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It was the dawning of a new era. More importantly, in that moment, it was the ending of a really great day. And yet, someone was crying.

There is a difference in the sunrise and a sunset. It could be as simple as knowing which side of the Sun you are standing on. Is it moving toward you, or is it moving away? The old saying goes “it’s always darkest just before the dawn”, but you have to realize that sometimes the dark can last for hours.

Sometimes hours can feel like days.

Sometimes days can feel like years.

May I suggest something here? Like the differences in a sunrise and a sunset, there is a difference in a response versus an answer. Like the rising and setting of the daily sun, a response to anything is a given. An answer is not.

One can respond without answering. One cannot answer without responding.

Which brings me back to my original story. It was the dawning of a new era. The year was 2000, and the 21st century was just beginning. There was talk of so much promise: world peace, a growing economic prosperity that seemingly could not be derailed, and the world becoming a brighter place. Another old saying goes, “the more things change, the more they stay the same”. The inhabitants of the newly minted 21st century quickly learned that, with wars, and recessions, and all the darkness that often comes with such storms.

But, on a personal level, that one day was almost perfect. It was the summer of 2000, and our family was together on a private ranch celebrating the 40th anniversary of my parents’ wedding. They day had begun early, and had included feeding buffalo, enjoying beautiful weather, and being together over good food and even better stories. As the day drew near to a close, a gentle breeze was blowing, my young kids were running barefoot through nearly perfect blades of thick grass, and there was laughter and joy. It is one of those moments that I knew right there and then that I would always recall. I can close my eyes and almost feel the moment even today. It almost felt like heaven, and yet it wasn’t.

When I announced it was time to go inside, I did not get an answer. When I called out again, the response included tears, even wailing. You see, she just did not want that day to end. I can’t say that I blamed her, but it could not be helped.

Life can be like that. Things feel like they are going really, really beautifully until they can’t any longer, and you are left to wonder why. The difference for us all, I would suggest, is do we simply respond, or do we answer the call that is within each moment?

Biblical history is full of prime examples.

Abraham and Sarah.

Moses.

Gideon.

Ruth.

Even Jesus, himself, took on our position in this world.

In each of these examples, life was happening. There was beauty, and there was pain. There were victories, and there were defeats. Hebrews chapter 11 has all kinds of things to say about those stories, and more, and God’s ultimate promises not yet being fulfilled.

In each of those examples, there was also a calling. You see, one difference in a response versus an answer is intentionality. Intentionality, following a recognition of who we are called to be while we are here.

Those who are wise will take all this to heart;
they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.
Psalm 107:43

A person responds to every situation they are presented in life. A response can be passive. A response can be negative. A response can be “no”. A response can be angry.

Responses can be good, as well. So can answers. Answering a calling, to be more specific.

Abraham and Sarah were childless, for a time. They were called to pick up and move away from the land of their forefathers. They saw their nephew make countless bad decisions. They saw their neighbors be destroyed. They had internal family struggles. And yet, they responded with answers. They responded with faithfulness.

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 13:7

The same examples could be played out with Moses, and Gideon, and Ruth, and countless other examples. For each of them, life was happening. There was joy, and there was pain. There was accomplishment, often followed by hardship.

In the middle of it all, each had a calling to answer. I would suggest the same is true in our lives.

2014 has been the ending of an era, of sorts. More importantly, in these moments, it has included the dawning of a really great day.

As those moments have come, there has been little time for crying.

There has been change. There has been joy, and there has been pain. There has been sunrise, and there has been sunset.

The Thanksgiving and follow up holiday seasons of Christmas and New Years are now upon us. I went to sleep reflecting on these thoughts in the early hours of this morning after unintentionally finding myself watching the movie “Heaven Is For Real” just before going to bed. I woke up with these thoughts and the accompanying scriptures mentioned here courtesy of the little phone app that dubs itself as “Timehop”, and here I find myself today.

My father and I sat alone together in the darkness before the dawn this past New Year’s Eve. We talked about life. We talked about change. Without going so far as to say it out loud, we both knew the year we were about to share in the beginning was one that we would not finish together at its end.

2014 has indeed been one of those years, and then some. In the middle of it all, there have been calls to answer. Some have been easy, some have been hard, but the calling imbedded within it all has been undeniable.

Without a doubt, we are responding. To do otherwise would be impossible. But are we answering? Am I? Are you?

More importantly, how are we answering?

The old saying goes “it’s always darkest just before the dawn”, but you have to realize that sometimes the dark can only last for the amount of time you provide it with.

Sometimes years can feel like days.

Sometimes days can feel like hours.

There is a difference in the sunrise and a sunset. It could be as simple as knowing which side of the Son you are standing on. Are you moving toward Him, or are you moving away?

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Philippians 1:6
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I really don’t drink

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I have a confession to make. I likely have several confessions to make, but will limit this to admitting I have a thing for cheesy movies. Spoofs, Chick Flicks (my weakness, to be sure), and clean B- comedies all strike a chord with me. It may have something to do with laughing with my kids, but I confess it likely goes beyond said moments.

A particular favorite of my kids and I is Paul Blart, Mall Cop. Kevin James has a unique brand of physical trauma comedy, and the movie contains a sweet and redemptive storyline. At one point in the movie, Blart finds himself making a mistake or two while seeking acceptance among his peers, and it leads to a most unfortunate (and large) tattoo. His only defense is to acknowledge his great weakness: “I really don’t drink“.

I don’t drink, in the physical sense of the term. Seriously. It’s a personal thing, one that I won’t burden you with the details of here. If you ever want to know why, there’s probably a time and place for that conversation.

I have another confession to make. I don’t drink, generally speaking, in the spiritual sense of the term, and that is unfortunate. Allow me to explain this analogy further.

When I was back in high school, one of my earliest “on my own” adult experiences was to drive myself to the dentist for some repair work on my teeth. The nurse got me all prepped before the dentist made his grand entrance into the room. After the cursory “how are you doing” conversation with me, he proceeded to put his hands into my mouth and began the requisite small talk with his assistant.

The conversation that followed almost brought me up out of the chair. His nurse asked about his especially good demeanor that day, and he responded by admitting “I’ve been drinking a new wine”!

Thankfully, he did not stop talking there.

You see, my dentist back in good old Shreveport, America was a man of faith, and on this particular Friday afternoon, he was feeling especially grateful to his Lord and Savior. It is a verbal exchange that I have never forgotten.

God is good, all the time. God is faithful, even when life seems too hard to understand. The older I get the more I see that everyday, in the lives of those around me, and in the blessings in my own walk.

The choice to truly enjoy His faithfulness is up to me, however. Psalm 34:8 says:

Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!

Such joy is found in the little things: the sound of the rain on the rooftop, the sweet spirit of my cat as it climbs into my lap early every morning and after I return home every afternoon, the laughter of my children, and the wry smile of my wife when we are both quietly thinking the same thing. Sometimes, such joy even comes in the middle of a sinkful of dirty dishes.

This morning, the music of Brandon Heath’s rendition of “Shout to the Lord” was playing during a requisite loading of the dishwasher, and just hearing the words were like a new wine, indeed, or so I assume. You see, I don’t drink, in the physical sense of the word, and I’m not about to start.

However, I may take up drinking more deeply, in the spiritual sense. It seems like a good idea, and I’m likely not at risk of tattooing anything permanently…

My Jesus, My Savior,
Lord, there is none like You;
All of my days
I want to praise
The wonders of Your mighty love.

My comfort, my shelter,
Tower of refuge and strength;
Let every breath, all that I am
Never cease to worship You.

Shout to the Lord, all the earth,
Let us sing
Power and majesty, praise to the King;
Mountains bow down and the seas will roar
At the sound of Your name.
I sing for joy at the work of Your hands,
Forever I’ll love You, forever I’ll stand,
Nothing compares to the promise I have in You.

jbinghamoc:

Good words

Originally posted on Mark's Blog:

Dr. Tim Spivey is my son-in-law, and not just because of that, I have great respect for his work. This particularly insightful post meant much to me today, so I wanted to share it with you. 

DontgiveupWe MUST orient our energies and ministry around health, not pathology. We must spend our focus, time, and missional energy on the spiritually growing rather than those who refuse to accept appropriate responsibility for their spiritual growth.

Let me explain.

It’s easy to spend most of one’s energy worrying about those who aren’t there, virtually forgetting about those God has gathered. It’s easy to spend too much energy focusing on disappointments rather than blessings, or negative feedback over calling and the encouraging voices and signs all around us.

This pulls us off mission as much as anything, because we focus on Satan’s accomplishments rather than God’s provision. It tears down our faith, beats…

View original 293 more words

Living a legacy

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Today seems to be all about tomorrow. Sometimes, it’s working today to help pay for tomorrow. Other times, it’s all about paying for what’s already been done, whether by you or by someone else. The results, the ones we can remember, see, taste, and touch, are known as legacy.

Our society today, big and small, is hung up on legacy. Will anyone remember me beyond the headstone that may or may not mark an eventual resting place for the carbon material on loan to me from planet Earth? Christian author Max Lucado recently wrote a book calling each to “Outlive Your Life”, and one is left to wonder how.

There’s a song by Nichole Nordemon that expresses the sentiments as well:

I want to leave a legacy
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love? Did I point to You enough
To make a mark on things?
I want to leave an offering
A child of mercy and grace who
blessed your name unapologetically
And leave that kind of legacy

Years ago, my family gave me a little book called “A Father’s Legacy”, its pages intended to provide a history of the person that was me. I’ve yet to complete it. In some ways, it feels like it would be just a collection of words and stories. Would it really equate to legacy?

Earlier this week, I was asked to say some words and prayers at our local church. As I pulled my late father’s Bible from the shelf, reading something from Jesus’ life recorded in Luke felt right.

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And there it was: the very words I was looking for had already been underlined years earlier by my father’s own hand. That is legacy. That, and so much more.

What I choose to do today may be leaving a legacy, be it good or be it bad.

What is say.

What I choose to not say.

What I take time to stop and do.

What I choose to bypass, put off, or ignore.

When I am kind.

When I am not.

When my deeds draw someone toward Jesus.

When they do not.

I will likely never be famous after my days are done, and that’s most likely a good thing. But living my life is leaving a legacy in those I touch.

Did I choose to love? Did I point to You enough
To make a mark on things?

Like words underlined in an old Bible, our actions tell a story that will impact others in days yet to come.

We are blessed to live, this day. We are blessed to bless others by how we live, both in this day, and from the ripples created by our decisions this day that will be felt far from our point of impact.

That same old Bible I mentioned contains an inscription written years before my birth by my father’s great aunt, a woman I never knew. And yet, her words reflect her larger legacy. May what I choose to do and to say this day be so worthy.

May that be this father’s legacy…

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Quiet mornings

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It’s been a quiet morning, like so many before, and we assume like so many yet to come.

And yet, another September 11 morning started in just this same way until the actions of a handful of angry misdirected men, and the responses to those actions, changed our world forever.

May we live, love, and laugh today and all our days as if they could be our last, and may the world be free of the type of evil that breaks quiet mornings.

Until then, one song rings true:

Jesus is Lord
My Redeemer
How He loves me
How I Love Him

He is Risen
He is coming

Lord, come quickly!
Hallelujah!

Winds in the east…

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Winds in the east, mist coming in.
Like somethin’ is brewin’ and bout to begin.
Can’t put me finger on what lies in store,
But I fear what’s to happen all happened before.
*

Once upon a time, in a land far away, I dreamed of things being different. “Once upon a time” was both long ago and possibly and unfortunately not so far away. Perhaps it was only yesterday. As the family and I sat down the other night to watch a few minutes of the movie “Saving Mr. Banks”, I was reminded of that and so much more.

Not so long ago, in a land much farther away, some friends and I climbed a mountain. But, things indeed were different: different from my prior experience, different from my visions of the moment, and different in the result. You see, you can’t escape the winds, no matter how hard you try. And, to quote another song, the funny thing is “It’s OK”.
IMG_1889I had been on this mountain before, but the chosen path was changed. In fact, were it not for the winds of change, we would not have been on this path, this day, at all.

It was just about a week ago that my friends were nearing the summit of our climb. I say “my friends were”, because I had long ago lost sight of them, and was beginning to wonder if I would ever reach the summit myself. The path was steep, I was likely not fully prepared, and there was the wind. As I hiked alone, knowing those friends had gone on before me to reach the top, the wind became suddenly and painfully strong.

The gusts were powerful. The sensations were cold. My mouth was dry, and my tongue was numb. It felt as if the wind would fill the very jacket I wore for protection and would sweep me right off the side of that mountain to an unfortunate landing below. I thought I wanted to quit, to sit down, to give up, and to hope my friends would be back for me later, having experienced the summit without me.

But, it didn’t. Quit, that is; the wind didn’t quit.

I didn’t, either. Quit, that is. I pressed on towards the summit, finally reaching it to the buffeted sound of cheering from my friends as they endured that very same wind.

As we descended the mountain later that morning, I reflected on what we’d just experienced, and was reminded about how life can be. Windy, that is. But, enduring the wind makes for a great story. Sometimes encountering that very wind makes the story possible to begin with.

As I said, I’d been on this mountain. My son and I have traversed its slopes twice prior, and the mountain has taught us to expect the unexpected. Fog, snow, lightning, hail, and rain from a sunny sky have all accompanied our experience here. Wind had, as well, but nothing like the wind this day.

Two of my friends from this day were supposed to have climbed a different mountain with us just a few weeks ago, but winds of change prevented that moment. My father entered his last days of life in the very moments that we were to embark on our journey with these friends, and we had to say no that day. But, you see, enduring the wind makes for a great story.

Sometimes, I might suggest, encountering that very wind makes the story possible to begin with.

Those friends went on to plan this most recent adventure, and they brought two new friends with them. Had it not been for one of life’s windier and most uncomfortable moments, we would not have found ourselves together this past week, nor would I likely have been inspired by the outcome.

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As we all drove home together, life’s winds continued to blow, this time in the form of car trouble. It blessed us yet again with the reminder of how other people will go out of their way to help when you need it the most and expect it the least.

Which brings me back to the inspiration from “Saving Mr. Banks”. Long ago I used to dream that life could be simpler, and wished that my days could be more like the 1950′s, when it seemed that life had fewer distractions, fewer interruptions, and maybe fewer hardships. But, as I often learn later in life, I was wrong to feel that way.

Mr. Walt Disney himself even had hardships back in the 1950′s. The demands and fast pace of today have only replaced the equally demanding world of yesterday, and there are things we have learned and overcome today that could not be said of a prior “simpler time”.

Winds in the east, mist coming in.
Like somethin’ is brewin’ and bout to begin.
Can’t put me finger on what lies in store,
But I fear what’s to happen all happened before.
*

Indeed. Let those winds blow. Life’s outcomes lie ahead, and I’m sure some great stories are right there with them.
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*lyrics from Disney’s Mary Poppins

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“When the lights go down in the city, and the sun shines on the bay. Oh, I want to be there, in my city…” Such are some lyrics from an old tune by a group that called itself Journey.

In the very early hours of this August 26, I was awakened to learn that one of my youngest child’s two little birds had passed from life. “Elphie” had been ill for almost two weeks, commanding a special degree of attention from a handful of family members. While one could argue “it was just a little parakeet”, it was one of God’s creatures, and it brought color, song, and joy to the house in its own unique and special way for the past five years.

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As I buried our bright green and yellow little friend in the flowerbed this morning, the contrast of its feathered body against the rich soil of the earth was stark and strong, and I was reminded of some of Christ’s words to us.

Matthew 6:25-30 says: “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

Today is a big day in the life of a local family in the town that I call home. A young man named Andrew, a son and a brother, fell ill last week and passed from this life. A friend to many, Andrew brought color, song, and joy to many who crossed his path. In fact, Andrew was well known for his customary line to all: “Enjoy”. Today, August 26, is the day that Andrew’s family says goodbye, laying his earthly body to rest.

I watched a brief video earlier today where one celebrity was speaking of the recent passing of another, and comparing our lives and our light to those celestial bodies we refer to as “the stars” and how even thousands of years beyond their own extinction, their lights shine on in the heavenly realms for all to see.

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August 26 is a big day in my lineage. Fifty-four years ago, my parents were wed on this day. Some seven or so short weeks ago, in what seems like an eternity of sorts, my father passed from this life. As a result, my mother and my family are sharing the special memories, the color, song, and joy of his life and her life with him, in a very unique and special way today. His light, and theirs, shines on in the lives of those who follow after. His light, and theirs, was also a reflection of the Son who made our hope a reality.

Life is a journey, indeed, but Heaven is our ultimate destination. As an old friend likes to say to his own family about Heaven, “Be There”, and I could not agree more.

When the lights go down, in my city, and the Son shines on… I want to “Be There”, in that City. I look forward to meeting my Dad, Andrew, and perhaps even the rest of God’s resurrected and restored creation, made new, like that little bird we lost earlier today.

I can only imagine the color, song, and joy that await us all there.

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