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Overweight Because Of A Sword

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Traveling can be a stressful undertaking. I don’t fly that often, so I definitely am not accustomed to all of the stresses and mild inconveniences that go along with it. And there are so many. Add that to the normal anxiety I have commuting anywhere in a desire to not be late, which means 15 minutes early.  

 

First there is just getting there. “They” suggest you get there a minimum of an hour before your flight, which means living in Southern California I need to leave my house about 3 hours before my flight.

 

Next is checking in my bag and checking in. This is only a concern for me because I have that panic as the computer is processing my request wondering to myself, “Am I sure I purchased the ticket? Did I write the time and/or day wrong? Am I at the right airport? Did I forget anything? What if it’s cold? What if it’s too hot? What if my ID is expired and I didn’t realize it? Did I lock the front door? Did I lock the back door? Is the turtle going to be ok? Did I forget…ok I’m checked in.”

 

Yes, just about all that goes through my head in the 15-25 seconds it takes the computer to locate my reservation.

 

Third is going through security. Having your boarding pass and ID in one hand, backpack over the shoulder, put the wallet back, put the ID back, take off my shoes, take out my phone, take out my laptop if I have one. And now being a dad I need to help my kids with all their stuff too as well as make sure no one is trying to kidnap them. Walk them through, good, shoes back on, backpacks back on, don’t drop my boarding pass, and now find my gate.

 

Didn’t even leave my home state yet, but time for lunch and I can breathe for a second. Unless I’m flying Southwest and the cattle call starts.

 

Well, this trip was manageable and the minor stress happened at the check in of our bags. The luggage for my wife and I was three pounds overweight, but our kids’ luggage was under weight by about five pounds. I asked if I could move some stuff over to our kids’ luggage, and the attendant said I could try.

 

So I opened up our luggage, took a quick survey, and my wife’s Bible-for-leaders looked to be of significant weight. Switched it to the other suitcase and both were under weight with room to spare. Checked in, told my wife, and had a little laugh.

 

Gosh, where to start on the symbolism of that? So many places to go: the weight of God’s word is heavy; the sword to battle your spiritual enemies is heavy; the blessings of God are so abundant you are going to be overweight.

 

But only if you carry the sword, only if you know and believe what God’s word says and use it to build a relationship with Him, only if you seek to draw close to Him. Just like a sword or any other weapon, it is only useful if you know all the parts, and know how to use it.

 

I have carried my Bible a lot of places. I didn’t always let it affect me. I would read it because that was what I was supposed to do because I called myself a Christian. I still don’t know it as well as I should or as well as I would like.

 

I went to church because I was a Christian.

 

I went to Bible study during the week because I was a Christian.

 

I prayed for forgiveness of my sins and that God heal my sick friends or family because I was a Christian.

 

But the weight of God’s word only slightly became part of my life. There were times in my life God played a significant role even when I was not close to Him. That’s how much God loves me, and you (“but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8).

 

I didn’t have to clean up before He decided to save me. He did that anyway AND still gave me the choice to follow Him. And choice is also a key word here. I know there is the idea among some non-Christians that they don’t want to become Christians because it means they won’t get to do what they want, or God is trying to control them. Just so not true. God wants the best for you and every day you have the choice to choose to follow Him or not.

 

End of story

 

The last few years I have drawn closer to Him, tried to understand His will and plan more, surrendered control of my life over to Him more, and have tried to listen to Him more in prayer instead of listing off my demands to give Him my love. I have been learning and trying to let His love be what fills me and controls me more than the love for myself and what I want to do with my life. He has a plan for good things in my life, so why would I try and get in the way of that?

 

It is hard to surrender and let a book thousands of years old full of crazy stories be what guides my decisions on huge issues like where to go to college, who to marry, what job I take, or how I spend my money. But it is a book full of meaning behind the simplest of words, and some of those stories are people acting in great faith at the direction of a mysterious God, who they could only call Yaweh.

 

But that name was enough.

 

God is enough.

 

I love reading my Bible and recently got a journal-Bible that has room to write in the margins, but I am silly because I feel like if I write something in it the idea has to be profound. It has to be worth writing down to sully the beautiful, clean lines of my journal-Bible.

 

I purposefully didn’t carry my Bible for this trip, but I have my Bible app. I didn’t want to have to carry it either in my carry on or my luggage. I anticipated the weight of God’s word to be too much for me to handle.

 

And it is. God’s love and grace is too heavy for me to manage all at once.

 

The weight of God’s word can withstand if I make mistakes writing out what God says to me. God’s word can withstand you and I wrestling and working out of our faith in flesh and blood. The weight of God’s word can carry you through the circumstances of life you find yourself in. Maybe not right away or the way you want Him to, but He will carry you.

 

I hope the weight of the word, the weight of the sword of Jesus finds you. I hope it strikes your soul and impacts your heart. Not only because you need it, but because I want you to know what blessings from God feel like. The weight of His word can free you from whatever chains you feel are weighing you down. I pray His word impacts your life.

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Pillars

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This weekend was bittersweet.  A lot of long-time friends and I were in the same place at the same time.  However, the reason was for a memorial service for my friend’s dad, who was a teacher and administrator at the school I went to, and who was an elder and fellow congregant of the church I attended most of my life.  During the service, as due praise was being spoken, his legacy was being remembered, and it was significant because he was a servant.

 

He was a servant of Jesus Christ, and that led him to serve others around him, namely the students he taught in the classroom, the players he coached, and his own family at home.  He dedicated his life to service, and his impact was felt by those in the auditorium.

 

He was a pillar in the community.

 

As I sat there listening to memories and stories being told of this great man, I looked around the room and saw a number of my former teachers and coaches there to pay their respects.  None of them “took me under their wing,” or were full-blown mentors to me. They were just there in some way in my life as a positive influence, even when I may not have been the model student, player, or kid.  I just know and still know that if I run into them when I am in my old stomping grounds, or see them at mutual gatherings, I will receive a hug and a smile, and give them one in return.

 

This is about the pillars in my life, or some of them.  The men and women that said something to me once, that stuck, or spoke to me through years of action.  Whether it was once, whether it was a steady stream, it was significant to me, and I thank you all.

 

Thank you for taking the time.  Thank you for your life of service to role of being a teacher, or coach, or youth pastor.  Thank you for your life of love for a greater purpose. Thank you that I could be a result of your legacy (or I’m sorry because…you never know).

 

In no particular order, I’ll start with Dean Lagasse.  I met Mr. Lagasse when I was, maybe, in fourth grade. He was a summertime day camp counselor at my school, who later was my P.E. teacher, who later was my football coach, who later is just a great man I would call a friend.  I am happy to see him when I am in town and attend my home church. Mr. Lagasse, whether he meant to or not, showed me how to love by being a parent to his step kids, and, later, heaping adoration on his own daughter. He praised my athletic abilities, encouraging me to excel, and showed me that I have to work for my spot.  He did that by cutting me from the baseball team in seventh grade. There was no easy way in. You gotta work for it.

 

Mr. Lagasse, Dean, thank you for your love and service to the King.  Thank you for your sacrifice to teach students like me. Whether you knew it or not, your example made a great impact in my life.

 

Before I was in Tom Nare’s class, all of my teachers were women, which was noteworthy only because I had to wait until fifth grade to be have a male teacher.  I finally was able to be a student in his class, and he was legendary. Right now, I can’t even remember what was so noteworthy about looking forward to being in his class, but I know we all wondered and hoped to be a student in his classroom.

 

I was lucky enough to be in his math class that year.  He just had an aura of cool for a teacher. Relaxed but not a pushover.  Maybe he was cool because randomly every couple of weeks I would have random work in my folder, bring it up to him, and he would take it and give me credit.  I was supposed to turn it in, but didn’t for no particular reason. Or he would tell me to trash it. Maybe I thought he was cool because he let me get away with that.  Let’s not ask him.

 

One time, a few days after the first earthquake most of us kids had ever been in had happened, I was in class, and a fellow student was standing up against the window in the room with his back to the outside walkway.  Mr. Nare was walking the hallways and pounded on the glass as he passed by scaring the living daylights out of my classmate and most of the rest of us in class. I don’t think anyone stood up against the glass again.

 

Whatever it was about Mr. Nare, it was significant to me.  So much so that when I see him when I am in the old neighborhood and see him at church, I have to call him “Mr. Nare.”  I can’t call him “Tom”. To me, he was a pillar of cool.

 

I had mild reservations when this new guy from Minnesota showed up to lead youth ministries at my church (MY church) when I was in high school.  But I gave him a chance since he came from the church some of my friends had come from a year before when their dad was called by God to become the lead pastor of “my” church.  He seemed pretty funny, fun and knew how to connect with the kids. Tim Bolin was cool enough that I stuck around church and his mission to grow God’s kingdom until I was twenty-three.

 

Tim was fun, funny, and he made loving Jesus fun as well.  He didn’t make a joke out of church, but he wanted to rid the stereotype or idea that church was just another day at school, except God was the subject.

 

One thing he wanted to change was to kick the old people out of the front rows of service.  Our church started in the 1930’s, and, no offense, but a proportion of the congregation looked like they were there from the time they broke ground.  So Tim wanted us young kids to take over the front rows. Eventually, we did take over, and I think some of my friends still sit there now some 25 years later.  

 

Sadly, we are becoming the old people the kids will need to kick out soon.

 

I hated going to church, even though I had liked going to “Sunday School” for junior high service, because my friends were there.  In “Big Church” you had to sit, be quiet, listen – all the things junior high kids “love”. There was a short period of time when my friend Steve and I would ditch church to walk down to KFC and sneak back in until we got caught (Dad, the statute of limitations is up.  This was 30+ years ago. Please don’t get mad). When Tim showed up, he changed church into a place to be. I wanted to be there.

 

It’s a little funny now being a dad:  I am so in love with Jesus and want my kids to be too, but they don’t always want to go.  I’ll just keep praying for them and asking God to speak to them.

 

Before Tim was Randy Strickland, and he was a crack up.  I think if I didn’t know him, or know he loved God from head to toe, I would be really worried that he was actually nuts.  I can’t say I have a specific memory that makes a significant impact in my mind, but he was steady and consistent. I knew he loved God.  I knew he wanted me to love God, too, and that was his mission: to share the gospel.

 

As I am writing about Randy, there is one memory I do remember.  It was junior high winter retreat, and he was driving us in a van to a cabin in the local mountains.  There was a street that had a tree as a lane divider. He wasn’t going fast, but the streets had some snow dust so there was some risk, and he was heading right for the tree.  He got closer and closer saying, “Decisions…decisions…” until he eventually got to one side of the road.

 

I never told my parents about that, and I doubt my kids are going to tell me about their adventures when they’re in junior high, but I hope my kids have servants like Tim and Randy in their lives to help guide them through the mystery of Jesus.

 

When you’re in school, there are situations you just dread.  Getting called on to answer a question in class, to write on the board, act in a skit.  The usual kind of thing. Up until recently as an adult with a career, I was a scientist, and in school that was my focus.  So English class was not my jam. Shakespeare, Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Crucible.  Kill me now.  

 

Then there are the days you walk into class and your teacher (in my case, Mrs. Fickett) says, “Hi class, it’s creative writing day!  We’re going to write a poem about your feelings.” Not exactly but the poem part was true. I had forty five minutes to write the perfect poem to avoid getting an F for the day.

 

It didn’t happen.  No poem under pressure.  I wrote a paragraph to Mrs. Fickett explaining that writing under pressure like that, to flip the switch and be creative, was not in my wheelhouse.  From what I could gather, she bought it and accepted what I submitted, because I didn’t fail 11th grade English.

 

Then, out of nowhere while I was in college, I started writing.  I started writing poems. None of them rhymed because that is too hard on my brain.  I don’t know if Mrs. Fickett would care, but I have always thought of sharing with her some of my work.  Not in a, “In your face!” kind of way. More of a, “Thanks for understanding” kind of way. Thanks for recognizing, very simply by saying, “Okay,” to what I turned in, that different people work differently in different environments.

 

But if you don’t like my writing, blame her. 🙂

 

Another legend that I had heard of before I was a student of his was Mr. Endacott.  The stories were that he was laid back, fun, and his class was cool. He lived up to the hype.  He even managed to keep his cool when he had a class full of seniors, made up mostly the “cool” kids who did not care about Human Anatomy – until the reproductive system was covered, of course.  And he maintained his cool even when he found out a friend and I were passing notes after, AFTER, we completed our AP Bio exam.

 

Endo was a big reason I became a scientist.  Science was fun, science was easy in Endo’s class.  He had an easy way to explain and help students understand biology.  He did his best to explain mitosis and meiosis, and I still can’t get the steps straight.  Endo had a picture of Gregor Mendel, the Father of Genetics and doppleganger of Sting, up on the wall, one time mumble-sang a song by The Police, and said he listened to the same morning radio show a lot of us did.  That helped with his “cool cred” in my mind, not that he needed more or my acknowledgement. I just was glad to be a student in his class.

 

I’ve been lucky enough to grow up in the church, have a positive experience, and have positive Christian influences around me to help mold my thinking and idea of God.  A family that helped do that when I was in college, and even now to this day were the Swansons. Bob and Marilyn opened up their home to our college group Bible study to meet on Thursday nights for years.  Some weeks they would provide dinner for up to 40 of us, other weeks, it was potluck. Either way, “starving students” would come, eat, talk about God, His relationship with us, and our relationships with each other.  It was a chance to meet with friends, and gave me a midweek God-calibration.

 

Even though I grew up in the church, my relationship with Jesus was still superficial, or just on my terms if I needed Him.  Recently, it has grown, and I love Jesus more than ever, but if I didn’t have that foundation, I don’t think it would be as strong as it is now.  And I have Bob and Marilyn to thank for that, for helping build a pillar in my life.

 

I have been in a Men’s LIfe Group for a year and a half now.  We have met at my house a handful of times. I have to scramble to sweep, pick up the kids’ toys, and make the house mildly presentable for 4-8 middle-aged men (meaning they wouldn’t care).  The Swanson’s did that routine every week for at least 5 years. AND they got food for people without asking for anything in return. I will always remember the sacrifice they made to help plant seeds and grow the kingdom in a group of college-aged kids.

 

But their son is still a jerk, amirite?!  😉 Just kidding, he’s one of my friends I have known the longest and always can call on.

 

There are many more people that have impacted my life.  Gary Correll led my high school Life Group. He spoke on James once about faith and works, and I will never forget his words, “It’s faithworks.  Not faith AND works, or works AND faith. They go together.” Also in high school, Dan Wonser took time to meet with me and a couple of guys for breakfast once a week.  We would talk about high school life, and what’s more important in life. Kenny Murphy lead high school before Tim Bolin did, and he shared, among other things, how God used football and life to speak to him.  He also was an example of sacrifice running the high school ministry while managing and balancing his family and, I believe, a full-time job.

 

Talking about the pillars in my past makes me wonder what kind of pillar am I?  Who am I a pillar to? Do my kids see me as a pillar? A strong, positive pillar?  Or a crumbling one without a solid base?

 

In listening to sermons and podcasts, or watching the way NBC brings out the emotional stories of Olympic athletes, kids just need an influencer.  In hearing horror stories, there are negative influences that can lead to tragedy. But with an open heart and a positive role model, there is a way towards renewal and redemption.

 

I’ll make mistakes, but I hope to be a strong pillar as part of s solid foundation in Christ for my kids.

 

What kind of influence are you on your kids?  On your community? At work? What kind of foundation are you helping build in your kids?

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Finding Jesus With Dory

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It shouldn’t be too unexpected considering the track record Disney movies have of making kids and adults cry. I kind of cried the first time I saw Frozen when (SPOILER ALERT) the parents died. It just made me think of how sad it would be, from either perspective, to not be there for my kids, or as a kid to have lost my parents.

 

Well Finding Dory wasn’t much different, except for the reason I was crying.  My youngest was scared of some of the intense action, and I felt bad for my older daughter crying because, near the end of the movie before the redeeming scene, it gets pretty dark and full of despair.  Dory is (again, SPOILER ALERT) spit out into the ocean and is all alone not knowing where to go or what to do for a few moments.  No other fish are around, it’s dark, empty, and lonely.  She decides to swim towards the ocean floor where sand is because “Sand is squishy,” and finds a clue that leads to her parents, who she is trying to find.  The clue is a seashell, which her parents had used when she was a kid-fish to help her remember her way home.  She follows a trail of seashells and finds her parents coming back from picking up more shells to make the trail longer.

 

She was lost, and they never stopped looking for her.  For years.  Never.  Just kept gathering and laying out seashells.

 

From a close up reuniting with her parents, the shot zooms out and there are seashells branched out in every direction.  And I started to cry, because it reminded me of Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son.  It’s not an exact analogy, but the picture of parents never giving up their search for their lost child, always hoping and believing they would return made me think of Jesus when I fail, or turn away, or just do what I want to do.

 

No matter what, He’s there.

 

No matter what I do, Jesus is looking for me, waiting for me to come back to Him, wanting me to come back.  He’ll never stop looking for me, and He’ll never turn me away.  No matter what my kids do, as much as they drive me nuts at times, I would never turn them away.  There may be some times of tough love and rebellion, but I will always have an open door for them.

 

One of my biggest fears is my kids getting mixed up with that “wrong crowd” that all parents worry about.  Considering how big of a problem that is, there should just be a sign that says, “This Is The Wrong Crowd. Stay Away!”  That would make parenting a lot easier.

 

But I know kids have to make their own decisions and their own mistakes.  I made plenty of my own.  Fortunately, I was blessed to have wonderful earthly parents that gave me a home to come back to, as well as a heavenly Father to welcome me to His home with open arms.  I’ll always have a home in Jesus to come back to.

 

And so do you, if you want one.  It doesn’t matter what you have done.  It doesn’t matter what you have said.  He is always looking for you and ready for you to come home.  All you need to do is take a step towards HIm.

 

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