RED ROSES

red roses

image courtesy of photobucket.com

As another Valentines Day rolls around I’m considering one’s past and the tradition of it. A sure sign I’m getting old is the fact that I really am beginning to enjoy roses, especially red ones.

When I was younger and heard old people talk about roses and carry on about their beauty, I fixed my eyes on the object of their attention momentarily, then rolled them around my sockets as I thought to myself, “Get a life, that’s so boring, it’s just a rose”!

I held out a long time, longer than most I think until I succumbed to the ways of mature people. These days if I pass a nice red rose, I stop, study it carefully and comment like the older people I use to roll my eyes at.

My little one and me have quite a time admiring red roses and trying to find the perfect petal on each one. “Dad look at this one”! she exclaims. I always add with sincerity, “It’s amazing isn’t it”? “Yeah, it sure is,” she says softly as if seeing one for the first time.

When I was younger I thought of buying roses for my wife as an obligation instead of an honor. Somewhere along the way I  began to enjoy it, not just the beautiful red roses, but the act of selflessness as well. What happened to me? Moreover, what took so long?

What does it take to gain a changed perspective? I guess it could be different for all of us, but for me the change of perspective came from the process of seeking God. It’s easy to be cynical in this life and to move at light speed never taking the time to stop and take a look at the simple things we take for granted.

Those simple things like our loved ones, other people in need and nature, including red roses are the assets given to us by God. I’m curious in hindsight how I ever could have considered going out of my way for someone and inconvenience, especially my loved ones and wife to do something kind that made them feel more than good, to make them feel loved and appreciated.

What else matters?

Yes it’s a fallen world and yes there are bad things that happen in it. The depths to which humans can fall without God seems to be endless. Sure the rose has thorns, but it’s a reminder that despite how beautiful things are or how nice they might look there is a danger of putting too much trust or faith in the object alone. To me, it’s a reminder from God to seek and trust only in Him.

When the objects receive more praise and adoration than the Creator, pain is eminent. It is the balance between spiritual and physical. The simple things like a conversation or a red rose are the gifts from God that bring us together. We enjoy the beauty of them, but it’s the time spent together enjoying them that are the most special.

In the proper Biblical perspective, all things direct us back to God and bring Him honor. I believe the reason many of us enjoy what we consider the simple things in life like a red rose is due to our belief or understanding in the miracle of the beautiful creation.

The red rose reminds me that as fallen as the world is God still produces beauty in it for us to behold. There is beauty in selflessness. We find the acts of sacrifice for others to be lovely.

When we choose to exercise these traits God provides to us, our lives begin to reflect Him.

To my way of thinking these days, I find selflessness, discipline, honor, mercy, grace, and love in the timeless beauty of a red rose.

I’ll take a red rose home with me, I think my wife will too…

ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL

another brick in the wall

image courtesy of photobucket.com

I have to admit I still like the old music from Pink Floyd. I know, you’re probably thinking “yeah probably because you like the name.” Uh, No. Not exactly, in fact, can you guess how many times I’ve heard someone say, after learning my name, “Hey, Pink Floyd”!!!–“Ha Ha Ha”!

To say it’s gotten a little old since childhood might be a gross understatement. Being somewhat of a wisenheimer I usually say something with as dry a tone as I can like, “Hey that’s funny, I’ve never heard that before”… It kinda turns the table a bit to allow for my amusement.

To the point, I actually like the old music, it’s timeless to me. Some of my old Pink Floyd favorites are, Dark Side Of The Moon, Wish You Were Here, I’m a little burned out on Money. Not that it was my favorite, but probably their biggest commercial success came with their song Another Brick In The Wall. It’s definitely a catchy tune, no wonder they scored big with it.

The problem is that our society has really come to believe and act as if that song is really the case, with so many of us how can we be special? We’re like bricks in a wall. With around 7 billion people in the world and all the similarities we share in this flesh, it’s easy to see how people have fallen into that trap.

As I sat finishing a late lunch on a patio where I frequent to eat then sometimes write these posts, I gazed at one of the ingredients that make up the atmosphere that draws me to be inspired to write there.

It’s a cozy little patio with only five tables and two of them only seat two people. The overhead canopy is hardly noticeable, the trellis and vines in the planter with trees blooming white flowers behind the wall makes it a comfortable place.

However, it is those surrounding elements that contrast the red brick wall and planter that turn this place into a magical garden. There are thousands of bricks that make up that place, all burnt reddish orange aggregate bricks. Not one of them are the same, each one is similar to be sure, but not one is identical. They are similar enough to stand side by side, staggered top to bottom and perform the task they were designed for.

Maybe the song was right, maybe “All we are is just a–nother brick in the wall.” The bricks aren’t all the same color, similar to the color of our flesh, we all vary from dark to light although that doesn’t keep us from doing the job we were designed to do.

The sizes vary slightly, half of the end bricks and the top course are smaller, they vary like we vary, but in the end perfectly accomplish the task set before them. There are some extra unique bricks in the wall as well. Some of the bricks take on standing water, they look a bit tarnished.

Other bricks have had holes drilled through them in order to let the water pass under those bricks like the true hero’s in our society that have sacrificed their structure and core in order to protect the rest of the bricks in the wall.

I’m thankful for the human hero’s, or what some in our society refer to as just another brick in the wall. Those bricks served the rest of us, without their sacrifice we would have crumbled just like a brick wall.

A brick wall can’t be missing too many of it’s pieces before it collapses. I think we like those bricks, designed by God in order to serve a specific purpose might look the same, but we are unique all unto ourselves to serve and assist one another in the brick wall of life.

I find beauty in a simple brick wall, thank goodness the bricks don’t have a mind of their own. The bricks like many of us would be disobedient to the Heavenly brick layer, He would use the obedient bricks, us the believers to show the world how amazing, strong, and organized we are in cooperation with God to do the task He’s designed us for.

In our intelligence maybe we should consider it a blessing to be “as dumb as a brick”—in the wall…

A DESK DISASTER!

a desk disaster

MY PERSONAL DESK DISASTER

I read a very thought provoking post last week by Jake over at verymuchlater.com about his messy desk. He went on to use the clutter on his desk and specifically his dead camera that he hadn’t tossed out as an analogy of our lives.

I considered my desk that looks like someone tossed a grenade on and decided I’d like to write about the same subject. Jake gave me the thumbs up to use his post as my inspiration. By the way, I’d highly recommend a visit to Jake’s site, first a heads up. It’s great reading, but there is no candy coating over at verymuchlater.com, Jake calls it like it is.

I had to take a few moments to figure out how my desk got to be such a disaster. The rest of my home office looks fine, my wife even dusted it for me last week, but the desk? No one would know where to start, including me.

I realize my desk is like many things in life that become a little messy and out of sorts. It starts with being a little lax or maybe just plain lazy and so begins the pattern. The same pattern my youngest falls into with her room, the difference is we punish her for the example we’ve set in some cases.

It’s a good thing my office isn’t part of a glass house the way I’ve been tossing stones around lately.

The desk disaster started with some research papers I had compiled for a manuscript I was working on but have now scrapped. I didn’t want to throw them away, I might pick the writing back up, then I’ll need that information for sure. I don’t really have a perfect place to store something like an unfinished manuscript and the piles of research papers to go with it, but I do have a place…

The rejection letters I’ve received from literary agents I kept where they could be seen in a neat stack that somehow seemed to grow with all kinds of papers. Now I have to assume those rejection notices that I use for inspiration are still under there somewhere.

My Bible study materials I sort of figured was like making a bed, I’m gonna be using them soon so why go to the bother of putting them back on the shelf when I’m gonna be taking them back down?

That’s how the snowball started, it picked up momentum along the way and now seems like an unstoppable monster. I can’t clean it up, I don’t have the time or know where to start!

Maybe some of you reading have an area of your life like that as well? My office represents the lives of many people I think. We’re pretty disciplined and have almost everything in our lives together, except for that one thing. The whole life or office looks perfect, but somewhere in that life or office we find that weakness, a desk disaster.

Most times the weakness is spawned in our flesh and the lack of discipline or human laziness keeps us from doing the right thing; Reaching toward God for His strength for discipline in our lives.

It’s easy to spot other people’s desk disasters in our lives, they aren’t the same ones we have so we can’t relate to them in some cases. Sometimes you can hear people talk about others perceived weaknesses, other times the voices doing a fair amount of the judging comes from inside us.

“Look at Sam Wafar, he’s everywhere, and sooooo greedy”!  “Did you see what Susie Que was wearing –she’s got some issues to be dressing like that”!  “How about Floyd’s desk, it looks like his clothes”! Then there are the other messes or sometimes disasters that are unseen.

Like most weaknesses, the pattern starts with one action, one act lacking self-discipline. It’s human nature. One person can drop a piece of trash in a field and before long it looks like a dump.

The solution to the problem will take an enormous amount more discipline to clean up than it would have taken to do the right thing the first time. God gives us the opportunity to clean up our lives and especially the extra messy parts no one else can see.

The clean up process starts just in reverse of how the mess got there in the first place, one piece at a time…

My guess is that we all have something that needs a good spring cleaning, even if it is Winter…

THE RACE

the race

image courtesy of photobucket.com

We’ve been encouraging our kids to read the Bible faithfully for years. About three or four years ago I became a little more vocal of my desire for them to read the Bible start to finish, the whole thing cover to cover.

I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised a few years back that Kenz shared with us she had started and was going to read the Bible cover to cover. She kept us updated occasionally on her progress and included  her opinion on how difficult it was. “I’m never gonna remember any of this, I don’t even understand some of what I’m reading”! she announced regularly.

“It doesn’t matter, you’ll get more out of it than you know, you’ll gain deeper wisdom than you have any idea of right now,” was my typical response, then I’d add something like, “Good for you, you’re actually doing it. You know how many people have never done what you’re doing”? — “Keep it up, you’ll be glad you did”!

I never attempted to read the Bible cover to cover when I was her age, I was too busy chasing the wind. It’s a difficult task for her with school and all, but she gives us updates over the years as to where she’s at in her quest to read the Bible. She’s not setting any speed record, but she’s hasn’t quit, she hasn’t thrown in the towel.

I look around and watch people work on their goals and dreams, but the majority of them give up, throw in the towel and  quit at the first road block or difficulty that falls in their path. I’ve done some of my own towel tossing along the way.

I used to tell this same story over the years I coached girls Lacrosse. I told it so often that soon if I sensed the girls were lacking passion I’d only have to threaten them with this story to make my point.

In school one year at an away track meet, my coach asked me, well actually told me I’d have to run the 880 yard race. I typically ran the 220 and 440. Even though I didn’t want to run that race in addition to my other ones, I set in my head to win that race.

The race came down to only two of us, me and the now infamous kid who was only known to me by his last name, “Grimes.” I kept him on my outside shoulder around all the turns and worked him to never let him have the inside line. We were stride for stride coming around the last turn less than 100 yards from the finish line.

I was sprinting with all I had left in my tank thinking I’d bury him in the last 20 yards. With less than 20 yards left he started edging ahead of me, with less than 10 yards he had a half stride on me. With less than 5 yards, he had a full stride on me…

That’s where I quit… My sprint turned into a jog for the last two strides. My fate was sealed, I would have to settle for second.

The point of my story isn’t that I finished second or didn’t win, the point is I didn’t give 100% through the finish line. I’ve regretted that race my whole life. That little incident inspired me to never quit at anything I’m endeavoring to do regardless if I’m winning or pulling up the rear.

I’ve learned what our oldest seems to have figured out, run the race of this life with intention, perseverance, and we win regardless of where we place. To run the race of life with God as the catalyst and passion sets us up to finish the race with no chance of losing.

Kenz walked into the kitchen Saturday morning, she didn’t say good morning. She asked me a loaded question, “Guess what I did this morning”? With one wary eyebrow raised I answered a bit harshly, “What.” “I FINISHED REVELATION THIS MORNING”!!! She gushed. “Are you kidding”? I asked knowing yet still dumbfounded. “Yep, I finished it”! she was floating.

“I can’t tell you how proud  I am of you girl”! — “Good job”! –“Congratulations-that’s awesome”! I was floating too.

It took her a while, but she’s figuring out this race of life…

She’s learning it’s not about how you start, it’s how you finish…

THE BUSINESS OF CHANGE

the business of change

image courtesy of photobucket.com

I stood behind him in line at the hardware store… There he was, one of my adolescent hero’s… The voice that got me through two-a-day football practices in high school one year.

One of his songs has become the anthem for all kids to officially ring in the summer. Do you remember the song? Here’s the chorus to refresh your memory.

“Well we can’t salute ya, can’t find the flag.”

“If that don’t suit ya, that’s a drag.”

“Schools out for summer – Schools out for summer.”

Ahh, now you remember. Alice Cooper, of course! He’s old now… The music is timeless, but he’s not. He actually looks good, but it’s been over thirty years since he dominated shock rock.

None of us have a choice, with time we change. While we don’t have complete control of how we change physically, we do have a choice as to if we change spiritually. I’m not trying to get into a Calvinistic debate, I’m simply referring to our free will. Yes God calls us, but we have to be willing and obedient to His call then and now.

I think Vincent Furnier, or who we call Alice Cooper is a great example of God’s call and the ensuing change. I haven’t seen too many rock stars acknowledge God and strive to live a Godly life.

About four years ago our friends who’s oldest daughter was getting Baptized invited us to their church for the Baptism. As I sat glancing around at the beautiful church a guy up in the balcony caught my eye. He had sunglasses on, I thought to myself, “What kind of guy wears sunglasses to church”? I looked closer and then realized, “Why Alice Cooper, of course.”

I’m not vouching for his walk with God, but I know enough about him to know this; There’s a guy trying, maybe even succeeding, who knows for sure but God?

I consider the changes that God has orchestrated in my life that started with His forgiveness. My life is now as far east as it was from west, at least in God’s economy anyway. I’ve forgotten some of the details of my past, which I think in some cases is a blessing from God. I remember enough to realize the change has been miraculous.

The sure sign that God is in someone’s life is change. How can the miraculous change in Jesus Christ’s disciples be explained otherwise? A group of regular people who ran in fear for their lives and hid from the world like cowards.

After they saw a resurrected Jesus Christ they understood the temporariness of this soul cage and the eternity of the souls themselves. This change in the disciples changed the world. That change God used in those people continue to change the world today, one heart at a time.

Their change from coward to men of courage ultimately cost them their physical lives. They knew the risks of speaking the truth to a lost world and they understood the implications of teaching about the true King of Kings in a censored society. Yet they chose to live a life of change even in the face of death.

These people’s changed lives are recorded and God used their lives to change the course of humanity. This country wouldn’t exist the way it does if not for that supernatural change.

I think back to some changes in my life and the impact it had on others in my small world. Change is difficult, but it is good if done for the right reasons. I’ve come to realize the best way to measure if it’s done for the right reason, is to ask ourselves if it is about us or others. All of us know the answer to the questions of the heart.

Change isn’t for the faint of heart, it is difficult and will require a bit of courage relative to the significance of the business of change. Changing the world is our heritage passed down from those that knew fear yet lived above it looking up and out from themselves with wisdom.

I’m sure Alice Cooper is honored to have been selected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I’m even more certain he’s relieved to know that his name has been selected to God’s Book of life.

Alice Cooper is living proof that God is in the business of changing people’s lives. As I look back over my life I guess I am too…

What would you say to a famous childhood musical influence you had a chance encounter with in the hardware store? Would you ask about the music, the songs, the inspiration?

We talked about light bulbs…