My wife and I love the show called, "Parking Wars". I'm not even sure if it is still in production but every once in a while we find it on and we're sure to record it. It centers around the cities of Detroit, Philadelphia and few others and their efforts to battle illegally parked cars. It covers the impound lot, ticketing, towing and booting of cars. I am always amazed at the response of the car owner and their utter disbelief that they have had their car ticketed, towed or booted or impounded. Regardless of the person: black, white, young, old, veteran driver, new driver, 99% of the time it's simply not their fault. Even tough they parked illegally and didn't pay their tickets it's always someone else's fault. they rant and rave at the parking authority, they blame, they accuse, they shift all of the blame to anyone and everyone besides themselves.
As I've renewed my interest in this show, I've been reminded of the fact that choices matter. The Scripture is full of examples of men and women who have chosen poorly and paid the price.
In Genesis, Lot chose to move close to Sodom, a city known for its lifestyle of evil.
In Exodus, the Israelites chose to build a golden calf in place of waiting on God.
In Numbers, Korah's men decided to challenge Moses and his leadership and paid the ultimate price.
In 2 Samuel, David takes Bathsheba as his own and experiences many great challenges as a result.
Now I realize that some of us have experienced negative consequences as a result of the poor choices of others, but more often than not, it's our own poor choices that lead to our heartache.
Galatians 6:7 says, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap."
We have to learn the lesson that our choices matter. You can't do and say things that are hurtful to your spouse and then be shocked when your relationship suffers. You can't talk behind people's backs and then wonder why your social circle is shrinking. You can't drink like a fish and then wonder why your job performance suffers. You can't continue to blame other people for your poor choices. Something has to change. Allow me to suggest that what needs to change, isn't everyone else.
Proverbs 14:12 says, "There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death."
At some point you have to realize that maybe, just maybe what you're doing isn't working and that perhaps you are suffering more than you care to admit. At some point you have to learn to tap into God's purposes and plans for your life.
Isaiah 30:21 says, "Your own ears will hear Him. Right behind you a voice will say, "This is the way you should go," whether to the right or to the left.
God desires that we listen to His wisdom for our lives. He's especially interested in us coming to Him before we make a whole bunch of stupid choices.
Proverbs 3:5-6 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding."
What do you have to lose? You've tried things your way for a while now. You've suffered and experienced heartache needlessly. Own your mistakes, seek His forgiveness and move on. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
Day 20 of 46 and going strong. No radio, no political talkshows, no sports radio, nothing. This effort has afforded me the opportunity for more thought, reflection and time to process my decisions.
Last night I decided to take things to another level and I removed all social media apps from my phone. It's a different aspect and dimension to my original plan but one that I felt was needed to keep me focused. If you're anything like me, you waste lots of time on social media. Social media is fantastic to stay connected, renew old friendships, you likely connected to this post via social media. It's not an issue of good and bad, it's an issue of better and best. What's the best way for me to spend my time? What's the best "bang for my buck" with the limited amount of down time I have during a given day?
My time on social media takes away from my time with my family, my time with the Lord, my time to actually rest and re-energize. I'm not going to be "that guy" condemns all use of social media but I would challenge you to put into practice what Paul talks about in Ephesians 5:15-16 where he says, "Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil."
Does the word "wisdom" describe your use of social media? Does your use of social media lead you to make the most of "every opportunity"? For me, I realized that having social media apps on my phone was taking away from the wise use of my time. It was taking away from me, "making the most" of every opportunity. I encourage you to pray for wisdom in this area and make the necessary moves. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
In my study of Scripture I can only find this phrase, "Idle hands are the devil's workshop" (Proverbs 16:27) in one particular version of Scripture, the Living Bible. Other versions say this:
"A scoundrel plots evil, and on their lips it is like a scorching fire." (NIV)
"A worthless man digs up evil, while his words are like scorching fire." (NASB)
"Scoundrels concoct evil, and their speech is like a scorching fire." (NRSV)
Scoundrels create trouble; their words are a destructive blaze. (NLT)
Regardless of your version of choice, the principle that is communicated in this passage is the same. The lazy one, the one who lives in a state of idleness, the one who doesn't keep busy, not for the sake of busyness, but one who doesn't stay busily focused and intentional, will fall prey to the devil's schemes. The Scripture highlights the idle as one who gossips, one whose tongue blazes a trail of destruction. While I don't struggle with gossip, this theme of idleness is close for me.
I've been reminded of this verse over the last few days as I've continued my radio silence for Lent. While I'm now on day 12 of no radio, no politics, no sports, no home-improvement or car fix-it shows, I have noticed that I've simply replaced my "radio time" with other, equally as worthless time wasters. The other day I reached level 511 on a cell phone game where my primary objective was to repeatedly hit blocks with a series of little balls. That's right, I said level 511. That's awful. It's awful, not because cell phone games are inherently evil, it's awful because I allowed my pursuit of the goal to draw closer to God during Lent to become clouded. I replaced dumb with stupid.
Time is tough to manage. It never stops. It's constantly melting away into oblivion. As unlimited as we convince ourselves it is, it's not. You and I have a finite amount of time to invest in our earthly relationships and a finite amount of time to pursue Jesus before we face an eternity with Him or without Him.
Lent is a fantastic opportunity to drop the extra noise in your life and lean heavy into your relationship with Jesus. But, these efforts will fall short if you cut the noise and allow other noise to creep in to replace it. Allow me to encourage you to narrow your gaze, lower your head, lean in and get after it. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
My dad would have been 70 years old today. He was never really into birthday celebrations or having anyone make a fuss over him. He appreciated a card or a "Happy Birthday pop" as much as the next guy but that was the extent of it for him.
As he got older, I noticed a distinct change in his personality. He became more emotional. At first it manifest itself in anger, not towards anyone but rather towards an idea or suggestion that he feared. I remember him being angry that my family and I were traveling on a long distance vacation. He was indignant at the thought of me going to Brazil, two different times. He was angry, not at me but rather at the possibilities. He was angry because he cared. He didn't want anything to happen to anyone and his mind, the easiest way to accomplish that was to keep everyone indoors at all times.
As he aged, his anger morphed into a deeper, more tearful expression. He would cry over anything. For a guy that spent much of his life as a meat cutter and then police officer, he tended to wear his emotions on his sleeve in his older age.
I remember one birthday, my wife and I purchased him the ultimate gift in his eyes, "A Home Depot Gift Card". It seemed to lack the personal touch but it was what he preferred. In our effort to personalize it, my creative wife wrapped the gift card and placed it inside the vest of a stuffed bear. She then wrapped that bear inside of a box, and then another box and still another box, each wrapped neatly with the expectation that inside was, "the gift". As he unwrapped the first box and discovered that there was yet another box he began to tear up. With each box he opened his crying intensified until the room full of his wife, sons, daughter-in-laws and grandchildren grew silent. By the time he reached the bear and discovered the gift card inside the vest he was in full crying mode. I remember hugging him and his comment of, "That was so nice."
As I reflect on this, the day of his 70th birthday, I am reminded and encouraged that as "nice" as that "present" was, there is nothing greater than the "presence" he is experiencing at this moment. He is face to face with God Himself, His heavenly Father, worshipping at the foot of the throne with an angelic choir. For that I am grateful.
As I think about my life I see strong similarities between my father and I. I am growing more emotional. As I grow older, I am realizing that all of the presents in the world, all of the nice things, all of the toys, all of the cars, all of the tech, all of the stuff that we spend so much of our time clamoring for is meaningless compared to the presence of God Almighty.
Don't miss the presence for the presents. Stay focused. Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
Happy birthday pop. I love you.
I'm half way through day 6 of my 40 day Lenten journey of radio silence. As I've been driving around running errands, heading to appointments and running my kids to and fro, I've been struck by the power of silence. Here's what I've realized in just the last 6 days.
Silence provides perspective. We've all been there before, completely raging over something that at the moment seems huge and impossibly outrageous. Go ahead and fill in the blank for whatever you've recently found yourself raging about.
Insert rage topic here: _______________________________
What you've probably realized is that after a few minutes, especially a few silent minutes, what just moments ago seemed so worthy of our rage starts to appear more reasonable. Maybe it takes longer than just a few minutes, but you get the idea. Silence offers our brains a chance to catch up with our emotions. People with lots of letters after their names could probably tell you what that's called but I call it, "The Silent Treatment". Now I know that the term "Silent Treatment" is already taken and means something different, but for our purposes, let's redefine it. We could all stand to give our rage a little bit of the "Silent Treatment" from time to time.
The "Silent Treatment" allows us to pump the breaks on the rehearsal that's going on in our brains. We've all done it before, we continue to rehearse over and over in our minds the injustice that we feel has occurred. We work ourselves up into a frenzy before we've allowed some sanity to seep into our brains.
The "Silent Treatment" allows our brains to catch a little bit of that, "still small voice" that has been getting drowned out in our rage. Our response of rage and anger does not match how the Scripture calls us to respond.
James 1:19 says, "Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry."
I know, it's tough. Over the last few days, my car has been a rollercoaster ride of emotions, but it works. Put this idea to the test. Be quiet. Allow your brain to catch up to your emotions and give the Holy Spirit an opportunity to get a word in edgewise.
Be encouraged and keep moving forward.
In line with the ancient tradition of Lent I have decided to, "Give up in order to pick up". I'm choosing to give up radio. Now I know to many of you that sounds silly, perhaps even pointless but for me it's big. I listen to lots of radio while I drive. Mostly talk radio. Lots of opinion shows. Opinions on politics, cars, sports, home improvement, finance, etc. Generally the first thing I do when I get in the car is flip the radio to AM and tune in to one of my "go to shows". In the morning it's mostly politics and current events. So allow me to lay this out for you. The very first thing I do to start my day is tune in to an opinion show and allow someone else to inform me about how to think. It sounds ridiculous when you say it like that. Why in the world would I do that? Why would allow anyone to speak into the start of my day other God Himself? It's crazy. So I stopped listening.
Today was rough. My drive is literally only 7-8 minutes to work but today seemed extra long. In place of my, "Give up" I decided to "Pick up" prayer as I drive. I started and faded several times. What was interesting is that at several points I realized I was no longer praying and instead I was just staring blankly out the front window. I even tried singing, I'll spare you the torture but here's what I sang.
"Lord prepare me, to be a sanctuary. Pure and holy, tried and true. And with thanksgiving, I'll be a living, sanctuary for you." There can be no better start to a day than that effort right there. I hope you'll consider joining me on this Lenten journey. Give up so you can pick up. Be encouraged and keep me moving forward.