“Knock, knock…”

change is constant (background music)

 

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” – George Bernard Shaw

Knock, knock…who’s there?  Noah.  Noah who?  Noah a good way to open the door?

Ok bad joke, but change is knockin’ and wants to come in and sometimes we sit behind the door hoping that change will just go away so that we don’t have to open it!

Change is inevitable, yet why is it that most, if not all of us, would rather have a root canal than be forced to change?  Perhaps you’re thinking, “but I’m spontaneous, I like change.”  Do you really?  If change is planned by someone other than yourself do you not feel powerless, forced into something, and maybe a little bit controlled?  The obvious answer is yes!  In this regard, when change is forced upon us, most if not all would dig in our heels, be dragged kicking and screaming through the threshold of change.   Yet is change in and of itself necessarily the villain here?  No, it’s not.   Change is just the conduit by which realities in our lives are modified, for better or worse.   If anything is at fault from time to time in healthy change it’s the attitude in which we receive this change.  Our attitudes can make or break decisions and positive directions if we continually have a negative outlook on things around us.

Have you ever been friends with a cynic or a pessimist who were always negative?  It’s not exactly a healthy relationship to always be dreary, somber and generally disagreeable.  No one wants to be around people like that all the time, because whatever glimmer of hope one might have of life can be sucked out of them by the downer attitude of a naysayers or pessimist.

So why do we dig in our heels when change occurs?  Could it be that our own sense of security and comfort is threatened?  Substantial positive change has that effect on a majority of us who live and breathe every day…ok maybe that’s too vague.  Let me put it another way.  Substantial positive change has that effect on all of us in some shape or form.  Are you getting the picture now?   We are all affected by change.  John Maxwell once said, “If we’re growing we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone”  Meaning, if we are continuing to modify our outcomes in life for the better, improving our lifestyle, habits, work ethic, then we are going to be uncomfortable, we are going to face challenges…but it is always worth it.

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Have you ever kept a journal?  A few years ago I opened one of our moving boxes and discovered a couple of old poetry journals that I had filled and written in ages ago.  At the time, I thought these poems were fantastic, or at least moderately good.  But when I re-read them again, I discovered that as a young adult or teenager, my poems were shallow, simplistic and fairly unoriginal…In it I discovered that I had grown, matured and my outlook on life has changed for the better.   It’s funny when we look back at periods of our lives and think about how we were.  People change.  We, you change!  This is a constant.  This is a truth we all discover as we age in this life.  Have you ever gone back to a school reunion and thought to yourself, wow everyone has changed?  You just witnessed this truth of change.

-Back to our heel digging decries of this villain known as change…

Helen Keller once said, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”  Change is like this, and so is our perception of our lives or our interpretation of our lives.  I can sure identify with this quote.  I’ve stared longingly at closed doors of happiness, wishing they would re-open and yet life is forcing me through other doors of possibility.  I have regretted some of those doors and my entry through them, and because in my displeasure and complaints I have failed to capture the blessings of those open and new opportunities.  I’ve been ashamed of my almost childish protests.  My “not gonna do it and you can’t force me to” proclamations to leaders above me and or even God himself.  I’m glad no one took pictures of me in those moments, my shame and my arrogance would have been evident and these improper responses, I know now, have been and still are beneath me as a person…as a follower of Christ. once said, “When one door of happiness closes, another 

 

Change is a part of life.  If we don’t walk through the doors of change, we will not grow into the people we were meant to be, and

the world will truly be lacking because of it.  So when change forces us through another door, may we all walk through it with an ounce of dignified grace instead of kicking and screaming…and who knows, maybe in the process of such moments we might be able to appreciate the beauty and majesty of it.

The bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists.
~Japanese Proverb

“Here I am, I stand at the door and knock, If anyone hears my voice 

and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” –Revelations 3:20

 

“Knock, knock…”

“On days like this…”

Well it’s really cold here today…although I can’t say its as cold as Alaska or as cold as places in the Arctic circle, but it’s still very cold outside. It’s the kind of day that one just wants to stay in doors for… seeking to pass the time in front of the tube, playing a board game or curled up with a good book in hand, and who knows if a nap comes calling maybe one might answer its gesture into counting forty winks. It’s just that kind of day.

Have you ever had the feeling that there’s too little hours in the day to do what you want to do? Perhaps, you might wonder, what this has to do with this cold day indoors? Well, Indoors on days like this you get to thinking about all of the things you want to do or have to do and from time to time it just feels… overwhelming. We might jot things down in a journal, make ‘todo’ lists, reorganize our shoe rack…I don’t know…maybe this is where cabin fever begins, and the guy in the ‘Shining’ should have found a hobby or made a list instead taking up killing…ok I digress again.

All this to say, its ok to be restless on days like this. Cold, stark wintry days…when the sun sets way too late as does the morning sunrise. It’s ok.

Alright, taking my own advice…deep breaths…shoe rack discombobulated…ready set organize. -Stay warm!

Before the birth of dawn

Late last night

Under covers – down,

joined by the purring

At my feet

Acting out something

I cannot remember now

From fluttering eyelids and

Speech that sounds like snoring…

I swear I don’t snore 😉 .

Perhaps as the blood red

Alarm clock glowed,

And as ticks, sighs,

groans of our

Restless house

Wound itself into

The arms of early

morning.  The clouds

In the birthing

Room of another

Brood of sunrise

Yet just before

The final ‘push’,

The last cry of

Nightfall’s curtain

Descends…thousands

Of miles away bursting

Through the Rockies

Days before its

Winter’s lips

Kissed frosted earth

Bending spruce and ferns

Into a deep embrace

Only to pick up again

Skirting the Black hills

And Lincoln’s chin

Rushing on down

towards the mighty

Mississippi, as ice bergs

Smaller than those that

took down the titanic

Weave their way into

The heart’s arteries of

America.

As it touches down once

again, the mighty river

ebbs to the beckoning call…

back in our home

still sorting out visions

with eyes clasp shut

It rushes down onto our

our creaking home…

Its winter’s clutch

testing storm windows

pushing at the screen door

somewhere deep inside

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Dorothy Gale tries to click her

heels, as Toto barks on…

it happens quickly,

yet Oz doesn’t come into

view,

the birthing room announces

another fire branded day

is here…both Lincoln’s chin

and the mighty Mississippi

breathes collective sighs of relief

as the cries of a new born day

begins.

Worship Music and Road Rage

Ok, it’s confession time.  You know, that moment when you spill the proverbial beans, you spill your guts, the whole truth shall set you free…so here goes…

ImageIt happened yesterday.  It was just another normal day of getting my two oldest boys off to school, and getting there on time.  For me being on time is important, it’s a pet peeve of mine to be late for anything…yet somehow the rest of my family seems to think we can show up whenever we get there, which is not cool for school!

After about five minutes of looking for one of my son’s shoes, which must have been a part of Harry Houdini’s magic act, because I have found his shoes in the oddest places including outside and behind the toilet (I am not kidding).  Finally we get into the minivan, I’m a little flustered, we’re a few minutes late now and the van is stone cold because we spent so much time looking for shoes that I neglected to start the van early enough to get it warmed up.  I guess you could say it was my time to chill…literally.  We get our seat belts buckled, and off we go to school.  I take a few deep breaths to exhale the stress from my lungs and turn on the radio.  It’s still set to my mp3 player, and so praise music begins to play in the van.  I am finally finding my groove with now tepid coffee in hand, and soothing worship music playing in the background.  At this point I am starting to feel the music, and I begin to sing along…oh don’t judge me, I bet you sing in the van too.

As I’m singing along to a song called “Love came down” I glance in my rearview mirror and notice a car is aggressively riding my rear bumper.  I’m doing the speed limit…I’m not a slow driver.  I’m still trying to sing this great worship song but I’m being distracted by the driver in the car behind me.  It’s starting to stress me out again.  Finally we come to one of those round-abouts that the city recently put in, and I expect him to slow down…instead he speeds up, and swerves into the next lane, then he darts ahead of me and proceeds to cut me off as he turns into my lane ahead of me… “Love came down” is still playing in the background…although I’m not feeling like I want to place any love down on this guy who I feel has just wronged me.  In fact, I feel like speeding up, honking my horn, and if possible pass him up just like he did to me.

Love came down to rescue me, love came down to set me free…”

Then these words hit me in the face, as I’m flustered, angry, and I’ve yelled at the guy as he cut me off…somehow I don’t feel so “set free” at the moment…I’m bound by this anger inside of me at this act that I understand to be injustice and inconsideration by some idiot in a car.

At the same moment that the lyrics of this song that I had just been singing hit me, I look over at my boys.  It’s a double slap in the face.  What am I teaching my children in this instance?  Am I teaching them that you can sing about being set free by the love of God and at the same time curse man because of their ignorance and failure to yield to the rules of the road?

Love came down to rescue me, love came down and set me free…and I am Yours, I’m forever Yours.”  At that moment I didn’t feel like HIS…I felt guilty of being MINE.  I felt guilty of being selfish and I was teaching my children how to be angry and selfish too.  Was this the kind of legacy I was leaving for my kids?  Did I want my boys to be angry at drivers, angry at the world and stressed out over something so temporary and silly?  Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.” I know this to be absolutely true…because in that moment of road rage, I lost my happiness and I lost a little bit of integrity that I had with my kids in that van.

I was convicted while singing a praise song, and instead of displaying that love that came down for me, I was displaying the wrath of my sinful state…my old self.

Okay, confession time is over.  They say it’s good for the soul, but you know what’s better for the soul?  Avoiding those trappings that lead us to confession in the first place.  It’s much, much harder to do, but in the long run we would all be better off.  This is a truth that I’ve learned, road rage and worship music make for very awkward road companions, let alone improper parental examples of godly living.

I guess what I’m trying to say is summed up in Ephesians 4:29; “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”   I was singing one tune and letting sin lead me astray back into my old sinful ways…and my kids were in the van.  I wasn’t building anyone up in that moment; I was letting my tongue destroy.

We can’t possibly do both at the same time as children of God.  We either let love come down and be a part of who we are igniting others with this joy, love and hope; or we let sin in and we treat others through selfish intentions and shameful acts.  Perhaps you’ve also been there a time or two…it’s a slap in the face, conviction follows and we need to confess and modify that behavior if we are to truly live as children of God bringing that love and freedom into this world.

Take it from a guy who sang a song of praise while my actions were singing a song of wrath…it’s time to change.

-Just a thought.

“At the Cancer Clinic” by Ted Kooser

She is being helped toward the open door

that leads to the examining rooms

by two young women I take to be her sisters.

Each bends to the weight of an arm

and steps with the straight, tough bearing

of courage.  At what must seem to be

a great distance, a nurse holds the door,

smiling and calling encouragement.

How patient she is in the crisp white sails

of her clothes.  The sick woman

peers from under her funny knit cap

to watch each foot swing scuffing forward 

and take its turn under her weight.

There is no restlessness or impatience

or anger anywhere in sight.  Grace

fills the clean mold of this moment

and all the shuffling magazines grow still.  

Winter Doldrums

IceThe sound of the snow

crunching under my feet

the frozen toes and

this loss of heat

has me shaking in my car

and dreams of traveling afar

far away from here.

I can not contain this

migrant heart

when winds of change

begin to start

and here on

an indistinct day

when storms blow in

and make me say

“I’m far too long

on winter’s day.”

A ray of light

on silver thread

finding some joy

when joy is dead

my hand outstretched

and open wide

Lord help me brave

this wintry tide.

Inside the cabin
Curtains drawn
in windows of white
Reflecting the
Large flakes of snow
falling
Silently
Piling up
in its window frames
Frosting the sill.
While still
Outside on the edge
Of Indian lake
Ice has formed
miles down the road
A bell tolls
calling for its
Lost souls
Somewhere out across
The little bay
Dark and foreboding
A dog barks
Forlorn, seemingly alone…
Snow crunches
Under these cold feet
I Yearn to go
Back inside
As the invitation
Of warmth calls to me
From the tangerine
lighted windows.
This is winter
Placing its
Frosted lips
Giving tepid kisses
On faces and heart
Shivering to the bone.

Traveling on Christmas

The after Christmas drive is always an event strewn with crabby motorists, crappy greasy spoons only open because no other place is available and they’re looking to make a quick buck on the naïve and the desperate. Somewhere down the road an eagle soars, free, uninhibited by the holiday traffic…focused instead on a helpless meal grazing in the snow fallen fields below.

Rushing onward on this two lane road at 55 miles an hour, cooped up like caged lab rats who cant get along, while the cage smells of old coffee, fastfood and dirty feet. Some where along the many snow covered miles a singer on the radio sang about being ‘home for the holidays’ and perhaps “home” at this point in the journey is a welcome sign advertising clean bathrooms and fresh coffee, because at the moment this yule tide trek seems to never end. If I hear the phrase “are we almost there” one more time, it will be too soon as we count the endless line of naked trees along the silent snowmobile tracked shoulder of the highway.

Another round of ‘eye spy’? I don’t think so…but as these legs ache to touch carpet not supported by four rotating wheels, we watch endless small villages pass in the rear view mirrors with little hint of life, but for the slight wisps of smoke emanating from chimneys in dimly lit homes along this path. But for a brief moment one could imagine living there, hunkered in for the Christmas holiday. The glow of the television flickers as we pass, a gas station on the corner, with attendants at lonely cash registers stares out and sees us as we pass. This is Christmas…from the road…watching it come and go like the train on the tracks…on and on.

Have a safe trip where ever you may find yourself today.

No Regrets!

;

2 Timothy 1:11-12 (MSG)
This is the Message I’ve been set apart to proclaim as preacher, emissary, and teacher.
It’s also the cause of all this trouble I’m in. But I have no regrets. I couldn’t be more sure of my ground—the One I’ve trusted in can take care of what he’s trusted me to do right to the end.”

I find it fascinating and invigorating to think of the Apostle Paul living out his convictions even in the midst of certain and eventual death. Paul wasn’t a waffler, he wasn’t some guy who couldn’t make up his mind, in fact faith and conviction led him to proclaim the message of Christ and His kingdom even when it would cost him his life. That’s conviction.

A few years ago the “No Fear” labels appeared and were very popular in our culture. Why? Because it evoked this brazened mentality that no matter what took place in life, the one wearing the “no fear” label would approach life’s problems without fear. That too is conviction that doesn’t waffle or change. I’m reminded of Tom Petty’s song “I won’t back down” where it states this; “I won’t back down, no I won’t back down, you can stand me up at the gates of hell but I won’t back down.”

Living a life without regret isn’t easy, in fact it is the hardest thing to accomplish. The tides of life sometimes cause us to doubt, circumstances beyond our control sometimes challenges us to quit, and living without regret, at times, seems impossible. But I want to encourage you that living a life without regret is possible. Paul did it, and so can you. But here’s how we are even able to think about living this regret free life: Zechariah 4:6 says;
…” ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.” Now this verse comes from a different time, and different circumstances sure, but what it says to me and I hope what it says to you is that God and His power can overcome anything in this world!

Our convictions and hope should be rooted in the one who created everything around us! Jesus even said in John 15:5;I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Did you catch that? Apart from Him, we’re a lost cause. Living a life without regrets, begins with where our convictions are rooted in. If they are rooted in our own self confidence, something or someone will eventually come along and uprooted them and we will be greatly disappointed. If our convictions are rooted in other people, chances are those other people will eventually let us down or our expectations will not always be met. If our convictions are rooted in anything but the relationship and love that God has for us first and foremost then we will eventually experience regret in this life. Living a life without regret, like Paul lived begins in our convictions.

What are your convictions today? Are you living a life without regret?

If not, perhaps re-evaluate where and in whom you place your trust and convictions. We too, like Paul can bold state: “But I have no regrets. I couldn’t be more sure of my ground—the One I’ve trusted in can take care of what he’s trusted me to do right to the end.

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In memory – Sandy hook Elementary

As I heard the news my heart fell down

Such sadness filled my soul

How hatred and sin can hurt a town

While darkness takes control

As I heard the story unfold today

I cried to think of such loss

Of children gathered in Jesus’ arms

And the pain and sorrow it cost.

As I heard I wept for all the Moms and Dads

Who, with gifts under the tree for a child

Who have entered into heaven’s gates

And saw Jesus’ face and loving smile

It made me hold my children tighter

As I treasure their embrace

My prayers go out to those parent’s lives

For there are tears today on Jesus’ face.

Such sin and shame is brought to mind

Such sorrow breaks our light

As I heard the news my heart fell down

The dawn comes after the night.

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