I Am Hopeful

Wooden Christian Cross

Deep down inside, I think each and every human being is searching for the truth.  We are all searching for something to hold on to.  Something to define the meaning of this thing called “life”.

This world is a beautiful place.  The beautiful sunrises and sunsets, the changing seasons, love among each other, etc.  Along with these beautiful things come the not-so-beautiful.  Sin has pretty much limited the measure of what creation was designed to look like.  There is hate, jealousy, envy, gossip, murder, abuse, the list goes on.  We are all fogged by sin to some extent.  This is not a choice, it just is.  We were born with a sinful nature.  We are all born and we will all die.  Pretty depressing really, but not really.

If this life were the only thing worth living for, I would be pretty bummed.  There’s more, there’s so much more.  We, as human beings were made in God’s image.  We were each given skills, abilities, gifts and the deep desire to love and be in relationship.  Now that’s beautiful.  In addition to this, God sent His son, Jesus Christ, to this earth for you and me.  Not because He was bored, not just for fun, but because He loves us.  He knew that we needed help.  He knew that we needed a Savior.  Jesus Christ took the weight of the world on His shoulders.  He took the sin and all that is evil.  He died a horrible death on the cross.  Let me stop here for a second.  Jesus’s death was horrible and noble, but if the story ended there, the story would be no different from any other martyr story.  What happened next changed the world……He rose again on the 3rd day!  The tomb was empty.  He was who He said He was.  He kicked death out the door and ushered in life.

Practically speaking, what in the world does this mean to each of us?  It means that God has given us a gift, through Jesus Christ.  The gift of salvation for all who believe in Jesus Christ and what He has done for each of us.  This means that when we die (and we will), we have hope of a future spent with Jesus in Heaven, for eternity.  Not only is this gift free, it’s not earned, it’s undeserved, it’s only by His grace.  Christ has now provided a bridge into relationship with Him.

I do understand that there are those who do not believe in Jesus.  There are those who choose to forge their own paths in life.  God loves each of us where we are, even if we aren’t walking with Him.  He loves us enough that he will allow us to choose a life without Him.

Although I will never fully understand God’s ways, I know that what the Bible says about him is true.  He is real.  He wants to be real to you.  He invites questions, doubts and fears.  He wants to meet you face to face.  Let Him grip you.  I dare you.

How has God gripped your life?  If you don’t believe in God, why?

God Bless,

Paul

The Beach

English: Footprints in the sand My footprints ...

I just got back from an awesome time away at the beach with the family.  For me, the beach is the most serene, yet powerful place I’ve been.
I find peace at the beach.  I feel small when I’m there.  Although I feel small, I feel loved as well.  Reminded that although there is this big God who stops the ocean from swallowing me; He loves me….little ‘ol me.

I have trouble wrapping my mind around God’s love for me.  I struggle with that in fact.  I don’t fully understand it, and I don’t think I will ever fully comprehend it.  Maybe when I am face to face with Him someday, who knows.  I constantly ask God to teach me not only how to love Him more, but how to accept His love better.

I discovered something when I was strolling in the sand……I am now a firm believer that walking along the beach at night is even more powerful than during the day.  The waves and surf lit by the nearby hotels and houses, the moon, always there, God’s flashlight shining away.  The smell of campfire and the crashing sound of God’s creation.  Simplicity at it’s finest.  Just amazing.

I glanced down  and I saw a trail of tiny little footprints.  I pictured a little kid, running around, kicking up sand, hair blowing, not a care in the world.  I’ve seen that in my own kids.  I think God wants us to be that way.  That, similar to the little footprints in the sand, we need to leave God’s footprint everywhere we go.

It starts by accepting His love.  By accepting His grace through His son Jesus Christ.  Out of the acceptance of that, we’ll leave our own trail of joyful footprints.  I want that.

Do you have a tough time accepting God’s love?

God Bless,

Paul

Doubts

Ponder

As a Christian, the journey has been bumpy, the road has been windy and the valleys have been deep.  Despite the inconsistency and the amazing mystery of this journey, it’s been beautiful.

I had the usual Christian experience of growing up in the church.  Singing songs, memorizing verses, reading stories about Jesus.  Through high school and into college, I continued what I learned.  I went through the motions and did what I felt was right.  I kind of coasted along, I wanted to stay comfortable, I was afraid of change, fearing anything different.  I honestly became self-righteous to some extent.

After college, I kind of fell away.  Not really in a major, crazy way.  It was mostly in my heart and spirit.  I was now out in the big, bad world all by myself.  I was no longer immersed in a Godly community.  My bubble was now popped.

Fast forward a few years and I found myself in a confusing place (in fact, I find myself there every once in a while).  I began to doubt.  I began to question.  I began to wonder about the “other side”.  What the atheists and other non-christians believed.  This scared me.  I began to wonder if all that I had believed my whole life was fake.  That it was a fable.  I stayed in this place for a short time, but it felt like an eternity.

In a way, I think that God is ok with us questioning and doubting.  Having a healthy, reverent fear.  Doubting is that point where your inner thoughts from a finite mind collide with God’s truth, which comes from the eternal and infinite.  It’s asking the tough questions of God in an attempt to come even an inch closer to understanding Him.  It produces a real relationship where real questions are asked and real answers are discovered.

I read a great article by a guy named Carson Nyquist.  It’s regarding his friends facing doubts and questions head-on.  It states:  “The process was messy, often accompanied by frustration and disillusionment. But it created in them a deeper desire for truth. Not truth that can be organized or categorized, but truth that is alive. Truth that welcomes skeptics, atheists, and believers alike.”  I like the illustration of the process being messy.  It is.  God invites us to comes as we are, with all our brokenness, baggage, questions, doubts, whatever.  It’s crazy if you think about it.  We don’t have to put our “Christian” or “good person” pants on.  We just have to show up, as we are.  Period.

Really, through all this talk of doubts, questions and unknowns, one thing remains; we have a God who loves us.  Even through our limited thinking, His grace prevails.  He loves us so much that He sometimes allows us to struggle, to doubt and to fear, because He knows that the end result will be beautiful.  If we allow Him, He will continue to shape, mold and refine us into the great, unique creations that we were created to be.

I thank God for the questions and doubts.  They’ve provided a bridge to walk across, to grow closer to my Savior.

Have you ever struggled with doubts?

God Bless,

Paul

Being Still

Nature

As human beings, I think it’s easy to focus on doing things to gain God’s blessing and approval.  We have to read our Bible for a certain amount of time.  We have to go to church every Sunday.  We have to serve in some way.  Don’t get me wrong, this is all good stuff.  I just think too much focus is put on the “doing” part.  It’s almost as though a God checklist is made and we just go down the list, checking off the boxes.  Better yet, it’s easy to think that if we don’t do these things, that God will love us less.  This is far from the truth.  He loves us because He’s God.  He is love.

Sometimes, getting caught in the “doing” can lead to apathy, exhaustion and frustration.  It’s good to pull the plug every once in a while and rest in God’s grace.

“Be still and know that I am God…”-Psalm 46:10.  I think there’s power in just stopping and being still.  To stop doing, evaluating, questioning, worrying, etc.  Sometimes, I have to purposefully shut my mouth, turn off my thoughts and just listen.  I’m not sure exactly what I’m listening for, but I usually find peace there, even clarity.

I think it’s okay to throw up our hands in surrender.  To just stop trying so hard to please God or be “holy.”  Although I think it’s great to pursue God and seek His ways, it’s so easy to make it about us.  Everyday, I have to make a conscious effort to take the focus off myself and allow God to take the lead.  Some days, I do alright, other days, I suck at it.  More of Him and less of me is what I hope for.

When was the last time you just stopped, sat in silence and listened?

God Bless,

Paul

Mtn. Dew

A Mountain Dew can.

I tell you what, nothing beats an ice-cold Mtn. Dew.  Not just a can or a bottle, but a fountain Mtn. Dew.  My oldest son enjoys sips of the sweet, yellow drink of the gods as well.  It’s not only the flavor that I enjoy, it’s the memories that come along with this special drink.

Many hours in college were spent shooting pool, hanging with the roommates, eating Super Burrito, and oh yeah, studying.  Mtn. Dew seemed to always accompany our activities, kind of like a faithful dog.  In fact, we had a shrine of Dew stuff stacked in one corner of our house, by our Pepsi machine that served….let me think…..oh yeah, Mtn. Dew, along with other drinks.  It’s not an addiction, I just like it.  No MDA (Mtn. Dew Anonymous) class necessary.

To me, the drink has been a fun part of my life and it still is.  It’s one of those simple things.   It brings back some great memories.  In fact, it’s stayed with me through the years and I’ve created some new memories.  One of which I am so blessed to have.  Sometimes on the weekend or when I get off work early, I will take my son to the park.  He enjoys being pushed on the tire swing.  We run, we play, we kick up some dust.  He usually knows that after the park, we make a pit stop on the way home.  We stop by our local mini mart and pick up a fountain Mtn. Dew baby!  He watches me pour it, we each steal a couple sips and then fill it again.  We’re rebels.  We’re Mtn. Dew men, resting from a hard day’s play.  We then proceed to jump in the truck, take the long way home, turn on his favorite song and share a soda together.  Sometimes, I catch a glimpse of him day dreaming out the window, sipping, listening to the music with a content grin on his face.  Nothing better than that.  It’s a simple memory I know, but I’m blessed to have it.

There are other things in life that remind me of past experiences.  Whether it’s a certain food, a particular place, a smell, a song, they’re all important.  They’re all a part of the story that is Paul.  I am blessed beyond measure because of the memories that I have, both good and bad.

What memories have shaped your life?

God Bless,

Paul