Chillin’ in His Crib

Mark 2:13-17  – Jesus Calls Levi

Capernaum Israel

I have to admit that it is still blowing me away that I never noticed this.  I have no idea how many times I have read the gospels and if you count the sermons and discussions about them, one would have thought I would have picked up on such an important fact.  Second time in two days …

And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. (Mark 2:15)

He was in His house!  He invited these cats into His house!   I always thought of Him going into other peoples houses.  I actually kind of thought of Him as sort of homeless. It might actually be Peter’s house, but He was at least at home in this place.

So who cares?  Why is this a big deal? Maybe to some of you it is not.  Many of you may go out, make friends with questionable characters and then bring them home with you? It is one thing to go hang out at the rescue mission, it is entirely different to bring those fellows back to your crib. (I don’t really talk like this, I am just trying to expand my vocabulary).

Of course, Jesus probably did not have much in the way of material possessions, to worry about (which is kind of a point in itself), and no wife or children to protect so this might have been no big deal to Him.  We already know that He was not too worried about what people thought, so His reputation was not a concern. So maybe there is not much of a comparison between Jesus and me.  After all I have a family, electronics, and standing in my church to be concerned with. (Sarcasm is a virtue … I keep telling myself that)

Seriously, when I think of the heart of Jesus, I think of someone that goes out brings people in just as they are.  He does not go out, heal and restore them and then bring them in.   At this point, Jesus has called 5 people, 3 fisherman and a tax collector.  He took the fishermen from their boats and a tax collector from his toll booth, right where the were living.  No probationary period, no qualification … He just took them in, wrapped His arms around them and loved them.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! (Matt 23:37)

I am not really talking about opening my house up to anyone that I might run across in my life. As a man with a family, I do have to be discerning when exposing my family to outside influences.  I do however have to open my heart to those around me.  Jesus did not pre-qualify people before building relationships and neither should I.

GoldilocksI hate that my mind is continually sizing up (judging) those around me.  Some are too high and lofty and others are to low and disgusting for me.  I am looking for the ones that are “just right”.  Ones I can handle and are not going to drag me down.

Good News … Jesus set a table for me and anyone I want to bring.  He has already sent the invitations.  Until I overcome my own insecurities, I can just bring everyone to His house.

Seriously Man? You Gonna’ Cut My Roof?

Mark 2:1-12 Jesus Heals the Paralytic

Let’s set the stage here:

paparazzi imagesJesus has gone home for the first time since starting his public ministry.  As we saw yesterday, despite trying to keep it under wraps for a little while, the cleansed leper has leaked it to the press and now everybody has heard that Jesus is doing some really amazing things. Hordes of people want to see what all the fuss is out.  The house is full of people wanting a piece of the action. It is not just people wanting a touch from God.  The paparazzi as well as the main stream media (scribes) are hanging around as well trying to get the scoop or bring the hammer down. We can see a little more why Jesus wanted to put this off a little while … can’t a guy get a little privacy!  But that is not the point today.

Through the roofThe house is backed up out the door.  You know there is always going to be “that guy”!  The desperate dude that just can’t wait his turn. (I know the traffic is backed up and the left lane is ending … I will zoom up to the front and force my way in) So these guys take their buddy up to the roof, cut a hole and lower him down to Jesus.  Seriously?  How long has this guy been paralyzed?  He couldn’t wait until Jesus came out?  Catch him on the way to the outhouse or something.  And another thing … whose house is this?  I don’t know this for sure, but the text says Jesus was at home … this was His house.  Dudes, you just cut a hole in the Son of God’s house, really?  You are doing demolition over His head and He don’t even have a hard hat. Give me break!

Most of the time I have heard someone preach about this story, it has been centered around the faith of these guys and their persistence.  Actually, I think the guys were rude, impatient, and inconsiderate!  I think instead of healing the one guy, I might have considered sending out 5 paralytics.  Jesus did not just decide , “hmmm, I think I will push the limits here and say your sins are forgiven instead of be healed”.  These guys had just committed sin right there in front of everyone. Forgiveness of sin was definitely in order.

What a new concept!  We do not have to be bound by sin … our own sin or the sins of others.  If Jesus had allowed justice to be served, not only would this guy not have been healed, but he and his friends would have been carted off to jail.  By releasing them (forgiving them) He was free to bring healing and restoration.

How often do I find myself withholding love from others because of some offense that I have held onto?  Something as simple as a tone of voice or an eye roll can set me off.  Just this week, I withheld blessing from my son for a petty little attitude that he did not even know about.  I am not saying that we should ignore sin. Sin has consequences and that can not be ignored.  (It would not surprise me in the least to find that Jesus immediately sent those guys up to repair the roof.)  The Good News is that sin does not have to bind us from pouring love, compassion and blessing into the lives of others.

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 8:5)

Father, show me how to see through sin like Jesus so that I can bring the amazing love and grace of Your Good News to everyone I can.

Random Post – Defining a Blog

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Random Image for a Random Post

For the past few months I have been doing most of my writing in a facebook with a group of men. I have diligently written nearly every day based on my morning devotional time.  My blog entries have been mostly confined to blogs written in honor of family members.

Yesterday I noticed that even those family blogs have gained some internet interest.  At this point, I look at every blogger who comments, follows, or likes post. So who is interested in my family blogs? … mostly people who want me to use their methods to make money with my blog. Another thing I have noticed is that if I make multiple posts in one day most people only read the last post I make.  I realized that I regrettably tend to do the same thing with blogs I subscribe to and follow on a daily basis. (Sorry Annie B at http://ambirkelo.wordpress.com) (I love her blog, but I have a difficult time keeping up sometimes)

I mention all of this because of something I read on a post from a blogger with no interest in my content. A couple of his points made me consider my blog.  He indicated the importance of defining the purpose of your blog and finding an interest group.  When I started my blog, it was just my running journal and devotional and I did not care about an interest group other than my running buddies.  I was just an exercise in accountability.

So here is my mission:

1)    Determine what I want to accomplish with my writing

2)    Determine who I want to reach

3)    Post regularly but value the time of those who choose to follow.

4)    Improve my quality and content.

Until I figure out 1 & 2, I am going to move on with 3 & 4 and to post my FB group devotionals so that anyone can follow along and add their two cents.

I have posted my reading calendar as a page at the top for anyone who is interested.  I am currently going through the book “Mark for Everyone” by N.T. (Tom) Wright and my reading follows a the book.

I am already 5 days in to Mark so I have posted those 5 days as one post (so as not to wear you out).

30 Years with My Bride – Pearl of Great Price

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls,  who, on finding  one pearl of great value,  went and sold all that he had and  bought it.”    

Wedding Bride & Lynnie30 years ago, when Lynn’s father placed her hand in mine and we began a journey together I had no idea the treasure that he handed me.  20 and 21 years we had no idea what it meant to be a husband and wife team.  As fortune would have it, we were also blessed with the title of Mom and Dad for which we were equally unprepared.  So off we went, barreling into life to take on those responsibilities and burdens the best that we knew how.  Problem … our know-how was minuscule.

It did not take us long to realize that we were in over our heads.  Additionally, we began to realize that our childhood dreams and desires were going to as a minimum have to be put on hold.  I was not going to be the star athlete or the Pulitzer prize-winning author and she was not going to become studious accountant or powerful tax lawyer.  We were going to need to be parents first.  Oh and with little or no resources.

Rough Start

We became adept at digging ourselves a deeper hole to live.  We realized that our only real common dream was those children that we were pretty good and making and raising.  If it were not for that crazy money thing!  I thought I had found a career path in food management, but my inability to be responsible, my lack of discipline, and my first real dealings with greed, selfishness, and pride sort of nixed that direction.  In the midst of this … enter Sarah. God proved faithful though, Lynn despite all odds did not give up on me, and we survived the first two years somehow.

Anchors Away

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My First Command was the USS Albany in new construction.  Long hours but home almost everyday.  Lynn and I started to develop to actually get to know each other after 5 years of being married.  I learned of her tender heart for hurting and struggling people, her ability to listen and discern, and her ability to wisely intercede in difficult situation.  I began to notice that she was learning to be an advocate for young mother even though she was a young mother herself  (already more experienced than most).  She was a rock even when we things were not going well. Although we were more stable, we (I) continued to make poor financial decisions, avoided as much responsibility as possible … basically “I was tossed about by every wind”.  Despite this, Lynn and I began to become a pretty good team.  (Enter Sam)

My second command .. Detailer: “we are going to send you to the USS LY Spear.  They call it the L.Y. Pier because it never goes to sea.”  Orders: “Report to USS L.Y. Spear, deployed Bahrain (Persian Gulf).”  So our first real separation.  We survived those months apart and when I returned, hours were better, I was enjoying success at work, the kids were doing well and we were coasting. Then … we had to walk through sorrow together.  We lost our first child in a miscarriage and followed by the loss of our 3rd son Andrew Cory in a still birth.  This was more than my Lynnie could handle alone and for the first time we really had lean on each other and began to lean on the Lord.  God saw us through even that difficult time, but I felt that our time in Norfolk was coming to a close.  God showed His mercy and gave us Elizabeth and we began to feel like life might be able to move on.  Time for new orders.

In October of 1993, I climbed in my little blue Subaru, I left for Kingsbay, GA and left Lynn and the kids in GA while waiting for housing and hoping for the house VA to be sold.  Before I was even out of VA, I had cried out to God to give me new start. He met me heard me.  For the next few months, with the help of an awesome new church family and an open heart, God poured out His grace on me and I earnestly sought for God to bond Lynn and I in a new way.  For 10 years, although I was there, I had poured very little into my marriage.  I had never treated Lynn with the love and respect that I had pledged in 1983.

When she arrived in December, we began a new partnership.  We grew together and began to reach out to other families.  Don’t get me wrong, we still were and are a mess. We were just a mess together and we were actually enjoying each other for the first time.  We grew in the Lord, we grew as a couple, and we grew as a family. Lynn took on the herculean effort of homeschooling our brood. We saw God’s hand move in mighty ways through and too us. Life was as good as it had ever been.

Jumping Ship / A Parting Shot

After a couple of years, things started to change.  Another miscarriage, friends started to move away, our girls were becoming teens, and we were facing guaranteed extended sea time began to weigh us down. Lynn and I made the decision to start a new life apart from the Navy (unless they would send us to Hawaii … fat chance!), but we would have to make it through a couple of years of deployments.  They would not prove to be an easy couple of years.

My deployment in January of 1996 would prove to be an abbreviated and painful deployment.  I joyfully missed our shake down cruise with the arrival of Josiah and then we shoved off for patrol.  Mid patrol I was called to the CO’s stateroom.  A day later I was off the ship and on my way home to say good-bye to my Mom, loosing her battle with cancer.  Life was not going to be the same.

Two more times I had to leave my family before my end of active duty rolled around. So life was going to start over for us on the other side of the Navy.

Loss Upon Loss – The Cloud

DSC_0016Even though these are more recent memories, they are vague to me.  July 31st, 1997 I took off my uniform for the last time and headed to Kentucky with hopes of finding employment in the nuclear industry.  Bad timing and poor job hunting skills made this a difficult prospect.  Add to that severe depression that had begun to settle on me after the loss of my Mom, the loss of our house in VA and increasing debt.   I am only beginning to realized the effects that depression had on me for the next 12 years. We began to live life that I can only describe as a life of poverty.  I don’t mean that in a financial sense although we have struggled financially.  Poverty is a mindset of despair that allows us to reject the abundant life that is available to us despite our lack of worldly possessions.  Throw into this the final realization that I was getting older and that many of those dreams that I had hung onto were no longer within reach and you have a man that is on the precipice.   I am only beginning to realized the effects that depression had on me for the next 12 years. It is only through God’s grace and an amazing women that our marriage has survived.   As with any depression, there are highs and lows and we had many of both and we apparently hid it from most everyone outside our family (as far as I can tell).

She Abides

Recently, a group of guys have taken on a challenge of reading 1 John ever day for 30 days.  One of the questions that came out early is about abiding.   What does it love like when some one abides with someone else?

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:11,12 ESV)

Lynn has been an example of loving me for 30 years.  I did not earn that love and even rejected that love at times., but still she walked beside me through the worst, but with an expectation for the best. She has believed in me when I did not believe in myself.  My failures did not appear to dim her love light toward me.  I think that this what happens when He abides in us and His love is perfected.  For 3 decades she has abided with me even when I was blind to it.

How Beautiful is Your Love

“You have captivated my heart, my  sister, my bride;

you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes,

with one  jewel of your necklace.

How beautiful is your love, my  sister, my bride!

How much  better is your love than wine,

and  the fragrance of your oils than any spice!”

(Song of Solomon 4:9,10)

I thank God everyday for the pearl that He placed in my hand 30 years ago.

Happy anniversary my love.

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Grafting of the Family Tree _ Michael

I have a backlog of half written blog drafts.  So it appears that my blog is going to be confined to paying homage to the one’s most dear to me for a while.

Grafted_blossoming_tree_unidentified_white_pinkAs the father of seven wonderful children, obviously I have devoted a great deal of my adult life to cultivating the Farley family tree.  After many years of fertilizing (pretty good at that by the way), watering, pruning, and protecting God has blessed Lynn and I with a wonderful topiary.  As awesome as the path has been, we could not continue this endeavor forever. Fortunately, God had a plan for that.  Grafting!

Unbeknownst to me, the Ichthus Festival (christian music festival/teenage garden center) would bring a multi-colored … spike haired, zebra like stick into the life of our second branch Sarah. Pre-Michael Sarah (PMS) was a country music hating prissy little princess.  Somehow the rapid climate changes of Ichthus (Dust, heat, rain, frost …) over three days altered her DNA somehow.  Country music, demolition derbies, county fairs, truck & tractor pulls suddenly became a natural part of her life.

Me and MichaelMy relationship with Michael … grew mostly out of his uncanny ability to show up right at meal time.  As we all know, christian fellowship revolves around food and Michael wanted to make sure that our relationship was grounded in our mutual faith.  Additionally, he understood the importance of resting in the Lord and would consequently fall asleep on the couch at every opportunity.  He always new his purpose in those times of fellowship and proved his faithfulness by never showing up without a bag of ice.

MantleI will always count it a special day when Michael asked for Sarah’s hand in marriage.  Good has shown Lynn and I a great deal of favor by providing a warm, loving, hard working, fun loving, man of God to care for our Sarah.  On the day they were married, there was no doubt that God had seen fit to continue adding to our tree in a wondrous way. He gladly accepted the mantle of gardener that I placed upon him that day.  He has shown himself to be a faithful husband and loving father.  I am honored to call him a son and coworker in the family tree business.

Happy Birthday Michael.

Selfish and Annoying

A couple of years ago I developed a mantra for my U14 boys soccer team that might be disturbing to many, but I believe that it resulted in two league championships.  Yes, I encouraged my normally courteous and respectful young men to be selfish and annoying.

Before you judge my rebellion against basic Christian morals and societal norms, let me explain.  First, you must take the time to understand the middle school boy. Through God’s plan and a healthy dose of HGH, boys naturally begin to claim their heritage as men.  They are no longer content with the nest.  Not confident enough to make the jump on their own, they find ways, through word and action, to make us want to push them out.  If we understand this, we can use this to help them make that journey.  If I can disguise  character building as adolescent rebellion, I can help them to take those steps toward manhood.

children_sharing_toySelfish –  The team was rapidly developing skill during training sessions.  Although I could see it, they could not.  During games, it was apparent that they had little confidence in their own ability and they deferred to other players and even the other team at times causing us to take few shots and loose most of the 50-50 balls. So I told them to be selfish… “really coach?” Yep … I want you to believe that the ball is yours and the only place that it should be is on your foot, your team mates foot, or in the back of the other team’s net.  I want you to be like a preschooler in the nursery who gets mad when another kid takes their toy.  They loved this! It sounds crazy, but we began fighting for every 50-50 ball and driving the ball into the back of the net.

Do I allow the enemy to take away the ball that God purchased for me on Calvary?  Do I lack the confidence to wrestle with the enemy in prayer?  Do I understand that God has placed me here for a purpose and that I cannot always defer to someone else to accomplish that task? Am I selfish for my God?

polar1Annoying –  Every team I have ever coached has that one kid.  You and everyone  else knows who it is on the first day of practice. “Coach, what are we going to do next?” , “Coach, can I play goalie?” , “Coach, are we going play around the world today?” “Coach …Coach…Coach?” AAAAHHHHHHH! Yes he is annoying, but you always know where he is, what he wants, and you know his voice (even in your sleep).  On the field, every other player know his voice as well and they always know where he is.  This is not a bad thing.  When you are trying to develop communication on your team and their lack of confidence keeps them from talking what better example than “that guy”. Can you be louder than “that guy”?  Can you be more annoying than “that guy”?  If we can be loud and annoying, we will all know each other’s voices and we can effectively work together.  Suddenly, I have a team of guys that communicate, know where their teammates are, and can effectively share the ball and play team defense.  Annoying is better than silence when you need to communicate.

Have I made sure that God knows my voice?  Does He know how much I want to be a part of the game? Do others know that I am open and available for ministry?   Do I know that good would rather here my annoying voice than anything else in the world. Am I annoying for God?

And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him”;and he will answer from within, “Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything”? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Like 11:5-13 ESV)

Drought Condition – Is Fire Imminent? (The Prequel)

As I reflect on my last article, I realize a few things:

  1.  My blog no longer has anything to do with it’s 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 own 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 own 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, http://crazyoldmaraman.wordpress.com/about/ and http://crazyoldmaraman.wordpress.com/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.