"I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands." - Psalm 143:5

Monday, November 24, 2014

Dream Coat


 

dreameys copy

It wasn’t technicolored or fancy looking by any means, it was a simple grey-black winter coat and it was just his size. He was the younger of two boys, maybe six to seven years old, with eyes as wide as saucers. Accompanied by an older woman of a different ethnicity, they all had come to a local coat drive hosted by the Hyde Park Methodist, a church that graciously allowed people from my church to help staff the event.

It was near the end of the day and most kid’s coats had been chosen by the early crowd. His other brother ( I assumed) had found one from the slim pickings and the woman was working on the gray coat, trying to get the zipper to work. All the while the little boy was looking on with those big saucer eyes.

It was the eyes that got me.

I went over and offered my help to fix the zipper (which seemed way beyond my skill-set as time past by) while she looked for a coat for herself. The minutes piled on themselves as not one, but two zippers evaded any attempt to follow the path of least resistance and behave like normal zippers do. I was sweating; the boys have been at the bin holding free stuffed animals and now were back, holding a monkey and a Winnie-the Pooh.

Now I had eight eyes watching me.

I wanted desperately for that little boy to have this coat and the underneath my breath prayers were as fervent as any I’ve prayed…I wanted God to heal this zipper…now!

The little boy never said a word…he just keep looking, waiting and silently hoping.

I started to choke back tears over a used, hand-me-down, grey winter coast…and those beautiful eyes.

In those eyes, I saw myself.

When I was around eight, I remember walking into a huge building, full of strangers and somebody handing me a coat and boots…just my size. I remember being somewhat stunned and confused…more than likely my eyes were as wide as saucers, trying to take in all the events happening around me. The eyes of that little boy took me back in time and helped me see this day in a whole new way.

The woman came back (good naturedly) laughing, seeing that I was still trying to compel this stubborn fastening device to submission and quite innocently said…”Maybe, there’s a third zipper?” I thought to myself, “What coat has three zippers?” This coat didn’t look like the kind of coat that would have three zippers if such coats existed! Hesitantly I started to look the coat over for the elusive third zipper option. To my surprise, near the top, hidden under the collar, was the treasure we hoped to find. I pulled the zipper into place, zipped up the coat perfectly, hive-fived the woman all with laugher erupting from both of us.

The young boy, handing his stuffed animal to his brother for temporary safe keeping, put on his coat and smiled. A huge smile now competing with his eyes for who would win for being the largest expression on his happy face. I was smiling too… my prayers were answered and today a coat became more than a dream. It was a promise from Father God and His provision.

As they left, the little boy turned to look at me with those same eyes…

I was fighting back tears and thanking God for an amazing grey colored dream coat, complete with a third zipper.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6

God Bless you all and I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What Did You Expect?


 

drowning copy

You find yourself, at age 58, pretty comfortable in your own skin. You’re taking some risks, stretching in areas unfamiliar to you. “Not bad for an old guy” you think and that brief thought puts some swagger in your steps.

Yet swagger, like comfort… is very temporary… I believe a better word would be fleeting.

I read this quote yesterday and it disturbed me, souring the milk of swagger in me.

“He was swimming in a sea of other people’s expectations. Men had drowned in seas like that.” - Robert Jordan, New Spring

Any husband, any father, any man following Christ, who is committed to those callings will feel the weight of other people’s expectations. It’s in our job description, to evaluate and examine expectations, and then pray to determine how to deal with them. All of this challenging the man you are and the one you want to be. Yet, I find grace to stay afloat and the ability to surf above the waves of what is expected of me by others.

So where’s the sinking feeling from? What caused my swagger to float away like “Wilson” in the movie Cast Away? Like a lifeguard blowing their whistle, the answer is a powerful warning to keep from drifting into danger. It’s not other people’s expectations threatening to drown me.

It’s my own.

My own interpretation of “how things should be”, these imaginary water wings that I rely on to keep my swagger afloat. I find myself struggling against the riptide, clinging to the raft of how I should act, (as a husband, father, brother, pastor) and where I should be in my walk, in my relationships, in my career and so on. The truth is…these weights dunk my head under the water more than anything else. I often fail in living up to my own expectations and the gurgling sound you hear is my pride.

I think (selfish) expectations are assumptions gone wild. They move you from reality to likelihood, a place full of suspense and potential but sometimes built like a shady real estate deal. Promising one thing but delivering an uninhabitable piece of property you never wanted (or expected).

You think you know…then He shows you. As always… it comes down to my heart.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

My heart needs something beyond expectations… even great expectations… it needs hope in Father God and Him alone. When I live in the reality of who He says I am, my expectations drift away from my spirit and I find myself filled with assurance of becoming all He wants me to be.

“For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die.” Philippians 1:20

All my expectations are in Him!

 

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Monday, November 3, 2014

Killing Lions – A Review

 

 

_200_360_Book.1331.cover Many of us are hunting mice - while lions devour the land. - Leonard Ravenhill

In the book Killing Lions: A Guide Through the Trials Young Men Face, John Eldredge (Wild at Heart) is joined by his son, Sam, for a conversational journey of what it takes to become a man. II bought this book for my sons (I have five) but found it revealing my heart as I read it through several times (I’m a fast reader). I grew up without a strong father influence in my life and many of the questions Sam poses resonated with my heart.

Dealing (father and son together) with subjects such as relationships, money, getting married and life calling…each chapter was a picture of how to coach your son’s heart through each stage of life. A beautiful example of how simple conversations can create opportunities to impart and impact as fathers.

I appreciated the honesty and openness of John and Sam as they challenge each other’s view and the way they loved each other through these times. The powerful moments are when they acknowledge their absolute need of God to teach, guide and rescue their hearts…wonderful moments indeed.

Disclosure: While I received an advance copy of this product free, I have purchased a few copies to give to other fathers and my own sons.

 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

This is Love

 

 

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Hang with me…this will be tough at the beginning…

This was going to be easy, the knife was sharp and I was all alone deep in the woods, no one would find me for days. I had run out of oxygen, I was drowning in despair and looking up from below the surface. My time had run out and I couldn’t fight back anymore. The years of abuse had piled on me, pinning me behind the line of scrimmage of hope… far from finishing the game on a good note.

I was tired, so tired of being without… without having the right clothes, the right looks, the right friends, the right family and the right to be happy. So I filled my emptiness with the self-medicating drugs of the day, each drink, each toke a reminder of what a loser I was. I was looking for numbness and all I got was a double shot of awareness.

I was a deadman walking

My commitment to Christ at age seven seemed so distant to the heart that sat on rock waiting to for a blade to bleed out its life. The wondering of “where were you God” had long past me by, like a far-off dream tugging on my sleeve but easily ignored.

I drew the knife from its sheath, the chill of the blade giving me Goosebumps, and went to make the first cut…before I could; I heard a voice… it said…

NO

It was as if the whole universe shook; my universe anyway, with the power that only a Messiah can speak with. I stood, my head spinning around like a crazy man, looking for someone…anyone…because I thought no one was watching.

He was…Messiah was

That seventeen-year-old started a new journey that day, it wasn’t easy but he faced the abuse, the mistakes, the false identity and the true enemy with renewed faith. For years after my suicide attempt, I thought “Wow, I should be dead”…how wrong I was. The truth was that I should be alive… for that is what Messiah wanted for me… life.

After all…This is love!

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:10

 

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Tugged

 

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I seriously doubt my leadership ability at times and wonder about how uninspiring my message can seem. Strange… isn’t that a pastor’s job? To be inspiring and lead a great charge across the landscape of the enemy, winning the battle and the day?

Perhaps not…

I fret, pray, dream, sweat and lay awake at nights just pondering the effectiveness of my life and the impact it has on others. I dive into Scripture, talk to men far wiser than I and wrestle with questions like a cage fighter on steroids.

My heart seems in a perpetual state of being tugged.

That’s the haunting reality of being a visionary…pulled in one direction…tugged in another. Trying your best to submit to Father God’s leading at one moment…possibly running away in the next. We visionaries can be a chore to understand and deal with, we often see things that are…well, not there…yet. Which means we may get annoyed that others aren’t as excited about something that seems so real to us but may be as faint as a mirage to them.

This is where faith needs to step in…and helps me understand the tug.

“To the best of my understanding, faith is trusting God enough to obey what He has said, and hope is having the confidence that God will do everything He has promised. One pushes you; the other pulls you.” Erwin McManus

This push me, pull me, tugging sensation is the tension of following Christ, abandoning my selfish desires and pursuing His and His alone. It’s the leading of the Holy Spirit, placing us, positing us and aligning our will with the Father’s. What we see…or don’t see is not as important as what we know.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

That’s the substance that a visionary like me needs…how’ll about you? Where has faith tugged you lately?

 

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Monday, September 8, 2014

I Go to the Water


I go to the water 
Waves lapping 
Shore defining 
The water comes to me 
(c) 2014 Jay Cookingham 


When I need a Sabbath, I try to go to the water and today I am down by the Hudson River.

I need rest for a weary soul.

So I steal a few hours from a schedule thick of life, responsibilities and things to do. I drink in the power of the river and I ponder the Psalms...
He opened the rock, and water gushed out; it flowed through the desert like a river. Psalm 105:41
Restless like the river, I move to a few secluded spots I know, hoping to find the one that fits. I do and silence fills the gaps with peace. Then I notice my thirst.

You can can get a little dry when you pour out so much but the truth is that often it is our choices that make ourselves arid and parched.

So I pray...

Father...open the rock that is my heart and flood the desert with your life giving water. Drench me, saturate me and leave me wet with your presence. This and this alone bring me back to life... and I thank you for your current of love that flows through my heart.
Amen

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Current of Change


 

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Changes are one of those constants in life, like seasons they carry promises and challenges but with deadlines not of our choosing. Oh, we have choices to make for sure. We could turn and catch the wave of change and ride it for all its worth, attempting to tame the roar with our courage.

Or, we could plant our feet, letting the full force hit us and go spinning in the torrent, possibly drowning in our own failed expectations and imagined strength.

Changes are powerful waves…so are our choices

It seems every powerful wave of change begs a soul shaking question. How
much of my life is centered on living for me (and only me) then asking God to bless the mess I created…instead of laying my life down and passionately following after Him?

His Word supplies the answer(s)

Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, "This is the way you should go," whether to the right or to the left. Isaiah 30:21

"By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going." Hebrews 11:8

Arise, for it is your task, and we are with you; be strong and do it.” Ezra 10:4

Listen, walk by faith and do the thing that God asks of you…

Changes are surfing opportunities, they are meant, (designed, purposed) to take us somewhere. The current of change relocates us to the place God wants us to be…where we need to be. The ride may seem rough at times but if we ride it out, the shore ( our next place of our journey) is closer than we think.

I have caught a new wave, the current of change is moving fast and picking up speed… taking me to a new place…I’m going out, not knowing where I’m going.

Starting in September I will become the Lead Pastor of Bridge Builders Community Church (I have been serving as Associate Pastor for over a year now). Pastor Tim, who is the founding Pastor, will be taking a 6 month sabbatical (his own wave riding experience) to see what God has for him next. We had trusted leaders overseeing this transition process and guiding us to this decision...we all feel like this is the Father's plan.

I have been asked..."so, do you feel called to this position?" My answer is this...(and I am being sincere). I am called to be a son of the most High, I serve at the pleasure of the King...what my Father asks me to do...I will do. I don't feel called to a position but to deeper relationship with my Father, who asks me to serve in a different role that I ever dreamed for.

My wife Christine, our kids, all see (in different ways) God's hand in this...we know we are in this together, that is a blessing to me.

So, I ask you to pray for me, for us...I am overwhelmed with the responsibility and humbled by the fact that I have been asked to step into this role. It is WAY bigger than me and I know I will be hanging onto Christ in ways I never imagined before...that is a good thing.

Thank you and God Bless you all!

 

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