A Father’s Day Reflection

“‘Father’ is the noblest title a man can be given.  It is more than a biological role.  It signifies a patriarch, a leader, an exemplar, a confidant, a teacher, a hero, a friend.”  Robert L. Backman

I’m already looking forward to Father’s Day tomorrow.  My alarm is set for 4:15 a.m. and the very first thing I get to do is get on “What’s App” at 5 a.m. and through a pastor and friend, meet 82 orphans in Pakistan that we’ve had the privilege of helping to support.  As I think about this, I think about how even though they have no earthly parents, their Heavenly Father loves them deeply and provides for their needs.  I can’t wait to meet them!

Afterwards, I’ll head out for an early morning run and talk to God for a bit.  Then I head to church and get to share an encouraging word with the dads there.  Not a bad way to start the day! #pumped

As I think about Father’s Day and what it means to me, I’d like to encourage you and maybe put a new twist on it.  Instead of expecting our wives and kids to wait on us, I’d challenge you to do something different in the spirit of Ephesians 5:25….

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her….”

Instead of just lounging around waiting for breakfast in bed, give some thought to how you can express your gratitude for and to your wife.  After all, if it wasn’t for her you wouldn’t have your kids, right?  Consider getting up early to go out and grab some flowers and/or a card for her and have them waiting on the kitchen table when she gets up.  Let her know how much you appreciate all she does for you, which in turn allows you to be a solid Dad for your kids.  Make sure and let your kiddos know what a tremendous blessing they are to you.  If you’re more of a stoic type in this regard, man up and verbalize it today.  They’ll never forget those words and it will bear fruit in their lives as they continue down their own path.

I believe that the role of a father holds much more weight than our modern culture will give us credit for.  If you really think about it, you’re playing a vital role in raising a lineage of sons and daughters that come after your own kids.  Your words and more importantly, your actions and example, will shape lives for generations.  Whether you’re encouraging, supportive, sacrificial, loving and strong or rageful, neglectful, self serving, disrespectful and bitter….these are the seeds you are planting in the hearts of your sons and daughters and their sons and daughters and so on down the road.  Your leadership in your household is a high calling and God treats it as such….

“If anyone causes one of these little ones-those who believe in me- to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”  Matthew 18:6

God doesn’t mince words.

Take some time to reflect on your walk as a father and look at everything….and I mean everything  Pay particular attention to potential “generational curses/spirits” that come through various addictions, marital unfaithfulness, a compulsion towards pornography, etc.  If you’re caught up in this, ask God to forgive you and heal you.  Pray against this type of mindset/behavior and that it would stop with your generation.  Pray for future generations of your family to be free of that spiritual bondage.  This is part of your role as the God appointed leader of your home.  Don’t shrink away from this responsibility or make light of it.  Men, you will give an account to God so take it seriously.

As I write this I have the movie “300” playing in the background.  One of my favorite “dude” flicks of all time.  While Leonidas is definitely my hero in the film, the other is absolutely Queen Gorgo!  With that being said, I’d also like to address the ladies that might be reading this.  You also play a tremendously important role in all of this.  For your husband to reach his full potential as a father, husband and man, your strength, encouragement, love and support are his lifeblood.  In the film, before Leonidas and his band of Spartans push-kick the Persian messengers down the well, he looks to his queen for her approval.  With a simple nod showing that she is in agreement, he attacks and down they go…. While you wouldn’t want your kids in the room during their love scene, it’s a powerful example of how she embraces his role, builds him up and validates him.  Ladies, speak strength to your husband.  Pray for him.  Let him know that you’re trusting him to lead and guide the family and don’t neglect the connection he needs with you physically.   You play such a critical part and I can’t emphasize that enough.  We men are easily built up or broken down by our wives.

Dads, grandads, uncles and mentors….may your day be blessed in unexpected ways and may your relationship with your Heavenly Father continue to grow.  Cherish and embrace the blessing of your family with great joy and enjoy this season of life….it won’t last forever.

“What we do in life, echoes in eternity.” Marcus Decimus Meridius

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”  Frederick Douglas

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Rise Above

“My strength will be refreshed within me, and my bow will be renewed in my hand.”  Job 29:20

People will let us down.  Family, friends, colleagues, bosses, pastors.  Give someone enough time and it will happen.  Misunderstandings arise around what is said and sometimes just as importantly, what is left unsaid.  Expectations are not met in a manner that we thought they would be.  Gossip rages throughout churches and youth sports leagues that our kids are just trying to enjoy.  Compassion gives way to cynicism.  Hard hearts often prevail in others….as well as ourselves….we fall on our faces before the cross seeking forgiveness, yet how often do we withhold that same forgiveness from others because well,”they just don’t deserve it”?

I believe it was Ice Cube who once waxed poetic, “So come on and chickity check yo self before you wreck yo self….”

How do we respond when faced with this type of situation in our lives?  When we call a friend multiple times and the phone call is never returned?  When someone near to us all of a sudden begins to avoid us?  When we sense the whispers behind our backs?  I’ll tell you how….

We give it to God and trust Him to handle it for us.

Hurt people hurt people.  So our angle in any situation should first and foremost be compassion.  We don’t need to pretend that we’re not hurt.  In fact, I never want you to invalidate how you feel, even and especially in your own mind.  Keep that “self talk” real.  However, what we do let go of immediately is any grudge we may want to carry, before it has a chance to take root.  Pause and remind yourself of all of the grace that you continue to need in your own life and live through that lens….not the “self-righteous” perspective that the devil will want to sell us, especially in those moments.  Be quick to forgive.  We need to turn our gaze upward toward Heaven and ask God to forgive those that have wronged us.  If we happen to ask Him for a rebuke in someone’s life, it should always be from a root of compassion and with the end goal to be constructive in their own heart and life.    This doesn’t mean you have to be their BFF, but it does mean that the compassion of Christ takes over.  If you’re not there yet?  Get there.  Ask God to help you get there.  I can’t emphasize enough that forgiveness is absolutely HUGE to God.  So much so that he says, if you don’t forgive others, you won’t be forgiven…. (see Matthew 6:15).  How serious is that!  Will you allow bitterness and unforgiveness to keep you outside the gates of Heaven?  Here’s a question for you….Is an unforgiving heart in us actually just evidence of our own potentially unredeemed soul?  After all, the Bible clearly states that “you’ll know a tree by it’s fruit”. (see Matthew 7:16-20)  So, ‘let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven’. (Matthew 5:16)

Even from a clinical distance (a term that I throw around quite a bit), we can and should operate from a place of compassion.  This is how we rise above bitterness, thoughts of “getting even” and our own potential hard heartedness.  We strive instead to keep our hearts soft and malleable in God’s hands….within healthy boundaries that we set for ourselves, in each unique situation.  Have a battle plan in place and follow it when these opportunities come up.  If you and a friend find yourselves at a perceived impasse, you be the first to extend the olive branch.  Leave the door open for a healthy conversation (healthy is the key word here).  You be the bigger man and take the high road.  Even if you perceive yourself walking it alone, God will be alongside you reminding you, “this is the way, walk in it.” (see Isaiah 30:21).

Stay in tune with your mindset and align it with Jesus.  When it’s a struggle, simply ask Him to help you.  He is faithful and will honor that prayer.  These are the moments in our “spiritual workouts” that we need to dig deep and embrace the grind!  These are those moments!  Keep moving forward in love.  Our world might tell us otherwise but don’t become trapped with the masses who take the easy road of cynicism and bitterness.  Don’t drink that poison, friends.  Love one another as He has loved you.  Practice this…day in and day out….repetition, repetition, repetition.  Do this and you will soon find that you are “more than conquerors, through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)

Continue to push forward and fight the GOOD fight!  Until next time….

Uncivilized

“The worst thing that happened to you, that can happen to any fighter:  you got civilized.”  Mickey (Rocky 3)

“Radical!”  Growing up in the 1980’s, this was the goal.  To shake up and be one step ahead of the status quo (whatever it happened to be that week).  To be and do “rad” things was the end goal of….well, pretty much everything.  Like most tweens/teenagers, we were looking for our own way.  We saw our ideas as unique.  We embraced the wild side of Motley Crue and Public Enemy tunes.  Even as white kid I looked up to MLK, Jr. and at times, Malcolm X.  Whoever the authority figure was, we wanted to go the opposite direction and do it with attitude.  We wouldn’t be stopped.

Fast forward a few decades.  Nowadays “radical” is often a word used to describe terrorists or those you would never want to be associated with.  Pop culture has a manufactured and artificial sense to it.  We’re not getting young songwriters and poets coming up on their own and “making it”.  Instead we have talking heads placed in front of us to program the general population towards an agenda.  Major news networks are often so brazen in this delivery, it is more than obvious to anyone who has any sense of discernment.

“On the road today, I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac….” Don Henley

As we grow through our teenage years and into our 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and beyond, what happens to most of us?  I’ll tell you what happens.  We become civilized.  Instead of pushing and grinding towards the goals and passions that extend outside of ourselves, we get really, really comfortable.  Our sharp edges round out.  All those years of marketing take root under the illusion of “that” will bring satisfaction….and entwine us like serpents.  Our pursuits become purely self serving.  We embrace “safe” religion and comfortable “popular” churches with all of the amenities, where “everyone goes.”  We want to hear that Jesus loves us but want to ignore the fact that in that love, God wants to break us down and build us back into the long-suffering image of Jesus Himself, holy in all that He does.  When there are troubled kids (or adults) in the church, we might not outwardly shun them but we steer clear of acknowledging their presence.  “Those kids” aren’t good for our kids so we think that “they” shouldn’t be around our precious babies (sarcasm: on).   I believe that it’s this exact attitude and hypocrisy, more than anything else, turns people away from the church’s doors before they ever set foot inside.

This may be a surprise for some….Jesus was a radical.  I don’t mean he was left leaning or right leaning politically.  His message was filled with radical often times furious love for humanity.  Jesus was a fierce warrior and He battled with the devil himself (read about His temptations in the desert or during His passion).  John the Baptist was an outcast and a radical.  The apostle Paul was a radical.  The prophets that foretold His coming….all radicals.  If someone is looking for a safe, water colored religion….true Christ following, Christ emulating, Christianity would never fit that bill.  If you find yourself in a church like that…where it’s more self-help than Jesus….you need to find another church.  If you’re willing to offer prayers but not your resources (time, treasure and talents), you my friend, are missing the boat.  Now to be fair, I am writing this blog in a moment when frankly, I’m pretty disappointed with humanity.  It happens, right?  People let us down.  Let me explain….

I had almost 2,000 hits and 250+ post engagements on a petition to help a family in desperate need of financial help.  People offered prayers (which is important) but out of all of those post interactions….I can count on one hand, those that stepped out to do anything of any practical significance.  So many had the opportunity to be an answer to the very prayer they were praying…and didn’t follow through.  There are plenty of big talkers out there but where were they?  Maybe they were too busy arguing their theological points of why Calvinism is superior to Arminianism….  Soft, fatty, fast food faith….dead faith.  I’m calling out all of us that claim to be Christ followers!  If we’re not going to shine in those situations…if we are going to be passive, sit on the fence and wait for someone else to do it…what kind of disciples are we?  We need to repent.  We have become civilized in the worst possible way.  We should sit on the ground, throw dirt over our heads and tear our garments like Jewish leaders would do when they recognized how they had missed what God had set before them!

Jesus was radical in His love and compassion.  If we follow Him, it’s not an option, we follow His example.  We NEED to be and do the same.  When we see a need we don’t just offer our stinkin’ “thoughts and prayers” in a social media post.  We ACT in faith!  We LOVE in faith!  We RESPOND in faith!  If we sacrificially give in a time of need, won’t God provide for us?  Your answer to this question is a direct reflection on how big you think your God is.

“Blessed is he who considers the poor; The Lord will deliver him in time of trouble.”  Psalm 41:1 

“If there is among you a poor man of you brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs.  You shall surely give to him, and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the Lord your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand.”  Portions of Deuteronomy 15

Strip away your “civilized” religion and once again embrace the “radical” part  of your faith….

“But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.”  Revelation 2:4

Wake up, believers.  This is your call to step up.

The Impact of a Grateful Heart

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”  Colossians 3:17

If I asked my readers by a show of hands, “How many of you are feeling beaten down, depressed and discouraged?”  I would be willing to bet that a vast majority would raise their hands.

This world can be a tough place, right?  Master marketers (or what I refer to as “cultural engineers”) sell us this illusion of how we could be truly living if we just had this or that.  Just like the carrot on the stick, we can see what we “need” but that elusive contentment is always just out of reach.  “If I just had a spouse….if I just had a different house….a different car….a dog….kids….job….”  The list noting the roots of our discontent can be a long one….

Today is my birthday.  Always a good day to take stock.  I tend to look at “macro” goals and dreams on my birthday.  The big picture.  Where are we heading?  How am I leading my family?  Am I allowing Jesus and His Spirit to make me more like Him and the person He needs me to be in this world?

As I sit here at Black Rock Coffee in Medford, Oregon reading all of the texts, emails, Facebook posts and listening to the voice mail messages, I find myself extremely grateful and content.  Some of the messages brought tears to my eyes (but don’t tell anyone….) as those close to me, reflect what they see in me with voices of affirmation.  I pause and think, maybe I’m on the right track here….and there is great satisfaction in that.

I am so grateful for the blessing of these relationships, coming from all aspects of my life.  Family, friends, fitness, ministry, music, travel, church, work…. This is my circle.  These are the people God has put in my path, to share chapters of life’s journey with and I am grateful for each soul.  Somehow God takes a flawed, broken and imperfect “ragamuffin” (to borrow a term from one of my favorite writers, Brennan Manning) like me and then uses me to encourage others and hopefully reflect His light and love to those around me.  What an honor!  If I pause long enough to really think about it, I’m actually floored….and it fills my heart with joy.  Over the course of this journey, I’ve had to learn to let go of a lot of what I thought was important in order to pursue what He has for me.  Call it “spiritual minimalism” in a way.  There is freedom in that…. in not “trying” so hard.  Goal oriented?  Yes, absolutely!  But the fruit of those goals being different than what the world is selling.  Pursuing contentment in God, His provision and often the simplicity of His blessings,… but we still need to take the time to see and take them in.  If we rush or are blinded by “busyness”, we’ll miss them.

To those that have blessed me by their words, laughter and presence, thank you so much!  YOU are a gift and for each of you, I am truly grateful.

As we all move forward, let’s continue to recognize and count our blessings.  Let’s encourage others, wherever they are.  Don’t be afraid to come alongside and ask others the tough questions, if that helps them get over the hump.  Keep pointing people towards Christ, the only One that lasting freedom and joy can be found in.  And pray.  Pray for yourselves, your family and the others God puts on your heart.  Lift them up, even when they don’t know you’re doing it!  Pray that the purpose of the enemy in their lives would be crushed and that God would break through the shadows that can easily blur our perspective.  Every day there is a war raging around us for the souls of humankind.  I believe that in the fight, one of the things the enemy can’t stand is the power of a grateful heart.  Move forward in that truth!

God bless, my friends.  Carpe diem!

Shifting Sands (A Holy Week Reflection)

“Jesus replied, ‘You don’t understand now what I am doing but someday you will.'”  John 13:7

A few days ago (Palm Sunday), we were reminded of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  The adoring throngs of men, women and children laying their cloaks and palm branches before the donkey that carried Him into the capital city.  Cries of praise and hope echoed throughout the region.  All the while they shouted, “Hosanna (a word that translates as an appeal to God for deliverance) to the Son of David!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!” (see Matthew, chapter 21).  Four nights later, Jesus is betrayed by one of His own, arrested and set up by a multitude of false witnesses.  What followed in less than 24 hours was humiliation, unspeakable torture and ultimately, His last breath on a wooden cross.

I think we have to ask ourselves….what changed in those few days?

So here we sit….

The midweek point of Holy Week and I can’t help but reflect upon what must have been going on in Jerusalem about two thousand years ago.  Jesus had been in the city a few days now.  Many of the people had welcomed Him as their Messiah….but not from their sins….instead they had hoped He would help overthrow the oppressive power of the Roman authorities. Looking back through the dusty pages of history, we can see how limited and shortsighted their expectations were. God had something much bigger in mind.

They had seen, or at the very least heard the news about Jesus healing the leper and the paralyzed man and how He had raised His dear friend Lazarus from the grave.  Surely He had the power to decimate the Romans with fire from Heaven itself…and they were ready!  So what happened with this particular expectation that they had placed on Jesus?  Nothing.  A few days later and there had been no overthrow.  They had not been “healed” of the disease they saw as the Roman government.  Unmet expectations….and rather than trust God, what do they do?  They turn on Him.  In their pride, they believe that they know better.

Before we judge them, I think that we need to take a look in the mirror for a minute.  How do we treat God after He responds to our heartfelt prayers in ways that are different from our expectations?  The job ends.  The cancer does not disappear.  The spouse leaves.  What do we do?

Just this week a friend sent me a text message asking for prayer for her friend.  She had just lost her fiance in a tragic accident (they were to be married in about six weeks).  He had gotten out of her car to walk home and somewhere between the car and his home, he was struck and killed by another vehicle….

Even as I write this I have to pause at the sheer, gut wrenching devastation of something like this.  She’s angry and bitter at God….and I understand.  There are no answers on this side of Heaven for what has happened.  Figuratively speaking, she is at the midpoint of her own “Holy Week” in the sense that her expectations and her reality are vastly different….and in this darkness the attacks of the enemy are relentless.  In a nutshell they amount to this….  “Curse God and die”, those spirits quietly cackle in her ear.  Seeds of rage and bitterness can easily take root in this soil.

As I continued texting my friend, my prayer for this poor woman is that she would ultimately fall back on God’s love for her, His good character and ultimately be reminded of the reality that no matter the terrible things that can happen to us in this sometimes brutal world….This. Is. Not. The. End. Of. The. Story.

We have a living Hope that is beyond the brokenness.  Beyond the darkness.  Beyond any and all of the tragic events (this is not meant to minimize any particular terrible event….they are absolutely crushing, so let me make sure and validate that right now).  Our Hope has a name.  His name is Jesus and He is the Messiah (on a personal level we have to allow Him to be just that in each of our lives).  This is the hope of the Gospel….of Easter.

Betrayal.  Torture.  Death.  But afterwards…..the stone of the tomb is rolled away!  Resurrection, a living Hope and a Helper that indwells us (see John 16:7).  The head of the serpent has been crushed and when we are in the midst of the shifting sands of unmet expectations, these are the realities that we need to reflect on and consciously, purposefully remind ourselves of.  If we see the “Holy Week” story all the way through, we can see how Jesus actually surpasses the expectations of those at Jersusalem’s gates all of those centuries ago.  Not to mention, He does so in ways that are often very different from how we might have first imagined.  This is the great love of God.

“Even when I hear nothing.  I rest in knowing that He hears me.”

“I am with you always.  Until the very end of time.” -Jesus

Walk in the light of this truth, my friend.  Happy Easter.

A Stirring

“You’re a quiet guy but there is a lot in there.”

I was recently visiting some of my old stomping grounds down in West Hollywood, California.  Back in the day during my brief stint in music school when I was nineteen (and intermittently throughout the years), I used to go the rock clubs on the Sunset Strip.  The Whiskey, The Roxy, Gazzari’s….On this particular night, I was hanging out at the famous “Rainbow Bar and Grill” with an old friend from grade school that I hadn’t seen in a number of years, who also happens to live a few blocks away from their front door.

It was fun and energizing to be back in the area.  With all of the same sights, smells and music playing in the background, it’s so easy to flashback to past moments in time.  As I sat there at the bar, enjoying a fresh IPA, I began to think back on who I used to be.  I’m not embarrassed to say that it’s now so easy to see how lost I was in so many ways.  I had a spiritual foundation but my “anchor” was never holding me in one place, as I bounced around spiritually from one place to the next (which I know is not uncommon for someone in their late teens/early 20’s).  In the midst of the conversations with my buddy that night, I would sometimes see my “old self” in my mind’s eye (almost like an outer body experience in a sense), sitting in that same place but 20+ years earlier.  I could see my past intentions and my priorities clearly.  How I talked, how I thought about others, about myself, about perceived social status….all have changed so much.  So much in fact, that if I could sit down with the young, long haired rocker version of myself, I would give him a hug, tell him that I love him and give him a good talking to…both about what to do and what not to do.  I actually feel a lot of compassion for my younger self.  I guess it would be the same compassion I would feel for anyone that I could tell was broken inside (whether they know it or not).  We’re all broken after all. Thank God for His redeeming grace.

For much of the night, I continued to have parallel conversations.  One with my friend, one with God.  In the midst of this back and forth flow, the following verse flashed through my mind….

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.  The old life is gone; a new life has begun.”  2 Corinthians 5:17

God’s reminder was like someone turning on the light in a dark room.  <click!>

Look how far I’ve taken you…and I’m not done with you yet.

As I felt that initial surge of encouragement, my friend turned to me and said the words at the top of this page….”You’re a quiet guy but there is a lot in there.”  I would say that is definitely an interesting comment to come out of the blue….and even more interesting when coupled with the timing.

God was once again getting my attention.

I was caught up in this….“there is a lot in there.”  He was right.  There is a lot in here.  There is a lot in all of us.

God continued the process….there is a lot “in there” that people need to hear.  Not stemming from my own ego as much as I believe what God wants to speak through each of His kids….coming from our own unique hearts, heartaches, victories and circumstances.  Our brokenness can speak BUT our redeemed brokenness can speak even more clearly….and bring healing in both ourselves and in others, as those thoughts that are spoken (or sung, or written) will connect with and in the lives of those that hear us.   I believe that this, in turn, encourages our “hearers” to become speakers (in time) and to do the same in the lives of others.

“You are the light of the world.  A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.” -Jesus speaking to His followers in Matthew 5:14

So find your voice.  Believe what you have to say is valuable, because it is.  Your life is your story and stories are meant to be shared and learned from (if you’re a verbal processor like I am, you may be surprised by how just much you may learn).

And this, my friend, is how the light spreads.

“Come and see what God has done….”  Psalm 66:5(a)

God bless.

Evaluating Life, Among The Dead

“What we do in life, echoes in eternity.”  Russell Crowe (Gladiator)

If you’ve ever been interested in psychology then you’re probably familiar with the “Myers Briggs Personality Types.”  I’ve always tested as an INFJ, which has the illustrious distinction of being 0.5% of all males on the face of the earth….I’ll let you decide if that is a good thing or not.  😀  INFJ’s are known as the most social of the introverts.  We love our time with those close to us and diving headfirst into the deep waters of conversation.  However as with all introverts, while being social can be a great time, it is also tiring and we need to take time to retreat to “lonely places” in order to refill our tanks and re-charge before heading out again.

“Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and be healed of their sicknesses.  But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”  Luke 5:15 & 16

Once I reached the age when my mom would allow me to take off on my bike around the area I grew up in, one of the places I would escape to was the local cemetery.  Before you think “How morbid,” it really wasn’t at all in my mind.  I think that what drew me to that particular place was a combination of my affinity for B movies involving zombies and vampires along with the fact that it was one of the most tranquil places that I could find.

I can remember looking around at the various plots, thinking about how each one of those tombstones and grave markers was a representation of what was once a living and breathing life.  I would reflect on what type of person they might have been and I assumed that if a family was grouped together, they must have really loved each other while they were alive.  For that reason, I would usually choose to sit in the midst of a family, as if remnants of that love would still be hanging in the air around me.  I would sometimes observe the oldest grave in the family plot and imagine the grieving individuals standing where I was, remembering their loved one.  Would they visit daily or weekly?  I couldn’t help but wonder if at those moments, might they have processed their own mortality and made the connection that one day they would be laid to rest in the exact same place?

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  Psalm 90:12

I still visit cemeteries from time to time and I still appreciate the perspective that it gives me.  I recognize that if I live the average life span, I already have more years behind me than ahead of me.  This thought isn’t depressing to me.  I’m grateful and hopeful!  As long as I draw breath, I have purpose here.  You see, the most important mark on any tombstone is that dash between the year you were born and the year you transition into eternity.  That simple dash represents your life and everything you do with it.

“What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”  James 4:14 (b)

How are you stewarding the life God has blessed you with?  How are you investing your time, treasure and talents?  Are you spending your days worrying, being critical towards yourself and others and following the crowd?  Or are you setting yourself above the fray, in order to pour into the lives of others and reflect the Hope that is in you (through Christ’s work in your life)?  We may not think about this much but as a Christ follower we are all missionaries wherever God has placed us.  In His sovereign wisdom, He has put us in this specific place, in this specific time in His story to be a part of His work in the world.  The circle of influence we have along with the relationships that surround us in our day to day lives….this is our mission field.  This is our calling.

I am reminded of the scene at the end of “Saving Private Ryan”:

The aged James Ryan (addressing Captain Miller’s grave):  “My family is with me today.  They wanted to come with me.  To be honest with you, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel coming back here.  Every day I think about what you said to me that day on the bridge.  I tried to live my life the best that I could.  I hope that was enough.  I hope that, at least in your eyes, I’ve earned what you have done for me….”

Take stock of your days.  Even if you’re young (in the world’s definition of the word), your days are fleeting.  Make them count.  Do good for the sake of doing good.  Be kind.  Stay humble.  Practice thankfulness.  Glorify God with how you live your life.  Talk to Jesus.  Give more than you take and if you’re blessed with much, give much!  Not just with your finances but with your time and with your love.  Check your heart, your motivation and intentions.  Don’t just do it for the tax write off.    SHINE….as you were meant and designed to do.

“He has shown you, o mortal, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  Mich 6:8

“Every man dies but not every man really lives.”  Mel Gibson (Braveheart)