My Personal Life

The journey of being a Christian, father, husband, and friend.

How Far We Can Go in Sin

First, I am a Christian.  Most reading this know that.  I have a mix of family who believe very similar to me and some who do not believe in a God at all.  My story is inherently biased toward my faith journey.  I hope you’ll take some time to read this.  It is from my heart.

My pastor has a way of taking a message from the Bible that could easily be conveyed as “don’t do that”, and turning into a message which my heard reminds me “I might do that too.”  Such was the case for this morning’s message, a walk through Judges 19-21, a horrendous story of a people of God who had gone so far away from their roots of faith, obedience, and a strong moral compass and committed heinous acts.  Our pastor could have avoided this section or simply put a nice little spin on “the world is bad… let’s try to be good”.  Instead, he plowed into it and God is using this to convict my heart and prompt me to really dig deep in my faith journey.

In Judges, we see the people of God had all but abandoned their adherence to any commandments from God.  They had gotten into a cycle of sin, consequence, crying out to God, God bringing a “deliverer”… then doing the whole thing all over again.  And the statement that probably sums it all up is the last verse of Judges v21:25, “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

Far too often these days, I look at world events, such as yet one more shooting of police officers today (this time in Baton Rouge), and I get angry and want to see justice done over the senseless violence and hatred happening in this world.  But the message being revealed in my heart is that deep down, I had a seed of racism that is inherent in my heart.  This is not just a white/black racism.  I am inherently selfish and will develop opinions on people based on race, age, social/financial status, job… you name it.  And though we don’t want to admit it, we all are… to some degree.  Everyone is “doing what is right in their own eyes.”  We are a world of people choosing our own morality… our own “right way.”

After the message this morning , I found myself thinking about what God is calling me to do in response.  I came up with a few things:

Recognize that this could be me…  It IS me!

The people of Israel at the time of Judges had strayed away from God’s law.  They had become a “shame culture”, where the most important pursuit was the approval of man.  So, when family members did something they perceived as bringing shame on their own life, they would seek justice, retribution, or “honor killing”.  And sadly, this kind of culture still exists today.  Just this week, a news story out of Pakistan of a so-called “honor killing” has brought us face-to-face with the depravity of man.  They say that over 1,000 “honor killings” happen in Pakistan annually.  But what about us, here in cozy America.  Do we live with this same kind of retribution-oriented culture, living out of shame over what people think?   Spend a few minutes on Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media platform.  If you’re not saying what the community wants you to say, you are condemned, mocked, and character-assassinated by people you don’t even know.

I am capable of horrific things.  My heart is deceptive and inherently wicked.  The more time I spend in my marriage, with my children, and in the workplace, the more I see how my sin affects others.  This story in Judges could easily have been me.

See what God has done.

God’s love for the world has overcome the wickedness of man.  While we sometimes turn our attention to “trying to be good”, we must know that we can never be good enough.  Ever.  Some people hold to a belief that most people are inherently good.  That they want to do good.  How do we reconcile then the evil deeds done in this world?  Do we say “that is the exception.”?  Perhaps it is.  But then, when I’m in relationship with someone, as soon as they do something I don’t like or that infringes on my independence, I get really angry.  People say that God could not judge people… that he is Love, and that He wouldn’t judge/condemn people who are not deserving of eternal life.  But… we would be ready to do the same thing… if the crime were great enough.  Is there anyone out there willing to let this guy go had he survived the terror attack?  What if your spouse, child, or best friend had just been killed by him?  What then?  We all have our limits to grace.

Fortunately, God does not see humanity as divided up between good guys and bad guys (at least in terms of our behaviors).  God sees it in terms of His great plan and the story He is making.  While the story in Judges 19-21 demonstrates the wickedness and how far man would go in his depravity, God demonstrated his love for us by Christ dying in our place.  (Romans 5:6-8)  It is through Christ that I can see the hopelessness fade away and the new direction and life of hope, faith, and resurrected love be put to a new and grand purpose.  This is the life I have today.  And I am very thankful for.

Respond with repentance

How far did God go to provide us salvation in Jesus?  Pretty doggone far.  How far must I go in turning to Jesus?  Pretty far.  True repentance, my pastor said, is “turning from the ‘self-life’ (the life focus on gaining for myself), and turning to Jesus”.  I must really focus on and be honest about what I’m really being saved from, and what it took to save me.  Honesty in repentance is not an easy thing.  But I must.  My life… my joy… my heart depends on it.

My prayer… my need… and my commitment, is to devote a daily time of prayer of confession and repentance, accepting the grace of God my Father, and the Lordship of Jesus in my life.  Each day.  I need that.  I too will stray.

I hope you’ll take a minute to listen to the sermon.  It was very helpful for me today.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/grace-audio/Sermons/20160717.mp3

Work: Miserable Job -Or- Opportunity To Serve?

servant-leadership-jesus-washing-feet

Do you enjoy the work you do?  Do you find it sometimes challenging just to go in and do the same thing all over again, day after day?  Growing up there was a Dunkin’ Donuts commercial that often played about a donut maker who was always getting up to make the donuts. One night he “passes himself” coming and going. That is certainly what it has felt like lately for me.

I’ve also noticed lately that a number of people in and around my life have been posting and talking about various aspects of their jobs that they hate. While I can truly relate to the challenges of getting up and slogging it out at work sometimes, I find it genuinely disheartening to think that people do not enjoy getting up and doing what they do for a living. I have certainly had days that I didn’t enjoy, but by-and-large, I feel like I’ve been blessed to do what I love to do.

I recently left my employer after nearly 16 years of service and it has caused me to reflect on the many opportunities I have had over those years. It led me to step out on my own to start my own company, and for that, I am truly grateful. For more on that journey and what I’m doing with Think Data Insights, check out our website at http://thinkdatainsights.com. We’re having an exciting time!

What I want to do here is present an opposing view of work for you to consider; a view that looks at our work not as a “job” (which seems to carry a VERY negative connotation with most people), but rather, something altogether different. What if our jobs weren’t really jobs at all, but rather places where we were able to serve people, make their lives better, make a living in the process, and… what if…

We found JOY in our work!

What if “job” were really a good word? What if one of our greatest callings here on earth is to “serve others”? How would that change our outlook?

An angry customer? Just someone having a bad day (that by the way, we have no idea what might be going on in their lives). Perhaps I can make their life better.

An extra or early shipment of inventory that I now have to stock that reminds me of all the screaming throngs of customers that may come soon to buy it? Perhaps I can be thankful that I live in a society where there is such demand for goods that allows me to have a job.

A co-worker not doing their job? Perhaps there is something going on in their life that I can minister to.

No salary increase this year? Perhaps the company is doing all they can to keep everyone employed. It is a good reminder that these business owners are people too, who have sacrificed a lot to provide jobs for their employees. They’re not the “evil rich people” many in our culture want to paint them to be.

So, what is stopping you today from enjoying your work? Better yet, what is stopping you from being a servant-hearted leader, employee, co-worker… even friend, husband, son, daughter? My challenge for me and to you my readers is to go and SERVE SOMEONE today.

Friendship and Joy in God

I am a highly relational person.  In most personality studies, my traits lean me toward quiet influence and steady support for those around me.  I enjoy collaborating with people, and most of all, I love the close relationships I have in my life.  Carol, my wife of 19 years and truly my best friend, is one such example.  I have known her now for 26 years (since high school), enjoying the gift of a friendship that grows stronger each day.  And this has brought me great joy.

I also have enjoyed several very close friendships with some key men in my life.  These are vital friendships in my journey of faith.  These men have seen me through some difficult challenges in my life, they have shared their lives with me, and I have enjoyed an amazing fellowship with these men.  What is so incredible to me is how God brought them to me from so many different places: church (both current and previous), previous employment, and even counseling.  And these friendships have brought me great joy.

As I sit in the dark in our room here at Ridgecrest, NC, with my family still sleeping, I am also reminded of the gift my children have been to me.  My two older boys (young men, really) are finishing up their fourth year at a two-week camp for boys here in the mountains near Asheville, NC.  We will be picking them up in a few hours.  And I have missed them.  Yes, I am their father.  Yes, that is not always easy.  But I would never trade it for the world.  And as they grow, I know that our relationship will change to more of a friendship.  And this entire process has brought me great joy.

So, as I began reading during my quiet time this morning, my eyes (and my heart) were drawn to these amazing words in Romans 5:10-11:

10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. (emphasis mine)

So often in the church, the message we hear sounds a little more like we’re still enemies with God, but He will tolerate us because of Jesus.  But we better be on our best behavior or He may decide to send us off after all.

I for one do not do well under that kind of message.  Being highly relational, I am very sensitive to my perception of what people around me think of me.  So, when my mind begins to process my relationship with Jesus the same way, I struggle in my faith.

This passage says that through Christ and His saving work, I am now friends with God.  This is astounding.  Friends hang together.  Friends share their deepest secrets.  Friends work through hard things.  Friends are there for each other when they need them most.  And friends… real friends… last a long time.

Friendship with God means I can trust whatever process God has for me at any moment of my life.  Friendship with God means I can unequivocally trust Him with my whole heart.  And friendship with God leads me to rejoice in the beautiful life He has given me.  I can have confident hope in my salvation.  I can have utter joy.

So, today, I choose joy.  I realize a few days after the boys come home and school begins next week, life will return to normal.  It will be hard.  We’ll get mad at each other over various meaningless things.  They’ll assert their independence in ways very frustrating to me.  And I’ll be ready for them to go back to camp long before they do again next year.  But in the end, I will rejoice in my God and all He has done, and I will choose joy in the midst of these beautiful relationships God has given me.

I Hate Cancer… Let’s Stop It

I hate cancer.  I used to be scared of cancer.  Now, I just hate it.  I have seen numerous family and friends die at the hands of that wicked monster.  My first experience with cancer was with my grandmother.  I first learned of her skin cancer diagnosis while I was in college.  Since then, I’ve seen my aunt and father also pass, along with several family friends.  I truly hate cancer.

Why am I choosing to write about cancer now?  It has been several years since anyone close to me has died.  However, some dear friends of ours recently lost a very close friend of theirs to breast cancer.  I’ve been following the thoughtful, tear-jerking, sweet posts about this mother/wife/friend who succumbed to cancer.  What a great way to honor her through the many words about the significance of her life.  And it occurred to me that it is time to share a conviction I have, which I hope can also serve to honor the memory of anyone who has ever battled this disease.

Of course, we know the big “no-no’s” to prevent cancer:   Smoking, Chewing Tobacco, Excessive exposure to the sun, excessive alcohol, improper colon health…  The news is full of stories of what to add or take away from our lives to “avoid cancer”.  We live in fear that we’ll “catch cancer”.  We gets tests and screenings to see if we have caught it yet.  We live with the thought that “if we are lucky” we might not ever get it.

Over the last 2 years, my family has been exposed to a new way – a new understanding – about how to avoid cancer.  And it has nothing to do with being scare of catching cancer.  It has EVERYTHING to do with changing the health of our body so that we become cancer killers!  If you want to read more about this, there is a great book called The Cancer Killers, by Ben Lerner, Sayer Ji, and others.  This book goes into great detail about how to turn your body into a fighting machine when it comes to cancer.

I’m not here to promote some idea that we can make our lives and health perfect by diet.  Not one bit.  But I do believe that while we are here, we have a responsibility (and a desire) to have the fullest life possible.  We have one life and one body.  Why not live it to the fullest and with the greatest health?  The highlights from the book, in case you don’t look at it, are that there are 5 essentials to killing cancer:

1. Healthy Mind – Learning, growing, being fed spiritually

2. Healthy Nerve Supply

3. Quality Nutrition

4. Exercise – The kind that maximizes oxygen and leans muscle

5. Minimize external toxins

My family and I are not doing this perfectly.  And I very well may be diagnosed with cancer one day.  If that day comes, I’ll have some soul-searching to do on how I will fight it –

Traditional treatment that very often kills the body slowly (Poison, Burn, or Cut)

-OR-

Whole body restoration through natural means

These would be tough decisions indeed.  But for today, I’m going to focus on LIVING and building a healthy body.  Will you join me?

Graveyard Spirals Kill

I am a pilot.  Though I haven’t flown for 14 years, I LOVE flying.  Sometimes on those beautiful middle Tennessee spring or fall days, when the sky is clear, the wind is minimal, and the sun is shining… I’ll look up in the sky and dream that I can be back up there.  Maybe one day.

The worst day of flying still beats the best day of real work.  – Anonymous

So, why all the talk of flying?  Last night, during our discussion at about the importance of remaining connected to the body of believers in the church, I was reminded of the JFK Jr. airplane crash on July 16, 1999.  There is a full NTSB report of the crash here if you’re interested.  The cause of the crash was something pilots talk about a lot, which was a graveyard spiral caused by “failure to maintain control of the airplane due to spatial disorientation.”  As an airplane starts to make a turn, your body tells you “I’m turning” through the various wonderful God-given senses we have.  If the airplane is in a turn long enough, your body will adjust to the turn and given no other visual indicators (like on a dark night), it will feel like you’re flying straight and level.  One look at the altimeter will tell you that you’re descending (this happens in a turn).  Natural response?  Pull up!  But this only serves to tighten your turn, until you spiral into the ground, usually at an alarming rate.  At the point of impact, the NTSB estimated JFK Jr.’s plane was descending at 4,700 feet-per-minute.  In comparison, a standard descent in a commercial airliner is 500 fpm (and you feel it then too).

frightened_child

Like a graveyard spiral, so often through my day, my brain is giving me all sorts of messages on how to interpret what is going on around me.  These messages are influenced by my life experiences, my relationships, my overall body chemistry at that time (if I’m feeling physically or emotionally down, it is more difficult for me to interpret conflict accurately).  In the moment of confusion, I have two choices.

Choose the lie: “you’re not appreciated”, “wait until people find out who you really are”, “they’re laughing at you behind your back”, “Those guys are way better dads than you’ll ever be”)

lies and truth

image courtesy Cindy Bultema blog site

Choose Truth:  God has chosen me to be His own.  He has equipped me for life and godliness.  I am a new creation.  I am His servant, not the world’s.  I was bought with a price, and it cost me nothing – God’s perfect love and sovereignty will cast out all fear in me.

Which do I choose so often?  The lies… at least for a time.  Which is why it is so critical that I not do this life alone.  I MUST be in a community of people, growing, sharing, and BEING REAL.  As our pastor said during his message this Sunday in Hebrews, “ISOLATION KILLS”.

How do we pull out of the graveyard spiral of life?

1. Use your instruments – Focus on the truth, not what you feel like at that moment.  This will not be easy!  Use the instruments of faith, deep friendships, and Godly mentors.  Pilots have instruments in their plane before they fly.  Don’t wait for accountability.  Get it now.  Psalm 15:2, Psalm 25:5, Mark 9:24

2. Reduce power and level out – Often times, whatever is going on in your life is contributing to the chaos behind the lies.  Slow down, cancel extra engagements, get some rest, and eat right.  Even Jesus “got away” at times.  Matthew 14:23

3. Point your nose down – What?  We’re losing altitude and I have to point my nose down?!  YES!  It allows the plane to pickup speed, and thus have greater control over the airplane.  And in life, we need to give up control sometimes, submit to the Godly wisdom and guidance (sometimes through another person), and take ACTION on that guidance.  Trust in your shepherd.  Psalm 23

Are you in a graveyard spiral?  Are you tightening your turn by trying harder, putting a mask on, and isolating?  Get out of the spiral.  Trust God that it will be OK.  Put your faith in Jesus and not what the world says about you.

Family Matters and Family Meetings

My family means a lot to me.  I have been married to my beautiful wife for nearly 19 years, and am blessed to have both 3 sons and a daughter.  They are intelligent, witty, funny, athletic, and creative.  I think they will all be incredible leaders one day.  Each one has a unique giftedness.

My oldest son Connor, 14 years old, has an amazing laser-focus intensity when he is working on something or learning something new.  Once when he was in 5th grade, playing his 2nd year of baseball, he started throwing a new pitch and the coach asked him where he learned it from.  His reply?  I watched a youtube video.  When he was 5 or 6 years old, he spent the entire Christmas day (not stopping until he finished) putting together a Millennium Falcon kit that was intended for ages 9+.  He is a smart and athletic guy.

My next oldest son Brandon, also quite smart and athletic, has an amazingly beautiful personality.  He has hardly ever met a stranger.  He’ll play hard in a sport with even older boys, then sit down and joyfully read a book with his 5-year old brother and 7-year old sister.

Caroline, our 7-year old?  I think I may need to buy a Michael’s store to keep up with the amount of paper and supplies she uses to create the amazingly wonderful ideas she has in her head.  She is always creating, playing make-believe, or dancing.  And I am very thankful to be the delight of her heart.  That’s the place every father should have in a little girl’s heart.

Graham, our 5-year old son is the life of the party.  Though he hates it every time someone says “he’s so cute!”… he really is that cute.  He has watched his brothers play sports now since he was born, and knows more about the different facets of sports than many adults.  He was walking around the house the other day asking Carol’s iPhone about different sports scores.  Siri would respond with a very descriptive phrase “Tennessee pummeled…” and he would just get so tickled.  He also is the snuggliest of the bunch.  He loves getting real close to me or his mom and just sit and rest.

We are a busy family, with 4 kids in school, sports, dance, and church life.  Carol and I have been desiring to have regular weekly family meetings as an opportunity to slow down… to “rest” and bring us closer together for a brief moment during the week.  I came across a couple of resources recently on the art of manliness website with great info on how to conduct a family meeting and developing a family mission statement.  So, last night we had our first real family meeting.  Here are the highlights:

– Lots of fidgeting so Carol got them all squish-balls.

– I sent one to his room because of a negative attitude.  He came back ready.

– I wanted to end it halfway through because everyone seemed like they wouldn’t stay engaged (never mind that they’ll play video games for hours if we let them).

THEN…

– I taught them a couple of really neat ideas around developing a family mission statement.

– All 6 of us had an opportunity to share ideas, questions, and even difficulties in their lives.

– WE PRESSED ON AND FINISHED!

 

So, it was not perfect, by any stretch.  But we did it.  And for that, I’m grateful.  We’ll do it imperfectly again next week, but we’ll keep pressing on and doing it.  Why?

 

Because FAMILY MATTERS!

Lusting for Comfort… Treasuring Something Greater

 

“The lust for comfort murders the passion of the soul, and then walks grinning in the funeral.”  Khalil Gibran

I heard this quote on my way in to the office this morning, and was stunned.  And I believe it was no accident that I heard it.  So much of my life has been spent securing comfort in this world… an “eternity on earth” of sorts.  I mentioned in my last post my fear of being exposed as an imposter.  That fear is driven by a deeper fear that I’ll lose my little “kingdom” I’m building, and I’ll have my little comforts taken away from me.  Those comforts I long… no, that I lust for.  And as Mr. Gibran states, my soul’s passions having been murdered by my lusts, they now lie in state while the lust simply grins as I mourn over what I’ve lost.

This can’t be how life is supposed to be lived.  What is the antidote to this vicious disease of lusting for comfort?  John Piper, sheds some like in his wonderful message on Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, comparing our lives to the solar system [emphasis mine]:

So it is with the supremacy of Christ in your life. All the planets of your life—your sexuality and desires, your commitments and beliefs, your aspirations and dreams, your attitudes and convictions, your habits and disciplines, your solitude and relationships, your labor and leisure, your thinking and feeling—all the planets of your life are held in orbit by the greatness and gravity and blazing brightness of the supremacy of Jesus Christ at the center of your life. And if he ceases to be the bright, blazing, satisfying beauty at the center of your life, the planets will fly into confusion, and a hundred things will be out of control, and sooner or later they will crash into destruction.

Jesus Christ encountered a very confident and wealthy man, who desired something he thought Jesus could give him.

16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Matthew 19:16-22 (ESV)

I’m that man.  I’m the guy who is looking at my treasures sadly because of what I think I’ll lose.  I’m the guy that lives my life as though my planets are held up by me, all the while missing the strong gravitational pull of the Son Jesus Christ, whose blazing glory and brightness of His supremacy is constantly pulling at me to become the most beautiful part of my life.  I’ve been that guy for so long.  But no longer.  Like the parable of the treasure hidden in the field (Matthew 13:44-46), the antidote to the viral spread of discontentment and fear in my life is to treasure Christ for all he is worth.  It is to find supreme satisfaction in the glory and treasure of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, my Savior.

What do you treasure today?  What do the planets of your life revolve around?  To paraphrase Joshua in the Old Testament, as for me and my house, we will put Christ at the center of our solar system, and live with joy that His pull is so strong!

Terror and Rest… Facing the day

I woke up this morning terrified.  Not from a bad dream or extreme trial or tribulation I was facing today.  I looked at my calendar this morning and looked at the 4 things I am responsible for accomplishing today at work, wondered how I will get it done, and felt a little sense of dread about it all.  But this was something more.  This was deeper than impossible “to-do lists”.  And I feel like I live with this terror, sometimes more subtly, but definitely there, almost every day.  I am absolutely terrified that I will be EXPOSED.

I’m not talking about the kind of exposure you get from frostbite, where everything hurts because of the damage done by the cold.  Not fear of pain or even embarrassment.  Deeper.  I’m talking about that fear that I’ll be sitting in class or a meeting one day and realize I’m sitting in my underwear.  That “how did I get here and how do I get out without anyone finding out?” fear.  I’m afraid that people will discover me for the IMPOSTER that I think I am.

Now, I have 4 children, ages 5-14; I teach a 5th grade Sunday School class; I lead men’s groups.  And in all of these settings, I can teach with FIRM conviction that in Christ, I am not an imposter.  I have everything I need to live life and godliness.  God is taking care of me.  I know this.  So, why do I sit here this morning dreading something I intellectually know is not true?

Well, I think there are many reasons, but it seems the one that God laid on me this morning has to do with my sin.  Specifically, my relational sin.  Meaning, the sins I commit which destroy my sense of feeling connected to God.  Let me explain with a parable (Ha!).  But seriously, let me use my relationship with my wife as an example:

Let’s say my wife was upset about something I didn’t do earlier that she had asked me to do.  Instead of stopping to reflect about it, I blow up!  I react and say harsh things to her.  Now…  how am I feeling after I’ve cooled down?  Based on what I’m likely seeing in her face, I probably feel pretty rotten.  Initially, I probably feel more rotten about myself, why did I do that, what is wrong with me?  Have you been there before?  So often, I do this with God.  I feel bad about what I did, and I turn that bad feeling to myself.  Deep down, I feel rotten about myself and despise my many bad choices.  And I fear I will be exposed and have to face the “reality” of how someone will see me.

But what if in that moment, instead of feeling rotten about me, I felt more of a sense of deep regret over the harm I caused her?  What if I turned to my wife in deep sorrow and expressed how I wish I had not done that, and I know I harmed her?  What if, for a moment, I didn’t care what I felt about myself, and simply loved her to the point of restoration and healing?  Ironically, I end up feeling much better… not because I proved I’m right.  Quite the contrary.  But because my relationship is restored and I now probably have a stronger sense of steps I need to take to correct that sin in me.  And likely, I don’t even consider being afraid of being exposed about this sin.  In essence, I’ve bared all before my wife already.

Such is the way with God and me.  Like David’s deep repentance to God over his sin with Bathsheba (Psalm 51), when I see my sin first as an affront to God, I come to Him with deep sorrow and full assurance of what He can do about it.  The result?  Confidence that today, I don’t have to worry about being exposed.  I’ve already bared all to the one who matters most to me, and the one who can actually do something about it.  I can rest in the fact that Christ, through His sacrifice on the cross, paid the penalty for that sin and is restoring me to wholeness.  In fact, Jesus is our rest (Hebrews 4:11-16).  And I’m going to rest in Him today.  I hope you do too.

If the Son Has Set You Free… Are You Really Free?

We all have probably felt prisoner to something at one time or another in our lives.  It is inevitable.  We live in a fallen world.

My prison:  An addiction that began at age 11, grew deep roots through teenage years of dumb choices and a dysfunctional home, and became disgustingly stealthy after I got married in 1995.  In late 2001, God led me to full repentance before Him and a full disclosure with my wife, thus beginning the road to recovery from this lifelong battle.  And as they say, the rest is history…

At least that’s what I want to say.  However, the last 14 years have been among the most joyful, triumphant, discouraging, and at times utterly hopeless moments of my life and that of my family life.  I would like to say that once God showed me the path, I never looked back.  Unfortunately, like Lot’s wife leaving Sodom, I looked back again and again at the addiction, the object of my affection.  Only, my “pillar of salt” was a wall of shame and self-serving destructive behaviors that continued to keep me in bondage to the very thing I most despised.

About 5 years ago, God set me on a different path, one which was less about performance (how sober can I be) and more about affection, desire, pursuit of the beautiful Jesus Christ as the object of my greatest affection.  It is why I write what I write.  And it is not a quick-fix road.  One of the major themes that has come out of this has been the theme of “Freedom”, freedom from the bondage of sin and self.  I wear a “Freedom” band on my left wrist day and night reminding me of the beautiful truths taught me 5 years ago by 180 Degrees Ministries.  It is a sweet truth to me.

Some of the sweetest words spoken by Jesus to my heart are:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
19     and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.”
Luke 4:18-19 (NLT)

Though the last 5 years have been filled with their share of struggles, God has shown me that He HAS and IS setting me free from and for something:

From:  The bondage (oppression) of shame and guilt; the bondage of “doing what I don’t want to do, and not doing what I want to do.”  The bondage of destructive behaviors that leave those who love me asking “Why”.  Bondage.

To:  Live and Love… the entire point of my blog and now, my life.  Freedom to live life for God, loving Him, loving others, accepting my humanity and all of it’s imperfections.  Freedom to pursue Christ as the object of my greatest affection.  Freedom to enjoy life without having to be “religious.”  Freedom… To Live and Love.  Jesus said “if the Son has set you free, you are free indeed.”  John 8:36 (ESV)  Am I free?  I have no doubt.  Do I struggle sometimes in this life?  Absolutely.  The answer?  Jesus.  When I’m hungry, the answer is to eat.  When I’m thirsty, drink.  When my soul is thirsty for anything in this world that will fill me up and help me escape the pain I’m in, the answer is… Jesus.  May we treasure Him today!

What is God setting you free from?  What HAS He set you free from?  Share!  Tell others.  This is a dark and painful world, and the hope of Christ needs to be shared.

Back to the Future

I’m a big fan of the Michael J. Fox “Back to the Future” movies.  These were among the most popular movies of my teenage years.  A lot of perspective is gained as Michael’s character Marty McFly travels back in time to see his origins and possibly alter his future, and then eventually in the series, his future.

Back to the Future movie image

I’ve recently been taking part in a Facebook “Group Goal-Setting” community started by Jon Acuff called “30 Days of Hustle.”  In it, Jon is challenging every member from January 1 to January 30 to do something very specific and intentional toward a goal that we set forth on January 1.  I am SO excited about this.  With each day comes a new challenge.  I’m already behind, but will catch up.  Today’s challenge (for me anyway) is to cast the VISION for my goal.  So, I chose to describe this vision as an article written about me sometime in January… 2015.  Yes, next year!  Thought it would be fun to look back and see how my year would look when I hit these goals.  So, the following is written as an interview taking place next year.  Here we go:

January 8, 2015 – Looking back in 2014

As we sit in the office of Ken Raetz, a technology consultant living in the Nashville area, one of the things that stands out is the simplicity and neatness of his office space. No stacks of papers or books lying around. Just a clean workspace, and a notebook neatly laid out on his desk. Ken tells us this was not what life was like prior to the “Getting Things Done Revolution” that happened this past year. A self-proclaimed dreamer and tech-geek, Ken has always been fascinated by the idea of being “hyper-productive” in his personal and professional life.  He spends a lot of time reading about productivity methods.  About 2 years ago, Ken was introduced to the Getting Things Done methodology which began the transformation.  However, often he would get caught up in the mechanics of the organization and forget the “getting done” part of it. “Discipline has not been my strong suit,” says Ken. “So often, I start something in a very excited way, then drop off after a few months.  It gets too hard.” However, 2014 was to be different.  Why?  “Because I was tired of not getting the most important things done that I wanted to get done.  So, my goal in January was to put into habit a disciplined schedule that support both my personal and professional priorities,” he says.  Not surprising, 2014 brought a whole new level of discipline Ken thought would never happen.  Starting in January, Ken spent the first 30 Days putting in place the daily, weekly, and monthly schedule habits that would support him meeting the goals he had laid out for rest of the year. What has been the result?

– His personal faith in Jesus Christ is stronger than it has ever been.  He has shared the gospel with complete strangers, close friends, and family members, and has had the privilege of leading several people in a confession of faith in Christ and follow-up discipleship.

– He exercised 3-4x per week consistently, losing 10 pounds (which had not even been the goal).

– He rolled out a new service in his business in the first two months of the year, and it has proven to be the most successful work his team has done in years.  His clients love it!

– His relationship with his wife and kids has flourished, as he is spending regular time with them together and one-on-one.

 

Who is Ken most thankful to? “I have to say that God gave me a clear vision for what I was going to do in 2014, and I am very thankful for that.  And, He provided me a beautiful community of support through the Jon Acuff ’30 Days of Hustle’ Facebook group to encourage me along the way.”

What does Ken have planned for 2015? “Growing my business that I now have an ownership stake in (as of December, 2014).  And taking my wife on a wonderfully long 20th anniversary vacation.”  Now that sounds exciting!