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Many years ago I began a journey that, at the time, I thought would have ended in days and weeks. Not decades.

I’ve been in Texas for more than a decade, married for more than two years and only recently have my wife and I found a church that may just become home.

10 years of searching. Why? Because I wasn’t looking for just a church, or just good worship, or just just a good message. I, we were looking for honesty, vulnerability and community.

And although she and I have both found good friends in Texas, we’ve not found that place that feels like home. Yes, our times of fellowship are wonderful and much needed. But I cannot escape the feeling that we’re sitting in front of a giant tub of ice cream choosing to scrape just the top few layers off.

We don’t go deep. We don’t get honest. We don’t talk about our struggles, our fears, our heartaches and our dreams. We don’t trust others with the valuable parts, the real parts of who we are. And because of that, we don’t have community. We don’t have family. We have friends, acquaintances, vanilla when we could have rocky road, pistachio or superman blue. We settle for a single scoop, when a banana split is there for the taking.

That’s not the fault of our friends, that’s my fault. I’m the one who doesn’t push the envelope, who doesn’t share, who doesn’t pour his heart into something and expose his vulnerable side.

It’s funny that my humanity, the very reasons I need Christ in my life, are the very things I’m afraid would insult my friends.

I’m not perfect. I’ve struggled, struggle, daily. I fight. Against lust, pride, greed, selfishness and the desire to just have a cold heart.

I dream. Of producing music, writing books, speaking to thousands of people and offering my life, my stories as encouragement.

And I fear, that by sharing any of this, I may be wounded, mocked, insulted, and thought less of.

And now I realize it is foolish to fear. For in doing so, I’ve not protected myself. No, I’ve been a thief. I’ve stolen the chance to chase my dreams, to plan for a family, to be a father, to fall, laugh, accept grace, and keep going. I’ve stolen the man my wife deserves because I’ve not lived fearless. And I am sorry.

I am a misfit. I always will be.

But I know I am not alone.

The Life-Light was the real thing: Every person entering Life he brings into Light. He was in the world, the world was there through him, and yet the world didn’t even notice. He came to his own people, but they didn’t want him. But whoever did want him, who believed he was who he claimed and would do what he said, He made to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves.

John 19 (the message)

Christ was a misfit. He didn’t fit into his own people yet the three years of his life changed the course of history and set in motion the very grace by which I stand.

Join me. Be honest about who you are, your struggles and pain, your dreams and passions. Your hopes and fears.

Believe who He is, and find your true self.

ticketsSome people collect photographs or records.  Figurines or stamps.  Coins or antiques.

Although I’m personally a fan of antiques, old postcards and good music, some of my most cherished collections are memories.

You can see them in the picture here.

Yes – I know they’re ticket stubs.

Little pieces of paper creased by time spent in my wallet, or faded by time spent in a drawer, a book or my bible.

They’re still memories.

The last time I saw Delirious live.  The birthday present concert-slash-road trip to Tyler from my sister.  The time my mom and I got to experience PBS’s Antiques Roadshow.  Taking my other sister to the movies.  Or the New Years Eve Symphony performance where I sat with my wife.  Only, I didn’t yet know she’d be my wife.

Memories.

Ticket stubs.  They’re not pretty, they’re not beautiful to look upon, or a creators greatest masterpiece.  But it’s not the paper itself that holds the value.  It’s where the paper takes me, it’s the stories the paper tells, it’s what the paper reminds me of, and its the hope these memories bring.

Memories of great experiences, of laughter and joy.  Memories of moments that moved me to tears, or brought me to my knees in worship.  Memories woven together with hope.  Hope, because I am reminded how beautiful my life is.  Hope, because I know I serve a God who loves me.

Hope.  Because He left a book of memories, of stories, of hope, for my wife and I.  For our families.  For our futures.

Hope, because we’re not alone.  And hope, because even when we face a mountain, we stand beside the mountain maker.

Jesus Culture Ft. Martin Smith – Walk With Me

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

Tonight was an amazing night of friends and laughter.  But tonight was more than that, it was more than just veggie trays, games and the sounds of fun.  Yes, tonight reminded me of how rich life is, but it also reminded me of how much I chose to miss out on.

I sat surrounded by people whom I love, but I realized, these are also people whom I do not know well enough.

We weren’t just called to be friends, we were called, created for fellowship.  We were called for something more than laughter, we were called to be there through the tears as well.

I realized this evening that although I sat surrounded by friends, I couldn’t tell you what each one dreamed about.  I couldn’t tell you there stories, not the stories that made them who they are.

I realized tonight that as rich as this life is, we shortchange ourselves when we are not who we were created to be.  When we put on a false front, pretend all is well, and are not true to ourselves and our dreams, we are forced to settle for a life of muted color, stripped of its power and devoid of depth.

I realized tonight, again, that it’s in the lifelong relationships forged from the sharing of ones heart that we find true beauty.  It’s in those relationship that life is found in its richest of color, in its most brilliant of light and in its deepest depths.

I want that.  I want to see those I love in the brilliance of who they are, painted in their true colors.

I will start with the friend, companion, person closest to me, my wife.  I want to know everything there is to know about her.  Her dreams, passions, desires, her hurts, fears and longings.  I want her heart to know it is safe with me.  Safe to paint, to dream, to create.  For she is amazing, beautiful and mysterious.

Tonight reminded me of the things in this life that matter the most.  As I sat, surrounded by friends and family, and as we gathered to celebrate a brief homecoming of a solider and friend, it clicked. I realized that I have an amazing life. And that the people in that room, eating from veggie trays and laughing at inside jokes, these are the people that make life beautiful. My wife and our friends are the richest of gifts I’ve ever been given. Tonight, I am humbled and thankful because tonight, I know I am wealthy in ways money will never buy.

I may not change overnight, but I will start now.

A few weeks ago while on my way home in the car with my girlfriend, I confessed something that I do my best to hide.

I confessed one of my greatest fears.

Ten years ago this past week, my life changed. While September 11 had the nation in shock and riveted to their TV sets, our family was disintegrating.  And less than three days after our nation was attacked, my family began a journey that would come to define the next decade.

I don’t think we completely understood then what the next ten years would bring.  But down deep, I think we knew things would never be the same.  I can still remember the day they left.  I remember saying goodbye in the parking lot near my job.  I remember the tears, the uncertainty, and the determination to make light of a situation that was anything but.

I remember the pain and loneliness that followed.  I remember the fear.  I remember feeling more alone and abandoned than I knew was possible.  And I remember finding places inside I didn’t know could hurt.

I remember waking up knowing I was still alive because the ache was so strong.

The Decade

It’s been a long ten years. I’m not the same person I was then.

None of us are.

And although this past week is a hard reminder of pages written, although this week brings memories of moments that changed our lives forever, there is something new.

There is hope.

There is a grace I now sense, guiding me through the coming days.

On that short car ride, I opened up and shared just a shadow of the pain that began 10 years ago.  And I told of my greatest fear, of being left behind again.

I wasn’t laughed at.  I wasn’t scolded or corrected.  I was accepted.  I was prayed for.  I was offered something I’ve been praying for, for a long time.

I was offered love.

Promises

Later that evening, I was thinking about this week, and what it would mean.

I don’t profess to hear God audibly, but as I stood in the shower, I broke down.  Because I heard Him, clearly, in my heart.

This time will not be like the last.

I was His son.  And this was His promise.  This was my rainbow.

This was my promise that my family would never have to go through this again.  There wouldn’t be any more Thanksgivings at Denny’s, or days spent volunteering at a food pantry just so there would be something on the table that night.

I am His son.  And this is His promise.

This time, this decade will not be like the last.

Passion – Healing is in Your Hands

I think we fear that word.

If you’ve lived long enough and loved hard enough, then your story will undoubtedly reflect most.  Then there will be a moment when you said goodbye to someone and never thought it would be the last words you’d speak.

My family is still dealing with the shock of an unexpected goodbye.

Donald Miller in his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years says, “My uncle told a good story with his life, but I think there was such a sadness at his funeral because his story wasn’t finished.  If you aren’t telling a good story, nobody thinks you died too soon; they just think you died.  But my uncle died too soon.”

Unexpected goodbyes, losing a loved one whose story wasn’t finished rearranges your life, it change your perspective.  If the pain is deep enough our view of the world can be so impacted that we begin to fear saying goodbye.  We become so aware of the fact that loving caused the pain that we try to minimize that risk.  We close our hearts. We stop loving.  We decide that the pain was so intense we’d rather live our lives slowly dying inside because we no longer allow anyone in, than open ourselves up to feeling that loss again.  And a beautiful life full of color begins to fade.

We protect ourselves, we guard our hearts from all pain.  We shut out the risk and because of that, we shut out life, we stop our story.

Hello

Goodbyes aren’t easy because they remind us that life can change unexpectedly, painfully, achingly.  We forget that goodbye must follow hello, and it almost always precedes the next hello.  If mankind never said goodbye Lewis and Clark would never have pushed west, America would never have been discovered, man would never have set foot on the moon, and I would never have met the lifelong friends I have here in Texas.

Goodbyes may never be easy, but they can be beautiful.  When that goodbye is said to someone you love immensely, there is beauty if you know that this person is following her dreams, if you know she is passionately pursuing the next chapter in her story and is stepping out in faith in spite of the questions and the doubt.  It will be beautiful because you know that this goodbye will be followed by new hello’s, new stories and new beauty.  This goodbye will be followed by pages and pages of a life’s story being written, pages that would never be written otherwise.

When the person you’re saying goodbye to has a beautiful heart and you realize that this goodbye is a necessary part of the creativity that will result in a beautiful life; when you can see the hands of the Master sculptor forming her into a Proverbs 31 woman, goodbye may not be easier, but you see the beauty.

You know that this goodbye may increase the distance between you, and it may be hard.  But you know it will deepen your roots and strengthen the bonds between you.  You know that for this eagle to soar, she must leave the nest.  And because you want her to soar, to become all she can be, because you want the world to see in her what you already do, you say goodbye.

It isn’t easy.  It may never be.  But it will be worth it.

Choosing love will open spaces of immense beauty and joy for you, but you will be hurt. You already know this. You have retreated from love countless times in your life because of it. We all have. We have been and will be hurt by the loss of loved ones, by what they have done to us and we to them. Even in the bliss of love there is a certain exquisite pain: the pain of too much beauty, of overwhelming magnificence.  Further, no matter how perfect a love may be, it is never really satisfied . . . In both joy and pain, love is boundless.

-Gerald May, The Awakened Heart

Goodbye

Sarah – your story is beautiful.  Your heart is beautiful.  You are beautiful.  Go!  Step out into your future.  Embrace your life.  Fill it with love, passion, and creativity.  Change the world and be changed in the process.  Live a life worthy of the dreams in your heart!  Benjamin Franklin said, “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”  Go, do just that!

I love you!

Future of Forestry – Set Your Sails:

Through the ache this week has brought, in the swirling eddies of pain at the loss my family is feeling, there is a current flowing.  Ripples of something much deeper, a truth that I believe my uncle knew or sensed even if he couldn’t put words to it.

He knew how to love.  You never questioned your worth in his eyes.  Yes, if you were one of his kids or a friend of his kids or anyone under 25 and you did something dangerous or stupid, you would know.  But you wouldn’t doubt the heart behind his words or actions. 

Yes, he could be impulsive at times.  He was a tattooed, beer drinking, Harley riding mans man.  And yes he liked pretty waitresses and working on old cars.  But you knew where his heart lay.  He absolutely loved his kids and his girlfriend.

My uncle may not have been a wordsmith, you wouldn’t catch him throwing clay or putting brush to canvas.  But in his own way you never doubted that he loved you, was for you and wanted you to know you mattered.

Lessons Learned

The world needs people whose hearts are fully alive, who chase after their passions and dreams.  The world needs people who love what they do and do what they love.  And the world needs those who are unashamed and unafraid to tell those they love how much they mean to them.

If there is one lesson I’ve learned this week its this: don’t wait.  If you love someone, if they mean something to you, tell them.  

Tomorrow, we will remember, we will tell stories.  Tomorrow my family gives a final send off to a man who lived life like it was meant to be lived.  Tomorrow, in a storm of fireworks and sparklers, surrounded by friends and loved ones we say goodbye.

Thank You

Thank you, Uncle Chuck for modeling who a man was supposed to be.  For being a father to your three great kids and the others who considered you a dad.  

Thank you for the fireworks, the reminders of how important family is, and for living life fully.

I, we all will miss you.  But we are better for knowing you.

Tomorrow

Tomorrow, I will not just say goodbye to a man who meant the world to many.  I will also say hello to many who mean the world to me.

And tomorrow, I will make sure they know.

Earlier this week I received an email from a friend that shook me.

We’ve known each other for years and simply fell out of touch. We only reconnected a few weeks ago and as I read her email, my heart broke.

Although I glimpsed only a shadow of what she had fought through, the pain and heartache she endured, I could see clearly that something had changed.  There was something new, something that didn’t exist the last time she and I talked.

There was deep hope.

There was this rare, amazing beauty.

There was a strength in her words, tempered steel behind her eyes and in her voice, and a profound confidence in her heart and her God that was beautiful, matchless, and radiant.

And in that, I began to hear the echoes of an ageless truth.

God restores.

As I read and reread the email, I could see it. I could see restoration was there, healing was there. Through the pain and the hell she fought through, the plan was always restoration. Restoration of her heart, of her life and the life of her son.

I will always question why we have to face the battles we do, why horrible things happen to amazing people and why God sometimes seems so distant.  But in each battle and in spite of the many questions, I am beginning to see the same truth. The heart of a Father, her Father broken far beyond anything I could ever understand.  And through the breaking of His heart, love flows.

A perfect love from a perfect God loving an imperfect person perfectly.

And in that love, restoration.  The plan was and is always restoration.

.

Hillsong United – Take Heart 

i turned 31 earlier this month.  the day after we celebrated a new year and new decade.

amidst the celebrations of the new year, the goodbye’s to the old, the birthday wishes and cards, something never stopped whispering to me.  never stopped making its presence known.

in years past, i’ve always tried to write something about the passing of one year and the birth of another.  to somehow close out the past 365 days, and greet the first few days of the coming year.  this year was different, and honestly i’m not sure why yet.

i stopped today at a gas station to use the restroom.  (i know, bear with me).  and as i washed my hands my eyes were drawn to the sign we’ve seen in restrooms everywhere, employees must wash hands.  i am thankful for those signs, dont get me wrong.  but as i stood there, something occurred to me.  that sign, those words, are meaningless, if the employees of that establishment dont honor those words with their obedience.

wow.

our health, the safety of our food products, and quite possibly our very lives are dependent on a little sign stuck in the restroom of our favorite restaurants, grocery stores, coffee shops and gas stations.  and it’s not the words, for they carry no power, no might, no strength to provide safety or health.  it’s in the obedience to those words, that safety is had.  that our meals are healthy.  that life is good.

im realizing today that it’s not our words that have power, but its the power we give those words, over us and over others, that really matter.

throughout our lives we will have words of blessing spoken over us.  and we will also have words designed to wound and tear, thrown at us from every side.  and its not the words themselves that matter, but the value we ascribe to those words.  when a complete stranger hurls curses, you brush it off.  but if a close friend was to do so, the wound would be deep because we give more value to the words of a friend than those from a random passerby.

i wounded a friend friday night.  not intentionally.  but i did.  i hate typing those words.  not because i dont like admitting my mistakes, although i dont.  but because i hate wounding those i love.  i hate when my words, my actions, or lack thereof tell someone i care for deeply that i think less of them, or that i dont care about them.  i hate it, because when i’ve wounded someone, it means i could have blessed them.  i could have spoken words that brought life, affirmed, and blessed.

so maybe in a way this is me saying goodbye to 2010 and hello to 2011.  maybe this is me welcoming 31.  and maybe this is me saying i’m sorry in the best way i know how.  because the person, the woman i wounded is an amazing creature.

in 2011, i want my words to mean something.  i want to my life to lay bare the words that are imprinted on my heart.  i want those i love to never question their value.  this year, i want my life to point to something bigger than me, something larger than the 9-5, the 2 day weekends and countless cups of coffee.

that little sign in the restroom isnt just a little sign.  it’s a marker.  it’s an announcement to all who read it that this establishment values its patrons, their health and well being.

you and i?  we may only be a passerby, or we may be the close friend.  no matter the situation, we will have moments to leave our imprint on those we come in contact with.   in 2011, i pray the imprints i leave behind whisper of more, point to freedom, and remind those around me that love waits for them.

Future of Forestry – Speak to Me Gently

you hear it too.  you sense it.  especially at this time of year.  when you slow down, if you let yourself slow down.  you can hear it.  echoes of something ancient.  something wonderful.  something that we know is missing, even if we dont know what it is.

its the call to more.  to something more than shopping, more than wrapping and more than the exchanging of gifts.  if you allowed yourself the time to feel it, to truly hear it, you’d hear it while you wrapped.  while you shopped.  and especially when you exchanged gifts.

what we miss, what i miss, is the reason for all this effort; for the time spent looking for just the right gift and for the hours spent wrapping presents in something that will only be torn and discarded.  in our rush to find that perfect gift, to wrap the present just so we forget that we are incomplete.  we forget that tomorrow isn’t just the celebration of a quaint story, but that it’s the celebration of the birth of a King.  of the One destined to bring peace.  of the One who holds our destinies in His hands.

you were created with the knowing, the understanding deep inside of your being that you were incomplete, that there is more.  you were created to hear that call.  to instinctively know it.  your heart was tuned to resonate when the call sounds.

tomorrow, when you hear that call, be reminded that a loving God sent His only Son to die for our incompleteness.  for our failures.  for our screw-ups, mistakes and depravity.  tomorrow be reminded that One came, lived a sinless life because we had no hope of doing so, and died a horrible death so we wouldnt have to.   tomorrow, remember that we are not alone.  that God-with-us has come.  tomorrow, when you hear that call.  pause.  give yourself time to respond.

tomorrow, we remember that He came to bring life.  abundant life.  tomorrow, we remember that there is hope.  tomorrow, mercy is new.  tomorrow, you are no longer alone.  you are no longer incomplete.  tomorrow, more begins.  your story is not over.  the more is here.  you were and are called for more.  your life is sacred.  you were created with a purpose.  and the destiny He holds for you is beautiful.

tomorrow is an invitation.  an invitation into the life you are being called into.  the life of more.   tomorrow, when you hear the call, the invitation, respond.

and never look back.

 

Future of Forestry – The Earth Stood Still

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