorse) bobblehead. In my mind, I had justified that it was really worth $125 because after all, he was raised in Kentucky, and trained near UK property in Lexington. That day, God stepped in, stepped on my toes, and I learned a valuable lesson in what really is important. You see, that was the day (June 30, 2003) that I was laid off from my job. In a flash, my priorities changed from buying a porcelain doll to worrying about feeding my wife and our six month old baby. That day was the day that I realized I was obsessed with meaningless dolls that would do nothing but collect dust, and probably wind up broken one day at the hands of a mischievous little boy named Will.
Looking back on that day, I thank God for using bobbleheads to show me how the things of this earth are not what's really important. Sure, I still think bobbleheads are pretty cool and even though they don't serve any real purpose, I like them. But, now I know not to get too carried away with collecting them, that is until the other day!
You see, my wife and I are friends with a professional baseball player and his wife. When we ran into her the other day, she promised to get my little boy one of the bobbleheads that came out this year in her husband's likeness. When she told me this, I fantasized about how cool it would be to have a booblehead in my own likeness. Fantasy led to action and I found a website that will make a bobblehead in your likeness for about 100 bucks! And, what's really cool is the fact that they have a huge supply of themes. You can have your noggin bob up and down over everything from a muscle man in a speedo to an elvis jumpsuit (before the 200 pound weight gain) circa 1973.
Well, there I go again getting carried away with meaningless things. It is fun to dream though. The only problem is that when we put our dreams ahead of God's, it can get rocky. I don't see myself ordering one afterall...
Friday, December 8, 2006
She started telling me about how her husband Steve was looking after a few of the boys in the Under-5 class. When they had finished the lesson and their craft, it was time to play. Steve was playing with my boy Will and another little boy named Landon. He proceeded to ask Landon what he wanted for Christmas and Landon quickly replied, "I'm getting an X-Box 360!". Steve then turned to Will and asked him what he wanted for Christmas, and Will responded with:
"I want STD's for Christmas!"
A bit shocked at his reply, Steve asked him what he had said. Once again, Will told him how he really wanted some STD's for Christmas. By this time, Steve was laughing so he told Will that he really needed to talk to his Daddy about that one.
Will then proceeded to tell Steve, "Why Steve? My Daddy plays with them all the time!"
I'll end the story right there and explain...
So, I did some research and what I've found out is that there are many variations of the Power Rangers that have been produced over the past decade. These include Power Rangers Time Force, Wild Force, Ninja Storm, Dino Thunder, Mystic Force, and mine and Will's personal favorite Space Patrol Delta, or SPD for short.
Thursday, December 7, 2006
There's one question that I dread every year and that question is, "What do you want for Christmas?". It's not that I don't want stuff, but I feel like I get things all year long and really don't have to receive anything else on December 25th. God has blessed my wife and I with careers that allow us to buy what we want and provide more than enough stuff for our child.
So the other night, the dreaded question came from my lovely wife: "What do you want this year?" I immediately gave her the usual reply, "Nothing, just get me a shirt or something." She pressed me for a better answer so I responded, "We're going to Disney the day after Christmas so just get me something down there." Of course, this was a bad answer because I got the response that can never be topped, no matter what I say and that is: "But I can't let you have nothing to open of Christmas day, that'd be awful." In years past I would have told her that you're right, just get me something that you think I'd enjoy. But that was in years past, and just like when Chicken Little said, "Today is a new day", I said to myself, "This year is a new year."
I looked my lovely wife right in the eye and said, "I want a new set of Nike NDS Golf Clubs with medium flex graphite shafts and rubber grips and they cost $329 at Dick's Sporting Goods." My response must have taken her by surprise because she just looked at me with her mouth open. I don't think she expected the rapid response, especially in such precise detail. In the uncomfortable silence of that moment, I knew what Ralphy must have felt like in the movie A Christmas Story, when he asked for the Red Ryder BB gun. I felt so much so that I was expecting her to tell me, "You'll shoot your eye out" or something to that effect. But guess what, she didn't. She simply said Ok and proceeded to place the order on the website. And the great thing about it is, we don't have to pay for it until May!
We really do live in an society where instant gratification is THE standard for purchasing what we want, when we want it. STUFF, STUFF, STUFF, we cry and the banks say OK, OK, OK as they lick there lips. Please don't think I am condoning the practice of racking up debt or careless spending, because I am not. Its just that it seems like everywhere we turn we are offered deals on stuff that you can buy now and pay later. Same as cash, revolving accounts, and of course credit cards are as much a part of our daily lives as food, shelter, and clothing, and I am afraid we are growning more and more numb to them. This presents a real problem when we fail to properly manage lines of credit, because they have the ability to quickly take a big bite out of our finances as the payments begin to creep up. When this happens, the money we formerly used for sustenance and most of all, tithing, is sucked away.
In the spiritual realm, evil is really no different. We are surrounded on all sides by so many perversions that we have grown numb to them and have even accepted them with a "c'est las vie" attitude. I wrote a post last spring and used a salmon analogy to describe being in the world but not of it. But today, I am reminded of the fact that if we do not stay on guard, evil can creep in "under the radar" and set up shop in our hearts. This evilness may start out small; maybe an explicit song lyric that sticks in your head, or an image of pornography that you can't help but look at, or maybe some flirting with a person behind the counter. But whatever it is, we must be ever diligent to do what it says in Proverbs:
I don't have to remind you that we live in a fallen society ruled by the powers of darkness. It's high time that we become more observant with the eyes of our heart so that we may discern what is good from what is evil. When we do this, we are taking a spiritual inventory of ourselves so that we can liquidate everything evil that we may have stored away. It's hard though, and I know I don't have it all figured out, but I do know that greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world. So, let's all open our hearts and have a look around with spiritual eyes while we pray about what we find. I guess I better get busy with inventory because I've also got a golf swing to work on.
Tuesday, December 5, 2006
A month ago this Sunday, we took our three year old to a birthday party for one of his friends. The theme was The Little Mermaid, and much to our chagrin, all kids were given a goldfish to take home. Since the party was put on by some of our good friends, we stayed after it was over and helped clean up. What we didn't bargain for was the fact that there were a whole lot of goldfish left over and only a couple of kids left to take them. Since I thought it inhumane to flush alive animals, we took quite a few home with us, even though we don't have an aquarium.
Attached to the back of our house is a Florida Room and two years ago, we placed a small rock fountain in it that's about 4 feet wide and 2 feet tall, with a nice little cascading waterfall. We let Will dump the goldfish into the fountain and he watched them swim around for a little while, then got bored with it and went inside to play.
Fast Forward Four Weeks:
Since it is now cold in Kentucky, we don't use the Florida Room because it isn't heated. But, I remembered these poor goldfish yesterday and decided to go out and check on them. Sadly, the pump had stopped working, the water had frozen, and there, suspended in a constant state of cryogenisis were the goldfish. For a minute, I thought of how funny it would be to chip one of the goldfish ice cubes out and put it in someone's drink. Then I realized that's not funny, it's gross!
So this morning, I started researching real, honest-to-goodness aquariums. I always had one and would love to have another so that Will could get the chance to experience keeping fish. But, what I found is the coolest thing I've seen in a long time. What you are seeing in the picture on the left is not a joke, it's an actual aquarium called the Fish-n-Flush. You just replace your toilet with this one, throw in the fish, and VOILA! I think it's a pretty neat idea, kind of silly, but still neat.
This toilet made me think about how we Christians are swimming through life and are constantly being observed by non-Christians. Living the Christian life is not an easy row to hoe by any means. Just like the celebrities, we have a different type of papparazzi that are watching and taking mental photographs of our actions. When a non-Christian finds out about our faith, they will start watching us closely, waiting for us to slip up. And guess what, inevitably we do and they are there waiting to flush us for it just like when a fish dies. That is why we must be ever cognizant of our actions and how we treat people.
So, if you're shopping for an aquarium/toilet combination this morning, check this one out. The only down side would be the obvious distraction the fish may pose while a child, especially a boy, is using the potty. This may add up to more clean-up time for Mom and Dad. But the big upside is, when a fish dies, right there's the "Swirling Water Funeral Home" to send him to!
Saturday, December 2, 2006
My wife and I decided that it was time we started exercising. I am particularly interested in this because I haven't exercised regularly since I was in the Army back in 1998. Back then, I ran five times a week and was able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!!! Well maybe not in a single bound, but from where I am now in my physical shape it sure seemed like it.
It's sad to think that it has been 8 years since I left the military and the exercise lifestyle. To rectify this, I ordered an elliptical machine from Amazon.com, and it showed up on my doorstep Thursday night. Excited it had arrived, my little boy and I ripped open the box. Inside where various metal parts, plastic wrap, and Styrofoam. We located the instruction booklet (yes I read instructions), and began bolting the machine together. Things went surprisingly well until it came time to screw the two most important bolts of the whole darn thing, into the flywheel. We first screwed the bolt that goes into the right side of the flywheel and it went in perfect. Then, all that was left was to screw the bolt into the left side. We quickly encountered a problem because the bolt would not go in! Everytime I turned the bolt, it would simply spin in the housing. After about 10 minutes of trying to no avail, I decided it was time to force it in (If it don't fit, force it!). I turned the elliptical on its side, put all of my weight on it, and after 5 minutes of pain and sweating, the bolt still wasn't going in. By this time, I'm pretty aggravated and I begin snapping at my son and my wife. It was when I realized my bad behavior that I decided to take a break.
During my break time, I re-read the instruction book but couldn't find any special instructions for this part of the assembly. The next thought in my mind was, "How in the world am I going to mail back a 100 pound, half assembled elliptical?". The frustration mounted and I was ready to give in until a thought came into my head that this bolt might be a reversed thread variety. Even though the instructions did not specify this, I decided to give it a try. And you know what? It was. When I turned the bolt to the left, instead of the right, it went right in and five minutes later, the job was finished.
When all was said and done, it had taken two hours to unpack, assemble, and clean up after myself. When I finished, I was too tired to use the machine I had just put together. But, I did hang a towel on it just in case anyone comes over, it will at least look like we've used it.
Looking back on this episode, I'm reminded that we often look forward to doing things that don't turn out just like we may have planned. This is especially true in work that we do in ministries of the Church. Often times, we get frustrated and walk away from something simply because there is a roadblock that we cannot seem to get around. Just like my problem with the bolt, we often encounter problems that we try to force our way through only to find that they still do not work out, and many times only get worse. In times like these, we would be wise to step back and take a break, in which time we can seek God's advice on the subject. He is the God of the universe after all, and He knows how to solve any problem, if we just ask. But many times, we fail to listen to Him even though He is speaking to us the whole time. Just like my problem with the bolt, I tried it my way, and even tried to force it but failed. When I took my break, I wonder who prompted me to remember the principle of reverse threaded bolts????? It took me a while, but I finally listened. Remember, He's speaking all the time...