It Is Well

I struggle every day.

I struggle with not feeling good enough, I struggle with money, I struggle with relationships, I struggle with decisions that I have made and I still have to make, life is a struggle.

While the struggles of everyday life weigh upon me, I have come to a peace in my life that I know comes only from a faith that has been instilled in me since childhood, since the days of the simple stories of the Bible, through life lessons as a youth and joys and disappointments as an adult.

I’m one of those “wear your emotions on your sleeves kind of guy.”  Once when my  brother was picking on me, my grandmother spoke up and in her most grand-motherly of southern belle grand-motherly voices said “leave him alone, he is a sensitive child.”

While that joke has been told and retold through life, it is true, I am sensitive, I ache when those around me ache, I cry for a nation that has lots its way, I mourn when I witness bigotry and oppression of people who are simply trying to live the lives that God created for them, yes, I am sensitive and I struggle.

When the same grandmother, who told my brother I was sensitive passed away, I had a meltdown in the funeral home.  My mom and dad took me into a back office to help me regain my composure and my mom told me something that struck home.  In that moment of pain, my mom told me “let it out, I wish I could.”

As I have matured, I have realized my sensitivity is a blessing, not a curse.  Sometimes I wish I could have a harder shell, but I don’t.  My emotions seep out of me like a river of lava from the deepest bowels of the earth.

I understand that being a sensitive child, sometimes makes life for those around me more difficult, but it is how I am wired and I accept that.

When I tell my co-workers and friends that I cried during a TV show, they just laugh and say “of course you did,” it isn’t meant as a condemnation, but more an acceptance of who I am.

This week, I have been having a hard time, I have thought about a relationship that I wish was stronger, my heart hurts for recently divorced friends that are struggling to find a way in their new-found reality and I have thought and prayed about recent events that have ostracized groups of people who simply want to share their faith the best way they know how and have been pushed away.

This week, a simple message has gone through my mind over and over again…

while we as humans want things done in our time, in our way, we must have faith, FAITH in knowing that HIS time is omnipotent and one day, someday, HIS plan will be revealed, we just have to stand strong, stand in our truth and TRUST.

That prayer filled message has been constant, I know it to be true and trust in the words of God that all will be well.

This morning, as I came into work and flipped on my Pandora, the first song I heard was “It is Well,” a song that has always had tremendous meaning for me, but one that speaks to me stronger today than usual.

It is well, yes because of faith, indeed IT IS WELL.  My sensitive self listened with tears strolling down my cheeks and a joy in my heart, still struggling to understand, but steadfast in knowing that HIS plan will be revealed in HIS time.

It Is Well…….

 

 

What are You Offended by Now?

wpid-wp-1436742937115How did we become a society of the permanently offended?

It seems like there is a whole group of people in our society who just live to be offended by something, and let me say from the outset, you being offended does only one thing…. makes you offended.

Everywhere you turn, someone is offended by something.  Politics, religion, sexuality, entertainment, words, clothes, media….. offended, offended, offended… here is a piece of advice….. GET OVER IT!

In the society that we now find ourselves in, Republicans are offended by Democrats, Democrats are offended by Republicans; gays are offended by straights, straights are offended by gays; black are offended by whites and whites are offended by blacks; men are offended by women and women offended by men, Christians are offended by non-Christians and vice-versa; and on and on and on….. GET A GRIP PEOPLE AND GET OVER BEING OFFENDED!

At this rate, who and what are we not going to be offended by?

I learned this week that I am supposed to be offended by a Christmas song; one that I have listened to my whole life and never knew was evidently about a man “supposedly” trying to sexually assault a woman.  I just thought it was a cute song about a man trying to get a woman he was dating to try to spend some time with him.

If you look at the internet, everything is a conspiracy,  who knew that every agency created to protect and defend the Constitution was now a left-wing conspiracy group designed to bring down the government… who knew?  Evidently, the internet taught us that.  Thanks internet!?!?!?

We all have crap in our lives, crap that sometimes makes it hard just to put your feet on the floor in the mornings and get moving, but we do it and most of us do it in private.  We don’t have the need to share with the world what offends us and demand others be offended too.

In our world of being offended, we now have co-workers afraid to get into an elevator with someone of the opposite sex because of what may be said.  REALLY?  It’s an elevator going between the 3rd and 5th floor.

How about we all just take a breath, grow up  a little and live our own lives without trying to bring everyone else along with our “being offended” mentality.

You know what offends me?  You being offended and expecting me to care!

There is a guy in my town who moved here because he loves it so much.  He opened a successful business and has done very well.  But now, he is offended by other businesses moving into town who he doesn’t agree with politically.  He now wants to homogenize our little corner of God’s Country into the way HE thinks it should be…. here’s a history lesson for you,…. we were this way before you ever moved here and will be long after you leave, take the offended entitlement and move on!

Is there stuff in our world that offends me…. you bet!  But guess what, I’m not asking you to be offended by it too…. I’ll just not listen to the music that offends me, or patronize a business that I don’t agree with or vote for a candidate who doesn’t represent my views on how I think our world should be operated.  But I’m not going to expect you to feel the same.

2018, is almost over, it has proven to be the year of “I’m offended,” on all sides….. here’s an idea, in 2019, let’s all put on our big boy and girl pants and grow the eff up!

And now, you can be offended by what I just wrote!

Patience for Prayer

My Pastor recently began a new sermon series entitled “Connected.”  The focus of the series is prayer.

During the first week’s sermon,  he made the point that prayer is a conversation with God, a conversation that is ongoing and can take place anywhere.

His viewpoint is that when praying we should “talk” with God.  It isn’t about the location or using “holy talk” but a genuine heartfelt conversation between you and God.

In talking with God, three points made up the focus of the sermon….

  • Talk authentically – talk like you talk with friends and speak from the heart.  Don’t worry about the “thou” and the “Oh, heavenly most gracious God, creator of all things on heaven and earth.”  Old Testament talk isn’t necessary, an authentic talk with God is the kind of talk we would have with our best friend or partner, after all isn’t that what God is to us all?
  • Talk often – a conversation with God happens often, even continuously.  Talking with God isn’t by appointment, we don’t have to pray in the morning or as the last thing we do at night, prayer is a talk that is available to us anytime, anyplace and anywhere.
  • Talk and LISTEN – possibly the most important of these three points is to LISTEN for God when we pray.  Many of us talk and talk and talk and then we wonder why we don’t get a response.  A conversation takes place between two parties, listen for God’s response.

As Pastor Todd was preaching, he wasn’t saying anything I didn’t already know, but sometimes it is good to hear it from a fresh perspective.  The message was simple, but powerful.

The sermon included points on being patient when praying.  We don’t always get a response when we want, but we get it in God’s time… God’s perfect time.  I thought about all the times I have asked God for something and didn’t receive it when I asked, some things I never received AS ASKED, but received as needed.

As Pastor spoke, I was taken back to my prayers as a youth for God to change me.  During those dark days of my life I couldn’t understand why God had allowed me to be something others told me he hated and I prayed for change.

I remembered the jobs I had prayed for that I didn’t receive.

I thought about the days I begged God to let my mother live and be free of pain, to no avail.

During that sermon I could feel emotions rise up in me that I had not felt for some time, I could feel God speaking to me.

As he was talking about conversations with God, Pastor Todd made general statements….

  • speak to God before your feet hit the floor in the morning
  • get up ten minutes early with the intention of talking to God
  • don’t say Amen, continue a conversation with God through the day

The examples continued and as he spoke, I knew what I had to do as I was warmed by God’s presence.

For me, my best “talk to God” place is the beach, at sunrise.

Two years ago I was working out with a trainer and those sessions were held on the beach at 6:30 AM.  Far more than the exercise, the sunrise each morning gave me a feeling a peace and brought me closer to God.

Long after I stopped the work-outs I continued the morning visits to the beach.  I posted photo after photo of my sunrise experience on my Facebook page and others would enjoy the scene and comment on the beauty of each one.

What I learned during those days at the beach was every sunrise was different, but each one was filled with beauty and majesty too.

Recently I moved and I stopped going to the beach for sunrise.  The drive is further and it isn’t as convenient anymore, so I just stopped.

I continue to get up at the same time, but instead of going to the beach I watch the news.  As you can imagine the feeling I get from “Morning Joe” isn’t quite like the one I get watching the colors of heaven explode onto the horizon.

As Pastor Todd spoke, I knew what I had to do…. I had to go back to the beach.

Monday morning came and as my alarm sounded at 5:55AM, I lay there for a moment and talked to God, without saying amen, I bounced up, took Lita for a quick walk and then got in my car and headed to the beach.

Driving to the beach, I was disappointed that the weather wasn’t that great.  There was a slight mist and the winds were brisk.  As I made my way out onto the sand, I was disappointed to find the skies overcast with no color to be found.

11.12.3

On the beach, alone, sharing my thoughts with God, I began to pray…… no, I began a conversation.

I talked to God about my dreams, my desires for my life and prayed for those I love.

As I prayed, I listened for God, I listened for a response, impatiently I waited.

11.12.1

I prayed, the clouds remained and the rain fell, but I stayed, I stayed on the beach and I prayed.

Scattered around the beach I noticed throngs of jellyfish,  like landmines just waiting to sting.   The irony of the jellyfish didn’t escape me as I thought about the landmines of life that keep me from honoring God on a daily basis, the landmines that keep me from reaching my true potential.

As I stood and prayed, my mind began to wander.  My attention was drawn to the screech of the seagulls, the lady walking her dog down the beach and the rain.

I started to leave in disappointment that the sunrise had been a dud, but I stayed.

Standing on the sand, I waited and began to see a small break in the clouds and a peek of colors providing a promise of greater things to come.

11.12

As the clouds dispersed and a colorful sky began to appear on the horizon I thought about the times God has spoken to me.  How I have been nudged by God to write, how I have been blessed by friends kind words when I needed it most, how I have grown in faith.

I reflected on the week with my family before my mom died that changed my outlook on life and death and allowed us to find blessings during the most difficult of days.

I thought about the realization I had come to long ago that I am a child of God, made in HIS perfect image, filled with foibles and saved by grace.

I continued to talk to God, I thanked him for blessings and I listened.

11.12.2

As I continued to talk to God, the hints of a beautiful sunrise could be seen in the distance.  As I watched the sun rise, the message of the sermon became clear.

God provides in perfect timing.  Sometimes we go through darkness, storms and land mines, but in God’s perfect timing prayers are answered for those who believe, ask humbly and listen.

While we may not find the exact ending we seek when we pray, the answer is perfect in God’s own way.  While the changes I prayed for as a child didn’t come, my own acceptance and understanding did.

I was passed over for jobs I asked for, but when the right job came along at the right time, it was mine.

My mom died, but  she was healed, her pain was gone and she now sparkles in the glow of magnificent sunrises that are available each day.

While I prayed I found it, while I talked to God it became clear, prayer requires patience.

Our prayers are often answered in ways we don’t expect, not always the way we had hoped for, but in the way God knows is best for us.

But sometimes, through patience, those prayers are answered with the brilliance of the Sistine Chapel and God’s greatest blessings shine for us helping us navigate another day.

11.12.4

Short Notes … Daily Devotionals

Most mornings (I was going to say every morning, but I should be honest…..) most mornings, I do a daily devotional with “The Upper Room.”  It is a small devotional book or you can use the phone app like I do.  The devotionals are quick, easy and usually somehow relevent to what is going on in my life for that day.

Recently I downloaded ourprayer.org a daily scripture and reflection.  Again a quick way just to ground myself thru the day.  Hopefully it is working!

I like the way ourprayer.org shows up in my email and the points have been really good so far.

Example… this is today….

A Time to Think

Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.–Marion Wright Edelman

A Time to Act

Open your heart to the kindness of others.

A Time to Pray

Dear Father, teach me how to share Your kindness with everyone I meet.