Why We Go Through Dry Seasons

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The obvious question to ask when we find ourselves in a spiritual wilderness, relational desert, or dry season in life is, “why?” The answer to that is almost never available, but the “what” and “who” often are. In Hosea 2:14 we see that it is God that leads into the desert.

“But then I will win her back once again.
I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her there.”

While it is only normal for us to want to avoid the desert place, it may be possible that God is the one leading us there. In this passage He speaks of leading Israel into the desert, in Exodus He lead them out of Egypt and into the wilderness before reaching the Promised Land, and even Jesus was lead by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness before beginning His ministry.

We may not always have the “why” that we are looking for, but we can always trust the “who” that is leading us.Click to Tweet

The second thing we can hold on to during tough circumstances is the “what” of a desert season. Intimacy with God is always the “what  that comes from letting go of our comfort and security in order to embrace more of God where we are now. In Hosea 2:14 God says that he wanted to “speak tenderly to her there.” In other words, while painful, sometimes God has to take away some superfluous things that we have grown accustomed to in order to give us supernatural things that will help us grow closer to Him.

Growing closer to God may not be why we go thorough a difficult season, but it is what we can always know will result from that season if we choose to hold on to Him instead of our comfort.

I remember praying one time in a season where I felt like the things I wanted were being taken away from me, and asking God, “Why?” The answer I received was, “There is not enough room for what I want to give in the future while you are holding on to what you already have.” In other words, I could not take hold of what God has next for me, while still holding on to things in my past. That doesn’t make a wilderness season any easier, but it does offer hope that God would bring me through it.

Why do you think we go through wilderness seasons? What have you learned to get you through these times in life? I would love to hear from you! Click to Tweet

Permission to Fail

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I love being a dad to a toddler. Watching her explore the world, and helping her understand it, has helped me understand, in at least a small way, how God sees and is helping me.

Lately, she has been obsessed with being the “line leader.” This is where she runs out in front of the family, and leads us to wherever we are going. She must have learned this from her pre-K, and since she has to take turns at school, she insists on not taking turns at home. She likes to lead the way.

I love that she has a desire to be a leader, but I have also noticed that when she falls short in some way, she gives up. For example, if she asks me to race with her, even though I plan on letting her win, if I get too far ahead of her, she gives up.

That is what lead me to pass along some wisdom to her that I picked from Batman. In Batman Begins Thomas Wayne asks young Bruce, “Why do we fall?”  And then answers his own question, “So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” Our version is a little different. I asked her, “What happens when we fall?” And she responds with, “We get up, and try again!”

I think some of this Batman logic would be helpful in our pursuit of holiness.

Purity is a byproduct of hope. That is why guilt, shame, and condemnation never lead to lasting change. Grace gives people hope, and the permission to be in a process instead of being perfect.

“And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure.” (1 John 3:3 NLT)

If you are anything like me, then you like being a “line leader” in life, and can be hard on yourself and others when you fall short. I would encourage you to keep your eyes on Jesus, and remember that pursuit is the goal instead of perfection.

 

 

The Maybe Marathoner

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In my last post I told you how I have long had a desire to run a marathon, but did’t know if I would ever actually get to that finish line. I have been working towards that goal for the last three months, but have had some soreness in my knee that makes me wonder if I should keep going.

When I wrote that post I was about to run/walk a half marathon, and I didn’t even know if I was even going to be able to finish that race due to my knee pain. I thought it my not be safe, and pushing myself here, at the half-way point, may mean postponing my dream of finishing a marathon for another year or more.

starting line magic city half

It was a weird feeling to be running this race. This was my second half-marathon, but felt different, more emotional than the first. Maybe it was because I have put more preparation into this, maybe it was because I was fighting through some knee pain, or maybe because in some ways pushing through a long run is very similar to the mental determination it takes to push through the tough parts of life.

Magic city medal

I’ll spare you the details, and just say that even though it was a slow race with many stops to stretch and walk, I am very happy with how I did. In the last mile I still had enough strength to pass 30 people on way to the finish in 2 hours 35 minutes.

Magic City Half Route

Again, I have run many races in my life, but I have never felt so emotional after finishing as I did on that day. It was hard to explain, but in many ways I felt free and strong. I was happy to be out there, but I was still wondering if this might be a mistake, and hurt my long term plans.

After the magic city half

Sophie liked my necklace. :)

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The painful reward of a successful long run is an icy bath.

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I wore a hat, jacket stuffed with a towel, and drank coffee while I soaked. I had absolutely no muscle soreness the next few days after taking that bath. My knee shouted overtime I moved, but I believe the ice bath helped a ton for the rest of my body aches.

Now the question revolved around what I would do for the rest of the week to continue my training. Running the half gave me a jolt of excitement and renewed commitment to run the full marathon, but the wear and tear on my knee meant that I needed to take a break from running.

As a result, I spent the next three days lifting weights, using the medicine ball, and working on my core. All things I normally do not do, but now realize are very important to staying injury free.

On Wednesday we were to Baton Rouge, and I saw there was a 5k taking place Thanksgiving morning. My running schedule called for 4 miles earlier that week, and 5 miles in the middle of the week before a log Saturday run. I hadn’t done either up to this point. I figured this would be a fun way to get a run in.

 

One interesting thing about this race is that I did not use the nike + app, because I forgot to charge my phone the night before which caused it to die before the race. I always use that app, and listen to music when I run, but this time didn’t have them. Instead I just took in the sounds of the hundreds of runners pounding the pavement, and based my pace on how my body was feeling.

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I ended up running a little bit better than I was expecting, and finished around 26 minutes.

Turkey Trot 5k Results

The next day, my knee is just as soar as ever, and I am scheduled to run 10 miles on Saturday to stay on track for the marathon. I plan on tacking advantage of being in Baton Rouge, and running the lakes, but I will probably take it easy, run slow, and shorten the run to no more than 6 miles. Hey 10k, 10 miles, it’s all the same right?

I might run a marathon

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For a long time it has been on my bucket list to complete a marathon. Not because I want to bring awareness to a cause, or get in better shape. It is the challenge of it that has drawn me in.

I don’t know exactly when this became a desire/dream; I just know it has been with me for a long time. I started running track in Jr. High during, and then eventually started running Cross Country in high school. In college I continued to do 5k’s and jog around the LSU lakes.

A few years ago I got real serious, or partly serious about training for a marathon. I hesitated to tell people about my goal, in case I could not complete it. I started running long runs on Saturdays, and reading books on training for endurance runs. About two months before the race I planned to complete, I started feeling pain in the outside of my right knee. As a result, I backed down my mileage, but it never started feeling better. Once the race day came, I decided on completing a half instead of the full marathon.

That race started out well, and I was on pace to have a great time, but I ended up having to walk the last two miles. I am still happy with my time of 2:08, but the results of the run had a huge impact on me. I had a hard time running over the next 6 months. It was a long time before running felt physically normal again.

I actually thought that was the end of my marathon dream. I just concluded that it was something that I could not do. Then again recently, I started wondering what it would be like to finally take on that challenge of 26.2 miles in one run.

When we moved to Birmingham, I saw that there was a marathon here. It takes place the day before my birthday, and it is sponsored by Mercedes. Then I saw the medal, which is basically a Mercedes hood ornament that you can wear around your neck. I started running again.

My milage was in the 30’s for the first couple months, and then when I got more committed it jumped into the 60’s. That is when I started having knee pain again. Years ago, it was my IT band that was bothering me. Now it is my knee cap.

There are a lot of weird little muscles that you have to work out and strengthen when you are running distances this long. I didn’t even know the IT band existed when I first started training for a marathon. Then I discovered that your shoulder muscles have to be strengthened in order to prevent pain. Now I am learning the need for a strong core and hips to save your knees, and complete this challenge.

This morning I am scheduled to run a half marathon. The forecast is thunderstorms, and the race actually may get canceled. It also happens to be exactly 3 months away from the race I have marked as my marathon run. At this point, I don’t know if I will be able to complete the race this morning, or the one in 3 months. I maybe able to take a slow pace, and walk across the finish this morning, but I really don’t know if I will be able to make the full 26.2 as I have planned.

My goal is to continue training, and if things go well, I might run a marathon.

God Said?

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Have you ever felt something in your heart, and wondered if it is God or not? You may have buried the thought away, or you might have even asked a trusted friend what they thought. It can sometimes be difficult to know whether a voice is from God, you, or even bad pizza. So how can you tell the difference?

The Different Types of Voices

One of the most important things you can do when trying to identify the voice of God in your life is to also consider the other possibilities. Here is a few for you to consider. The first is God Himself. The Holy Spirit will speak to you and guide you. The most common ways in my life are through prayer, the Bible, and through the teaching of the Word.

Another source is the enemy. He will use your fears, doubts, and the world to communicate his message. Not that we live in fear of his message, but we make every effort to guard our hearts. That is why the media you select, and the people you choose to spend your time with are important.

The voice you hear the most though, is your own. One of the ways you can shape this voice in a godly way is to include reading the Bible in your routine. That way, the Word of God will become the fuel of your thought life, instead of the media and other things you consume with your eyes and our ears.

With your voice, also comes the voice of your flesh. Jesus said that the “flesh is weak,” so you can expect your flesh to speak to your weaknesses. It is also called your sinful nature. This self gratifying voice will always lead you away from God’s best for your future, and usually satisfies you with something immediate. We have to be careful to follow our convictions, and not jut our comforts.

Can You Follow Your Heart?

Another thing to consider is that we are not made of only weak flesh, but we also have a willing part of us as well. Jesus said that “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is week.” One of  my favorite versus about the difference between our flesh and sprit is from the Old Testament,

“And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.” Ezekiel 36:26

The good news of this verse, is that after receiving Christ, we no longer have to wonder if our heart is wicked and deceitful, but rather can know that it is tender and responsive to God. In other words, we can follow our heart. In fact, I think that if you do not follow your heart, you are not only betraying yourself, but those around you as well. To be true to yourself is to be false to not other. 

But who is the person who ultimately knows whether you have heard from God or not? Believe it or not, it is you. You are the person most qualified to determine whether you have heard from God. That is why on Judgment Day, you do not stand before God with a committee of church friends or leaders with you. On that day you will be alone with God. That is why God has given you His Holy Spirit, the Bible, and a conscience. He gave you a new heart, so that you can trust His leading.

3 Types of Unwise Counsel

There is safety in wise counsel, and that is always something that you should have in your life, but you should consider the type of counsel you are getting. Here are three types of counsel you should avoid: Are you trying to get a consensus from people your own age? Are you comparing your situation to others or competing for recognition? Are the people you going to more inclined to tell you what to do and give you ultimatums, or give you options instead? In these cases, you may be getting counsel, but not wise counsel.

3 Types of Wise Counsel

Here are a few things to consider when you are looking for counsel. Does the person have gray hair? In other words, have they lived some life and have a few more years of experience than you do? Is the person considerate, merciful, kind, and full of grace? People who have yet to learn from their mistakes are often brash, bold, and proud. Look for humility. Does the person point you back to God and His word. The wisest counsel has an eternal godly perspective that outlasts whatever it is you are currently involved in (whether it is a good thing or not).

One of the best ways to hear from God, is by simply making yourself available. Go ahead and ask Him right now, “Lord, what would you like to say to me today?”

What do you think? Did I get this right or wrong? How do you know whether God has really spoken to someone or not? Share your thoughts!

Lake Purdy

I got a new lens today, and couldn’t wait to try it out. I went to Lake Purdy and snapped a few shots right before the sunset. By the way, doesn’t the name Lake Purdy sound like it got its name from a hillbilly walking up and saying, “I tell you what, dat’s a purdy lake right der. Yessiree. Lake Purdy.” Anyway, here are the pics.DSC_0932 DSC_0947 DSC_0950 DSC_0980

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Walk Among the Tombstones… With a Camera

This may be the most cryptic confession I have ever given, but here it goes anyway. I really enjoy taking pictures of old churches, which may be unique, but is not exactly bizarre. The weird part is that most of the time I do not stop with examining the intricate craftsmanship of church architecture, but often allow my exploring to take me behind the churches into their graveyards. Like I said, kind of creepy.

The other day I drove by Union Hill Cemetery, and took note that it is an important local burial site. I had my camera with me, and decided to go see what history I could find there. That is when I came across this tombstone:

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Several things came to mind afterwards. I wondered what Elizabeth experienced as someone who lived (and died) in the era of the civil war. I thought about how society has greatly changed the way we view women since this tombstones inscription. I also examined my own life, and reflected on what am I doing today that is going to matter 150 years from now.

It also begin to sink in, that I take a lot of pictures of graveyards and tombstones. I know that’s not normal, but I am not really ashamed of the fact that I like to take walking tours in graveyard gardens.  In fact, I thought I would share some of my favorite tombstone photos with you.

Boston has plenty of history buried all across the city.

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Here is my friend Michael looking over a graveyard in the Boston Common.

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Captain Daniel Malcolm was a vocal patriot who died just before the Battle of Bunker Hill. He asked to be buried in a stone grave 10 ft. deep to prevent British soldier from unearthing him. This is explained in detailed on the tombstone, but what is really interesting is the fact that you can still see the marks from where British soldiers used his headstone for target practice before the Battle of Bunker Hill.

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Boston’s most favorite son’s original and “upgraded” tombstones.

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This was near John Hancock’s tomb. Death doesn’t look like he’s taking his job too seriously.

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Lone Oak Cemetery in Carville, Louisiana, is where you will find the gravesite of 50 inmates from the Louisiana prison system. Their name, dates, and Department of Correction’s number is all that is listed on the tombstones.

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I found these behind St. Gabriel Church, the Oldest Church in the Mississippi Valley.

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This leper graveyard in Carville is one of the most tragic. People chose to be buried under an alias to protect their families from embarrassment and harm.

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Grace Episcopal in St. Francisville has many civil war veterans buried there, and has the second oldest Episcopalian graveyard in the Louisiana.

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While I know graveyards have their stigmas the history that they hold invite me to explore and appreciate anyway. There are unique perspectives and interesting stories waiting behind, or should I say underneath, every tombstone.

If all this talk about death and graveyards has you down, then maybe this video of Amy and me searching for Al Capone’s grave in Chicago will cheer you up!

The New Rules of the Road

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I always set out to be a well mannered driver, but it never ends that way. The desire to get to my destination as quickly and efficiently as possible always leads to a couple incidents that I am sure inspires road rage in those I share the asphalt with. My intentions are good, but there is a reason why I’ve never had a fish or Christian bumper sticker on my car.

This same trend can show up, not only on my way to work, but also in the good works I do for God. I’ve learned that it’s possible to add well intended rules to your faith that end up producing more burdens than benefits. twitter-bird-1 In other words, some Christian philosophies appear holy because they require self-denial, but have little to do with a life changed by grace.twitter-bird-1 While the intentions may be good, the result is an exhausted Christian life that is unsatisfying to the believer and unattractive to the nonbeliever.

This is exactly what is discussed in Colossians 2.

“[Christ] has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world…” (Colossians 2:20 NLT)

These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.”  (Colossians 2:23 NLT)

You would expect that when the Bible mentions “rules of the world” it would include a catalog of self-indulgences, but that is not the case. Instead, it is a list of deeds that lead to self-righteousness that is given.

Standards make a great shoulder to the road, but do nothing for your desire to go mud riding.

While self-indulgence (going mud riding) is dangerous to your soul, at least it has the potential to leave you humbled before God (covered in mud). In the case of self-righteousness though, you never get muddy on the outside which allows you to gain more pride and self-sufficiency outside of the grace of God. This would be like having a Mercedes that you would never dare take off the road, but then allow a family of pigs to live on the inside.

I think Jesus called this being a white washed tomb.

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So what are the new rules of the road that help us avoid this ugly scenario of pigs ruining our leather seats? It is found earlier in this chapter:

“Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:7)

The solution is not discovered in changing the rules of the road, but rather changing the desires of your heart. A love relationship and a lifestyle that keeps us engaged with the center of our affection is what gives life to our souls; not rule keeping. A holy life is what overflows from a thankful heart; not one focused on duty. Standards protect our path, but they do not direct it.twitter-bird-1 Only the love of God can recalibrate our life’s compass, and keep us on His holy highway.twitter-bird-1

We Are Moving!

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A NEW OPEN DOOR

We are excited to share with you that we are moving to Birmingham, Alabama! I will be joining the team at ARC, and am thrilled to have the opportunity to serve church planters stepping out in faith to launch life giving churches. This is an answer to prayer, and we thank God for this wide open door for ministry.

WE LOVE OUR FRIENDS

Our family has been blessed to have some amazing people in our lives. We want to thank all of our spiritual family in Baton Rouge, and especially those we get to do life with on a daily basis, for being there for us over the years. We also want to honor all of the friends that God has connected us with that may not live nearby, but are close to our hearts. We appreciate every relationship as well as each gesture of support and encouragement.

THANK YOU

I have been a part of a tremendous company since the beginning of the year, and I want to thank Devin Zito and the team at Teknarus for that opportunity. We also want to honor HPServe, not only for the incredible work that they do, but for allowing Amy to play a part in this amazing ministry.

A SPECIAL PLACE

Baton Rouge is a special place. It is where Amy and I met, were married, and also where Sophie was born. I think everyone should come to Louisiana at some point to experience the beauty of Cajun Country. We will miss this city, the people, the Tigers, as well as the food. We expect our last day here will be August 10.

ROLL TI—-GERS!

Thank you for taking the time to read this little memo, and for sharing in our joy. If you are ever in Birmingham let us know!

Identity, Influence & Impact

“In the past, even when Saul was king, you were the one who really led the forces of Israel. And the lord your God told you, ‘You will be the shepherd of my people Israel. You will be the leader of my people Israel.’”

-1 Chronicles 11:2

Saul was positioned before man, but David was positioned before God. Identity, Influence and impact is strengthened or weakened based on which position you value more. Striving and peace are determined by which one gives you confidence, and which one is of little concern. Choose wisely, because as this passage shows, one always outlasts the other.