Thursday, January 05, 2017

Open Hands: a faith-filled response to problems and pain.

This past year I went through a program called "Soul Care" which is designed for pastors and Christian business leaders in the Bay Area to deepen their "with God" live.  There's so much I've journaled and learned in the program, but here I just want to share one aspect of it that has brought great freedom to my soul.

As I write this, I'm actually sitting at home with much pain on my shoulder/neck area due to a slipped disk.  I've had to sit at home and do very little as my body heals.  In spite of the pain and situation, I've actually felt quite at peace.  Let me explain why.

One of the main things God has been teaching me over the last year and a half is to open my hands. To trust Him with outcomes. To invite Him into all situations, hard ones and easy ones. See, the more I search the Scriptures, the more I realize that what some people see as "strong faith" is really not what God sees as strong.

As an example, here's a glimpse into how many people respond to sickness based on their level of faith:
  • NO FAITH: I'm sick and I'll just have to put up with it on my own. God has nothing to do with this. 
  • LITTLE FAITH: Might say a quick prayer, take meds, with very little expectation or awareness of God moving.
  • GOOD FAITH: Might pray for healing and ask others to do the same. Expects God to show up in the healing, might get disappointed if healing doesn't come. Or might blame it on lack of faith.
  • MUCH FAITH: Invites God into the pain and opens their hands to whatever will most deepen their relationship with God, whether it is healing, the humility that comes from pain, the endurance that is developed through suffering, or anything else.
In the words of Ignatius of Loyola:
"Everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God. Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to the deepening of God's life in me."  
That is for me what opening my hands means. One of my mentors reminded me this morning of this. He said, "the idea is not to fix our desires on health or sickness. For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response of our life in God."  So I got up this morning and instead of being grumpy that my neck is not yet healed, I invited God into it. I went on a prayer walk and allowed God to shape my soul right in the middle of my pain.

This is a powerful new level of faith for me. In fact, I think it's the kind of faith that the followers of Jesus in the first century so passionately wrote about and called us into. Not a faith that is only strong when we get our way, when things are comfortable, or when God shows up in giving us an escape from pain.

Peter, instead of calling believers to ask God to remove their suffering, he said this: "These trials will show that your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world" 1 Peter 1:7

James, instead of calling people to rejoice in the deliverance from pain, he said this: "When troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy..." James 1:2

Paul, instead of instructing believers to avoid problems, he said this: "We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance." Romans 5

This year I've rejoiced in seeing God miraculously heal people close to me. I've also rejoiced in the intimacy that I gained with Jesus as I faced pain that He chose not to relieve me from.  I'm also choosing to except my trials and difficulties as potential ways God might want to deepen His love in me. It's very liberating.

Here's the point: God will use every situation in our lives to bring us near to Him. That's the goal. That's where life is. That's the invitation he gives us. Not of a life on earth without pain, sickness, or problems, but a life where every single situation has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God.

So whether you are going through a difficult divorce, fighting an illness, or grieving loss, remember that in all situations there is a gift waiting. If you invite God in, He will use it to bring you closer to His heart.

I encourage you to join me in believing and praying this with open hands to God:
I want and I choose what better leads to the deepening of God's life in me.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Triple Bunk Bed Project

So with a large family you sometimes have to get creative with your living spaces. As we were preparing to move into our new home, we decided to put all 3 of our boys in the same room, so that we could use the other empty room as a Play Room for all the kids to enjoy.

I then decided to build our own triple bunk bed. Mandy and I looked up some cool designs on Pinterest, then made our own.

Most of what I used can be bought at a local Lowes, Home Depot, Orchard Supply, etc. I used Redwood because it is smoother and more durable for furniture building.

I also recommend purchasing a Kreg Jig which makes this project a lot easier.

You might want to double check materials and measurements, since I changed some things on-the-go.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Know Your Source

One of the most important questions a person must wrestle with is what their source will be. Source of belief, source of values, source of motivation, source of strength, source of purpose.

Not asking that question leads to a waste of life, which is what most people settle with. A life without solid foundation leads to instability, insecurity, and lack on impact.

The source of anything is directly related to where it begins - that's where you find the answers. It's in the mind of the creator, in the original intention of the designer, in the hands of the author.

When we connect to our source, our hearts come alive. Our motivation is clear. Our purpose is unfolded.  In our case as humans, the answer is in God.
We look at this Son (Jesus) and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him.  He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment.  Colossians 1:15-18 (MSG)
Everything, absolutely everything, got started in him and finds its purpose in Him. Until we realize that, something will always feel like is missing inside of us. It's impossible to be fully alive apart from a relational connection to our Creator. Impossible.

I've tried and didn't work. I see hundreds of people around me trying every week to make it apart from God.  It's an empty journey. It's meaningless.

When we realize that God is our source everything changes. Our lives are fully His. Our purpose is to know Him and make Him known. Our values come from His Words. Our goals are based on His Kingdom. Our careers are simply tools for a bigger purpose.

When God is our source, our motivation is to please Him only. Our pleasure comes from making Him happy. Our pain has meaning. Our grief has hope. Our strengths have direction. Our energy impacts eternity. Our struggles develop in us endurance to keep striving forward.

Don't rest until you connect to your Creator because He is the only that can make your heart come fully alive.
All humanity finds shelter
    in the shadow of your wings.
You feed them from the abundance of your own house,
    letting them drink from your river of delights.
For you are the fountain of life,
    the light by which we see.
 Psalm 36:7-9