THE SHADOW

the shadow

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When I was in third grade I had to memorize a poem. Not just memorize it, but I also had to recite it in front of my class. Although not the best of students, (understatement!) I still remember some of that poem years later.

“I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me, but what’s the very use of it is more than I can see.” That’s the first verse. The poem was written by Robert Louis Stevenson, who was a famous poet in the late 1800’s.

As a youngster, I paid more attention to shadows than I do now. I remember after getting the required haircut noting how skinny my neck looked in my shadow. I remember other times watching my out-grown-bell-bottom-pants flapping as I walked. They were 3 or 4 inches above the top of my shoe. I pushed down my pants as far as possible in my shadow hoping to avoid the “He’s waiting for a flood,” comment at school.

The funniest looking shadows occurred during the winter times. The Native Americans called it “the season of the long shadow.” As kids, we’d run, jump, put our hands up and wave as we watched our shadows.

Our shadows were giants during the season of the long shadow. We’d laugh and carry on about how “cool” it would be to really be that big. We turned those shadows into characters to add to our number. Our playmates doubled immediately once we counted our giants in the shadows.

I find it interesting that children often find awe and beauty in the simplest things in creation. As adults, we consider those things childish. Maybe they are… The fact that we don’t even notice the simple things any longer might prove the point.

As an adult, I notice my long shadow in winter mostly subconsciously. It’s not as skinny as it was as a child… I should have been a little more careful what I wished for. I have to confess the days spent here on this earth find me a tad on the somber side during the season of the long shadow.

Maybe with the shorter days I’m reminded of the relative quickness of this life. 1st Chronicles 29:15 and Job 8:9 read almost identical, (partial) “Our days on this earth are a shadow.” Here today gone tomorrow.

Many of us get caught up in the details of our daily lives. We try to micromanage everything in our life.

As surely as the sun rises to create shadows, so is God in control of all things in our lives. Instead of playing and finding God in our shadows, we focus on different kinds of shadows.

I’m not suggesting that we as humans don’t have difficult times in life. I understand that trouble is part of this life. Most of us treat our difficulties, big and small alike as if we’re walking with David through “The valley of the shadow of death.”

I have to remind myself it doesn’t matter what difficulty I face, the God of heaven and the designer of the sun and shadows is with me. It doesn’t matter how big the problem, it could be an army, a government, or a group of powerful individuals. Whatever we face in this life, God either causes or allows it.

It really is that simple. To stand under the shadow of the hand of God is more powerful than the sun itself. If God spoke the sun into existence, how powerful must He be?

Nothing happens to us without His consent. “If Christ be for us, who can be against us”?

We stand not in defiance, but in the shadow of the grace given by the hand of our Father.

“God gave me a shadow that goes in and out with me,  I’ve learned the very use of HIM… Now I plainly see”…

PA RUM PUM PUM PUM

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You’d have to wear ear plugs to avoid hearing Christmas songs during this season.

My wife and I pulled into the parking lot of the closest outdoor mall to our house. We’ve accepted the role as Santa’s helpers. Actually we’ve never seen our boss, come to think of it, his assistant either… Somehow we got the memo on our Christmas responsibilities.

Anyway, we were listening to Christmas songs in the car. As soon as I shut the engine off and opened the door, a new Christmas song was being piped into the parking lot and all throughout the mall.

Today at church was almost all Christmas songs backed up by an orchestra. I enjoy this part of the season as much as any of it. The church songs are deep in theology, explaining the story of God in Jesus Christ. Being a pretty simple guy, I enjoy the most simple of things, even the music.

While I enjoy classical Christian songs, they don’t touch my heart like a simpler song, “The Little Drummer Boy.” My Christmas isn’t complete until I’ve heard that simple song. My favorite is version is by Bob Seger.

I’ve heard that song my whole life. When I was younger I didn’t especially care for it. I listened to the words without hearing them. About five years ago, after listening to that song my whole life, I finally “heard” the words to that song.

Although knowing the words in my brain, they couldn’t make their way through the thick denseness down into my heart. When they finally did, that’s when I learned to love that song.

Not that the song was a true story, but the idea of God showing His approval to his children finally got traction in my heart.

The idea that like that little drummer boy we have nothing to offer God. We only have to give Him what He’s given us first. Like the Psalmist understood, (paraphrase) “What is it that I can give to you God”?  “All things come from your hand.”

I have nothing– I am nothing– All I am is because of God’s gift to me. The ultimate Christmas present–The only perfect sacrifice to cover our sins permanently. His son Jesus Christ, whom He allowed to suffer on our behalf so that He would be able to look upon us, even with our sin and offer this perfect gift. The gift of eternal life.

As if that weren’t enough, He also gave each and every one of us something else… Another gift. The things we do. The things we have a talent or passion for. I have a drum set. I even have a guitar. I have no illusions, that gift He gave the little drummer boy he didn’t give me.

I bring a whole new meaning to “making a joyful noise unto the Lord.” I’m sure most people have several gifts, things they excel at beyond what is average. I’ve known many people who God’s gifted in many ways.

For those of us that belong to God understand these gifts aren’t ours, they belong to God. When we use them to bring Him honor we find peace and joy beyond our flesh. We live in a spiritual peace that surpasses human comprehension.

Since the gifts we have are actually intellectual property of the Creator of the cosmos, they are given with a responsibility.We have a duty to use them in such a way that shows the greatness of the One who provided them.

The last verse of that song is what I finally heard after a lifetime of listening to it. “Then He smiled at me pa rum pum pum pum, me and my drum.”

The God of all creation smiling as we use the gifts He blessed us with. What could be better in life that God smiling at us?

This is one of the gifts He’s given me, may I honor Him with it. May He smile on me and my family as we try to bring Him honor with what belongs to Him.

This Christmas may we all use whatever gifts He’s blessed us with.

May we bring a smile to His Holy Face…

A JERK

a jerk

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As I get older I learn more about myself. For example, I’m discovering one of the reasons I enjoy writing is that I can temper my words, even when I’m excited.

It’s different for me when I’m in a conversation. Words can come out of my mouth long before I understand the impact of them. Some might consider a person with actions like that a jerk. Yes, sometimes I’m a jerk.

It’s taken me longer than it should have to realize that, but how many jerks really know they’re jerks? I’m not a jerk all the time. I’m a pretty good guy when I’m asleep!

A couple days ago while at the gym I was having an ongoing discussion/debate over some Christian doctrinal issues. You know the ones, there are about five really divisive issues for us Christians.

This probably isn’t the biggest divider and I’ll remain vague to avoid an on-line argument.

My friend Tim and I were lobbing Christian shots at each other that were dripping with sarcasm. (which us jerks really enjoy) – (Oh, and for the record Tim is a jerk too!) There was a friend of Tim’s that he goes to church with close by. Tim drew him into the crossfire.

Tim’s friend was caught off guard. Tim posed the question of our debate to him without preparing him mentally for our “rough around the edges” style.

His friend, a mild-mannered guy, starts to quote some scripture to enlighten us on the subject we’ve been debating for years. In fairness to Tim’s friend, neither Tim nor myself look like the studious type. He continued to speak as if talking with a couple of ignoramuses.

The verses he quoted to us didn’t have much bearing on the subject in question. Being mere mortal, my tongue could take only so much pain from the teeth piercing it. I let go…Not in anger, but not in God either. Human emotion overtaking my self-control.

I’m very proud of the studying I’ve done on this particular subject. I’ve read books, done Bible studies, spent countless hours with my Hebrew and Greek concordance. My reaction was more that proud, it was pride. You know, the thing that cometh before a fall?

I made my points and my competitors countered with arguments that were also in human emotion. You know the ones, “Well my preacher says…”!  The conversation’s well out of hand at this point and a wise man of God would honor Him and walk away. Not me, no sir. At this point I’m rolling, I’ve got the enemy on the run. I have my foes against the ropes.

There is no sign of wisdom, only folly. I continued to disrespect God’s word by using it against, instead of for His beloved.

They soon both retreated and headed for the door. In truth, I love to talk about God’s word. What else matters more than that?

That night as I prayed God laid on my heart the reality of my actions. “God please forgive me for being such a jerk.” I didn’t bring God honor, I was trying to honor myself. I got railroaded by my flesh.

If to be a “Christian” is “Christ-like” or followers of Christ, what was I? Who was I following?

Saying sorry will help ease my conscience, but probably won’t get me another in-depth conversation with this solid man and fellow believer.

I gotta be honest with you though… In my heart, I still really don’t want to wash this guy’s feet…

TO BEAT THE DEVIL

to beat the devil

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I’ve shared my analogy of writing a few times. I’m not going to use the “Pushing the rope uphill” line again. (At least not in its entirety) –(pretty clever Huh?)

This time I’m going to compare writing when it feels forced to pushing a boulder uphill. In contrast, when the words are flowing easily from my mind, it’s like dropping a pebble into a well.

I get inspiration to write from some pretty strange sources. My renewed burst of passion, this time comes via my big brother. The immediate thought would be that he gave me the “at’-a-boy” speech or some other inspirational words. My brothers are proud of me and vice versa, but not for anything writing related. We share a mutual respect due to our belief and understanding of God.

I don’t know if either one of my brothers have ever even read this blog. I’d like it if they did, but I know there’s no forcing either one of them into doing something they don’t want to do.

I get to spend one on one time with my oldest brother Dean two or three times a year. We don’t live in the same state and he travels for business a lot.

My whole family and I share a passion for music. If you’ve read much of this blog you already know I use music as a catalyst for my writing quite often.

Last night my brother and me were listening to old Christmas songs. We’re patient with one another these days. I endured Buck Owens, “Santa Looks A Lot Like Daddy.” He actually enjoys the Eagles, “Come Home For Christmas.” The evening progressed past midnight as we used the computer to dig up long lost treasures.

Dean had me find Kris Kristofferson’s, “To Beat The Devil.” I’ve heard the song before, but not many times. While the style isn’t popular, I find the lyrics to be not only amusing, but genius.

If I could come up with words to speak to one heart in this world as his speak to mine, I would be gratified and consider myself a successful writer.

Kristofferson wrote and sang from the perspective of a starving singer/songwriter. When he encounters another person who tries to discourage him from his dream of singing/songwriting, even though hungry and thirsty from having no money, Kristofferson considers the man Satan.

He believed his calling was from God, and anyone who would discourage or keep him from that belief he considered the Devil. I hope you take the time to go to Youtube and hear the song, but I’ll include the verse I believe is genius all by itself just in case.

–“Well the old man was a stranger, but I heard his song before

–Back when failure had me locked out on the wrong side of the door

–When no one stood behind me but my shadow on the floor

–And lonesome was more than a state of mind

–You see the devil haunts a hungry man

–If you don’t want to join em’, you gotta beat em’.

–I ain’t sayin’ I beat the devil, but I drank his beer for nothin’…

–Then I stole his song.”

OK, I was born in Arkansas and that might have some bearing on my taste along with the influence of my dad growing up. Regardless of a person’s taste in music I think anyone would agree with the determination of a person to keep pushing on against all odds is an admirable trait.

The song ends with Kristofferson saying he’d rather live his life doing what he was called to do, even if it meant living that life without a nickel.

I’d love to have my manuscript published. If I don’t I’ll consider it God’s will. I’ll also consider it His will for me to never quit trying to lift up and inspire people any way I can. If He gives me the words to inspire others like Kristofferson’s did for me early this morning, that would suit me just fine.

For anyone reading this now, I would encourage you to go do what you do. If you don’t have something, go get something. Look toward your passion and follow the trail it’s leaving you. If we can impact anyone in a positive way and show them the love and power provided to us through God, I’d call that true success.

The greatest success in my opinion can’t be measured by a number. It’s measured in the hearts of others.

I ain’t sayin’ I beat the Devil, but I know God will.

And my dreams given by God, he can never kill.

If you don’t think a writer is what I’ll be.

Move on back Satan, you can get behind me.

IT WAS A VERY GOOD YEAR

a very good year

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What’s in a year? The 365 days in a row before calling it another year seems to have some sort of cycle. I recall the milestone years, turning 16, 21, 30, and 40. Those specific numbers didn’t necessarily relate to what the world would consider “good years.”

The things I used to calculate whether the year was good or bad has changed along the way.

Frank Sinatra did a song titled “It Was A Very Good Year.” In the song, he recalls his early years. At age 17 he recalled small town girls. At age 21 he reminisced a city girl who lived up the stairs who’s, “hair came undone.” At 35, his recollection was of a blue-blooded girl with independent means. The last verse Sinatra compares his life to a good wine that poured out well.

A person in the Autumn of their life looking back on the good things in it and that’s what they come up with? Would you consider those good years?

Each day we’re alive is a gift from God. The days that turn into years are gifts strung together. Sometimes we get so many of them we begin to take them for granted. The years come to be expected as if each one were a right.

Has this been a good year? The answer to the question depends on our perspective. Economically speaking this hasn’t been the best of years. However, on the other side of the coin we find we’ve survived. Many have not only survived they’ve found a new perspective on life and how it is to be lived. They have new priorities, less dollar motivated.

The loss of my dad, this year makes this an unprecedented year for my family and me. We found out in January of this year that he had brain cancer. In some ways, I feel a massive burden has been on my shoulders all year. In other ways, I find the peace of God within and sense He’s been carrying me all year.

Maybe watching the dignity, grace, and strength of God in a man’s last days proves again His love for His chosen. I’m not ready to call it “a good year,” but if something is gained it can’t be all bad.

The things I’ll look back upon in my life to consider the “good years” will be different than that of Frank Sinatra. The things to be cherished can’t be measured in the flesh. The prizes collected along the way will be gifts from God. Love, honor, wisdom, peace, joy, grace, and humility to name a few.

God has blessed me with a lot to be thankful for. I’d say the year I met my wife was “a very good year.” The years my daughters were born were “very good years” as well.

In retrospect, the years I seek God more I find peace. Peace in this world in any year should be a very good year.

I got my first Bible in 1970, I guess that was a very good year. Knowing my immediate family have been chosen by God makes the year and everyone that follows a very good year.

Having the warm sun on my face this deep into December as I write makes this a very good day. I’ve had a lot of good days this year. I’m not sure how many, maybe 345 in a row?

The fact that I know God and what He’s ultimately planned for me in the afterlife accounts for a good day every day.

I don’t get to laugh every day, but I do enjoy the days I do get to laugh.

There might be a day in the future when I talk or write about this year.

I might say, “2010”?  “It was a very good year”…