Big Brother’s Birthday

40. What an old bat you are? But only I am allowed to say that. I guess if our dad surveyed back when Moby Dick was a guppie, then where would that leave you and I? Old together, yet apart. Together, through God’s unfailing love. Apart because you live in a world immeasurably greater than mine. When you left this one, I grasped for answers as to why. I’ve never gotten that answer but I’ve gotten something of far greater significance. A new life.

Had you not left here, I doubt my path would look the same as it does now. Before I cared only of money and material things. The indescribable pain I felt later altered my course. I wondered before if I was a Christian just because I didn’t want to go to hell. Since then, I’ve dedicated my life to following Jesus in a whole new way. Might I add, not just when everything is going well but even when life feels like a tortuous, inescapable, living hell.

Before, when things didn’t go my way, I resented God. I would question everything with my own superior intellect. But as time passed, I’ve realized that all I’ve come to know or could ever know in this lifetime would make for a silly comparison with that of our Almighty Creator. His ways are higher than my ways. I do not always comprehend what happens, or why. While I am a firm believer in expressing gratitude for everything, I’ve found new meaning in giving thanks. My heart now melts when I express my gratitude for what God has given me beyond material things. Things come and they especially go. I remember the emptiness, the vast seas of anger that clouded my thoughts, and the intense pain of loss that caused me to become a different person. I was convinced that I would remain in that state of mind for the rest of my life. No one could convince me that I would ever be released from that prison, and no longer held captive by terrible imaginations.

I believe the human heart longs, whether knowingly or not, to be satisfied. The societal bar seems to get lower and lower with each passing year. In the pursuit of pleasing ourselves, I fear we have lost ourselves. What is now considered immoral is muddier than ever before. As a society, we slip further and further. Things that were once an outrage, are now commonplace. I used to think deprivation was a most terrible thing. I’m starting to wonder about the opposite now as well. In seeking to pleasure ourselves, especially in American culture, we’ve lost sight of significance.

Stress seems to be a normal part of everyone’s day, an excuse to further separate ourselves from others. If the television is turned on, it will be only a matter of seconds before finding a program in which people are killing each other, lying, cheating, needlessly swearing, or any number of unspeakable acts against fellow human beings. It has become so commonplace that when we see it happen in the news, we continue eating our dinner and briefly shutter at the thought of it. We raise the question, what is this world coming to, and then dismiss it and move about our busy lives.

We become outraged at the mistreatment of animal life, which is rightfully so. But when we see a fellow human being suffering, we turn our cheek, sure not to make eye contact. We pity them less and less because we have lost our sense of compassion for each other. If anything, I feel as though we have torn down the walls of compassion in order to build monuments to ourselves. Front and center of our lives is a statue of me, my life, the way I want it. Don’t get in my way. On one side of the coin we endeavor to make our lives easier. On the flip side of that same coin is a most damnable pursuit of pleasure without regard for the cost to ourselves or humanity.

With every inch that we give, another is demanded. I shutter at the unspeakable acts committed by people who desparetly need help. They seek it from anywhere and everywhere, by any means. Their hearts cry out for love and acceptance, but the world gives back a false sense of hope, despicably packaged with a fancy label and an empty promise. All claim to bring satisfaction to our longing hearts, yet fail miserably, leaving us broke and destitute. Tossed aside are those who lay in ruins. Hopeless, they dare not lift their eyes. Devalued by others, they do not see their own worth.

Our society has mastered the art of selling lies. In the advancement of this new age, we have done away with spiritual matters. Many claim to be Christian, yet do little to show it. We have taken the throne of God and put ourselves on it. Piece by piece we lose a part of what is sacred, I ask, when will the whole be gone? Is nothing sacred any more?

The news has always informed us of the terrible acts committed. Kidnap. Rape. Murder. When I read that children, even babies, are being sexually abused, it makes me want to scream. I ponder the question of why. Why is this allowed to happen? In our disgust, we turn to God, looking for answers. Or at times, rather, we turn to Him to place the blame. With fierce judgment we condemn Him for not doing anything to stop such atrocities.

Nevermind the fact that we sit in our air conditioned homes in our comfortable furniture, living a life many in the world would consider one of ease. We have so many things going for us in America it is almost repulsive. Yet most of us do little to prevent such acts. Sure, there are a handful of people working tirelessly to stop it. But ought we all be outraged? Ought we all get behind one another and put an end to such heinous crimes? Ought every door hiding such atrocities be kicked down and the accused brought to justice?

But our self-indulgent, lackadaisical selves refuse to take ownership under the assumption that someone else will take responsibility over these problems because we have our own to deal with. May God forgive us for not seeing the wickedness in our own hearts, and refusal to turn from our ways. Our own sense of self has hindered our view of God and that of each other, putting the needs of ourselves above, ultimately violating the two great commandments Jesus gave.

It does not take one of us, it takes all of us. Each person has a responsibility to take ownership of. Each gift we are given has a purpose. Yet when we do not use our individual gifts, humanity as a whole suffers. Every single day that passes, tears fall and hearts mourn. The grave swallows up the potential that lies within so many who never tapped into it. People are killing themselves because they see no way out. They are poisoning their bodies with all manners of substance for even a few short moments of relief. Our world is full of hurting people who need help, who need hope. I see that now.

I cannot speak for everyone, but I can boldly speak for one, whose life will never be the same. In your short 27 years here, your life mattered. Even after your passing, your life still matters because it matters to me and to our family. I’ve come to appreciate life as never before, acknowledging that all life matters from the moment God breathed life into it, even in its tiniest forms.

In my search for truth since your passing, I am coming to know the One who is the way, the truth, and the life. Never before have I felt this much alive, this much hope, this much peace, this much joy, this much compassion. On and on the list goes of the goodness God has shown in my life. I know this much, I do not deserve it.

But as 1 Peter 3:15 reminds me, I must be ready to give an answer to the hope that lies within me. That hope is my life, my light in this world’s dark places, Jesus Christ.

Thank you for helping me find my way.

Happy 40th Big Brother! I love you very much and will see you again one day!

Doubt in the Midst of Pain

Uncertainty has a way of creeping into our minds. During the dificult periods of our lives, we are found questioning. What is going to happen? When? What is next for me? How will…?

On and on are minds are barraged with thoughts. Some are good, yes, but many are not and must be swiftly dealt with before they take root in our hearts. Any thought we allow ourselves to dwell on will grow into fruition, for our minds care not whether they are good or bad.

Our minds take in so much information, they are truly magnificent. But they quickly dismiss thoughts that are not pertinent. They only care for the ones shown in the spotlight. All around the spotlight, people and things are moving, but the mind focuses all its attention on whatever is centered in front of that beaming light. We have the power to shine the spotlight on whatever is on that stage. The question to us, is, what are we shining the spotlight on?

That stage is made up of our lives. Characters come and go all the time. A tremendous number of events occur, moving the story along from one scene to the next. If we were watching a play and the person behind the spotlight refused to move it, as a participant in the audience we would grow weary. At first the scene may have gripped our hearts but eventually we recognize it is time for a change.

But how can we shift the spotlight on to something else? The truth is, we can’t shift it on to another thing until we first decide to take the spotlight off the thing it is currently on. Simply said, we cannot shine the spotlight on two separate things. We must choose the better of the two and change our focus.

If the spotlight is the storm that surrounds us – the ripping of the waves, the roar of thunder, the coldness of the night, then our hearts will be arrested. Paralyzed with fear and seized by doubt, our tiny ships will be tossed about in the raging sea. It is easy to see the evidence that fills our hearts with fear and doubt, for it surrounds us.

But there is a different area we can choose to shine our spotlight on. By faith, we can choose to shine our spotlight elsewhere. Right in the midst of our storm is Jesus, who calmed the winds and the waves in Mark 4:39. Even in the most turbulent sea God offered us hope in Jesus. This hope is an anchor for our soul, Hebrews 6:16-19. It keeps us from drifting off into a sea of despair and utter hopelessness.

When life is good, doubts seem scarce. But when we are hurting physically, mentally, or emotionally, doubts will flood our minds. In these moments we must change the focus of our spotlights from what troubles us to the One who knows the solution to our troubles. But it’s not just that He knows the solution but that He is the solution. Jesus is the way!

Give me a Smile

Symbols are used everywhere to convey a message. Smiles work that way too. It is one gesture that seems accepted all over. Perhaps one of the reasons is that babies smile all the time. When they smile, we smile too. Somewhere along the way, when life has crapped on you enough, you stop smiling as often, if at all.

But the amazing thing about babies is that they get over things quickly. Once they get fed, they are happy again. Life is good! They have no idea when or how the next feeding will occur, but they aren’t worried about it right now. When they have a messy situation they are rescued from, they are filled with happiness. They don’t dwell on that stinky mess they were just in. They stay fresh in the moment! Babies smile like no other. Perhaps we could learn something from them.

Some people are self-concious about the condition of their teeth. Fake teeth, no teeth, a few teeth, all teeth… I don’t care. I’d rather see someone give me a genuine smile with whatever they had than a fake smile with perfect teeth. A sincere smile is priceless and must be freely given. For something that is free to give, it’s a wonder smiles aren’t shared more often.

When you smile at people you interact with, it can change the tone of a conversation. But what happens when they don’t smile back? Smile anyway. Some people cannot muster up a smile for whatever reason. Don’t let that distract you. Smile for them. Smile big. Enjoy life!

Goodbye 2018 (Christian)

Another day and another year that has come to an end. This year was undoubtedly filled with surprises for each of us. For some it was a terrific year filled with great success, family, career, and health. This is likely a smaller number but we are happy for them. For most though, it has been a mixed year filled with ups and downs. There are even some that consistently struggled this year with failing finances, relationships, health, career – you name it. Each barrier stood out as an obstacle blocking the way in our pursuit of happiness.

If you are Christian, you may find yourself reflecting on how good everything went according to plan. Be grateful to God for the work He has done in your life. If all your plans for the year fell into a pit and you are left wondering what is next, be grateful to God for the work He has done in your life. While it seems to be contrary to be grateful for when things didn’t go our way, the Bible instructs us to give thanks in all things.

One of the things that sets Christians apart from others is our faith. We can look like literal fools to the rest of the world. From an outside perspective, we may have every reason to believe that things will not work out. The odds may be against us. The decks may not be stacked in our favor. Failure, even death, may be knocking at our door. The pressure to quit might be higher than ever in times past. Yet we choose to believe. We choose to believe because that is exactly what it is, a choice.

We are called to press forward. Pressing is an action that takes effort to overcome the opposing forces that are at work against us. The greater the opposing force, the greater the strength that will be needed to overcome it. Despite how things appear and how we feel, we press on! Hidden just beneath our weakness is the strength of God, ready to enable us with the power to overcome.

God has promised us so many things. It’s up to each of us to search for what they are. It is on us to choose to believe Him in spite of dismal circumstances. The world is faced with the same challenges, as no group of people are exempt from the troubles of life.

However, others should watch us and stumble in thought as to why…

Why do these people get up when they should stay down? Why do they lift their weary heads high with hope? Why do they refuse to quit? What makes them get up time and time again?

If only we could show them, it is not what, but Who! It is the One in John 14:6 that declared to be the way, the truth and the life. It is the One who promised us an abundant life in John 10:10. It is in Christ that we live. We spend our Christian lives getting to know God through His Son Jesus and His Spirit that dwells in us.

So if you find your end to this year challenging, remember the old saying, carry on Christian solider. A soldier was likely referenced because it is a soldier’s duty to follow orders. A good soldier exhibits courage in the face of fear. They fight bravely through adversity. They rise to whatever challenge awaits them. When obstacles block them, they find a way over, a way around, or by God’s good grace, a way straight through. They look death in the face and say, not today.

I don’t know what came your way this year, how it came, or why. But I believe and trust in my God who is infinitely greater than the sum of all things that work against us. I choose to look unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, and acknowledge that God is not finished with your story. By the inner working of His Holy Spirit, I choose to believe that He who began a good work in you, shall complete it in the day of Christ Jesus.

To my fellow Christian Believers, keep the faith! Let’s show the world in this new year why we are different!

Happy New Year and may God bless you in the year to come!

See it, Do it

What’s your vision like these days? I don’t mean how small are the letters you can read. I mean, do you see things as they are or as they could be? Are you able to visualize something in your mind and turn it into a physical, tangible thing we can see, hear, smell, or touch?

If you can’t see it in your mind, you won’t see it with your eyes. Look around and see everything that surrounds you; it was once a vision in someone’s mind. They had to see it before the rest of us could see it. That’s how it works. Things do not just appear out of the blue. They come as a result of thought, and then equally important, action.

You vision will change over time. If not, perhaps you are not stretching yourself enough. When you were born, people made a big deal when you started walking. It was an accomplishment when you were finally able to walk without smashing your head on the coffee table. But by this stage in your life, you won’t get much applause for such a simple action. People expect more out of you. You’ve even come to expect more out of yourself. The more you stretch yourself, the more you will achieve over time. You will accomplish things you were once not able to see yourself doing. Keep growing and your vision will grow in proportion.

Your vision may not necessarily be shared by another. For this reason, communication can be hindered. It may be necessary for you to change the lenses with which you see things. See from the perspective of another person. When you do, it will help you understand them better. Then you can both work harmoniously to achieve better results for everyone.

The rest of the world awaits with eager anticipation for you to make your vision a reality. It’s easy to see things small because it takes little to no vision. We need people who are willing to see things beyond themselves, to reach beyond mediocrity. Along the way, be mindful of others. You don’t have to agree with them, but at least be respectful.

Stretch yourself, see it big, and do it!

Heart Troubles

People take human heart conditions seriously to avoid further complications in life, as they should. Emergency crews rush to a scene to assist. It’s really amazing to see them in action. Many endanger their own wellbeing in the process and have earned a place of respect in our hearts, spiritually speaking. But how do we treat matters of this spiritual heart? Are they treated with urgency or are they disregarded due to their seeming insignificance?

I believe what goes on in our spiritual hearts has a great effect on what we see in our lives. It doesn’t take long to notice someone with a troubled heart. A key indicator of what is in someone’s heart is revealed in their language. When you listen to them, what is coming out of their mouth? Not their vocabulary but the content of what is said. Are they positive words or negative? Bitter or sweet?

Many times we do not even realize what is in our own heart. Another helpful indicator can be found when reading the Bible, which serves as a helpful guide to show you what is inside your heart. The words inside will show things about you, but you must look for them. It’s a huge book after all! For instance, our ability to love others is a reflection of our own heart. If you have a great deal of hatred, we will know it because of the lack of love demonstrated toward others.

Spiritual heart problems may not affect you like a heart attack will, but they are still vitally important. Resolving them can lead to a more joyful life and make your relationships even more special. So if you need help in this area, call on Jesus! Whatever the condition of your spiritual heart is – broken, beaten, crushed…. He will give you a new one, He did for me and I wholeheartedly believe will do the same for you.

Memories, over stuff

An experience hit me hard when I helped my family downsize and move into a smaller home. A collection of belongings from three generations of family members had to be dealt with. There were all kinds of items, ones of value to just plain junk.

The process was a slow, tedious one that consisted of trials and warfare. Each person had their own distinct preferences when it came to things they kept. I did the math and calculated a 0.01% return on investment for 30 year supply of empty butter dishes, so I convinced them to let go.

It took four months but we finally managed to get rid of everything that we needed to. After the amount of time spent on this, the auctioneers fees and commission that we “saved” was questionable in the end. About a year later, another family member did use an auctioneer to sell their stuff. I was somewhat intrigued by the process and would definitely consider it seriously if I were to do something like this again.

But what hit me hardest was thinking about how much money was spent. Every item sold, donated, or thrown away all had a price tag in the beginning. Every dollar spent was time exchanged by working to earn that dollar. We work tirelessly to buy things which rarely keep their value. They satisfy us for only a short time before we are off to buy the next thing. Matthew 6 warns us about storing up treasures. Dust, bugs, and pesky vermin don’t care how precious your belongings are. They leave their filthy mess all over the place. Let me tell you, nothing adds value to your stuff like mice poop!

To this day it is still an internal struggle; what to keep and what to get rid of. Renting storage space to hold more stuff, all the while wondering what the point of all this stuff really is. But interestingly enough, I never go back and question all the experiences I’ve had. The places I went, the photographs taken, the laughs shared – all tremendous blessings that I’ve found immense value in. I do enjoy buying nice things, but I’ve come to appreciate the importance of creating memories far more. Memories last a lifetime while most things we buy quickly fade away.