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It’s been a while since I’ve sat down and talked with you like this.  Since I’ve come without a list of needs or desires, hopes or hurts.

Since I’ve come simply to say thank you.

Thank you for grace.  For your provision.  For joy.

For her.

I came home today and she and I just talked.

And then one of her favorite songs came on.

And we danced in the living room.

Our living room, in our little house.

Surrounded by our yard that our dog loves to run in.

Our lives, my life.

Thank you.

You didn’t have to send your Son.  You didn’t have to care so much.  You didn’t have to love me the way you do.

You didn’t have to give me her, but you did.

And secondly only to finding the grace that You so freely give, she is my most precious gift.

Thank you.

 

Angel – Martin Smith 

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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

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.

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.

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.

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  

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.

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

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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