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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.

This past weekend ended with my wife and I attending the wedding of a friend.  It was a beautiful wedding, simple, elegant, pure.  There were tears of joy, of laughter, and the very beginning of a brand new story.  The wedding was what all weddings should be, wonderful.

During the reception we were blessed to sit with a husband and wife in their 50’s.  A couple, old enough to be our parents.  And they have an absolute lifetime full of stories to tell.  The evening was quickly filled with stories of redemption, of second marriages and second chances for them both, and freedom from more than a decade of drug use.

But what stood out the most was that they were still in love.  Madly in love.  Sharing whispers and quiet looks, holding hands and laughing.  You could just tell.  They were just as in love now, as they were when they tied the not.  And as they approach their retirement years, it was very obvious that there is more life and energy in them now than at any other time they’ve been alive.

The love they have for each other was beautiful.

I was humbled, and almost brought to tears.

Because I want that.  For me, for my beautiful bride.  For us.

I want to be the type of man who will be more in love with his bride in 20 years than he is now.  I want to be the type of man who steals a glance and looks longingly at her from across the room when I’m 52.  I want to be the type of man whose wife never doubts his love for her.

And part of me is afraid that I cannot be that type of man.  Afraid because I never had that man as a father.

But I cannot hide there, in my circumstances.  Yes, the fact is, my father was never the man he should have been. But I will not be defined by the path my father forged.  I am fully capable of forging my own.

Beyond the fact that my earthly father may not have been there for me lies a truth I cannot ignore, my Heavenly Father was.

I know, it sounds like some pat answer, like I’m hiding behind my religion.  I’m not.  Because when I say those words, I don’t say them lightly.  Those words carry weight because I can testify to the love I’ve seen from my Heavenly Father.

And it is that love, it is because of that love that I will forge my own path.

And I will be the man I want to be, the man my wife deserves.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t own a wallet. Long ago I traded it in for the smaller size of a money clip. But there are certain things about a wallet that I miss. It’s hard to carry receipts, or much of anything really, in a money clip.  You cannot fit that picture of the old gang at the county fair, the stub from the big game, or the fortune from that Chinese food restaurant with the hilarious waiter.

Why do we carry such items? Do I really need to know when I saw Castaway? Or when I had second row seats to Future of Forestry? Do those little pieces of paper, stubs, receipts, pictures, mean anything?

In and of themselves, no, they do not. But they represent memories. And memories, more than anything, are what make up life.

Memories are stories to tell.

Stories of the time you stayed up until 4am at Waffle House, simply because the person you were with made it hard to say goodnight. Or that time you and your family laughed so hysterically at absolutely nothing while driving through Chicken Express that the wait staff seemed almost certain you were on illegal substances.

Our wallets, our pursues hold not only paper and plastic, but stories to tell, stories that bring depth to life and color to our worlds.

I don’t carry a wallet, but if I did, there are certain stories it would tell you about the last 6 months. Stories of love, of hard work, of doubt and uncertainty.  And stories of doubt and uncertainty swallowed up in love and grace. Stories with impossible odds and stories of the God of the impossible coming through when we saw no way.

My wallet would have pictures of 4am at waffle house, of beautiful thunderstorms and views of the city from high atop its quiet parking garages. And it would have pictures of this amazing woman who has chosen to love me, and whom I love.

I may not carry a wallet, but in its place, my heart carries memories. Memories and reminders of a God who is faithful, even when I am not. Of the love of a woman I do not deserve, but am so thankful for and memories of a life I am only beginning to live.

The thing I love the most, isn’t just the memory, but what that memory ultimately stands for.

Hope.

I have hope, faith, in a God who has come through when we needed Him. I have hope, knowing He loves us. I have hope knowing that He wants the best for us and that He is good. I have hope knowing that His heart for us is good.

I have hope, a knowing, that the God I serve is good beyond all other good. I have this hope, because He has shown it to me.

The God I serve loves me unconditionally, beyond all I could imagine.

I have hope, because He has given me hope.

Matt Redman – Holy

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

I confessed one of my greatest fears.

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

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

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

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

The Decade

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

None of us are.

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

There is hope.

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

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

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

I was offered love.

Promises

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

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

This time will not be like the last.

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

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

I am His son.  And this is His promise.

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

Passion – Healing is in Your Hands

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:

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: 

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