THE DRUNK GUY IN THE ORANGE LEISURE SUIT

In his handsMy 2 boys and I went to the grocery store for a few things the other day.  We had a great time just being boys and making a mess of the free cookies that the store offers.

As we were leaving, I noticed this dude standing by the door.  It caught me by surprise.  He had an orange leisure suit on and he was wobbling something terrible…..obviously intoxicated in some way.  He was talking pretty loudly to others coming in and out of the store.  He had the look as if he could do something really stupid at any minute.  It was our turn to walk by….so we proceeded, attempting to ignore his glassy-eyed stare coming from our right and we hurriedly made our way to the truck.

The guy was following people around a bit, getting in their space.  We were parked too close for comfort.  I firmly grasped my oldest son’s shoulders and threw him in the backseat and told him to buckle up…he looked confused.  I quickly buckled my youngest into his car seat and we were ready to roll.

My boys had no idea that there was the possibility of danger or confrontation.  They were in their own worlds, thinking about what book to read when we got home and what juice was available to drink.

If I were by myself, I wouldn’t be concerned with this guy.  My boys were with me though and it’s my job to look out for them.  I felt the need to protect them, to get them in the truck as soon as possible, to shelter them from the possibility of harm.

I can’t help but relate this to everyday life….to our relationship with God.  So often, we wander around, trying to do what’s best.  Instead of thinking about books or juice, we’re preoccupied with our phones, Facebook, accomplishments and worry.  Our heads are in the sand sometimes, and God has been known to grasp our shoulders firmly and place us in a different spot…..He does this because He loves us and wants to protect us from harm.

God protects us in many ways….He uses people, circumstances, words, successes, failures, you name it.  He’s pretty creative.

Just like my son, we become confused.  We don’t understand why things are happening.  Instead of being thankful for His provision, we sink back in fear, pull the overs over our faces and cry out “why?!”  It’s so easy to fall into this pattern….you know, challenging God, wanting to know the answers…never knowing that circumstances are in place not to harm us, but to protect us.  Trust is a tough pill to swallow, but we’re called to do it.

Once we were in the truck, I explained to my oldest why I threw him in his seat the way I did.  I was caught off guard by what he said….it was something like, “thanks dad for protecting us.”  I said something like, “no problem dude, it’s my job to protect you.”

So many times, I’ve looked back and I can see God’s hand on my circumstances.  Unfortunately it’s typically a few years down the road…..trusting in the present can often be a daily challenge.  I’m trying to poise my shoulders for God’s strong grip, trusting that He will place me where He needs me.  I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.

Where have you seen God’s protection over your life?  Did it make sense at the time?

God Bless,

Paul

FEELINGS – YOU CAN’T ALWAYS TRUST ‘EM

FeelingsFeelings, what can I say about feelings…..you ever notice that they never stay the same?  They are more fleeting than…well, they’re just fleeting…and inconsistent….and often unreliable.

No relationships last on feelings alone.  How could they?  Commitment and love should be the main ingredients and feelings should be the seasoning.

Whether it’s a friendship, a family member, or a marriage, faith in the process of maintaining relationships is the glue that keeps things together.

My relationship with God is definitely not based on feelings, it’s based on faith and belief.  It took me a long time to figure this out.  I came to a place where I started to doubt my faith because I didn’t “feel” as though I was floating on the clouds all the time.  I was frustrated, confused and pissed off.  Loving God = perfect life, right?  Not so much.

Coincidentally, I am going through a “non-feeling” time right now.  I kinda feel as though I’m just going through the motions.  I don’t feel close to God, but I don’t feel far away either.  It’s ok.  These are the times where I just keep seeking, persevering and absorbing.  Although it “feels” a bit lonely, I’m confident that God is there…He never changes and He never leaves us.

Sometimes, I think it’s good to go through times like these.  It builds our faith and it shows us just how much we need God’s guidance and presence.  I’m committed to keep pushing because my faith goes deeper than my mood or temperament.  It delves into the root of who I am.

My heart has been changed because of Christ’s love for me.  I’m not the person I used to be…..this is a fact and this is what I hold on to.  Each day is a challenge to see other’s through the eyes of Jesus.  I’m committed to keep pressing, holding on to the faith that saved me.

So, I’m gonna keep fighting the good fight.  If I feel lonely for a bit, bring it on.  I’ve been here before and it’s a temporary spot to be in.  After all, feelings are only fleeting, right?

“It is the Lord who goes before you.  He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you.  Do not fear or be dismayed.” -Deuteronomy 31:8

God bless,

Paul

BECOMING DUST AND LEAVING A LEGACY

LegacyThe thought of life continuing after we’re gone is a sobering reality.

We work hard, we form relationships, we fail, we succeed, we get sick, we get well, we eat, drink and attempt to be merry……then it’s gone.  We die and the only thing left is the legacy that we’ve formed while we were alive.

I mean really, these bodies of ours are merely vessels to house the spirits within us.  They’re temporary and we forget that so easily.

Who we are and the convictions that guide us affect generations of people.  How we handle adversity and how we show love to strangers….these are the things that stick.

To be vain is a temptation we all face.  Let us not allow our shallow conceit to override the love within us.  Our things and our worries and our fretting and our anger and our accomplishments and our sadness are a mere warm breath on a frosty morning.  Inhale, exhale, wait a few seconds and the steam is gone.  Such is life.

It goes quick, really quick actually.

When I’m no longer here, I hope that folks talk about my character.  That, through my imperfections, others would have caught a glimpse of Christ’s love through me.  That my sons would understand how to be men….not just regular men, but good men, humble men, God-fearing men.  This is the stuff that matters.  This is the stuff that lasts.

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.  As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no moreBut from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children……”  -Psalms 103:13-18

What’s your legacy?

God Bless,

Paul

MOONING FOR APPROVAL

LikeHave you ever dropped your pants and mooned somebody to be funny?  C’mon, I know you have.

A funny memory came to mind the other day.  I was friends with this girl on my street.  I believe we were in kindergarten.  We hung out here and there and I remember having a big crush on her.  In fact, in my school picture, I was looking down at her with a cheesy smile on my face.  Kinda cute really.

We lived down a country rock road and we often walked together to the bus stop.  One day, as we were walking home, I decided to do something genius…..in fact, I thought it would be the most hilarious thing ever……in fact, I knew that she would be impressed with my wit and spontaneity….I dropped my drawers, turned around and mooned her.  I flung those chubby buns out for all to see.  Awesome, right?  Nope, not really.  I don’t remember her freaking out or anything, but I don’t remember her giving me a high-five either.  What I do remember is not hanging out with her anymore.  I was now the creepy kid who reveals his buns for approval and laughs.

My feeble attempt to gain approval didn’t work.  We all search for approval don’t we?  I know I still do.  We don’t need to drop our pants to gain approval….we do other things like talk about our stuff, status, money, accomplishments.  Sometimes, we may exaggerate a bit, just to add that extra-interesting flavor to our life.

God created each of us in a unique way.  We each have different gifts, abilities and strengths.  The bible talks many times about us using our God-given gifts boldly….if our gift is teaching, then teach….if serving, then serve….if leading, then lead.  So many times, I haven’t been satisfied with myself.  It’s almost like I’ve felt the need to convince others to like me, to think I’m cool.

I’m learning to just be myself.  It sounds simple, but it’s been a long road.  I love how God created me and I love how God created you.  If only we could boldly just be ourselves, gifts and all, without having to show each other our “buns.”

Have you ever found yourself doing silly things to seek approval?

God Bless,

Paul

Learning How to Receive

Give and Receive

Sometimes it’s easier for me to give than to receive.  You ever feel that way?

My wife and I are currently learning how important it is to do both.

Love is a special thing.  It’s special because it goes both ways.  It takes a giver and a receiver.  It’s also good to switch the roles every once in a while.  It keeps life balanced and it keeps relationships fresh.

As I’ve stated in previous posts, we lost a great woman recently, my wife’s mom.  During this process, we have been on the receiving end of many hugs, meals, cards, flowers and condolences.  Most of all, we have been on the receiving end of love.  It’s humbling really.  To let your guard down, accept love and to simply say, “thank you.”

The truth is that giving and loving not only affects the person on the receiving end.  The person giving the love is also touched.  What a beautiful thing.

So, I guess, my wife and I have both learned a very valuable lesson lately: ALLOWING ONESELF TO BE VULNERABLE ENOUGH TO ACCEPT LOVE, IN IT’S MANY FORMS,  IS TRULY LIVING.

God Bless,

Paul

Crowd Surfing and Relationships

Crowd Surfing

We need each other…..we really do.  I’m discovering this more and more as I grow older.

My mother-in-law just passed away a few days ago.  She had a long, well-fought battle with cancer.  It’s been a heavy weight on the necks of all those involved.  We all miss her dearly.  At the same time, we reflect on the awesome impact that she had on our lives.

Through this grieving process, my family has been surrounded by an army.  An army of people praying, loving and giving.  There have been many kind messages sent, many warm meals made and many hugs given.  We are so grateful.

We are all in this together, aren’t we?  We all face the reality of death, of loss, of heartbreak, of sickness, of many things that plague this thing called life.  That’s why we’re called human BEINGS.  We’re meant to BE with each other when things are tough and also when there’s reason to celebrate.  At least that’s my take on it.

God has given us all the gift of relationship.  To be the strength in each other’s weaknesses.  To provide each other with clear perspective when the road seems foggy.  It’s beautiful really….and necessary.

I picture relationships as crowd surfing……folks lying on their backs, “surfing” across a group of people, trusting that all of those arms and hands will keep them above ground.  That’s life man.  We need others to “surf” with.  People we trust and people who love us.  People to lift us up with strong arms and hands when we don’t have the strength.

Right now, my family and I are a bunch of crowd surfers, floating above our strong army of friends and family.  We need it and we’re receiving it……we’re blessed.

God Bless,

Paul

Tough Times

Trust

Life seems real right now.  It seems real because tough things are happening to my loved ones and friends.  Loss might be the word to encompass what I am trying to express.

How do we deal with loss and hardships?  Is it possible to make sense of it all?

I have been asked many times why a good God would allow bad things to happen.  Better yet, why would this God allow crappy stuff to happen to really good people.  It’s a huge question to ask.  I wish I had a huge answer, but I don’t.

My answer is actually pretty simple….kind of.  I understand that it may not settle the question for many, but it’s all I got.

I could go on about how sin has been a part of this world since Adam and Eve.  I could go on about how we all fall short.  I could go on about how we need to be joyful in our times of trouble…..while these are all true things, it often doesn’t settle a weary, crushed heart.

Trust.  That’s it.  That’s my answer.  Trust in who?  Trust in God, the being that we can’t see.  Many times, we can’t see God clearly until we hit a wall of crisis…..when we are almost forced to fall onto our knees, throw up our feeble hands, bury our tear soaked faces in the ground and cry out in faith.  Sometimes that’s all we have left.

I am coming to peace with the fact that we are only human.  We don’t have all the answers as to why things happen.  We can try to unfold the mystery of life, but we only come up empty and frustrated.

Instead of racking my brain for the answers, I am often just left with the trusting of God’s character.  Trusting the Bible for what it says.  That He is a caring, compassionate, just, righteous, loving, forgiving and powerful God.  It’s the only consistent thing available in this tough world.

If this world is only temporary and if our lives are growing shorter by the minute, where do we find peace?  Not just peace for the moment.  Not just a distraction from the pain….but real peace.  The stuff that goes beyond all understanding.

I know this peace.  I’ve felt it, I’ve seen it in others and I know it’s available to the most weary, hurting soul.  It’s found in Jesus.  There’s a supernatural thing that happens when we truly call out to Him.  He listens.

No matter how tough life gets, Jesus loves you.  No matter how abandoned you feel, Jesus loves you.  No matter how much you’ve lost, Jesus loves you.  No matter how sick or weak or frail or lost or confused you feel……Jesus loves you, He truly does.

My troubles and loss are handled best when left in the arms of my Creator.  That’s where I find my peace amidst the storm.

God Bless,

Paul