This is my story...the things I've learned and keep learning to become the man God wants me to be. Maybe some of this sounds familiar. Maybe you are going through the same thing. If so, then take heart because we are never alone...God is always there.
"Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words." - St. Francis of Assisi
Friday, February 25, 2005
Transparencies and Masquerades
I came across a new blogsite the other day which has caused me start thinking (uh,oh..run for cover). The title of the site is Masquerade and the first post talks about the masks that we wear that people see instead of the real us. Then the author goes on to discuss that in front of God, there are no masks, because God can see through them to who the real me is.
I began to realize that I wear masks. I have my 'work mask', my 'church mask', my 'with these friends' mask, my 'with those friends' mask and my 'with family' mask. And at times, I realize I even have my 'just being at home with me' mask because with so many roles and so many masks to juggle it takes effort to keep them in place and it isn't easy to let them go. However, on occasion, when it is just me and God, I let all the masks drop and I remember the boy and man I am and that I really do like him a lot and wonder where he is much of the time.
Which leads me to the question, do people know who I am? Do they know the type of music I really prefer? Do they know my favorite colours? Do they know what really annoys me and what doesn't? Do they know the situations and circumstances I have been through in life (and still have to deal with), or do they not have a clue because they never asked or seemed concerned about anything other than the current moment and how it affects them? And the big question is, why do these people rarely ask me these things or want to know how and what I feel? Do they ever ask what they can do for me and how to help me through a rough time, or do they just want me to be who THEY want me to be and do not want to rock the boat because of the masks that THEY themselves are wearing. And, yes, YOU are wearing masks because I can see them at times which concerns me that perhaps you can see mine as well, but we all treat them like the proverbial pink elephant in the living room.
Perhaps the real me is just a melding of all the different masks into a totality of being and the real Jimmy is alway there, not necessarily covered by a mask, but just using different gifts, abilities and talents for the given situation. Way down inside where it is just me and God, there are no masks. I know myself fairly well, but God knows me far better. He knows you far better than you can ever know yourself, too. That is a comforting thought for me because it is nice to know that there is always a place where no masks are required; there will be no masquerade ball before Jehovah God.
I, for one, am excited because through these past few days of self-discovery, I have rediscovered the man I am and have realized that I am fairly much on track with what I think God's Plan has been for me all along. It's an interesting thought and concept....masks, that is. Are they necessary? At times? Never? Do we really want to be transparent or to see the true people around us? I don't know. As for me, I'll be working on the masks. Changing the size, perhaps, making them smaller while adding some unique touches like feathers, beads and macaroni noodles. Who knows?
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Murphy's Law - (a tongue in cheek article, but, sadly true)
What happens when a slightly obsessive-compulsive, a-retentive, borderline neurotic about organization guy hits the unexpected in his well thought and planned out schedules? On the outside all may seem well and calm, but on the inside is a literal firestorm cauldron burning from the toes to the ears and consuming each body organ in between. Well, perhaps that was a tish dramatic, but we SOCARBN people do not usually like an unexpected change. This was the case last Saturday.
I had my plans made. They had been made well in advance for Saturday. They were on my kitchen calendar, my office calendar, in my PDA, on my laptop calendar and sticky notes on the back door. There was a funeral to play for at 1:30pm, then pizza's to pick up at 5:30pm for a party at 6:00pm. Simple, no problem, everything was set and I was ready to face the day. Until......
About 11:00am I had finished some work in the living room and went into the solarium to plug my laptop back in for charging. As I stepped into the kitchen, I noticed that my feet seemed to feel like they were covered with water. I glanced down and, lo and behold, they were!! The washer had picked that particular day to break down and flood my kitchen and sunroom and the water was laughingly (yes, I know it was laughing) edging toward my living room and the carpet in there. I let out a banshee shriek which sent Murphy scurrying under the bed, most of the local animals ran to the nearby wooded areas and parents were grabbing their children off the sidewalks. Naturally, I was grabbing towels and rugs and sheets and anything else that would absorb water and was tossing them at doorways in effort to stop the flow. Murphy knew if he came out from under the bed, he would be flung in the river, too. After a few minutes, I thought, "Gee, idiot, why don't you turn off the machine and the water spigots. That might help a little bit."
So, with that done, I grabbed the wet-vac from a neighbor and began siphoning up the half-inch of water that contained strange things with dark tendrils which had floated out from beneath the washer and dryer. When the vacuum cut on and the suction started, well, Murphy abandoned my bed and went to the farthest room in the house and went into the closet and found refuge under a stack of luggage . All I could see were two eyes and a snout quivering in the darkness. The wet-vac worked sufficiently and even got most of the water from the berber carpet in the solarium and in the el-cheapo carpet in the living room. Glancing at my watch, I realized I was supposed to be leaving for the funeral in about 20 minutes and still had not ordered the pizzas.....or taken a bath. So, embarrassingly to admit, I stuck my head under the kitchen spout to wet it enough to comb, grabbed some blue jeans and a polo shirt to wear (heck, what do they make choir robes for anyway?) and took off leaving Murphy wondering what had happened.
That one event threw off the rest of my day. A friend called and hearing the octave higher cadence of my voice, volunteered to order the pizzas for me. After all the hubbub, the party that night was fun and a nice way to relax. But, my mind was still racing ahead to when I got home and had to start putting the furniture back into the kitchen, haul back in the areas rugs and doormats and put into the dryer BECAUSE I would never be able to go to sleep with the room in a mess like it was. Then, what was I going to do about the clothes I needed to wash and how much a new washer would cost (since this one was 28 years old and was time to replace anyway).
Fortunately, I got home, the floor was dry and most things could be put back into place. My plans were made and placed on the various calendars to shop for a new washer on Sunday afternoon, hoping it would be delivered on Monday so I could catch up on laundry Monday and Tuesday evenings after work. It succeeded. The calendars went off without another hitch in the schedule and my world is once again a cozy place, except for Murphy who is still very hesitant to leave the safety of my bedroom. I tend to find humor in the fact that various aspects of THE Murphy's Law deal with expecting the unexpected and I also named my dog, Murphy. I should have suspected something at that point. Plus, I am sure I gave God a good chuckle for the day..... probably a down right guffaw is closer to the truth.
All in all, I haven't quite turned into "Monk" and I figure since I recognize that, I must be doing okay (shrug, twitch, twitch).
Things are well in the world,
Friday, February 18, 2005
The Venusian Finally Reaches Adulthood
When I was a young boy in fourth grade, I wrote a short story entitled "The Venusian". It was a quite adventuresome story about a boy who discovered that a tree in his backyard had a hidden doorway that, when entered, could transport him to Venus. So, over a period of time, the boy would travel to Venus and in turn, his Venusian friends would travel to Earth. The boy and his extra-terrestrial friends had quite a number of adventures and, if I recall, there was even a sequel written at some point. Sadly to say, those manuscripts have since been lost (or perhaps taken to Venus for safekeeping) so mankind will never benefit from the adventures of "The Venusian".
This year of school began my love and passion for reading and writing. Through High School and College, you could always find me with my head stuck in some book reading for hours (unfortunately they weren't always my textbooks) or I was keeping a journal of some type. I always thought it so cool how John-Boy Walton and Doogie Howser both kept journals at the end of each program. For many years, I kept bound journals with handwritten entries (like John Boy) and then after I achieved technology in my house, I began more technological methods (i.e., Doogie).
Now, even as an adult, it has always been a wish, a dream, a goal to be a writer. After watching the movie "Julia" with Vanessa Redgrave, Jason Robards and Jane Fonda, the most wonderful career for me seemed to be to have a beach house like Jane Fonda had where I could sit and type, smoke cigarettes, and finally throw the typewriter out the window with a flourish in artistic despair. Then, a few decades later, I would watch the "Dave Barry Show" and wish for a career in writing at home in my bathrobe all day. Could life be any cooler than that? However, as the days, months and years passed, I would stick to my occasional journal writing and the once in a while church newsletter article about a pot luck dinner or bowling tournament.
Then, one day a couple years ago, I began to notice how God was teaching me lessons in my daily life. Some of them involved things Murphy would do, some were work-related, and others involved family, friends or by just observing life. I would start to put these thoughts down on paper (well, on monitor) and before long, there was a halfway decent devotional staring back at me. From that day on, it just seemed to consume more and more of my time to write my thoughts and impressions down in a devotional or Christian article format and begin to share them with friends in my church and in the community.
So, I began this blog. Not to get my name out there as being anybody's big woo, but as a vehicle for my writing and possible creating some discussion. As a result, my life has been enriched one hundred fold. I've met some of the neatest people imaginable as we post and comment back and forth, I have become a contributor for Crossmap Columns. And now, today I have been offered a position as a religion columnist for the Henry County Times, writing articles on a regular basis. I am so extremely excited because this is what I've always dreamed of doing. Plus, I realize that God has been working toward this all these years and (being God), never let on to me what He had planned until now. "Thank you, God, for your blessings to me and keep my heart and mind receptive to You in these coming weeks so that I can share your Love with people in a way that they might understand."
And I am certain of one other thing. That somewhere, far far away, the Venusian and the little boy are standing there clapping their hands and various Venusian appendages in excitement, too. I just wish they were here to share the honor.
Monday, February 14, 2005
Valentine's Day and the Single Guy
Valentine's Day and the Single guy. Does that sound like an oxymoron to you? Or, sounds like the title to one of the old "Love American Style" shows (yeah, now THAT really shows my age). I mean, the National Day of Love, flowers and candy to your sweetie pie, all the e-card sites being slow as molasses because of the cards being sent, all the jewelry and dinners and red satiny things that I can't believe anyone would really wear at anytime of their life. I noticed at the grocery store today how many guys were buying the last of the scraggly little roses with slightly brown tinted baby's breath at 6pm on the way home because they didn't plan ahead. Almost like Christmas, the pressure to do and/or buy just the right thing seems to be almost paramount to the reason for the day.
Now, realizing as how I have not a lot of room to talk, but it seems to me that you folks should be letting your spouses or loved ones know all year long how much you love and care for them. It should not come down to just one day when you have to worry about buying the right candy or the right flowers or go to the right restaurant. Love should be a constant thing, and in all fairness to many of my friends who are married, it is obvious that they are in a love relationship with each other and with God because it shows in their lives and in their families.
Isn't it a good thing that God doesn't wait for February 14 each year to demonstrate His love toward us? Aren't we glad that He gave us the best love gift available? I am glad that in the Love relationship with God, I don't have to worry about Him leaving me for another person or worry about making Him mad and being left alone. The ultimate Valentine giver will "never leave us or forsake us." (Hebrews 13:5).
As the poster boy for the single life, I know that that the Love of God is my greatest comfort. Sure, it may not keep my feet warm at night (although Murphy does help a little), but His Love does keep my heart warm 24/7. Like the apostle Paul, I have learned to be content with the conditions of my life. In fact, I am more than content because God has given me a family, friends and a church that enriches me at every thought. And I am able to do much in ways of ministry because I am single at this time and having more time available to give.
"For God loved the world so very much, that He gave up His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not die spiritually, but enjoy an everlasting life." (John 3:16).
This is the Valentine card that God has sent to each of us. To all of you who read this blog whom I do not know or hear from, I love you with the Love of the Lord, because God has offered His Love to all people. To those who I've met through the blogging world, thanks for stopping my way and inviting me into your world. May God continue to bless your efforts because you have blessed mine. To those in my family, my friends and in my church, I love you because without you and your love and encouragement, I would not be the man I am today (even as odd as that may be at times).
Be God's Valentine to someday else,
Thursday, February 10, 2005
Being a Man of God
Many times I tend to forget my chronological age (which is that of a middle-aged adult) and get caught up more into my attitudinal age (which is somewhere between sixteen and twenty one). Or, at least until I try roller blading, ropes courses, wrestling and other age-inappropriate behavior and end up in the emergency room with sprained and swollen ankles and wrists! And then at times, I will become more reflective, almost to the point of becoming maudlin, about my place in life and what I have done and what I want to accomplish in the years ahead.
What is involved in being a Man of God? Is it as easy as my great grandfather used to tell me? "I don't drink and I don't chew and I don't go with girls who do!". Does it mean to walk around with my big black Scofield Bible quoting scriptures verses about God's law to anyone who will listen? Or, is it a little more involved?
Being a single guy, I sometimes feel that I have more to prove to those around me about my spiritual walk as a Man of God. After all, I have no wife to be my helper and partner in ministry and no children to be my crowning accomplishment and to train up in the ways of God. Not that I haven't prayed for a wife and family, but God just hasn't determined the time to be right and I'm quite okay with the single life. In actuality, though, how does that prevent me from being a Man of God? The scripture tells us that the man should be the head of the house, to love his wife as Christ loves the Church and to train up his children in the ways of the Lord. Somehow I have not been able to convince Murphy (my terrier) to wear his little coat and tie and come to church with me, so that part may be moot. He is also not particularly submissive to me, so I guess I strike out on that count, also. Does that mean I am not a Man of God?
I look around me at men in my church that I would consider Men of God, many of them younger than I am. Strong men of the faith, never ashamed to share their testimony, always greeting one another with a smile and a firm handshake or a hug, working with children in Bible Study, mission projects and other areas of ministry. I see Men not afraid to weep during times of prayer and praise and always stand ready if the Pastor asks for someone to come counsel with someone at the altar. These men are the first to step forward if a need is present and none of them care about recognition for their service.
Being born and raised in the South, there are two words that every southern man is raised to consider most important in their way of life - Honor and Integrity. Without these qualities then you are not considered a true gentleman. As a Man of God, we are also given instructions on how to live. As Micah tells us, "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? "(Micah 6:8). I don't know about you, but I also see undercurrents of honor and integrity included in those words. The men in my church whom I look up to and consider mentors have these qualities. However, most importantly, when they make a mistake and fall short of man and God's expectations, they are the first to admit their shortcoming and ask forgiveness at both the altar of their fellowman and the altar of God. Humility, humbleness, honor.
My involvement with the teenagers at my church gives me satisfaction like none other. The fun, the laughs and the pranks will be unforgettable (even though our Student Pastor puts me on double-secret probation at least once a year for my involvement with the pranks). However, also in the satisfaction are the times of having one of the students come to me with questions about their faith, questions about their family relationships, questions about their sexual purity as a Christian young man, questions about their careers, questions about whom to date and other important issues to them. I don't have the answers, but I look with them into the scriptures and share things that God has taught me and led me to understand in hopes that it will help them in their paths. And then when I get that quick punch on the shoulder (which is teenspeak for a hug sometimes), and I see a tear in their eyes and a relaxed smile on their face, I know that God is with them and my love for them grows. I learned when I was a Minister of Youth to "always take puppy love seriously because it is so serious to the puppies." Some of the things they come to me and other adults to discuss may seem somewhat unimportant, but it is important to them and they should be treated with respect and honor. (Of course, I also learned to not let sixty teenagers loose in Times Square and then take off running down 42nd street waving a clear plastic bag with over $800 in cash inside trying to make it to the Circle Line tour boat on time, but that's another story for another time.)
So, back to the original question. How can we be Men of God? Just do it. Love others, treat them with honor and respect, be an example to your family and to those around you, be a leader in your home, church, job and community, ask God each and every day to use you as His vessel here on earth so that others can see Jesus in you and don't be afraid to share the Love of God when the situations arise.
I am a Man of God, even though I might be a bit quirky at times. Let me encourage you other guys to find your place in God's work as Men of God, standing firm and strong for future generations.
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
When the War Hits Home
" Be Strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to STAND." (Ephesians 6:10-13 NIV)
I don't recall every hearing of spiritual warfare as a young Christian. It must have just been one of those topics that preachers avoided so as to not be thought of as 'heretical' or something similar. Until I read the Frank Peretti books about the powers of darkness and the invisible battles that they wage in the world around us, I had never realized how powerful and real the angels of Satan must be. Yes, I do know these were fictional books, however, I realize how much they are based on scripture and theology.
I have had some experiences over the past year or two, and one as recent as early this morning, that makes me believe that there are forces of evil trying to reach me. I don't want to go into details right now because that just keeps reinforcing the thoughts and occurences in my head and that isn't productive, especially at night.
One good thing about this is that I don't think that Satan and his forces would be particularly interested in me unless I were doing something constructive for God. My walk with Him is close and secure and I believe and am convinced that NOTHING can separate me. However, over the past few weeks and months, I have begun to seek God's will for my life much more diligently than I have before. I have written a couple times lately that I sense the leading of God in a new direction for my life happening and try to keep my wishes and goals out of the picture and leave it totally up to His leading. In addition, I also pray for the faith to accept the possibilities of starting over in new places and doing new things. God is continuing to break me so that He can fill me. If you are a Christian and have been through periods of breaking, you know this can be a tough and difficult thing because we as humans tend to resist it. When we finally give in and let God have us in total, it is a wonderful thing.
To those of you reading this, never assume that Satan and his demons are some type of fairy tale made up by scriptural authors, Dante, Sunday School teachers and preachers. Be on guard constantly if you are trying to do what God wants you to do because that is when the attacks will begin. They start very subtle, then progress stronger and stronger until you finally give in and become a defeated Christian, bearing little if no fruit. Or, they progress until you realize what is happening and stand firm with the armor of God in place and proclaim that Jesus is Lord and through everything "we are more than Conquerors..." (Romans 8:37 NIV).
Not meaning to play the "age card", but if there is one thing I have learned in my life, it is that you cannot win the war with Satan, it can ONLY be done with the armor of God in place and your trust placed in His power and strength. I have fought skirmishes in earlier years, given in and paid the price of defeat. I have also fought battles, held strong to my faith and came through victoriously with excitement, growth and renewal of my love of God. I encourage all of you to place the phrases from the above scripture on little slips of paper that you will see during the day as I have done; on your mirror at home, on the dashboard in your car, on your desk at work or school, wherever you want. "Stand Firm". "We are more than Conquerors".
I do ask for prayers as these days unfold. Today, I am strong in the Lord; I pray that I will be strong tomorrow, the next day and forward. That is my prayer for you, my friends.
Sunday, February 06, 2005
A Reflection on Greatness
I attended a recognition service yesterday for a great man. A man I have only known for five years, however, his greatness far exceeds that time period. I sat and listened as friends, co-workers and family came to express their affection and respect, to share stories of his fairness in dealing with others and to bear witness of his love of family, job and church. A number of gifts were presented to show appreciation for his service in various capacities and of his dreams which continue to come to fruition. He was humbled by the attention and I truly think a bit intimidated by the praise and accolades. He is and continues to be a great man. A man who administers justice through the legal courts of our county and as we heard from many voices, a man who would temper that justice with mercy. Is this why I call him a great man? Perhaps, it is a partial reason, but primarily I consider him a great man because of his walk and his unfailing faith in God. I have seen his faith in good times and in tough times and can say that it never wavered during the dark days. The way he lives his life for God makes him great in the eyes of many people and his often silent witness has always pointed to Christ as his source of strength and ability.
A program like this always makes me think, "What would I like for people to say about me if I am ever recognized for some type of service? Would anyone someday be typing on a blog and call me a great man? How do I live my life so that I take advantage of every moment of every day for God's purpose in my life?" It matters not whether I am successful in my career, whether I have lots of friends, if my financial investments prove to be wise or if I accumulate possessions that other people envy. These are some of the qualities which the world would consider great, but God does not care about these things. "And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8).
To be honest, I have more years behind me than I do ahead. And even if that were not the case, the scriptures tell us that we are not even promised tomorrow, regardless of our age and health. (James 4:14). How WE spend OUR time is of great importance. How I spend MY time is of the utmost importance. Am I going to spend the coming time living for and pointing others to Christ? I can only hope and pray that I will. Will I have times of failure? Of course, I am human. The man recognized yesterday had faults, but those faults were overcome by the power of God in his life.
To sum up my thoughts today, I'd like to share some of the lyrics from one of my favorite Clint Black songs that speak to me about this:
"Spend My Time" (Clint Black/Hayden Nicholas )
"I'm gonna spend my time, like it's going out of style
I'm moving the bottom line better than a country mile
I still have hills to climb before I hit that wall,
I won't go quietly into that dark night,
There'll be no more burning daylight,
I'll be living in every moment that I'm in,
I'm gonna spend my time, like it's going out of style........"
Let's determine in our own hearts and souls to spend every moment of our time for God.
Thursday, February 03, 2005
What Two Countries are Connected With the Rainbow Bridge?
Maybe my social expectations are not that high, but as a single guy living in a southern suburb of Atlanta, I have never found myself bored for something to do. Case in point, every Thursday night, a quite eclectic group from our church meets for Trivia Night at one of the local restaurants. We don't play for money, but for coupons toward future meals. Our numbers vary each week as we compete with other teams for the top three places. We are known as the "God Squad" because we want to be known for our faith in God.....not that it gives us any advantage in trivia questions, but as a witnessing tool. And believe it or not, folks know who we are and will at times ask us about our name, our church and sometimes ask for prayer in their families or friends.
From week to week our team may range from teenagers to older adults (that would be me) and all ages in between. Single adults, married adults, students and assorted friends come together for an evening of fun and fellowship. And, at the same time, we are sharing our faith system in our name. As the host periodically calls out the standings during the evening, it is quite nice to hear "The God Squad" intermingled among the other names, some of which represent lifestyles that would give most of us nightmares.
So, two birds with one stone.... an evening of fun with friends of all ages, marital statuses and walks of life, but we are bonded by God's Love. Plus, we are giving a witness in a restaurant among people that may have never encountered a God Squad before. So, folks, look for opportunities to share your faith. It may be a team trivia night at a local restaurant, a smile for a harried checkout clerk at the grocery store, an extra dollar for a waiter or waitress when they've been having a bad night with other patrons, helping an elderly person or a physically challenged person with some task, there are opportunities all around. We just have to watch for them.
Oh, and do you know the answer to the question in the title? We lost that one tonight and it kept us out of second place. No fair looking it up, we can't do that so you can't either.
(Canada and the United States)