The Last Cab Ride

<I found this on a friends blog and just had to share it. Hat tip to J. L. Curtis.> I arrived at the address and honked the horn. After waiting a few minutes I honked again. Since this was going to be my last ride of my shift I thought about just driving away, but instead I put the cab in park and walked up to the door and knocked.. ‘Just a minute’, answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor. After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940’s movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware. ‘Would you carry my bag out to the car?’ she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness. ‘It’s nothing’, I told her. ‘I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother to be treated.’ ‘Oh, you’re such a good boy, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and then asked, ‘Could you drive through downtown?’ ‘It’s not the shortest way,’ I answered quickly.. ‘Oh, I don’t mind,’ she...

“My name is Ted Bundy and I approved this message”

Okay, Ted didn’t really approve this message, but he most likely would have. More on that in a link later. Most men have a very strong protective instinct that leads them to step up and do things that will keep their loved ones safe. They stand ready to leap into action to defend the lives of their loved ones at any cost. Always on the watch for the predators, these guys are willing to do whatever it takes to protect those they care about. The movies show men all the time who stand up and fight for what is right, and these two-dimensional heroes inspire us to meet any challenges this fallen world can throw at us, right? Well, almost… Our society has fallen into the trap of confusing what we see on the big screen as models for our own behavior. “Real Men©” are stoic, and never express emotion. Not even to their closest loved ones. “Real Men©” know that emotion is weakness, and weakness cannot be tolerated. “Real Men©” set their jaw, grit their teeth and walk out to face physical challenges that would kill “lesser” men on a daily basis, right? Wrong. Real men battle with doubts and fears and temptations on a daily basis, yet still do the best they can to protect their loved ones. Real men are tempted to do bad things, especially when those bad things are overwhelmingly accepted as the “norms” by society. Pornography. It’s becoming the “norm” in society. Don’t believe me? Wake up, and pay attention, because we have prime-time commercials that use soft-core porn as their way of...

The Stand-Off

Happily ever after is a lie. Struggle, hurt and disappointment intermingled with happiness, joy and peace is reality. I have yet to meet a couple who has made it to their 25th anniversary who didn’t have obstacles to overcome along the way … painful ones that made them question if their marriage would make it. Over and over as I hear the stories of “successful” marriages this truth emerges – happiness, joy and peace came after making it through the struggles. The blending of two different people, two different perspectives, two different histories, two different sets of strengths and two different sets of weaknesses leads to an inevitable collision resulting in struggle. How those conflicts are handled is what determines the outcome. Too often selfishness is the focus, which leads to escalating the conflict instead of resolving it. “You did that so I’m going to do this because I’m mad at you.” Yes, I’m simplifying what is typically a lengthy tirade into one sentence, but when boiled down to the root that one sentence sums it up. Don’t misunderstand me; there are definitely some situations that will take much longer to resolve than one conversation. In fact, most conflict requires ongoing discussions to truly find a resolution. Ahhh … and here we uncover the number one issue in a struggling marriage – the dreaded art of communication. Constructive communication requires three components … talking … listening … and understanding. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Those are typically the focus in poor communication within a marriage. Often times there is a stand-off of different perspectives leaving both sides battered and bruised...

Doing It Wrong

I only cheer for one player on the team.  Regardless of who’s on offense or defense, that one player gets all of my attention and support.  The rest of the team is irrelevant.  That one player on the field is the only one I believe in.  And that one player is the only one who can win the game.  When that is put into the context of a football, baseball or basketball game that sounds pretty absurd, even if that one player is the superstar.  In our culture, we understand that it takes a team to win.  So why doesn’t that translate to our faith? Our allegiance to one particular church or denomination is even more absurd, with much higher consequences.  The spectators of the game don’t know who to cheer for.  All they know is that on the field everyone is claiming to be the best player who can win the game.  Actually, it would be a miracle if everyone even showed up to the same field.  In many ways, the religious elite are doing more damage to the body of Christ than any sinner who has yet to be saved by grace. Unity and Diversity in the Body Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. – 1 Corinthians 12:12-14...

Forgiveness, Party of Three…

Like everyone reading this, I have been on the receiving end of betrayal. I know the pain associated with that; the righteous wrath stemming from the duplicity; the confusion of “Why?!” But I have also been the betrayer; the Judas. And that ain’t easy to admit, or deal with. Long after receiving forgiveness from others for my betrayals, I wrestled with them. I would give them to God for a short time, and then take that weight back onto my shoulders, basically using God just when I needed a break. Honestly, there are still times (though rarely now) when I shoulder those chains, as if I am trying them on for size, making sure they still fit and don’t make my butt look big. I always have been, and continue to be my biggest critic. God forgives the moment we repent. People take a little longer, sometimes never really coming around to whole-hearted forgiveness. Self forgiveness can take forever, literally. Speaking as one who still has quite a ways to go on this path, when we fail to forgive ourselves, we are denying the power of God and the work that Jesus died on the cross for us to have. Unfortunately, the enemy gets in our heads and reminds us of our transgressions. He whispers to us about how if put in the same situations, we would react exactly the same as we did in the past. Until we are able to forgive ourselves, we will never be entirely set free. Jesus gives us the gift of forgiveness, but instead of accepting it gladly and with joy, we ignore...

Becoming One

Submit.  Speaking this word can unleash deep-seated animosity in even the most docile of women.  Independence burns inside and rebellion to the mere thought of being “less than” a man sparks a desire to prove one’s own self-worth.  Why would our loving Father in Heaven give women such instructions?  I would contend that because He loves us, we have been given clear insight into how to have the type of marriage that He intended. In our society, women are not only encouraged to be strong and independent from a man, they are shamed into it.  There is a perception that weakness is associated with having respect for our husbands.  After all, they are only good for reaching the top shelves of cabinets, killing bugs and opening jars.  Past that, they are mere drones that sit on the couch and yell at other drones playing with various sized balls in a field.  In contrast, women have perception, can multi-task better than a computer processor, and maintain overall empathy for the plight of other women globally.  With all of these stereotypes in mind, it is not surprising that the vast majority of our society rejects the concept of submission with marriage … including those within the church. “For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.”  – Ephesians 5:22-24 Let’s suspend our per-conceived notions about marriage,...

Until We Get It

When my kids were little and learning how to walk they would get frustrated each time they would fall.  But, with resilience, they kept getting back up to try again.  Each one of them conquered the wobbly steps and face plants.  Early on I would rush to them to pick them up, and then I realized that getting back up on their own with just my encouragement was what would drive them to achieve taking those steady steps. At that age kids don’t have a fear of not being able to walk, they simply keep trying until they “get it”. That is just one of the aspects of how our children can teach us. Fast forward to the teen years.  The drivers license is the right of passage in our culture.  And, even though intimidating, most teens will boldly get behind the wheel and start out with confidence in their ability.  Shortly after, they realize that there is more to staying in your lane than what they had originally thought.  Even so, they keep practicing, with the parents knuckles clenched in the passenger seat, while giving them “pointers” along the way.  And, just like walking, they simply keep trying until they “get it”. I was thinking about how I sometimes get stuck in fear of getting back up after stumbling or crossing over the line into the wrong lane. We all come across obstacles in our lives that require us to keep trying until we “get it”. I have personally faced those obstacles in my marriage, friendships, career and even my faith. Honestly, there have been times when an...

The Cost of Obedience

Being obedient seems like such a simple thing to do.  If told go, then go.  If told to stay, then stay.  Simple concept, yet hard to to live.  Too often, I want God to play “Simon Say’s” with me … “Simon Say’s to pray for this person”.  How much easier would it be to be obedient with a command like that.  Instead, we receive a single instruction on what the next step is for us.  For me, the next step in obedience is “Write”.  I’m not sure why, it just is.  That’s the thing with God, He’s not really big on explanation outside of the Word.  All of the explanation we need has already been written.  Obedience is not the learning of faith, it’s the practice of it.  It is where we are prepared to really become God’s, and loose our own selfish ambitions and need for security.  That is the price … losing security in self and instead choosing the unknown direction that God has given.  So, essentially it’s “practice what you preach”.  Trust God … really? Even now, as I write this, I am struggling with the trust that will lead to obedience.  I know that God is faithful.  I know that He is sovereign.   I know that the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross was for everyone, including me.  I know this and a lot more about God.  I have studied Him.  I have preached Him.  I believe in Him.  I have on many occasions in my life been right in the middle of His miracles, and my life is a testimony to all of...

The Other Perspective

Perspective is as unique as the eyes seeing any given situation.  I know this, yet it still catches me off guard when it happens.  It seems like the only time we try to understand someone else’s perspective is when we’re not involved in any way.  For example, when we hear someone’s story about how bad a disagreement was, we can see it from that persons point of view.  It is always interesting to see how differently the other person experienced the same disagreement.  Discord enters when both participants choose stubbornness instead of bending and the desire to be vindicated is more of a concern than peace. This gets even more difficult when the desire for compassion and peace outweighs the desire to be vindicated, but you still have to correct the other persons point of view.  Years ago, I was confrontational to a fault.  There was actually a conflict that I was involved in that was the catalyst to 3 high schools walking out of school to meet up at a park and have an all-out brawl.  Not a proud moment in my history!  My point is, I would fight to fight, and I fought to win.  I had no remorse, no compassion and no tolerance for losing.  I was driven by fear, and my perspective of the world was that I was a victim, and that mentality poured out in every aspect of my life. When I see others now, with their stance ready for a fight, I recognize it for what it is.  With several different interactions today, I saw the defenses go up in others even...

Sucker Punch!

  I have heard second-hand that my style of writing can be likened to a “sucker punch”. LOL, I guess that may be the case. I tend to start off with pleasantries and trivialities, and then dive into whatever deeper thoughts come to me without warning. I’m not sure if this is because I need to warm up to whatever my topic is going to be, or if on a subconscious level I like catching people off guard. I apologize if I have shocked anyone into a sudden coronary or stroke by the unexpectedness of my literary departures. (I love you, Annette!) Shocking as it may be, God is always there. Was He there when I was struggling with an addiction to porn? Of course He was. He was there every time I was abused as a child, or picked on and bullied. He didn’t turn away when I refused to believe in Him. He was right beside me when I cursed at people who tried to reach out to me and point me in His direction. When I lashed out at others in my own pain, He was there. Not once has He left me alone, no matter how much I resented Him or was angry with Him or even cursed Him. I hate to break it to you, but no matter what you have done, are doing, or are going to do, He is there right beside you, and even inside of you. And pay attention to this now; He is not simply standing by watching whatever situation you may be in as it proceeds. He isn’t...

I Am Responsible

I can be prideful and not ask for help even when it’s evident that I need it.  My stubbornness will keep me moving forward despite exhaustion, frustration and the internal pity party that plays in my head.  As soon as one obligation or project is complete, I will immediately fill that empty time with another.  He hasn’t ever said it, but I know that it drives my husband crazy!  I prefer to work things out on my own, seeking collaboration only if I have hit a brick wall several times on my own and have finally admitted to myself that I could use some input.  Self-starter, self-motivated, and self-destructive. During His ministry, Jesus established working together as a group.  That’s an area that I lack in.  Not that I can’t be a team player.  When I am in a setting where I am coming under someone else’s authority I will follow the lead and work with those around me.  I’m sincere in my efforts to help others accomplish their goals.  For me, the difficulty comes when it’s my concept.  Since I had the idea, I am responsible for all aspects, from development to deployment.   I have always looked at that as being responsible but I’m beginning to see that it’s a fear driven pride.  Basically, I trust myself to not abandon myself. In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus.  He...

The Ugliness of Salvation

There are stories I read in scripture that provide me with a deeper understanding of God, and have helped me develop a trust in God to carry me through difficult circumstances in my life.  If you have spent any time in church, you have heard a retelling of Noah and the Ark, of Moses and the Israelites, of Daniel and the Lion’s Den, of David and Goliath, and of course of the crucifixion of Jesus.  Many people who don’t regularly attend church have heard those same stories, and even if they don’t have a personal relationship with Christ, they have received the seed of God’s greatness through the stories of His hand moving on behalf of His people. The stories of these pillars of our faith are more than a retelling of what happened in their every day lives.  These stories are more than a group of people who chose to be obedient.  Their stories do not convey that every time they set their hand to something that God would clear away every obstacle and grant them immediate victory without effort.  These stories provide real accounts of how God showed up in the midst of tragedy, in the midst of trials, in the midst of hopelessness and helplessness.  In the form of a boat, a staff, a lion, a stone and a cross God exposed their stories … He wrote their testimonies. Where would our faith be today without the brave men and women who came before us and recorded what God has done in and through them.  What would the church look like today if Paul hadn’t exposed...

The Fine Print

I’ve missed my morning walks this week.  I was scheduled to go, but the few days it wasn’t raining I slept right through the alarms a few times.  Unfortunately one of those days I left my accountability partner waiting outside for me.  That was the 3rd or 4th time in the past few weeks that I’ve done that.  Grrrrr!  I hate standing people up.  Thankfully she has known me for almost 20 years and knows that’s not normal for me.  She never called to wake me up and yell at me for making her drive all the way to my house only to have to turn around without walking.  Instead, she extended concern recognizing that if I wasn’t awake that I needed to sleep.  She put my needs above her own interests.  No condemnation.  No ridicule.  No sarcastic attitude.  Just sincere love and support.  I am grateful for friendships like that. I’ve heard people say; well actually I’ve said it in the past as well; that you can only have a few friends during your lifetime.  That’s just sad!  How horrible is it to not have people around you to care about, and who care about you?  Yes, there are always going to be those closest to you and that’s a smaller list, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an opportunity to have many more people in your life that you share a bond with.  Granted, some you will see more often or talk to regularly.  As I’m writing this faces of those I dearly love are crossing my mind.  Although I’m not engaged in their daily life they...

Misguided and Confused

We are privy to a tremendous amount of knowledge at all times.  If I need a recipe, I can look it up online.  If I need to know how to make a bench I can look it up online.  Everything from deciphering the tax code (as if that’s possible) to watching a video of singing pets – it’s all there waiting to be found.  Our lives revolve around information gathering and sharing regardless of how irrelevant that information may be.  The only difference between our society and that of the Athenians is electricity and keyboards.  Well, there is also private bathrooms that I’m personally a huge fan of! Paul is right in the middle of this post-crucifixion utopia.  Everything was up for debate and all viewpoints and religions were openly accepted in support of being civilized.  They even made sure that every base was covered by erecting a monument “to an unknown god”, because after all you never do know 100% ,right? While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to...

Can I Get a Witness?

No matter where he went, Paul sought out people to share the good news of Jesus with. He did not limit himself to the synagogues, but he also went to the marketplaces to speak to those that happened to be there. Even in Athens, an epicenter of learning and discussion, he went to the places where people met at leisure. He initiated discussions; he was not ranting on a soapbox or lecturing others. This is a great model for spreading the good news in this day and age as well. It does not have to be a confrontation, it is actually better if it is not one. Striking up conversations and gently leading to discussions about God and the path of Jesus lends itself to not shutting the other person down. We should be willing to listen more than we talk, too. In my experience, if you pay attention and show interest and compassion, others will start asking your opinions and what you believe, and why, without having to be aggressive in your approach. I know that prior to becoming a Christian, anyone approaching me with the ‘patented evangelical aggressive approach’ would cause me to look for the nearest escape route. Even now I occasionally get subjected to this and now I find I am embarrassed at the hammering style of beating Jesus into the hearts and minds of others. It rarely works, and even when it seems to be working, the victim is usually just saying whatever they have to in order to be left alone until they can di di mau. Been there, done that. Sharing our...

Oreo Filling

Unless you’re the cream filling of an Oreo, being in the middle is not pleasant.  Comfortable or not, we will all find ourselves planted firmly between opposing sides at some point.  Typically we gravitate toward one side; aligning ourselves with the party that is closest to our own fundamental viewpoint.  Every once in a while, you can see both sides of the argument and see the wisdom in not engaging in the conflict.  And then the irony strikes … by not engaging directly you get to play mediator.  The horrible truth of being a mediator is that the only way to be effective is if both parties choose to bend.  In a world of immediate gratification and persuasive entitlement, compromise is suffering the same death as chivalry and sacrifice. Why has our self-worth become intertwined with how many times we are proven right?  How many arguments are spurred on over the desire to have the other person admit that they were wrong?  The pursuit of peace has been replaced with the pursuit of happiness.  We have bought into the ideals of society that unless we prove ourselves right we will be presumed guilty, or at the very least less than.  This is one more misdirection crafted by the enemy with a desire to move us into selfishness, and unfortunately it is working. To say it bluntly, the need to be vindicated and proven right is a form of self idolatry.  Yes, it’s a natural desire of our flesh to be found blameless.  Yes, it isn’t fair to be falsely accused.  I would even go as far as to say...

Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song

First of all, Cristy and I wish to extend our apologies to everyone for the missed days of this challenge. No excuses, but the reason is that we just have had too much on our plates trying to get a new endeavor off the ground, and in so doing, there were just not enough hours in the day to get it all done, as well as do this and fit sleep into the schedule. For the past few weeks, we have averaged between 3 and 5 hours per night, with Cristy pulling an all-niter a few nights ago. Yeah, I know, she must have some of those ‘new mom hormones’ still in her system or something, ‘cause she made me feel completely weak that I just could not hang. If you have missed days of the challenge too, it’s okay! We covered in Sunday school this morning that there are going to be times when the world will make it hard to stay on top of our daily devotions, the key is to pick back up where you left off when you once again have the time. Necque. We have the desire to write these entries; it is not just a commitment that we have made, although it is that as well. In writing these, we gain insight into ourselves and each other as well. And more importantly, these build our relationships with God. So, Paul and Silas get publicly flogged (a punishment which they, as Roman citizens, were not supposed to be subject to without a trial) and thrown into a Roman prison to be held for trial....

The Choice

We have spent time with God each day, but with an increasingly busy schedule we haven’t stopped long enough to write a devotion.   If we miss even one day, that doesn’t mean it’s time to throw in the towel that it’s just too hard or too little time to spend with God.  Time with Him is the one thing that we should fight for, and sacrifice whatever we need to in order to get that time. “Fellow children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent.” Acts 13:26 “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39 Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.” Acts 13:38-39 A promise has been given to us.  A sacrifice has been made for us.  So what are we willing to do in response?  Do we need someone else to prompt us every time we seek God, or are we willing to take responsibility for our own choices?  Time is used in the way we choose.  Regardless of busy schedules (believe me, I get it!) there must still be a choice made about the time we spend with God.  Every good deed under the sun is completely worthless if it’s not God...

Washed and Sanded Clean…

There are times when we just know something; we know them with a certainty that defies any logic. Normally, if I drop a cookie at home and it hits the floor, I am not scared to pick it up and take a bite. Three-second rule, anyone? But not lately. Lately I am almost scared to even walk on our floors, because with the current cycle of busyness one thing that there just doesn’t seem time to embrace is cleaning. I know with that same logic-defying certainty that I am not eating a cookie that even passes reasonably close to the floor in it’s current condition. Okay, I am exaggerating, but it is dirtier than I am comfortable with right now. The reason for the lack of time for cleaning right now is because Cristy and I prayerfully embraced a ‘new beginning’ in our lives, that we hope will eventually lead to more time to spend on family and ministry. We are making furniture and art pieces out of reclaimed wood, and that part of it is coming along nicely. We start with materials that are crusted in dirt and grime; scarred up wood that saw better days in the previous century sometime, and these remnants have been deemed not worth using and thrown into a trash or burn pile. This is stuff that the world, in its magnificent wisdom has deemed worthless and given up on applying any further effort to it. I can relate to the wood. I was like that once not too terribly long ago. The materials that we use get sanded down, sometimes revealing startlingly...

Beauty in the Dirt

My house is currently trashed.  There are 24 hours in a day, and with a deadline looming that we are trying to meet something; or rather some things; have had to go on the back burner.  It’s completely driving me crazy.  I like everything being in it’s proper place and knowing that all surfaces are sanitary regardless of which room you are in.  If complete exhaustion wasn’t so overbearing I would clean in the middle of the night.  But, I have come to terms with having to wait and tackle that challenge sometime next week.  That is after a couple of days of much needed rest! I know I’m not the only one who’s persnickety about being tidy.  But, it can be a curse as well.  Often times when the focus remains on the appearance we miss the beauty that is hidden in the dirt.  Part of the reason I’ve been so tired is that Scott and I are opening a booth to sell our art and home decor.  We work a lot with materials that others discard as ugly or useless, but we see something beautiful that is hidden.  After removing the grim, it’s easier to see the potential in the rubbish.  And with each piece that comes alive, they never hold the use they once had but instead are recreated into something new … something beautiful. About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into...