Sea of Galilee

Play Dough Faith

Play Dough

I used to love playing with play dough. It was great. I mean, first off, the smell of play dough was A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. Secondly, it felt good to play with because it was so soft… unless you left the lid off the play dough, then it became hard as a rock… and, well, that wasn’t good.

Thirdly, you could make almost anything out of play dough… and with the right colors, you could make food like eggs look legit… well, to a six year old.

When I was growing up, we had a play dough set that, with the right colors, you could make what looked like fried eggs. So one day, as I was playing with the play dough set, the neighbor boy came over to see what I was playing with and told me he was hungry. I told him that I was making eggs and that he should try one.

After a bit of selling him on the idea that these were in fact real eggs, he tried them… he took a bite, started to chew and then spit the bite of play dough right out of his mouth. He obviously hated the fake eggs that he ate.

Yes. I fed the neighbor boy play dough eggs. I don’t know why he actually took a bite, maybe his vision was blurry.

The next day, when I told him I could make him bacon and pancakes, he simply walked away without saying a word.

I didn’t have compassion on this kid at all. It was about me.

There’s another feeding that took place. This one, much bigger than the feeding of the play dough eggs… check it out:

When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children. - Matthew 14:13-21

You see, Jesus had just lost his cousin… his friend, John the Baptist, because King Herod had just given the order to kill him. Yet, even though Jesus left to be alone, once he saw the crowds the Bible tells us that he had compassion on them. He originally went across the sea to get away, to be alone. Instead, He had compassion on the people and healed their sick.

Hours later, in the evening as it was getting late, the disciples wanted to send these people away to have them find their own supper. But Jesus says something they weren’t expecting…

“They don’t need to go away, you give them something to eat.”

The disciple’s responded by telling Jesus that they only had five loaves of bread and two fish. So Jesus told the disciples to bring them to Him. It’s like the disciples were saying, we can’t get this to work Jesus.

As a parent, when our kids couldn't get something to work, my response was... "Here, give it to me. Let me take a look." And immediately I got it to work and gave it back to them because the father knows what he's doing.

Jesus, then takes the loaves and the two fish, looked to heaven and gave thanks. Jesus knew that His father knew what He was doing and made those five loaves and two fish work.

This act of feeding these more than 5,000 hungry people was another display of compassion. It would have been easy to dismiss these people to find food on their own. But Jesus was filled with compassion.

When Jesus told the disciples to feed the people, he in essence was saying, “have compassion” on them. Don’t send them away hungry. Feed them.

Compassion. It’s an interesting word. It was also part of Jesus’ character. The origin of the word helps us grasp the true breadth and significance of compassion. In Latin, “compati” means to suffer with. Compassion means that someone else’s heartbreak becomes your heartbreak. Someone else’s suffering becomes your suffering. Another’s hunger becomes your hunger.

The Bible tells us over and over to be compassionate.

Ephesians 4:32 - Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you.

1 Peter 3:8 - Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.

Zechariah - This is what the Lord Almighty said: “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another…

True compassion changes the way you live. It’s not a once-in-a-while event. It’s a lifestyle. Having true compassion means having true faith in a true God… it’s not play dough faith. It was part of who Jesus was and is. And with the help of Jesus Himself, the Father and Holy Spirit, it can be a part of our character as well.

So the question is, how, in our own life, can we be compassionate with others? How can we show compassion and to whom do we need to show compassion to? God will give us opportunities, it’s up to us to be in a place to be able to see those opportunities and act.


Dusty Souls

I love sitting around the fire pit at night.

The whole process. Scavenging for kindling. Setting up the wood. Placing the paper and fire starters in the pit. Me and the boy doing it together. Lighting it up and working it till we have a good fire going.

There’s something about being around the fire. Sitting there. Eating S’mores. Laughing. Talking. It’s a special place of communion together. Where we experience the presence of each other. Whether it’s with family or friends, you can always tell when you’ve sat around a fire because you are covered in the smoke.

It doesn’t matter if it’s blowing directly on you or not. When you sit close to the fire, you are eventually covered in the smell of the smoke.

It’s unavoidable really. It permeates your clothes. It gets all over. Your shoes. Your hat. Your hair. Your skin. When you’ve been sitting at the fire, the smoke covers you and anyone who comes around you that hasn’t been sitting at the fire knows it immediately.

There’s another thing about sitting around a fire pit… the one who makes the fire invites the rest to come and sit around it.

There’s an invitation to sit and commune and to be covered in the smoke of the experience.

Moses had a similar experience where he was invited to communion around a fire… communion with God. In Exodus, chapter 19, the Bible tells us that Mount Sinai was covered with smoke because God descended on it in fire. And what does God say to Moses?

God sends out an invitation to Moses.

God invites Moses to the top of Mount Sinai to meet with Him in the smoke… to commune with God Himself. And I bet, when Moses returned to the people in the camp, the holy smoke of that mountain had permeated everything… His clothes. His skin. His hair. Everything.

It was clear that he had met with God.

Let me explain it a little differently…

Fast forward a few hundred years…

Rob Bell said it like this… Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, living in a first century Jewish world. The Jewish people where Jesus lived believed that God had spoken to Moses and had given him the first five books of the Old Testament… they call these first five books the Torah. Torah was the foundation of their lives and was the focus of their education.

Most Jewish children around the age of six would go to school for the first time to start to learn learn the Torah who was taught by a local rabbi. This first level of education would last until the children were around 10 years old. Most kids would memorize the Torah and by age 10 would know it by heart. Genesis. Exodus. Leviticus. Numbers. Deuteronomy. All memorized.

By 10 years of age, most children would end their education and begin to learn a job… maybe the family business or how to manage a household. But the best students would keep going in their education. These kids were the best of the best. In this next level of their education, these students would memorize the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures… Genesis through Malachi.

By the end of this next level of education, most of these students would be learning the family trade or another business. But the best of the best of these students would try to continue and would have to go to a rabbi and would apply to that rabbi to become one of his disciples.

When we think of disciple, we think of someone who simply knows what the teacher has taught. To learn what the teacher has to teach us.

But being a disciple is much, much deeper than that.

A disciple doesn’t simply want to know what the teacher (rabbi) has to say. A disciple in the first  century wants to be like the rabbi and wants to learn to do what the rabbi does.

So the rabbi would grill these students who would come before him to see if they had what it took to be his disciple. And if the rabbi thought the student had what it took, he would say to the student…

Come, follow me.

So at around the age of 15, that student would leave everything… family, friends, village… and would devote their entire life to being like their rabbi… to do what he does. This is what it means to be a disciple.

Now the rabbi’s in the first century didn’t just stay in one location. They would travel from village to village. From town to town down these hot and dusty roads. So as a disciple, by the end of the day, as you try to keep up with your rabbi down these hot and dusty roads, you’re filthy. So a saying developed that you would say to a disciple of a rabbi…

May you be covered in the dust of your rabbi.

As a disciple, what covered your rabbi covered you. Whatever your rabbi walked through, you walked through. The dust that your rabbi kicked up, landed on you. It was evidence that you were your rabbi’s disciple.

I wonder… how many of us… really don’t want to smell like smoke or get dusty.

Sure, we want the S’mores. We want that marshmallow. We want to hang out in the house or the yard. We want the benefits, but we don’t want to smell like smoke. We want peace. We want grace. We want blessings. But we don’t want the smoke of the fire. We don’t want to get dusty.

You see, the burning of the wood gives off energy and light. It’s getting rid of what was and gives light to what’s new. God says come around the fire and commune with Him. And when we do, the evidence of meeting with Him will be in our lives. We want the benefits, but we don’t want the smell of the smoke of what God is getting rid of in our lives.

When we walk with Jesus and follow Him, but we don’t want the dust that He kicks up to land on us. But when Jesus moves, He certainly kicks up dust.

Here’s the problem, and I’ve done this too many times… we try to live our lives and add faith to our life. We try to make it a simple mathematical equation… we try to add faith and maybe subtract something else.

We try to add God to our life when He wants TO BE our life.

We want to add God, but we don’t want to live a wholly sacrificial life to God that makes us smell like smoke as we give our lives over to Him. We don’t want to be wholly devoted to Jesus and follow Him so closely that we are covered in His dust.

We don’t want to smell like smoke or be dusty… but what if that’s where Jesus really is. Just like the disciples in the first century, when you’re walking that closely with the rabbi, you’re gonna get dusty. There are things in our life that need to be burnt up and dusted up. There are things that we’ve gotten comfortable with that He will kick up. And our lives will begin to smell like smoke because God is working and moving in our life.

The question is,

Will you sit by the fire with God?

Will you walk so closely with Jesus that you’ll be covered in the dust of the Rabbi?

As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Mark 1:16-18


False Sense of Safety

We love driving our Jeep with the top and doors off.

There's just something about riding in a vehicle and watching the pavement speed by. I used to drive a delivery truck for Ziker Cleaners when I was in college for extra money and would drive with the door open so I could hang my foot out. There's just something fun about it.

The other week we hung out at our friend's house after a leadership conference. As we were walking out to our Jeep, their then seven year old daughter followed us out, walked through their front yard and proceeded to climb in the backseat. She didn't say a word. Just climbed in and buckled her seat belt.

"Well, I guess you're coming with us," I said, as we proceeded to drive off with her in our backseat much to this little girl's surprise. "What!? Where are we going?" As we drove away I told her that we needed to pick Carter and Morgan up from their practices and then we would bring her back home. (I don't think she really thought we'd take off with her in the Jeep... but we did.) 😂😂😂

As we were driving she was throwing out questions while she was trying to keep her hair from whipping her in the face.

"What happens if we get into an accident?"

"Well, we have a roll bar so you'll want to keep your hands up by your shoulders... kind of like if you hug yourself."

"How fast are you going!?"

"100 miles per hour..." Her response... "Whaaaaaaaaaaaat!? 100 miles per hour!" (We really were only driving 45mph.)

Then Jami jumps in... "Todd, she's only seven."

Then there was a bit of quiet as she tried to keep the hair out of her face.

Then she asked one final question...

"What happens if they start shooting at us, I don't feel safe!?"

"What!? Who's shooting at us? Who are "THEY?" And why are THEY shooting at us? You're seven? Who's shooting at a seven year old? What type of work are you in? SHOOTING AT US? WHAT?"

Her response... "There's no doors!"

What? Doors won't stop bullets I tell her. Which blew her mind. She thought she was safe in a car from people shooting at her because of the doors. But doors don't stop bullets. When she thought she was safe, she really wasn't. Sure, she could duck. Or not get involved with people who would need to shoot at her in the first place. She could make choices that would help make her more safe. But believing that car doors would simply stop bullets isn't true. It's a false sense of security and it took a ride in a vehicle with no doors to make her realize that.

I still don't know why this seven year old would think someone would be shooting at her... is she pushing cocaine? Is she working for the mob? Is she a spy? Needless to say, we picked up Carter and Morgan and returned this girl back to her parents safe and sound... with no shots ringing out.

But this Jeep ride got me thinking a bit... well, the seven year old got me thinking.

How often do we run through life thinking we're safe? We're in control? And then BAM...

Covid hits.

We get laid off of work.

Kids start school at home on the computer.

We or someone we know gets seriously sick.

And we realize that we've been living in this false reality that we might be in control... in a false sense of security... like car doors would actually stop bullets. When in reality, there's a lot that we don't control.

I don't know why bad things happen... why some people get sick and others don't... why life is really hard sometimes. Sure, sometimes it's because of the choices we make and we bring it on ourselves. But there are things that happen that are outside of the control that we thought we had. 2020 has shown us all and given us plenty of examples.

It's easy to get caught up in life... when things are going well... when things are going as planned... "We've got it all under control" we think. And then boom... you get in a car with no top and no doors and you start to wonder "what happens if they start shooting at us" only to find out that even if you have doors, the bullets will still impact the inside of the car.

For a lot of us, 2020 has been kinda like riding in a car with no top or doors. We've fully come to realize that, as human beings and parents, that most of what happens to us is out of our control. Sure, we can make good decisions and place ourselves in better positions... but in the end, those are just doors. Ultimately, we don't and can't live in total, complete safety.

So the question is...

Where does your hope come from? What do you place your hope in?

Our hope comes from God. May  He fill you with joy and peace because of your trust in Him. May your hope grow stronger by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

When we put our hope in our leaders, or our relationships or our health, we will for sure be let down. People will let us down. Our health can fail us. Money can run out. Safety in our eyes won't stop bullets from penetrating our cars. But there is one who won't let us down. There is one whom we can trust. Jesus is his name... it's in him where our hope should be... the giver of life. I pray this for my life... and I pray it for your life.

Will this make our problems go away? Hardly so. But it will change our outlook on life's circumstances. This isn't a rose-colored glasses kind of outlook. It's an outlook of hope IN SPITE OF the circumstances that we face. It's the kind of hope that changes what you post on social media. It's the kind of hope that changes your words. It's the kind of hope that fills you with hope and peace. And it's this hope that I'm praying that will impact my life and yours.

There's one more question I want to ask my already believing friends... where does your hope come from regarding those you disagree with? It's a question I had to face. Those that I really, truly disagree with regarding everything that's going on in our world and culture today. It's a question that will be answered by simply looking at how we interact with the very people I was just talking about.

When we look at the life of Jesus, we can see what hope really looks like regarding those that we disagree with. The very man that would betray him, Judas, had a seat at the dinner table of Jesus the night before his betrayal. The man who would deny Jesus three times had a seat at the dinner table of Jesus.

Do the people whom you disagree with, maybe even dislike, have a seat at your dinner table? Are they welcome?

 


Stuck in A Corn Field

I love corn mazes.

When our kids were growing up, we’d take them every fall. They loved them too. We’d get to the start of the maze and they would take off running with their friends. Inevitably they’d come running back screaming, “come on, come on,” as they’re pulling our arms down the path.

Corn mazes are great… as long as you stay on the path. One year I decided to walk off the path so that I could explore and eventually scare the kids. Unfortunately for me, I was at the edge of the corn maze.

After venturing a little too far and taking more turns than I should have, I found myself stuck in the middle of a corn field. Feeling completely disoriented, I had no idea how I was going to get back to the corn maze path.

Luckily, as we usually did, we went to the corn maze near sunset. So in order to get back, I used the sun as a compass to help get me back to the path. Once I got closer, I could begin to hear the voices of my friends and the kids and eventually made my way back to the path.

That’s kind of how I feel like parenting can be at times. Or, how about 2020 in general.

It can feel like I’m lost in the middle of a corn field with no known way back to the path. There are so many unknowns… the virus and shutdowns, the civil unrest, the presidential election and what that will bring, and now the kids school and sports.

So much unknown. And it can be completely disorienting… like you’re walking in the middle of a corn field not knowing where to turn. And that’s just your feelings/my feelings. If you have kids… how do you parent when you feel like you’re off the path.

First, depend on the Son.

As soon as I started to feel disoriented in the middle of the corn field, I calmed myself down and looked to the sun. You see, as we drove up to the corn maze, I took note of where everything was as it related to north, south, east and west. I knew, that, if I could find where the sun was setting, the sun would point me back to where I needed to go.

The same is true with life. In times like this, when we feel disoriented and lost, whether it’s related to all the crap in 2020 or just parenting in general, the Son will point us back to the path where we need to go.

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him,Follow me.” John 1:43

Jesus, the Son of God. He is the One who will point us to the path where we need to go. He understands where we are, where we’ve been. He understands and knows us.

The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish. John 1:14

He, along with the Bible, will point us in the direction we need to go in our life and our parenting.

And two, have friends in your life where you can trust their voice.

You see, I knew I was heading in the right direction when I could hear the voices of my friends getting louder and louder.

Who’s voices in your life are the loudest right now? Those who are helpful? Or those who’s cause more confusion and madness? In order to find your way back to the path you need to be on, you need the loudest voices in your life to be voices you trust and point you towards the right path and not create more confusion and angst.

This in an interesting time to be alive. It’s a challenging time for sure, especially if you have kids. But there is a way out of the disorienting corn field…

Follow the Son. And have friends in your life whose voice you can trust. I can’t promise you won’t find yourself in the middle of a corn field again, but you’ll definitely be able to find your way out if you do.


Perspective Matters

2020. What can you say.

You were supposed to be a cool year. We had cool New Year glasses made to wear. We made cool resolutions to enter the cool New Year.

2020

It just rings off the tip of your tongue.

Big year. Big expectations. Ready. Set. Go... straight to a screeching halt. Little did we know when we were all ringing in the New Year that two months down the road everything... and I mean EVERYTHING would look nothing like we expected.

Expectations. We all have them. We certainly had them for 2020. And, being a parent for the last 15 years, I know we as parents have them for our children and our family. We expected that our kids would be in school. That the soccer season would take place. We expected to go to nationals for Morgan's dance team. And those are just a few small expectations.

Instead, soccer games were canceled. Dance competitions didn't happen. Everything shut down and we were stranded in our home for months.

Instead of living in fear... Instead of living in disappointment... we chose to look at this experience as a time where we could come together as a family. To spend this time bonding and looking inward together and building up our relationships together. Sure, there was a time when we were disappointed. But we didn't live there.

Having expectations is a good thing. Expectations in and of themselves are good. We should certainly have them in every area of our lives. But there are times, like we're living in now, when our expectations have the potential to derail our lives and our mental health, especially when we have expectations without perspective.

When reality doesn't match our expectations, it's easy to get angry or sad, to stay in the funk of disappointment. That's what happens when we don't have perspective alongside our expectations.

Expectations without perspective leads to life derailment.

It's normal to experience sadness and anger and frustration when expectations aren't met. 2020 might not be what we wanted it to be. It's definitely not what we expected. Fear. Disappointment. Sadness. Anger. Hopelessness. These are all words that have defined 2020.

These words are the definition of expectation without perspective. These are real emotions that we all experience. But we can't live there. Perspective helps us move on. Perspective helps us see to the other side and helps give us the ability to move beyond our circumstances.

Perspective matters. 

How you see the world. How you see others. How you see your life and your circumstances matters. It literally directs your emotions. It directs your life. It's what keeps us on track or get back on a path that leads to hopefulness and joy... even in the middle of chaos and destruction.

Fear. Disappointment. Sadness. Anger. Hopelessness. With perspective, these words can be turned into... Courage. Encouragement. Joy. Hopefulness.

Perspective matters.

What 2020 has taught me more than any year is this...

The only thing I can control is my perspective. I control how I look at my circumstances and the world around me. It's also taught me that I need help in keeping the right perspective.

I can't do it alone.

But, if I surround myself with the right people and pursue God, the alignment of my perspective will be on target.

Jesus had the opportunity to look at his world and humanity and be depressed. He was being beaten and persecuted... He was being called a liar... He was accused... all of it was not justified. They hung him on a criminal's cross even though He didn't deserve to be killed.

But He chose a perspective to look at the world and humanity with compassion and hopefulness.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

There is hope. There is a perspective that we can choose that is only found in the hope of Jesus and encouraged by the people we surround ourselves with.

2020 definitely hasn't aligned with what I expected it to be. I thought it would look differently. But we've chosen as a family to take advantage of our circumstances and fill our lives and relationships with hope, instead of letting our circumstances take advantage of us.

We all have a choice... will we be filled with hopelessness... or hopefulness...

It all depends on our perspective.


Spiders and the Web of Fear

So, I'm driving home the other day...

It was a great day to drive home with my car windows down. Radio was up. I was singing... loudly. The people in the car next to me were staring as I pulled up to a stop light. As I was in the middle of doing a drum solo on my steering wheel, this little thing caught my attention out of the corner of my eye. As it was running across my windshield, out of reach of my wipers, I audibly said, "Noooo," in a slow motion type of voice. (At least that's what it sounded like to me.) At that point, it was a race. A race to see if I could get my windows up faster than a spider could get inside my car. Luckily for me, I won. The spider was denied entrance into my vehicle.

But for the next 40 minutes, on my way home, I chose to drive with my windows up. I really wanted to enjoy the weather. I so wanted to have my windows down to enjoy the fresh air. But I let a fear of spiders win out. I let the fear of something so small prevent me from doing something I really wanted to do.

I've noticed something, I've let this happen in other areas of my life as well. I've let fear be the determining factor in whether or not I do something I know God is asking me to do. I've let fear prevent me from trying new things. I've let fear prevent me from being the person that God's called me to be. I've seen it in my kids, Carter and Morgan. I've seen it happen in the lives of students. And it sucks. Because, in the end, for me at least, I look back in disappointment and sadness. I look back with regret. But, that's what fear does. It traps us in its sticky web and sucks the life out of us.

You see...

I could have crushed the spider had he entered my car. He was a lot smaller than me. It wouldn't have even been a match. But I let fear rule my world for that 40 minutes. And I've let fear rule my world in bigger areas of my life and endeavors.

But, here's the thing...

God can crush whatever we're afraid of - whatever fear that holds us captive. But we've got to open the window and let God do what God does. Because that fear, whatever it is, is a lot smaller than God. It's not even a match.

"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but He has given us a spirit of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control." 2 Timothy 1:7 (Amplified) 

Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together. I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:3-4 (NIV)

One last thing... I've noticed that when I'm letting fear rule my life, I'm making it out to be about me. When in reality, this life isn't about me - it's about God. Everything I have... everything I have to offer... talents and abilities... comes from God. And when I turn my focus off of me and focus on God, my fear turns off.


The Right Tool

I've had a couple of cars in my time that needed a "specialty tool" to open things up.

The last car that needed a "specialty tool" was our Honda Civic. It was a great car. It served us well. But I needed a pair of pliers, specifically needle nose pliers, to open the hood to this car.

The thing that you would typically pull to open a car hood had broken. So, if I didn't have these pliers, I couldn't open the hood.

It's a tool that's not typically thought of to open the hood of a car. Yet, it's the only tool that would open my car's hood. I knew this, because I drove that car. It was my car. You wouldn't have necessarily known that you needed to use something different to open up my car's hood unless you looked closely. I only knew how to open it up because I was in it everyday, I knew my car and what it needed to open it up.

And, here's the thing...

This is true when it comes to students... when it comes to our own kids. Each student is different. You can't always use the same tools on every student you come in contact with. Morgan is very different from Carter. I can't talk to them the same way. The words I use. The tone. The jokes. If I want to connect with both of them, I need to find what works with them. How I like to connect isn't necessarily the same for Carter or Morgan.

You have to use what works. You have to work to find connection points. Connection points that are ever changing... because our students and kids are growing up. And the only way to know that, is to get to know your students. To take the time to get to know our ever-changing kids. To look closely into their lives and be with them.

If you do that, you'll discover what you need to open up their lives to you. I can't promise that it will be easy or that it won't take time. It's tough. It's hard. Sometimes you'll be frustrated. But as parents, as youth leaders, it's our job to not give up. It's our job to push forward and to love them through the tough points. Because in the end, everything that is worth it is rarely easy. And if nothing else, take heart in knowing you're not alone. Keep pushing. They're worth it.


The Rosco P. Coltrane Hot Pursuit

I love the Duke's of Hazzard.

Especially Rosco P. Coltrane, when he says, "I'm in hot pursuit!"

The dude is hilarious. But all too often, I find I'm just like him... chasing hard after something I really want.

As I was looking at the 10 Commandments before Covid, it hit me...

"I am so worn out. Just exhausted."

Now this could be the result of a couple of things...

Lack of sleep. Not eating right. Lack of exercise. Work schedule plus the kids' activity schedule.

But more times than not, it's because

I'm

Not

Following

The

First Commandment...

"You must not have any other god but Me." - Exodus 20:3 

More times than not, when I'm exhausted, it's because I'm chasing after other gods in my life other than the One True God.

-Acceptance from my kids
-Success in my job
-Success with money
-Performance in a sport
-Parenting my kids

The list could go on and on. And it's a list of a hot pursuit of "other gods" - Like Rosco chasing after the Duke Boys... I get exhausted chasing something I rarely ever catch.

But...

The 10 Commandments isn't simply a list of do's and don'ts - right's and wrongs - laws... it's a glimpse into the heart of God. God doesn't want me to simply keep Him first (whatever that means) because He's got a big ego, He wants me to pursue Him because that pursuit brings life and not exhaustion.

So what's your "Rosco P. Coltrane" hot pursuit?

Why not switch it up and get in hot pursuit with God?


I Don't Like this Song

Morgan loves riding in the Jeep... like LOVES it.

If it's nice out, she wants to ride everywhere in it, especially to her dance classes. And not only does she want to ride in it, we have to have the radio up loud... especially when we pull up to drop her off.

So yesterday, as we got closer to dropping her off, it became apparent that Morgan "needed" the right song to roll up on. As we approached the last two stoplights, wrong song after wrong song came on. Then commercials. What were we going to do?

As we rolled through the last green light, in my mind I thought, "Well, if we don't have a good song, I'll just drive down the street and turn around... we have time for that." I pushed a button that played a song... "Dad, I don't like that song. It's boring." I pushed another button, "No dad, not that song." As I pushed the third button I realized it was a commercial, so I kept going past her dance studio.

"Dad, you just passed my studio." As I turned in the next entrance, I said, "Uhhhhhhh, I know Morgan. I was trying to pull up with a song on." At which point I pushed the button back to the first station to which she said, "Oh ya! I love this song, let's go." I shook my head, laughed and reminded her that she just said that she didn't like this song because it was boring.

But we kept it on as we pulled up to drop her off... unfortunately for her, nobody was out front as we pulled in to an empty parking lot. It was all for nothing...

We just shook our head and laughed. There really was no other response. It's kinda like when your toddler likes peanut butter and jelly one day, then the next they hate it. I can be like that at times. Everyone can really. Changing your mind isn't a bad thing necessarily. It's simply knowing what you want and what you don't want.

It's ok when it comes to things like this. But when it comes to commitments, not so much. That's one thing as parents Jami and I try to get our kids to understand. When you commit to something, you either finish it out, or you better have a great reason why you need to end the commitment... then end it respectfully. Too many times we try to take the easy way out of the commitments we make... whether it's with work, a sports team, a commitment with a friend or a relationship commitment.

It seems like "changing your mind" is a strength when it comes to commitments. But that's just not true. With where the world is at today, one of the things that Jami and I want our kids to learn, is the honor of following through with the commitments one makes. It's not easy all the time, but it's a legacy that is important to leave behind.


Handcuffed to the Garage

Growing up, we used to stay out late playing in the neighborhood.

I know! Kids actually played outside! At night! Until we were exhausted! Some nights it was Ghost in the Graveyard. Other nights it was Kick the Can. Still, other nights, we simply climbed trees and stayed out talking about anything and everything.

One of the favorite games we played in the neighborhood was, "Guns." There were a lot of kids in our neighborhood. Me and my two younger brothers would go knock on doors to get everyone gathered up. Each kid would bring their toy gun. Some would make noises and some wouldn't. That was ok because it simply meant that the shooting noise would simply be made with our mouth.

Once we got everyone gathered, it was time to pick teams. The three Ruth boys would always be on one team. And we'd have a few more to pick. Once teams were set, each team would part their ways and find their home base. Once each team had their base, the game was on.

It. Was. A. Blast. We felt like we were hunting the enemy. We'd crawl on the ground from bush to bush. We'd hide in unlocked cars that weren't our parents. Hiding under front porches that weren't our homes was just fine too. Then, once the enemy walked by, we'd jump out and... "Pew" "Pew" "Pew." Ok, that's not actually the sound I would make... that's impossible to type here. But we'd jump out and shoot the enemy, then take them back to our base because it just happened to be a flesh wound and not a shot to the head.

During more times than not, out base was our garage that was behind our house and opened up to the alley. It wasn't attached to our house, and it had windows on three sides. Once we had the captured enemy at our base, the interrogation began.

Where are your teammates?

Where are they hiding?

Where is your base?

Unfortunately for this enemy combatant, he didn't feel like answering. So, like any smart (and cold-hearted) soldier, we took his handcuffs off (he was handcuffed with his hands in the back), and placed them back on so that his hands were in front of him. Now you might think we were being nice. You would be wrong. We did that so that he could raise his hands above his head.

This wasn't a move of generosity. No. We needed to be able to hook his handcuffed hands to the garage door. You might be thinking we didn't want him to escape when we left to find the other enemies. Again, you'd be wrong. You see, we asked him very specific questions. Easy questions. Questions he refused to answer. So to get him to tell us where his base was, we hooked his handcuffed hands to the garage and began to slowly lift the garage door up.

"Where's your base?" No answer? Ok. Raise the garage door. "Where's your base?" Nothing again? Ok. We raised it again. This kid's feet were nearly five feet off the ground before he told us where his base was. After he told us, we lowered the garage door but kept him hooked up until we were able to confirm it was true. Once we did, we took the base and won that game.

That kid didn't speak to us for some time. But it was worth it, we won that game. And when we captured someone else and asked where their base was, they answered right away after that game.

Looking back on those times is fun. We didn't really hurt anyone... badly. But remembering stories like this gets me thinking a little bit...

You see, this kid could have been released from the handcuffs right away if he would have simply answered the questions we had for him. How many times in my life have I handcuffed myself by the decisions I've made. Because I've been stubborn. Because I've been selfish. Because I wanted things my way. Sometimes, we handcuff ourselves in life. Sometimes it's our fault. Handcuffs like when we fight with our spouse or our children.

We've all handcuffed ourselves at some point or another. But the beautiful thing is, as long as you have breath, you still have a chance to remove those handcuffs by God's grace. While people may give up on us, God never will. He can free us from the handcuffs we've placed on our own wrists when we place our faith and trust in Him.

"He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness and broke away their chains." Psalm 107:14