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Pleasant (and unpleasant) Surprises

Today has been really interesting.  Felt sick and mostly stayed home.  Ok, I felt lazy too!  🙂  But, my stomach has been a “blender” today, so I didn’t feel like venturing out too far.  However, I needed to do some venturing and forced myself to do so starting around 1ish.  About that same time, my 2-year-old daughter decided to find out whether or not my cell phone can float in the bathtub.  It can’t.

Later in the day, my van would threaten to leave me stranded—I’m still trying to figure out what my 2-year-old did to the van!  Surprisingly enough though,  I drove about 100 miles in said van after the unpleasant surprise of nearly stalling out.  I spent time with my father and saw the parents of an old friend.  Enjoyable, but put me behind schedule for a Small Group I lead on Monday nights.  With no phone, I was unable to let people know I would get to the meeting a little late.   Well it wasn’t really “people” I wanted to notify; they are teenagers.  They used to be “people.”  They will one day be “people” again. But I digress…

No worries though, the students who were able to make it tonight waited patiently for me to arrive.  And when I say “waited patiently,” I mean they rearranged our meeting space!  They also created a new game using notecards, pool balls, and bolts. There I go digressing again.

But now the “real fun” begins—the pleasant surprises.  Since we were limited on time, we wound up just hanging out and having an informal discussion about what it means to “follow Jesus.”  This discussion was loosely based on the book we are studying, Not a Fan.  Mostly it was just a chance for them to talk about the challenges of living out their faith in the day-to-day reality of teenage life.  And, long story short, they are passionate about being more than fans of Christ—they passionately long to follow Him.

The other pleasant surprise happened when I left the meeting to go home.  About a mile from my office I realized I had left some things behind. I needed to return and grab them, so I started driving back.  I decided to make my return trip through a neighborhood I don’t frequently drive through—a student lives there who has just lost his father to cancer.  My intention was to merely do a “drive by” (shooting up prayers for him as I drove by the house), but he was actually out in his driveway playing basketball.  Alone.  It was a great opportunity to visit and pray with him rather than just for him.  And I absolutely believe God orchestrated the opportunity to meet with him on “his turf.”  It was a moment that perhaps surprised me, but not God.  🙂

I hope you’ve also had a few pleasant surprises today!

The Week in Quotes!

I’ve done precious little blogging this week.  Haven’t written much and haven’t read much.  But I have found some really great “nuggets” of wisdom in much of the little I have read.  I wanted to share with you some quotes from a few of the writings I was impacted by this week.  This is also a great way for you to perhaps discover a new blog you’ll love.  And, who knows, maybe I’ll pick up some “finder fees” for sending you their way?  I doubt it, but a boy can dream, right?!?  🙂

This pretty much punched me in the gut.  Lots of wisdom in this quote:

No one is ever satisfied when they’re not doing their best.  When you do your best and fail it’s more acceptable than failing when you aren’t really trying.”

The quote below touches on some conversations my wife and I have had this week.  I’m “thankful” to know others are in our shoes and can speak to it in such a powerful way!

The last few times I was faced with this blatant ungratefulness I didn’t handle it very well.  I got irritable and frustrated and snappy.  How dare my children be so ungrateful?  Don’t they appreciate all I do for them, all I give them?  It was at about that point I felt God whispering in my ear about my own gratitude towards Him.  Do I even notice all the things He does for me on a daily basis?  How many blessings in my life do I treat as burdens? …I realized then and there that if I expect my kids to be grateful, I need to show them exactly what it looks like.”

Charles is such an encouraging blogger/author/poet.  I look forward to reading his homespun wisdom and Godly insight every week.

God puts us on this earth to do His will, and He blesses us with everything we need to do it. It might be assets, talent, a strong body, intelligence, health, or just a good and loving personality. Whatever attributes you need, to do what the Lord needs done, are available to you, and I believe when you begin to focus on God and His will for your life, He will provide them to you, and you will know how to use them to His glory.”

Linnea’s site has become one of my favorites to read each week.  Especially this week!  Things were hopping over there, and as usual, she brought much insight “to the table.”

My hope in readily confessing my dark side is to get people to stop and think about their own….Truthful self-awareness must exact humility and humility is required in order to love others as we love ourselves.”

RabidMongoose always is a straight-shooter with well informed posts about issues of spirituality—especially for men.  But this post was a great read for all of us since it deals with an issue we all face at times.

We look at resentments. We’ve found out they are a distortion of the truth – a way to take a situation, cast the blame on somebody else, and totally escape, so we have nothing to do with it whatsoever!” – Joe McQ, The Steps We Took …This quote from Joe McQ’s book The Steps We Took sums up perfectly what I do with my resentments: I absolve myself completely of all responsibility for a problematic situation, making the issue everyone’s’ fault but mine. Resentment is a tool I use to live in denial: It allows me to create a shield around my fragile persona that ‘protects’ me from the truth about myself…I cannot keep holding all these resentments in. I need to accept responsibility for my own actions…

Feel free to share some quotes you have found (or wisdom you have written) in the comments below!  You’ll help me do a better job of catching up before the week is *officially* over!

Now I have the privilege of getting ready for a “date night” with my Beautiful Bride.  Hope to catch up with all of you wonderful bloggers soon!

“Bummed” Out

I briefly thought about a different kind of bum picture, since this post is about a different kind of bum.  Any kind of “bum” pic I posted was going to be a funny one, but the one above really made me laugh.  “Monkey butt” would have also made me laugh, but I found this pic first!  🙂

And since I’m *loosely* writing a post about thankfulness, the pic I chose gives me a great opportunity to state that I AM THANKFUL!  Thankful I can speak and walk.  Thankful I have (most of) my teeth.  Thankful for a job.  Thankful I’m not yet wearing diapers again.  Thankful that God does indeed bless!

This post is also about something I’m fearful of: my oldest daughter growing older!  She’s always been a challenge, but so far we’ve only had to deal with “little girl challenges.”   Yesterday & today, however, I’ve gotten a real big “wake-up call” about what the future may hold.  We have a newish neighbor who is the same age (9) as our oldest.  She has already proclaimed her undying love for new neighbor boy.  Anytime she has permission—and many times she doesn’t—she makes a beeline for his house.  Last night was an example of a “no permission” trip to the house next door.

We had just returned home from church, and before I even had a chance to realize she wasn’t in our house, she comes running through the door shouting: “You won’t believe what I just saw!”  Turns out, she was right!  I didn’t believe what she had just seen.  As I was getting her younger sister out of the van and in our house,  Big Sister snuck over to “neighbor boy’s” house—at bath time.  As her visit was unexpected, neighbor boy was apparently standing in his living room in the buff.  He took off down his hall as soon as my daughter began knocking on their door.  Thankfully, she only saw his backside.  (See, I told you this post is about thankfulness!)

I tried to downplay the event last night.  But today she made it pretty clear: I definitely have reason to be worried.  She said (in a rather dreamy manner): “Dad, last night was the best night of my life!”  Having “sometimers disease,” I just had to ask:  “Why?”   She grinned and said, “You know Dad…cause of what I sawww!  I can’t believe I actually saw his bum!”   (Insert mental image of Dad pulling hair out here)

But thankfully I have a pretty level-headed wife.  She reminded me that these emotions in our daughter were bound to happen some day.  (Though she did admit it’s earlier than she had expected as well!)  But she also said something that is crucially important.  While we continue to teach our daughter the benefits of living with moral integrity, the most important lesson we can teach her is to live a life of love for God!  Whether I like it or not, there will be a day in the future (like when she’s 25) when she won’t be constrained by any of my rules or expectations.  It will be her love for God alone which will compel her to make wise, godly choices as she grows, spreads wings, and becomes completely independent.

So today this “bummed out Dad” is most thankful for a God who has made this promise: “(be) confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 1:6)

What Has Your Journey Been Like?

written for Kellie’s Free-Write Friday prompt

The “blogosphere” is a somewhat new experience for me. I’m still learning much; in fact, I’m barely able to post my own writings. No joke, this is the second time I’m writing this post because I just lost the original writing!

What I’ve come to enjoy most about the blogosphere is the genuine sense of “community” that can be found when one is actively engaged with other bloggers. It’s really quite a wonderful community to be a part of! Plus, there aren’t any speeding tickets given out in this community! (Can you tell I’ve been the victim of a couple of “small town speed traps”?) 🙂

It has been a real joy to read your blogs and get to know you through your posts. Fellow bloggers have inspired and encouraged, made me laugh and cry. Thankfully, I’ve laughed more than cried! And you’ve also made me think. An example of this was earlier in the week, when I read a post by a blogger who is new to me. In his post, he shared the story of how he came to a faith-relationship with Christ. I commented (a brilliantly insightful comment I’m sure…lol) and moved on to read another blog. However, this new friend invited me back to his blog by asking a really important question: “What is the story of your journey with God?”

That question has stayed with me all week. It’s stayed with me because I think it is not only a great question to ask of others but is also a crucial question to ask of ourselves from time to time. Today, I discovered the perfect photo prompt to motivate me to write about this question. My personal journey has been a drama and a comedy (you’ll understand if you ever see me *try* to dance). My journey has been poetic, but it’s also been some very poorly written prose (of course, that was mostly due to college assignments!). I was fortunate enough to become a Christ-follower at a young age. However, I’ve been stubborn enough to choose several “wrong paths” in the years that have followed. In spite of my obstinacy, God’s love has been constant and His Grace sufficient. The longer I live, the more I realize I am completely dependent upon God’s faithfulness!

And now it’s your turn to share. I’ve been so blessed, and even honored, by the honest comments so many of you have left in the past. So I end today’s post with the same question for you: What is the story of your journey?

Real Life Hunger Games: Andrew Mohandis

I’ve had something on my mind all week, and keep thinking I’ll write a post.  Then I don’t.  I’m not good at much, but I’m GREAT at procrastinating!  Which makes me realize, if all I do is have great thoughts, but no action due to great procrastination, I’ll experience my own great hunger.  Just some “food for thought” for myself.  I do bounce around a bit…sorry!  🙂

Normally (well, always) my wife uploads my posts because she actually knows how to do it.  But she explained a few things to me the other day, so I thought I’d give it a go on my own today.  Here’s to hoping my attempt is successful. (And if you’re reading these words, it has been!)

REAL HUNGER for a REAL BOY

Sunday I had an opportunity to hear from Andrew Mohandis, a young refugee from South Sudan.  Due to God’s mighty work, Andrew is now attending college near where I live.  I call him a “refugee” because he has been delivered from a life of unbelievable danger.  As a boy, he and his family were ripped apart when some of his siblings were abducted.  He and his parents then spent several years living in the woods, eating whatever they could find for survival.  His father taught him to hunt and fish, and also encouraged him to share his blessings with others who were living in the forest—family or not.

After a few years, U.N. Peacekeepers were able to establish some semblance of safety for the people of South Sudan.  At that time, Andrew’s family moved back to their village.  However, there were still weekly attacks, including bombs dropped from airplanes.  The U.N. workers would sound an alarm, and all of the villagers would run to take cover in foxholes they had dug themselves.  Andrew spoke of how this was a time of singing and praying for him and his family, but also a time of loss, as there were almost always casualties somewhere in the village.  By the time Andrew was a teenager, some missionaries had helped him attend high school in Uganda, but even there, he witnessed much bloodshed.

Andrew concluded his time of testimony by sharing with us that, as much as he enjoys the freedom and safety of life in the U.S., his plans are to return to South Sudan and begin a school there to help other young children who need love, food, security, and education.  He’s been blessed for these past few years with a life he could have never imagined when fighting to survive out in his boyhood jungle.  Yet he is itching to return to that war-torn area, so he can be a greater blessing to others.  Powerful.

You can read some of Andrew’s testimony, in his own words, here:  http://threesixtybirmingham.blogspot.com/2010/08/from-sudan-to-birmingham-for-sake-of.html

HELPFUL HUNGER

I’ve thought frequently of Andrew this week.  His story and some of your blogposts have reminded me of how important it is to “count my blessings” and not get caught up in my own problems or worries.  And Scripture has served as another great reminder!

But then this morning, my wife and I were talking about the book The Hunger Games (which I’m currently reading), and she mentioned something about how some of the characters in the book had the benefit of not being hungry.  It was these people who had the luxury of being entertained.  Any number of things could entertain them—even the starvation and deaths of those less fortunate.  And in that conversation, I realized that one of my greatest problems is that I live with the luxury of being entertained.  So much so, that when not “entertained,” I have the luxury of dwelling on my own worries a bit too much! 

In days to come, I hope I will be more like my new friend Andrew: Thankful for this luxury I now know, but hungrier than ever to share my blessings—however meager they may be—with those who don’t have the luxury of being entertained.

Looking at the Flip Side of Love

Looking at the Flip Side of Love.

If you click on the link above you will find a bit of explanation about this thought-provoking piece written by Linda Krushchke.

Hate Is . . .

Hate is impatient,
toe tapping, eye-rolling,
in a hurry for instant gratification

Hate is mean,
treating others unkindly,
bullying, and insulting

Hate is envious,
not happy for others’ prosperity,
wanting what others have,
and for them not to have it

Hate is boastful,
puffed up, pointing to self-accomplishments,
not recognizing contributions of others

Hate is not humble,
but is arrogant, filled with hubris
proudly thinking oneself better than all,
pretentious and vain, always vain

Hate is rude,
abusive and insulting, vulgar,
disrespectful, and never caring for others

Hate is self-seeking,
it’s-all-about-me attitude,
selfish and egotistical, self-important

Hate is easily angered,
irritated by the slightest mistake,
hot-headed, unwilling to forgive

Hate keeps a record of wrongs,
every little sin catalogued and indexed,
ready as part of its arsenal of hostility

Hate delights in evil,
revels in rebelling against authority,
is pleased to go its own way

Hate despises truth,
closes its ears to teaching,
refuses instruction and correction

Hate attacks,
harms loved ones and strangers alike,
injures all in its way without care

Hate distrusts,
lacks faith in God or anything,
doubts there is anything good

Hate despairs,
has no hope for a future,
lives in misery and sorrow

Hate gives up,
at the smallest obstacle it gives in,
is defeated by the tiniest tribulation

Hate never wins

Written by: Linda Kruschke

The Unwasted Life

The Unwasted Life.

Hope I’m “pressing” this correctly.  Don’t want any of you to live a wasted life!