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Archive for the ‘Acceptance’ Category

  
Day after day, it reappears.

I have this friend.   I’d like to say our respective roles are part mentor, part mentee, but in truth we are men at work, to borrow a phrase.   Therein, may I suggest, lies the rub.

He and I were touring through an exhibit yesterday dubbed “National History Day”.   In the course of conversation, he mentioned how over a third of all submitted written work is likely partially or heavily plagiarized.   Is it from laziness, or could it be mankind is caught up in the knowledge that there are new questions or problems under the sun?   

Solomon, himself, could not have said it any better, and yet I believe he did.   Touché?

In the spirit of “turnitin.com”, may I suggest some, if not much, of our work and daily walk is being vetted in this great algorithm we call life.

Truth be told, this idea drives a proverbial stake toward the heart of issues I am living with in many current friendships, each of which defines me as “the older guy” in the equation.

Friendships dealing with work.

Friendships dealing with disease.

Friendships dealing with temptation.

Friendships questioning purpose, and meaning.

Friendships abounding in love.

In my younger days, “Men at Work” was an Australian rock band.   While their stardom may have been short lived, at best, their lyrical musings came to me in a conversation with one young friend just the other night.   See if my plagiarized memory strikes a chord with you:

I can’t get to sleep

I think about the implications

Of diving in too deep

And possibly the complications

Especially at night

I worry over situations

I know will be all right

Perhaps it’s just imagination

Day after day it reappears

Night after night my heartbeat shows the fear

Ghosts appear and fade away.

  
Day after day, it reappears, indeed.  It did again today.  So, too, do the words of the LORD:

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭12:25-31‬ 

Overkill?   I think not.

Plagiarism?  Perhaps, but there is no problem new under the sun.

We all just need to turn it in, to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine.

Yes. I too read that somewhere.

Amen.

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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 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.

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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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We were made to be courageous
We were made to lead the way
We could be the generation
That finally breaks the chains
We were made to be courageous…
*

I have these friends. They are young. They are active. They care. The future is theirs for the taking.

That doesn’t mean they don’t encounter setbacks, just like all of us have, and do. Not so long ago, I was at their house on an errand, and we were dealing with and discussing a mutual life setback moment that had just occured. As we visited in the driveway before I left, I couldn’t help but notice the street signs in the corner of their yard. Half asking permission, half saying “I’m sorry, but… “, I walked toward the signpost and took out my iPhone to snap the picture shown above. One of the friends quickly replied, “Oh, I see a future blog post coming”. Little did either of us know.

Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:3

Down on the corner, out in the street
Willy and the Poorboys are playin’
Bring a nickel; tap your feet.
*

Life moves on. That doesn’t mean things are necessarily easy. However, as the song says, we were made to be courageous. As the other song infers, the beat goes on, and the song on our hearts should be playing loudly for all to see, hear, and tap their feet along with.

The only way we’ll ever stand
Is on our knees with lifted hands
Make us courageous
Lord, make us courageous

Seek justice
Love mercy
Walk humbly with your God

In the war of the mind
I will make my stand
In the battle of the heart
And the battle of the hand

In the war of the mind
I will make my stand
In the battle of the heart
And the battle of the hand

We were made to be courageous
And we’re taking back the fight
We were made to be courageous
And it starts with us tonight

To quote the fictional wiseman, Forrest, Forrest Gump, “that’s all I’ve got to say about that”.

The beat goes on.

We were made to be courageous.

I suspect my friends will not remain down, on the corner, for long. After all, they live at the corner of Liberty and Courageous. What better crossroads could anyone ask for?

* Courageous lyrics by Casting Crowns

* Down on the Corner lyrics by Creedence Clearwater Revival

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There is a Biblical verse for every moment in life, so it seems. Today, I wish a verse existed that began with “Here’s the scoop…”

Working at Oklahoma Christian University, we often quote Isaiah 40:31: But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.They will soar high on wings like eagles.They will run and not grow weary.They will walk and not faint.

Other translations begin this verse with “They that wait upon The Lord…”.

As a family who believes and trusts in Him, waiting seems to be the better fit in this moment.

In a world plagued by the babel we brought upon ourselves at Babel, the interchangeable nature of words in translating our languages provides a beautiful mixture of meaning and metaphor as we try to make sense of our lives on this broken creation called The Earth.

As I made the early morning drive today from our temporary sleeping abode at my sister’s to the medical suite that has emerged at our Mom and Dad’s, a song by Switchfoot was playing on the radio:

Fumbling his confidence
And wondering why the world has passed him by
Hoping that he’s bent for more than arguments
And failed attempts to fly, fly

We were meant to live for so much more
Have we lost ourselves?
Somewhere we live inside
Somewhere we live inside …

Dreaming about Providence
And whether mice or men have second tries
Maybe we’ve been livin with our eyes half open
Maybe we’re bent and broken, broken

We want more than this world’s got to offer
We want more than this world’s got to offer
We want more than the wars of our fathers
And everything inside screams for second life, yeah

We were meant to live for so much more
Have we lost ourselves?
We were meant to live for so much more…

We were meant to live …

The medical experts have told us, daily, there are less than 24 hours remaining, and they’ve proved it by the level of medical and comfort care resources provided. And 24 hours later, they have re-approved the same assessment for yet another 24, and we remain as both “those who trust”, and “they that wait”.

A night or two ago, in this ever rambling week, a conversation I had with one on a blanket on the floor became a conversation among many, and ultimately a prayer I found myself offering with and on behalf of us all. We asked God to allow us to let go of our agenda, our understanding, and to rely on His timing. I’ve never wished to be in a patriarchal place in life, and yet, here we are.

In his final lucid and not so lucid conscious moments almost a week ago, our Dad proclaimed to all present for me to be “Second in Command”, and I wonder now if there is not an analogy in even those late moment words.

God is in command. We are His children. We were meant to live for so much more.

We have not lost ourselves, or each other.

And so, we trust.

And we remain “they that wait”.

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It’s 3:00 in the morning, and I’m still awake,
so I picked up a pen and a page,
and I started writing just what I’d say,
If we were face to face…
*

Those words from a song are with me now, along with so many others. I’ve been sitting quietly here with my father this night, and the sands of time are sinking.

As I’ve been with Dad tonight in his room, listening and watching, I’ve had the blessing of reflecting and noting some of my two sister’s more poignant memories and mixing them with my own as we prepare for Dad’s upcoming memorial.

As I emailed a draft of those memories to those two special ladies a few moments ago, I found an email of a blog post from a former colleague and teacher, speaking to the beauty of a song by Anne Ross Cousin, and it seemed the perfect gift from God in this moment. It is a beautiful song, and no doubt is one of my Dad’s old favorites. Thanks to a man named Mark for sharing them earlier.

The words to this hymn are below. I hope you enjoy them as I have tonight, as we await our Dad’s opportunity to be with Christ, where He is throned where glory dwelleth…

The sands of time are sinking, the dawn of Heaven breaks;
The summer morn I’ve sighed for—the fair, sweet morn awakes:
Dark, dark hath been the midnight, but dayspring is at hand,
And glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

O Christ, He is the fountain, the deep, sweet well of love!
The streams of earth I’ve tasted more deep I’ll drink above:
There to an ocean fullness His mercy doth expand,
And glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

The King there in His beauty, without a veil is seen:
It were a well spent journey, though seven deaths lay between:
The Lamb with His fair army, doth on Mount Zion stand,
And glory—glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

With mercy and with judgment my web of time He wove,
And aye, the dews of sorrow were lustered with His love;
I’ll bless the hand that guided, I’ll bless the heart that planned
When throned where glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

O I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved’s mine!
He brings a poor vile sinner into His “house of wine.”
I stand upon His merit—I know no other stand,
Not even where glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

*These Simple Truths lyrics by Sidewalk Prophets

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