Before the great journey began, before the stories that would be regaled around campfires and dinners and celebrations could be told, before the younger generations would listen in awe; one humble, unassuming home is invaded by unwelcome guests.  One life is turned upside down.  And one invitation is offered.

Uninvited, unexpected and unquestionably dangerous, an invitation is made.  And in that moment, the seed is planted.  A calling is given.  A destiny once veiled, slowly comes into focus.

And inside the heart of the called, something reverberates.  Something deeper than he’s known before and more real than his fear awakens inside him.

As they sang, the hobbit felt the love of beautiful things made by hands and cunning and by magic moving through him, a fierce and jealous love, the desire of the hearts of dwarves.  Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.map_of_bilbos_journey_1

And the journey begins.  Our fearful little hero obeys the calling, leaves the paths of safety he’s always trod and steps quietly into the unknown.  Trusting his future to his fellowship, and to the one who called him.

On this journey he would face the unimaginable, be captured, lost in endless, dark tunnels and face death on more occasions that he would have ever wanted to.

On this journey he would also find his calling affirmed and himself equipped to be just what he was called to be.

“That’s right,” said Gandalf.  “Let’s have no more argument.  I have chosen Mr. Baggins and that ought to be enough for all of you.  If I say he is a Burglar, a Burglar he is, or will be when the time comes.  There is a lot more in him than you guess, and a deal more than he has any idea of himself.”

So Bilbo leaves all he’s ever known and begins an adventure that changes his life and the world, forever.

Maybe I don’t want to carry a sword (although that would be cool) and maybe my calling isn’t to be a burglar.  Maybe I won’t be accused of being a thief and find that accusation oddly fulfilling.  But there are things I haven’t done yet, places I’ve not seen, mountaintops not yet scaled, and waterfalls not yet swam in.  And there are things I want to be called.  Other words that don’t yet describe who I am.

Words like Daddy, Father, or Pappa.

Words that will undoubtedly force me into the unknown.

Yes, I may face the unimaginable.  And I know I’ll need to trust the future to my fellowship and the One who has called me.  But I step out knowing this;  I’m not alone, my calling will be affirmed, and I will be equipped to be just what I am called to be.

And even if this means leaving my quiet little life behind, I will see mountaintops.

Here’s my Heart – David Crowder 

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Many years ago I began a journey that, at the time, I thought would have ended in days and weeks. Not decades.

I’ve been in Texas for more than a decade, married for more than two years and only recently have my wife and I found a church that may just become home.

10 years of searching. Why? Because I wasn’t looking for just a church, or just good worship, or just just a good message. I, we were looking for honesty, vulnerability and community.

And although she and I have both found good friends in Texas, we’ve not found that place that feels like home. Yes, our times of fellowship are wonderful and much needed. But I cannot escape the feeling that we’re sitting in front of a giant tub of ice cream choosing to scrape just the top few layers off.

We don’t go deep. We don’t get honest. We don’t talk about our struggles, our fears, our heartaches and our dreams. We don’t trust others with the valuable parts, the real parts of who we are. And because of that, we don’t have community. We don’t have family. We have friends, acquaintances, vanilla when we could have rocky road, pistachio or superman blue. We settle for a single scoop, when a banana split is there for the taking.

That’s not the fault of our friends, that’s my fault. I’m the one who doesn’t push the envelope, who doesn’t share, who doesn’t pour his heart into something and expose his vulnerable side.

It’s funny that my humanity, the very reasons I need Christ in my life, are the very things I’m afraid would insult my friends.

I’m not perfect. I’ve struggled, struggle, daily. I fight. Against lust, pride, greed, selfishness and the desire to just have a cold heart.

I dream. Of producing music, writing books, speaking to thousands of people and offering my life, my stories as encouragement.

And I fear, that by sharing any of this, I may be wounded, mocked, insulted, and thought less of.

And now I realize it is foolish to fear. For in doing so, I’ve not protected myself. No, I’ve been a thief. I’ve stolen the chance to chase my dreams, to plan for a family, to be a father, to fall, laugh, accept grace, and keep going. I’ve stolen the man my wife deserves because I’ve not lived fearless. And I am sorry.

I am a misfit. I always will be.

But I know I am not alone.

The Life-Light was the real thing: Every person entering Life he brings into Light. He was in the world, the world was there through him, and yet the world didn’t even notice. He came to his own people, but they didn’t want him. But whoever did want him, who believed he was who he claimed and would do what he said, He made to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves.

John 19 (the message)

Christ was a misfit. He didn’t fit into his own people yet the three years of his life changed the course of history and set in motion the very grace by which I stand.

Join me. Be honest about who you are, your struggles and pain, your dreams and passions. Your hopes and fears.

Believe who He is, and find your true self.

I’ve begun to wonder if we’re sometimes given perfect moments on earth, perfect summers, perfect days, perfect friendships to give us a glimpse of what heaven was like.  Times we wish, hope, and cling to a fierce belief that if we just held on tight enough, things wouldn’t change.

I remember a summer when I didn’t want things to change.  I had a good job, wonderful friends, someplace to go and people to be with every weekend.  I had my family, I had friends, and I was loved.  An imperfect world momentarily paused by perfect moments.  I hoped it would never end….

We lose something important, something vital when we’re so hurried.

Early this year, Texas forced me to stand still for two days because of an ice storm that gripped much of the south.  We were not able to leave our driveway for days.  Part of me began to get a little stir-crazy.  But part of me also enjoyed the forced change of pace.  It was quiet.  The loudest thing we heard in those few quiet days were the neighborhood children sliding around the ice covered ground, living their perfect moments in an winter wonderland.  A rare treat for the south.

And as I sit here now, 13ish years beyond that perfect summer, I know that I cannot remember that summer without remembering what came next.  Without remembering the heartache, the numbing loneliness, the thoughts of suicide.  The perfect summer lead into 10 years that rocked my world, reshaped my world view and altered the very fabric of who I was.

I no longer see myself as the person, the boy I was at 21.  I don’t have the childlike heart, the innocent exuberance or the trusting nature I had then.  I worry more, I fear more.  I’m scarred, stitched together scraps that don’t fit exactly the way they should.  A puzzle with pieces missing, an incomplete picture.

I feel like a three legged table.

I may never have another summer like I did when I was 21, but I’ve learned that perfection is overrated.  My friends, my family weren’t perfect, I wasn’t perfect.  My imperfect view of an imperfect world lied to me.  Things were not perfect.  And they never will be.

We cannot live our lives looking for perfection, because if we do, we will miss the opportunities to freeze our butts off while sliding around an ice covered street in Texas, we will miss the chances to dance with our spouses in the kitchen, to play in the rain or get lost in a song.  If we hurry through life searching for those perfect moments, we will miss the beauty that already exists in our imperfect lives, our imperfect relationships, and our imperfect families.

I look back on that boy of 21, of the years between, and I have to remind myself that this story isn’t finished.

Tables can be repaired, tears can be mended, puzzles can be completed, and fears can be faced.

I no longer look for perfect situations.  I’m beginning to see the beauty in the imperfect.  And I will keep dancing with my wife in the kitchen and kissing her in the moonlight. No, life may not be perfect, but getting up at 2am to watch a lunar eclipse together is something I wouldn’t trade for anything.

I don’t have perfect, I have something better. I have life. And I’ll hold onto that with all I am.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Kickstarter, it is a fundraising website designed to give those with  great ideas a platform to present their idea to the world, and then ask for funding from anyone interested in seeing that idea come to life.

Bands fund their indie albums, people create new ways to keep coffee hot, charge your iPhone or send something to space.

Recently, one idea has garnered a lot of press. The mini museum(http://www.minimuseum.com).

33 pieces of history. Pieces of the London Bridge, Abe Lincoln’s house and a triceratops horn. 33 nearly one-of-a-kind items for $299. I love it. I think it’s an awesome idea as it places things you’ve only heard about in your hands.

I want one.museum-13

But my desire goes far beyond the cool factor. And I couldn’t figure out why until now.

Stories.

It’s not 33 pieces of history. It’s 33 stories. 33 stories and the many stories that will be created talking about how cool the mini museum is.  Stories to be told around around something that holds stories already told.

I don’t want it for the cool factor, I want it for what it tells my heart. That I’m somehow more important for having it. That it somehow brings value to my existence.

It’s not that I need a piece of the Berlin Wall, but that I need stories. And part of me wants to replace the stories I do have, my past, with something better.

Because I don’t like my story.

I don’t like the pages I didn’t get to write. And I don’t like some if the pages I wrote myself.

I want a different story. I don’t want to be the son of an absentee father. The son of divorced parents. Or the son of a family that’s been through the hell we’ve been through. I’ve somehow bought the lie that something new and shiny can change the tarnish staining my past.

It can’t. Nothing can.

But it’s not the tarnish that matters. Because if you look below the tarnishing, you see the indelible ink imprinted on my soul.

“I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places… You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again.” (Isaiah 58:9-12 MSG)”

Museum or not, my past, your past is unchanging.  But it is not my present.  Nor will it be my future.

The stories I live will not be defined by the knickknacks on my coffee table, but by those I chose to love, and those who love me.  My past defined a large part of who I was, but the ink on my soul defines my future.  And nothing can change that.

For the Cross – Bethel Music

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 

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

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

If you’re like me, you carry regret.

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

Regret.

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

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

We never truly learn the meaning of the word grace.

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

It spoke to me, deeply.

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

I cannot change them.  I cannot undo and unsay.

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

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

Covered by grace.

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

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

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

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

Bethel Music – You Know Me

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.

Life is full of uncertainty.

I’ll avoid the clichés that tell us that the only thing we can be sure of is change or that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.  Because I know they’re just that, clichés.  Poor attempts to capture in too few words truths we would rather ignore.

Uncertainty isn’t fun.  Fear is real.  Change is certain.

But we forget another truth that is central to life.

We are not alone.

And the more I realize this, the more my wife loves me, the more I lean into my Saviour, the more I learn that I don’t have to walk this life entirely self-sufficient.

It’s not an easy lesson to learn.  For a long time, I was my best friend, I was my confidant.  I was the only one I could count on.

But that’s changing.  The walls are slowly coming down.

And as they do, they bring uncertainty, fear and change.

But they also bring color, joy and laughter.  Peace, happiness and light.  Love, hope and life.

I’ve got a long way to go before the walls are gone completely, but that is what this blog is supposed to be about.  That is what life is supposed to be about.

When I look back on the chapters of my life I’m writing right now, I want them to be the pages I dog ear.  The pages I remember fondly as the beginning of the best days of my life.  The pages that make me smile.  Because these are the pages where life began to lose its gray hue, where color over takes black & white and where life overtakes simply being alive.

Bethel Music – To Our God: 

history

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