Transitions are an amazing time of life. We all go through them; some small and some big. The trick is in how we manage them. I have a son that has a very hard time with transitions. I often struggle with his challenge in these times as I do not share his dilemma. However, I on the other hand, find extreme stress in routine; which is perhaps ironic. In this capacity I am able to empathize with him in a polar opposite fashion. In this respect we both have a perspective on transitions which allows us to share a unique bond through these periods of change and in this we can support each other.
Perhaps this is the part that makes transitions bearable, support. I reckon that support is the one thing that we all need to get through most challenges in life. This may be the key that we need to convert a challenge into an opportunity. It is with support that we are able to see past the difficulty and into the blessing. Here-in lies the miracle of grace.
I once was asked why I believed in God. The question went on to ask if I had ever spoken to him or had he ever spoken to me. I answered with a resounding yes. Grace and love I believe are the voice of God. These are not the things that we extol from ourselves naturally but rather with the blessing from God. When we extend a hand to help a friend or stop on the side of a road to help a stranger, I see the grace and voice of God speaking in all of us.
I once read a story of a runner who collapsed just feet from the finish line of a marathon. Set to win the race her body failed her and betrayed her of victory. Grace stepped in and brought her to her win as her competition stopped in their tracks and carried her across the finish line making for a three-way tie at the line. It is stories like these where I hear the voice of God loudest.
Last year I was struggling with heart issues, I have for some time now. At that time, I had a cord and a half of wood to relocate from one part of my yard to another. My daughter is eleven and full of vigor. She came to my rescue. With her help that wood became light as a feather. She was more than a cheerleader in this effort. She was a workhorse, moving mounds of wood and keeping a positive attitude throughout. On the last day we worked, we finished as the sun set. The sky erupted in a beautiful bouquet of pinks and oranges. If that was not the voice of God speaking in my life, what possibly could be?
So, to bring this full circle, I do believe that God is with all of us. I believe that he is our ultimate support in times of transition. It is with his support that we can find opportunities in challenges. It is up to us to look, listen, and to be open to hearing his voice in the people, the actions and the world around us. Only then will we be able to receive that support. God is in and with us. Welcome him when life is amazing and when life is hard.
Life should be hard. I don’t mean to imply that we should suffer, but rather that we should not be floating through life sitting on our laurels. We should challenge ourselves We should always be looking for opportunities to grow, to seek new lessons that can open doors and help the world in which we live.
I was talking with my daughter about a show she was watching. She said she liked it because it was so ridiculous. She said that she felt like the person who made the show looked like they did not even try and that was why she liked it. I suggested that she should watch something that challenged her mind and engaged her intelligence. She is a very bright individual.
I carry that conversation into a larger forum and think about many of the YouTube shows that I see kids today watching and realize that children today are captivated by laziness. I also see examples of this in their dancing and so much more. I reflect on the difference between the Floss and the Lindy. Not saying that I can do either, but the difference in complexity is amazing. Again, I say life should be hard. We should not be looking for the easy way out but rather the complexity, the intricacy that engages our hearts to grow and live full lives.
I do not wish to be miss understood. I am not for a second calling today's youth lazy. I have plenty of examples of hard work from my children. But rather, I see them as the canary of society today. The warning that we as individuals must resist laziness. I was offered an opportunity to park my family’s camper at a campground for a season, it occurred to me that this might offer two advantages. First, we would be able to camp more often because it would be easier to go camping. Second, it would be more convenient and could become a more routine activity. With further reflection, I also realized that we would lose a huge portion of what I love about camping, the exploration; the adventure. In one fell swoop, we would lose the opportunity to explore new places. We would also lose the chance to meet people from different places and the adventure of towing the camper; just for the convenience of routine.
As my family looks for campgrounds to visit, we see more of them converting large numbers of sites to seasonal sites. Another canary? These indicators of sedentary living surprise me when I reflect on the pioneering history of our ancestors. What must we do to rekindle the drive for our next westward exploration, for our next search for Mecca, for our next great quest for humanity? I am not talking about the next great google search on the Internet but rather the quest in our souls to find life and invigoration. To find purpose. To seek out opportunities.
I challenge each of us to have a hard life. In the work of life, we should find the challenges that help us to thrive, prosper and grow so that we do not suffer but flourish in the hardship that helps us explore the opportunities that fill our lives with joy and color.
This weekend I was surprised with an amazing opportunity. A little over a year ago my family moved from Vermont to our new home. We have tried several different churches in our search for the current congregation we have currently settled into. I am thrilled with the community we have found. My daughter has never been more connected with her spiritual life. As I walked into church this Sunday, a bit distracted with my own toils, a bit disheveled and unkempt and certainly not prepared for a public appearance. My pastor approached me and asked if I would be interested in reading the scripture during the service.
As a five-year member of my past church in Vermont, I had been a part of committees but never been asked to openly contribute to the congregation or help participate in the worship. I had never been asked to help celebrate in the joy we as a congregation felt for our Lord Jesus. This is not to say that there was an issue with my past church but rather with me. I realized that I was closed off to the celebration. Here I was, disheveled and in my own personal space and I realized that somewhere along the path I had become open to these small gestures of invitation; these small surprises.
As I received this gift, I found myself open to the miracle being passed to me as an invitation to my relationship with God. I saw a door opening and an opportunity to walk forward with my congregation. This small gesture was more to me than just a chance to read. It was a chance to grow.
It is important that we as individuals look for these surprises in our life when we can grow as people and in our life with God. It is through this growth in our relationship with Him that we will find more joy, love, and glory in his grace. For me, it was in the simple reading of a Sunday scripture that I found an opportunity to face a challenge and reap the benefit of God’s grace. What is your next surprise of glory?
I found this opportunity to be unique in my life. It was not an instant “aha”, but rather a slow realization of what was to wash over my spirit. As I repeatedly read the passage I was asked to share, and nervously pondered how I might stumble and stutter in front of these faithful people. I became increasingly aware of the state of my hair, my dirty jeans and my overweight body. I found little comfort in the pants covering my prosthetic leg. Iwondered how I might be able to stand stably in front of this audience. Then two more gifts from the Lord soothed my confidence. Our church has a tradition on the fifth Sunday of the month. They do an acoustic Sunday where they quiet the music a bit. This week they sang a song that spoke to me in a way that calmed my heart and helped me to realize that it was not about my performance in front of the congregation but rather about my worship with the congregation for the Lord Jesus. Then, as our last song ended, our pastor began to speak, and the music continued. Here I realized that we are all human and not infallible. With humility, I walked to the front of the church, took a deep breath and gave praise to God.
When I sat down to start writing this blog my first thought was to focus on the scripture passage. For it also moved me. As I gave it more thought I realized that it was not Mathew 4 that was as important as the surprise that came from the experience around Mathew 4 that mattered. Be open to the surprise. Be open to the gifts and opportunities that are given to you. What is the saying, “the Lord works in mysterious ways.”? Perhaps. Or maybe we just don’t open our eyes when we need to.
Sunshine is a powerful source of energy. Not only do people harness it as a source of electricity to power their homes, many lay out in the sun to rejuvenate their spirit and soulful energy. After a long winter the bright days of spring rejuvenate the dormant leaves of trees across the north and bring life back to the sleeping flowers and grass. The warm spring sun pulls children out into yards and families out to bask in the warm glow.
By summer the sun has warmed ponds and brought meadows into full bloom, exploding with a wide array of color from the flowers covering the grasses underneath. Children have moved from their lawns to their favorite swimming holes looking for a spot to cool off. Picnics are held in the shade of a tall oak; itself soaking up the warm energy from the sun.
This is the power of the sun. Fill your soul with this radiance and go forth with your own glow. Fill those around you with light and energy from your vibrance. Let the world see your beauty, glow and light as you move from season to season growing brighter, warmer and more radiant. Be a shining light for those around you. Let us all glow together as one radiant source of love.
I think about Moses and Abraham and laugh at the marvel of their accomplishment of fatherhood. I have five children and it is the greatest gift I could imagine but it is also the hardest job. Could you imagine if Moses and Abraham had to deal with their children having Fortnight or cell phones? Could you imagine if Moses and Abraham had to deal with their children having to deal with cyber bullies and gangs? We live in an interesting age as parents. How do we support our children? The answer has not changed from when Moses and Abraham were fathers; love.
I believe that the most powerful resource we have, as fathers, to help our children through their challenges is love. I look at the work I have done to model hard work, dedication to school and passion and support for my spouse. As I reflect upon my children I often wonder if my modeling has helped. Then I look at the modeling my parents did for me. I realize that when this modeling comes from a place of love it plants a seed which will grow in my children throughout their lives.
My parents provided an incredible amount of love for me. They were there in so many difficult times with unconditional love, regardless of the challenges I faced. It was this unconditional love that I have drawn upon more than any other resource they offered. It is my hope that my children find this same kind of unconditional love from me as I found in my parents. All children deserve this gift. It is this unconditional love and support that will help them to grow into strong and prosperous individuals.
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid” (Matthew 4:14) Nor should a light be hid. Rejoice in the light that shines from within you. Celebrate the light that you bring to the world, for you are a light to those around you.
So often we forget that we are each full of unique gifts and it is only though the celebration of our gifts that we are able to shine bright. It is only through the combination of the gifts of each and every one of us that we are able to succeed as a community. A butcher is not able to succeed without a blacksmith to sharpen their knives. A blacksmith is not able to succeed without a mason to build their forge. This communal collection of gifts is open for each of us to shine and to light the world with our own individuality.
Yet, do not feel stuck. Your gifts may change as you change. A farrier may find a voice as they travel the country and transition from a smith to a poet and find that they soon fill the hearts of many with song. A farmer may find that as they haul their grain to the mill they are filled with inspiration by the beauty of the country through which they pass and are inspired to put the image on canvas and soon light our lives with color and imagery. Always seek out your calling to add your light to the world. Always stand high on the hill and shine bright. Do not hide but be seen.
The Lord will bless you with many gifts and welcome you to his side as you share your gifts. Seek each opportunity before you and celebrate those chances you have to share them. You are unique and full of talents for which the world is blessed to witness your colors.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3) Even God understands that there are times when we hurt, and he not only values the pain when we suffer but blesses us with grace and welcomes us into his kingdom.
We must rejoice for the light that waits before us. Find joy in the virtues that will come to us and know that through the suffering we will become the person we are meant to be. Find value in our pain and grow to serve the Lord.
These are the lessons that help me when I struggle. These are the prayers that help me to find the value in the darkness. I often wonder how could a merciful God put pain in a world as we have in ours? I realize then that perhaps it is not God that has put the pain in our world but rather us that has put the pain here. It is God that offers us the salvation from this pain. It is ours to learn and grow from it.
I once read a book on the Crusades and thought how could we call them the Holy Wars. I realize that it is our way to attribute labels to rationalize the acts we commit and the things we do not understand. It is only when we stop trying to understand and trust in God to lead us through the darkness and help us find forgiveness and mercy that we can find the answers.
One of the darkest periods of my life was not my car accident but shortly after when I struggled with my identity. I was very good at pushing away those I loved in my life. I fought to figure out just who I was and where my life was going. I asked many difficult questions and thought I could do it all alone. As I came to accept that I needed the help, support and love of God and others in my life, the answers became clear. The shape of my life molded me into a person I came to not only love but value and cherish. Truly blessed was I while I was poor in my spirit.
I encourage all of you to remember this prayer and to remember that the Lord walks with you as you travel through your valley. Hold strong and seek out the opportunities available from the pain you experience so that you might find the light at the end of the tunnel. Trust in God to welcome you to his kingdom.
Spring is an amazing time of year. Cold, crisp and invigorating mornings blend into warm, cheerful and dynamic afternoons. This exciting time of year always reminds me that we need to celebrate each moment that we have.
Too often we get stuck in the rut of daily routine causing us to miss the opportunities that pass by as we droll through our chores. Taking that step back to appreciate the world around us, with all of its wonder and beauty, provides the pause we often need to become aware of the opportunities we might have otherwise missed. For me springtime is a reminder to take just that step.
What opportunities have passed by that you might have missed? How often do you find yourself walking through the paces only to realize that you missed or forgot something that might have been more than rewarding? Wake up on the next crisp spring morning and set your compass for a new path. Aim for a more deliberate and intentional day with greater awareness to the opportunities around you.
I was told once that it is always a good day when you wake-up. I suppose when you consider the alternative, that is a good day. I have shared this sentiment with others and perhaps taken it a bit further to say every day we wake-up we have a whole new reason to celebrate.
There is good news in the sun rising each morning. I look at this opportunity as a moment of reflection to say, thank you Lord for bringing me this day. Certainly, there are those days, when we wake to less than ideal situations, but think of the opportunities lost if the situation were different. Each morning, when you see the sun rise, you are given the good news that you have another chance to …
The good news is that the list does not have to stop and that there is another morning soon to come. Carpe’ Diem. Absolutely seize the day and find the good news in your morning.
We all have the choice of whether we smile or frown. They say it takes fewer muscles to smile. Why make life harder. If you listen to a beautiful singer their voice is always brighter with a smile. Make your life as bright as you can.
This may seem a simplified view of the world, but if you can boil things down to these simple elements, then life can quickly become more manageable. When you find yourself faced with a disappointing meal in a restaurant, you can choose to smile and chalk it up to part of the adventure or frown and ruin the entire night. When you find yourself facing a difficult loss in your life you can assume the worst or give it up to God, sing a beautiful hymn and find grace in the larger picture.
I once thought I needed all of the answers. I thought it was easier when I knew the why behind everything. It was not until I learned to smile and trust in God that I found peace with the larger message. It would have been so easy for me to become bitter and angry when I lost my leg, or even earlier when my foot was crushed along with most of my dreams. Today I find that I serve a larger purpose with my leg and have been able to help countless children to understand differences in people. I believe that my loss has helped to strengthen the lives of a future generation.
So I ask you, Smile or Frown? You get to choose but remember there is always a bigger picture and God will always walk beside you. Why make your life harder?