A Spark – Is Fire Imminent (Part 2)

Drought produces very little except … a fantastic supply of tinder.

Initially, the onset of drought is slow and almost imperceptible.  In humans, studies have shown that a person often mistakes signs of dehydration for hunger which even further confuses matters. As the dryness advances though, it is difficult to deny the overpowering thirst that inevitably comes when cut off from the source of life giving water.

As one might expect, I have gathered the following quote from the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (via wikipedia)  “Controlled or prescribed burning, also known as hazard reduction burning or swailing is a technique sometimes used in forest management, farming, prairie restoration or greenhouse gas abatement. Fire is a natural part of both forest and grassland ecology and controlled fire can be a tool for foresters. Hazard reduction or controlled burning is conducted during the cooler months to reduce fuel buildup and decrease the likelihood of serious hotter fires.[1] Controlled burning stimulates the germination of some desirable forest trees, thus renewing the forest.”

Courtesy of quotesbuddy.com

My own spiritual dehydration so to speak was no different.  Idleness grew into discontentment; discontentment to doubt; and doubt to despair.  Actively participating  in the stagnation of God’s people has stacked a good supply of dry tinder for quick ignition.

For you shall be like an oak whose leaf withers, and like a garden without water. And the strong shall become tinder, and his work a spark, and both of them shall burn together, with none to quench them. (Isaiah 1:30,31)

Fortunately we have a Father in heaven Who has a controlled burn plan.  Despite our apparent failure in providing proper stewardship for His creation, He is faithful to consume us with His cleansing fire.  All that is required now is a spark to the tinder.

So we have established the fact that conditions are perfect for fire.  We are no longer bearing fruit, the wood is dry, and the leaves are turning brown. (Intermission – this is where I stopped writing in 2012)

It seems ridiculous that I am picking this up nearly 2 full years later … and it is still applicable.  I don’t remember exactly what I was thinking back then.  I know that I was fed up with my own stagnation.  I was disillusioned by what I was seeing in the world and in the church.  An overwhelming feeling of internal pressure was building within me and I just knew that I was about to lift a relief valve. (The fire was already burning)

Any who followed this blog or on Facebook  may have noticed that I stay away from controversial topics.  This is not because I don’t have strong opinions.  Amazingly, even the few friends I have don’t really know where I stand on many issues.  How could that be if these are really strongly held opinions?

Let me ‘splain. When I write procedures or directions I often like to “bullet” them out for clarity so let’s just do that with a passage of scripture, Romans 12:9-21.  I think this is well within the purpose and context of this passage.

  • Let love be genuine.
  • Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
  • Love one another with brotherly affection.
  • Outdo one another in showing honor.
  • Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
  • Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
  • Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
  • Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
  • Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
  • Live in harmony with one another.
  • Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.
  • Never be wise in your own sight.
  • Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
  • If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Summary: Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

I am not the first to load my weapon with these bullets.  Although it is sometimes useful to identify points in this manner it can also be rather dangerous.  When reading a list I believe that we often infer the conjunction of our choice.  Is it and or is it or?  Let me make this clear, these are not meant to be bullets  to be loaded as we see fit, one at a time, to pick of the target of our choice.  If this was a multiple choice question, the answer would be all of the above.  It is and not or!

So what does that have to do with me keeping my mouth shut even though I supposedly have strong opinions?  “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”   I have used this to justify my idleness and compromise.  Ironically (I sure hope I am using that correctly), it is the use of the “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good”  bullet to justify actions, attitudes, and rants that are, in my opinion, not scripturally justifiable that had me ready to lose it.

So how do we find this balance? When and how do I speak truth and still live peaceably with all?  Well, I don’t know, but I am going to give it a shot over the next few weeks.  Fortunately, I have not done very good at developing my SEO so I will hopefully only offend a few people. (which could be everyone I know)

 

 

Drought Condition – Is Fire Imminent? (The Prequel)

As I reflect on my last article, Fire is Imminent Part I, I realize a few things:

  1.  My blog no longer has anything to do with its original intent (journaling my first marathon) and I really need to either start another blog or put some time into a revamping this one.
  2. That my running experience has brought out some of the initial signs of the drought condition in my life.
  3. Before I can discuss my world perspective and the path I believe that God is opening before us, I need to reconcile the last few years of drought that have brought me to this place.
  4. Attempting to paint pretty nature metaphors is not my forte.

Another Disclaimer:  Today’s entry is not for you. After observing this past season of agenda driven manipulation, I feel that it is important that I establish in my heart just where I stand, what agenda and motivation might be driving me, and whether I have any business moving forward with any thoughts that might be considered persuasive or argumentative. If I continue with this series, this journal may have no bearing whatsoever on discussions that are ahead.  Feel free to stop reading now and save yourself a boring read.

Good Bye Daddy:  In the fall 2007,  life revolved around our first experience of giving away a daughter in marriage   A wedding is obviously a very emotional time. For me it turned out to be an Alpha/Omega moment.  Obviously, it was the beginning of a new life for Sarah and Michael, but it signaled to me the beginning of the end for me (Daddy).   During Sarah’s wedding I removed a white linen scarf from my neck and placed it on Michael’s to signify the passing of my fatherly covering on to her new husband.  Though out my adult life, I was able to hide behind the noble pursuit of marriage and fatherhood; now I began to realize that I could no longer cower behind my role as Daddy.  God had an identity that He had established for me from the beginning; A purpose much bigger that I was willing to accept, but  I could no longer hide from it.  So what does one do when he is exposed? … obviously one runs!

Enter the Maraman:  After the wedding, Taylor, a friend at work handed me a book, “Ultra Marathon Man” by Dean Karnazes.  As the book was passed around the office, a group of us decided to sign up for the Louisville Derby Festival Marathon in April 2008.  I won’t go into the rest of that story since this site was created for that purpose. If you are still reading (God love you) and are interested in that journey you can start with, About – Just a Footman and 1st Marathon.  It was a fantastic experience that I would not trade for anything.  I thought during that training that maybe this was a direction that I might want to explore.  I made some attempts at gathering some people together to form a runners fellowship, but after the race the race that fire quickly died.  Unfortunately, although I can run pretty well, I have no passion for it.  As a matter of fact, if you read many of my blog entries you will find that I actually despise running.  Since that time I have completed a sprint triathlon and some long over night relay races, but nothing has ignited any new interest.

Who the Heck You are I think?  Late 2008 brought another wedding (My oldest son). Having not reconciled the first wedding, this one was more than I could handle. The fall and winter brought maybe the lowest point in my adult life.  I believe that depression is often brought on by a complete lack of purpose and I had abandoned my search for purpose for a season.  Suddenly I was questioning everything I had ever believed.  Although I felt like my life was spinning out of control, somehow, through God’s grace, steadiness began to take control again, but not after I had made many bad decisions and hurt many people.  Still confused, without a passion for much of anything, I sunk into a stagnant pool of muck.  Although many major life events would occur over the next couple of years that should have brought great joy, my shoulders remained bent and I could not lift my gaze above the horizon.

New Titles / New Realizations:  The Spring of 2010 brought the birth of our first grandchild and another wedding (My oldest Daughter) that brought a halt to the slide.  I bore a new title, Poopaw, but it did not take me long to surmise that this new role as grandfather and associated awesome title did not give me purpose or the passion that would be required to pull me out of this self-inflicted hell-hole.  Additionally, in the Spring of 2010 a glimmer of something began to grow deep down.  A talent and gift that had always been evident started to emerge again out of the shadows.

Pressing Toward the Goal:   Coaching had been a part of my life on and off as far back as 2005, but in 2006 I started as an assistant soccer coach.  My knowledge of kids and love of sport seemed to be a enough to help out despite my complete ignorance of soccer.  In 2007 I began head coaching and in the Fall of 2009 I obtained my first certification.  My youngest son had moved beyond my level of coaching, but the love of these young boys and girls compelled me to continue.  It became increasingly clear to me, that combining sport with character and relationship building was something that I could do that might make a difference.  The Fall of 2010 brought a group of young men into my life that altered my whole view of coaching and began to give me a glimpse of the purpose that God might have for me.  As I sought ways to instill character, leadership, and unity in these you men, God began to pull me out of the despair that had for so long enslaved me and set me on a path toward the goal.

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)

The Drought is Not Over:   “I do not consider that I have made it my own”  Roots are still anchored in hard and cracked ground, leaves are brown and brittle, and there is little or no fruit of any type hanging from the branches.  I do not know the anguish that God feels when He looks at His creation and I am not driven by a passion to share His love, compassion, mercy and grace with a world that so desperately needs Him.

Father, drop a spark into this weed of a man and burn up all that does not bare fruit. Make real to me your anguish for a world that knows despair far beyond anything that I have encountered over my short time on earth. Set me ablaze with a passion for your will and set a clear purpose before me.  If it is Your will use me to ignite a forest fire in those who are called by Your name.

Drought Condition – Is Fire Imminent? (Part I)

Winter rolls into spring ushering in the hope of new life.  Fresh green sprouts explode out of ground and branch, combining water and nutrients energy provided from above during the lengthening days, begin the annual process of replenishing the fruitfulness of the land.   Surrounded by new life, an abundance of sunshine, and rivers flowing with fresh stores of water do not foretell the season to come. Nature considers not the slow approach of summer.

Bathed in clear bright days of early summer, leaves and grasses rejoice in the light.  They reach up to absorb every bit of light and energize the reproduction of species.  Simultaneously, roots extend deep to draw in the cool life-giving water below.  Long gone are the sounds of swift creeks swollen by the melting snows.  Oblivious to the higher clouds and lower water tables, photosynthesis marches on. The once supple soil becomes a cracked and broken battleground  the moisture starved and wind whipped atmosphere battles thirsty roots for the last bits of surface water.  Finally, with no means of cooling and transport green begins to make its retreat.

I remember a newness of life.  God’s love was so real.  Everyday I was seeing new ways that he cared about me.  Well aware of the garbage that was inside of me, He saw fit to reach out to me and give me a new life.  Soaking in the compassion and grace that He afforded me I sought after more and more.  I loved the Spring and it seemed that so many around me were basking in His love as well.  Live was pretty awesome.

So what is the point?  Have we remembered the point? God made us for a reason and He is perfecting us for a purpose.   He planted us in a field to bring forth fruit.  Am I content with soaking in the warmth of His love and grace, soaking up rivers of His joy and peace, and consuming the nutrients of His Word and Holiness?  If this is the extent of my existence, then I am just a weed producing nothing but ground cover, squandering the resources intended to bring life to a sin and death stained world.

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?” He said to them, “An enemy has done this.” So the servants said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” But he said, “No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”” (Matt 13:24-30)

Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. (Matt 7:19-20)

I have spent most of my adult life sucking up moisture and producing very little.  Observing the life of the church, I see much of the same condition.  God created us for a purpose that is being strangled by weeds that we have sown. 

“The Hat” – Remember the Sweat

Many athletes have crazy superstitions. Routines, clothing, food … ridiculous as it seems, these routines bring some sort of confidence to otherwise sane people.  Let’s not limit it to athletes; artists, performers, business professionals, fans, and even preachers often have routines to help get them into their “groove”.  Whatever it takes to make a person comfortable can actually help their performance.  Call it superstition or call it routine, if it helps do it.  OK, a fan’s routines really have no bearing on the outcome of a game or the performance of the athletes (except for during the NCAA Basketball Tournament when it is imperative that we never change our routine as long as UK is winning!)

marathon picThis actually has nothing to do with my subject in this post although it may at first glance seem that way.  I want to tell you about my hat. It is a simple Kentucky blue cotton ball cap with a white ‘UK’ embroidered on the front. Christmas of 2007, I received this ball cap.  If you have not been able to tell from any of my other post, we are a little bit fanatical about our C-A-T-S … CATS! CATS! CATS! so obviously this ball cap became a prized possession. In January of 2008, I began my training for the 2008 Derby Festival Marathon.  The hat became a mainstay in my running apparel.  Actually, I did not wear it for every run since I trained in some sub-freezing weather (UK Blue stocking cap), but any time I could, this hat was a part of the apparel.

This does not seem all that crazy does it?  Well how about the fact that I did not wash that hat … at all.  The closest it came to being cleaned was when I ran in the rain.  By the end of my training the hat was covered in salt. Starting to sound a bit crazy now?  As a matter of fact, I did not wash this hat until I started this new adventure!  Superstition you say?  Not exactly.

When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests’ feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.’” Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” (Joshua 4:1-7)

One of the things that I discussed in my training journals was how much I hate to run. (Is This Fun?) It was hard, I was out of shape, and if not for the accountability of my teammates and some God given determination I would never have made it through the training.  The 26.2 miles that I ran in April was just the culmination of over 200 miles of training.  It was important when I started that race to remember all of those miles … the pain, freezing cold, the rain & snow, and all of the sweat that it was involved.  That training was my Jordan River that I crossed to escape some really tough years. “The Hat” was my memorial to the process that process that God brought me through.

A few year later, I pulled out “The Hat” for another purpose.  In the Fall of 2011 I began coaching  “The United”.  We had started together as a new team and it was my first experience coaching 11 v 11 soccer.  Few of my players had been coached in the fundamentals of soccer and were in pretty poor physical condition. We were starting from scratch.  We worked hard that Fall and made great strides, but fell short in the tournament loosing to the eventual champions.  In the Spring, we were determined to continue our progress.  We had a good season, but still had a few teams that we just could not handle.  At tournament time, I pulled out “The Hat” and explained the significance of the sweat stains and all that it represented to me.  The United took up the mantra “Remember the Sweat”.   Those guys fought hard and beat teams with superior talent to win the championship.  Not only that season, but the following Spring as well

2011 United

It is not superstition, karma, or Rafiki’s magic that brings about success.  It is the processes that we endure and the resulting character that develops us into the people we were created to be.  Unfortunately, even as we grow, it is easy to forget how far we have come and the storms we have weathered during the journey.  Forgetting often brings discouragement.  Remembering on the other hand brings hope!  What have you done to “Remember the Sweat?”

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does (James 1:22-25)

Rhythm of the Run

This past Saturday marked a key point in my training. I completed 13.2 miles so technically, I am half way to my goal.  For me, the real accomplishment was finding a rhythm in my stride.  My per-mile-pace varied by no more than 10 seconds during the entire run.  As an added bonus, I ran about a minute per mile faster than my average runs through out my training.  (only 27 seconds from my goal pace of 10 min/mile)

Based on the work that I have put in, this does not make sense. I have not been consistent in my training (Up-Downs), workouts have not included “speed work”, it was raining during my run, I could not find my phone arm-band or my “CAT Sweat Hat” (More to come on this in a future post), forgot body glide on my feet again … in other words, conditions were not optimal for a great run.  So what could possibly have made that kind of difference?

Rhythm …

During my initial recovery, one of the major goals of my physical therapy was to walk without a limp.  Hmm … Have you ever thought about what is actually happening when you limp?  More specifically, what is causes a limp when there is no pain? Although I had suffered multiple ankle sprains, broken toes, and muscle pulls, but once the pain was gone, the limp was gone as well so I never really thought about what caused my limp.  Since I was limping significantly, yet was not in pain, I had to ask, “what in the world is a limp?”  Mark my physical therapist admitted that no one had ever asked him that, but that it was a very good question (He was probably just humoring me)

thegaitcycle

So let me “sum up”.  My left leg was more weak and less flexible so my left leg “push-off” could not propel my body as far forward as my right leg.  Basically, the length of my stride was different.  Not only was the length different, but the amount of time between steps (beats) was different. So “stepstepstepstepstepstep” became “stepstep,stepstep,stepstep”.

As I learned to walk again, I concentrated on that “push-off” to even out my gait.  My limp became nearly imperceptible when I was walking.  I could still notice it when I was tired, but for the most part, I seemed to walk pretty normally.

IpodIn the past, I did not run with music. I ran in the quiet of the morning with just my thoughts and the rhythm of my breath and my the pounding of pavement to keep me company.  As I began my training several months ago, I decided that I would join the ranks of millions of other runners and stick in those headphones.  I formulated a good rock & roll playlist and off I went.  For those who do not follow my runs of my Running with the Footman FB Page, let me provide a sample; “today’s run was hot and slow, but I made it through”.  I have struggled with my pace and my endurance with the exception of two runs; a 7 mile run with Travis and an 11 mile run with Eric from TeamLLF.  Both of those runs went well because I allowed them to set the pace. (both are musicians and Travis is drummer who runs to a geeky click-track).

Last week as I began ran without the headphones when I ran late at night by myself and listened for the first time to my breathing and foot strike.  I was disappointed to realize that although there was a rhythm to my gait it was not correct.  stepstep,stepstep,stepstep.  This was not good.  I went back to my music and realized that my playlist had no consistency. Obviously this video  is not the answer to finding my muscle memory.  How was I going to get back into my running groove?

Amazing stuff this internet.  I was able to find a playlist made for my target pace!  It is a very eclectic mix, but I found that with very little effort, I could orchestrate my left foot push-off into the mix. Wow … what a difference a good kick drum can make (again this video link is not an example of a good kick drum).

mixingIn one of my other lives, I sit behind a live sound mixing board.  After 20 years of trying to mix musicians, I have found that if that rhythm section is not tight, nothing else can pull together that band.  That drummer and bass player are the glue that holds everything together and they can make or break the set.  An like the video at the top, the tempo that they set and maintain is crucial to the mission of the band.

I find myself out of rhythm and “limping” through much more of my life than I would admit.  Nothing seems quite right.  I know that I am going the right direction, but it does not feel like I will ever get there. Fatigue sets in early and hangs on and I can’t seem to pull it all together.  I really need a good rhythm section to hold this life of mine together and straighten out my gait.

“And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven …” (Colossians 1:17-23)

“God has made laughter for me” – Sarah

Sarah Funny FaceAnd Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.” (Gen 21:6)

When Sarah was about eleven years old, I was walking through our kitchen in Georgia when suddenly, I was soaking wet.  An evil little young lady had drenched me with the hand sprayer from the kitchen sink … I was so proud!  Knowing full well that she would pay, she counted the cost and determined that it was worth the risk.  Finally, I had not only children to terrorize, but I had a nemesis and ally in one.  One without fear.

“Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.” (1 Peter 3:6)

Sarah Renee’ has been “different” from the start. A month late, and after a difficult labor, the doctor scared us when he checked Lynn and got a concerned look on his face and stated there are two … (pause) … cheeks. (everybody is a comedian).  Yes, , she backed into the world just like her father … butt first.  A head full of black hair that stood straight out and a peculiar, frog-like sleeping position, we knew that she was going to be different. After being nearly drowned in her crib by an overflowing sink in the apartment up stairs we decided that she was destined for an amphibious life so I enlisted in the Navy.

From the beginning, she has loved people. Everywhere we went she made friends easily, but always found that one intimate relationship.

  • Norfolk,VA – Savannah: Savannah was very important in fostering some of her more critical virtues … a love of football and more importantly a love for the Redskins.
  • Sarah & SarahSt Marys GA – SarahTucker (Yes … one word in our house. Sarah Lutz is not one word, but is more complete):  Sarah Elizabeth was more than a friend … she was a sister and a cohort.  There were very few days while we lived in St. Marys that the “Sarahs” were separated. Out of this relationship, God began to develop a love of worship. Through dance and music, these two began to feel God’s pleasure moving through them.
  • Sarah LynsayLexington, KY – Lynsay: On my desk in front of me sits a picture of my children from Sarah’s early adult years and it is appropriate that Lynsay is included.  Sarah and Lynsay became women together (Sorry Lynz, but it is true).  High school, missions trips, work, boys … they shared all of the joys and pains associated with making this huge jump.

(This week the wedding dress is on the other sister … exciting)

As a baby, Sarah had a special affection towards men.  She really did not want to be held by women (except mommy).  Although she always had some close friends that were guys, (Gus, Ben, Eric..), her real friendships were always her girls … until Michael.  I have spent enough time writing on that subject previously and let’s just leave it at “he was the one and only” (and he was in that same family photo)

One would think that from my description of Sarah that life has been a piece of cake.  Both of our May babies (Sarah and Sam) were afflicted with less than normal long function when little.  (It took some time for Sarah’s amphibious gills to develop into fully functioning lungs).  Sarah had a volume I and volume II of her dependent medical record. For years we cycled been in and out of the pediatric clinic, but on Christmas morning of 1996, I carried Sarah into the ER for what would turn out to be a two week hospital stay.  God showed grace to us and allowed us to bring her home and decided that we it was time to replace that gill with a lung and her days of inferior lung function were over.

The teen years brought the beginnings of a more mature and independent young lady.  At 15 she started working, learned to drive (including a stick shift), got her own cell phone, and started dating (much to my displeasure). 16 brought a license and more independence. Although I knew that this was the natural way of things and that this what Lynn and I had raised our children to do, it was hard to become less a part of that life.  We watched as she bought her first car (and then her first bee-induced wreck).

Sarah  LauraWe watched stress begin to take hold as she struggled on balancing relationships, college and a full time job.  We ached as we saw her wearing out.  When our little girl who had always been defined by joy was losing her identity, we knew that a Sabbath was in order.   So it was agreed that she would head to the place of her birth and some quality time with my baby sister.  God was faithful and in time was able to bring restoration and joy.

Cain FamilyAt Sarah’s wedding, I spoke of Sarah’s heritage and that she comes from a line of women with hearts that champion broken people.  My baby girl has taken the baton from these ladies and is running the race with joy.   A father may think that he wants his children to be successful, but success without joy is not success.  Glance through Sarah’s photos and blog and you will see a woman who cherishes joy and desires above all else to share that joy with you.  http://littlecains.blogspot.com/

_M & SNow … she is no longer a “young adult” … but full fledged 30 year old adult.  Year 29 has brought a year of struggle and change.  She moved back to KY to be near family while trying her hand a single parenting of three very active preschoolers as Michael took a long “vacation” to the mountain regions of Afghanistan.  Anyone who thinks that the military wife is any less heroic than the one that is deployed is gravely mistaken.  Sarah … following in the footsteps of her awesome Mom, not only taking over the Dad duties, but doing it while missing the one who God provided to complete her, support her. and love her.  Add to that the stress involved with having her lover in harms way and you have a lady that defines heroism.  I am proud beyond measure of this woman of God.

Happy Birthday Sweetie.

 

When the Mountains Come to You

 Mark 4:35-41:  Jesus Calms the Storm

Sea story … December 1992 on the USS LY Spear, crossing the Atlantic on our way home from the Persian Gulf. We were experiencing heavy seas for 5 days straight.  The Spear was a flat bottomed, 645 ft monster of a ship.  Being a flat bottomed vessel allowed her to give us an exciting ride with 6 to 10 ft swells.  Standing on the covered quarter deck beneath the helicopter pad made for an interesting ride.  While riding the mountains of ocean, one moment as we rolled to starboard looking down over the side, I could not see the ocean and then as the she rolled back to port I could no longer see the sky.  At first it was a bit novel for most of us who were submarine sailors.  Some of us who had stronger stomachs made fun of those who were sick, after a couple of days, the ship reeked of vomit and all of us where vying for a piece of floor near the waterline where the effects of the waves was the least.

rough-seas1

On day 5 our chaplain, a medal of honor recipient from Vietnam had had about enough.  During his 1700 (5pm for you civilian types) prayer he cried out to God on behalf of the crew. He quoted Mark 4:35-41 and then prayed, “Father, we have had about enough of these crazy seas and we would real appreciate it if you could give us some relief.”  Within the hour, the seas calmed down.  He was an even more beloved chaplain after that.

For 4 chapters, Jesus has been doing amazing miracles and telling stories about the power of this new kingdom.  He tried to explain how little is actually expect of us and that all we need to do is place our faith and confidence Him.  He’s got our back.  He is a little disappointed in their ability to get it.

I am looking forward to getting it.

“By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas; the one who by his strength established the mountains,  being girded with might; who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples, so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs.You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.” (Psalm 65:5-8)”

The Unseen Farmer and an Unexpected Harvest

 Mark 4:26-34:  More Seed Parables

Again I find myself reflecting on thoughts that I here expressed over and over again.  Thoughts that have flooded my mind at times. Thoughts something like this. “Is this all that there is?  I get up, do the daily routine, go to sleep and then start all over again.  I barely see myself moving much less a move of God!”  I remember thinking this when I had a young family and, although I do not really see the growth in my own life, from that “daily grind” God has produced seven young adults that love God and are beginning to make an impact on the world around them.  They have started their own invisible farming process.

So in goes the sickle and because the harvest is come!  I often do not recognize the harvest that God has already brought.  If I did, I might be more excited for the harvest yet to come.

“Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe.

Go in, tread, for the winepress is full.

The vats overflow, for their evil is great.

Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision!

For the day of the Lord is nearing the valley of decision.” (Joel 3:13-14)

 

If in the years that I barely knew whether I was coming or going, God brought about such a great work from the unseen seeds in my own family.  What great things are on the horizon with the seeds that are being planted today.  I am actually getting excited about the harvest that He is preparing today.  Even the smallest word or deed sown today, God can use to bring about new and abundant life beyond anything I can imagine.

Every day seed is planted, everyday seed is growing and every day His Kingdom is spreading it’s branches to make a home for a world that needs Him so desperately.

So I every night I will go to bed with excitement and every day I will get up expecting the wondrous work of those unseen hands and the harvest that is sure to come.

Hand & Seedling

Get out of the Mud / Regaining a Grip

Yes, I have slipped on my commitment to sharing my journeys with Mark.  I will pick it up again tomorrow.

I loved mud.  Walking in it, playing in it, slinging it … the boy in me has always considered  mud to be an oozing, gushy, slimy delight.  Mud between the toes is an experience to be relished.  One of my greatest childhood memories is of the days John Coyner and I spent days jumping into a huge mud pit. the mud was so deep that it we sunk almost our arm pits.  It was an awesome bluish/black slimy that had been dredged from the bottom of the Tred Avon River and deposited within a berm just for our recreation. We would jump in, claw our way out and then go lay on the beach until it dried and our skin looked like it was cracking.  Then we would jump in the river to clean off and then go right back to the mud. In those carefree days of childhood when I was free of responsibilities mud like such an appealing distraction.

Pig in the mudOne of the things I think I love about mud is that it is so slippery and hard to handle.  It makes every action unpredictable.  I makes walking difficult, climbing nearly treacherous, and grasping objects nearly impossible.  In sports like football and horse racing, odds makers often have to change the odds completely when the event is held in the mud.  It often a great equalizer.

I have been reminded over the past couple of weeks that when I allow my priorities to be “muddied up”, my walk becomes more difficult, climbing up from a stumble becomes treacherous, and maintaining a grasp of situations become nearly impossible.  The harder I seem to try and get a good hold on my life, the more it tends to slip away.

A couple of weeks ago, I made some life changes.  Just some dietary changes and a re-commitment to improving my physical health.  As is often my habit, I did not really do this prayerfully and as a result, my priorities became quite muddy.  I tried hard to better “manage” my time to clarify things, but I kept falling farther behind.  The main thing I stopped doing was writing.  This may not seem like a big deal to most people.  It is not like a make a living writing or that people rely on my daily blog posts. Writing is my accountability.  It is a check point that is crucial to the race course that God has set before me.

So the question has been for me, “how do I get back on track?”

GRACE!

Until I realized that I was too slimy to get out of my predicament and that I would need to rely on Him to clean me up and pull me up, I was going to continue to slip back into the mud.  Grace says you don’t have to worry about catching up and making up for past failures.  I don’t have to do two weeks of blogs over the weekend to get back on track (which was my plan).  I just need to seek His face and His will for me today.  Yesterday is gone. (Also see Taking Advantage of a Mulligan)

I understand that in some cases, restitution for our sin is required, but God makes a way for us in those cases.  He does not leave us to deal with those on our own.  If we try to make everything right in our own power, timing, and ability, we may very well end up in a worse condition.  I have many examples of messing this up as well.  His grace is sufficient in every situation.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.  Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:6-10)

Jesus and His Rocky Family – Life Making Good Soil

If you are following along in Mark I am a bit behind on my posts, I have not talked about Mark 3:31-35 and Mark 4:1-20. So here is a couple of quick thoughts.

Mark 3:31-35: The Family

I What in the world? Jesus seems to blow off His family.  Actually, if you look back at verse 21, His family had actually tried to restrain Him thinking He was crazy, so obviously, they were missing something. In light of this Jesus’ inference that “Here is my mother, and “Here are my brothers” makes perfect sense. These were the ones who were beginning to receive the gospel and were getting the idea that He might be “The One”. His family just thought He was “special“.

As a dad, I know that at times, I have neglected to recognize the full potential of my children. My own prejudice based on past experience has blinded me to the purposes and plans that God has prepared for them. I may say the right words of encouragement, but they see right through that. Imagine if God’s plan for a family member was to be the Messiah … How do you encourage a purpose and a plan that is higher than anything you can fathom.

I pray that I will not only get out of the way, but will learn to encourage my family, friends and others to strive for all that God has for them and not limit my vision to my own sight.

Mark 4:1-20 The Parable of the Sower

This sort of carries on from this previous thought. Jesus’ family thought the problem might be Jesus, His actions and His words (The Seed), so they tried to restrain Him. The challenge actually rested on the receivers/hearers (The Soil). The Seed is perfect and will grow and bear fruit according to the medium that it is sown. Knowing the rest of the story, it is encouraging that His family, who rejected Him in the beginning (rocky soil), in the end fully excepted the Good News and bore much fruit.

Have you ever been discouraged about the prospects of someone receiving the Gospel? I am even discouraged by my own ability to receive all that God offers me, so of course I have difficulty seeing how God is going to get a seed into some of the rocks I have been praying for. I think we can say with assurance that the Holy Spirit can break up even the hardest ground and turn it into good soil

(He can even take our own waste and turn it into fantastic compost!)

compost-toilet-life-cycle