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Your Story Is Not Over

Story.

We all have one. Have you ever compared your story to someone else’s? Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and thought, “I’m not where I really want to be in life?” Have you ever gone on a long walk and thought, “What more can I be doing with my life?” Have you ever sat in the quiet of your mind and thought, “This can’t be it, can it? There’s got to be more.”

We all have a story that is being written with our lives. A page being written each day. And whether we like what is being written or not, it’s our story. Page after page until it fills up a chapter. Then on to the next page. Each one of us has a story that we’re writing. For some, the story is just beginning. For others, it feels like halftime. And still for others, it feels like it’s toward the end of the book.

And no matter what chapter you find yourself in, it’s easy to get frustrated where you’re at in your story right now. But you’re not alone. There are others who have asked the same questions, who have felt the same feelings, wondering what God is doing.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been there. I’ve asked the questions above. I’ve had the same thought. I mean, I’m 44. I want to have a bigger impact. And then, in my reading the past couple of days, I come across these folks in Genesis, and it gave me some hope for my story.

Check this out…

Just after the destruction caused by the flood, God chose Abraham to be the foundation of the new humanity that God would build by promising to make Abraham into a great nation. Check this out:

I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you… Genesis 12:2

The Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” Genesis 12:7

For years Abraham lived on this promise, this covenant between him and God… the promise that Abraham and Sarah would have children. But for the next 10ish years, Sarah and Abraham could not get pregnant. Can you imagine the deep sadness between Sarah and Abraham? The frustration. The desperation. Feeling like their story is almost over.

Instead of continuing to wait for God’s promise, Sarah and Abraham decided to take their story into their own hands and have a child their own way by having Abraham sleep with Sarah’s maidservant. In other words, they settled by having a child outside of the way that God intended. This settling caused Sarah to despise her maidservant and caused trouble down the line for years to come. Talk about drama!

Nine months later, Hagar, Sarah’s maidservant, and Abraham’s baby mama, gave birth to Abraham’s son, Ishmael. Abraham was 86 years old at this point. We don’t hear anything else about this situation until Abraham is 99 years old. Can you imagine the thoughts and feelings and hurt and pain and questioning that might have been going on… for thirteen years!

Then, when Abraham is 99 years old, God appears to him again. In addition to giving Abraham instructions on keeping the covenant between him and God, God tells him that He will give Abraham a son with Sarah. And Abraham fell facedown laughing. And when Sarah heard of this, she laughed to herself because she knew that she was past the childbearing age.

Then, at the age of 100, Sarah gave birth to Abraham’s son, Isaac, fulfilling God’s promise to Abraham… 25 years later.

I don’t know where you’re at in your story right now… If you’re comparing your story to someone else’s. If you’re questioning God about what’s going on and the hurt and pain you’re experiencing. Or if you’ve felt like the promises of God aren’t coming through. Or maybe you’ve made some mistakes or gone down a road that would be contrary to God’s Word.

If you’re thinking any of those things, I want you tell you three things…

First, God’s timing is not our timing. You see, God’s timing wasn’t the timing of Abraham or Sarah. They didn’t receive the son that God promised until 25 years later. In this world, we want things now. Fast. Immediately. Sometimes God wants you to wait. As hard as this is sometimes, God’s timing isn’t our timing.

Secondly, don’t settle. Abraham and Sarah settled. They didn’t wait for God’s promise. And that caused them problems, and hurt and frustration and pain. Even though you may not be where you want to be in your story, don’t settle.

Thirdly, be faithful during the waiting. It’s easy to get mad at God. It’s easy to get angry at the situation. It’s easy to get frustrated in your story. But don’t lose faith in God. Don’t lose the commitment you have to Him. Keep his commandments. Stay close to His Word (the Bible). And keep your ear open to him as you pray.

Lastly, I want to say this… God accepted and chose Abraham not because he led a perfect life. No. It’s because of Abraham’s responsiveness to God’s promises. Check this out…

Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness. Genesis 15:6

No matter where you’re at… no matter what you’ve done… as long as you're breathing, your story still has time to be written.

We all have a story. And no matter where you’re at in your story, it’s not over.


baseball player sliding into base

Stealing Second

Baseball

It’s the sport I grew up playing. I mean, with the last name of Ruth, you’d expect a kid in the 80’s to play no other sport than what the Great Bambino played. Some of my earliest memories are of me and my dad throwing a ball back and forth.

Now, as a ball player, it didn’t matter if it was little league or high school, my job was to get on base and get into scoring position as fast as I could. I wasn’t exactly a big kid. So I was never going to hit home runs or a ton of triples. But I was fast. So, as a lead-off hitter and there after during the game, I simply tried to get on base anyway I could, then steal second base, most of the time within four pitches.

I’ll never forget a game we played against Culver Military Academy. I went three for three that game. I’m not sure how I got on base… base hits, walks… I’m not sure. That doesn’t really matter. What matters is this… that’s the game I stole six bases. I’d get on base. And within four pitches I’d steal second. Then within another three pitches, I’d steal third. By the fourth stolen base, it had become comical. They couldn’t throw me out… not even on a pitch-out. It’s one of the games I’ll never forget. And it's been something I've been thinking about towards the end of last year.

As 2020 was closing down, I began thinking a lot about 2021. Praying and asking God to speak to me and give me goals and steps for my life and my family’s life for the next year. And there were two phrases that kept coming back to me over and over again. One that has to do with my family which I’ll share at a later date, and one for my life. It’s actually a phrase that’s on a paperweight that was given to me when I was younger and it says this…

“You can’t steal second base, and keep your foot on first.”

I don’t know where you’re at right now. I don’t know what’s going on in your life. I don’t know what you’re thinking about. What you’re struggling with. What relationships are strained. I might not know anything about you… but I know this… God is telling you right now that you can’t steal second base, and keep your foot on first. God is telling you that you can’t keep one foot in that relationship… you can’t keep one foot in hate and anger… you can’t keep one foot in one life and expect to get to the next.

You see, when I looked out as I was standing on first, I could see second. I knew that’s where I needed to get to. I knew I needed to be standing there. If I could get to second, I knew I was probably a hit away from scoring. But it took a decision to leave first. I knew that if I wanted to stand on second base, I needed to decide to leave the safety of first base.

God is calling each of us to leave first base. He’s calling each one of us to our next step. That looks different for each of us. He’s calling each of us closer to Him. He’s calling each of us to step out in faith. For those looking at our lives from the outside, it might look crazy. It might feel like a giant step. But I want you to know two things. First, you aren’t alone.

There are those who have gone before us. Check this out:

“Noah did everything just as God commanded him.” - Genesis 6:22

If you read just that, you might think cool. Noah did what God asked him to do. But what did Noah do? He built a boat 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high… on dry land with no rain in sight. I wonder what people thought as they walked by. I wonder if they asked Noah questions. I wonder if they talked behind his back or even made fun of him. To the outside world, what God asked Noah to do might have seemed crazy. But Noah walked with God (Genesis 6:9). When you walk with someone long enough, you get to talk and listen to each other. And Noah listened to God.

What God is asking you to do might seem crazy for those looking from the outside in. But know that there are those who have gone before you and have listened to and obeyed God. You are in good company. And secondly, you should know this…

There are those who will walk with you.

Noah had other people in his life… his wife, sons and his sons’ wives. We don’t know much about them at the time of the building of the ark, but we know that they were with him. I wonder what the conversations were around the dinner table. I wonder what they prayed. We don’t know any of that. But we do know that they were with Noah.

And like Noah, there will be people who will walk with you. Who will pray with you. There will be people who will push you towards Jesus. And if you don’t have anyone like that, I’m raising my hand now to be that person for you.

2021

God is calling each one of us to leave the safety of first base. He’s calling each of us to take our next step and to go after great things for Him. That looks different for each of us. And it might look a little scary or even crazy. But know this, there are those who have gone before us. And there are those who will go with us. The question is…

Will you go after God and what He has for you?


Lola the Lab

Hair In My Coffee

I love coffee.

I’m not a coffee snob. I couldn’t tell you the difference between Starbucks, Dunkin, or some really fancy coffee. But I really love coffee. I’m pretty sure I started drinking coffee when I was 12 years old. I’m 44 now. But I have to have it every morning and look forward to that first cup.

But every so often, I’ll take a drink of that first cup and it hits me… in that first sip of coffee was a Lola hair. One of our lab’s hair had gotten in my cup of coffee and I hadn’t even noticed it until it was in my mouth. And it’s all I can do to try and get it out.

Of course, then I need to look deep into my cup of coffee to check to see if there’s another one. Sometimes there is, and if I can get it out then great. But there are times when I try to remove it and I make it go deeper into the coffee. At that point, the entire cup of coffee goes right down the drain.

It’s crazy how the smallest of things can affect me. Lola’s hair is super small. But once it gets into my coffee or my mouth, that’s all I can focus on and it ruins the experience and joy of drinking that first cup.

Life can be like that too. At least for me at times. I’m walking through my day, happy as can be then boom, something usually small comes along and it becomes all I can focus on and I let that one little thing ruin the experience and joy of living.

And then after thinking about this off and on it hit me…

My focus is on the wrong thing.

I’m losing focus because I’m focusing on the little things when my focus should be on something so much larger. Check this out…

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” - Luke 2:8-12

Jesus came. He was born in the countryside in an unknown manger. Jesus came so that we might have, not just life, but a rich and full life. (John 10:10) When my focus is off of Jesus and on the small things of life, it’s easy to lose joy. But Jesus came so that we could put the concern of those small things out of our life and live a life of purpose filled with true joy.

It’s easy to lose focus. It’s easy to let the small things ruin the outlook we have. Disappointment is a real thing. It’s a real emotion. But this Christmas, let Jesus take that disappointment on His shoulders. Give over the small things to Him and have joy that the Savior of the world has been born to you and me.

This Christmas, give your life to Jesus who came to this earth to bring joy and true life to you and me.

Merry Christmas


The wilderness in Israel

It's Not Normal

Man.

To say that these last ten months have been anything but normal would be an understatement. It’s easy to look back to see what “could have been” and get frustrated. It’s easy to look back and think about how “things should have been” and get angry.

Why. Can’t. Things. Just. Be. NORMAL!!!

Do you ever find yourself there? In that place? Screaming at the world. Yelling at God. It wasn’t supposed to be like this! None of this makes sense!

Why God!?

I don’t know if you’ve been here… in this place. But I have. Looking back, there may have been another person who found himself in the same spot as well. Check this out:

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. - Matthew 1:18, 19

Can you imagine the thoughts that Joseph had? To be in that very situation? I wonder what he was thinking. What he was feeling. He and Mary’s situation wasn’t normal. It was far from normal. It wasn’t typically like this.

A baby? He hadn’t even touched her yet. They were married, but by Jewish custom, they hadn’t made it to the consummation part of their marriage. Did he scream at the world? Did he yell at God, “It’s not supposed to be like this!” Did he scream,

“Why. Can’t. Things. Just. Be. NORMAL!!!”

The Bible doesn’t say that. But because Joseph was a righteous man, he did consider divorcing Mary because he knew that the Jewish law placed her in a bad spot should the religious leaders think she had broken their law.

“Why. Can’t. Things. Just. Be. NORMAL!!!”

Because Jesus came into our world to break away from normal.

There was nothing normal about the way Jesus came into this world. A virgin birth? That’s not normal. It can only happen with the help of the Divine… from God Himself. And I think that’s what Jesus wants us to see this Christmas… to realize that He came into this world to break away from the normal…

I don’t know what your life was like 12 months ago. But as our world gains some clearance from this nonsense, Jami and I don’t want to go back to normal. We don’t want what was normal… to let ourselves get caught up in our busy schedules, running mindlessly around trying to make each appointment. Focusing on schedules and task lists.

Sure, our kids will go back to their activities. And that’s a good thing. Business will get busier. And that’s a good thing. But Jami and I don’t want what was normal. We valued our schedules and tasks way too much. If the last ten months has taught us anything it’s this…

The most important things in our lives is Jesus and each other. If everything goes away but we have Jesus and each other, then that is enough.

So as we head into the next year, our family is focused on being Jesus to each other and bringing Jesus to others. Jesus broke away from the normal in this one little birth between two human beings. And Jami and I want to follow in his example by bringing Jesus to the lives of others by breaking away from what we knew was normal.

Jesus came to break away from normal…

Will you? If so, comment how you’ll do this in this upcoming year.


Water and Ocean in Florida

What's In The Water

What's in the water?

We always find ourselves gravitating toward the beach slash water. Doesn’t matter where we’re at really. Michigan, Charleston, Folly Beach, Florida, California… We almost always end up near water.

It wasn’t always like that for me. I didn’t grow up with a pool or going swimming all of the time. I never even learned how to swim until after my 8th grade year in school. And that was only because I had nearly drown at one of my friend’s 8th grade graduation party.

Like kids do when they’re at a pool party, they began pushing others in. I didn’t even see it coming. I was standing near the edge of the pool talking one moment, and the next I found myself at the bottom of the deep end trying to frantically get back to the top and stay there. Had I not fallen in the pool near another kid, I may not be here today.

Needless to say, I made it a point to learn how to swim so I could feel safe and enjoy the time around any type of water, from a pool to a lake to an ocean.

In what I used to fear, I now seek out on a regular basis. Jami and I gravitate towards the water wherever we find ourselves. There’s just something that overcomes our souls as we soak in the water… whether it’s an ocean, Lake Michigan, the Sea of Galilee, Jordan River or in the mangroves on a paddle board.

Water played a huge role in the Bible. It’s mentioned a total of 722 times. It’s mentioned more than faith, hope, prayer and worship. Water was used to heal people. It was turned into wine. And it also turned into a meeting place of sorts…

Check this out:

Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a]) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” - John 4:4-14

There’s a lot going on in these passages of scripture. So to break it down quickly, Jesus was on His way back to Galilee. In order to get to Galilee, he had to travel through Samaria. This wasn’t a simple five mile journey. It was about a journey of 125 miles on foot. So it makes sense that He would need to stop to rest, get some food and water.

Now, while at this well, He met a Samaritan woman who was stopping at the well to get some water. In those days, the Samaritans and Jews weren’t on speaking terms. To say they didn’t like each other would be an understatement. But Jesus, knowing this, still asked this woman for a drink of water.

It’s interesting to me that, even though Jesus was probably thirsty, He had an ulterior motive for asking this question. He was more interested in this woman’s well being than His thirst. As they are talking about water, Jesus says, “Everyone who drinks of this water (meaning the water from the well) will get thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.”

It’s not lost on me that, while this lady (who was poor and struggling), came to the well to get her physical needs met, she left having so much more of her life changed… in her everyday life.

I can’t tell you how many times this very thing has happened to me. In my conversations. In my job. In my everyday life. I’m just going about living and Jesus reaches out, speaks to me and changes my heart and my mind.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to meet my physical needs - searching to fill my mental and physical spaces only to be left feeling empty and thirsty again - continuing to fill those spaces time after time after time after time. And it’s in these spaces where Jesus meets me and offers His living waters - grace and mercy, love and acceptance that fills every space from heaven.

And just like this woman at the well - just like He’s done with me time and time again - He will meet you in your everyday life, probably unexpectedly and will offer His living water for you… to you.

This is why Jami and I gravitate towards water so much. It soothes and refreshes. It washes and cleans. But most importantly, Jesus used it to bring others closer to Him and to God the Father.

So, what’s in the water? Salvation. Grace. Mercy. Acceptance… to put it another way…

Jesus


Graveyard in Charleston South Carolina

Ghost in the Graveyard

I loved playing in the neighborhood when I was growing up.

Whether it was playing war or cops and robbers, we always had fun. One of the games we played most in the summer after it got dark out was a game called, “Ghost in the Graveyard.”

It was a neighborhood favorite. If you don’t know the game, it started with one person being “it.” The person who was it, would hang at the base while the others would go hide. After a certain amount of time, the person who was “it” would go and try to find the “ghosts.”

The “ghosts” would then try to make it back to the base without being tagged. If you got caught before making it back to the base, then you would join the person who tagged you in being “it” the next round.

It was a game everyone loved playing. It was fun playing outside after dark. It was fun being “it.” And it was fun hiding. It was a great neighborhood game all around.

You know, there was another “game of Ghost in the Graveyard” that took place thousands of years ago… only, it wasn’t a game… and the people hiding weren’t doing it to have fun, they hid because they were ashamed. Check this out:

“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. 8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” 10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” 11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” - Genesis 3:7-11

Within this event in the Bible contains one of my favorite verses in all of Scripture…

“But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

“Where are you?” God knew exactly where Adam was hiding. And then God asks two more questions…

“Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

God knew the answers to all of these questions. The point isn’t that He didn’t know so he had to ask them. No. The point in God asking these questions is to show that He actually cared for and loved His creation... for Adam and Eve.

He knew where Adam was hiding. He knew that they did eat from the tree they weren’t supposed to eat from. God could have just scrapped these two people and started over. But He didn’t. He pursued them out of love.

The questions weren’t meant to get information. They were meant to give Adam an opportunity for self-examination of what he had done and to give opportunity for confession.

And God does the same thing for me. In my sin and hiding, God still pursues me out of love and asks, “Todd, where are you?” “What’s going on?” And in my bumbling confession, He forgives because of the loving sacrifice of His Son Jesus.

“Where are you?” It’s a poignant question that we all have to answer at some point in our life. It’s a question that can set the tone for years to come. We’re all in different places… and it’s not that God doesn’t know where we are, He simply wants us to acknowledge where we are so that we can move forward with Him in His grace and mercy.

I am no better and no worse than Adam. None of us are. And just like God pursued Adam in the garden, and me in Michiana, He pursues you as well asking…

“Where are you?”


Pile of stones

Stone Piles

Thanksgiving is this week.

Looking back at this year, there’s a lot that we can be frustrated with… a lot that doesn’t look the way we thought it would look in a way that, if we had our choice, wouldn’t be. But, that’s not what Thanksgiving is all about. Thanksgiving is a time where we pause, and give thanks for all that we have… both past and present.

Thanksgiving is about being grateful… grateful for what we’ve been given, no matter how small it seems. It’s easy to look at the world… to look at our community… to get stuck staring at all that has gone wrong and forget what God has provided each and everyone of us.

God knew that it’s easy to forget His goodness and victory. He knew how easy it is to get stuck looking on all that has gone wrong… the difficulties… the hardships… the despair… and forget to celebrate His victories in our lives and be grateful… no matter how small they seem.

Check this out...

When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, 2 “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, 3 and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.”

4 So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, 5 and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, 6 to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 7 tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”

8 So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the Lord had told Joshua; and they carried them over with them to their camp, where they put them down. 9 Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been[a] in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood. And they are there to this day. - Joshua 4:1-9

God knew, that even a miracle as great as the parting of the Jordan River… literally stopping the flow of water… could easily be forgotten. So what did he tell them to do? He told them to get some stones and make a pile where they were to stay that night so that they would be a reminder of the goodness of God.

Rocks. Stones. They’re just ordinary pieces of earth that are lying around. But when they’re picked up and placed in a pile to remind you of the goodness of God, they become a supernatural sign that points you back to the One who is Good.

We have a stone pile in our living room. Six stones that were ordinary pieces of earth. But when you come over to our house and ask us, “Why are stones in a pile on that shelf,” they become a supernatural reminder to us of the goodness of God and how the trip to the Sea of Galilee and Jerusalem brought us closer to the living God.

I don’t know where you’re at today… what’s going on in your life. But on this Thanksgiving week…

Don’t forget the goodness of God.

Right now, you may think that you don’t have anything to be thankful for. I would ask you to pray to the living God and ask Him to show you His goodness. And the living God who gave His life for you, will hear your prayer.

For those of us who may have forgotten God’s goodness, go, take up twelve stones and place them in a pile where you live so that it becomes a supernatural reminder of the goodness of God in your life.

On this Thanksgiving week…

Don’t forget the goodness of God.

For He surely hasn’t forgotten you.


Photo of Garden of Gethsemane in Israel. The Long Walk

It's About the Walk

Growing up...

Me and my family… my mom, dad and two younger brothers… would routinely go places. Cubs games. South Bend Silver Hawks games. Vacation. Church… Anywhere really…

Each time we went somewhere, as soon as we got out of the car, my dad would walk in what felt like a dead sprint. As I got older I could keep up. But inevitably he’d walk so fast ahead that he’d leave my mom and the other brothers in the dust.

You’d routinely be able to hear my mom exclaim…

Jim, slow down.

He’d pause for a moment, look back, and say with a waive of his hand, “Come on,” and proceed to walk ahead.

Like many things a father passes down to his son, this is one trait that I inherited. Whether it’s going to a Cubs game, walking downtown Chicago, anywhere on vacation… or even on a neighborhood walk, you’ll be able to hear Jami and/or the kids say, “Why are you walking so fast?”

It’s not something that I even mean to do. It’s just how I’m wired. Whether it’s walking or playing softball or soccer… or really anything in my life… I just go all out. I don’t know how to do anything any other way.

Just ask Jami when I get on a health kick. I don’t just cut back on what I eat and drink at night. No, I buy brown rice, broccoli and whatever health food I think I need. It’s all out. It’s fast. Not slowing down because we’ve got things to do… things to see… places to go… tasks to accomplish.

But I read something that really convicted me this week… I’ve read it many times before. But for some reason, it really hit me… maybe it’s because of the times we find ourselves in… but this is what I read…

Walk in love.

Let me write that again…

Walk. In. Love.

It’s actually found in Ephesians chapter five…

And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. - Ephesians 5:2

Other translations say, “Live a life of love…”

I actually like the picture that I get when I read, “Walk in love…” because when you slow your pace to a walk, it slows your focus. At least that’s what it does for me. I’m such a hard charger and move at such a fast pace that it’s easy for me to either forget about people, or worse yet, value my goals and objectives and agenda higher than the people around me. I make everything about me and what I want to accomplish.

And, while it’s good to have goals and objectives, it’s never good when you either forget about the people around you, or worse yet, treat others poorly as you move towards your mission. But God doesn’t call us to love our goals and objectives… to love our “party.” He calls us to love others. It’s actually so important to God that it’s only second to loving God Himself.

And so God calls us… each and every one of us to…

Walk in love.

It seems like a great idea. We all “know” that we should love others. We should certainly love people… duh. But knowing that we should love others and actually walking in love are two very different things.

So what does it mean to walk in love? What does it look like?

When I go on a walk with Jami and/or the kids, when we’re walking with each other, we’re spending time together. We’re talking to each other. Getting to know each other a little better. We’re listening to each others’ thoughts… our frustrations… our hurts. Our focus has slowed so that we can simply be with each other.

When God tells us that the second commandment is to love others, He doesn’t give a specific definition to who the “others” are. He doesn’t define “others” as your siblings or immediate family. He doesn’t define “others” as those people who are your friends or who hold the same views as you do.

God tells us to simply love others… in other words, He wants us to walk in love with everyone. Those whom you agree with. And those whom you disagree with. Those who treat you well. And those who treat you poorly. Republicans. Democrats. Even family members that you don’t see eye to eye with. And He wants you to love others even when you find yourself stressed and busy. Even when we get annoyed or angry, God still tells us to love others… even in those times.

God calls each and every one of us to…

Walk. In. Love.

…Just as Christ has loved us. You see, the photo for this post is taken at the Garden of Gethsemane… the place where Jesus went to pray just after the last supper. the Bible tells us that he prayed so hard that sweat dropped from his face like drops of blood. He knew what was ahead of him. But he loved us so much that He prayed for God’s will to be done. In other words… Jesus walked in love. And like Jesus, God calls each one of us to…

Walk. In. Love.

And when we do, it’s a sweet smell. It’s a living sacrifice that we can offer to God. It’s actually an offering to God that He loves.

So…

Walk. In. Love.

One step at a time. One person at a time. There’s no question as to what God desires… the only question is…

Who does God want you to walk with?

Go and…

Walk. In. Love.


Lake Michigan beach in Ludington, Michigan

Peace Out

Driving 112 miles an hour down the road.

I can still remember this night like it was just last night. Waking up to a loud thud coming from my son’s room isn’t initially something to be concerned about. He regularly would fall asleep reading a large-sized book. But when we opened his door we didn’t see a book on the floor.

We saw our son on the floor.

As we tried to sit him on his bed, it became clear that he couldn’t support his own weight to hold himself up. And as he tried to communicate, his speech was slurred as drool ran from his mouth.

After a couple of seconds of trying to get him to respond, Jami asked if we should call 911. I quickly made the determination that I could get him to the ER faster than it would take to call 911, and wait for the ambulance to get him to where he needed to be.

So I grabbed Carter, Jami grabbed a sleeping Morgan from her bed and tossed her into the car. I then handed Carter to Jami in the backseat and we proceeded to drive as fast as we could to the ER. 112 miles an hour didn’t seem fast enough. But because of the length of the roads and the stoplights, it was as fast as I could get to in our Honda Pilot.

As we flew up to the ER doors I ran in and said with as much purpose as I could two words…

“My son.”

Nurses and doctors quickly reacted and we pulled him out of the backseat and into a room in our local ER. In what seemed like a few seconds, he was hooked up to countless wires. At one point his oxygen levels were in the 80’s.

After getting him stabilized, the next step was to run tests to see if they could find the reason as to what was going on. Waiting on the EKG and blood work results were torture. Not knowing what was going on with our son, whether he would be ok or not was one of the hardest times in our lives.

Worry. Anxiousness. It was awful. We couldn’t eat or sleep. The worry and anxiousness made our stomachs sick. All we could do was sit, rub our son’s head and arms, cry… and pray.

“…The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” - Philippians 4:5-7

The only thing that got us by while we were at the hospital waiting for Carter’s results was the time we spent praying to God.

God doesn’t promise to help us understand why something happens. He doesn’t promise that everything will be ok. But He does let us know that when we come to Him in prayer, He will give us a peace that will guard our hearts and minds.

If you’re like me, it’s what I need the most. Because I can go crazy in my own mind with worry and anxiousness. Whether it’s family related. Sickness related. Now Covid and/or election related. If I’m not in prayer the worry and anxiousness can quickly takeover and I can spiral down into a cranky depression-ridden dude.

But when I continually run to Jesus in prayer, and I don’t understand it, but the peace He gives me covers and guards and calms my mind down so I don’t go crazy.

God will also guard our hearts with peace. When people get sick… when things go wrong… when people we love get hurt… when we’re anxious and worried… God will also guard our hearts so that anger and bitterness don’t take hold.

God loves each and every one of us. He cares about our hearts and our minds and mental health. It’s not something that we can completely understand. If it was, it wouldn’t come from God Himself.

As we sat there in that hospital room for hours… HOURS, not knowing what the test results would reveal, we ran to God in prayer. And while He didn’t take away the questions, He did cover us in peace.

We finally received the test results back in the morning after the doctors ran test after test after test. They revealed that he had suffered from severe heat exhaustion and dehydration. I’m not going to say that God answered our prayers. Because that would mean that there are times that God doesn’t answer the prayers of others.

What I will say is this… The Lord was near us in that time. the Bible tells us this many times over. In fact, in verse five, Paul, the writer of Philippians reminds us of this…

“The Lord is near.”

I don’t know what you’re going through right now. But I do know this… just like God is fighting for you (I wrote a blog post about that here)… The Lord is near you.

God is near.

With all of the craziness that is going on… in all of our hurts, and struggles, and worries and anxiousness…

God is near.

Like water washing up on the sand. And that’s what I want each and everyone of us to hear and understand and see… in our worries and anxiousness and struggles…

God. Is. Near.


Pumpkin Guts

The fall season is officially here.

And with it brings Halloween. I loved this holiday as a kid. I mean, who wouldn’t like going house to house begging for candy and ripping the guts out of pumpkins.

Growing up, our kids have loved this holiday too. One of the many traditions we keep is the annual gutting and carving of pumpkins. If I’m honest, it’s more stressful for me than fun. Not because I’m scared of cutting fingers off. It’s because I’m terrible at carving pumpkins. They just never turn out how I intended for them to look.

One of my favorite memories of the gutting of the pumpkins happened 11 years ago according to the upload date on Youtube. Carter, who’s standing on a chair at the table declares that he’s going to dive into his pumpkin to tear out the guts.

Just before he dives in, he yells, “Timberrrrrr.” And as he dives in, the chair that he’s standing on pushes out from under him as he falls to the ground.

It. Was. Hilarious.

He was fine. And he got back up and proceeded to tear out all of the gross guts of the pumpkin. After carving the pumpkins, the kids always want to place a candle inside to light them up for all the world to see… to them they’re beautiful.

It doesn’t matter that they’re not perfect. That wasn’t the point of carving the pumpkins. It was never the point. It was about spending time with their father… and their mother. The point was and always will be to spend time with and build our relationship together.

You see, as imperfect as the pumpkins are, the point of us placing a light inside for all the neighborhood to see isn’t to show off how perfect and beautiful the work is… no… the point is to show the relationship that was built through the transformation of two pumpkins.

I don’t know where you’re at today mentally. If you’re like me, you have days where you struggle with and hate and stress over how imperfect you are. You look at others and wonder how do they have everything together. And you start to doubt and wonder why anyone should stop to look and listen to you.

That’s a struggle that I have more times than I care to admit to. “If people only knew…” and then the stress and hate comes creeping in over how imperfect I am.

Then Halloween comes along and reminds me again that it’s ok to be imperfect. The goal of life is and was never meant to be lived perfectly. It is designed to be lived in relationship with our Father… to build that relationship together with Him.

Jesus can and will take all of the nasty pumpkin guts from our lives and design our imperfect life into something new for all to see.

Check this out…

“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” - 1 John 1:1, 2

This life… this relationship with Jesus was never designed to make our lives look perfect. No, it’s designed to change our souls from the inside out… to build relationship with the Father… so we can show others and change the world one life at a time.

“In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.” - John 1:4

My prayer for you today, is that you open your life up to Jesus.