Bless This Mess!

Have you ever seen a tongue in cheek petition like the one on the left displayed in the home of someone you know? Have you ever felt as if those words might be a pretty fair description of your own circumstances?

I know I have!

Sometimes the pace of the work in progress known to me as my spiritual life seems painfully slow or to even be moving in the wrong direction!Named among my numerous transgressions are things such as mean spiritedness or being judgmental and becoming quickly irritated or impatient with people or things I interact with daily. As much as I don’t like those aspects of my personality, what’s far more disturbing to me is my own tolerance,nay comfort with them!

It’s a bit of a mess…

One the most difficult,and yet most important things about being a follower of Christ I’ve struggled with is how a Holy God could love a very un-holy sinner like me…There are exceptions, but for the most part Love as I’ve been able to understand it is about deserving or qualifying for it in some way.In this world we pick winners and losers,we analyze and judge people constantly choosing to love in others the “good” aspects we recognize in ourselves. At it’s core it’s selfish and based on lies fed to us via our own personal self-exhalation express the ego. We rationalize their validity based on societal dogma, which is nicely packaged and fed to us under headings such as self esteem and positive affirmation. The truth is the only real basis for “self” esteem any of us can actually claim is that we’re loved by our omnipotent Heavenly Father!

That’s it!

That’s our “claim to fame”

And it’s much more than enough!

Why?

Because it’s a claim that’s based on something real, real because it’s unthreatenable! It doesn’t change or cease to be for any reason. All of the things we esteem in this world will fade away or can be lost in an instant, but NOT Gods love!

Recently I read a status on FB which said that God works through imperfect people and circumstances to accomplish His purposes. My reply was,

“Is there any other kind?”

Our Father loves each of us Just the way we are…

Warts and all

But He loves us too much to just leave us that way!

His death on the cross was a victory over sin and death that was done on our behalf, that we may have eternal life. I also believe that the power of His shed blood gives Christian’s the opportunity to claim that victory over their own here and now life circumstances

Truly, we’re all a bit of a mess!

How wonderful is it then,that…

 Jesus is the Great Mess-iah!!

Emmanuel עמנואל, “God is with us” Part III

If we could, for even just a day, have our eye’s opened to all of the many way’s in which God intercedes for each of us on a personal level perhaps we’d better understand Paul’s seemingly impossible exhortation here…

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice evermore.Pray without ceasing In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Maybe that means keeping a deer from running out in front of your vehicle. It might mean keeping any uncontrolled cell growth which commonly exists within each of our bodies from becoming cancerous.

Recently, it was the job I didn’t get that I’m thankful for!

I had applied for an over the road driving job with a smaller company who ran regional freight. During the ensuing interview which seemed to go very well I remember the owner telling me that because of how junky his equipment was I would have to drive around scales and that I would be paid on a percentage of what the load paid. Despite both of those pieces of really bad news I filled out the application he gave me and faxed it back to him ready to work if and when he called!

But he never did…

So I called another company that I had been considering who I knew ran first class equipment but who also ran a much bigger territory. I was hesitant about my ability to meet their expectations because it had been over four years since I drove on that level. The thing is,God didn’t really leave me any other options! Getting back into the transportation industry with no recent experience is difficult so I was ready to take anything…

but I was also well…afraid!

I struggle with anxiety and fear quite a bit, it’s one of the biggest areas my Heavenly Father is helping me to grow in! Mostly by protecting me from things that would overwhelm me totally, other times by just being close to me in the midst of any circumstances that I feel threatened by. What faith is to me is knowing that God had control of my circumstances yesterday, and so therefore also has my today and tomorrow under control as well!

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

That’s what this verse means to me…It’s also why I’m so thankful! There’s nothing as empowering and fear squashing as knowing that the omnipotent God who created the heavens, the earth, and all that is,is with you and that He cares about YOU!

Does that mean nothing bad ever happens to me?

We all know that “Stuff Happens” don’t we…

The question most people have is when does the “stuff” STOP happening?

It stops when GRACE happens! When we come to the place where we can truly say,

“Father, not my will but yours be done”

and mean it…

Several years ago I was driving along in my truck near Jamestown N.Y. on hyw 87 on my back west after doing four drops earlier in the day. I had heard that the D.O.T. was setting up in the rest areas inspecting trucks so I was very leery of being inspected. It was later in the evening, maybe 8pm,and usually they quit inspecting at dark so I thought I was home free…then I saw it,the flashing yellow lights on the roadside sign,”surely this is some kind of construction warning” I thought,but as I drew closer startled panic settled on me as the words “all trucks must enter” assaulted my unbelieving eye’s! I was trapped and there was nothing I could do…no ramp to pull off of and “fix it” so with cold resignation I pulled off onto the ramp twoard the man waving his flashlight holding hand at me.What else could I do but accept the fact that I was screwed,perhaps my full cooperation and good attitude would as they had so many times before see me thru,I doubted it.As I pulled to a stop he stepped up onto my side step and spoke to me,

How’re we doing tonight? Oh,I’m doing fine I guess…What’re you hauling? Nothing, I’m empty. Well, have a good evening then!

And that was the extent of it, I hauled out of there on an adrenaline high that would entice any skydiver,or cause a lion tamer to stare curiously in wonder,not yet ready to dip my chip in the “crock of life” I’d just been handed,it just seemed un-real to me. Why did ‘nt he at least ask to see my log book? thats S.O.P. basic stuff,you look at the driver,gauge his condition,look at his book,and then if all seems right,you send him on,or if,as was the case here,you’re not at all busy,just send him inside anyway for the 3rd degree check,you know,wanted/warrents/unpaid tickets/child support un returned library books,lol really! but he did’nt,so I’m driving down the road thinking, WOW! that could have been a whole weeks salary down the tubes but for some reason which I can’t explain I just walked thru the fire without so much as a mark on me…Does the Lord work in mysterious ways? did he know that if I would have been shut down/fined etc…that it might break my spirit? someday I’d like to ask him.

Emmanuel עמנואל, “God is with us” Part II

Long before the first wisp of chimney smoke makes it’s way up the flue and is carried along on the chilly November breeze to our olfactory senses, the preparations have already begun. With the passing of the oppressive summer heat and the previous vocational opportunities it afforded me I made new plans. It’s fall,and so it’s time for me to shift gears once again…

Literally!

Working in the logging woods is one of the cornerstones of the local economy where I live employing perhaps half of the local people in various capacities. In the past six years my involvement has been in nearly every aspect of it at one time or another.I’ve operated sawmills,skidded logs,hauled logs and sawed out products such as railroad ties and “cants”. However,one thing I’d never done before was haul bulk logs on a “pole trailer” which is basically a very long piece of steel pipe with log stakes attached.

                                     looks like fun doesn’t it?

Well let me tell you it’s not…At least not for me it wasn’t!

The reality of the dangerous nature of the work I was doing combined with the questionable mechanical integrity of the equipment I was operating was the source of much anxiety for me. Hauling the massive loads of logs to the local mills was also problematic in that I was sure any DOT officer worth his salt would certainly shut me down and ticket me based on the numerous safety compliance violations of said vehicle.

But what a blessing…I immediately made a renewed commitment to praying!

I did it before leaving,quite often during the trip,and then I thanked God after and despite all of the aforementioned complications I was able to be quite successful. From my perspective God was faithful to me in so many ways during this time. A specific example of Gods favor toward me was that despite the fact that I was carrying very heavy loads on some very thin trailer tires over roads full of sharp rocks I only had one flat tire! If I’d of had that flat on the state highway instead of on the gravel road where it did happen it definitely would’ve been a much bigger deal! It happened right in front of this old country church which gave me the opportunity to check it out and take some really neat pictures of it’s interior! I’ve had people tell me it’s a symptom of being delusional to place unwarranted significance upon chance occurrences or to read too much into what is most likely just coincidence and I understand that…but when you’re hauling a load of logs down a two lane hilly,curvy road and you experience a sudden loss of power due to a lack of fuel and then at the last moment before you stall out in the road you see a perfect place to pull over it’s hard to just brush it off as luck…over and over again

I wonder if they understand that?

Emmanuel עמנואל, “God is with us” (part 1)

That seems to be the only possible title for a post that endeavors to describe the many ways in which God’s been faithful to me in the past year…I truly am the grateful recipient of His grace which is defined as the unmerited favor of God.

What else can I say?

He loves me!

It’s the only way I can begin to understand how my family has once again very comfortably “made it” through another year! Especially a year like this past one in which so many were negatively affected. As it draws to a close and I look back on the many ways Gods cared for us I feel many emotions. First of all I’m humbled,and then I’m bewildered at His love for me. It’s hard to truly understand what I mean unless you’re someone like myself who is at times perhaps a bit more “human” than most in that I have a history of making more than my share of mistakes and bad choices. Most people find it pretty easy to explain away the “near miss” or disregard what could’ve happened under slightly different circumstances but I can’t. I suppose that’s because I’ve seen it happen so many times or perhaps it’s because I’ve been “blessed” to see myself so clearly for who and what I really am without Him.

It’s been quite a year for me, the job I had at the beginning of the year ended when the teenage girl I was working as support staff for flipped out one day and took an overdose of her prescription drugs. It was quite traumatic for everyone involved, afterwards everyone was put under investigation by the department of mental health. I was cleared of any charges of neglect,which is a very big deal and I was extremely relieved. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong but I also know that people get wrongly blamed for stuff all the time.

Thank You God!

My next job was a blessing in it’s self. I worked over the summer for the Eleven Point River canoe rental outfitter in my hometown shuttling people down to the river to go on float trips!

It was a great experience for me to meet so many interesting people and to be able to play a part in their summer fun! Where I live is such a beautiful place and I never grew tired of introducing others to it’s wonders. Oh,and on top of all that I got paid for it!

God…You’re my rock,and you ROCK!

Among the things I’m most thankful for this year I have to include being invited to join a small study/worship group which meets at a friend’s home nearby. For a while prior to that I had stopped going to church. I soon found the groups emphasis on study and open discussion as well as the great time of fellowship we shared to be just what was missing!

It’s wonderful to come together with other Christian’s and really be the church to those in need in your own community. That’s what attracted me to become involved with an organization called One Hope Outreach located in my hometown of Springfield, Mo. They’re focus is helping homeless people find permanent housing and empowering them to make positive changes in their lives. This photo was taken at a fundraiser which was held at a local restaurant.

Thank You Father for meeting ALL of my needs, both physical and spiritual! Thank You for giving my life meaning and purpose!

Just Another Christmas Story

What’s your favorite Christmas story? Perhaps it’s one of the many works by Charles Dickens such as A Christmas Carol or The Cricket on The Hearth. My personal favorite was always

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry.

With it’s emphasis on man’s redemption, the yuletide season serves as a fitting backdrop for so many great stories and novella’s. Not only do these works wonderfully entertain us with their irony and drama, but in a classic fashion they remind us of what is yet good in this world by projecting it against what is evil. Speaking to the faint glimmer of hope held within each of us the desired effect is to draw us in. To, through the timeless magic of the story, embolden us to confront our own internal struggles and to realize some similar victory of virtue within ourselves. These stories are about giving and receiving and the triumph of good over evil in mens hearts. They hold out to us the possibility of a different perspective than the cynical one held by so many in this world today.

The following is my Christmas story, on the surface it’s about how I overcame my own personal obstacles and made it home for Christmas one year but on a deeper level it’s also about faith and trust in something much bigger than myself.

Making specific plans when your a truck driver can not only be an exercise in futility, but one of frustration as well. This is due to the fact that as such you’re continually at the mercy of a far greater range of un-foreseen happen-stance that can, just like they did in John Steinbecks novel Of Mice and Men, wreck havoc on “even the best laid plans” that one might make. Knowing these things full well, I didn’t make a lot of specific plans that year, I simply knew that one way or another I was going to get home by Christmas!  The company I drove for at the time routinely shut down on the 21st of December and so on the 20th I was set to deliver my last load of tools to a sale truck in Indiana which would then free me to come back west and stop over at “the house” during the holiday. But after delivering my load and placing a call to my dispatcher (who plays the part of Scrooge in this drama) I was informed that after my drop, I was needed to make a pick up in Kentucky that would have to then be taken back to the warehouse in Kansas without delay.

OOP’S!

As I drove along I reasoned that the natural solution to this dilemma would be to simply call my wife and have her pick me up in K.C. (a 6 hour drive) but after inquiring after such, I was informed that she had to work (3rd shift) every night until Christmas, making it quite impossible for her to come and get me.

OKAY…

Another complication was that I had a bunch of gifts in the truck with me that I’d bought.  My only option available seemed to be to call her and have her meet me at a point closest to home on my way back west and drop the gifts off with her thereby freeing me up to then make my way home by whatever means unencumbered. After achieving that objective rather easily, I continued in my duty and returned to the warehouse in Kansas arriving around mid-evening. Resolved to my lack of any other remedy for my predicament I slept for a few hours and before light the next morning I was on my way back the way I had just came toward my home.

How you ask? by what mode or method? on foot my friend…

I took off walking with only a rolled up rain poncho and a black magic marker to make my destination signs with. I had to walk about 10 miles on 207th st. which is a gravel road before I came to hyw 69 at Stanley Ks. I scrambled up an embankment to the 4 lane road and within minutes was offered a ride with an older gentleman who took me to Harrissonville Mo. Next, I was given a ride from the 7/71 jct. on the back of a 1 ton flatbed all the way to Spfd, Mo. It was a very cold ride but despite my discomfort, I was most content, quite thankful even…imagine that!

Soon I arrived in Spfd at the I-44/13  junction, my new friends were headed into town and so I hopped off there. I was rather numb in my legs from the cold and so my walking was with a stiff limp. I hobbled over to the nearby McDonald’s for the days first “nourishment” of any kind and upon returning to my journey couldn’t help but notice how many people were crowding the ramps of the highway that day, panhandlers holding signs each pleading their case for charity. I remember I felt some embarrassment at that because I was afraid I would be mistaken for such because of my cardboard sign that read,”hyw 60 east” but I had come much too far to let such a baseless reluctance dissuade me.

It was nearly midday now and I had made it close to half way home! In the waning hours of that late December afternoon what I remember the most was walking what seemed like great distances on the snow covered frozen shoulder of the highway, hands and feet stinging from the lack of circulation in them, feeling the blasts of frigid air pushing me back and then swirling around me as the endless convoy’s of the freight trucks blasted by. Under these circumstances,one must also steel themselves to the thousand’s of curious stares fixed upon them by passing motorists, each with questioning eye’s which at times seemed to ask,

“What are you doing out here?’

But the Lord was with me…and after several warm comfortable rides I traveled the remaining 150 miles. By 4:30 that afternoon I was on the phone to my stunned wife asking her to drive the short distance into town and pick me up! As I think back I’m still amazed by many aspects of what occurred that day. I’m amazed at the kindness of strangers who perhaps disregarded their better judgement in giving me a lift that day. I’m amazed at my own tenacity that I would even attempt such a thing. Being put in the position I was, what was most essential to me was my faith and trust in God, that he was with me and that he would make my way if only I would just continue to put one foot in front of the other quite literally walking in faith! My feeling was that for every step I took after Him, He took two towards me! It was as if he longed to express his love for me and show me that no detail is too small to escape his notice and that nothing can separate me from his love and care…Several years have passed since then, but just like so many other times in my life before and since when I needed Him, my heavenly Father was always there!

No matter what season it is, can a man have any more comfort than that?

tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy…