Monday, May 25, 2009

Scattered Showers

The weather forecast for today was partly cloudy with scattered showers throughout our area. The scattered showers must have been somewhere else most of the day because we hadn't seen any rain so far. So about 1PM I decide to take a motorcycle ride through the country side. The weather was perfect... partly sunny and in the mid 70's. My ride was fantastic, no wind, mostly sunny, just perfect until... the scattered showers hit me. I was about 45 minutes from home when I felt the first drop of rain. The sun was still shining but in the distance I could see the darker clouds coming. I decided to take a detour on my ride and I thought I might be able to avoid this scattered shower. I did really well, I got into a very light rain that quickly went away after only 2 minutes. I wasn't wet at all. As I was making my way back home I saw another dark cloud in the distance. I could see that it was raining by the way the clouds streaked towards the ground. This one looked a lot worse than the last shower so I made another detour and tried to avoid this shower. Again I did well. It rained on me for about 5 minutes and very lightly. Not bad at all! By now I'm only 15 miles from home. Looks like I'm going to make it home without getting wet. 5 miles from the house I encounter a down pour like none other. One moment I'm in the sun, the very next I'm soaked! I drive the 5 miles in a downpour and arrive at home just as the rain stopped and the sun come out again. Of course when I walked in the house my family thought it funny to ask me if I had an enjoyable ride as I stood there dripping wet. (actually it was a great ride, it was just the last 5 minutes that was bad)

What makes me think is this... Today's ride was fun, it was a great time of relaxation and the country side was beautiful to look at as I rode the back roads of Tennessee. Taking the detours took me on roads I'd never been on before and it was wonderful to explore new roads in this way. I thought, "Wouldn't it be a shame to allow the last five minutes of my ride to ruin the whole experience?"
Have you ever let the negative things that happen to you take your focus off of the good or positive things that happen? Have you ever had a great day at work, or a great day off work, or a wonderful Sunday afternoon, but then a single phone call can change the whole outlook on the day?

I saw a sign today outside of a small country church on one of my detours to avoid the rain showers. The sign read, " Weather Forecast... The Son is always shining!" As I read that sign it made me smile as here I was trying to avoid the rain, but even when the rain got me, I was still able to smile because I was reminded that even when the weather is bad, "The Son is always shining."

Lord, help me to always see past the current rain clouds and bad circumstances in each day. May I never forget that you are always shining upon me. Also thanks for the quiet reminder that life contains both dark clouds and clear sky's and even so; thank you that everyday contains... "Son Shine."

Memorial Day

One of my greatest achievements in life was my service to my country while serving in the US Army. I joined when I was 17 years old. My parents had to sign a release form for me to be allowed in because I was not yet of age. I had my 18th birthday while in Boot Camp at Fort Gordon GA.

Why did I join? Well it wasn't to fight wars or become a hero or anything like that. I joined because I really didn't know where else to turn. I knew I wasn't going to college, couldn't afford it. So when I heard that I could attend college while serving in the service, I thought this would be my ticket. Maybe I could still go to college after all. So my reasons for joining the Service was not due to growing up as a child with aspirations of serving in the Armed Forces. In fact I knew very little about the military at that time. Like I said, this was my opportunity to go to college.

On the 2nd day of Boot Camp, the Drill Sargent selected squad leaders from the men in the platoons. Four were chosen and I was one of the four. How he determined that I was a leader within only the first two days of Boot camp I'll never know but never the less I was chosen and given the task and responsibility of leading my own squad of about a dozen men. Pretty scary for me when you consider I knew no more than the other guys but now I'm in charge! I found this new role very difficult because not only was I learning a whole new way of life but I was responsible for other men learning as well. After a few weeks I began to feel more comfortable in my new role as Squad leader and had even earn the respect of the men in my squad. After 12 weeks of Boot camp, we graduated, and I was given a commendation and certificate tiltled... the "most distinguished gentleman's award." I'd come along way since day one of Boot Camp but more importantly I grew up and matured a lot during those days. I learned about honor, respect, discipline, and sacrifice. I learned more about commitment and hard work than I ever dreamed I could. I began to see myself as a leader, and not just a leader, but a leader that was recognized as someone that was a gentleman during the process (Didn't see much gentleman leadership in those days, it was more along the lines of a dictatorship) so I was very proud of this award.

Later I did go to college during some of my tours of duty but in the end I never finished. After four years of service and making it to the rank of Sargent, I finally decided to get out of the military and go back to civilian life. I'll never forget when I announced to my commander that I would be getting out after making the decision not to re-enlist. He couldn't believe it and many thought I was kidding. You see, to everyone else that I served with, I was know as a "Lifer." In other words, I was in the military for life! I was very Gung Ho, and committed in my service and I truly did enjoy and loved serving my country. What had began as a way to get to college, actually turned into a love for my country, my flag, and what I stood for as an American Soldier. I may have started this journey in the military with other motives, but in the end, it was about service to my Country.

Why did I get out? Unfortunately for my wife, the service was not her love and joy. I spent many days away from her on training missions and honestly my career in the Army was rough on our marriage. I felt that if I stayed in I might lose her, so I chose my wife and our commitment to each other over my life in the Army. I've never regretted getting out, it was the right thing to do at the time. I've also never regretted my time of service in the US Army. I would not trade those four years of active duty service for anything. The values and discipline I had learned while in the Army, I have used everyday of my life as a leader. To this day I can't hear the National Anthem without getting teary eyed. When I see the Amercian Flag flying high on a flag pole I get a feeling of pride within me. When I see soldiers in uniform, I'm so thankful for their service.

Memorial Day for me is a special day. It's a reminder to me and all of us, that our freedom comes at a cost. The freedom we take for granted... was paid for with the blood of soldiers. On Memorial Day we stop and reflect on that for a minute, and I hope it moves you as it does me. But I suspect for many people, this day could be difficult to understand. Maybe even have very little meaning to you unless you have been touched by it in some way... either knowing someone that has served, knowing someone that has died in their service, or maybe like me, you have served. Hopefully you realize the price for freedom and appreciate and can show your respects to the fallen soldiers that paid that price. Men and women that have given the ultimate sacrifice so that others may live free.

Seems freedom always comes at the spilling of blood. Jesus Christ gave the ultimate sacrifice. He gave his life and shed his blood so that we could have eternal life (freedom from sin). To live free, cost so much doesn't it? Maybe this Memorial Day we'll not only remember the fallen soldiers, but also the One that fought the ultimate battle for each and every one of us. The One that died and shed His blood so we all could live as free people. His name is Jesus Christ. May every day be a Memorial Day for Christ.

God bless the men and Women that serve in the our Armed Forces, and may we remember with gratitude and respect, those that gave their lives for our Country. Amen.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Not everything is as it appears

I found this draft that I had written on 1/9/2009.

As I sit here and write, I'm looking out the window and the sky is gray, the trees are without leaves, there's a slight breeze that makes the limbs on the trees and bushes move slightly. From all appearances while sitting here in my house it looks like it could snow at any minute. But when I walk outdoors onto my porch, it's a warm beautiful day. It's 65 degrees outside right now... but from the inside of the house it looks like it's freezing outside and ready to snow.

This reminds me that not everyone is as they appear either. From where we stand it may appear that someone has everything going their way. From our vantage point... it seems their world is great. But in reality, their world may be falling apart. Most of us are very good at disguising what's really going on in our lives. We do this because when you think about it... the last thing you want to do when your life is a mess is talk about it with others. Sometimes were embarrassed or too hurt or ashamed to discuss it with anyone. So to avoid this pain... we hide. Just like the weather outside that had me fooled today, so it is with the people in our lives that are going through tough times. Not everything is at it appears.

Everyone is going through something. A death and loss of a loved one, a serious illness or injury or other health issues, a time without income from a loss of a job, maybe they're going through a divorce or break up, an addiction of some kind and the consequences of that, dealing with legal issues, the point is we don't know what's happening in the lives of those around us. But the chances are... from where we stand, things appear better than they are because people are good at covering up their problems. So what's all this mean to us?

Be ready to listen, to try and understand things from their perspective. Assume that everything is not as it seems and be a support rather than a judge for their problems. Keep in mind that they already feel bad about their situation and our role needs to be one of support and encouragement. We can pray for them and just be there for them, without putting our shallow two cents worth in the mix of things. Every time someone asks me for my advice I wonder... who am I to give advice... Have you taken a look at my life lately? Or maybe I've done a good job of covering up my problems so that things appear different than they really are. The truth is... we all are suffering in some way, and we all need help. I praise God that he loves me no matter what I do, no matter the circumstances I've gotten myself into... God always loves me! God's love is the only love that is unconditional. How can we help others? How can we be an encouragement to others? Share the love of God with them. God is the only one that truly knows what they are going through. He is the only one that you can not hide from. He is the only way to find peace when your life is a mess. Sometimes people can't see God's love, unless they see it through you.

May you be filled with the Holy Spirit and ready to share the love of God with others when the time is needed. Don't assume that just because things appear to be good, that they are. God may be using you to reach out to someone He wants to help.

Romans 13:10-13
(10) Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.
(11) Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.
(12) Rejoice in confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.
(13) When God's people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.

The weather report

I don't know about your neck of the woods, but if you live in mine, you're wet! It's been raining a lot lately. The weather has taken it's toll on our area in many different ways. Over the last few weeks we've experienced tornados that have destroyed many homes in our community. We've expereinced a lot of rain and flooding. Gardens are usually put in by now, but many folks have yet to be able to get their gardens in the ground because it's been so wet. Today we had another storm come through our area and as I was watching the radar screen on my computor I was saw warning idicaters showing me that we were in a severe Thunderstorm warning for our area. I decided to put a loop action on this map so I could observe the behavior of this storm and see where it had been and watch it move accross the screen to where it was now. This loop shows me about an hours worth of storm movement in just a few seconds time. What I noticed was as the storm moved through the state, the yellow boxes that indicate severe thunderstorm warnings would pop up as the storm moved. I also noticed that about 100 hundred miles after the storm had passed there were green boxes popping up on the screen indictaing flash flood warnings for those areas that had just experienced the severe weather. Watching this map and seeing these storms build up and then hit us followed quickly by flash floods, well it reminded me of how similar the weather is to our own lives.

We face storms all the time don't we? They suddnely come into our lives, often without any warning, and they hit us hard. Some storms can be destructive, like tornados, while other storms just make us uncomfortable, like Thunderstorms or rain, but as with any storm that brings a lot of rain, there's usually flash flooding to follow. It's like a double whammy.

I don't know what storms you are going through, I don't know what flash floods you have experienced from the storms you've endured either. All I know is that God does. His word promises comfort during the storms of our lives.

Psalm 107:26-29
(26) Their souls melt because of trouble.
(27) They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits' end.
(28) Then they cry out to the Lord in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses.
(29) He calms the storm, so that it's waves are still.

If the weather has any similarity to the personal storms we experience in our own lives then there's good news. Storms always pass through! Some storms are worse than others but they don't last forever and the sun will shine again. We just need to learn to protect ourselves during these storms. God is our protection, He is our shelter, and with him we can and will endure the storms we encounter and flash floods that follow. May we all remember to cry out to the Lord in our distress and allow Him to calm the storm.


Have you ever been faced with a decision and you weren't quite sure of what to do? Should I do this? Should I do that? Should I move or not? What about taking that next promotion or job? Everyday were faced with decisions that can change our circumstances and as Christians we want to be in God's will when we take those steps that move us in a new direction.

Sometimes our fear of making the wrong decision prevents us from moving at all and we never really know if we should have pursued or not? We make the decision not to go, not to move, not to take the next challenge because we are not sure of what to do, so we do nothing.

Read Acts 16:6-16:10 (The Holy Spirit prevents Paul from going into Asia to preach the Gospel)

Sometimes to see if you are making the right decision... you need to begin the process. Take the first step of faith and allow God to direct you from there. Look at Paul for example. He sought God's will and direction for his life. He knew he was to take the Gospel to everyone he could so that others had the opportunity to have eternal life. So he planned out a course and went about spreading the good news. It wasn't until he got ready to go into Asia that Holy Spirit prevented him from doing so. So Paul didn't go there. A vision then appeared to Paul during the night and this is when he experienced the call to go to Macedonia. You see Paul could have thought it strange that the Holy Spirit wouldn't let him go preach in Asia, after all they needed to hear the Gospel too didn't they? I'm sure Paul thought it would have been in God's will for him to go there and that's why he thought about going there. But God prevented him from going there and then redirected him.

We'll never have peace about the entire plan or course, rather the peace comes from knowing that if we do go the wrong direction, as long as we are seeking God's will, and listening to His Spirit, then we will be lead through the course and have opportunities to change course as we're lead. Just as Paul did, we need to pray about it, seek direction for the first step, then step out in faith leaving the road Map to God.

Have you ever used a GPS for directions. It gives you precise directions, telling you to turn left or right at the exact moment. And when you don't listen or make a wrong turn, what do you hear? "Recalculating." Don't you think that God can recalculate your every wrong move to get you back on track. Of course he can. So begin the journey and step out in faith instead of fretting over what to do. Seek a closer relationship with God. Pray and seek God's wisdom and guidance and then go in peace as you take that first step. It's when we step out in faith, that we get the directions for the next few steps. God will guide you and redirect you if you're going where He doesn't want you to go. Just be sensitive to those words, "recalculating."