Start Flapping! - Take Flight: Part 2

          “For you were formerly darkness, but now you are the Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth,) trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.  Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful to even speak of the things which are done by them in secret.  But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.  For this reason, it says, ‘Awake sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine upon you.’”  Ephesians 5:8-14

          “I’M going to teach this bird how to fly.”  That is the first thought in my head.  Immediately after came this thought: “HOW?  I’m not a bird, for crying out loud!”  However, it’s my responsibility to teach this bird how to use those still developing wings sprouting out either side of it.  I can’t fly!  I can’t demonstrate!  None of the neighborhood birds ever came by to show my bird what their parents have taught them!  Yet, it’s all on me!
          As Ricky Ricardo once said, “Let me ‘splain!”  (If you caught that, your life is grand!  J) During my high school years, I was outside roaming around the woods around my family’s yard when I stumbled upon a nest that fell out of a tree.  A very young grackle was still inside the nest, loudly chirping!  While not the most favorable type of bird, I still felt bad for the little youngster and made the mistake of touching the youngling.  Anyone that knows ANYTHING about birds, once you touch a baby bird, that scent stays on it and the mother will abandon her baby for life.  Knowing that already, I knew that I had just take over the parental role for this scrawny, black bird.  I began daily feedings and (long story short) helping this little guy to grow.
          Back to my earlier dilemma.  The time came that I knew I had to get this bird to try out its wings.  Typically, you have the parent sitting in the nest with junior.  There is no “Are you ready to try?” prelude.  Whilst the young bird starts complaining how it “doesn’t wanna fly today” (that’s a teen for you), the parent kicks the bird right out of the nest.  “Better start flapping or prepare to kiss the ground…HARD!”  The youngling has no choice but to start waving those wings frantically, in hopes that they may arrest their downward momentum enough to land with just a soft thud!  The parent will get the baby, take it back to the nest and…. punt! kick the youngling out again!  Eventually through practice, the young bird starts getting the art of flying down.
          I had no nest to kick this little bird out of.  However, I noticed that the bird liked being right there with me, always.  Hmm!  I’ve got it!  I’ll for this little guy to fly to me, if he wants to stay with me!  So, I carried the bird over and sat it on the post to our mail box, then walked away.  The bird didn’t lunge straight for me, it waited.  After walking a few good yards away, I turned to the still waiting bird.  Obviously, I don’t speak Chirp.  However, the bird instinctively knew was I was doing.  It was time to start flapping those wings to get over to where I was standing.  Here’s the cool part:  this little guy didn’t just try to take the quickest, shortest flight path to me.  Nope!  It realized the importance of this task.  So, when it leapt into the air and began flapping, the bird faced a direction away from me, then took a wide arching flight path before frantically landing on my shoulder, heavily breathing after that little workout.  After giving a chance to catch its breath, we repeated the exercise, over and over.
          Instincts!  What a wonderful thing!  That is one area that we humans don’t give one another enough credit, especially as parents.  We often don’t take those moments to “push junior out of the nest” and have them try to work on learning something on their own.  At the very least, we don’t to an extent where they must learn it quick or face a rather unpleasant result.  Take learning to ride a bike, for example.  We adults can direct, instruct, and teach until we are blue in the face.  It is up to the kid to figure out how to balance, after falling and skinning up a leg a couple of times.  It will happen.  Inevitably, the child learns how NOT to fall, or we just let them toss the bike down and give up.  Likewise, adults tend to do that while learning how to live as Christ has shown us.
          Many times, we see people “give up and pout” because, spiritually, things are going their way.  They try a couple of times and give up, since no one gave them a step-by-step instruction list and lots of “easy” practice.  Jesus gave plenty of instruction to prepare us for the moments to test our spiritual wings.  Jesus looks to us and says, “Come to me.  I am the door.  I am the way.”  He continues to give us those Ready…Fly…Set! moments.  As we gain more spiritual stamina and endurance, He increases the distance that we are expected to fly.  However, He is always ready to pick us back up should we fall to the ground.

          At some point, after reading this, go outside and look around in the air for a bird gracefully floating on the wind.  Think about what it took for that bird to become strong enough to soar through the skies with such grace and ease.  Then, keep in mind that Jesus is like the parent that kicked that bird out of the nest, keeping a watchful eye while we learn to flap our spiritual wings that will one day carry us high above the ground.  Years after, those wings may be feeling a little tired or momentarily weakened.  The words of our Savior till always be available for us when we need those Spiritual Flight Refreshment Courses!

Need a Lift? – Take Flight: Part 1

But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.”  Revelation 12:14

Living near several military installations (especially the Air Force installations) it is no surprise that I often see numerous military aircraft taking off or landing from the nearby Peterson AFB.  I especially love to see the large C-130 Hercules in use.  That is a pretty large tub to be flying around in the air.  Then, I was curious as to what the current largest aircraft the U.S. military uses.  If the information is correct, the winner is the C-5M Super Galaxy (The second largest aircraft in the world.  Again, if the research is correct.) 
Standing at a little over 5 stories tall (61.5 ft.) and a little over 247 ft. in length.  Now, an American football field is 360 ft. including the end zones.  That would mean that the C-5M would take up a little over HALF of the length of the field.  Also, with a wingspan of 222 ft. (WOW!) A single C-5M can carry SIX AH-64 Apache helicopters, OR a couple of M1 Abrams Tanks, OR even the fuselage of that C-130 that I mentioned earlier.  Still having a little trouble guessing just how large this big turkey is?  The Super Galaxy can carry 6 Greyhound buses, or about 100 model 113 Volkswagen Beetles (Hello, “Love Bug”!).  Apart from the flight crew, this floating behemoth can carry about 358 troops.  You get the picture?
How in the world can something that huge, carrying those sorts of payload ever get off the ground?  It is a modern wonder of technology, to say the least.  Without going into the specifications, it takes a lot of power to get this big boy off the ground and into the air.  Though, at first glance, it may appear to be next to impossible, it happens.
What does this have to do with Christianity?  I’m glad you asked!  The first part of this Take Flight series, I want to quickly focus on what it takes to “get off the ground” spiritually.  As the Super Galaxy needs a LOT of engine power to get off the ground, we need a lot of GOD POWER to lift ourselves up. 
Isn’t it easy to come up with excuses for not being able to get that spiritual payload off the ground?  “I’m too busy to read my Bible.”  “After a long day, I don’t want to go to the study group.”  “There is already plenty of help serving lunch to the elderly.”  Have you heard that before?  Have you said that before?  Sounds like a whiny kid, doesn’t it?  Nonetheless, haven’t we been guilty of those excuses, at some point?  We become as spectacular as that huge plane, sitting on the ground…a big, glorified paperweight!  No Bueno!  So, what can we do about it?  How can we get those engines up to full throttle?
For starters, James 4:10 tells us to humble ourselves before God and He will lift us up.  In other words, we need to admit that we are meek and lowly without God.  It is through Him only, that we have the necessary power to lift our spirits up to a level that we can conquer whatever challenges head our way.  Also, this shows a clear sign of respect to our Heavenly Father, at a level that no other being can receive.  We acknowledge God as our Supreme Creator.  Admitting that we need God to take control in our lives will enable us to further pursue God’s influence in our hearts and minds.
Also, those that are actively seeking God will also rise high.  Psalm 113:7 reminds us that the needy will be lifted up.  We need to keep a constant hunger for God’s word within us.  Granted, several of us may be able to quote biblical passages all day but, we should never cease to reread and study deeper in the knowledge that God has provided for us.  We should continue to long for the pure milk of God’s Word (1 Peter 2:2).  When we take time to read and study, we are allowing God to add the spiritual fuel that it will take to get us off the ground. 
Will power is another key component needed to take flight.  God instructs us to take a “go and do it” attitude.  God’s mission for us is to be teachers and servants, to pass on His message and be helpful.  Take a few moments to read Hebrews 6:10, Mark 10:45, Mark 16:15, Matthew 28:19-20, and Acts 20:35, to list a few.  What are the two basic commands that God gives us in those passages?  Teach and serve.  In other words, get the lead out of your tail pipe and get moving!  That big aircraft is not going to get off the ground if it doesn’t fire up those engines.  Neither will our spirits gain new heights if we aren’t pushing ourselves to follow God’s plan for us.
We need to ensure that we make time, with our families, to talk to God and study together.  Hey, we are all guilty of it.  We just need to work at it and not let the excuses flow.  We need to find the willingness within ourselves to actively spread what we learn and to help others when they are in need. 

Father, may You help us find our humility in Your eyes, to know that we need You every hour of every day.  Help us to long for Your wisdom and knowledge, and give us the will to pass it on to others.  Give us what we need to get off the ground and to soar high for others to see and want to be part of.  In Your Son, Amen.

The Uncertain Knight

     "But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Thessalonians 5:8-9

     It's not easy trying to revive and ancient order of elite guardians brandishing swords of energy. Especially, when your own training was pretty much "learn-as-you-go" and still without all the answers. As was the case for Luke Skywalker.
     Now, there are plenty of Star Wars lovers/fans out there; but, the only ones that can surpass me must have read past the Children of The Jedi novel. I'm going to take one step back from that novel, to look's challenges he faced in the Jedi Academy Trilogy novels:
     Seven years after the events of Return of The Jedi, Luke is finally ready to begin a new Jedi Academy, searching for potential candidates to restore the Order. Even as he begins to train new Jedi potentials, he is uncertain and overly cautious; often he questions this wisdom of his own decisions. Why?
     Unlike the predecessors of Yoda, Kenobi, Qui-Gon, Windu, and the others; Luke became a Jedi Master, not through tests and evaluations, but mainly because he presently had the most knowledge and experience. Talk about the hot seat to be put in!
     If there was one thing he did not have, it was over-confidence. At times, the masters of the old Order tended to have just enough of this, that they became slightly arrogant in their positions. Not very much, granted.  Just enough that they began to lose focus in the Force, leading to their annihilation. Even caution caused problems with one or two of his students. There is never a foolproof way, no matter what.
     In many ways, we need that same route that Luke had, in becoming a new Jedi. We face the trial and error of Christianity, often in the "do or die" moments, with little more than a will (not skill) that allows us to overcome. As "knights" for God, we should always test ourselves, question ourselves. In this way, we are more prepared, we are more in tuned with "the Force" (in this case, the Bible), and don't allow ourselves to get too comfortable in a position that we begin to lose sight of purpose.

     May the Force (and God's love) be with you! 

Don't Provoke, Or Accept Your Fate

          “Get rid of the old yeast, that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are…” 1 Corinthians 5:7a

          I knew that I had messed up and there was no getting out of it.  Being the daring adventurer, I decided to go off the path, hike where I wanted to go.  That is when I found myself face to face with a mountain lion.  Without meaning to, I strayed too close to her den of cubs.  This mother was out to protect her little ones, even if that meant bloodshed.  My heart lodged itself into my throat.  Sweat was coursing down the side of my brow.  My mouth was drier than any desert.  I started seeing faces of family and friends flash before me.  The question wasn’t if I was going to die, but how?  Would this mother lunge right at my throat?  Would she swing around behind me and grasp the back of my neck in her powerful jaws?  Would she slash me with her ferocious claws?  How would my fate be served?

All I could do was keep facing her as I backed away, slowly.  My hands held out in front of me, hoping that I may be able to reflect any blow.  I moved back directly in the path from which I just came, hoping that it was exact opposite of her cubs.  I was too scared to move suddenly, praying that my very slow and careful movements would not provoke her.  One step at a time, she’s approach, stop, and move another step toward me.  She didn’t close the distance, rather just maintained the same space between us.  Afraid to take my eyes away, sure that she would take advantage, I maintained visual of her face, not necessarily trying to meet her angered eyes.  Inch by inch, I continued to move away.  It had been an eternity as I began to lose visual of the spot that her tiny cubs were resting.  The mother cat followed me a bit further when she finally stopped, just holding her ground until I was within what she determined was a safe enough distance to allow me to return to where I started.  The hair that had been standing straight upon the back of her neck was finally settling back down.  She was letting me go.  Silently, I thanked her.  I got the message loud and clear: Consider this your only warning.  There will not be another.

Fortunately, what I just related did not actually happen.  Could it have?  Of course.  While I love venturing out into unknown territory, I also respect my boundaries and respect the territory of others.  However, when is the warning just not enough?  When comes the time to act?  While God’s word has shown us many examples of mercy and offering a second chance, it also instructs us when it is time to take a more direct approach.  Does that mean that consequence of wrong-doing must be a harshly performed act?  Of course, not.  Not saying that it will be pleasant to the wrong-doer. 

The author of Hebrews tells us in the twelfth chapter and the eleventh verse that “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterward it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.  So, what is this writer attempting to tell us?  Discipline, or facing a consequence, should be applied in the hope of correcting a choice or behavior.  If not, the consequences can, and will be far worse.

On the other side of that coin, we are fully accountable for are actions.  There are no excuses that are legitimate.  We make the choices, we should expect the equal results for those choices.  Read Jeremiah 17:10, Matthew 12:36-37, Luke 47-48, and Romans 14:12.  God is watching what we say and do and He will hold us to the choices we make.  If we do not hold ourselves in account for how we treat family, friends, coworkers, etc.; how should we expect God to show us mercy when we full well knew that we were not making the right decisions? 

Should there be a time when the "attack" is warranted? 

Think about it.

Fishing New Waters

          A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.”  Proverbs 1:5

          I have fished the lakes of Livingston, Limestone, Conroe, and Belton.  I have cast my line out into the Trinity and Brazos Rivers.  I have utilized a spin casting, spinning, and bait casting reel.  Fishing the bottom with a Carolina rig or using a top water popper in a brushy area, I’ve done it.  Under my belt, I have hauled in various species of bass (white, black, largemouth, smallmouth, and striped), while also tangling with catfish ranging from channel, yellow, and high fin blue.  Whether sitting in a boat jigging a roadbed or casting off a bank, I’ve learned diversity and utilizing the right combination of lure to location.  I was pretty well set.  Then, I started checking out the fresh water lakes around my new home in Colorado.
          Trout and pike seem to be the more popular species in this area.  The first moment that I had looked at my tackle, I knew that I had a situation!  I wasn’t geared to fish for those little buggers.  GREAT!  Now what?  It looked like I was up a creek…. you know the rest.  What do I do?  Hope that the fish are dumb enough not to have a favorite “menu”?  Hope that they’ll go after anything that passes by?  Yeah, sure!  Maybe pigs really will grow wings, too!
          I knew what had to be done.  I went back to the research board.  I had to start learning again.  Sure, I knew a decent bit about fishing.  However, the circumstances have changed.  I’m in a colder climate.  I’m going after a different species of fish.  I needed to know their habits and patterns.  Where are the best spots in the water to cast my line into?  What lures and bait will they most likely strike?  Based on the climate and shallow river systems, it looks as if I will be learning two more types of fishing: ice fishing and fly fishing. 
          The point that I am making is that my previously acquired knowledge was no longer enough.  I was required to “hit the books” again.  My lessons were not over.  Oddly enough, many “believers” tend to think that after they have accepted God as their Father and Jesus as their Savior, that is all that is required.  BZZZ!  Wrong answer!  The learning never stops, especially for Christians.  Could that be the reason that so many “Christians” today tend to agree with societies view of accepting sinful practices as things that should be tolerated and allowed?  Many are quick to agree with a liberal view of what they believe God accepts, without studying for themselves.  Folks, that’s a little scary.
          Studying God-breathed scripture (2 Timothy 3:16) is not a one-time thing.  It is constant.  I continually need go back and look up verses, to ensure that I am not misquoting them.  I constantly read one scripture, then look at other scriptures that apply to what I’ve just read, to fully understand the meaning that God intended to give.  My wife and I, have begun to study together, every evening.  We discuss what the passages are saying, sharing our perspectives with each other, ensuring that we are not attempting to add or take away the knowledge that God expects us to gain.  As Jesus’s beloved disciple tells us, in his second letter in Ephesus; if we are to move forward without following Christ’s teaching, then we do not have God (2 John, v. 9). 
          As we continue down the pathway of life, we need to have God’s Word in our hands.  We will face new challenges and new experiences.  Without proper knowledge, how are we expected to handle those situations properly?  Simply, we won’t.  We will fail.  If we hope to succeed, then we must be willing to take time to arm ourselves with knowledge.  We want to keep the data fresh in our heads.  We need to make sure that our spiritual “tackle boxes” are properly stocked to handle what lies below the surface of those new waters.  After all, we are fishing for keepers, aren’t we?

          “And He said unto them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’”  Matthew 4:19

Continuing the Journey: The Path Ahead (part 2 of 2)

And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ And He said, ‘Write, for these words are faithful and true.’”  Revelation 21:5

          Are you making resolutions for this new year?  Many do.  Many don’t.  I, personally, am not one to make a resolution, per se.  I continually set goals for myself, but I do them with realistic steps.  What do I mean by that?  I tell myself that I am going to work toward a goal, not I AM going to do this by such and such time.  Many get downhearted when they are unable to reach a certain goal or objective, even though they are moving forward to obtain it.  An example:  I quit smoking early last year.  I didn’t resolve that 2016 was going to be the year that I quit.  However, I planned on working toward the goal of quitting, whether I completed the task or not.  I wanted to be heading down that path.  Just so happens, I accomplished it early. 
          God gives us pointers and tips as we look at the road ahead.  He instructs us not to worry about what lies ahead (Matt. 6:25).  The apostle John tells us not to fear or give our hearts to troublesome thoughts (John 14:27).  There are still aspects that I am uncertain as to where I am headed in life, but God already knows.  He wants me to trust Him and to follow where He guides me. 
          Our Father has a plan for each of us (Jer. 29:11).  Instead of worrying about the unforeseen future, He wants us to look forward to it, while turning our lives to Him (Phil. 3:13-14).  We are asked to strive to do better.  To make better choices.  To be less selfish.  To be a guide to others.  Are we always going to succeed?  Possibly not.  There will be moments that our faith gets tested.  Our feet will stumble upon those rocks of doubt.  We will probably even slip and fall to the ground.  God knows that it will happen, but He doesn’t expect us to wallow around in self-pity.  These are the moments that He expects us to take His outstretched hand and help us back to our feet. 
          Life is the proverbial horse needing to be tamed.  It will buck you.  It will slam you into the saddle.  It will even throw you right off it’s back.  You can lie in the dirt, or dust yourself off and hop back on.  The choice is yours.  Just prepare yourself for the consequences of those choices. 
          As I stated in part one of this series, the beginning of last year looked a little grim.  As much as I tried to tell myself that I trusted in God’s plan, my heart wasn’t totally confident.  I still had my doubts.  He showed me that I had nothing to worry about.  He is at the wheel and He IS in control of my life.
          I look ahead to the path of this new year with anticipation.  Do I know exactly what will transpire?  No!  Am I certain that I WILL reach definite goals?  No!  So, what can I be certain about?  I can be certain that if I am working toward certain goals, I will succeed.  That doesn’t mean that I may accomplish everything on the first try.  It does mean that if I continue to persevere, God will see me through. 
This year, I have a new family to continue my journey with.  I will be able to guide them, and they will also guide me.  We will look ahead together.  We will trust that God has a plan for us, whether we clearly see it or not.  We will follow Him.
May I suggest that you look to this new year with eyes wide open.  Set yourself some goals, but resolve to continue to work on those goals.  Don’t set yourself to worrying about accomplishing them by a certain time.  Continue to work on them.  As long as you are pressing forward, you are gaining.
Happy New Year, everyone!