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One of my biggest struggles with my faith is the voice I’ve always given God.

I’ve always struggled to understand the tone of Gods voice.  I’m guilty of placing Gods word into the tone and delivery method that my father used.

When I did that, God became a stern, aloof, shell of a being that was present physically but absent mentally and emotionally.  When I did that, life became empty, devoid of any hope and drained of color, excitement and any and all things that made life beautiful.

Realization

A few nights ago, I read Hebrews 11.

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

-Hebrews 11:6 (NKJV)

I’ve heard this verse countless times.  And each time, I’ve always imagined my dads voice telling me I had to be diligent, that if I wanted to please God, it was all up to me.

I always interpreted that to mean I could never seek enough.

I knew that if there was no pleasing my earthly father, then why even bother trying to please the Almighty?  If I couldn’t be diligent enough in my homework, penmanship, exercise routines or mowing the lawn, how was I ever going to please the Creator of the universe?

My dad’s voice was always what I heard.

That evening something changed.  What I read, changed.  The voice I heard started to sound less like my father and more like a real Father.  I began to hear love when I read:

It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.

Hebrews 11:6 (Message)

Suddenly it wasn’t about my being good enough, or trying hard enough, or being diligent enough.  It wasn’t about me, or what I could do.  Suddenly, it was about a Father who cares enough to respond.

Fathers

We know what one looks like when we see him.

We know the hopeful expectation of a childlike heart, faithfully waiting for dad to come home from a long day in battle (or at work).

We know the heart of a true father drops his keys, briefcase and sport-coat at the door, and in a moment he transforms from a fearless slayer of office-dwelling dragons into a cowboy, indian, storm trooper, or fixer of broken bikes and skinned knees.

We know the heart of a true father cannot wait to get home and see his kids.

We know he works not to find his purpose, but to provide for his family.  Yes, he gives his all every day, but you don’t see him at his fullest until he’s tackled at the backdoor and in minutes has a grass stain on his trousers.  You may see the employee in his office, but you see the man, when he bends over, picks up his son who’s been waiting, seeking his father all afternoon and says

I’ve waited all day to see you.  And I am so glad I’m home.  I love you.  Now, let’s go play!

At that moment, though dad may not realize it, he’s building in the heart of his children the very foundations they will need for the rest of their lives.

And in that moment He is showing his kids the very heart of a true father.

A heart that cares enough to respond to those who wait at the backdoor, to those who seek him.

Passion – Waiting Here for You: 

We shortchange ourselves and the lives we could live if we chose to wait for the perfect, when the good enough is staring us in the face.

We won’t dance as often as we should or tell that girl how pretty she looks, we won’t risk as much but we will also see less reward.  Our relationships won’t be as deep, friendships won’t be as sincere and love won’t be as strong.

When we chose to wait for the perfect moment instead of capitalizing on the moments given to us, we miss out on drops of beauty that life rains only on those who chose to risk.

This past weekend I witnessed the interweaving of two stories, two lives, into one.  Two people who learned the joys of risk, who’ve felt the pain of loss but who didn’t wait for the elusiveness of perfect when love knocked on the door to their hearts.

And now a new story is now being written, one full of hope, of life, and I’ve no doubt that in time, a new family as well.

A new story, not a perfect story, not one without risk, without pain.  Not a story that wasn’t at one time bathed in tears, but a new story all the same.  One bathed in beauty, wrapped in grace, and filled with dreams coming true and new dreams being birthed in the hearts of those brave enough to not wait for perfect.

This weekend reminded me that finding courage to dream requires action, it requires a guy be aggressive and chase after what he wants, what he dreams of.  But most importantly, this weekend reminded me that life comes to those who step out in risk, who share their heart, who are open and who chase after the dreams written on their hearts.

Future of Forestry – Slow Your Breath Down: 

Last week I participated in my first group dance lesson followed by my third individual lesson.  For the most part, I’ve been so focused on getting things right that although I’ve had fun, I’ve not yet enjoyed dancing.

Last week that changed.

For the first time I was leading, and my dance instructor was allowing me to lead.

Don’t romanticize it, it wasn’t pretty.  I’m not that good, yet.

But for those few moments, I tasted something.  A part of my heart came alive.

My dance instructor made a comment that I’m still unpacking.  She said,

“You’re leading.  That’s good.  That tells the woman you’re in control, you’re taking care of her and that she can enjoy herself.”

I was thrilled to have gotten the compliment.  On the way home though, something told me I missed a deeper truth.

Life was meant to be lived beautifully.  We were created for beauty, to find it, search for it and create it.  And if dance is symbolic of life, of finding that beauty, of leading and being led, then how much beauty do we miss out on when we refuse to allow Him to lead?

If this woman, who I’ve only just met, could trust me enough to keep her safe on the dance floor, how much more can we trust the Author of our stories?  How much more does His heart ache for us to let Him lead?  How many times do I refuse His control, and try to do things on my own?

I was reminded of how much He loves us and how much He wants us to trust Him.   And in that, if we allow ourselves to trust, we find life.  We find the dance.

We find the beauty we’ve always known was there.  And we taste and see, that He is good.

If we are honest with ourselves, we all want our stories to reflect one thing, hope.  We want our lives to show an unending belief in the fact that life is worth living.  We want our history to be a testament of overcoming, of victory.

We want to live on the mountaintop.  And we ignore the valley.

Too many of us have bought into that lie, into the stories of endless mountaintop moments, of perfect lives flying above the storms.  Too many of us believe that if we were just good enough, we would finally find completion, we would know hope because we would know what we were hoping for.

That isn’t real life.

Last weekend I stumbled across a stack of old postcards lying scattered in a box in the back of an antique shop.  As I thumbed through them looking for artwork that would catch my eye, something else made me pause and start over.  I began to read the letters, the messages on the back of the cards.  There were more than thirty, each dated from the early 1940s.  And each one penned by Private Divis, opened with Darling or Dear Sweetheart and was sent to a Ms. Jennie nee Garnik of Chicago, Illinois.

They were love letters, letters of hope.

Sometime in 1944 they were married.  They stayed married, to each other, up until Mrs. Jennie Divis’ death in 2007.

Sixty three years of marriage.

I would love to believe that once they were married, they hopped from one mountain peak to another, each more beautiful than the last.  But real life tells me that in sixty-three years of marriage, they faced hardship, pain, and the loneliness of the valleys.  I would like to tell myself that the young love I heard whispered between the words of each post card carried them through those years, kids, careers and life with a sense of ease, but I know differently.

And so do you.

Tomorrow

Tomorrow, Christianity pauses to remember a moment in time that rewrote our stories.  And again, I am tempted to paint this memory, this remembrance with the quiet pastels that permeate this season.  But in doing so, the bloody reality of what took place over 2000 years ago is lost.  Tomorrow isn’t about bunnies, ducklings and little baby chicks.  Tomorrow isn’t just the celebration of life, but of a life lived in sacrificial love.  A life lived perfectly, because we were imperfect.

Tomorrow, we remember the death of a Saviour and mans first taste of salvation.

Tomorrow we will read the first of many love letters written to you and I more than a millenia ago.

Promises

And as I sat there and read those postcards, and as I read the story we celebrate tomorrow, I hear the same message.  We were never promised lives full of mountain peaks and empty of valleys.  We were promised however, that we would never walk this path alone.

We were never promised a life void of pain and heartache, but we were promised that if we followed this Saviour who lived perfectly and died in our stead, we would find our true life, real life, abundant life.

I am following Him, Christ.  Because more than anything, that is the life I want.  I want to know that one random Saturday in the year 2074, someone will be walking through an antique shop and will find my postcards, love letters, letters of hope to my future wife.

And I pray that they will reflect a hope greater that my own.  Not because my story was one filled with the pinnacles of life, but because I have found the life, the One I was hoping for.  I found abundant life.

ive been thinking lately, about being thankful.

for the things i have, and in some ways, for the things i dont have.

so many of my friends, people my age, have already settled down.  they have a wife, kid(s), dog.  they’re already rockin’ the white picket fence american dream.  and while part of me wants that, yearns for the evident completeness they’ve found, part of me hungers for something more.

john eldredge describes that unsettledness, that desire for something more as the call of God for us to follow Him.  john says “According to the part of the story God has allowed us to see, the Haunting we sense is His calling us forth on a journey.

i wont begin to pretend i know what this journey is or where it will lead.  but i am realizing that it’s not something i’m waiting to start.  it’s something i have already begun.  and thats something you need to realize too.

this, right here, this moment in time, is part of journey.

st. augustine said that the world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.

you are already on your journey.  as am i.

and im suddenly realizing that part of me was waiting for something to happen.  for someone to come along and give me permission to live life, to chase after my dreams.

i was waiting for something that will never happen.

and if this is true, that right now, im living my story…. if its true that the first pages have been turned, and that the book is already dog-eared, then i need to do everything i can, right now, to live life fully.  to explore, fight, become a better me.

i need to learn to love.  to walk through the fires before me.  to face fears, to dance.  i need to learn not just to tread water, but sail.

i need to learn to be thankful for where i am and for where i am going.

yes, eventually, i want what my friends have.  i want to look into the eyes of my beloved, my betrothed, my bride, my (eve) and see our stories intertwining as one.  i want to see our futures, together.  i want to see hope, abundant life, and love ive not known reflected back in those eyes.

i want to see two books, two stories, two, becoming one.

and even if on the horizon of our future lie gray skies full with the promise of storms, i will look forward to the rain, to the thunder, to the tempest.  because one day, i wont be sailing alone.

hillsong united – aftermath

what would you do, how differently would you look at life, would you live life if you knew that your heart was the treasure of the kingdom?

thats the question ive been struggling with.

the bible is rather clear about the value of our hearts.  Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts proclaims proverbs 4.

all too often, when i read the bible, or when its preached, its done so with a word of caution.  a warning.  something to heed.  it’s almost like we take every verse as a stern thou shalt not! and when we read about this God of abundant life, it never makes sense.  we never see it.  it never comes to fruition.  so we chalk it up to something we have to trudge through ‘by faith’, and we give up on that beautiful life we were meant to live.

but what if that verse wasnt a warning.  what if that verse wasnt meant to chastise or correct?  but to tell us, show us the value of our hearts?  what if the intent was to show us where that abundant life starts?

john eldredge in waking the dead says: “caring for our own hearts isnt selfishness; it’s how we begin to love.

yes, we care for our hearts for the sake of others.  does that sound like a contradiction?  not at all.  what will you bring to others if your heart is empty, dried up, pinned down?  love is the point.  and you cant love without your heart, and you cant love well unless your heart is well.

when it comes to the whole subject of loving others, you must know this: how you handle your own heart is how you will handle theirs.

and

“what more can be said, what greater case could be made than this: to find God, you must look with all your heart.  to remain present to God, you must remain present to your heart.  to hear His voice, you must listen with your heart.  to love Him, you must love with all your heart.  you cannot be the person God meant you to be, and you cannot live the life He meant you to live, unless you live from the heart.”

wow.

what if that verse wasnt meant as a warning?  but as a promise?  as a road sign?  what if its there to tell us that the abundant life He promised, is available?  and that its tied to the dreams that were etched on our hearts before we were born?

what if that life is out there?  if only we’d take care of our hearts?  would i realize that the life i want to see is there?  inside of me?  and that if i cared for my heart, listened to it, lived from it, that this life would flow out?  that id see my dreams come true?  would you?

would you realize that life is there?  inside of you?  etched into your heart by the perfect One?  would you realize that there is a reason your heart beats for antiques?  or art?  or music?  or engineering? or dancing? or fashion? or photography?  or woodworking?

what if we didnt give up on our dreams?  but instead chose to dust them off, pry open the pages of stories long since forgotten and begin to read, again, the words that are etched on our hearts?  what then?

what would our lives look like?  how would life be different?  how much more abundant would life be, if i honestly believed that my heart was a treasure?  that abundant life was out there, was available for me?

would it be real?  would this abundant life be real?  would you see it if you looked at me?

i dont have the answers.  but i’m going to challenge myself to find out.

because i believe there is a bigger story out there, bigger than im living.  and these echoes we heart in our hearts, the yearning for something more, the ache deep inside that tells us we are not yet complete, they are all telling us that there is more.  that we were destined for more.  and that our path to this life, begins within our hearts.

your heart was created.  by the Creator.  with purpose and beauty.  a destiny all its own.  and you will only find that destiny, that fullness, by following the calling placed on your Heart by the one who traded His life for yours.

so follow Him.  find your heart.  and live from it.

future of forestry – sanctitatis

i hate being alone.

no, its not that, because i cherish time away from the world.

i am afraid of ending up alone.  and i think, if we were all honest with ourselves, we all struggle with this fear.

and if we were to think about it, if we were to really think about it, i think we’d begin to understand that its not being alone that we fear.  it is that we fear we’re not worthy of being pursued.  that there is nothing desirable inside of us.  we do not fear being alone, but what being alone tells us.

that we’re not worthy.  that we dont belong, dont fit.  that somehow we didnt pass the test.  that the sum of our parts didnt add up to a high enough value.

we fear not being loveable more than we fear not being loved.

and that fear hits home.

we cover it, we do our best to hide it.  some of us throw ourselves into a hobby, work, our careers, kids or current significant other.  we look for answers to that doubt, that fear, in everything and anything we can control.

it’s almost like we were born with a deep-seated knowing that there was, is, something valuable inside of us.  something precious.  something deserving of love.  its like we know, even if we refuse to admit it, that our hearts are valuable.  that they are precious, unique and achingly beautiful.  its like we understand that there is something of value, rare and matchless, inside of each of us.

and that knowing, because of our past experiences and past wounds leads us to fear ever letting it be seen.  so we cover it.  and we look for the fulfillment our heart longs for, in the people, jobs and things we surround ourselves with.

and we are never fulfilled.

we were never meant to fill the desire of our heart, to love in a way and be loved in a way we’ve never known, with a career, a relationship, or a hobby.  our hearts were designed, created, for something great.  to love unconditionally and be loved unconditionally.  to be free.  to create and love and make music, paint, throw pottery and dance.

our hearts were created for us to find life.  true, abundant, beautiful life.

and when we hide our hearts, when past experiences, mistakes, pain, disappointment and fear cause us to lock our hearts away, we become shells of the lives we were meant to live.  we become puppets.  life becomes a routine, empty, stale unfulfillable.

we need to be reminded of how we were created.

we need to be reminded that we were not created to find our fullness in things, or people.  but in a real relationship with the One who sculpted our hearts and knows their scars, better than we ever could.

we need to be reminded that we were destined to live, to find life fully.  and to be shining examples of a heart fully alive.

so i challenge you, as i challenge myself, to slow down, to ask the hard questions, to feel the aches that our hearts hide, to fight through them.  to learn from our mistakes….

and find ourselves running back home.

to let ourselves, our hearts feel.  to be real, honest living people and not the shells we’ve come to believe equal life.

we are not promised that it will be easy.  but we are promised that if we hang on and dont quit, that if we follow the One who has created our hearts, then we will find that life, that true, real, pure, brilliant life.

we will get there, we will know life.

and it will be beautiful.

Future of Forestry – Slow Your Breath Down

if you leave I’ll still be close to you
when all your fears rain down
I’ll take you back a thousand times again
I’ll take you as My own

I will sing you songs of innocence
till the light of morning comes
till the rays of golden honey cover you
in the sweetness of the dawn
but you’re always on the run

there are times when looking back is healthy.  when its a good thing to look over your shoulder and see how far you’ve come.  to realize how much you have fought through, overcome.  other times, looking backwards is a haunting affair.  where the shadows you’ve been fleeing from seem closer than when you began to run.

im realizing that there are moments in scripture where God came, where God rescued.  moments of impossible circumstances where if God had not moved, all would be lost.

but that isnt how every story ends.

we trade words like vendors at a bazaar.  haggling, arguing, jabbing and throwing out our own barbs…  but never, never listening. never hearing the ache in the heart of the people we are closest to.  never seeing the pain in their eyes.  or the brokenness in the sound of their voice.

we’re a broken people, living in a broken world, pretending that we were able to put the pieces of our lives back together on our own.  pretending that our lives make sense.  that we can somehow, through self discipline, force our defining life-experiences to fit into the mold of what a christian life should look like.

we pretend our scars aren’t old wounds.  we joke and laugh when one of those words we trade so easily, hits home.  we wince, and cover it with a smile when someones off-handed comments strikes a nerve, and breaks off a piece from our hearts.

we pretend the abuse, the abandonment, the loss, confusion and pain arent as big as they are.  we pretend we can get along fine, that if we believe they dont really exist, then theyve somehow disappeared.

we, i put on a mask.  and pretend its ok.

i pretend im completely ok being 30 and single.  that i dont look with yearning to my friends who have wives.  whove found the one they want to spend the rest of their lives with.  who are buying a house, or having their first child.  who are dreaming bigger dreams, and praying bigger prayers.

i pretend that what has happened to my family is somehow ok.  that it’s not as big as it would seem if i just dont look at the issues.   i joke and laugh when someone makes a comment that strikes home.  i wince, and cover it with a smile.

i pretend like there arent moments when i wonder if this is it.  if this loneliness will be the one constant in my life.

i pretend like i’m ok. i stay moving.  never stopping long enough in one place to lose momentum, never allowing my masks to fall.

i stay moving, to stay disconnected from my heart.  to stay distanced from the one thing that could betray me.  the one thing that knows my weaknesses, my failures, my hurts and scars.  the one thing that could shatter my painstakingly created facade.

if i pretend i’m ok, i’m ok…. right?

for every instance of the miraculous protection of daniel and the victory of david over the giant, there are stories of heartache.  of people having to walk through the fire, to get to the other side.  these are the quiet heroes.  and these are the stories that matter.  because they are the stories that speak to where we are.  these stories are valuable, they carry weight.  why?  because we live in a real world.  and yes, there are miracles and i’m thankful for them.  but there wont always be, not in every circumstance.  there will be times when the seas will be calmed and there will be times when the storm will rage and we will have to do everything we can to hang on.

adam went through those times.  he had something he needed to learn.  something valuable.  something beautiful.  something utterly irreplaceable.  that could only be learned through the process.   adam needed to walk through his fire to learn the value of (eve).

Christ needed thirty years on this planet to prepare for three that would rewrite history.  david needed the battles with the bears and the lions, to be ready for the battle with the giant.  joseph needed to be a slave, to be ready to wear a crown and be the savior to his nation.  the disciples needed the storm, to see the power of the One they followed.  moses needed the wilderness, to find the courage to save his people.

the bible isnt just a book of miracles.  it’s a book of real people who lived real stories.  people who could pull up their sleeves and show you their scars, both figurative and real.  these were people who lived each day hoping for a miracle, while choosing to walk through the fire.  they knew the value of process.  they understood that to get from here to there, was a journey.  they knew it would cost.  they knew that they served a God who could intervene, and when needed, would do just that.  but they also knew they served a God who’s ultimate goal wasnt their personal comfort, or even that they’d escape unscathed.  they knew, deep inside of their being, that the story being told was bigger than they understood.

and they knew that through the fires, the storms, the battles and fear, that He was faithful.  that He would guide them safely through to the other side.  they knew, through it all, that there was hope.  and they never gave up.  and because of their determinedness, we have their stories.

there are things you and i will only ever learn going through the process.  and if you havent figured it out yet, you will not escape unscathed.  but the miracle of this life isnt escaping with as little hurt as possible.  no, thats not why we’re here.

we’re here to follow the One who has already rescued us.  we are here to be His light.  His voice.  His hands and feet.  we’re here to stand up for right.  and we’re here to show the mercy and grace we so desperately needed.

the miraculous that these stories contain arent that, in each instance, they were saved from trouble.  it was that through it all, He never left them alone.  that through the fire, the battle, the heartache, the pain, He was there.  He promised He would never leave.  and He kept his promise.

thats the miracle.  the miracle we celebrate december 25.  we are not alone.  He walks with us.  we have a mission.  He is leading us.  and we will get through.  and when we do, we will have stories to tell.  stories that will bring hope.

future of forestry – the earth stood still

….and He took one of his ribs….

The story of creation becomes more fascinating to me each time I read it.  I was thinking last night, trying to grasp why God would need an entire rib to create (eve).  If He gathered the dust of the ground together to create Adam, why was so much more required for (eve)?  What was it about her, about woman, that was so incredibly important?

Everything else God made, He created by speaking it into existence.  Then God said…. and it was so.  The earth, the sun, moon and stars, the firmament, the land and all that walked, crawled, flew above and swam under it.  He spoke, and it was so.

But not so with (eve).

God took adams rib.  This is the first recorded instance in the Bible, of something being required.  Up to this point, throughout all of creation, every creature, every bird, fish and beast that walked upon land, all of it came from nothing.

Adam – came from nothing.

But (eve) cost something.  There was something required for (eve).

Why a rib?  why not something more mundane?  I mean, if we believe the story of creation then we believe God is the creator of DNA, and we believe that if He created it, then He knows and understands it fully.  He didn’t need a rib, He could have taken one of adams hair follicles.  He could have simply gathered together more dust, and breathed into it as He did to create Adam.

But that wasnt the plan.  That wasnt what Adam needed to grasp.  I’m beginning to believe the creation of (eve) was less about the rib and more about what her creation needed to communicate to Adam.  Why did it cost?  Why was a rib needed?  Why did God take something so close to Adams heart, and in its place, give him (eve)?

Maybe it’s because God was trying to show Adam something….

God said, “It’s not good for the Man to be alone; I’ll make him a helper, a companion.” So God formed from the dirt of the ground all the animals of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the Man to see what he would name them. Whatever the Man called each living creature, that was its name. The Man named the cattle, named the birds of the air, named the wild animals; but he didn’t find a suitable companion. God put the Man into a deep sleep. As he slept he removed one of his ribs and replaced it with flesh.  God then used the rib that he had taken from the Man to make Woman and presented her to the Man.

God tells Adam it’s not good for him to be alone, and then proceeds to show Adam every single creature that walked the earth.  God was telling Adam something.  Something we’ve lost.  God was preparing Adam for a revelation, a revealing.

God was preparing Adam to see, to fully grasp and understand true beauty.

Think about it.  Adam had just seen every single creature on earth and no suitable match was found.  God knew that.  He wasnt surprised or caught off guard.  God didn’t forget to create (eve), He waited.  because Adam needed to be ready.  And it took Adam seeing every created being, every beast of the field and bird of the air for him to begin to understand the vastness of creation.

God was telling Adam something.

God was telling Adam that of all the millions of creatures that roamed the earth, none had been worth a cost, none had so much value or worth that it needed something for it to be created.

(Eve) was different.  and from the very moment she was created, God needed Adam to understand that.  God needed Adam to realize that she was the epitome of beauty, of value, of worth and that she was to be cherished, protected, honored, and loved.  God was showing Adam, as best as He possibly could, the true value of the beauty that existed in (eve).

God was showing adam what He saw in (eve).

And may I one day see the same.

i keep coming back to this song.  to how much my heart aches to be written, fully, into the story being told around me.

i get so frustrated throughout the day by the very things that, in an eternal perspective, will never matter.  things that carry very little weight, that hold no long-term value or purpose.

and although i started this post a few weeks ago, i’m wondering if it’s turning into an answer to yesterdays post.

because i know, down deep, that belief isnt enough.  i know, i think we all know at some level that sometimes there are no shortcuts. sometimes the mountain is there not to be moved, or for us to go around, but for us to learn to climb. sometimes we must go through the storm simply because some lessons cannot be learned any other way.

it’s those times, we learn what trust really is.

and its in those times, that our stories are written.  stories worth reading.  stories worth retelling.  stories worthy of the calling that has never left our lives.

One Sonic Society – Burn

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