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I never seem to know exactly what words will flow when I put finger to keyboard.  So, rarely do my posts begin by immediately typing the title.

Today is different.

While scrolling through my Facebook feed this afternoon, two words caught me.

Uncommon Courage.

And I realized that I think it is a myth.  I do not believe uncommon courage exists today.

Not anymore.

Because I think any courage today, is uncommon courage.

Today it is common to shout until you are heard or at least shout loud enough so no one else can hear the other guy.  Uncommon courage is to disagree with someone and allow them to speak.

It is common to disrupt and protest using violence.  It is uncommon courage to demonstrate peacefully.

It is common to become offended, declare loudly that someone is intolerant and while being just as intolerant, attempt to silence those who hold opposing views.  It is uncommon courage to be so certain of your beliefs that when someone disagrees, you are not insulted or offended.

It is uncommon courage to admit you were wrong, admit you need help, admit you are imperfect or flawed.

It is uncommon courage to admit you need a savior, that you struggle with fear or lust or worry or insecurity.  It is uncommon courage to stay faithful to your spouse, to provide for your family, to be a good parent.  It is uncommon courage to stand up for what is right simply because it is right.

Our world does not suffer from a lack of uncommon courage, it suffers from a lack of courage.quotescover-JPG-85

We traded a deep knowing of who we are for the shallow security of what other people think.  And in doing so, we gave away our courage.

We are no longer certain of our beliefs, so we defend when someone disagrees.  We are no longer certain of ourselves or that we are good, so we flee when things get difficult.  We are no longer certain we are loved, so we chose physical intimacy to numb the ache.  And we are terrified to be alone so we jump from relationship to relationship to fill the void.

We wandered away from knowing who HE is.  And we lost who we are.

The solution, as most are, is simple but not easy.

Vulnerability.  Being real with ourselves first and our friends and family second.  Being honest about our shortcomings, and our need of  a savior.  And being humble enough to allow Him to come in and change our hearts.

I am not there yet.  I am still flawed.  I still care about what others think about me, I am insecure, I struggle with fear and lust and pride and worry and… the list goes on.

No, I am not as courageous as I want to be.  But I am more courageous than I was last year, and I will be more courageous next year.

I will be a good husband.  I will love and provide for my wife.  I will follow the Heart of the One who courageously created beings with free will.  I will do the right thing just because it’s right.

And I will be courageous.

 

I don’t think we were meant to strive for perfection.

Maybe what we’re supposed to learn from a perfect God becoming human and living a perfect life, is that He knew we could not.

He wanted us to know that grace is good.

And that because of grace, mistakes are allowed.

And maybe that means we shouldn’t strive for an instagram-worthy life.

Maybe it means that the mom at the grocery store with drool stains and Cheerios stuck to her coat is beautiful and is closer to what God really wants to see than the businessman in his perfectly pressed suit.

He knew real life was never going to be perfect.  He knew once we tasted shame we’d spend lifetimes trying to hide it.recite-12r9et4

And in His perfection, He befriended the imperfect.

He never once called out their failures, He never once judged those who came to Him in need.  He knew real life doesn’t have auto-correct, undo, or backspace.

He knew we’d say things we wish we could swallow, do things we would give anything to forget, and hurt those around us in ways we were never meant to break.

He knew we would always be imperfect failures.  And yet He came anyway.  He took our place.  He lived a perfect life and died the death we earned so that we could live His resurrection.

So that we could become new.

I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.”

The Enthroned continued, “Look! I’m making everything new.
(revelation 21)

 

Everything.

New.

You, me, your history, your future, new.

All you have to do is ask.

Just ask.

 

Matt Redman – Never Once

Who am I?  What am I made of?  Am I better than how I was treated?

Do I have what it takes?

These questions haunt us.

Part of me expected that at 36 and married, I would have answered those questions many years ago.  I thought I would be talking about lawn care and painting my white picket fence.

But the questions still whisper.

And if I listen closely, they mock.  They do not just question who I am, but they challenge, they berate.  It is no longer, do I have what it takes?.  It becomes you do not have what it takes.

And ill equipped as we are, when those questions become statements we have no idea how to fend them off.  Maybe because we were not given the tools to do so by those who should have passed them on, maybe because the loudest voices we heard growing up agreed with the statements in our head.  Maybe because the road we are travelling is a road our fathers should have walked with us.

And now here we stand, asking ourselves that question.

Do I have what it takes?

I can only imagine the first disciples were haunted by the same questions.

They were not highly educated men, they were not wealthy or from important families.  They were laborers.  Fishermen.  They worked each day in the most deadly profession of all time.  And the livelihood of their family, the next meal they ate depended on these men and their ability to catch fish.

Maybe they weren’t given the tools as children to deal with those voices.  Maybe their fathers were absent.  And maybe Christ knew all of this when in Matthew 16, he asked them

Who do you say I am?

It’s funny, to think that in the midst of such a huge need Christ would chose not to ask about who they thought they were but instead asked who they thought HE was.

When Jesus arrived in the villages of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “What are people saying about who the Son of Man is?”

They replied, “Some think he is John the Baptizer, some say Elijah, some Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”

But that was not enough.  They didn’t answer the question.

He pressed them, “And how about you? Who do you say I am?”

Simon got it right.  He listened to that still, small voice when it whispered that the man standing before them was not just wise, but was the Christ.

Simon Peter said, “You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

And in that instant, when he answered honestly and declared that Jesus was the Christ, Christ answered the most important question Simon would never ask out loud.

Who am I?  What am I made of?  Do I have what it takes?

 Jesus came back, “God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn’t get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am. And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock.

 

You are Peter.  A Rock.50338-Everything-Changed

The answer to the question everyone asks in the silence of their own thoughts, Christ proclaimed in the presence of Simon’s friends.  From that day forward, everything changed for Simon, including his name.

Simon Peter realized who Jesus was, and in declaring that truth, Jesus revealed to Peter who he really was.

You are mine.  You belong to me and have always belonged to me.  There is nothing you can do to change that because I have chosen and created you.  

You are not alone.  You are now a part of me.  

You have what it takes.  

Future of Forestry – Slow Your Breath Down 

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Kickstarter, it is a fundraising website designed to give those with  great ideas a platform to present their idea to the world, and then ask for funding from anyone interested in seeing that idea come to life.

Bands fund their indie albums, people create new ways to keep coffee hot, charge your iPhone or send something to space.

Recently, one idea has garnered a lot of press. The mini museum(http://www.minimuseum.com).

33 pieces of history. Pieces of the London Bridge, Abe Lincoln’s house and a triceratops horn. 33 nearly one-of-a-kind items for $299. I love it. I think it’s an awesome idea as it places things you’ve only heard about in your hands.

I want one.museum-13

But my desire goes far beyond the cool factor. And I couldn’t figure out why until now.

Stories.

It’s not 33 pieces of history. It’s 33 stories. 33 stories and the many stories that will be created talking about how cool the mini museum is.  Stories to be told around around something that holds stories already told.

I don’t want it for the cool factor, I want it for what it tells my heart. That I’m somehow more important for having it. That it somehow brings value to my existence.

It’s not that I need a piece of the Berlin Wall, but that I need stories. And part of me wants to replace the stories I do have, my past, with something better.

Because I don’t like my story.

I don’t like the pages I didn’t get to write. And I don’t like some if the pages I wrote myself.

I want a different story. I don’t want to be the son of an absentee father. The son of divorced parents. Or the son of a family that’s been through the hell we’ve been through. I’ve somehow bought the lie that something new and shiny can change the tarnish staining my past.

It can’t. Nothing can.

But it’s not the tarnish that matters. Because if you look below the tarnishing, you see the indelible ink imprinted on my soul.

“I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places… You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again.” (Isaiah 58:9-12 MSG)”

Museum or not, my past, your past is unchanging.  But it is not my present.  Nor will it be my future.

The stories I live will not be defined by the knickknacks on my coffee table, but by those I chose to love, and those who love me.  My past defined a large part of who I was, but the ink on my soul defines my future.  And nothing can change that.

For the Cross – Bethel Music

I am a big fan of the classic Christmas movies.

It’s a Wonderful Life, Mickey’s Christmas Carol, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Rudolph, Charlie Brown and many others harbor the beginning of wonderful memories for my wife and I.

As with most Christmas movie purists, I immediately look down upon newer attempts to capture spirit of this time of year like one would look down upon Handel’s Messiah being put to polka music.

However, Elf has broken through to the realms of tradition and has taken its place as a classic holiday movie.

It’s not about how funny the story is or how the family becomes a family because of Buddy’s presence.  Although those things help the story, for me it’s the whimsy and wonder Buddy shows for all things new.

Blissfully ignorant of or directly because of the cynicism of the big-city dwellers, Buddy met Christmas trees, taxi cabs, the worlds best cup of coffee, revolving doors and tall buildings with the same wonder and innocent excitement that helped Jovie fall for him.

And as we celebrate the closing of one chapter and the beginning of a brand new one, I am challenged by the way Buddy met each day.  Challenged to live a life that free of the fear of mans opinions, to stand in wonder of the wonderful things that surround us each day, challenged to fill our waking moments with the magic and whimsy we often allow only in our dreams.  Because that is living life and that is my new years resolution.

Life is full of uncertainty.

I’ll avoid the clichés that tell us that the only thing we can be sure of is change or that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.  Because I know they’re just that, clichés.  Poor attempts to capture in too few words truths we would rather ignore.

Uncertainty isn’t fun.  Fear is real.  Change is certain.

But we forget another truth that is central to life.

We are not alone.

And the more I realize this, the more my wife loves me, the more I lean into my Saviour, the more I learn that I don’t have to walk this life entirely self-sufficient.

It’s not an easy lesson to learn.  For a long time, I was my best friend, I was my confidant.  I was the only one I could count on.

But that’s changing.  The walls are slowly coming down.

And as they do, they bring uncertainty, fear and change.

But they also bring color, joy and laughter.  Peace, happiness and light.  Love, hope and life.

I’ve got a long way to go before the walls are gone completely, but that is what this blog is supposed to be about.  That is what life is supposed to be about.

When I look back on the chapters of my life I’m writing right now, I want them to be the pages I dog ear.  The pages I remember fondly as the beginning of the best days of my life.  The pages that make me smile.  Because these are the pages where life began to lose its gray hue, where color over takes black & white and where life overtakes simply being alive.

Bethel Music – To Our God: 

The deepest things in life are deep for a purpose. They are not meant to be easily found or happened upon. They are meant to be desired, longed for, searched for and highly prized.

We don’t value what comes easy.  And the deep things in life, the beautiful things in life are things of immense value. Their beauty is only truly appreciated and understood by one who has forged into the dark places and retrieved the jewel that laid there.

The pot of gold at the end of a rainbow?

No.

But the pearl at the bottom of the ocean.

The priceless painting in the remains of a home.

The diamond in the alluvial stream.

The dream in the ashes of your past.

Go there. Find the deep things. Your life wasn’t meant to be lived in the shallows. We were called to go deeper and to call others to what we find.

You have something beautiful, something of breathtaking value hidden deep within your heart. The one who is meant for you, the one you are meant to find is the one for whom you will plumb those depths. And they, yours.

But you will never find them, nor your purpose, nor the stunning breadth of color that life can instill in you unless you face the depths of your own life first. Find the beauty that is in you, that your Heavenly Father placed in you first.

Find that first.

And everything else will follow.

You are amazing, you are beautiful.

You have a purpose.

Find that, hold onto that, fight for that, and nothing on this earth will stop you.

Bethel Music – What Does It Sound Like  

All too often we look at the story our lives have told thus far and we believe it to be mediocre, colorless and ordinary. We believe the lie that because we don’t have our happily ever after or our white picket fence that our story is somehow less important.

We believe that just because our stories are incomplete, unfinished and imperfect that they are unimportant, unattractive or unworthy of being shared.

We forget the central truth in the story Christ told with His life on this earth. We forget the simple beauty, the ordinary elegance found in the way he lived his life. He was free to see the worth in the stories of those whose paths He crossed because He knew their stories were unfinished.

He understood the value of the unwritten chapters and he saw value, preciousness and rarity where we would see stained pages, torn covers and empty chapters. He understood the power of hope in a page not yet turned. And the strength of dreams existing only in unspoken whispers of the heart.

He lived His life on this earth telling and showing us that the most important gift we could ever give another person was their freedom.

Freedom to be themselves, to fail and succeed, to try and try again. To jump headlong into the blank chapters, to impress ink to paper and bring life where there was once only emptiness.

He saw us not as we were, but as we could be, as our best. And He loved us in light of that perspective, that truth.

He loved, loves us not because we are perfect and have everything all together, not because our 5 year plan is right on track or we’re painting our picket fence next weekend. No, He loves us simply because He chose to, because it’s who He is.

And it’s because of that love that we get second chances, that blank pages become invitations to live incredible stories, that we never face the end, but that at the closing of each chapter, and at the closing of each book, we see to be continued.

And it’s in that love, because of that love, I found my to be continued.

And she is beautiful.

There are pages unwritten, stories to live, and love to grow. My point? It’s out there, for you. Find your to be continued. It is beautiful.

Trust me, I know.

Last night I spoke with a friend whose husband battles the same demons I’ve faced, the same demons I still face.  And through that conversation, something was said that resonated deeply within me.

When a father and mother divorce, when that relationship meant to last for all eternity breaks, something inside their children breaks, too.  

Divorce casts a long shadow.  And although I am continually reminded that I am not my father, that my path is not his path, and that my destiny is not determined by the choices he made, there are moments when failure seems so real.  When the ache is all I know.

When it hurts.

I’ve always struggled with the idea of God as a Father because my own father didn’t provide an example.  But He is a Father.  You see it countless times in scripture:

The Lord was with Samuel.  And the Lord was with Joseph.  And the Lord was with Joshua as He was with Moses.  And the Lord was with Judah.  And Saul was afraid of David because the Lord was with Him.

He chose to be with those men; men who committed murder, men who doubted, men who cheated on their wives.  For all eternity He chose to have it be known that He walked with these men.  He saw value where there was once only brokenness, He saw worth, where others saw nothing.  He was with them.  And if He could love them through all they had to face, then I know He is with me.

And if He is with me, then I know my story isn’t done.  I know that I can look forward with hope to many amazing years of marriage to my beautiful wife.  I know that my heart will continue to grow and that I will be able to love her the way I was meant to, the way Christ loves the Church.  I know that my future isn’t written in stone, but is carried upon scarred hands.

We may spend the rest of our lives walking out from the shadow our earthly fathers cast upon our lives.  But even if we do, we know the shadow is cast only because there is a much greater light that has always been burning, calling to us, telling us that we are not failures.  We are not lost.  We are not broken, incapable humans.

But that we are sons and daughters.  Gifts to this earth.  And we have something beautiful, unique and breathtaking to bring to those around us.

We were born for such a time as this.

We were meant to live and we were meant to live abundantly.

For I know the plans I have for you” — this is the Lord’s declaration — “plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope”  
Jeremiah 29:11

Future of Forestry – Sanctitatis

You are at war.

How we got here, why it happened, none of it matters. And trying to understand each circumstance, trying to make sense of the insanity that at times swirls at our feet will only frustrate and disappoint.

You may never know the answers to why or how.

I know, I’ve tried. And the only truth I have found is that we are at war.

And to live this life, to truly live this life like it is meant to be lived, like you were created to live it, you must fight.

Lives of passivity are colorless, bland, full of grays. Never seeing black and white much less the rainbow of life lying just outside of our picket fences.

You are a promise. You are a song. You have something in you that only you can bring to the world. You have a shade of blue, a note of music, a particular stroke of the painters brush that no one else has.

You bring life to others, if you fight to bring that life first to your heart.

Above all, guard your heart, for from it, life springs forth.
(Prov. 4:23)

You will never understand what love does, you will never see the depth of color in a rainbow or the rays of golden honey pouring from a sunset in their purest forms until the life of the One who paints the heavens is alight in your heart.

Protect your heart, love passionately.Chase hard after your dreams because the world needs you.

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