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I don’t understand.  Not everything.  Even when I pretend to be OK with the way things are, with circumstances and the way something turned out, with an unexpected ending, or a twist to our life’s story that I didn’t see coming, I don’t understand.

As much as we want for life to take us along the high places and as hard as we yearn for a life of mountaintop experiences, that was never promised to us.  And if you stop for a moment and look back at your own stories, I know you’ll find pages written in your own hand, stained with your tears.  Pages you wish didn’t exist.  Pages filled with pain.

We all hide those pages.

We tell ourselves we’re hiding them from others, but in reality, we’re hiding them from ourselves.

Why?

Because they don’t make sense.  Because in our limited world view, we cannot reconcile a loving God with horrific memories.  We cannot understand how the God of peace allows such things to happen.  The pages written in our own hand don’t line up with the pages penned by the God of the universe.

And when something that big doesn’t make sense, everything we believe begins to tremble.

So we begin to believe something is wrong with us.  If God is perfect, and our world consists of God and us, then we must be the one at fault.  Even though we cannot understand it, even though it doesn’t make sense, even though it feels like we’re denying something deep within us that is in it’s own way truth, we hide those pages.  We pretend the scars don’t exist, we pretend that we don’t see ourselves, daily, as broken individuals.

We pretend.  And we pretend that we pretend for others.  But in reality, we pretend so it’s easier to lie to ourselves.

We’ve forgotten something.  Something important.  Something we knew as children, something that our favorite movies and books tell us.  We’ve forgotten that we are not the only ones in our story.  There is God, there is each of us, and there is an enemy.

John Eldredge said that
Of all the eternal truths we don’t believe, this is the one we doubt most of all….  You are not what you think you are.  There is a glory to your life that your Enemy fears, and he is hell-bent on destroying that glory before you act on it.  

This part of the answer will sound unbelievable at first; perhaps it will sound too good to be true: certainly, you will wonder if it’s true for you.  But once you begin to see with those eyes, once you have begun to know it is true from the bottom of your heart, it will change everything.

The story of your life is the long and brutal assault on your heart by the one who knows what you could be and fears it”

Do not be mistaken.  There is an enemy.  He is real.  And he is desperate to destroy you.

Your days are not accidental.  Those tear-stained pages are not shameful pages.  They shouldn’t be hidden.  They are your glory.  They are proof that you are valuable.  That you are worth something precious.  Those pages hold the stories that carry freedom in them.  You were created by a loving God.  A God who cares intimately about you, about where you are, right now.  About what you’re worrying about.  You were created, specifically, for this time.  And you have a purpose that only you can fulfill.

In those pages lie the words, the stories, that others need to hear.

For it is in those stories that this loving God cared for you.  And if you ask Him, He will show you.

You never walked alone.

And those pages?  Those aren’t just your tears.  He cried to.

Matt Redman – Never Once  

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It’s 9:02pm as I write and it’s 96 outside.

A few weeks ago, the family and I were discussing our desire to cut expenses.  We talked about replacing our single pane windows and adding insulation in the attic.  We dreamed about lower utility bills and a more comfortable house, and we resigned ourselves to the simple fact that we rent.

We talked, we wished, we moved on.

Learning

I’m learning that some of the most powerful words we will ever read, hear or speak will be questions or requests.

Do you know how much you mean to me?   Are you OK?  Do you need help?  Will you marry me?  I really need….

Petitions, questions, entreaties.  They convey value.  They let us show how much we care for and how we value those around us.  They force us to be open and vulnerable.

If we never asked, we’d never receive.  If we never risked the honesty and vulnerability that questions bring, we’d never know the depth of love or see the full palette of color that life can offer.

Phone Calls

I never asked the God of the universe if He could take care of our windows.

Why?  Was it because I thought it too trivial?  Or was it because I thought I wasn’t important enough?

I received a phone call this afternoon from our property manager.  She wanted make sure we weren’t concerned if we saw some of the maintenance guys on the property.  They were simply taking measurements for our new windows.  Oh, and by the way, they want to increase the insulation in the attic early this fall.

Ask

If I profess to serve the God of the heavens, and if His promise to me is to care for my family and I, then I shouldn’t be surprised.  Because this is the action of a Father who knows the needs and desires of His kids, and works to fulfill them.  I shouldn’t have been surprised, not in the way I was.

A Father caring for His children shouldn’t have shocked me.  Does a Father love to surprise His kids with gifts?  Yes, absolutely.  Does He enjoy blessing them with more than enough?  Yes.  But should it be a surprise when He meets their needs?  No.

I have a long way to go before I begin to understand what being a son really means.  I’m hard-headed, determined to be self sufficient, and hate feeling week or in need.  But if I’m honest with myself, I’m stupid to think I can walk this path alone.  Because I cannot.  I need friends who will ask the hard questions, who will convey beauty and grace.  I need brothers who will force me to face my own fears.

And I need a Father who cares for me even when I forget to simply ask.

Don’t bargain with God.  Be direct.  Ask for what you need.  This isn’t a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in.  If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust?  If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate?  As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing.  You’re at least decent to your own children.  So don’t you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?
Matthew 7
(the Message) 

Future of Forestry – Sanctitatis:

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:

There is the joy of having someone save a place for us. We walk into a crowded room at church or at a dinner party and someone across the way waves us over, pointing to a chair he’s held on to especially for us. For a moment we feel a sense of relief, a taste of being on the inside.

Now consider Jesus’ words in John 14:2-“I am going . . . to prepare a place for you.”

Christ promises that he is saving a place in heaven especially for each of us.  When we walk into the crowded excitement of the wedding feast of the Lamb, with the sound of a thousand conversations, laughter and music, the clinking of glasses, and one more time our heart leaps with the hope that we might be let into the sacred circle, we will not be disappointed. We’ll be welcomed to the table by our Lover himself. No one will have to scramble to find another chair, to make room for us at the end of the table, or rustle up a place setting. There will be a seat with our name on it, held open at Jesus’ command for us and no other.

John Eldredge
Sacred Romance 

I’ve been on both ends of what John writes about.  I’ve been welcomed to the inner circle, made to feel like I belong, and I carry the memories of being left out and excluded.

Tonight I am reminded that in this life, in this dance, in this journey to find beauty, we are not alone.

I know I’ve written before about this.  About the wonder of the truth that we do not walk this road alone, but tonight I needed to be reminded of it.  Tonight, I needed to refocus.

Tomorrow is Monday.  Meetings, reports, projects, more meetings, deadlines and preparations for change.  Tonight however, is the end of the sabbath, the end of our day of rest.  And tonight, my heart yearns for His presence.  For the rest, grace and joy that flows from time spent here, realizing, remembering, and reminding myself that I am not alone.

So if tomorrow doesn’t turn out the way we hope or if the changes that are in your future aren’t small, be reminded that this truth doesn’t change.  We do not walk this road alone.

We belong.
We are His.

One Sonic Society – Just to be with You:  

Our God Reigns by Delirious just started and I’m stuck, unmoving beyond today’s devotional from John Eldredge:

Every woman is in some way searching for or running from her beauty and every man is looking for or avoiding his strength. Why? In some deep place within, we remember what we were made to be, we carry with us the memory of gods, image-bearers walking in the Garden. So why do we flee our essence? As hard as it may be for us to see our sin, it is far harder still for us to remember our glory. The pain of the memory of our former glory is so excruciating, we would rather stay in the pigsty than return to our true home. We are like Gomer, wife of the prophet Hosea, who preferred to live in an adulterous affair rather than be restored to her true love.

We are the ones to be Fought Over, Captured and Rescued, Pursued. It seems remarkable, incredible, too good to be true. There really is something desirable within me, something the King of the universe has moved heaven and earth to get….

If your heart skipped a beat, if your soul ached when you read Johns devotional, then you are like me.  You know there is more.  And whether you are running away from your strength or beauty or towards it, you know it is there.

Could it be that we carry in our  hearts the essence of our Creator?  Is it possible that as creation, something of beauty exists inside of us?

We are the ones to be fought over.  You and I.  Prized so much, valued so highly, worth enough to be fought for and over, precious enough to be pursued.  You and I, our hearts are valued, valuable, worthy of love.  And if they are worthy of love then they must be capable of loving in ways we’ve not yet understood.

So go forward, run after your strength, your beauty.  Stumble towards the you that you can be, that you need to be.  Learn about your heart, this amazing love, and never be the same.

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

you will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart…
– Jeremiah 29:13

“what more can be said, what greater case can 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.”

– John Eldredge
Waking the Dead

king of this heart – matt readman:

the last time i sat, and simply watched the world go by, i was more than a thousand miles from here. and, as im now realizing, facing some of the same challenges. and i grasped then, as i do now, that there is so much more going on here than i’ll probably ever understand. that there is more to the story than i allow myself to see.

i, like so many of us, had given up on the mythos that calls to our hearts. the mystery and myth that swirls through our favorite stories. i’d given up on adventure, on stories worth telling.

in so many ways, ive believed the lie that this life is all that there is. that face value, is real value.

and i am reminded tonight that there is more to the story than i see right now. that life isnt 9-5, pivot tables and time-sheets. im reminded that we were called to live life abundantly. and i am reminded that there exists one who’s very goal is to keep us from that life.

John Eldredge in Waking the Dead talks of this mythos. of realizing that there is more.  he says

“of all the Eternal Truths we dont believe, this is the one we doubt most of all.  our days are not extraordinary.  they are filled with the mundane, with hassles mostly.  and we?  we are… a dime a dozen.  nothing special really.  probably a disappointment to God.  but as CS Lewis wrote, “the value of… myth is that it takes all the things we know and restores them to the rich significance which has been hidden by the ‘veil of familiarity.'”  you are not what you think you are.  there is a glory to your life that your enemy fears, and he is hell-bent on destroying that glory before you act on it.  this part of the answer will sound unbelievable at first; perhaps it will sound too good to be true; certainly, you will wonder if its true for you.  but once you begin to see with those eyes, once you have begun to know it is true from the bottom of your heart, it will change everything.

the story of your life is the long and brutal assault on your heart by the one who knows what you could be and fears it.”

so as i sit, and the world is passing me by, i am realizing, again that starbucks, commuting, and this 2 dimensional world i so often chose to live in, isnt all there is.

i spent the majority of last week in Michigan on business.  and throughout the trip, i kept mulling on the word adventure.  i had prayed, before i left, that the trip would be a success and that i would find an adventure.   the trip went well, and although the adventure i’d asked for did come, it wasnt at all what i had expected.

one comment my boss said last week, stuck with me.  we were talking about hobbies, about how i love antiques and music, and about how he loves classic cars and 40’s big band.  and he said that when he retired, he’d love to set up a dark room, go shooting, and develop his own photos.

he said it wasnt because he wanted to be a great photographer, or that he even enjoyed taking pictures.  he said….

“sometimes, its not the picture that matters.  sometimes is the process of developing it.”

sometimes its not the destination that matters, but the process of getting there.

sometimes, its not where one is headed, but that one travels.  sometimes the goal isnt the destination, but about living life.  and you… i will never live this life sitting still.  i wont live it behind a computer screen, or inside my cocooned world of electronic gadgetry.

life is found when we risk something.  and life is lived, when we get something wrong.  when we think we know something, and we realize that we were completely incorrect.

and completely incomplete.

its in those moments, when another page of our story is written.  and we look back upon the words we spoke, the messages we delivered, the way we loved, or didnt, and we learn.  we learn who we are, and where we need to change.  we learn about our lives, our hearts, our hurts, and the hurts of others.

its in those moments that we see ourselves for who we really are.

and its in those moments we see others for who they are.

(eve)- i once thought i knew who you were.  i once thought i understood where i was, where this was headed.  i realize now, that there may be things i’m never certain of.

that doesnt mean you’re not out there.   life is mysterious, it is mythic, to be lived fully, and should be revered as such.  as deep, wide, and all-consuming.  it should be looked at as an adventure.

and if living in this adventure means being uncertain of more things than i am certain of, then so be it.

because it will be worth it.  because following this story through to the end, because reading this opus, because getting lost in the myth, will be worth it.

because you, loving you, will be worth it.

so i will live in the adventure now, to be ready for that time.  i will jump headlong into the story of my life.  and when you appear, i will be ready.

future of forestry – set your sails

i got a raise this week.  a big raise.

part of me was thrilled.  part of me was thankful that the company noticed my efforts and rewarded as such.  and for the rest of that day, i was filled with a temporal sense of happiness.  but then something changed.  and i think i’m only now beginning to understand.

my prayers of late have been those of struggle, of wanting to let go but fighting to hold on.  they have been those asking to be saved from the kingdom of self.

i wondered earlier this week, why the raise didnt make me happier.  why things didnt seem lighter or easier to deal with.  and i think im finally realizing that things will never fill the void.  i’ve always known that.  but i think that changes when you hit thirty.  and your attention shifts from work, the career, getting ahead, to the things that have a more eternal value.

our focuses shift to family, friends, and that place called home.  to the bigger story that each chapter of our lives has thus far alluded to.  and as our focus, as my focus shifts, i realize again that i dont want to be king.  i dont want to live my life pursuing my own comforts.

i want a battle to fight, a girl to fight for, and a story to live.

in a million miles in a thousand years donald miller writes about his experience of having a movie made about his first book.  a movie, literally made about his life.  and its during the making of the movie that he realizes that a movie about his life would be boring.  because his life, was boring.  his life wasnt a story worth telling.

i want a story, stories, worth telling.  stories of the battles, the girl, and amazing grace.  stories full of hope.

because it’s in those things, its in the heat of the battle that we learn the value of life.  it’s in the love and beauty of a woman that man finally begins to understand the mystery of grace.  and it’s in living through the story being told, that we see ineffable proof of an Author who cares more for us than we’ve yet begun to comprehend.

and if it takes walking through the storm, the storms, to get to the place where i can be that man.  the man who will fight, who will love, and who will follow the King of all stories…. then so be it.

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