Bless us with Kittens

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I have a close friend who told me a story of his younger days when he and his sister were praying that God would give them with two little kittens. They prayed this prayer because their parents had emphatically said … Continue reading

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Violets and Baseball

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Little did I know, but flowers have meanings. Yes, meanings; the flower symbolism associated with the violet is modesty, virtue, affection, watchfulness, faithfulness, love and even happiness. And I thought it was just a purple flower that had other not … Continue reading

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It’s Not Just Cereal

In my bedroom closet, on the top shelf, there sat the a box. On that box was a large picture of a family looking ever so perfect and full of bliss as that sat around the kitchen table to play the board game that the box contained. In my boredom as a kid, I drew on the box with a marker; I gave all of the people in the picture facial wounds such as black eyes, nose bleeds etc.

The man, who I guess was the dad of the family, had a talking bubble above his head that said something along the lines of “I beat my kids and my wife too;” as if to say “We’re just gathered around the table looking like a happy family playing a board game but really it’s just a show.” Now if by chance a child psychologist had seen this random act of graffiti to a board game box,  he or she might have assumed that I was beaten or dealing with some deep emotional conflict within my family life;  but that couldn’t have been farther from the truth, for  as a kid I simply thought it was funny to draw black eyes and talking bubbles on the people in the picture just for sake of being a goofy little kid (and just so you know I would still do something like that today).

Not only did I enjoy defacing the box that the game held, I also enjoyed playing the game inside. The game was called LIFE. It’d walk you through a series of choices and money making opportunities or money losses, you could get married, have kids, lose your job, get another one, experience a house fire, have a car repair, win a Nobel Peace Prize, and the list goes on.

At the end of the game there were two options for places to retire, one was the ritzy retirement mansion, the other was just your stereotypical retirement village with good landscaping and maybe a walking trail.  While the makers of the game did their best to depict the unpredictability of ones personal life, it still didn’t quite match up to the real thing.

I grew up not only playing the board game, but I also ate the cereal (the two are unrelated except that they have the same name). Mom always bought LIFE for us because it had more nutritional value than Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Coco Puffs, and let’s not leave out every kids favorite: Lucky Charms! The only time I really remember enjoying LIFE was when mom bought us the Cinnamon flavored kind, the regular Life just tasted like a box of flour that had hardened into little squares. But we still had to eat it.

I say this to illustrate the many different ways the word “life” is used. Besides board games or cereal the word is used in a multitude of circumstances, in everyday conversation, throughout the Bible etc. and it would be pointless to give examples for each usage, so I am allowing you the opportunity to think on how many different contexts the word “life” used.

Life isn’t necessarily undefinable, but it certainly encompasses many things and has numerous uses; and the purpose of this article has nothing to do with trying to define it’s meaning or all the ways in which we use the word; but more so it is to say that

life

is

a

battle.

Because every day we fight. That is, all of us who have some sort of functioning moral compass and even those who on the outside don’t appear to have one, well they do too; because we all fight something.

Arrogance, pride, lust, deceit, insecurity, depression, anxiety, anger, insert more here________ etc. You get the point…we all fight.

There is a song entitled Death of Me that I thoroughly enjoy listening to very loudly on my stereo. My neighbors may not appreciate it so much but maybe someday they will come around. In the music video for this song there is a depiction of a man dressed in all black and an identical man dressed in all white. Throughout the video, the man in black is chasing the man in white. At the end they meet on a rooftop, wrestle each other, and the man in white wins; not because the creators are racist but because the man dressed in black is supposed to represent sin, darkness, the things we are not supposed to indulge in, the things we fight everyday. (You may watch the video for this song here: Death of Me)

I love this song and the band that performs it (Red). In fact, many people are probably annoyed at how much I enjoy their music. Maybe it’s not so much their music that I find so masterful (after all they’re not The Bee Gees) but I love how applicable the theme is to a Christians life.

In Genesis 39, Joseph, a man who was well built and handsome, is seduced by a married woman (Potiphar’s wife). She tells him “Come to bed with me!” multiple times, but Joseph refused each time. She tried again grabbing Joseph by his cloak and saying again “Come to bed with me!” but he left his cloak and ran from her.

I find this story intriguing  because Joseph wanted to do the right thing all along and demonstrated that by saying no repeatedly and also because he was being tempted with sin and he simply ran from it. Now, I am going to guess that Potipher’s wife was probably attractive considering she made it sound as if saying “Come to bed with me!” was all the convincing she needed to do; or maybe Joseph was “just a guy” and she knew that however, he was different. What I find to be a crucial part to this story is that he didn’t argue with himself and say things like “Well maybe if I just slept with her once, it wouldn’t hurt anything” or “Maybe if I just slept in the same bed and cuddled with her she’d quit nagging me.” No, he knew that arguing with sin was a loss and it is still a loss for us today.

We ourselves must constantly fight, not merely against “giving into temptation” but we must also fight arguing with sin, because generally when we argue we lose.

Several weeks ago, I stood in a line full of mostly teenagers feeling incredibly out of place  just so I could meet the members of Red. I gave the lead singer my CD cover to sign and told him a brief story, his response was simple, but to me, meaningful. On the cover beside his name he wrote: Keep Fighting. Sometimes we need those simple somewhat cliche statements from our friends and family to help us along in our battles, and every now and then they come from song lyrics, music videos and if you’re lucky, from the members of a Christian rock band.

]While life is tasty at times, fun to play at others, and enjoyable to draw on,  it’s not just cereal or a board game, or merely something we live, it is a struggle, a battle, and sometimes the only thing we can do is: keep fighting.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” Ephesians 6:10-13

-Phil Carland

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“Let My Troubled Dreamings Cease”-Part II

A couple of weeks ago I posted a note expressing the arduous battle of emotions that I and many others are facing as we still mourn the loss of Amber. Many of you reached out to me, expressing your own similar feelings and for that I was comforted and grateful because there is no way that any of us can cope without each other and God; even though some of us may be really angry with Him.

Remembering Amber, how great of a person she was, and talking about how none of this makes any sense is healthy to say the least; because it will take a lot of different perspectives, prayers, and a variety of coping mechanisms for us to work through this mess. For me, I find that filling up journal pages with my thoughts is comforting as well as sharing some of these thoughts with you. So here is somewhat of a continuation to my last post. Read and comment as you wish….

Your ear itches, you scratch it.

Your nose is stuffy, you grab a tissue and blow with great force.

You have a headache so you take a Tylenol.

Your skin burns and is red, apply aloe vera for a soothing relief.

On the back of over the counter medicine bottles it reads “Temporarily relieves the symptoms associated with…” and then lists the symptoms.

It’s not a cure, it’s just a temporary relief. In other words, just because you take Imodium doesn’t mean you’ll never have diarrhea again…

Just like physical discomfort, we have ways of alleviating emotional discomfort too. What are they?

Well, why do people do drugs? Why are there alcoholics? Why do people look at pornography? Have sex with strangers? Why do people snap at you when you did nothing wrong? Because they hurt. We all hurt.

I still hurt when thinking about my friend. And there is no permanent cure for this, because sometimes pain is deep. But we always have a choice as to how we deal with our pain.

One time, as a hot-headed college doofus, I was trying to prove myself and ended up hurting my shoulder. In order to deal with the pain of hurting my shoulder, I punched a wall…then I had a hurt shoulder and a hurt hand.

Since Aloe Vera won’t work on getting rid of our emotional pain, we alleviate those pains in other ways, that aren’t helping us heal, they’re just temporarily relieving the symptoms or they’re just adding another wound…like punching the wall because you hurt your shoulder.

The morning after the worst hospital visit I’ve ever encountered, I had to drive back to Winston-Salem–on the interstate…the same interstate where my friend was killed. That morning a car decided to get right on my bumper, I assume the driver was in a hurry and thought that tailgating me would force me to move into the other lane. I was not pleased with his plan of action, in fact, if they had complied with my wishes I would have done everything in my power to beat the crap out of them on the side of the interstate, but they did not pull over even after I saluted them with one finger.

So, was I really mad at that driver for speeding and being an idiot? And if by chance I did somehow get a chance to punch them in the eye would it have helped?  Of course not. I didn’t know this person and it really didn’t do anything to me, and shooting them a bird certainly didn’t help alleviate my anger towards the truck driver that caused the massive pile-up a few nights before, much less bring back the lives that were lost. But in that split second where every sad thought about the recent event ran through my head, I did what I thought would relieve my anger and sadness; unfortunately it was done so by me acting like an idiot.

In his book Sex God (which I highly recommend) Rob Bell uses a a simple phrase to explain a cause for the actions we take, and says that there is a meaning behind what we do; “This is about That”. Such as the guy who beats his kids probably doesn’t really enjoy beating kids up, its more because his dad treated him that way and he’s “getting back” at him this way, taking his aggression out on his children. Or the alcoholic who is of course addicted to alcohol but is really upset because he got fired from his job and feels like a failure (I wrote a article about failure, you can read it here: https://pcarland.wordpress.com/2010/10/15/fail-is-a-four-letter-word/) or the guy who just lost a friend in a car accident and wants to flip birds to idiotic drivers.

So the “This” is a response to the “That” and the “This usually negative and just creates another “That” to be concerned about (Got that?- no pun intended).

We enjoy the quick fix, the one that doesn’t heal at all.

And Sometimes our pain is rooted deeper.

So we hurt and we want to heal but we do stupid stuff that ends up causing guilt and makes us feel dirty and gross. (I wrote a artile about dirt, you can read it here: https://pcarland.wordpress.com/2010/05/02/test/)

Some guy, that I’m not going to cite because I am lazy, said that “even the man who knocks on the door of a brothel is searching for God.” What are we truly longing for when we alleviate our pain? When faith is grim and weak and unsatisfying? When we feel like we need to be reset? Surely the answer doesn’t lie in pornography or pills or alcohol.

But the whole “trusting in the Divine” thing is hard to do when you feel like you’re angry at Him as well. And then a cycle is set in motion: you hurt, you alleviate pain in some unhealthy way, because you don’t want to rely on God because you may be mad at Him too. But then you breakdown and realize that He may be the only way you can truly be comforted, but then you just feel guilty for trying to come back to Him so all you’re left to do is hurt more…or cry out to Him.

Another guy that I’m not going to cite because I am lazy, said that the same word in Hebrew for “create” used in Genesis 1 is the same word used in Psalm 51 where David says “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me…Restore to me the joy of your salvation…”

Why is this significant? I’m no scholar but I’ve heard that this word for “create” in Hebrew is only used as a type of “creating” that is done by a Divine being. A truly supernatural act, such as the creating of the Heavens and Earth in Gen. 1. It is no coincidence that when we feel like we just need to be reset because our emotions are too heavy to carry and salvation and heaven and God and Jesus and all the sin we act out are just one giant mess that we have no idea how it’s humanly possible to clean up; perhaps it does indeed takes a Divine act, one that is just as vast and majestic as the creation of the world: a creation of a new heart.

So when we plead with God to remove the dirt and grime that linger after we sin or when we quit caring about faith in God because we feel he’s quit caring about us or the world; we like David have to plead with Him to Create in us a clean heart, renew our spirit and restore the joy of what it means to be saved and go to Heaven.

There are times when I still get frustrated with God because I hate the fact that when I go home to Hendersonville I won’t get to go out to dinner with her and Chris. But I know that frustration with God is all part of the process because there are two kinds of grief.

Grief that is hopeless and empty.

And grief that is mysterious, yet comforting and hopeful.

“Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep (or die), or to grieve like the rest of men who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13). Grieving is normal. And perfectly fine, even for those who lose people we love. But grieving like men who have no hope or have no God, just makes that cycle of pain and sadness get even deeper and darker.

While many of us still miss Amber and grieve because of her passing; we can have hope that we will see her again someday. Maybe then we can all go out to dinner together.

Create.

Renew.

Restore.

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“Let My Troubled Dreamings Cease”

I guess I still believe that the brighter moments of life outweigh the numerous times where the haze lingers. But there are times where that’s hardly believable;  like no matter how much you wash the dead bugs off the windshield they still obstruct your view or how much the weather man says “tomorrow will be sunny and warm” it still feels like its rainy and cold.

When we were children the world was so much brighter.  Faith, in all facets, was so much easier to uphold than it is now.

I recently learned that I hate the fact that all of life can be taken away in an instant. Every thing I’ve accomplished, all that I wish to accomplish. All my dreams, all my plans and all the things I look forward to. All the little moments that make us smile: they can all be taken away in an instant.

This was hardly a reality for me until I saw her lying in a coffin, lifeless; staring at her, I waited for her to sit up, to talk to me, to talk to us, just….talk.

But she didn’t.

She just laid there.

And that was all.

Four nights prior I remember trying to pray in the hospital, even though I didn’t know what to say. My prayer felt fake, inadequate, lacking eloquence. I was like a child begging his dad in the toy store. I was begging God to work a miracle, to keep her here on earth, to continue living her life with her husband; a life of being a good friend, a good sister, a good daughter, a good social worker. I just knew it was possible…

I cried so much at the hospital I left the hospital thinking I had no tears left to cry—but they still flowed. I knew it was bad and at this point virtually impossible for her to survive. But I still had some tiny grain of hope that there would be a miracle and she would heal and live and that she, her husband, and I could go out to dinner again, laugh, and talk about old times and discuss the future as we had done two nights before.

I tried to go to sleep but I kept replaying the last time I saw her, racking my brain trying to remember the conversations. I begged some more “God do what is impossible” and it played in my head like this:  The machines start beeping frantically; doctors rush in and stabilize her, calm her down because she’s scared, but okay. The doctors simply exclaim “It’s a miracle!” and life continues.

But the opposite happened.

The next morning I got a text message.

The doctors never found a miracle.

And standing in the rain beside my car I felt like my chest was caving in. My throat felt dramatically swollen from the lump you get when you’re about to cry. Along with the rain streaming down the side of my car, my tears once again streamed down my face. And there I stood in a big city surrounded by thousands of people but never feeling so lonely.

I worried about my friend- her husband- and how he was coping and how he would cope in the coming days. And about how her parents and brother and sister would deal with her death.

I went to the funeral and watched hundreds of people cry. I watched my friends, her husband and her brother in law mourn.

And rage filled my heart: “Why is this happening to them?” I thought.

Even now, I sit in church and hear how great God is and how He delivers us from danger and how people arrive safe because God kept them safe on the highway, and I ask—”well where was He that night?”

I try not to be one of those people who blame all the bad stuff in the world on God. But It’s an easy thing to do and understandable to say the least. And I know being mad at God doesn’t make as much sense as being mad at the jack-ass truck-driver who wasn’t paying attention to the traffic stopped in front of him.

But I still have no idea where God was that night or what He thought when witnessing 10 cars being bulldozed by a semi. Or what He thought when seeing the hundreds probably thousands of people cry at hospitals, visitations, funerals or when they saw it on the news. Or what He feels when larger scale disasters happen; earthquakes, hurricanes, wars etc.

All I know is that I still hurt when thinking about my friend. And I know that for me, one who relies heavily on his faith, it’s hard for me to completely abandon God or deny His existence even in moments where He seems so far away.

But it is certainly easy to quit caring about Him.

It’s in these moments where I (we) find ways to fill that void. And easiest when I’m certain that no one will ever find out how I feel that void. And how I feel like there was no other way to cope and no one was there to merely listen to me scream and cuss and confess all my weird, dark, cynical or screwed up thoughts. So I tell myself “it’s okay that I screwed up.”

And the encouraging words I do hear: “Just persevere through the bad…hang in there…great is your reward in heaven…Etc. etc.” are all meant for good, but…

They

just

don’t

seem

to

help.

Maybe I’m depressed. I hate that term because people who are depressed shove pills in their mouth to make themselves feel better. Maybe I’m just angry, but losing my temper hasn’t gotten rid of any anger either. Maybe I need a vacation but I have no money to go anywhere.

Maybe I just need to reconnect with God? And when I do reacquaint with him, then what? I wait? Wait for heaven to come along?

Tell me, What do I do in the meantime?

Sleep? Eat? Laugh? Cry? Work? Run? Play? Cook? Clean? Build? Jump rope? Surf? Bake?

I mean, why do anything on earth if I can be taken away in an instant?

Because there are so many times where life seems dull and God seems way off in the distance and every time I call him all I get is His voicemail.

And I see people react to Him like he’s a Bon-Jovi, raising their hands in His honor and shaking their bodies as they worship him; all that does is make me feel even more careless.

But even though presently, I have such a vast amount of negativity towards faith and all that it entails; and how unfair it seems to feel like all that I’ve done and want to do can vanish in a split second; I still can’t quite  rid my brain of the thought of heaven.

I have no idea what heaven is like or what we’ll do there. The Bible speaks on it but not in great detail like I want. What I do know is that I hope we know each other because it’ll suck having to meet all those new people…

I also hope my family is there with me; that we can all laugh there as much as we do when we gather at the holidays or when we go out to dinner together.

I hope that all the kids from the Boys and Girls club make their way there too; because I really do miss them.

I hope that we play softball there and that I can run even faster than I run here.

I hope all my high-school friends and all my college friends can finally get together and play a big game of VBT and never, ever, stop laughing.

And…I also hope that my wife, whoever she may be, is there and that we can still have some awesome sex…

As I conclude my rant, I must say that life makes no sense sometimes. But it also makes no sense to believe that all the garbage we face in this life, is all that we have to look forward to.

Because if this is it; if this is true joy, if this is euphoria; it’s one giant disappointment…

To be continued…

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Fail is a four-letter word

I took American National Government in college and because I did horrible on the first two tests, I quit going to class; and when I went to withdraw, it was too late and I received an F. I failed the class. Failure.

A man was in a car wreck and didn’t stop for the car that was coming and he got a ticket that read “Failure to yield.” Failure.

There is a popular website that people visit for a good laugh. On this site people submit photos and videos of “Failure” they capture with the cameras. It’s called Failblog.org and many people visit it and have even started saying “Fail” as a catch phrase; perhaps it’s replacing “Burn.” Failure.

And there is this pretty girl who has never really been loved by a man in her life and has no idea how men should treat women; so in an attempt to “feel love” she has sex with one man, then with many men; because on some weird level it just feels right. Even though deep down, she knows it’s wrong. Failure.

And there is this nice guy who also wants to be loved and knows what love should look like, craves it, but doesn’t know where to find it. So in order to try and fill this void he looks at porn and gets hooked, and even though he knows it’s wrong. He just can’t quit. Failure.

And there is this teenage-girl who is lonely and wants to feel happy, so she takes pills to feel happy and they make her high and in those moments that she’s high she doesn’t think about loneliness or sorrow, she feels elation. And even though it’s wrong and she can find happiness in other places that aren’t illegal or harmful, she does it anyway. Failure.

And there is this middle-school teacher who struggles with an intense form of lust and he tries hard to fight it; but even so, he is attracted to some of his female students. He doesn’t get help for his struggle, and it billows and one day he lets his imagination run wild and becomes addicted to his fantasies. And he is scared that one day he just might touch. Failure.

And this husband, who has made too many mistakes over and over, knows about them; he is aware of them and even regrets them. But the only way to forget about them is to get drunk and keep getting drunk, and now he feels guilty about that, but he just can’t quit. Failure.

And this guy who gets so mad at his wife that he just can’t control his anger so he raises his fist and he hits her. Even though he feels remorse and begs for forgiveness from her, he does it again because he can’t control his temper. Failure.

Oh, and this wife who got really angry at her husband and decided that she was sick of having him lie and cheat, so when he went to sleep she took his gun and shot him. Failure.

And there is this married woman who was having sex with a man who wasn’t her husband, she gets caught, and according to the rules, this woman should have rocks thrown at her for her punishment. Failure.

And there is this soldier who has sex with a beautiful woman that is actually married to one of his soldier friends; but he feels guilty and wants to hide his sin so he arranges to have her husband killed so the husband won’t know about the baby that really isn’t his. Failure.

And there is the man who has good people, righteous people, Christian people, put in prison, beaten and killed just for believing that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Messiah. Failure.

And there is this God who forgives all of these people…

And instead of Rocks being thrown at the woman caught in adultery, instead of her being stoned, she is told to leave her life of sin because everyone that wants to throw these rocks is also a failure.

And that soldier who got a married woman pregnant and killed the husband was one of the greatest kings history has recorded; a man after God’s own heart, a leader, a poet, a failure, listed in the lineage of Christ.

And that guy who was ruthless towards Christians became an extraordinary missionary; enduring the very things he used to do to people.

And again there is God:

Who tells us to put our rocks down when we see others fail.

Who gives us people to help us, and will always welcome us back when we fail.

But will never fail us.

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22

You are a failure. And sometimes your failures scream at you with a million voices inside your head telling you how worthless you are because of them. Then you feel guilt and it makes you more and more vulnerable to failing in the same way all over again. And this cyclic feeling of disgust and hopelessness feels irreversible.

So we keep it to ourselves, because we believe that these feelings may very well be too disgusting to admit to our friends, ourselves and even God. We convince ourselves that our sins are merely our sins and that bothering others with them or asking God for forgiveness is not really necessary because we are only hurting ourselves.

So why is it okay to not hurt others but it is okay to hurt yourself?

My friend and uncle pointed out to me that Jesus taught against this concept when he spoke on adultery; “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

So there were people going around teaching that it was okay to think about having sex with a woman who wasn’t your wife as long as you didn’t actually do it.

But that isn’t right. Because you are worth just as much as anyone else.

Whether or not our failures hurt others or not, they are still failures. And failures no matter how many times we indulge in them or how dark they are, they can still be forgiven upon request.

Anyone who has kids or has worked with kids knows just how frustrating it can be to say to a child “Do not do that” and have them go and do it, be punished for it, have them acknowledge that it was wrong, then have them go and do it again.

I am that child. You are that child. We are those children. Children of God who fail over and over, but are still loved and forgiven for reasons that are beyond my comprehension. I pray that our failures will be highlighted less and that our forgiveness will be stretched out more to our own selves and to those around us.

Failure.

Forgiveness.

**Please note that the examples herein are not connected with individuals that I know personally and are not meant to degrade, embarrass or “call anyone out.”

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In the Rear-view Mirror, It Looks a Bit Different (A sappy/nostalgic/happy reflection on a 3 year journey)

I don’t like admitting it; call it a struggle of mine, but people who are always optimistic get on my nerves. I know they mean well and I try to like them and my nerves try not to be annoyed but they are. And it’s not their fault; it’s my own. Mainly because I am prone to being cynical and I have a hard time with the whole “long-term patience” thing. I definitely would have been one of the many Israelites wanting to go back to Egypt.

Several years ago, I made a choice to by-pass broadcasting school, attend Harding, and get a degree in something completely different—Psychology. After graduating my plan was to move back home for a year, save some money then go to Graduate school or do…something different, I just didn’t know what that was.

I graduated college, (a proud moment for a boy who probably didn’t deserve to graduate high school). As I walked across that stage and shook my fist at the crowd in celebration, I had no idea that a year living at home would turn into three or that I would be working part-time at the Boys and Girls Club; no, all I thought about was freedom. I was finished. I graduated college. I made it. Things would be easier now, because I had a college degree…

During the course of the next three years, there were moments of frustration, indecision, confusion and times were I considered pursuing about every career known to man.

In fact, there was a time I seriously wanted to go to the fire academy. I started hitting the weights and running a little bit. I even ran inside the stairwell of the church building; up and down the stairs, carrying dumb bells, thinking this would help me in my quest of completing the Davis Dotson Firefighters Combat Challenge (look it up). I was always slightly paranoid someone would stop by the church building and be confused as to why I was running up and down steps, sweating profusely…in the church building. To my knowledge no one ever saw me and at some point in time I dislocated my knee playing slow-pitch softball so I decided to put the firefighter plan on hold.

For three years I had too many ideas floating through my head and no realistic plan for how I was going to go about doing them. I realized that being frustrated with life, praying for wisdom, applying for jobs and toying with a hundred different ideas that I was inevitably doing nothing….but waiting….or so I thought.

I felt like I was wasting time.

I felt like I was falling way behind my peers.

I was confused but not miserable, angry but not depressed, cynical but not completely without faith. And all in all, I knew it could be a lot worse and I was comforted by that, but I was still uncertain.

Now I look back…

And I wonder if something deeper than my own understanding was taking place.

Something I couldn’t see because of impatience.

Something spiritual.

I can’t prove it and won’t be able to, but during this time period, here are some things that happened….

My brother turned his life around, letting go of bad habits, renewing a relationship with God.

My sister graduated high school.

My Dad made some healthy decisions; eating better, started walking for exercise, and even went going to the doctor…something he never wanted to do.

I spent three years working with some pretty cool kids. I watched them grow, been driven crazy by them at times, and learned simple but valuable lessons from them that I will never forget.

I laughed, I cried, I complained about life and pondered where I fit into God’s master plan of running the gigantic universe.

I fought some intense spiritual battles and indulged in materials I didn’t need.

I pleaded with God to remove a thorn, but like Paul realized how God’s power is revealed in weakness. I reminisced, felt nostalgic about my past but realized that my future is just as big and exciting.

I worked for measly wages but met tons of interesting people along the way.

I prayed, lamented and expressed my cynicism towards God and his church.

And I asked the question we all ask when we are at a crossroads: “What am I going to do?”

And that’s life.

Full of good, full of bad.

Unpredictable.

Emotional.

And temporary.

Maybe it’s cliché to say it but, you and I will face trouble, frustration, failure, and the voice on the inside that screams at us “I have wasted time!” It’s inevitable and it will happen over and over to teach us that time is really not that important.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Timing may seem like everything, but sometimes it’s nothing.

Don’t lose heart.

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