THE BUSINESS OF CHANGE

the business of change

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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…

SHOESTRINGS

shoestrings

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With all the modern advances in our society, it’s been an understandable oversight to miss the amazing advances in shoestrings. Far be it from me to pass up something as important as this, you know I tackle the big issues!

As kids, it wasn’t uncommon to see the majority of us, especially boys with knotted together shoestrings keeping the tennis shoes on our feet. I remember vividly the “snap” of the cotton shoestrings upon a morning lace up.

We were masters of makeshift, quickly tying the knot below the eyelet where the string snapped and fishing the lace back through the eyelet, finishing with a less energetic pull on the now weakened string before the bow knot. If the plastic wrapped tip was gone off the tip of the shoestring the threading of the string back through the eyelet could be a difficult task. A quick lick of the thumb and forefinger, a twirling of the frayed members of the shoestring and the string was ready for eyelet re-entry.

No one thought much of this endless battle with shoestrings, it was just part of life. In a very elementary way, it prepared us for real life. Things break or don’t always go the way we plan them in this life and surprises are a reality in life that no one would argue with.

Don’t get me wrong I think the new shoestrings being thinner and stronger is a good thing, human ingenuity to make something smaller, better, and having solved an ageless problem is great.

The prevalent problem is beginning to be the belief that some things don’t break or that they shouldn’t. I don’t know anyone I’ve ever met that hasn’t been broken. Everyone and everything break in time, some sooner than others.

After we break we set out to mend ourselves just like we did our shoestrings when we were kids. Tie it up whatever it is and just pull a little easier on it the next time. Sometimes we don’t pull on our heart strings anymore at all in fear of snapping one again.

Some of our heart strings aren’t as strong as other people’s, but with time everybody gets their turn to snap theirs. Those repaired shoelaces carried us into some fun games, we never let a snapped shoe string keep us out of any game for too long.

So it should be for the snapped heart strings as well. Maybe we shouldn’t put our heart strings in a position to be pulled tight so often that they will snap prematurely. The great thing about our unseen heart strings is that they can be more than knotted or mended, they can be completely restored to their original strength.

God is in the business of miracles and one of those miracles is healing our hearts. All things physical within us or from without will break while living this life.  The question becomes if we let that incident define our life. Will we move forward like a child leaping back into the game with hope in our hearts, or will we let an accident change our perspective, sit on the sidelines of life and watch everyone else play the game God designed us to play called life?

As we get older I think we learn from experience the warning signs set before us that enable us to avoid some shoe or heart string breaks. There are people with troubles in this world that can affect our lives like a cancer. Those people read like street signs, “Slippery When Wet,” or “Dangerous Curves Ahead.”

As a kid, I’d never have broken my shoestrings on purpose. Why adults ignore God given warnings of potential breaking of our heart strings in personal and professional settings  I’m still trying to figure out. That, of course, includes mostly self-introspection. I think one is called wisdom, the other? Folly…

Thank God He can put together my heart strings infinitely better than I ever did my snapped shoestrings…

PRAYING

praying

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Last night right before dinner I asked Ali, “You wanna pray”? I say it as a question, but it’s not really a question, it’s an honor. There is something very peaceful and settling to have everyone home and to hear them pray.

I do the majority of of the prayers, but I also direct others in my family when I feel led. As we were bowing our heads to pray, an odd thing occurred. A conversation I had with a guy I know from the gym from months before pop into my head.

I wrote a post about our youngest’s first day of school back in August, some of you might remember it, it is titled THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL. She was nervous that day and I shared how I asked her if she wanted to pray. I described how I pushed back from the table and she sat on my knee as I prayed for her, the teachers, and other students.

I remembered the day after the guy from the gym I’ll call Carl read it and his reaction. His laugh and sarcastic tone popped into my mind and his questions, “Do people really live like that? “I thought that was only in stories”!

I find it interesting how our culture has twisted faith and trust in God into a weakness. Yet they bow and worship their God, usually their flesh inspired education, nature, or vices for their mind.

The most courageous people that God has used to change and influence the world are the ones who sought and bowed before Him. They didn’t, and we don’t kneel before man and this flesh in order to honor it, we have no faith in this flesh.

We only have faith in the God who’s imprint is all over the history of mankind. The miracle and power of God is evident for everyone to see unless a person is blinded and perishing.

I’m not yet the Stephen kind of Christian martyr, I’m more like an early Peter, looking to use a sword to cut someone’s ear off, not a great trait, but God’s working on me, have a little patience…

I shared with Carl the fact that I only bow before the Creator of the cosmos. We actually had an in-depth discussion and I have to admit I like this guy. I pray God likes him too, of course I told him that as well.

Last night even after all this time my heart breaks for Carl, I’m not saying my daughters are perfect, far from it, but they do know the truth and consider God and His will in their lives. Carl has issues with his daughter that will affect them both for the rest of their lives.

Carl has a boat load of difficulties in his life like most of us, yet with all his problems in life he scoffs at the very power that allows his every breath. As my family prayed I thought of him… I’m sad in spirit for what he could have, but doesn’t, at least not yet.

As a new year gets under way I can only think of God and pray as he puts it in my heart. God knows the desires of my heart, He knows everything about all of us. The question becomes will we live by the flesh like the rest of the world, or will we smile like Stephen even during persecution or difficult times?

What benefit will we be to the world on God’s behalf this year? What will we do with the gift of free will in 2011? We all get to use that gift to make a decision about how we’re going to live. Will we be trapped in our flesh fearing what might be around the next corner and financial quarter, or will we charge the corner and quarter with hope?

I need to remind myself of the hope we all have in God. Hope the way God designed it is confidence… I will kneel and bow my head humbly before my Father and Saviour, the only beings worthy of that respect and adoration. He will give us strength to stand back up and face the world without fear.

That is what I’m praying for in 2011…

I pray God opens the eyes, hearts, and minds of His people and this country to live in understanding of His sovereignty over all mankind.

Nothing happens here without God’s will or consent.

I believe understanding this truth alone will bring about a Happy New Year.

THIS IS MY STORY, THIS IS MY SONG

this is my story

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Occasionally in my life I’ve had God given epiphany moments. This isn’t the norm, but rather the exception in most cases. Some people refer to this process as “the light  bulb turning on,” so I guess you could say I’ve stumbled around in the dark more than my share over the course of my life.

Last Sunday I had one of those light bulbs, epiphanies, ah-hah moments, or God’s revelation, what ever you want to call it, in my mind and heart. Our church has started to finish each service with an old hymnal, of which I’ve previously written.

These old songs I heard systematically over the course of my childhood whether I liked it or not. I didn’t much care for them as a lad, but I’m ever grateful for that time as a child that has brought me to this point, where to use the word cherish to describe my feelings regarding the old songs would be and understatement.

The title of the song was “Blessed Assurance,” but the title was a bit fuzzy to me. As soon as we started singing I recognized the words that have become part of who I am, the words that would come to tell the story of my life as if written by my own hand.

This is the chorus of the song:

This is my story, this is my song

Praising my Savior all the day long

This is my story, this is my song

Praising my savior all the day long.

Pretty simple words to have such an impact on me, but isn’t that how God usually works? As soon as we got in the truck after church I wrote down that chorus on my trusty note tablet.

My wife kind of looked down, tilting her head to parallel her eyes with the lines of the page, she read it and didn’t say anything. However, she didn’t roll her eyes either, that’s how I knew it must be a God thing! (mostly kidding!)

The simple words lit my mind and pushed it out of the mental garage to start it on a journey now set before me. The title to my next manuscript is born. “This is my story…This is my song.” (If not illegal to do so) The story isn’t going to be about my story or song, but about how each of us have a story, each of us have a song.

When I consider the story and song of my life, I see and hear the first drafts and editions were rough around the edges. In fact, they were downright bad, not worthy of mentioning, but these will be recounted whether I want them to be or not.

That story from my life started off as a fun story but took some dark turns. The song of my life started like Beethoven’s 5th symphony, but soon turned to some unlistenable heavy metal.

Like Jesus’ story of the prodigal son, my life although far from perfect, is steering its way to the climax and denouement of the perfect happy ending.

It’s easy to lose sight of the story and song of our life. We get caught up in the day to day stress, distractions, and trials and we forget to stay focused on the main plot and ending of the story and song that accompanies it.

The manuscript God will use to speak to me and remind me of His overall view and plan. My hope is in the process He might use the words to do the same for others. Maybe it can help younger people to look at their lives from a different perspective

Maybe it will help me and others to understand the importance of each decision made every day and the ramifications of each one.

Maybe we can all gain wisdom and strength to stand tall at the ends of our lives and proudly say, “This is my story, This is my song.”

“THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT”

the devil made me do it

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Kids love cartoons, and I was no different as a youngster. As a child, I was most amused by the tiny exact miniatures of the main character that were positioned on both shoulders of the main character.

One shoulder held the good or angelic version of the main character, the other the bad or devilish character. They both had equal access to the star of the cartoon’s ears. The tiny character who represented the “good” side of the conscience would urge the actual character to do the right thing by encouraging him and telling him how good he was going to feel afterward.

The tiny character who represented the “bad” side of the conscience would do just the opposite. Sometimes the little devilish character would say something like, “What does he know, he never has any fun!–Don’t you wanna’ have fun?– What’s it gonna hurt just one time?– C’mon, you deserve this!”

I always enjoyed the entertainment and the way all three characters who represented the same character were portrayed. Even at a young age I understood perfectly the point and humor in the portrayal of our free will. The battle that rages inside every human head and heart.

As I got older I realized even more the genius of whoever the original writer was. It was so clever that almost all the other cartoons on TV copied it for at least one episode.

As I interact with different people in the course of my life it becomes evident to me which conscience had the metaphorical “ear” of the person I’m talking with. They seem to have similar traits to the ones portrayed in the cartoons when I was a kid. The “bad”, the one that thinks “the devil made me do it” seems to be a little more prevalent and certainly easier to spot.

While I still am amused to see some of those old cartoons, I’m left with a hollow spot for the world who literally thinks “free will” is a cartoon or a joke. We never get away from the battle inside our brain while living as ourselves, the main character in our real life cartoon.

The origin of the battle in our conscience can be from the civilized laws handed to us by authority figures as we grow and participate in society, or it can be from God himself calling from within the heart and brain.

Everyone has to make a choice and there is only one side or the other. The choice isn’t just about wrong or right, good or bad, it’s about understanding the mysteries of the universe. It is about learning that while the cartoon is amusing, it may just have been designed to make light of what is very real.

There are opposing forces in this world. One is not a small cartoon figure, HE is the power that created the sun, earth, and all the cosmos. He is the very power that sustains it at this very second. He is a billion light years away and simultaneously He is all around us. For those of us who used that “free will” to believe, He is also inside our soul which resides temporarily inside this physical body.

Him within us is the power provided to take us up with Him when we have passed our short time here. The other power is not a cute cartoon figurine either. He is the author of selfishness, the root cause of all bad things in this world and all evil things start with that.

That root spreads like poison to jealousy, hate, and ends with the murder and eternal capture of the soul. He Satan, is the father of lies, and like that little guy on the shoulder in the cartoon will say the exact same things. He knows our weak points, he targets our senses and selfishness.

The consequences of that choice is no laughing matter…Even if the cartoons are.