Humble Yourself

 "Therefore, as the chosen of God, holy and compassionate, put on the clothes of mercifulness, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering". Colossians 3:12

How often have you questioned your self-worth?  I know I have and I would venture to say that every person has and more than once.  Hey, we are humans after all.  We have flawed characters.  We don’t like to fail, and we can be our own worst critics.  While we can certainly seek family and friends to confirm our worth, God wants us to look inside our own hearts and find the truth for ourselves.  Life certainly put me in a different-than-normal circumstance.  For medical reasons, I stay at home; slowly working to build a business.  While my wife heads to her office every morning, I stay home to take care of our baby daughter.  I grew up with the “understanding” that the man, as head of the household, was primarily responsible for making the income; regardless, if the wife chose to work or not.  So, have I fought my ego and pride over this?  You bet I have!  I felt that I was failing a big responsibility and letting down my family in the process.  It was a very unhealthy feeling.  My wife constantly assured me that there was no reason for me to feel that way.  Still, I fought it.  I did try to reason with myself the pros of my situation.  
However, it didn’t fully hit me until one day, while I was giving my daughter her mid-morning bottle that she stared deeply into my eyes.  In her eyes, it hit me.  She was pulling out that part of me that I needed to see.  She needed me to be home with her.  She relies on me to feed her, change her, cuddle her, and give her all my affection.  I couldn’t do this if I was working.  My situation has allowed my wife to continue a very prosperous career, at something that she is truly passionate about.  It has also given me a unique life that most fathers miss.  
I won’t lie and say that it’s easy.  Mothers have naturally nurturing instincts within them.  This gives them a huge advantage taking care of kids, on their own.  I’m behind on the learning curve, so to speak.  I wouldn’t change it, though.  How much greater will my worth be, gaining this new understanding and connection that comes with so much time parenting?  
On the flip side, the time away from our daughter is not easy on my wife.  There are gains and sacrifices on both sides.  The both of us have adjustments to our roles.  We make mistakes.  We get stressed.  We learn.  Things don’t always turn out exactly the way we plan, the first time we try them.  I’ll admit, my stubbornness tends to cause more of the issues.  I try to convince myself that I can naturally do the things that my wife’s psyche already contains.  Put it this way:  It would be like coming to a point on the hiking trail that a rock face stands in the way.  The two ways to move forward would be to climb it or go around.  What do I tend to do?  “I can climb this.  I’ve seen it on T.V.  I KNOW I can do this!”  That’s the moment when it would be appropriate for someone to ask, “Are you stupid?”  God says “Take the way that you are already prepared for.  The other will come in time…and practice.”  So, the best for me is to swallow my pride and accept what limits I have, staying open to learning more.  
Does this situation sound familiar to anyone else?  If so, let me depart with one final thought.   As James 4:6 says, we need to “...resist the proud and give and be humble."  Only then will our we be truly successful in every experience we encounter. 

In My Baby’s Eyes

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”  Psalm 139:13-16

She locks her eyes to mine and just holds that unbroken gaze for what feels like an eternity.  I can’t turn away from it, nor do I choose to.  I am being read; analyzed in a very simplistic manner.  I feel that the pages of my life, revealed behind my eyes, are being studied.  I am an open book, vulnerable to scrutiny. 

What I am referring to are the moments that I hold my baby girl in my arms and she fixes her eyes to mine.  She has a deep look when that happens.  She doesn’t look away and hardly blinks.  The connection is established, and it is fixed.  Typically, they end with her giving me a heart-warming smile, as if she was saying that she found what she was searching for inside me.  Those are my favorite moments with her.  A form of communication and connection that needs no words or explanation.  It just is.

When I reflect on these moments, the words that the Psalmist wrote rings loudly to me.  However, I am not relating them to how our heavenly Father created this wonderful little girl; rather, it is how God created me.  I often wonder about how my role as a daddy will unfold but, God already knows.  It is how he stitched me together while I was still being formed.  It is the very fabric that I feel my daughter looks for when she looks deeply into my eyes.  How simple and beautiful is the mind of a little baby.  As simple as it is, she seems to find the complex answers inside of me.  Any parent that has experienced this bonding moment with their own children, may agree. There is something deeper going on.  A search for security, strength, and assurance that we (as parents) are going to give them the best of us that we can.  When my little girl finally shows that big, happy grin it is as if she is saying, “There!  I found it inside you, Daddy!”  I feel that, in some way, she knows how I will be as a parent better than I know, myself.  What an amazing feeling of assurance that it gives me!

The trail of life that I am traveling, has changed in the challenges that lie ahead.  God continues to provide all the supplies, knowledge, and expertise I need to face these challenges of parenthood that are in my (and my wife’s) future.  I don’t know how every challenge will be met, or what the results will be; though God does.  I do know that I look forward to every step that lies ahead!  How wonderfully mysterious God can be, utilizing my little baby to inspire me to venture forward into the unknown, to take on whatever God has prepared for me.  I ask God to continue to guide me, that I may be able to lead my family with the confidence and wisdom that He expects out of me...and that He had already created in me.

An Open Heart

"Greet one another with a holy kiss. The churches of Christ welcome you." Romans 16:16

The verse that decorated the sides of my old congregation's bus.  Being so young, my first thoughts were:  "What? Are we suppose to go around kissing everyone?  I don't get it."

In truth, what this simple verse was saying, the motto that my congregation was trying to display was this: Greet everyone with a friendly smile and a kind word. What better time of year to remember this simple thought?

This Christmas has been filled with a collection of “firsts” for me with the birth of my daughter.  Watching my wife and daughter, both sleeping soundly.  Holding my little girl on my chest and feeling her tiny breaths.  Looking into her curious blue eyes as she tries to put focus in this new world.  The feelings they bring are beyond words.  This is a new world of warmth and peace for me.  Before Christmas, last year, I was blessed in the sanction of marriage.  Now, this year I’m holding my little baby.  It is a warm blanket that wraps around me that even the coldest Colorado days cannot break through.  It is easy to assume that everyone is experiencing something of this kind as Christmas Eve rolls on.  However, I know that isn’t reality. 

Many military mothers and fathers are unable to hold their babies against them and watch them sleep.  Many spouses will not be sharing a kiss under the mistletoe.  Many parents will not be able to watch their kids tear into their presents Christmas morning.  That is only a fraction of people that will be experiencing heartache this Christmas.

Whether you know people personally or not, here’s a few suggestions that we could take to heart:  Be kind to everyone you encounter.  Give a warm smile and kind words to that worker at the drive-thru window of your favorite fast food restaurant.  They may be working hard for a few extra dollars to spend on the family’s Christmas dinner.  Thank that cashier at the Walmart checkout, even if they struggle with your purchase.  They may be near the end of a very long shift, and having to work on Christmas Eve and Christmas day.  Visit a friend that is missing family.  Better yet, invite them to dinner.  Little acts of kindness can carry a lot of weight.
May everyone find a bit of peace and joy this Christmas!

What Will She Be?

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”  Ephesians 2:10

What will she be?  This is a question that has been consistently on my mind, since my wife and I found out that we would be having a baby girl.  Which of her mom’s features will she have?  Will she have my stubbornness?  Will she have her mother’s beautiful singing voice?  Will she love braving the wild outdoors with her old man?  Bedtime stories?  First bicycle ride?  Crayon drawings?  So many visions to think about.  If all goes according to (God’s) plan, we will begin to find out in just a few days.

My wife has expressed how she is anxious to see me holding our daughter.  To be honest, this is a moment that I have long waited for.  Feelings of warmth, happiness, nervousness, and worry; everything that a parent could expect to feel, right?  If I were to attempt to describe everything that I have been feeling, I would fail.  At times, I would be in total peace.  Other times, I feel like my head it going to pop with every thought racing around in my brain. 

Then, another thought struck me:  What does God already have planned for my little girl?  You see, I have been repeatedly praying that God will help me to raise her as He expects me to and I’m pretty sure my wife has been praying the same thing, for herself.  But, what does God plan to do with her?  Wow!  I had to take a moment there to let the goosebumps settle!  Here I am with all these wonders and speculations, while God already sees her entire life!  (Feel free to drop a hint or two, Lord.)  I hope to show my daughter some of the experiences that I had growing up.  I look forward to her grandmother teaching her many wonderful things.  I pray that I can take her hiking to some of the beautiful surroundings that I have seen and show her just a little of the wonderful things that God has created, and to teach her how to have her own relationship with Him. 

To all you parents out there, may God help you to guide your children in His ways.  I ask that you say a prayer for us, as we prepare for our new, blessed arrival.

Man Without Fear

"Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world." Revelation 3:10

Why is the Daredevil my favorite out of all superhero-lore? It has nothing to do with a blind mind with exceptional hand-to-hand combat skills.  Nothing to do with his special abilities due to overly heightened senses. It has EVERYTHING to do with a man attempting to keep his very soul on the right side of God's war against evil.

A while back, a new series came out, based on this fictional hero.  As the story unfolds, you see a man struggling with his own “devils”.  Angered by a flawed judicial system, he ventures out to exact justice upon those who prey on the weak.  He is forced to choose to stand alone when, as a lawyer, the legal system breaks down.  One side of him wants to give the villains what they “deserve”, while another side of him struggles with allowing that to pull him into the very darkness he is trying to protect others from.  Often, Matt Murdock (aka Daredevil) seeks refuge at the local church.  Sometimes, even confiding in his priest on his inner struggles.  He is considered the “most spiritual of all comic heroes.” 

I had reached a point in my trail of life that I needed to get back the trail God intended, not the trail of others.  I was starting to allow others to pull me into the easy path.  I needed to turn and go against the grain.  I needed to seek Jesus to be my trail guide.  I had forgotten the way.

So, where I am going with this “Daredevil” thing?  He is nicknamed The Man Without Fear.  That is what we need to become, fearless.  Fearless of what people might think of us for the Godly choices we make.  Fearless to choose the side of God.  Fearless to stand with Him and battle Satan and his army.

The “Daredevil” lesson is that we do not want to compromise our souls by choosing the easy path.  We may want to strike out in anger.  We may want to lash out with bitter words.  That is the real devil saying, “Go ahead!  It’ll be fine, just do it!”  Stay out of that dark path.  It will be extremely difficult to come back from it. 
However, we can choose to endure.  We can choose to face the tests that God gives us, on this earth.  If we do that then, as John writes in this Revelation passage, God will protect us from the great time of testing, the day of judgement before God.

God gives us a path of light.  A path of truth.  A path of fair justice.  God will protect those who seek His mercy. 

MESSAGES FROM THE LAMP - Conclusion: The Apple Appeal

"For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light." Luke 8:17

Ever been in the produce section of the store and you notice an apple, but not just any apple...the perfect apple? The perfect shade of red, perfect size, and everything about it looks appealing. You want to pick that apple up and eat it right then, right? You pick up the apple, and you turn it to look at and then.....on the backside there's the worm hole, or a deep bruise! In the blink of an eye, you put the apple down and walk away, everything that initially drew you to it vanished!

There was one spot on the lamp that I couldn't clean up, no matter how hard I tried to reach it. So, I worked around it as best I could. Not real noticeable, but it's there.

I got to thinking about the "flaws" we carry. We all have them, but the point is how we deal with them. These flaws can be from pain afflicted, deceitfulness, abandonment, disappointment, falseness, etc. etc. It can be different things. Often created by what we face. Nothing you can do can hide it, even though you try to keep people from seeing it. Two choices can be made, when dealing with these tarnished spots:

First, you can try to hide it on your own. However, by then, the "wormhole" has dug deep inside of you. It's a part of your actions now. You pass yourself off as something spectacular and then, inevitably, the other side comes out. You fail to see the problem and others are left with lack of true and lack of trust. That one small spot is enough to tarnish the once beautiful image they held.

Or, second, you can face the imperfection and realize you can't cover it up yourself, but you can seek help. You seek help from seeking the cleansing power of Jesus' can clean away even the toughest spots. Then, you reconcile with those that you have failed. People that love and care about you enough, will forgive and help you out. Then together, with God's grace, you can get back the more appealing qualities you once had...and not allow that one tarnished spot to be the final impression that you leave.

MESSAGES FROM THE LAMP - Part 2: Illumination

"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." Psalm 119:105

Blackness! Darkness! Complete nothingness!! I have been out in the wild, in total darkness...moonless nights, but nothing...NOTHING compared to this. I held my hand right at my nose, waved it.... NOTHING. I knew for the first time what it must be like for a person without sight. Living in blackness!
A few years back, I went to the Natural Bridge Caverns, near San Antonio, TX. I took the lantern tour, which means the only source of light came from the small lanterns each of us carried, 180 ft. down into the earth. Just a small group, consisting of a young early-20's couple, the two guides, and myself. Once we reached the deepest point, while listening to an audio recording we switched off the lamps. SWEET MOTHER OF PEARLS!!!! TOTAL BLACKNESS, in a 99% humid cave with NO source of light!  WOW! I could feel the very darkness cling to me like being covered in damp burlap!  It was an amazing experience, which for someone who is claustrophobic, NOT a good idea. As for me? Good thing it was totally dark, the others couldn't see me looking like a dork while I was looking all around me, as if I could see the stone walls.  Hey, I just said I'm a dork, don't judge me! 😊

After momentarily switching the lamps back on, one of the guides lit and old miner's lamp, very similar to my grandpa's, and switched off our lanterns again. Frankly, it wasn't much better than the darkness. Holding the lamp at less than two feet from a wall, BARELY gave off the faintest glow! This is what those men of old had to work with.... W O W!!!

The lesson here is we keep wanting God to show us the way and we tend to get a little cranky when He doesn't show the whole path. Then, we make the mistake of trying to look beyond the light's reach. That's when trouble happens. Like these miner's, we need to move slowly and carefully in our lives, keeping in mind that we are still moving forward, but with patience to allow the Father to show you as much (or little) at a time as He chooses. We need to understand that God has a reason for this. We need to trust this and not question it! A little light is better than nothing at all.

"It is better to light one small candle, than to curse the darkness" - Chinese proverb