I Need to Hear from God….like NOW!!!!

Someone very close to me called.imgres-1

It was around lunch time.  I had just finished a Chicken Pita from my favorite hole-in-the-wall lunch stop when my cell phone vibrated against my right hip.  My texting device could receive phone calls????  Weird.

“Hey, you got a minute?”

There are a few people in all of our lives that we would literally drop everything in their need time of need – he is one of mine.

“I need to hear from God now. I’m asking Him. I’m listening. But I just can’t tell what He is saying”.

His need was HUGE and immediate – literally 6 hours was all he had to make a decision that would affect the rest of his life.

After receiving the detailed download, I asked for 2 of those precious 6 hours to pray and process.

There is something that energizes my soul when I am forced to bring an urgent cry to my God, desperately needing Him and His guidance. Given too much time, my pragmatic tendency is to work through and derive an action plan. But given a complex issue and just 120 minutes drove me to my knees.

I asked, and God once again fulfilled His obligation to answer. The answer was clear. Why do I still sometimes doubt this prayer thing? I took the full 2 hours before hitting redial.

He answered with expectation….

I shared what I trust was Divine intervention. He thanked me – we exchanged our love for one another. The day continued.

The take away?

Who will you call when you need someone to stand with you in prayer?

Who will call you in their time of need and what are you doing to foster that trust and relationship?

Are you hearing Him when He speaks to you? If not, ask Him to help…He’s your Daddy.

I Need to Hear from God….like NOW!!!!

The Art of Grace….

It doesn’t come naturally….imgres-1

…at least for many of us.

Yet we crave it for ourselves.  We desire others to show it to us in our time of need, so why do we hoard it when it comes our time to dispense.  Somebody in your life right now needs it more than you could ever fathom.  And God may have chosen you to be the deliverer.

How did you fall in love with grace?  Who taught you?  Who showed you grace personified?

Mohan Karulkar wrote that “Many of us draw our notions of grace, forgiveness, and second chances from God, family, friends, and role models.  But are we passing those notions on to anyone else?  We need to make sure that we don’t turn grace into some abstract thing we celebrate — like a birthday.  We need to be teaching grace to others, and modelling it consistently in everything we do.  We need  to be practicing concrete acts of grace, and bringing others along with us.”

Let’s try this:

  1. Think of one young person in your life that you influence.
  2. Think of one way that you can model grace in front of them.
  3. Do that thing.  Be a teacher in the art of grace.

Grace – generous, free, totally unexpected and undeserved.  You need it.  I need it.  And someone within your circle of influence is waiting for you to show them grace….

 

The Art of Grace….

12 Ways to Happily Never After…..

“Dad, what’s the right age to marry?”  imgres

My 17 year old daughter was asking me, her dad….the one who now has TWO marriages under his belt an honest question.

And I felt strangely both unqualified and qualified to answer. And while her age question is relevent, she prompted me into some deeper introspection. Maybe Bailey’s answer can be found somewhere within the following 12 ways I messed up my first marriage, and how things have been and will be so different with Laura:

  1.  Never stop courting her, holding her hand, dating, or opening her door.  Being a gentleman, HER gentleman, is a life long calling, not only while you date her.
  2. Don’t stop trying to be attractive, even if it is only for her.  Some of us think that once we get our spouse we can coast.  Just the opposite.  We should work even harder to look our best (grooming, weight, style, etc).
  3.  Don’t point out her weakness.  We choose our focus!  Choose to focus on what she does right.  Ask God to give you eyes to see her as He sees her.
  4.  Never call her names.  Names turn into labels.  Labels feed insecurities.  The only names we should ever call our spouses are the names that God gives us….chosen, beautiful, helper, lover, overcomer, beloved, etc.
  5.  Don’t stop kissing her. Ever……EVER
  6.  Don’t stop having fun together.  Our relationships are energized when we have fun together.
  7.  Don’t stop buying each other Birthday, Valentine, or Christmas presents.  HUGE mistake.  A gift, no matter the price, communicates value and thoughtfulness.
  8.  Don’t pressure her.  Share your perspective, and then respect hers.  Find the common ground in between.
  9.  Dont skip out on things that are important to her.  It’s not all about you.  It’s about her retaining who she is and you retaining who you are while you become one.
  10.  Don’t lose your voice in an important matter just because you are a people pleaser.  The result is a resentment that may become fatal to the relationship.
  11.  Don’t separate emotionally from her after a fight.  Emotional divorce precedes actual divorce, and that’s a very slippery slope.  STAY OFF!
  12.  Don’t stop the romance.  Choose today to romance her.  And choose to do it again tomorrow.

So what’s the magic age to marry, Bailey?  I don’t know.  God knows, and together let’s ask Him. But I do know that a healthy marriage takes a focused, intentional, and on going effort…..nothing less. For anything less may be fatal….

12 Ways to Happily Never After…..

Sloppy Wet Kissin’ The Church

Honest writing moves me.

A writer has been given a gift.  Through the written word he is able to move his reader.  My new friend George has this gift.  Over a 1905 Salad at The Columbia last month with our wives, George encouraged me to write – but more importantly, to write in such a way that is true to who I am.  He practices what he preaches, and the literary world and his readers are better for it. It is through this lens of truth that I am learning to both write, and read.  Once being true to who I am becomes my leading value, I begin to appreciate that value in others…..like George, and John Mark McMillan.

John McMillan wrote “How He Loves following the death of his best friend, Stephen Coffey. Coffey was a youth minister for MorningStar Ministries. On November 1, 2002, during a church prayer meeting, Coffey prayed out loud “I’d give my life today if it would shake the youth of the nation.” That very night, he was in a multi-car accident and died of serious injuries.

Meanwhile, McMillan was recording in a studio in Jacksonville, FL when he received a call that two of his friends had been critically injured in a car accident. Later that evening, he received another call from his father who informed McMillan that Coffey had died. The next day, McMillan wrote How He Loves as a tribute to Coffey and out of a need “to have some sort of conversation with God” where he could speak to his frustrations and emotions over his best friend’s death.

According to McMillan, the love that he’s singing about in How He Loves is not a pretty, “Hollywood hot-pink” love. It is a kind of love that is willing to love even when things are difficult and messy. He says, “This song isn’t a celebration of weakness and anger. It’s a celebration of a God who would want to hang with us through those things, who would want to be a part of our lives through those things, and, despite who we are, He would want to be a part of us, our community, and our family.”

Beautiful. Raw. Honest. True.

Especially here:
From “How He Loves”:

We are His portion and He is our prize.

Drawn to redemption by the Grace in His eyes.
If Grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
So, heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss
And my heart stirs violently inside of my chest
I don’t have to time to maintain these regrets
When I think about the way …
He loves us. Oh, How He loves us …
 
When the David Crowder Band took this song to a national “church” audience, they felt it necessary to make a significant change to the lyrics, substituting “like an unforeseen kiss” for “like a sloppy wet kiss.”  Crowder was quoted as saying “As the band researched the song, they found that churches had been put off by the term “sloppy wet kiss”. David says that some found nothing appealing about it. Others thought that the word “sloppy” should never be associated with a God who is so precise and engaged in the lives of His people. We wanted to be responsible and allow more people to experience it.”
 
I guess we could debate righteous offenses all day, but I am done with the masquerade. Out of thousands of songs in my ITunes account, “Oh How He Loves” is my third most played.  And I managed to find the recording with the original intentional sloppy wet kiss lyric.  I brace and then bristle every time I hear the song on the radio or at church sung with the compromised lyric. Compromised for the righteous vocal. The God I know, and the God Mcmillan wrote about is overly affectionate….maybe even extravagantly affectionate!   Many of the churches I’ve served and know are not.  And never is the tension between the two more evident than in this seemingly insignificant debate.
 
Laura and I attended the Celebration of Life of the loss of a dear friend, Sara Cazin, one of the songs chosen for her was “Oh How He Loves”. I braced…..and then wanted to shout a loud YESSSS when he sang “….So, heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss.”  
 
Truth. Raw. Honest. Unafraid. Uncompromised.  That’s how I want to live.  And that’s the kind of God I want to serve, one that would greet me one day with a sloppy wet kiss…..
Image

 

Sloppy Wet Kissin’ The Church

The Suitcase

Taking a break from packing to reflect….

In less than a week I marry my best friend!  Friday can’t get here fast enough.  I am crazy in love with you Laura…..we have been through so much.

Marriages are not designed to fail. But they do. And when they do, pain is unevenly distributed…everywhere. Relationships, often those closest to us, are damaged and need the touch of our Healer.  And patience.  And compassion.  And time.  You say you give unconditional love?  It is here that you get to practice what you say you believe….

Unpacking over the past 3 years I have learned, through those around me, how to love….and how not to love.  And that’s OK, both lessons are necessary to our growth.  We’ve all been guilty at some point of failing those around us.

Metaphorically speaking – it’s taken me 3 years to unpack the emotional and relational consequences of divorce.  And I’m not done.  But today I begin to pack for a new journey – a union with my best friend.  Becoming one with the one who has loved me completely.  A marriage to the one whom I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with.

Easy?  Hardly. But Micah 7:8 has been the verse that has brought me comfort during the darkest years – “Our enemies have no reason to gloat over us. We have fallen, but we will rise again. We are in darkness now, but the Lord will give us light.”

His mercies are new each morning.  Hope does abound.  I love you Laura.  You have taught me what it looks like to fall down and get back up.  How to make right the wrongs. How to love those who are hard to love, especially when that person is me.  I can’t wait to say “I do” and become your husband.  This journey up to this point has been a crazy ride, and I cant wait for adventure that is tomorrow….with all that I have, and all that I know – I love you!!!

Back to packing the suitcase – thank you God for the room in it that YOU created.

The Suitcase

4 Tips for Keeping in Touch With Your College Student

Two of my four daughters are in college.

I write today from the perspective of a dad who is in the middle of the battle, not from the perspective of “I’ve lived though the college years and here’s what I’ve learned.”

Nonetheless…

My dad responsiblity to my girls is to love, provide, and protect them with everything I have.  Just because they move out of the house and onto a college campus, my daddy objective doesn’t stop.  Sure, it takes a different shape, but the heart of this endeavor remains the same.

The timing was perfect.  I had just dropped CC off at college when I came across Dan Klamm’s 4 Tips for Keeping in Touch with Your College Student (what he writes, I read). These principles apply to our children’s social world, at any age,  So as I read, I took notes. While technology evolves rapidly, these principles are timeless. Perhaps the following may be useful for you too, as you try to keep in touch with the younger generation through technology:

1. Let your student set some ground rules.

Connection today easier than ever.  As a dad, my heart is to make sure my girls are constantly safe AND to keep an eye on their emotional health. Facebook statuses are very telling.  BUT I’ve learned the hard way that each young person has a different tolerance level for mom and dad lurking on their page.  Proceed with the utmost caution, and allow them to set the acceptance bar (remember, I’m talking college student, not high school age or younger.  Thats a different story). Your ability to have this connection is ultimately dependent on your student’s level of comfort inviting you into his or her social world.

Klamm writes “Find out whether she’s comfortable with you commenting on photos and wall posts. Familiarize yourselves with privacy settings, which offer significant control to students who wish to selectively share content with parents.”

2. Respect your student’s space.

Don’t insert yourself into personal conversations or private moments that happen to be taking place in a venue to which you have access. Just as you wouldn’t intrude on your daughter’s romantic dinner date at a restaurant, you shouldn’t inject yourself into her Facebook wall-to-wall conversation with her new crush….guilty of this….results weren’t pretty.

See something you don’t like?  Call her or even shoot her a text.  Keep the concern or correction private.

3. Branch out from the usual platforms.

Facebook, texts, and Twitter are the obvious and currently popular platforms, but Foursquare and Skype shouldn’t be overlooked. Each platform provides for a different level of communication with your student.  And do your best to stay current on the newest platforms.  Google+, with its Huddle feature, is possibly the new Facebook.

4. Avoid over communication. 

Klamm writes “Just because you can communicate with your student 24/7 doesn’t mean that you should. Remember, college is a time of growth, exploration and self-discovery. For these things to happen, students need to experience what it’s like to make decisions independently. While you can and should actively support your student’s college pursuits, resist the urge to be a constant voice in her ear (or message in her inbox).”

So when you send your student off to school, take comfort in the fact that he or she is just a poke, tweet, or Google+ hangout away. Technology can ease the pain of this life transition.  It’s up to us mom and dad, to use it wisely.

Should they invite you in, enter and communicate wisely.

4 Tips for Keeping in Touch With Your College Student

Why Do You Desire Heaven?

The art of a crafting good question is under-appreciated.  The art of crafting a great question is pure gold….

Here’s one of my all time favorite theological questions from one of my spiritual heroes, John Piper. The critical question for our generation—and for every generation—is this:

“If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ were not there?”

And the follow-up question goes to our church leaders: Do we preach and teach and lead in such a way that people are prepared to hear that question and answer with a resounding No?

J. C. Ryle wrote  ” But alas, how little fit for heaven are many who talk of going to heaven, when they die, while they manifestly have no saving faith and no real acquaintance with Christ. You give Christ no honor here. You have no communion with Him. You do not love Him. Alas, what could you do in heaven? It would be no place for you. Its joys would be no joys for you. Its happiness would be a happiness into which you could not enter. Its employments would be a weariness and a burden to your heart. Oh, repent and change before it be too late!

“The worst this life can shove down our throats, but with the nearness of Jesus, is heaven on earth. The best this life can give, but without Jesus, is a living hell.” – Ray Ortlund

Ouch Ouch OUCH!  For us Christians, at least those of us willing to be gut level honest….are you choosing heaven just cause you hate the heat?

Why Do You Desire Heaven?