Saturday, April 30, 2016

Watching Puddles Gather Rain.

I find myself standing here by myself typing this blog on my phone while I watch puddles gather rain.  This is not how today was supposed to go.  

I am not frustrated, I am instead reminded of the old tried and true adage; if you fail to plan,  you plan to fail.

I had a lot of things I wanted to do today.  I wanted to wake up early,  run a few miles,  hit the gym,  cook a delicious omelette for breakfast,  work on tomorrow's bible study,  watch the NFL draft,  do some yard work,  and take my teenage daughter to her first prom.

I said I wanted to do all those things; what I didn't do was plan to do those things. I didn't check to see if I had clean running clothes, I didn't make sure we had all the ingredients for my omelette, I didn't check the weather, and I didn't make sure I was registered to take my daughter to her prom on the air force base.

Because I failed to plan for the day, I had to postpone my run and my trip to the gym because I didn't have clean clothes. . I didn't get to make my omelette because we didn't have the proper ingredients. I didn't do any yard work because it rained, My coverage of the draft was interrupted because i was making up for my missed run. And I am standing here watching it rain while My Favorite is taking pictures and gushing over my daughter because I am not registered to get on base. 

So, today's little reminder to me; It's great to have goals to accomplish but if you don't make take the proper steps in the planning stage; you won't accomplish the things you want to. 

By the way she was beautiful, but growing up too fast. More on that next week. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

God Uses A Foul Mouthed Slave Trading Atheist.

Many times we feel like the things that have happened in our past can disqualify us from God's service. I can think of no better story to illustrate the fallacy of this thinking than the story of John Newton.

Newton was born in 1725 in England. His mom died just before he turned 7 and he lived a very tough early life before being enlisted in the British Navy.  Newton was part of the most profitable mission the British Navy had at the time; transporting slaves. Newton wasn't popular with his fellow sailors; he attempted to dessert and was treated to a public lashing. He was known as "the Great Blasphemer"  because of his coarse language and profanity. 

He was so unpopular with his fellow sailors at one point they left him behind in Africa where he became a servant to a tribal princess. He was treated violently and with complete disregard by his captors. Despite his treatment, once he was rescued he returned to the slave trade and seemed to have no regard for the lives he was hauling across the Atlantic Ocean like they were nothing more than cargo. He took thousands of slaves across the Atlantic. 

It was while he was at sea in the middle of a huge storm that Newton, who until that point had been a staunch atheist, came to find faith in Christ. He still struggled for many years to reconcile his faith with what he was doing for a living. A man who had been part of one of the great blights on all of humanity and who was struggling with his faith had trouble believing God had a purpose for him. Newton had previously rejected the teachings but now began reading the Bible and other religious works, he also began to seek out a mentor to help him grow in his faith.

Finally after wrestling with his conscience for many years Newton left the slave trade to become a tide surveyor and at age 39 became an ordained minister. Newton's faith and passion grew. He spent the next 40 years preaching and teaching throughout England becoming a mentor to many great missionaries including William Carey. Newton's faith changed him and he became a strong abolitionist voice and one of the leaders in England abolishing it's slave trade in 1805.

Despite his troubled past God used John Newton in an amazing way. His legacy lives on today. Even if you have never of John Newton before, you have heard a hymn he once wrote about his redemption. While he wrote over 280 hymns, one has touched hearts for centuries. It was sung by both sides during the U.S. Civil War, it was seminal during the Civil Rights movement. It was sung to help our nation heal after 9-11. It has been recorded by Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Johnny Cash, Joan Baez and countless others. Amazing Grace is one of the most recognized and moving songs in the world. 

The Lyrics of "Amazing Grace" capture Newton's heart at the time he accepted Jesus and have touched many hearts since then.

Amazing Grace how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now I'm found
was blind but now I see 
’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev’d;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believ’d!
Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promis’d good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call’d me here below,
Will be forever mine.

John Newton could have believed that his checkered past disqualified him from God's service, but God filled him with grace, using him to touch millions of lives with the words written by a unworthy, former slave trading atheist.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord , “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

God  gave this word to the nation of Israel while they were in rebellion. The same words were true for John Newton and they are true for us as well. 

In Newton's last days he was still amazed by God's grace. 
 "My memory is nearly gone; but I remember 
two things: That I am a great sinner, and that
Christ is a great Savior."

We can't let the things we have done convince us God can't use us. He can and will. His Grace is greater and more amazing than anything we could ever do. We are not disqualified by our past, we are qualified by His grace. 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Late, Thirsty and Mad. A Great Day!

Never let someone else or any event define your attitude for you.  

Today could have taken an ugly turn early,  thankfully it didn't. 

Left the house headed to Southern Miss spring football game around 9:30 this morning.  The Gator,  The Bear,  and My Favorite all wanted breakfast.  In an effort to be as expedient as possible we decided to go through a drive thru.  

Patience not being my strong suit,  I did not stop at the Golden Arches  when I saw a line around the building,  instead we went across the street to Sonic.  We placed our order at 9:40, nothing complicated.  I paid at the fancy sign with my debit card and we waited , I won't claim patiently.  We watched some boy scouts play in water while their patents washed cars and we talked about how excited we were for our day.  Finally at 9:54 the car hop arrived with almost all of our order.  

Allegedly my coffee was still brewing.  You would think that's kind of an important thing to have at breakfast and since it had already been 14 minutes they would have had ample time to prepare it.  I was polite and agreed to wait... I like coffee and people like me better with coffee. 

Finally, after I had to push the red button 2 more times a different car hop arrived with my coffee, a very half hearted apology, and a coupon card.  It was now 10:02, and I was not thrilled.  I was almost sent over the edge when I took my first sip of nature's finest beverage. It was barely warm! After 22 minutes these people bring me cold coffee! I was honestly too mad to complain,  I was madder  than I should have been. 

22 minutes is a very long time to wait,  especially for a completely unsatisfactory experience.  Now we were running late, I was thirsty,  I have had no coffee,  and I was mad.  

We gave serious consideration to not making our trip.  I am eternally grateful that we chose to press on. Had we allowed the service failure to dictate our attitudes we would have missed one of my favorite days.  

We made it to campus in plenty of time.  We had a good time at the game and an even better time afterward at the little festival.  There was free food,  bounce houses, and games.  

After cruising around for a bit we then had the best time at a new burger joint that opened not long ago. I could spend another 1000 words on how much I liked this place but will spare you.  However, if you find yourself in Hattiesburg, MS do yourself a favor and have a meal at Ed's Burger Joint.   

Despite the early set back I had an amazing day with three of my favorite people!

Never let something or someone else determine what type of day you will have. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Farmer Builds a Boat, Gets Drunk & Naked

If I were in charge of hiring someone to build a grand impressive ship to exacting dimensions, I would be looking for someone eminently qualified. I would want someone who has an engineering background. Someone who has extensive experience on similar size projects. Someone with great leadership abilities who could keep a crew focused and get the job done.

Not only is this project going to require building a grand ship; following precise specifications, it will also require years of thankless manual labor with a very small crew. It will also require some very unique skills. Once built the shipbuilder will then need to navigate the newly built and untested ship for nearly an entire year with the closest members of his family and approximately 7,000 different animals of all species.

If I knew this project was extremely important and actually meant the ultimate survival of all mankind, I would cast a wide net and insist on bringing in the most qualified people in the world, regardless of expense. My job posting on would be exhaustive. I would want to check every reference and see countless examples of past projects. Since I need some cross between an engineer, a shipbuilder,a carpenter, a CEO, a ship captain and a Zoologist; how do I even began the post? What would you call such a position? Who could possibly be qualified?

I could never imagine filling such a position with a 450 year old farmer.

The story of Noah’s Ark is one of the most famous stories from the Bible. We have all heard it, we have colored the pictures, we have sang the songs; but have you ever considered just how unqualified a hero Noah really was?

The entire story is available in Genesis chapters 6-9

God didn’t look for any of the qualifications humans would have. He looked for a man who walked with him and who was obedient to Him. God chose him to build the boat because Noah “found favor” with Him.

6:9 This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.

Noah was the 10th generation from Adam and according to the first 5 chapters of Genesis, mankind had fallen in a tremendous way since the Garden of Eden. Noah wasn’t perfect but he followed God and did not succumb to the wickedness of his time. The decadence and evil had grown so intense the Bible recounts God regretted creating humans at all

6:6 The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.

So, despite not much of a resume God commissioned the 450 year old farmer and his family to build the massive ship that stretched around 500 feet in length and was around 80 feet wide. The impressive specs continue as the ship was also close to 50 feet tall and was built with 3 separate decks inside. Not through his own skill but through his obedience; Noah built the huge boat

6:22 Noah did everything just as God commanded him

Then, despite Noah having zero zoology expertise; God sent animals to him to fill the giant vessel.  Noah had to convince the lions not to eat the gazelles and coax the elephants and the monkeys into their spot in the boat. He then, without a lot of leadership skills to boast about had to somehow convince his wife, kids, and family to get on the giant boat with all the animals. Not through his own skills; but through following God’s will Noah got the ark loaded before the rain and water began to come.

7:3 And Noah did all that the LORD commanded him

God wasn’t looking for Noah’s skills or talents he was looking for his obedience.

I focus a lot on what I can’t do because of my lack of skills, my lack of abilities, my lack of time, my lack of money. However, through my obedience, the God of the universe can do amazing things through me. God will call us to do things outside of our comfort zone to serve Him and to help others. While we aren’t even remotely qualified, His grace qualifies us.

After nearly a year stuck inside this boat with his family and a bunch of smelly animals, God finally opened the doors and let Noah out onto dry land. Noah immediately built an altar and worshiped God.

Wouldn’t it be sweet and a perfect ending if that’s where the story ended? If it was Hollywood, as Noah worshiped God, a rainbow would cross the screen, we would get a sweet song from Billy Joel, and the credits would begin to roll. The Bible isn’t that kind to our heroes though. The Bible seems to go out of it’s way to prove to us that our "Heroes of the Faith" are just as flawed as we are.

Not long after getting out of the Ark and forming a new covenant with God; good ole Noah planted a vineyard. Noah then enjoyed the fruits of his vineyard. Genesis doesn’t sugar coat it, Noah got drunk, got Naked and passed out in his tent.

It’s odd that the last thing we hear from the hero of our story is of a failure. It’s not however an attempt to shame or tear down Noah. Adding Noah’s drunk and naked story to the end of the flood story is a reminder instead to all of us, that without God’s grace, Noah just like all of us was an unqualified flawed vessel.

On a side note scientists have recently found, that built to the exact dimensions stated in Genesis, the Ark could have absolutely carried the weight of the 7000 and stayed afloat.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

I am a Broken Vessel

A few years ago when I was on a weight loss journey I started this blog. I enjoyed having a place to share my experiences with others; but at some point, I felt like I just didn’t have anything more to say.  However, there has been a stirring in my soul for quite some time now. This stirring is telling me I do have something I need to say; and I have something others need to hear.  
While my previous blogging experience was mostly about physical development with a few random thoughts and book reviews mixed in; this time I feel led to focus on something a bit more spiritual.  
For years I have considered myself unworthy to talk about things spiritual. I know where I came from, I know the things I have done. I know the thoughts I have had. There are so many reasons why God wouldn’t or even couldn’t use me.  

I am a Broken Vessel
In biblical days and in many cultures today clay pots are very valuable.  Without running water, it is the means to carry water for drinking or cleaning, from the river or the well back to the home. It could be ornate and beautiful but even the plainest clay pot still served a great purpose.  However if for any reason the vessel was broken, it became useless. You can’t carry water in a broken vessel. Imagine walking all the way from your house to the well, you fill your vessel and begin to return home.  When you arrive home your pot is only slightly full and you have wasted it as it has poured and splashed out all along your path home. In some cultures this would be even more frustrating. Many cultures will carry the vessel on their head for balance and to relieve the muscle strain. A broken vessel would not just yield little usable water but would also result in a very wet head. are many ways a vessel can become broken. While each piece of pottery is hand made for a specific purpose many factors determine how well it will serve it's purpose. Some potters are more skilled than others and will make a better more sturdy pot. The material used is also important as lesser clay will not be as durable. Once the pot is crafted and put to use how it is cared for will determine how long it will function. A poorly made vessel, one made with lesser materials or one handled too roughly will crack, chip and eventually break. Once this happens, the vessel is no longer able to fulfill it’s purpose.  There are ways that try to patch or mend the holes and the brokenness, but those fixes are very temporary, eventually the broken vessel will have to be discarded.
While I know; God is the ultimate potter and made me for a specific purpose I also know he wasn't working with the highest quality piece of clay. When I was young I wasn’t always “handled with care”. As I got older,  many times I chose the wrong path; and while that has left me with some interesting stories it has also put quite a few cracks, chips, and breaks.  I tend to think, there’s not a whole lot of use that even God can get out of this broken, chipped, cracked, patched, leaky piece of pottery. I tend to think He would only wind up with a sip of water and a soaked head. my mind it is easy to believe God wants to use the exceptional. God wants to use the vessel that is flawless, beautiful and ornate. God wants to use the best of the best. It’s easy for me, and surely others to believe; that God is looking to use the most worthy vessels. Since I am not worthy, God is great and will find someone who is.
Here’s the thing, my thinking couldn’t be more wrong.  The purpose of this blog is to show that God isn’t concerned with finding the perfect vessel. God wants to show His power by using unworthy, leaky, broken, flawed vessels; just like me.  The great “heroes” of the faith were not shiny or spotless; they were ordinary; they were flawed, they were broken.

This is the direction this blog is going to take. We will focus on God’s amazing grace filling and overflowing broken vessels throughout history and how that same grace can fill us and how God can use us cracks, chips, breaks and all. Each week we will take a look at a hero that God used for His kingdom and how He chose them despite how unworthy they all were.

Next week we will look at how God used a naked drunk to save the world!

Monday, April 11, 2016

It's Been Awhile...

It's been awhile, almost 4 years in fact since I have posted. But all that is about to change. I have a few experiences I would like to share but more importantly for the first time in a long time I feel like I have something to say.  Today will be brief, but there will be a relaunch coming soon. I think this will be a positive change. I hope you will follow along and enjoy.