Ascribe: what I taught my girls about thunder

drogoToday in Sacramento there was an actual thunder storm. As someone from the Midwest, I can say ‘real’ thunderstorms are rare in California. Today, though, my girls were eating their breakfast and I was making coffee in my aero press when, in a matter of two seconds, the power went out and there was an enormous clap of thunder that set off my car alarm.

I smiled with delight.
Haddisen (3 years old) was shocked and then smiled.
Bryleigh (4 years old) put her hands over her ears and cried.

I calmed the situation and then explained what thunder really is. I explained that it is one of my favorite things.

I also told them the story of Nikola Tesla, the brilliant inventor, engineer, and designer of the alternating current (AC) electricity supply system, who was known to sit near his window during a thunder storm. He would sit and wait until the next thunder clap when he would rise to his feet to give God a standing ovation.

Pslam 96:5-8 says:
“But the LORD made the heavens
Splendor and majesty are before Him
Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.
ASCRIBE to the LORD, O families of the peoples
ASCRIBE to the LORD glory and strength
ASCRIBE to the Lord the glory of His name.”

“Ascribe” means to attribute something to something or someone else. We are to attribute great and powerful and beautiful things to God. The LORD does and provides these things; they are not coincidence or simply natural reactions. God is to be ascribed these things.

The girls loved this idea and for the rest of the morning we all three clapped for God with each thunder roll and clap. Haddie would even copy me each time saying, “Dadda, how cool!!!”

This journal

this journalIt has been since June that I resigned just after starting this journal. Journals have legs to walk with you through various journeys and seasons. Journals have backs and hearts to carry a great deal of things so you do not have to.

This journal is a gift from a friend I have not seen or spoken with in many years. It was a random gift which arrived just before an enormous life change I did not foresee at the time. This journal came to me from a friend who has always been a strong encouragement to “Keep writing. Always keep writing.” This journal came from this friend just before a season where it would have been easy to cease writing.

This journal has carried a lot of the things I never wanted to carry. If I could only displace those thoughts and processes on the back and heart of this journal, I could get through days, which would have been otherwise very discouraging and debilitating.

This journal contains the weak prayers of limping through the process of learning to ask God ‘what’ instead of ‘why’. I rarely get answers to ‘why’ questions, but I have learned to look at any and all circumstances asking, “God, what are you doing in me through this?”

This journal contains notes for interviews come and gone for positions I thought were great, if not perfect, but clearly not where God was guiding and calling me.

This journal contains notes for sermons along the way for beloved groups who, unaware to them, gave shock paddles to my heart by giving me opportunities to do what I love in a season when my heart was weak and confused for the future.

This journal has been able to carry the promise of prayer my heart made for the new year. It proves that the challenge remains. It is written in ink after all.

This journal, #38, passes a baton to #39 with promise and hope attached. It uses the discouragement and healing as a springboard to speak to my heart, “You are a better leader, husband, and father than you were before we began walking together, but more importantly, you are closer to the heart of Jesus than you were before we met.”

My Word of the Year 2015

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Several years ago I quit making resolutions or new years goals. I accepted, then, a challenge to choose only a word for the year. “One word that sums up who you want to be or how you want to live or what you want to achieve by the end of 2015. One word that you can focus on every day, all year long. It will take hard work, and will require intentionality and commitment. But if you let it, your word will shape you and your year. It will guide your decisions and help you grow.”

This year my word is: PRAYER.

While I would say I am a man of God’s Word, I want to be more of a man of prayer. Prayer is not an element of my relationship with God, it IS my relationship with God. I have to realize my relationship is dependent upon communication and time together.

If I wrote my autobiography, someone could read it inside and out, over and over again. They could highlight important parts about my story and things that mater a great deal to me. But that person does not know me. That person and I have no relationship. We have never sat and spoken together.

Much like this, I can study God’s Word inside and out, over and over again. I can highlight important parts and dedicate years and whole college degrees to studying things very important to God. But I could do all of this and still not know God. I do not have a relationship. I have not sat and spoken with Him.

I am a man of God’s Word and a man after God’s heart, but I want to be MORE of a man of prayer than I have been before. I want to be more of a man of prayer at the end of 2015 than I am right now. I want to know Him more intimately. I want to be terribly close to His heart, and that will only come as we sit and speak together with more intentionality and frequency.

Search and Reveal: the only balance between self praise and blame

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There is a great value to self-examination within the day to day walk with and after Christ, but it ought to be more than a solely self-examination. It is why the Psalmist prayed, “Search me O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Ps. 139:23-24) When we do the necessary work of self-examination we must invite God to search along with us and reveal the things He will. We do this because when left to our own, we have two primary tendencies, both of which are destructive to the honest heart after God.

Our first tendency is to praise ourselves too highly. If we do not ask God to search our hearts and reveal, we will make excuses for every wicked or troublesome thing in our heart and mind. We will make light of dark things, which ought to be dealt with.

Our other tendency is to blame ourselves too heavily. If we do not ask God to search and reveal, we will tirelessly break ourselves down. For some of us God is entirely more gracious toward our sin than we would ever dream of being for ourselves.This is why we need God to search and reveal our true heart’s condition.

God is fully aware of our tendency toward one of these extremes (I find myself in the latter most often). Because He is aware of our tendency, and because He knows too much SELF-examination does more harm than good, He presents in the Psalms how we ought to search and reveal the sin in our lives. We go about this with humility and grace, only God can accomplish that balance with perfection. Only God will draw us in humility and grace for self in order to balance between the extremes of praise and blame.

Catch for us the foxes: my address to my daughter’s husband

As I have been reading through Bryleigh’s Bible, it has brought me to the Song of Songs. I have been very interested to see what this time and entanglement will bring for my heart as I address her in writing regarding a book that Jewish boys were not allowed to read until they became men.

Today, I read chapter 2 and came across verse 15. The bride says to her lover, “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that are ruining the vineyards while our vineyards are in blossom.”

As The Song can be applied to both our relationship as a bride to our bridegroom, Jesus Christ, it can also be applied to the true love relationship we have with our spouse.

These foxes are any of those things which keep us from Jesus and the life He intends for us. Catch the foxes! Remove the foxes! They must be caught and removed from your relationship with God.

But they ALSO must be caught and removed from your relationship with your spouse. This is an address to husbands! Catch the foxes! Remove the foxes. They must be caught and removed. The good marriage relationship will be one in which you both, but especially the man, DOES the work of catching any foxes which hinder your relationship and your marriage.

I wrote this in the margin of Bryleigh’s Bible, and it has stuck with me all day: “If your husband is unwilling to do this sort of work, I doubt his love for you.”

So many men are willing to work hard to make money for the family. They are willing to protect their wife from physical harm. I have known countless men who are unwilling to do the work of catching the foxes for their marriage and their family when it comes to the actual relationship. This will require work; uncomfortable work. Your hardest day of work may not compare to the hard work you will do in addressing those things which hinder your relationship and harm your wife to a far deeper place than any physical harm would bring to her. But if you truly love your wife and your family, you must catch the foxes! You must remove the foxes.

If you are unwilling to do this, I question your love for your wife.

Every Christian must fight

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There is a reason we are given the imagery of armor in preparation for the life before God in Ephesians 6. This imagery is used because our life is a fight. It is a constant fight against the things which keep us from getting to God. Closeness to God is our ultimate good as indicated in Psalm 73, but our life is always full of things which prevent us from that ultimate good of closeness. Those things never cease to present themselves each day. They must be fought and laid aside so we may continue to come closer to God.

This is why Ephesians 6 gives us a whole and complete armor for our daily fight. Every day we are to prayerfully and intentionally put on this armor that we might fight back all those things which prevent us from getting to God.

The life of the follower of Jesus is anything but lazy. The life after Jesus is a fight, and if we fight correctly each day it will only be done with the strength of Jesus Christ found in intentional prayer.

Missing God

Our world is saturated with the Holy. It is full of God’s presence. God’s presence are the very waters we swim in each day, and yet every day and every week I can close each one having completely missed Him.

When we realize the truth of Ephesians 4:6 that is over all, through all, and in all, there becomes a saddening reality on our part. We realize God is present everywhere, and we still miss Him entirely in the course of a day or a week.

We need what Richard Foster calls prayer of examen of consciousness. We need to recognize what Erwin McManus calls divine moments in need of seizing. We need with Brother Lawrence to practice the presence of God.

Each day is full of God’s presence, and my mind and heart need to be attentive to His presence. I need to ‘prayerfully reflect on the thoughts, feelings, and actions of my days to see how God has been at work among me and how I respond’ to those moments.

Each day is my opportunity to be present where I am. God invites me to see and hear and respond to what is around me, and through it all, to discern the footprints of God.

What may God be doing in and through my kids today? What may God be inviting me into through the neighbor, the barista, the homeless man I come across today? What may God be teaching me or forming in me through the loss of a job, the loss of a love one, a confusing circumstance, or a relational altercation?

These are all divine moments when heaven invades earth. More specifically, these are all moments Heaven invades my world today.

I only pray and ask that I have eyes to see and ears to hear.