You Should Be Dancing

At 6’4″ and 225 lbs. I am quite conspicuous on any dance floor, even more so back in the day when platform shoes were in-I had quite the collection!  Should I mention I’m also white?  From what I have observed on any weekend in Vegas that alone should keep me hidden in the corner while everyone else has fun.  I can recall all the way back to my grade school days at Indianapolis Public School #90 that I was popular during any dance party simply because I wasn’t afraid to get out there and dance while my soul brothers were on the sidelines because they were too cool to groove.  That changed when their girlfriends started dancing with the tall white dude.

But at some point along the way I became too concerned with what others thought of me getting jiggy with it, and stopped dancing.  After all, I was an adult now and had an image to maintain, and I couldn’t do anything that might make me look foolish.  I went from being the guy all the girls wanted to dance with to being the one everyone wondered about because I refused so many invites to dance.  I was more concerned with what others thought than what I wanted and I let my response dictate my level of involvement.  I really wanted to be out there having a blast with my friends, but I was paralyzed by intimidation that I created.

This blog isn’t really about dancing, and then again it is.  The thing about dancing is that it requires total release of all inhibitions.  You hear the beat, you respond to the music and you express unashamedly your joy in the moment.  I visit lounges on the weekends just to watch people dance, and have made a few observations.  One is that you can quickly and easily spot those who are intimidated and confined by their own fears.  They are barely moving and there is no expression on their faces.  It’s as if they are burdened with heavy chains that limit their movement and instead of freeing themselves, they merely keep their movements within the confines of their restraints.  It’s not so much that they don’t know how to dance as it is that they are walled in by their own fears.  And then there are those, usually much older, whose dancing is so liberated you can’t help but laugh at them.  I am even guilty of at times making fun of them because their actions aren’t at all rhythmic or even closely synchronized with the music, but they are having the time of their lives.  They feel no shame, no fear, no intimidation and no regrets.  AND…they will dance to anything!  It is strangely amusing to see some out-of-shape old guy busting a move and these beautiful young women compelled to join them-free dancing is contagious when enjoyed without restraints!

Life is a dance.  Sometimes it calls for precision dancing like a couple on a ballroom floor; sometimes it’s a slow romantic sentimental affair that allows for being close to your dance partner.  Sometimes it is downright funky and so compelling it takes more courage to refuse than to surrender.  Whatever the case or style of music, it demands response.  But many of us (I have been there) have become so burdened and downcast by the affairs of this life that we have lost our joy in dancing through life and find ourselves on the sidelines as lonely spectators.  The response mechanisms and receptors in our individual lives have been deadened by challenges we may have survived but challenges that robbed us of all feeling and response.  We become envious of those who we know who seem to dance through the fires with no fear while we are intimidated just by the heat of the flames.  Unemployment, unrealized dreams, broken hearts, challenging illness, lonely nights-all thieves of joy; for each bit of happiness they steal they leave behind a chain that eventually hinders us like an old Dickens novel, rendering us immobile and apathetic.

A popular worship song in churches today is called Chain Breaker.  The lyrics reflect much of what I am describing here;

“If you’ve been walking the same old road for miles and miles, if you’ve been hearing the same old voice tell the same old lies; if you’re trying to fill the same old holes inside, there’s a better life…”

Life surely rains on both the just and the unjust, the deserving and the least deserving.  One of the greatest musicals of all time is Dancing in the Rain.  The elements outside which we can’t control should not be allowed to dictate the desires inside that compel us to move freely without fear, without intimidation, with little regard to what others may think of us or our response-simply, to dance. We Should Be Dancing! We should be Getting Jiggy With it.  We should be Dancing in the Dark; we should be Staying Alive we should all Get Down On It.  And if we feel awkward, there is always the Humpty Hump, which can’t be done incorrectly.  The point is just to dance, like no one is watching, like there is no tomorrow, like you are Travolta, the master of the floor.  Again, this isn’t about dancing, or is it?

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And Just Like That-My 2017 Story

Our beautiful Beagle boy finally laid calm in my arms after a 30-minute full Grand Mal seizure. He had been in our family since his birth nine years earlier. An injection of valium calmed him down long enough for what was about to come. The cancer had spread to his brain and the seizures he was having daily were unbearable to witness-it had to end today.  I cradled him like a baby one last time.  The vet asked us if we were ready.  Of course not!  But out of love and mercy I nodded to proceed.  The injection worked quickly, and just like that, this once full of life furry friend lay motionless in my arms as his life came to a merciful end.  I sobbed like  little boy and continued to hold him until the vet finally took him from me and carried him out of the room.  Thus 2017 was ushered in.

In January and then again in February I was served with two different lawsuits stemming from a business I was forced to close through foreclosure in 2014.  I thought that chapter had been closed but aggressive attorneys thought otherwise. The amounts of the lawsuits coupled with the legal fee estimates to defend them were staggering.  I had received nothing from the business when it closed and had lost my entire savings that I had invested when it closed down.  These unexpected court actions left me with little recourse.  My finances and credit were now in shambles.  And just like that a lifetime of perfect credit history was now, well, history.

The following March, thinking things could get no worse, things got much worse. The love of my life asked for a divorce after a twenty year relationship.  What began as a Hallmark fairytale romance that others envied had now been reduced to a signature on a legal document.  To save money, with vision blurred by tears, I drafted the legal documents that would terminate my own marriage.  Upon their completion and our signatures, I proceeded to the courthouse and waited in line for what seemed like an eternity waiting to file them.  Upon the clerk’s stamp, I took them up to the Judge’s inbox and deposited them for final signature, which took just one day.  And just like that the air I breathed for twenty years was taken from me. I felt abandoned, unloved and alone.

The following May I was scheduled for my quarterly check-up with my nephrologist.  I suffer from Polycystic kidney disease for which there is no cure.  I was advised by someone close that with the year I had experience thus far perhaps I should cancel-I should have listened.  I was informed the disease had now progressed to stage Four and I was nearing the need for dialysis.  And just like that an otherwise health-minded man was forced to consider life-altering choices and my own mortality.

In a mere span of just five months every aspect of my entire being had come under severe attack.  I had lost a dear friend, I lost my financial security, I  lost my health and most tragic, I lost the love of my life and best friend.  I was, and in many ways, still am quite the mess.  Any one of these life-changing events would be enough to take down the strongest of men.  But seriously , all in one year?  I was left alone in a 2000 square foot house with empty rooms having nothing but the haunts of the past as a companion.  Funny thing-I never realized that quietness could echo!  Few knew of the numerous challenges I faced this year.  More than one person, perhaps not fully disclosed, reprimanded me for wallowing in self-pity.  My closer friends shared concerns over what I might do.  After all, many have pulled the trigger for much less.

It would be at this point in the story that some, just like friends of Job, would ask how I could still trust in a God who had allowed such destruction to overcome me.  I will confess that God and I had some serious “come to Jesus” conversations as I wrestled for answers or purpose.  If this is what perseverance looks like, I wanted no part of it. But as a long-time believer I knew that faith was not based on feelings or emotions but on knowledge and trust.  My heart wasn’t in it, but I forced myself to find words of hope within the Psalms.  David and I became close friends. He could cry out and lament to God over his turmoil in one breath and confess his hope and faith in the very next breath.  David always went back to what he KNEW to be true even when he was hiding for his life. In a twisted irony He who allowed these things to invade my 2017 was the One who I had to turn to and lean on in order to survive them.  I have surely walked this year through the valley of shadows but Christ has been my comfort and His spirit has been my  lifeline when I had little sense or worth, purpose or direction.

I can now see some light as I enter 2018.  The demise of my marriage prompted me to write a book that has already made an impact in other couples’ marriages.  Claiming a promise of healing, my last check-up on my kidneys revealed the progression of the disease had halted for now-I am claiming a miracle.  The Christmas and holiday season which had left me with old familiar and painful memories of years past was spent with my children, all alive, healthy and well.  And my first gift, the announcement of a new grandchild’s arrival this coming Summer, brought tears of joy, the first in a long while.  My faith sustained me through an impossible year and I now see some sense of purpose and a restored reason to continue the race the Apostle Paul describes. I know I am not alone.  Many this year suffered tragic and heart-wrenching losses-death of spouses or loved ones, serious illnesses, broken relationships, unemployment and the list is long.  When you are shut in by the surrounding thickness of storm clouds it is challenging to see the sun or feel its warmth, but yet it remains.  I want to encourage-no, implore you to seek shelter in the hope and promises of God’s Word and the comfort of His Son, Jesus.  David understood it while hiding in caves-the Apostle Paul got it while singing songs in prison chains.  I’m no David or Paul, but I get it too.

May the hope, the comfort and the love of our Father bring you into a glorious, prosperous and healthy new 2018.  May His will and purpose be revealed in your spirit and inspire you to do great things this year!  May you find in Him the strength and courage to boldly face and navigate the storms that may pop up out of nowhere with full knowledge that the Son is always there!  Happy New Year!

For Christians Everyday is Halloween

361535-slasher-films-halloween-resurrection-screenshot  It’s here again already-Halloween. It’s a time for scary costumes, trick-or-treaters, classic movies and ghost tales.  Oh, and the whole church debate thingy which takes scary to a whole new level. Say what you will-I have fond memories of my days as a kid in Indy gathering as much candy as I could-I still struggle with sweets! And I recall taking the boys out when they were old enough to enjoy the experience. It’s funny to me how this particular holiday causes many to seek out the thrill of being scared senseless.  Even as church youth we went to the scariest settings we could find for that ultimate chase for the annual feeding of our dark side.

One of my favorite movies and all time classic scream traditions is the Halloween series with one of my favorite actresses Jamie Lee Curtis, the reigning scream queen. In her movies there seemed to be nothing she could do to escape, outrun or kill the demon Michael Meyers as he kept coming back to life episode after episode, sequel after sequel. She was haunted by him from her early teenage babysitter years through the time when he had a teen of her own. The character Michael Meyers was ruthless, persistent and seemingly impermeable to death or destruction.  I still don’t know if he’s dead.  I fear as long as Jamie is alive, Michael will pursue her.

This movie series is the classic metaphor for the Christian experience.  We are told in scripture that our battles on earth are not against flesh and blood but rulers of the earth, demonic forces unseen but very real. No matter how much we may pray, attend church or read scripture, there are battles going on within us and around us by the Michael Meyers of the unseen world.  I’m convinced that the more devoted one is to their faith and practice, the more vulnerable to attack by our haunting enemies.  It’s a classic battle strategy to take out the strongest first.

Spiritual warfare doesn’t have to manifest itself in our lives ala Linda Blair and the Exorcist. More times than not the attack is subtle in nature-that quick glance, the one drink too many, that innocent flirtation with someone other than your spouse.  You tear down defenses one brick at a time until there is a large enough hole for a full on attack. The Apostle Paul was engaged in these battles as he recorded for us that the things he knew he should do, he didn’t, and the things he knew not to do he did anyway.  If you walk through life as a believer but are not tempted, not tested or challenged in any way, you are disengaged in your faith, and the battle, for the enemy has evaluated you and deemed you not to be a real threat.

The good news is that we also have unseen Heavenly protectors who will battle for us.  In 2 Kings 6 Elisha prays the God will open the eyes of his young assistant and when He does, the young man sees a host of Heavens armies in chariots of fire encamped around the hillside ready for battle. We are told that the war is already won, but the battles until then can be fierce.  Halloween may be a man made and fake holiday with no real substance, one we know to be artificial, thus the constant pursuit of the ultimate scare. But for believers, the scares can be real if we don’t properly prepare for war.  So be careful and keep your defenses up at all time against incoming attacks, even when they look like Jamie Lee Cutis.

What Does Real Courage Look Like?

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The Social media has been ablaze this week with articles, debates, mud slinging and downright vicious attacks over the subject of bravery and courage.  You would have to have your residence in a cave to have not been exposed to it through either the televised news media, recent magazine publications or your preferred social media outlet.  One thing is sure, when it comes to real bravery, real courage and true heroism, America has certainly perverted the definition and twisted the perception of how we once defined these rare attributes.

This week I want to share my definitions of courage and how I recognize real heroes.  You may not agree-you would certainly not be the first this week! I choose not to mention specific names but rather share stories of what bravery and courage looks like to me.

A female student who loved the Lord was among the victims killed in a senseless shooting in Columbine. When approached by one of the two gunmen and asked if she believed in Jesus she responded without hesitation, yes.  She died of wounds to the head.

One of the twenty Christians shown recently being executed in the Middle east for their faith, was actually not Christian at the time of his capture.  However, after seeing the bravery of the men who were executed for their faith before they reached him this man had a change of heart.  When it came his turn to denounce his faith in Christ, he replied “their God is my God”.  And with that became a precious martyr.

Twin brothers in Chicago were on their way to the High School basketball game when they were accosted by four men who wanted one of their coats.  When they jumped one of the brothers the other brother placed himself between them and his brother allowing the brother to escape.  The brother who intervened was shot and killed. He was just fifteen years old.

A woman who was burned by her husband in Pakistan when her husband threw acid on her, scarring her for life because of her conversion to Christianity, now spends her time working with other women who were burned for the same reason as an advocate and a support resource.

A promising NFL football star with a lucrative seven figure contract laid it all aside because of an overwhelming urge to serve his country in the war in Iraq. He traded his team colors for his country’s colors and was buried with honor as a fallen hero.

A woman who found freedom after being trapped in the world of the sex for sale industry now spends her time counseling other women who are looking for a way out, risking her life as pimps lose their profits.

In Sandy Hook 20 students lost their lives as did six teachers.  One female teacher hid her kids in a closet and told the gunmen when they entered that they were in the gym.  The students however panicked and began to run from the closet to escape, at which time the gunmen open fired on them.  The teacher died from wounds as she put herself between the gunmen and her students.  More then one teacher died that day doing the same.

Right here in Las Vegas last month some friends were cliff diving at Lake Mead.  One of the teens jumped even though they were not a great swimmer and did not emerge from the water right away.  Another friend dove in and located the friend and brought them up to safety but quickly disappeared under the waves himself.  They found him the next day just under the water’s surface, our latest drowning victim.

These are my heroes. These are the men and women I would want to emulate in similar situations, the ones I would prop up as the face of courage and bravery. Maybe you have your own stories.  Courage doesn’t have to be this dramatic.  It can be seen in the single mom who works two jobs to take care of her kids when no father is present.  It can be the long time addict who finally finds the strength to overcome his addiction and become a sponsor to someone else trying to do the same.  Courage can be the deeply scarred burn victim that society doesn’t want to look upon who goes through life happy to be alive and more beautiful on the inside than their scars would indicate on the outside. Courage can be that teen at a party who stands alone and true to their convictions against drugs or alcohol or sex. Courage can be that person who comes to the defense of the unpopular kid in school who is constantly bullied. Bravery can be that young child fighting cancer who always has a smile for someone else engaged in the same battle. Courage can be the wife of that police officer killed in the line of duty as she hold back tears in a show of strength for her children.

My point is simple really-let’s give honor and credit where it is due, not where it is sensationalized. Let’s be careful in our tendency to idolize the ordinary and look past the heroic acts we encounter in others every day. Don’t fall for every story the media wants to feed us about who we should cheer and champion as our heroes. Let’s be sure we show our kids and grandchildren how to recognize courage, how to act courageously in the face of adversity and Who to call upon when our courage and strength is weak. And if I haven’t given you enough examples of true courage, feel free to pick up the Bible and start reading in Genesis.

Looking Up When You’re Feeling Down

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If you are one of those who are always on top of your game, you wake up and kiss the sky and your kitchen sings to you while you make breakfast, this post isn’t for you. It’s for the rest of us who don’t live in Disney World, those who strive to live a positive life but still battle the demons of failure, sin and worthlessness-real people.  I am one-I’m with you-those days when you wonder if you really matter, if you are really loved, if you would be missed if you were gone, if you are having any positive impact on those you love and pray for. Those small doubts become large gaping holes of opportunity for attack. Each day is a new war to wage against the dark, spiritual and tangible forces that are well trained at knocking us off course.  If you aren’t the target of such attacks, you aren’t fully engaged in life or your faith. The following are excerpts from a sermon I wrote years ago but still as relevant as it was then.  There are key weapons at our disposal to aid us in our daily battles against weariness, depression and discouragement.

“There are times in our faith walk when we find ourselves in a spiritual funk.  We are on a straight and narrow road, running this race-running like Forest Gump-running and running and running. There comes a time when I just want to stop running.  I see a little spot off the beaten path and I pull off the road just to stop running.  The place I find myself in here isn’t necessarily attractive-it’s isolated-it’s disconnected-it’s quiet.  It’s not lively, it’s not dead-it’s just hereHere is a place where my prayers don’t seem to travel far.  Here is a place that is under the radar from the dark forces of life.

Eph. 6:12 reads “For we fight not against people made of flesh and blood, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in heavenly realms”.

The enemy is highly trained to target those who are engaged in their faith.  But as long as I’m here, no one cares.  As a Christian, I know all I need to do is call on Jesus for help and get back on the road.  I can even see the road from here, but it is just easier to stay here.  This is my spiritual funk.

Now that I’ve painted you a picture of spiritual funk, how many of you have been here too?  How can we get there from here?  I have come up with 5 easy but vital steps for Christians to follow to avoid these funks.

Step 1-Guard your thoughts.

We are so easily led astray by our own thoughts.  We haven’t mastered the art of bringing every thought into captivity. I have struggles with reassurance issues.  In my mind, I tend to put myself up here more than I should.  The problem is that it doesn’t take much of a parting shot to knock me down to here-an unhappy customer, something the kids say, a series of unlucky events, any form of rejection.  If I believed in blind luck, I would be the one person he can’t see.  When things don’t go your way, or the people around you point fingers, you start to believe that maybe you are the problem. Job’s friends told him he was the reason for all the calamities God allowed in his life, and Job tended to believe them.  We completely disregard every positive thing scripture has to say about who we are in Christ. This is the ultimate trick of the deceiver-he wants to remind us of all our past mistakes, all our failed relationships, all our closet skeletons, and we buy right into this trick.  The result is a feeling of inferiority, insecurity, and unworthiness, all contrary to what Christ thinks of us.

Philippians 4:7 says this; “Tell God what you need and thank him for all he’s done.  If you do this you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.  (Vs 8). Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right.  Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable.  Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise”. 

Step 2-Seek out positive nourishment

There are several good sources of Christian nourishment available to us.  One of my favorites is Christian music.  I’ve always loved music-it is the one medium that can completely change your attitude or actions.  For example, when the classic rock song “I can’t drive 55” comes on, amazingly, I really can’t drive 55.

Music can be uplifting-I’m always amazed how a piece of music that was recorded years ago on electronic media can still become a worship experience in your car.

Our brains are complex recorders-we can recall every good or bad thing we’ve seen or heard in the course of a day.  If that’s the case, we should expose ourselves to positive influence, whether music, or a good book or a good TV program.

Romans12:2 says we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind.  This is a daily process if we are to avoid spiritual funk.

Step 3-Choose your friends wisely

This one is interesting to me.  I don’t personally believe that as Christians we are only supposed to hang with other Christians.  That’s not the model Christ gave us.  In fact Jesus, according to scripture, was quite a party animal. But his closest friends were believers.  When we socialize it is important to spend time with those who share your faith-they will become a great help and support to you when you’re in trouble.  And be very careful about those you hang with who are not Christian-they can easily lead you down a different path.  Our non-believing friends need our influence, but we must not yield to theirs.  It is too easy in the course of having a good time to let your guard down or compromise your core values after prolonged exposure.  The friends you confide in will ultimately be advising you.

Psalm 1:1 reads “Oh the joy of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked.”

Step 4-Know your weaknesses

I have weaknesses.  I am not alone.  It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been a Christian, we all have kinks in our armor.  The enemy always knows your weakness.  For some maybe it’s lust, for others maybe pornography.  Some may have a substance addiction-maybe you gossip-maybe you eat too much-maybe you have a gambling problem-maybe you’re just plain crazy.  Having a weakness is not necessarily the problem, especially if you’re honest enough to admit it to yourself and to God. However yielding to your weakness over God’s strength  can put you in your own spiritual funk.  Putting yourselves in situations where you could stumble is just not responsible as a Christian.

1 Peter 2:11 says “Dear brothers and sisters, you are foreigners and aliens here.  So I warn you to keep away from evil desires because they fight against your very soul”.

What does this mean?  It’s simple really-if you can’t hold your liquor, you should stay out of bars.  If you have an eating disorder, the Carnival Buffet is not for you.  If you can’t get on the internet without migrating to a porn site, stay off the computer.  If you’re down to your last $3, don’t spend it on Megabucks.  If you like spreading rumors, don’t listen to any new ones.  Are you starting to get the picture?  Don’t give our enemy any advantages against you.

1 Peter 5:8 says “Be Careful. Watch out for attacks from the devil, your enemy.  He prowls around like a roaring lion looking for some victim to devour”.

Step 5-Spend time alone with God

Perhaps one of the hardest things to do when you’re in a spiritual funk is to spend time alone with God.  Part of being in this place is the feeling of disconnection you feel.  When you cry out to God, it’s as if you hear the echoes of the canyons, but when you pray, you almost feel the prayers bouncing back off the ceiling.  It is in these times that it is most imperative that you habitually seek God out, remembering he hasn’t gone anywhere, even when we don’t feel his closeness.

James 4:7 says “Humble yourselves before God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  Draw close to God and God will draw close to you.  (vs. 10).  When you bow down before the Lord and admit your dependence on him, he will lift you up and give you honor.”

Sometimes our path is dark and cold and each step is just another step of faith into the unknown. But God promised to be with us in the valley of shadows and death, not to take us around it as some might suggest but to be our guide and companion until we can navigate through the density and the turns. Our yellow brick road to Oz may seem more like a muddy trail through an endless swamp but in Christ, we can be sure that our final destination will be worth the hazards of the journey.

 

Dancing With the Scars

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There is a popular reality television show that everyone is familiar with, even if they don’t watch it, called dancing with the Stars. The concept is to pair up professional dancers with known celebrities from the world of entertainment and sports who have little to no professional dance training and turn them into reasonable facsimiles of Ginger Rogers or Fred Astaire.  I watched with curiosity the first episode of this season because a NASCAR Driving legend, Michael Waltrip, was on the show and I wanted to see if he had moves on the dance floor that compared to his moves on a race track.  It became apparent within about ten seconds why he is a racing legend and not a dancing star.  In racing terms, he missed a gear on the start, was loose in the corners and tight exiting, had no grip and could not stay close enough to his dance partner to take advantage of the draft.  I don’t see him being a celebrity dancing judge anytime in this lifetime. The same can be said with many of the celebrities selected to appear on this show.

The title of this week’s blog is obviously a play on the title of the popular show.  Dancing in it’s truest form is an expression of joy and freedom, whether you can dance the waltz with grace or you are like me and do the Humpty Hump like a white boy at the club.  Most people enjoy cutting loose and letting your inhibitions go once the music comes on.  How many times have you seen people deep in conversation in a club suddenly jump to their feet and head to the floor proclaiming “that’s my groove!”.  There is a release that comes from personal expression, even if you have three left feet.  But for many dancing through life is a difficult task.  Present or past circumstances prevent one from feeling totally free. Scars from previous episodes are too painful to dance through.  Those scars may represent the emotional wounds of silent depression, bitter divorces, physical or mental abuse, addictions that still haunt you, rejection by those close to you-there are an unlimited number of traumas that leave scars in our lives that may not be evident to everyone but are real just the same.  Those scars are sometimes like heavy chains weighing one down to the point that freedom of any joyful expression is nearly impossible and like Michael Waltrip, awkward at best.

In my life I have felt the pain of divorce, lived through the destruction of alcoholism, suffered the devastation of total loss of fire, dealt with serious illness-all things that can shake a person’s faith to the core. Joining in to the dance of life with joy is not always easy.  There tends to be a hesitation or even a fear that any joy expressed will be temporary as you are always expecting something else to come your way and add another scar.  And in the deepest and darkest times of despair, you even question the willingness of God to sustain or restore you.  The enemy convinces you that your scars are ugly before God and that even He won’t look upon you because they are repulsive.  When God delays His responses to your urgent beseeching, you wonder if maybe the enemy is right.  Job must have felt this when God removed His hand of protection and blessing from him, leaving him literally scarred and in a heap of ashes.  Listen to his words found in Job 10;

18 “‘Why, then, did you deliver me from my mother’s womb?
    Why didn’t you let me die at birth?
19 It would be as though I had never existed,
    going directly from the womb to the grave.
20 I have only a few days left, so leave me alone,
    that I may have a moment of comfort
21 before I leave—never to return—
    for the land of darkness and utter gloom.
22 It is a land as dark as midnight,
    a land of gloom and confusion,
    where even the light is dark as midnight.’”

Remember if you know this story that just a few chapters earlier the Bible describes Job as not only a righteous man, but says that in all the earth there was no one else like him!  Job was the standard for Godly living for his time.  How quickly and completely was his destruction and how deep the scars inflicted, that the most wealthy and righteous man on the face of the earth could so easily question everything he believed about God because of the overwhelming circumstances he found himself in, through no real fault of his own. His kids were destroyed while they were dancing-Job had no more desire to dance.

How many of us have been there in our lives, or maybe you are reading this and going through a similar stage even now?  We become self-conscious of our scars and reluctant to show them.  Reluctance can lead to isolation and from there to depression and hopelessness. We shun dance floors. What is our answer?  Here is the solution, at least as best as I can put into words that carry some truth. Our feelings of despair, our awareness of the ugliness of our scars and our repulsion to others and to God, as real as they may feel, are a FALSE SELF PERCEPTION!  How do we know this to be true?  It’s simple.  Scripture tells us over and over and over again that GOD LOVES US! There is no shortage of passages that refer to God delighting in our existence, in God accepting us as we are, in God forgetting our sins and removing our scars as far as the east is from the west!  God relishes contriteness, brokenness, disillusionment, all manner of emotional suffering and reaffirms that nothing in our life, our past, nothing in Heaven or earth, nothing we’ve done or could ever do can ever separate us from or change the level of God’s love for us.  God sees our scars as beauty marks, as evidence of battles we’ve endured and lived to tell about.  We are encouraged to dance through the pain like no one is watching, to sing out loud even if we miss the notes and to live life as a celebration of the uniqueness of our experiences-to DANCE WITH THE SCARS!

Don’t miss out on life because of your inability to put steps together.  No one is judging or voting on our elimination. Don’t fear the freedom of joyous expression as you live your life, scars and all!

On a personal note, many of you have opted to follow my weekly blog.  There are millions of us doing this-I am deeply honored that you follow mine.  I welcome feedback and certainly all referrals to your friends and family if you like what we put out each week as we attempt to exhort you to living your faith in real life.  God bless you all!

Football in the Cow Pasture

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As we eagerly anticipate the long overdue start of the NFL season this weekend, I am reminded of perhaps the funniest comedic routine I’ve ever heard.  It is an old recording performed by the late Andy Griffith as he is describing in great detail the first time he ever witnessed a football game.  If you haven’t heard it and need a laugh, google it and prepare to bust a gut.  The game was being played in a cow pasture.  His final observation was that the object of the game must be to run with the little pigskin from one end of the pasture to the other without being attacked or “a steppin’ in sumthin'”.

I can completely relate to this.  My dad grew up in the small town of Quitman, Mississippi. He was raised on a massive farm with acreage, ponds and cow pastures.  Directly across the road from the house was the larger pasture.  As kids we visited his childhood home at least twice a year.  Since we all loved football, and since the closest spot of grass was the pasture across the road, we would eventually end up over there playing football.  As you might imagine there were cow mines all over and it was very difficult to concentrate on running or catching a pass and being aware of where you were stepping.  You just couldn’t avoid “a steppin’ in sumthin”.

Some of us in the faith live our Christian lives like playing football in a cow pasture full of opportunities for us to step in it.  We feel we have stronger resolves than we actually do.  We think we aren’t subject to temptations and distractions like those other people.  We wear our faith like a coat of teflon thinking evil influences or suspect environments won’t stick to us.  Maybe in our alone time we get on the computer and scan videos dangerously linked to porn sites.  Or maybe we have that one drink knowing we are subject to over indulgence. Maybe it’s leaving after your third heaping plate at the harmless all-you-can-eat-buffet.  It might be that innocent conversation on social media with someone you would never want your spouse to know about.  It could even be as innocent as the destructive lyrics to your favorite secular music.  All these examples represent cow patties, fresh, hot and smelly, right in the area where you are playing and usually unavoidable.  It’s just a matter of time before the foul scent of your misstep announces to the world your arrival and your most recent activities. Scripture reads “be sure and know that your sins will eventually reveal your character” , my interpretation.  Like Taco Bell, you can’t easily rid yourself of the stench of fresh cow dung-trust me on this.

We live in a world that smells foul and we travel a road surrounded by pastures.  We can see and smell the eminent snares from our path without veering off into the actual pastures where we will surely be soiled by corruption and temptation greater than we can handle or escape.  Thankfully God left for us instructions on avoiding these dung hills in His Word;

“Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul.” (1 Peter 2:11)

“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” (Romans 13:14)

“Now flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (2 Tim 2:22)

As the Day of our Lord approaches the intensity of warfare against the saints will increase exponentially and the battles will become more numerous.  We have to take seriously ever threat, every opportunity, every snare that lands in our path and overcome them by a daily renewal of our minds and a regular diet of scripture so our spiritual immune systems are constantly being nourished for battle.  It all starts and ends in the mind.

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”  Phil. 4:8, Message Bible

Enjoy your football season, just watch out for the land mines in your path.  Go Colts!