Thursday, January 2, 2014

Trusting God

Sometimes it is difficult to trust God, but it is a calling to each of us. God states in Jerimiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." (HCSB)

There it is, what more do we require?

Of course, we have OUR plans which more often than not run contrary to those of God.  How do we realign our paths? Trusting in God.

The single greatest story of trust (IMHO) illustrated in the Bible is that of Abraham and the binding/sacrifice of Isaac.

Abraham has been moving around, being shown all the lands he is going to possess for his posterity (even being told that they will endure the 400 years in captivity).  He is wanting an heir, as Sarah is childless and "it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women" (interesting phrase for menopause). They are old and extremely unlikely in natural methods of conceiving a child.

Sarah had previously made the plan and had Abraham lay with her servant and have a child.  As with most plans we come up with, it didn't work out so well.

Anyway, when Abraham was 99 and Sarah was 90, God granted Abraham's wish for an heir and viola, Isaac is on the scene.

Now, that, in and of itself, is a great story of trust, but the plot thickens...

God tells Abraham to sacrifice his ONLY son and heir.  Abraham has had 20-37 years (depending on the references used to determine his age--rabbinical texts, or Ussher's chronology) with Isaac to watch him grow into a young man.  And now he has to sacrifice him.  Doesn't seem right, but Abraham rises in the morning and takes Isaac and some servants with wood and fire and sets of to the mountain to complete what God has told him to do.

Abraham and Isaac part ways with the servants to go make the sacrifice (notice the trust in Abraham's statement to the servants: "I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.- Gen 22:5 ESV).  Did you catch it? Knowing full well that God had commanded him to sacrifice Isaac, Abraham has enough trust and faith in God to tell the servants both he AND THE BOY would return shortly.  Imagine having that much faith and trust.

Imagine the next test of Abraham.  Climbing the mountain with your only son, whom you are to sacrifice to God.  Dreading each and every step that takes you closer to the altar.  Knowing you will obey the Lord and sacrifice your son, because that is what God asked of you. While walking, your boy asks you, "Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" (Gen 22:7 ESV)

How very heart breaking that must have been!

But Abraham shows his faith in God by replying, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.”

I can almost hear it, his voice cracking with sorrow, yet pulling out faith to help him through this moment.

Abraham binds his son.  Places the wood around him.  Reaches to his belt for the knife.  Slowly raises it.  And just about when he is about to strike and sacrifice his only son and heir.  The one he waited for throughout the years of barrenness.  It happened. Reprieve! And looking around, sure enough, there is a ram waiting for sacrifice to fulfill the mission.

God has a plan for us all.  We need to be faithful in following the path He has laid out for us.  Be aware of the subtle leading of His voice, and TRUST the Lord will fulfill His promise and provide us a future and hope.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Beginnings

As I have mentioned in the past, my wife is fond of saying “Today is a brand new day, with no mistakes in it.” Along that vein, I will paraphrase it to” this is a brand new year with no mistakes in it.”

We all have had some items from the past year which we probably wish not to repeat. This is your chance for a brand new fresh start. 365 days in front of us to make ourselves, our families, our lives better.

Sure, many people set lofty resolutions for the New Year—many of which are long forgotten by Valentine’s Day. Some of us may stay on track and accomplish them.

I gave up on making resolutions long ago, as I was terrible at remembering them and they usually went down in flames long before the year’s end. Instead, I declare reasonable goals for the New Year. (I know, it is all in semantics—resolution vs. goals—but, I prefer the term goals as it doesn’t feel as weighty or make me over reach what I hope to accomplish)

This year, I have one general goal (celebrate the coming of 2015—as a “terminal” cancer patient, it would be a good thing for me and the family). Additionally, I have set the goal to read through the Bible 4 times following the Bible in 90 days reading plan. I may lower that to 3 times to allow wiggle room for days I am too fatigued to read or work over or am pressed for time due to life, as usual, interfering with MY plans.

Also, I would like to complete another half marathon, but am looking local (McAllen, Texas half in December) and run several other shorter “races”—my kids need more t-shirts to sleep in. I could also stand to lose about 30 pounds and would like to work out more often, as it should help me keep my energy levels in check and help with the fatigue issues.

On the academic side, I need to brush up on my Spanish and start working on my Bachelor’s degree program, I just might survive long enough to need another job in 10 years or so!

As we move forward into the New Year, let’s look to the Bible for guidance. The first four words should be read to start the year, “In the Beginning, God…” What more do we need to remember? God should be in the start of everything we do, through prayer and listening for guidance, moving forward to accomplish what He has for us. We all have a plan written for our lives, we just need to ensure we are looking for and following His plan and not our own.

Happy New Year to all.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Hmmm...seems I have been a tad slack of late.

Ok, it has been about 6 weeks since I have graced this blog with a new entry. Not to make excuses, but I have been a combination of very busy and very lazy at the same time. A bit contraindicative, I know.

But to give you a run down, here is what has been going on:

I have transitioned to my former position (temporarily). I am teaching again and have picked up on my former projects there and a few new ones too. I have been here since February 23 and averaging about (with commute time to/from work) 70-75 hours a week. This leaves me a bit drained by the time I get home and there I just want family time.

I have also attempted to transition to a local oncologist on the hopes it would free up some time that has historically been spent in commute to Midland. This turned out to be a nightmare since the local office is not able to provide same day lab/dr visit/chemo nor are they available on weekends to remove the chemo pump. My former treatment schedule allowed for labs, visit, chemo on Friday and disconnect on Sunday limiting time required away from work. Here would be several appointments a week with 45 minute drives to each, in total, it would be more time than the former model so I am back in Midland where I will deal with the lack of a life plan just for the least interfering with work option so I can still get paid.

That last statement said, thanks to the "sequestration" and swatting flies with an ax/lack of nonpartisan cooperation in the interest of the country/malfeasance by our elected officials contrary to budget laws/knee-jerk reactions and instructions to make the "sequestration hurt", I am facing a 25-40% pay decrease due to furlough and loss of standardized overtime which has historically been required in the job. Aside from the lack of overtime, this will also reduce the effectiveness of all operations unless a massive number of employees are added to cover the loss of work hours (but that won't happen since it would cost money too). So I hope you can all sleep well (especially if you live/work in a border community where the overall security will be primarily affected). And for the rest of you, this will be a trickle through effect where you will start noticing things soon as well, so thank Congress and the President for this joyful time.

Anyway, sorry to get on my soap box, but it does tie in a bit with where I am going in today's post.

It was very easy to start talking about what is going on with me right now. Sure, I try to be pretty transparent in general, but sometimes things just start flowing out.

The question comes: why are some topics easy to speak on and others not so much? When was the last time (if you are a Christian) you have shared your testimony, faith, or what God is doing in your life?

Sure, I hear you, 'but I do not have the gift of Evangelism' or 'I do not feel lead to share with people.' I understand your arguments, and have been know to self-justify in this manner, too. But I encountered something while I was read in the Bible the other day that hurt my feelings...

"for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard." Acts 4:20 {ESV}

A little background on the passage. Flipping back to chapter 3, where this story starts (a bit further for more context if you need to), Peter and John were still going to Temple during the hour of prayer. They heal a beggar and the people are astonished. Peter and John begin teaching about Jesus and presenting the Gospel. The priests, captain of the temple and Sadducee were less than thrilled (ESV states they were greatly annoyed) with this teaching. After a bit of self counsel they decide not to martyr them in hopes of letting the story just die down and ward Peter and John not to speak of it again among the people. Peter and John school them “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20)

It is the last part that really hits me. They have seen and heard things they cannot keep in. They are sharing it regardless of the offense it causes. The story of Jesus is VERY offensive because it tells people they are wrong, they are broken, they are sinners. But it also offers hope and a way out of the pit. It is just hard to get to that part before people will tune you out, walk away, or start an argument where they will not let you finish.

We are afraid to offend in these "politically correct" days. We are called closed-minded, simple-minded, intolerant, bigots, or hateful for identifying sin based on Biblical principles. The liberal/libertarian (sorry folks) concepts of "live and let live" or "if it doesn't hurt anyone else let it be" has taken firm root in this country. It is contrary to the Gospel. We cannot "Coexist" with sin. We are to flee from it and call it out when we see it.
Going back to an old-school CCM song from Petra, I don't want to be a man-pleaser, I want to be a God-pleaser. We need to firmly grasp that which we know to be true and never back down. We need to share our faith and testimony (and there are tactful ways to do so without standing on a street corner and screaming). Read the New Testament again, rarely was this the approach used by the Apostles or Jesus himself. Generally, it was on a personal basis. Getting to know someone and building a relationship, or finding someone who was hurting and reaching out. the 3rd Chapter, it mentions the location where Peter and John were preaching as Solomon's Porch (or portico, depending on your translation). I have loved that name for a very long time and have greatly desired to one day be the proprietor of a coffee shop by that name. It has lately returned to me and several other concepts have been revealed to me which would be interesting additions/features of such an enterprise: Christian lending library, offering on-site office space to volunteer counselors/pastors to have them available, a space for music groups to perform, meeting room (ideally upstairs "the upper room"). 

Of course, for a long time I have also wanted to train people in computer software use to help increase skills of youth/adults and aid them in their career pursuits. I have been blessed with skills that have helped me and I know the value it can add to marketability. I think it would be a decent offering to do on site as well.

So, if you are independently wealthy and feel like dropping a huge chuck of change my way to get this going, you can contact me for more details. :)

Another musical taste is VERY eclectic. I appreciate music and enjoy many flavors/styles. Historically, I am a horn player, so if it has horns it will get my attention. I missed the American Ska phase and the Christian Ska revival in its prime, but have been reliving it through Pandora. One of my preferred groups, Five Iron Frenzy, is releasing a new album soon so I have been listening to them a lot lately. It makes me want to start playing again.

If (God-willing), I am selected to return her on a more permanent basis in the near future, I want to assemble a 4-5 piece brass section and, aside from wanting to play with a praise band/orchestra, I want to put together a repertoire of Christmas Carols and do some seasonal performances locally. Every year there is a Christmas light display/boat ride "Christmas on the Pecos" down in Carlsbad and I think that would be a good location/opportunity. So, again, if you are in the Roswell/Artesia/Carlsbad area and are a brass player (trumpet/cornet, baritone, french horn, trombone, tuba) or know someone who is, let's talk.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Blog Redirect

Hey everyone, I am blogging over at Middle Places today.  My wife and the fine ladies there have asked their other halves to do guest posts this week in honor of Valentine's Day.  I am obviously the favored one since I get the Day itself.

Just kidding, my dearest usually does the Thursday so it was just the luck of the draw.

Anyway, head on over there and give my post a ponder (and stick around to read other great posts from the great ladies there).

Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Too Young to Die

I get a bit thinkerly sometimes and a word or phrase will stick in my head.  If it were song lyrics, it would be considered an "ear worm," that song or portion of a song that stalks your subconscious and you swear you hear it everywhere or that just never fades out and provides a distraction, usually at an inopportune time.  But I tend to just get bits and pieces of a phrase and it causes me to think about it in depth; sometimes, much more than needed.

Today, the phrase "too young to die" has been on my mind.

Sure, the implications and depth of the phrase are troubling (from personal application especially), but I disagree with he complete concept.  Having a Judeo-Christian world view, I have to disagree with it.

I am NOT a five-point Calvinist in my theology, but I do believe things are preordained to happen.

If, God has numbered our days, how can we die too young? Sure, I understand the sentiment: very young and there was the potential for way more life had s/he lived.  And it always seems like a tragedy when a child passes.  But there is always a plan behind it.  We may never know what that is, but we are called to have faith and believe it to be true.

Newtown, Columbine, Aurora, and so many other things are truly tragedies, but they were ordered long ago.  Could something have been done to prevent these? Depends on your world view.  I think not.  Does that make me a cynic? Again, I think not.  I feel it makes me someone who has faith in My God that His ways are not my ways and His plans are bigger than mine.

I think, by way of analogy, the story of Lazarus from John 11:20-22 {ESV}:
So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house.  Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”
Yes, there is more to it, Jesus weeps, Lazarus comes forth, and all that, but I think the message is in these verses since it is OUR reaction to death: Why did God allow this to happen?

Why do we question God?  We need to just believe that there was a purpose and a plan for the event.  It is a hard sell, I admit.

When my time comes, I really don't want anyone to question why or think I was too young to die.  I want to have lived in such a way that there can be a celebration of what was and all to be assured that I have finally found rest.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Remiss and Remission

Just a thought.  The words remiss and remission came to mind today.  don't really know why, but it happens sometimes.  For similar root words, the definitions are very different.

To be remiss is to be negligent in a duty; while, remission is the cancellation of a debt or the temporary alleviation of pain or disease.

Two simple words, three letters added to the first to create the second.  Polar opposites. 

I have been remiss in my attention to this blog.  I have not been very consistent in my writing the past week or so.  I have also been remiss in the pursuit of my goals.  I have not run yet this month and the last several days of January have also been silent for me.  Not much I can offer by way of excuse other than I just have not been feeling it.

I have plans to get back on track and do not feel I am in an irrecoverable position yet.  It will be a bit of work, but highly possible.

Remission is something I am both thankful and hopeful for, based on the two potential definitions of the word.

I am thankful for the remission of sin through the sacrifice and subsequent ressurrection of Jesus.  He paid my sin debt and I am ever thankful for that.  I also am hopeful and praying for remission (and complete recovery) of/from my cancer.  I know God has the power.

Do NOT misunderstand, I am not laying out fleeces to test God nor am I claiming it as the only outcome I will accept and lose faith if things do not work out my way.  As it stands, I want and am actively seeking remission through prayer, lifestyle change, and diligently following medical advice.  I am, however, resigned to the fact that either way, I am good with the end result.  I have made peace with my frailty and humanity and know that no matter how this plays out it is God's design.

Sure, I want to see my 90th birthday, walk my daughter down the aisle at her wedding, hold my grandchildren and great grandchildren, see all my children well into their adulthood, love and hold my wife for a VERY VERY long time.  But if not, I know they will be well provided for through the steps I have taken financially and through the wonderful network of family and friends who will be there for them.

Just my thoughts today...aimless ramblings perhaps, but still part of the process of how my mind works.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Things I Would Like To See

I sit here thinking.

Not an unusual event for me, I think A LOT.

Sometimes, I am overwhelmed by thoughts and other times they are organized and perfectly in order.

Today, I am thinking about things I would like to see in my lifetime (in no particular order).

So, here goes...
  1. Obviously, my 90th birthday would be great.
  2. A book written by my wife (or in combination with her cyber sisters at Middle Places; the writing there is top notch)
  3. My grandchildren, so I can spoil them to pay my children back. 
  4. An earned (by me) finishers medal for a marathon in all 50 states (or at least 25 states).
  5. Denmark, to get an idea of my heritage.
  6. Italy, same reason.
  7. Mt. Rushmore and Devil's Tower.  Different reasons, but both involve movies.
  8. The "Blue Hole" in Belize from my scuba mask.
  9. A cure for cancer, or at least less damaging treatments.
  10. The smile in my beautiful wife's eyes (ok, what I want to see EVERYDAY not just once in my lifetime)
Simple man, simple pleasures.