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


"Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves." Matthew 7:15

Grandpa's old miner's lamp.  When my mother showed it to me, it was tarnished and covered with gunk, due to the sands of time.  It took a lot of time, patience, and a LOT of brush attachments on my Dremel tool! She turned out a beauty. She really shined!

I didn't know what I was expecting to find as I started stripping all the tarnish, gunk, and buildup. I wasn't expecting it to be as shiny as you see it now. So, you may ask, why the verse from Matthew 7?

I got to thinking about the words of Matthew 7:15-20. It reflected on my own vision of people, of what I expect to find underneath all the layers that is built up. I expect the shine. However, it doesn't always work that way. When I have peeled the layers off of many people, expecting the beauty, I often find that what's beneath is no better than what has caused all the tarnishing to begin with. As Matthew 7:20 says "You will know them by their fruits."

I expect something shiny, beautiful; disappointed when I find that it is anything but that. It is those who don't live at the 100%.

Living at 100% means showing what is inside, on the outside. Many live in an 80%, 60%, etc...only by some mishap, is the true inner self exposed. 

Today, let people know the 100% you. Otherwise, don't expect a 100% return....and if what lies beneath is tarnished, break out God's tool and remove it. Strip it away, so that you can start again with something beautiful. Renew yourself to God and to those around you.

Shine On

"Do you bring a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don't you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear." Mark 4:21-23

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.

We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
We were born to make manifest
The glory of God that is within us.

It's not just in some of us;
It's in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we're liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others. 
-Marianne Williamson                        

Mark 4 reminds me of this Marianne Williamson poem.  It comes to mind when I see "attention seekers".  Some post a load of selfies and I ask myself "why"? Is it inadequacy? Is it so you can constantly hear how beautiful you are? Because, inevitably, that is the result....same as the last time you posted one...and the time before. Are we constantly needing to seek approval from others? The answer is: YES! For whatever decision we make, we have an inner longing for others to say: "looks great", awesome job", "proud of you". There are times when that is encouraged, but when it is a constant draw....why?

Others selflessly pursue the happiness of others and feel powerless to do so. We may not be able to "change the world" as we would like, but we can do as Mark said, and as Marianne stated:

We can shine for others. We can liberate ourselves of our burdens and through our examples, liberate others, who choose to see it.

Don't worry about how you look, or how you dress, or what kind of car you have, or job you have to "impress" others. Instead, impress God with your heart. Don't let Jesus's sacrifice go in vain, by shrinking to what others want, or don't want to hear or believe.

SHINE ON for what you believe. You never know who make be enlightened by this. :)