So… what’s new?

If you scroll through the dates on this blog you can see quickly my writing has been hit and miss for several years. Truthfully hit and miss doesn’t even come close to an accurate description. So before I get going any further I want this to serve as a warning. If you are uncomfortable with vulnerability you might want to check your stocks, check team stats, look at the mega book seller’s site to see if volume 12 in the series is out yet, or better yet click here.

Still with me? Okay good! Several years ago I fancied myself a writer as someone with much to say.  I had big dreams of blogging and having folks in my church say… wow Pastor, that was just what I needed to hear, the Lord used you mightly in my life today. But, that didn’t happen… life did, boy howdy did life happen.

So what has happened?  In the past 4 years, I have moved my family four times, and that’s just state to state within the states/cities there have been some minor moves as well. I’ve worked for 4 churches, one bookstore, one “whole” grocery store, one whale of a coffee chain, a wonderful music school, and an app-driven ride-sharing service – much to the chagrin of my mom. I’ve gained a good 80-90 pounds. I had what I consider to be a nervous breakdown, was diagnosed with depression, cried a lot, laughed a little and rediscovered the beauty of music.

If you, at this point are thinking, I’m going to launch into details about all of that, I am sorry to disappoint, but I’m not. None of that (well… with the exception of music) is important to this posting. What I do want to discuss is the broken condition of man that factored most into that… mine.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

Psalm 51:3-6

I am a people pleasing, food confiding, flesh feeding messed up sinner that by God’s grace is simultaneously a saint, not by my merit, but by Christ’s

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:21

So that’s great and all Richard, but what have you learned?  I’ve learned that life is not about me. Sometimes what occurs in our lives is because of our own choices (sinful and otherwise) and sometimes things occur in our lives for the sake of others. I know we’ve erroneously told an entire generation (or 2, maybe 3) that the world revolves them, but allow me to burst that one for you, it doesn’t.  I totally believe ultimately God is in control, but sometimes things come into our lives that have little to do with us. Maybe our question shouldn’t be – why me, but why not?

I will expound on one thing from my list.  People pleasing/fear of man (they really are the same thing) is not only dangerous it is deadly, it will capture you and consume you. It could be trying to win your parent’s approval because your sister was always best at… well everything.  It could be needing affirmation from your boss to the point you lose overall effectiveness at work. It could come from not being able to confront someone in love because it will undo your place of comfort, call into question your abilities, or challenge your facade. I would love to tell you a self-help book, a guru or a magic pill took away this tendency in my life, but that’s simply not the case.  No… in fact I know it’s still there, a dragon I never fully slay, he just hobbles off to wage war another day.  Today I know him better than I did 4 years ago.  I know his weaknesses and his strengths more clearly.  I know that ignoring the fact he has not come out of his cave for a while does not mean he’s not there, and I know, my only hope in victory… is not me.

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I would, but…

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I’ve been thinking about discipline as I attempt to get back in shape and it occurred to me – we (or at least I) tend to blame a lot of other things for the fact we do not eat and exercise like we should.   My work is exhausting. The kids schedule is nuts this time of year.  We’re down by a car.  It’s easier/cheaper just to grab something quick.  I will as soon as……. fill in the blank – you get the picture?  We tend to blame all of these outward influences and never get to the root problem and that problem is us.

But… this morning I realized, we do the same thing with holiness.  Oh I’d read my Bible – but the kid’s schedule.  I’m so tired after work and I need to be up early.  As soon as we get back to… see my point?  The biggest hindrance to us pursuing holiness is – us.

One of my favorite modern preachers is Matt Chandler and he said “you will not fall into holiness.”  This is something you must chase hard after.  Like eating right and moving your body – no one else can do it for you.  The Bible commands it Matthew 5:48 and 1 Peter 1:16.  No – we will not reach sinlessness this side of Heaven, but that does not excuse us going after holiness – praying that tomorrow we look more like our Savior than we do today. 

The Lord was kind enough to give us the Holy Spirit, the Word, the Church and His Armor to help.  …having put on the breastplate of righteousness, Ephesians 6:14b brothers and sisters we must guard our heart – that’s why the breastplate is there.  May we not be like the ones Jesus and Isaiah were calling to repentance saying – sure their words are all churchy, but the stuff down deep in their heart looks nothing like God.  (my paraphrase Matthew 15:8 and Isaiah 29:13)

I read in a running magazine once a runner declare “I’ve never regretted a run I went on, but have regretted a many a one I didn’t.”  I’d say the same thing about running after holiness.  I’ve never once regretted reading my Bible or spending time in prayer, but there are far too many times I’ve regretted not doing just that.  So what’s your excuse?  Call up your prayer partner, pick up your Bible and while you’re at it – get up off the couch and put down those chips.  

Wealth

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Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,

the fruit of the womb a reward.

Psalm 127:3

 

 

Father, you knew well in your sovereign, good wisdom that I could never handle money.

 

Remove far from me falsehood and lying;

give me neither poverty nor riches;

feed me with the food that is needful for me,

lest I be full and deny you

and say, “Who is the Lord?”

or lest I be poor and steal

and profane the name of my God.

Proverbs 30:8-9

 

So what did you do?   You gave me much greater wealth than monies could ever buy.  You gave to Jamie and I four children.  Two of which are just heartbeats from leaving the nest.   This has been made painfully clear as the beginning of college is at hand.

Caleb my first treasure – he is gold, sometimes hard and cold at first touch but then as he warms, becoming malleable and glorious in the brilliance of the luster God placed upon him.  Though he can become easily stained by the hurries and worries of his age – with encouragement and sleep, he shines brightly again.  He is the standard of the currency of his daddy’s heart.

Lydia is my ruby.  My redhead is more precious than any of the other gems.  She shines brightly in the light of the Son and every time you think you’ve seen all of her beauty (inside and out) the light refracts in a new way and you are awed again.

Katie and Darren are still in refining and cutting stages.  We’ll just have to wait and see just what the Master Jeweler makes of them.

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God you have given us these jewels, as caretakers but for a short time.  There have been seasons when we did not cherish them to their full worth, but Lord you have made us rich through them, beyond measure and for that we thank You!  We would much prefer this fortune to anything the world sees as wealth.  Jesus thanks for pursuing and winning Caleb and Lydia please do so with Katie and Darren as well.

 

Five Miles, Grace, and a Hurting Father’s Heart

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On May 15th 1995 Lydia Margaret Christian (Sissy) was born.  ImageShe was 6 weeks early and weighed less than 5 pounds at birth.   I must admit, much to my shame, that I didn’t allow myself to love her at first.  My fear was, that she was so small, so frail, she might not make it, so I steeled my heart against loving her.  And in the end, I never did give her my heart… she stole it!

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This weekend I move her into her dorm at Nyack College where she will study Intercultural Studies in preparation of one day going to the mission field.  And though I am super proud of her, she has a slew (from the Irish Gaelic word sluagh – multitude aka a bunch) of scholarships, already has a great job on campus and is going to be in the Honors Program. I am not ready for this day!

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There I said it – I’ve always been good at transparency and honesty.  Just ask anyone who endured my preaching over the past few years in New Orleans.  This (excuse the term – because I really can’t think of a better one) sucks.  I know, but Richard “she’s less than 10 minutes away even in snow or fog, or gloom of night” but… that 5 miles is the beginning of everything changing.

Over the past 18 years I can count on my hands the number of times Lydia has had a sleep over at someone’s house and have fingers left over.  We are a pretty tight knit group.  Even on the majority of her camp/mission trips Jamie or I – or both of us were there. Image   So… this is tough.

I have called Lydia (as did my Daddy) Sunshine since the day she was born.  If she calls my phone – Here Comes The Sun – is the ringtone.  But this week it feels more like Bill Winters song Ain’t No Sunshine would be more apropos.

Regrets… I’ve got a few – over the course of Lydia’s lifetime we have lived in 7 states and one of them twice.  I have pursued a master’s degree (and now a 2nd) and have served several churches.  I have placed both service and education ahead of my family.   I have worked hard trying to prove to people that don’t care how worthwhile of a guy I am and in doing so forsaking the people that should have mattered most.  For that my heart aches – and have asked forgiveness from the Lord and my family numerous times.

If you can learn something from my sin, please learn this…

Do not pursue people pleasing rather than honoring God.

 

I want the time back – time to chase my little red-headed waif Imagerather than what I deemed to be – “the next big thing.”  I want the days back that I robbed from her, the days that I allowed trivial and foolish pursuits, some even in the name of the church (little c) to steal from family, but it won’t happen – time marches on.

As King David said – Psalm 51:13sinners learn from me.  Treasure every moment with your kids.  Sure you need to make a living and provide, BUT do not allow provision to become a source of pride and keep in mind that your significance is not going to be found in a title or in what someone who will forget what you look like 6 months after you retire (if you make it to retirement) thinks.

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90:12

Part of the reason I moved to New York, taking less pay at a smaller church – stepping back from the main pastor role – was so that the Lord and my family would get more of me.  Though regrets, conviction, preaching to myself (and you) will not replace a second of the time that has past.

In the midst of the tears this am God gently reminded me she was His I just got the honor of being a steward of her.  I find much comfort in, more than I can say, that I am sending her off to open her wings a bit – as a lover of Jesus. She is trusting in and is hoping to make much of the Gospel.  Though this was surely not my doing.  Jesus called her to be His and called her to Gospel mission.  I just got to watch the Sovereign Gracious Lord do His handiwork in her.

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For today, tomorrow and the rest of the weekend I am going to treasure every moment I can with my little girl.   I’ll cry more, I’m sure and I’ll leave heal marks from her dorm room all the way back to Nanuet Sunday afternoon.

Lord thank you for the grace gift of all my kids and in the days ahead

May I treasure each and every moment you give us together.  To Your glory!

 

And ps… please give me favor/funds to steal Lydia from campus regularly

for daddy/daughter dates. 

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Two Boys and a Dog

I have been pondering whether I should write this or not.  To some it will seem as pointless musings of a nostalgic fool, mourning the loss of something easily replaceable, a dog.  To others you understand – it’s not just an expense… an animal you had to feed, clean up after and care for, it is a member of the family.

 

Seven and a half years ago we called Rapid City, South Dakota home.  We were happy there. We were watching another school year come to a close and looking forward to the summer.  One day at the church/school there was a Golden Retriever making fiends with the kids.  She was well groomed and quite gentle “she must have an owner” I thought.  Well long story short, she did – we reunited her with her family and they were very grateful! They offered to give Caleb, who was 12 at the time, a reward for taking such good care of their dog, which by the way they never did, but no bitterness here.

 

I had a very hurt young man on my hands.  I knew full well, because my son is so very much like his father, a Golden Retriever in nature (Gary Smalley came up with a personality identification system that used animals – Lion, Otter, Beaver and Golden Retriever – Retrievers are sensitive, loyal, non-demanding, avoid confrontations, enjoy routine, warm and relational, though few deep friends, sympathetic, thoughtful, good listeners and peacemakers) and I was about his age with I got my Golden Retriever, Nugget.  I realize the irony abounds, but hey that’s our lives.

 

So we began a search for a replacement for our foster dog.  In June of that year we found a breeder in Murdo, South Dakota.  Now for those of you unaware… Murdo is about 140 miles from Rapid City, has a population of just under 500 and is hometown of Senator John Thune, so… my bride and my boy set off on a grand adventure, about 5 hours later they retuned with Autumn Madeline Christian, yes we all have M middle names, even the dogs.

 

Maddie quickly captured all of our hearts.  Two great puppy stories that stand out, one when she got her head stuck in a hamster ball (you really should ask to see the picture she looks like an astronaut) and two, when we were on vacation she ate a Bible from off of the back of the toilet.

 

Eating things she shouldn’t have would actually be her downfall.  December 30th 2011 she ate 2 sealed bags of dark chocolate from off of our kitchen counter and a short 24 hours later she was gone.  If you didn’t know that – dog owners put that in your files and BTW hydrogen peroxide is a great and safe purge agent, remember that too.  We have kicked ourselves for things we should have done differently, I don’t wish that for anyone.

 

Well between South Dakota and New Years Eve 2011.  Maddie brought much joy to the Christian Family.   She was a constant friend to my kids though 2 major moves, from South Dakota to Southern Indiana and from Southern Indiana to New Orleans.  She really was Caleb’s best friend.   Remember the afore mentioned trait of – few close friends?  Caleb had a great friend in South Dakota and until recently had not had another one, even close and thankfully his new friend was spending the night Maddie passed on, God’s mercies once again.

 

Maddie was my running buddy.  When I was trying to gain some shape, other than round, she was my four-legged coach.  At first making me go far faster and farther than I had hoped then after several months we reversed roles but she loved every minute of it and so did I!   She would try to talk to you – I know that sound nuts but she would look at you with her big brown eyes and make this Chewbacca sound.  I loved that dog, for what she meant to my family and to me.

 

I have shed several tears since Friday night and I’m sure I’ll shed several more.  I write this not really even for anyone to read, but more so for my own catharsis.  I really believe God gives us animals to tend to as a gift of His grace.  That might sound nuts for some of you but consider this…

 

 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

            James 1:17

 

So if you read this… pray for two boys, a father and a son, both grieving the loss of a great friend.

Discipline

Can I be honest with you?  I stink at discipline.  I have the best intentions, but the Evil One is quite aware of where I am weak and where the areas of propensity to slip and fall lie.

I watch too much mindless TV.  Eat for recreation.  Find far too many reasons to avoid the gym or running, even though I really enjoy working out.  Spend way to much of my day being driven by my ADD from website to website.  The internet is great but for a kid who’s already having issues keeping focused, it’s…. sorry what was I saying?

Yesterday I was in mid-preach and I read this text to my Faith Family.

But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
1 Corinthians 9:27

Really Paul – you had to include that last part?!?  Then all of a sudden the room vanished and the only one being preached to was me!  So for the few of you that find and or follow these random musings, I ask of you this…  please hold me accountable.

I want for 2012 to be a year of discipline.  Less TV and more Family.  Less Facebook and more face-time with real actual people.  More nourishment from the Word and less from an establishment with a drive up window.  Less running aimlessly and more running 3-5 miles.  Greater amounts of resting in the Everlasting Arms of Jesus and far less on the arms of the couch.

So… if I were to sum up my resolutions for 2012 they would find their fulfillment in one word – discipline.  Who’s with me?

The Weight of Words

A joyful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. 
Proverbs 17:22

 

 

Do you ever think about what you say and how you say it?  I mean… you speak truth, but is it always in love?  I think some of us are much more taken with the sound of our own voice than the wake of our words.  The Children’s song speaks a mouthful.

O be careful little mouth what you say

O be careful little mouth what you say

There’s a Father up above

And He’s looking down in love

So, be careful little mouth what you say

Sticks and stones MAY… that dude was a fool.