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God doesn’t hold your past sin over your head.

If you’re like me, you carry regret.

Regret of past sins, decisions you made and shouldn’t have or decisions you didn’t make and wish you had.  Things done, words you wish you could shove back in your mouth or left things undone and unsaid.

Regret.

For some of us, it becomes a part of who we are.

And even though we hate the way it feels, even though we hate the loneliness it brings as it wedges itself between us and our dreams and loved ones, we begin to identify with it.  It becomes part of how we see ourselves, and we never learn to walk free of it.

We never truly learn the meaning of the word grace.

At church this weekend, the worship leader took a moment and shared what he felt the Lord put on his heart.  That being, that God doesn’t hold our sins against us.  And that our lives don’t have to be governed by mistakes made years or even decades ago.

It spoke to me, deeply.

I realized that I’m still carrying regrets from decisions I more than 20 years ago.

I cannot change them.  I cannot undo and unsay.

But I’ve realized that they are no longer a part of who I am.

They are a part of who I was.  My history.

Covered by grace.

It’s time I forgave myself, encouraged my heart and told regret to leave and never come back.

I am not what I’ve done.  I am not who I was.

I am not perfect, but I am loved.  I am my Heavenly Father’s beloved son.

And because I am loved, I have everything I need.

Bethel Music – You Know Me

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You can think about a lot during your commute home. Especially if that commute takes you through a $3 billion (yes, billion) construction zone. And if that commute includes 4 disabled vehicles blocking one of two open lanes.

I thought about a lot. I worried about a lot.  I wondered when the drive would end and if this was what hell was like.

But mostly, I worried.

I worried about finances, about our future, about making good decisions.  I worried about Christmas and family and all the other things I couldn’t fix.

I drove, and I worried.  And as I got ready for bed this evening, I realized how wrong I was.

My wife isn’t feeling well.  And as we were saying goodnight yesterday evening, she asked me to read to her.  So I did.  And I read:

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.  And even the very hairs on your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Matthew 10:29

I worried.  For nearly 2 hours today I worried.  And He’s already taken care of it.

I may make mistakes, I may not be perfect.  I may face more long commutes.  I may not have all the answers.  But I am not alone.  I am perfectly loved by a perfect Father.

And in that, I can rest.

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: 

I spent four days in the hospital this week.  Attached to IV’s.  Healing from something I didn’t even know had attacked me.  I didn’t know how to spell it’s name until Monday evening.  And Monday afternoon, when that stomach ache kicked in, I had no idea where the week was headed.

And yes – I could sit here and question why it happened.  But I’m choosing not to.  Because I know the answer.  There is an enemy that seeks to destroy us, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically.  He attacked.  We won.  Moving on.

I spent the large part of the first two days on morphine. sleeping between doses as my body learned to deal with dinner via IV.  The final few days I was more with it as my body was healing, I didn’t need the morphine, and I was better able to deal without food.

The hardest parts were the nights.  I was exhausted.  And I’d begin to doze off around 11pm but would snap awake at 12:30 and just lay there for hours.

In the middle of the night, when you’re lying in a dark hospital room unable to sleep, you begin to question, fear, and freak yourself out.

I didn’t want more medication to help me sleep.  I simply wanted to go home.

But each night, all i had to do was look to my right, and there she was.  My Eve, my Wife, my Bride.  She stayed with me the entire four days.  Burning through all the vacation time she had and some she didn’t.  Helping me put my socks on, tie my hospital gown, sit up, sit down, use the bathroom, take a shower and anything else that gets very difficult with an IV stuck in your right hand.

She was there.  She never left.  And through those nights, her presence, and the presence of my Heavenly Father kept me going.

My Eve,

I love you more today than I did a week ago.  I am more thankful for the time we get each day, and more conscious of the precious gift you are.  I will never be able to repay you for this week.  But I will spend every day trying to show you the same love you showed me.  

You were courageous this week and you conquered something we never saw coming.  You were gracious, forgiving, kind and gentle.  In a word, you were amazing.

And you were by my side.  

Thank you.  I cannot wait to live the next pages of our story with you.

You are beautiful.

And I love you.  Forever.

I try to keep a level head and not to get so caught up in something that I no longer seem grounded. But this is Christmas, this is different. And all those Hallmark movies and Christmas specials aren’t just trying to sell us something. They are echoes of a deeper truth.

There is magic in Christmas. There is excitement, joy, hope. There is a deeper sense of worth, a call to slow down and see the value in each other, and to share what we see in them with them.

My family isn’t perfect. We have no white picket fence. We have our issues and challenges. We have our scars and stories. But they’re my family. And as my wife reminded me tonight, we are not broken. We are not perfect, but we are not broken.

Why? Why do I hold to such hope when circumstances have been so hard? Because there is joy. Joy because we are not where we were. Hope in where we will be and excitement in what lies ahead.

There is value in each of us.

Christmas was just the beginning. The beginning of the story of all stories. Yes, it’s a hard story with moments of pain and loss. But in the midst of this story, and in the midst of our stories, joy, hope, redemption, value, healing, adoption, peace.

Life. Abundant, everlasting life.

So I have hope. I have Christmas. And I am blessed.

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

The ground we trod is unstable.

And although we know this to be true in theory, we still find ourselves shaken, caught off guard, wondering why the earth trembled as we pick ourselves up off the ground.

Maybe this is because we were not created to walk an unsure path, maybe it is because part of us knows that humanity has fallen from its original purpose of living in paradise, of walking in perfection, of nurturing, loving and creating.

Maybe this is because some deep part of us remembers what life was supposed to be like.  Beautiful, pure, full of light and color.  And when the ground shakes, when we lose our footing and slip, we are reminded of this truth.

We were not created to live in a world like this.  We were created for something more, for something deeper.  We were created to bring and end to the shaking, peace where there is no peace, and stability where none existed.

But so often we look outside of ourselves for those answers.  We look to others, our professions, our positions, our pay and our prestige or popularity for our purpose.  We look to others to shore up our footing and to support our crumbling foundations.  And we wonder why our walls crack when the earth shakes.

I was shaken this week.  News of things I did not expect.  Words came that shook the ground I walked upon, and like I’ve done so many times before, I wondered why I wasn’t more prepared.

I had taken my eyes from the One who holds the very ground I tread upon in His hands.  My focus was on my surroundings, on my circumstances, on me.  Because I wasn’t looking to Him I was caught unaware, and my walls cracked.

Life wasn’t meant to be lived in a perfectly painted house with walls that are plum and level.  Yes, we should give our all when we build our lives, but if a bit of paint gets splattered, if there is a crack in the wall from those months when life ached, if there are patches on the roof and patches over patches, if there are spots where the paint doesn’t exactly match, or the shutters are two different colors, it’s OK.

We were never asked to build a life of perfection, we were asked to build a life of Love.  And those patches, those cracks, they tell our stories.  And when we do that, when we love because we were first Loved, we find our foundation.  We find our peace.  We find our stability and we find our purpose.  When we live out of a place of love, we bring life to those around us, and, we bring hope to a world that needs it.

Future of Forestry – The Earth Stood Still

There is something to be said about the trials we go through in our lives.

They paint with colors and shades all their own.  There is a beauty in those who chose to embrace the trial, the false accusations, the pain, and instead of shying away from the cup they are handed, chose to trust the hands that bled for them, and walk forward.

There is a love for the dawn enjoyed only by the few that have seen the darkest of the night.  There is a love, an appreciation, a hunger and thirst for those first rays of sunrise that only those who’ve fought through the night know.

Trials make us, they change us, they alter our lives and force our lives to become altars.

We were never promised a road free from trials.  Actually, the exact opposite was promised.  We would have trouble in this world.  We would see pain, we would see heartache.  We would know tears.  But we would also know in the very core of who we are, that our tears are not the end.

Yes, pain is real.  And yes, horrible things happen to people who do not deserve it.  And no, I do not understand it.  But I know it’s not the end.  I know that it’s not the final chapter of our stories.  And if you’re reading this, it’s not the end of your story.

Because we know the One who is has given us then pen, and who holds the blank pages of our lives in His hands.  And we know that He has seen the last chapters, He knows the end.  And because of that, through the trials, through the pain, through the ache of losing a loved one or the heartbreak of a relationship shattered, we know it’s not the end.

And if it is not the end, then something better is.

There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.
-C.S. Lewis

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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