Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mini Miracles

Hello! This morning God did a major work in my heart and I wanted to brag on Him for a minute.

At work lately, the powers that be have been pushing me to do something I have been less than receptive to.  I tried shrugging it off, putting it off, even blowing it off; but I finally gave in and stopped fighting it- at least that's what I thought I did!

We had a meeting yesterday afternoon about me going around to all 900 of our faculty members and meeting with them to try and improve our store image and relations with the professors, ultimately improving our business.  I do think this needs to happen, but I do not feel this is the correct way to approach this.  I feel at best we'll just bug them and waste their little time they have in between classes.  Like I said, I thought I gave in and accepted the task.  Last night I was moody about not wanting to do this, got over it for a while and moved on.  This morning as my alarm went off, an alarm went off in my head too.  I was instantly reminded about this seemingly unreasonable task, and my aversion to it became apparent.  I was angry at my boss, and at the situation in general.

While I was in the shower, I prayed for God to change my heart.  I knew at this point that I simply could not change the circumstance, but I figured I'd give it a shot with changing my response to it.  It wasn't an instant feel better pass, but I did feel better giving it up to Him. 

During my childhood, I had the Serenity prayer hanging on my wall.  God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  This did not pop into my head this morning, but upon my reflection of events, it's essentially what I prayed. 

We had another brainstorming meeting this morning, and developed a plan of attack on this behemoth of a project.  I don't know when it was, or how He did it, but suddenly I realized my anger and frustration had vanished! This was one of those truly happy times when I just sent up a silent prayer thanking God, and it put a smile on my face.  I remembered how we need to find contentment not in our immediate circumstances, but in our salvation through Jesus. This gives me the strength to get through the mundane and aggrevating circumstances once I think about it. 

After my change of heart, I was able to think logically about the project and begin to move forward with executing the plan.  Now I have the materials together, a game plan in place, and my first meetings scheduled for this Friday. 

It may not sound like much, but without my surrendering of the situation to God, and asking Him to do a work in the situation and in my heart, I would be in a different place right now.  Instead of getting the opportunity to brag on Him, I'd still be brooding about what a bad idea I think this whole project is.  As I wrote in one of my first posts, I think God really can work anywhere through anything.  We just have to listen! 

I wonder how many other mini miracles in my life I miss because of my pride or frustration. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Am I Macro or Micro?

Hello again!  I hope all 2 members of my audience have been doing well since last time:)  I wanted to write a little bit about our scope and focus as Christians.  The question then is, are we Micro-Christians, or Macro-Christians?

I have heard it put several ways before.  We get bogged down in the details of our lives, or we're self centered, or hyper focused on what is going on in our lives.  I've even heard our lives compared to shooting a rifle.  When we look through a scope, the image in our view is amplified, and we can see nothing else around it.  I think these are all good examples of what I like to call being Macro-Christian.  When we think of this in the terms or Economics for example, Microeconomics focuses on small scale immediate effects of the economy, and Macroeconomics looks at the big picture; how something happening in Libya can jack the gas prices up in Georgia for example. 

I think this is the same way in our focus as Christians.  Often when talking to people about God, I've encountered they have such specific questions, or will stick to one specific detail as the sole reason why they don't believe.  We can be so micro mindsetted that we lose sight of God and His glory and love for us.  We can sit there and argue about free will versus predestination.  We can argue about once saved, always saved or whether we can lose our salvation.  When it comes down to it, who cares?!  In my opinion, what really matters is keeping God in the center of my life, and sharing His love through my life and words.

Now, am I immune to this?  Definitely not.  I get very micro about a lot of things, and everything else in my spiritual growth will come to a screeching hault.  I spent about 3 months chewing over a theological argument in my head, and honestly it was just making me frustrated and bringing no glory to God in the process.  Once I realized that, I moved on.  Gradually my beliefs on that subject began to take shape, but it's still a bit ambiguous to me and that's ok.  I am quite certain there are MANY things in my faith and my life that I just won't understand.   Am I saying we shouldn't strive to figure out life's mysteries?  By no means.  All I'm saying is there should be a limit on the time we devote to figuring out everything.  There's a reason we call it "blind faith".  Sometimes we just have to take the plunge, and trust in Him to work out the rest for us. 

Like everything else in my life, I like to keep things balanced, and I think this is important for all of us to do.  If I'm too involved in my work, my relationship with Christy would suffer.  Conversely, if I did nothing at work because I couldn't stand to be apart from Christy for a second, I would most likely be fired.  Or another way to look at it, if I only have good vision up close and made no attempt to correct my distance vision, I would stumble and go through life blurry, seeing nothing more than a few feet in front of my face.  I think this is the same thing in our faith.  We have to have a balance of micro and macro to have things make sense.

This is my challenge to myself, to keep a good balance in my life and my faith.  I plan to explore the things I feel are important in my growth, and for the rest just be thankful for the life I have been given.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Here again!

Hello all,

  As I was looking over my blogs today, the second to last post was October 6th and it dealt with my feeling distant from God, and how I got back on the right track.  Well, somehow about 4 months later, I find myself in the same boat.  How did this happen, you might ask?

  First of all, I think it's easy to feel distant with you fall out of your regular routine.  We didn't go to our church for about 5 or 6 weeks in a row due to holiday travels, and that really took a toll on our lives.  Also, we stopped putting in the time and effort to pursue a deeper relationship with God.  It's just like any other relationship in the regards that if I completely ignored my wife for 6 weeks, you can bet we'd have some issues to work over! It's silly of us to think our relationship with God is any different.  I've heard it compared to maintaining your car as well. If prayer is the battery of your car, and studying the Word is the fuel, you'll only go so far until it's time to replenish or else you'll find yourself on the spiritual side of the road. 

  I don't like to be spooky spiritual, but we can fall victim to our adversary at any time as well.  I like to think about my faith as a strong, impregnable wall that can stand against any raiding party or attack.  If there's no defects in the wall, everything should be fine.  If a stone is missing because I haven't maintained my wall, it would be much easier to tug on that hole in the wall and eventually pull the whole thing down.

 So how did I get back this time?  Once again, it was a gradual and multi-step process.  It began with recognizing there was a problem.  I told myself everything would be back to normal once we got back in the routine of church and worship.  This certainly helped, but by no means did it solve the problem. 

  In my "distant days" I experienced more animosity in my life in general, and even doubts about the God I know and love.  I came to the point about a month ago that I realized somewhere along the line I had lost the feeling in my faith.  I felt like I had too much knowledge, and not enough emotion.  That night on my drive home I laid it all out to God, and got real and honest with Him.  Believe me, He's big enough to take it- plus He already knows it!  It's very cathartic to be open and honest.  That is where He can begin to transform your heart again.

  I prayed for feeling, and passion in my life again, and the desire to seek Him in all that I do.  This also helped, but it was not the end of my journey.

 I remained in this spiritual state of mind for about 3 weeks.  Around this point, I began reading my Grandpa in Law's book, When God Turned Off the Lights, by Cecil Murphey.  Reading about his struggles and so called "dark and starless night", I got several ideas on how to help myself out of the pit.  I am not quite finished with it, but certainly recommend it to anyone feeling distant from God.

 Last weekend's sermon began to chip at my heart and mind too.  Our pastor spoke on finding contentment and comfort in God.  He reminded us that if we place our joy in our eternal salvation through Jesus, the little stuff that life throws at us shouldn't shake us.  If we find contentment in life due to God's grace, and don't let the outcome of each situation determine our happiness, we can actually be content!

   That night I read about how we are called to praise God and rejoice in all circumstances.  This is a biggie, and I wasn't doing this at all! I read that my Grandpa in Law's book how he would force himself to come up with 5 or 10 things every morning that he was genuinely thankful for.  He would then actually thank God for the gifts and blessings.  It's really difficult to feel sorry for yourself and complain about your circumstances when we look at all we have.

  Monday night of this week, my wife and I were hanging out and she gave me the figurative kick in the butt I needed.  I am so blessed to have her in my life, and more times than I can count, God has used her to teach me a lesson.  We talked about what we were both feeling, and how we'd both been in the dumps spiritually.  It is my job as the head of the household to be our spiritual leader as well.  I was doing a terrible job at this, and once I realized the effect it was having on her, I knew I had to change.  I made her a promise to make more of an effort, and with God's help get back to the relationship I once had with God.  I of course should have been motivated to work on it simply because I knew I was letting God down, but I had to hear that I was failing my wife to make me change.

  All this week we have read the Bible together, and I have noticed a real change.

  Wednesday of this week I had an awesome conversation with my mom about my faith and struggles, and I got off the phone so excited and encouraged!  I went and met with some of the guys from my men's group and that was the icing on the cake.  I got home that night and happily told Christy that I was back and my faith and relationship with God had been restored!

 I certainly intend to keep up with my spiritual maintenance this time so I won't have to re-write this blog in 4 months! I am sure this won't be the last time I feel in a spiritual rut, but thankfully God is patient and He has never ending grace!

 Thanks for reading and God bless!       

Monday, November 29, 2010

Every day is a gift

    Hello again. Last week I read 2 incredible books about how God works through our lives, Same Kind of Different as Me, and What Kind of Difference do I Make? by Ron Hall and Denver Moore.  If you have not read these, I highly recommend them.  I read them at the suggestion of my wife, Christy, and I wasn't sure what to expect.  They are quick reads at just around 200 pages each, and are simple yet profound.  It sheds light on a lot of the issues in the world, focusing primarily on homelessness.  Since I read these books last week, I have been more observant of others around me and the situations they're in.  There's a lot of people who are hurting and in need all around us.  We just have to slow down enough to look, and you can't help but notice. 

  These books got me thinking how truly blessed I am to have the life I have.  To have life period.  We have always have a roof over our heads and a meal on the table.  We never have to wonder how we will pay our bills, and whether tomorrow we will have anything to eat.  We have more than enough, and only within the past couple of years have I come to realize this. 

  This morning I woke up grumpy.  It was cold outside and the first day back to work after an awesome Thanksgiving break.  Christy was still warm and sleeping when I left the house and cranked up the bike.  I complained on the ride in to work, and pretty much told God that this was a crappy day.  It is chilly and will be raining for the next 3 days, not exactly favorable motorcyle weather for my 25 minute commute. 

  I got to work, and things got better after I prayed about it instead of just complaining about it to God.  About an hour later my phone rang and I spoke to a father who just lost his son last month.  This man was calling to see about getting rid of his son's textbooks, and you could just feel the pain in his voice.  I was pleased to be able to help him out, and gave him my condolences for his loss.  You could just tell he was on the verge of breaking down, and just trying to make it through each day.  Each day for him and his family is a painful reminder of the loss of their son. 

  As soon as I got off the phone with him, I walked outside and prayed.  I thanked God for each and every day I have on this earth, thanked Him for the very breath I breathe.  I thanked Him for the surprising ways He talks to us, even in a phone call from a stranger.  "Every good and perfect thing is from above"  James 1:17 NIV.

Thanks and God bless!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

You Invite Me In

Hello again!

It has been a while since I have posted because I haven't felt very inspired lately, and to be blunt have been going through a bit of a tough time with my walk.  Ever since the Liberty fiasco happened, things have been a little weird between me and God, and I realize I brought this on myself, but that didn't make it any less real for me.  I think it is important to be honest with where you are on your walk, and to let God know.   Of course He already knows, but there is something liberating about being open and honest with Him when you are having an issue.  Communication is key to any relationship, whether it is with a friend, your spouse, or even the Lord.  Once you get your issue out there, you can begin to work through it and that's when the healing can begin. 

I believe that going through a bit of a slump is normal, and I know I'm not the only one this has happened to.  Further, I know it will happen to me again in the future.  The fact of the matter is it is tough to be a Christian in this world, and we're even told this in the Bible.  "... in this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world."  -John 16:33  Sometimes we fall and stumble, but to me the important part is getting back up.  I could speculate about the reasons why, whether is was my pride needing to be broken, my reliance needing to be placed back on God, or a million other things.  That to me is just a piece of the puzzle, and while it is important to try and trace your steps to see how you got there, it shouldn't steal your focus away from your walk.  I trip most days while I'm walking around, but I do not let it stop me from getting where I'm going.  The same should be true with my walk with the Lord. 

God started helping me back up a couple weeks ago in my men's Connect group through our church.  It is an awesome group of guys, and even when I'm not the one who asks the questions all the time, I tend to get answers and hear the things I need to hear.  As I've said before, God talks to us in so many ways, we just have to be open to it!  The following week got better after I got more open with Him, and did an examination of my heart.  A self inventory so to speak.  Last Thursday I was at the gym running, and You Can't Take Away by Mikeschair came on my iPod.  This pumped me up more than I could have expected, and hit me with goosebumps all over my body.  The lyrics to this song are absolutely true!  You can't take away my God! I'm not pointing fingers at my readers or anything like that, but although my faith can be shaken, my God can not! This is awesome, and brought me back home so to speak. 

Another song helped me climb out of the hole too, You Invite Me In by Meridith Andrews.  "You invite me in, doesn't matter where I've been, your arms are open wide, there's nothing left to hide."  This is a great song, and just shows how great God's love is for us.  Thanks to Jesus, no matter what we do, as long as we're in Christ, we're good and right with God!  We're never out of reach, even when we start putting up walls in our own way. 

As always, thanks for reading, and God bless!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What a day...

    The past 24 hours have been interesting to say the least.  After several unexpected reactions from various people in my life, I found out the Seminary that I applied to earlier this week was founded by Jerry Falwell.  He was an ultra conservative preacher and televangelist who seemed to preach more hate than love.  If we use Jesus as our guide and compass, and we look at what He did on this earth, it wasn't condemn us and point fingers.  He taught us how to love, and showed us the greatest act of love the world has ever seen, laying down His perfect life for us when we by no means deserved it.  In fact, as I wrote in a previous post, the two most important things we're called to do are 1-love God and 2- love people.  It is not our job to condemn and point fingers.  Sure, we can encourage people to change, and point them to Jesus for change, but it is not our job to judge.  That's enough about that... just wanted to get that off my chest.

    I firmly believe that God talks to us through others.  Earlier today it was hard for me to tell how much of my anxiety with the situation was due to nerves about beginning a new program, and how much of it was due to Liberty's founder.  I think God puts people in our lives for a reason, in fact He does everything for a reason.  Chances are if you consistently get good advice from someone, they will continue to do give it, and you should listen.  It is good to be open, you never know what or who God will speak through!

   This whole thing was a little hard for me to accept.  I felt really excited about going to Seminary at Liberty, and was pleased that all the pieces of my life were coming together.  I realized today that whether I go there, or another college, God will get me where He wants me.  Sure, the path might change, but either way God is preparing me for what He has in store for me ahead.

   After talking to my family and my pastor, I am once again considering the Georgia Southern University Counseling program.  I still want to go into Christian counseling, and I do believe that I will get there one way or another.  I can use all the experiences I have been through to better relate to people, and to reach more of them.  The knowledge and love of God is there already, and will continue to grow as I go through this life.  Having the technical side of counseling would be very beneficial too because it would take what I know about God and faith, and make it more effective in reaching people.

   I ask for your prayers for me about this.  I know this is a big decision, and I just pray God's will is done, and trust He will get me to the right place.  I know that in this as well as all things, I need to first seek Him, and He will take care of the rest.

  Thanks and God bless!

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Next Step

Lately God has put it on my heart to go to seminary.  At first, I dismissed the call and decided it wasn't for me.  A few months passed, and it popped up again almost out of nowhere. 

One thing I've noticed in my life is a recurring pattern that when you're looking for something, you can't find it; but when you're not looking, it finds you.  This was how I met Christy, I had finally stopped looking, and knew it would happen when I least expected it.  It happened exactly when and how it was supposed to, and that's ok with me!  

As I mentioned in my last blog, I have struggled with direction in my life.  It took me almost two and a half years to pick a major.  I graduated with my Bachelors of Arts in Psychology from Georgia Southern University in May of 2009.  I thought I was all set and began the career search.  I had never really had a strong calling about what I should do, and have changed my mind more times than I can count.  Most of my aspirations have been for personal and financial gain.  God's work is different.  This time is different.  It is not about me, it is about serving Him and bringing Him glory.  That is what I care about doing.  That is why we're all here. 

People my whole life have asked me what I want to do, and what I want to be when I grow up.  I have never had a clear cut answer, even lately, a year and a half after receiving my college degree. I still work in the same place I worked as a college student, and although there has been some talk of promotion, I am not sure anything is ever going to change here.  Just when I stopped looking, and became content with what I have, God put this awesome way to serve Him on my heart!

I had never heard of getting a degree in Pastoral Counseling until about 6 weeks ago when we were up in Atlanta. We were at Christy's grandparents house and I was talking to her Grandpa, Cecil Murphey, about paths and direction. He suggested that Pastoral Counseling might be a good fit for me, given my background in Psychology. Ever since then, it has been running through my mind non stop, and I could actually see myself doing this.

I have applied to a variety of graduate programs in the past year and a half, and even started one.  One thing I came up with is I don't want to do anythign apart from God.  That certainly includes school.  I believe God is the answer, and could not counsel anyone without talking about God.  This is why none of the other paths worked out, and I can see that now.  God doesn't make mistakes, and nothing sneaks up on Him or catches Him by surprise.  Everything that happens, no matter how bizarre or unfortunate it is, happens for a reason.  He does this to prepare us for His future use, to give us the ability to tackle things as they come. 

I began the college exploration process again, and had a hard time finding one that was a good fit.  I was seriously considering Global University, and Southeastern University. This weekend we went to Waffle House after church, and my friend Matthew suggested I check out Liberty. As soon as I looked at it, I knew this could be the one. I chatted with an admissions counselor, and applied over the phone about an hour ago! I will be pursuing the M.A. in Pastoral Counseling. I know if this is God's plan, it will work out.

God talks to us in a variety of ways, but often times through other people.

I will keep you all posted as I find out about the admissions decission.  If I am accepted, I will begin January 17th, 2011.  It will take me about 2 years to comlpete the degree, which will be challenging while working full time as well.  "...With God all things are possible"  Matthew 19:26 NIV.

Thanks again for reading, and God bless!