Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Hey, do you wanna hear something amazing?

So, I have a story to tell. This story is more about God than about me.

Several years ago I started getting this feeling of dissatisfaction with my job. I love being a paramedic and helping people. I just did not want to do it forever. I have been a paramedic for 10 years. I just wanted to move up or move on. Have you ever felt that way?

As a result of this feeling, I kind of went off a little half-cocked. What I mean by this is I started to brain storm all kinds of scenarios in which I could go to college and work full time, or get promoted, or change to a lateral career path, like firefighting or police. I was basically driving myself batty with what-ifs and maybes. I have ADD anyway, and this was driving my wife and I crazy.

During this time I interviewed for the position of Lieutenant every time it was available. This was three times over about 2 ½ years. Every time I interviewed, I felt like I was a good candidate, but I just was never chosen. Have you ever been passed over, when you felt like you were the better choice? Exactly. It was a large blow to my self-confidence. I would even get angry and want to rage about it. Teagan (my wife) was wise too say it was not yet my time. God would show me when it was time.

Being the intrepid personality that I am, nothing keeps me down for long, and my self-confidence would return rapidly. I have to admit though, after the last interview process in Fall 2009, I really felt that I had it. Once again I was passed over. I just told myself that I didn’t care, even though I really did. In my mind, I just gave up on being promoted. I allowed that dream to die. It was a little sad, but I comforted myself by saying, God must want something else for me. Boy was I an idiot.

What I did not know and had not planed on was God’s timing. I had no idea that He was just waiting for the right moment to bless me. Unknown to me the boss at my job was planning a complete overhaul of the command structure at work. I had no idea, but God did.

Several days ago I was driving back from visiting my sister in Virginia. I was speaking with my wife about my goals and where I wanted to go in the future. I mentioned my desire to move off of the ambulance in the next five years or so.

The next day the boss at work called me into the office. I thought I was in big trouble. Instead I was offered a promotion to Lieutenant. I was stunned. No interview to impress at. No carefully crafted master plan. Just offered on a silver platter.

I accepted, of course. Even though this position is not off of the ambulance, nonetheless it is a step in the right direction.
Here is the key, the moral if you will. I had given up on my dream of promotion. I had never told anyone until now, but I had decided to move on. God had not. God had not given up on me, or my dreams. He had been waiting for the perfect moment to bless me, right when I most needed it.

Please allow this story to remind you, that God has not given up. Not on you or your dreams. I don’t know what they are, but God sure does. He is just waiting for your moment. Be ready to receive what He is anxious to give you.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Have you ever had your mind blown?

Have you ever had your mind blown? How about continuously detonated, like being on the street in London during WWII? I certainly have.

What caused the spontaneous combustion of my medulla oblongata, you ask? Why a book of course.

My parents taught me long ago (I know I am not that old but go with it) that all knowledge that is worth knowing is written down somewhere. Unfortunately in our, McDonalds, have it your way, right now!, culture, the written word is not featured as it once was. My mother taught me the love of words. She was a bible scholar and my home schoolteacher. (Cracking the whip, hitting with foreign objects, and choke holds were used, and not by me, most definitely on me). I also credit my mother with teaching me the love of God’s Word.

I read rapidly. I devour information at a very high rate. I was just not prepared for the devastation to my worldview from a very unassuming book, The Grace of God by Andy Stanley.

Andy Stanley is the son of a pastor who started his own church in Atlanta. The church is called North Point Community Church, www.northpoint.org. There is nothing fancy or standout in his story. However, if anyone else reads the Bible that I read, God loves to use the humble people to do magnificent things.

In this book Andy lays out the story of God’s grace. I was woefully unprepared for how this would land in my dry soul. Like many other people I try to be good. I work hard, push myself, and try to be good enough for God. I always fail. I cannot be good enough, ever. But, the glutton for punishment that I am, I constantly try. Even though I understand that the bible tells us that Jesus took the punishment for us, I still feel the need to earn it. Don’t you ever catch yourself thinking or doing something to be worthy in God’s sight?

The Grace of God just wrecked my ship entirely. Every chapter was amazing. Andy held my hand and walked me though bible stories that we all know, but never catch the grace God laid out for us to see. I felt like I was on a personal tour of God’s amazing grace.

In one chapter Andy ends with a prayer. A very simple prayer. It goes like this. “I can’t do stop doing _____________, But God, you can. Amen”. Andy then asked that you pray this out loud. I did. Then I cried.

I had finally realized something really wonderful about God. Due to my humble human state, I can never be good enough. It is a good thing that God doesn’t want that. What God wants is for us to ask for help. That’s it. He wants to give us help. I had been trying all this time to do it on my own. I was an idiot. God gives us grace every day, so we can make it though.

Read the book. It has so much more than I could cover here. Besides, Andy explains it way better that I ever could. Just stop banging your head on the wall. Learn from one who now knows (proved by the several dents and scars in said head). Allow God to help you instead. I highly recommend it.

Monday, January 31, 2011


So what is the best way to use a weekend off from work? Why, invite 9 youths over to stay at my house, of course, from Friday evening until after Sunday morning church. Instead of relaxing, hanging out with my wife, or completely the plethora of work I could be doing, I volunteered to be a host home for Fusion. Why, you ask. Why did you do something that insane? Because those 9 kids really need it.

I started the weekend planning. I was off for several days leading into the weekend and I was going to be ready. I was not only the host home, but I was playing the role of small group leader as well. In previous years I had been unprepared and I ended up exhausted afterwards, sleeping all Sunday afternoon. First thing, first, food. An army runs on its stomach, and with teenage boys this was certainly true. i had to plan the menu. I over planned, bought more than I needed, and still ended up with empty bags and empty refrigerator. As every good small group leader knows, when you don't know the answer to a question, it's time for dessert!

Food taken care of (with the intrepid assistance of my wife) I dove into the lessons. I read the lessons and the scriptures associated with them. I knew what I was going to say and how I would answer questions. I was starting to feel prepared. I was confident and ready.

Then it was Friday night. The students started to arrive. I told them where to put their sleeping stuff. I started chilling and speaking with them. i asked them questions. About their hobbies, sports, school, and girls. I gauged their moods. They were excited. Buzzing. So was I.

That night was the first of three worship and sermon sessions. The band was rocking. The kids were jazzed about the new Blount County Campus, having never before been there. Matt and Michael, our own personal Hardy boys, set the stage and harnessed the excitement, priming the students like the pros they are. The kids were almost foaming at the mouth. Then the guest speaker spoke. You should have seen the students. I did. I was watching them lean forward as he spoke. As he shared his experience with the Birmingham SWAT team, the kids were hooked. The story was so vivid, the kids were just there. Afterwards, my guys were declaring that they would have decimated the SWAT team. The rush was on.

The kids stayed up all night. I am an old man and went to sleep at midnight. I slept for 7 hours before getting up. i did the same the next night and slept 8 1/2 hours. this is a survival tip for you leaders. I gave the kids instructions, told them to not leave my house, and went to sleep. I felt like a champ the entire weekend. I can not stress enough the importance of a well rested leader. Less dead children that way.

I think the biggest moment for me personally was the last night's worship. It felt like we had been at summer camp for a week. God was definitely in the house. I have not been that refreshed in a long time. At the end, the students were instructed to write, what was holding them back from serving God with a whole heart, in a box of sand. Then they should wipe it away. I felt God touching my heart. No it couldn't be. This was for the kids, right? God showed me what I needed to write. I knelt by the box of sand and wrote. Then I wiped it away. I felt clean and whole. I was free of that thing. God did that for me. Please get this. It was not just for the students. It is for the leaders also.

For my boys, the time was the last night's small group discussion. I just asked a simple question. What did you learn from this weekend? What lesson did you take away? What I heard blew me away. The boys opened like a flower blooming. Light bulbs switched on. Students had listened and better yet, applied. I loved it! There is nothing more awesome than watching God at work!

The next afternoon, after the kids were gone. My phone was exploding with texts. The guys were texting me for advice. They wanted to know how to change their lives to serve God better. I was in awe. All I had done was plan some meals and read some prewritten lessons. The work I put in did not measure up to the results. But God had known the entire time. He had seen the condition of my guys hearts and he knew what they needed to hear.

So why did I give up my home and my weekend for Fusion? Because God used it to change lives. I witnessed it first hand. These kids need you.

So maybe God is asking you to serve somewhere and you are resisting. Give up now and watch God at work. It just never gets better than this.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Guns, of course.

Every man should have hobbies. I have decided that one of mine is going to be shooting guns. Why guns? Because I like them, they are fun to shoot, and on the off chance that someone messes with me, my friends, my family, my church, or looks at me kind of funny, I can shoot them too.

I turned 30 recently. When my wife, Teagan, asked me what I wanted I wanted to do for my big three oh, I said, "Shoot stuff." Like many other guys I have several groups of friends. Friends from church, friends from work, and friends from small group, even some crazy friends. In each of these groups of friends, there are several who also shoot guns. So I used my birthday party as an excuse to drag them out and shoot together. It was brilliant! Let me set the stage.
The day was cloudy and 30 degrees out, to start. Over the course of the day the temperature dropped to 18 degrees, I checked. I was fine, but some of the others hid in there cars to warm up.

As you can see it was cold. But this just encouraged more shooting, to heat up the gun barrels to warm up our hands!

I got to pop off a couple of rounds. Like 200.

Some were more serious than others.

As you can see there was plenty of things to shoot!

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There was even some Tomfoolery!!

Fun was had by all. This was one of my more successful ideas. I am currently hatching plans to start practice for some tactical shooting competitions. I am even going to sell my Glock handgun to upgrade to a 1911 style .45. If you want in on some of this fun, hit me up here or on facebook. Love to shoot with you!!

What does it mean to be a man?

What does it mean to be a man? I always thought that it meant the Terminator. Tall, dressed in black, a dangerous killing machine, and emotionally dead. No one and nothing bothered you. You remember hearing that guys don't cry, are not sad, and should have no other emotion other than anger. I even remember learning from those great authorities, my friends, that women were to look at, admire, and lust after, but never try to communicate with in a meaningful way. Real men just told their woman how it was going to be. Boy was I an idiot.

To encompass the mental idea of a man I even coined a popular video gaming phrase. Ownage or pwnage. I defined this as the consistent domination of your opponent in such a way that you were obviously the better man. Example: I owned you in that basketball game. Or That dude just got owned! (Dude was punched in the face.) So by extension if I owned others on a continuous basis, I was then Ownage. I even called myself the Ownage Masta. Wow, my arrogance knows no bounds.

I first got a small inkling that maybe there was more too this several years later. I became interested in what a man of God was like. I was rebuilding my own life from the hole I had dug, so I was looking for a different mold to follow. I started reading in the bible about some the most "manly" biblical figures. Jesus topped the chart, but I was hesitate to count him initially. He was God so what chance did a regular guy like me have a chance measuring up? Time to down the expectation a little. I started with some of the original "manly" men. The "OGs" of manliness, if you will. Prophets and Old Testament leaders. Moses (parted the Red Sea), Abraham (the father of God's people Isreal), Elijah (killed 900 preists of Baal by beheading), and Gideon (killed an entire army with only 300 guys after sending that rest of his army home). I had this preconception of what a man was. I thought that by reading these stories I would somehow unlock the secret to be more awesome and to be able to do amazing or epic things also. But that is not what I found while reading those stories. Moses told God that he could not speak well enough and to send someone else to free the Jews form Pharaoh in Egypt. Abraham was so impatient that God give him a son to start the nation of Israel that he had sex with another woman and then disowned his first son. Gideon asked God multiple times if he was doing right thing. He even made God wet and dry a small piece of wool to tell him to do it. Unsure much? Elijah, after the epic showdown on the mountain where God arrived and burned the waterlogged bull sacrifice disgracing his enemies, and Elijah personally beheaded 900 priests of Baal (wouldn't your arm get tired?) and then Elijah at his moment of extreme Ownage, is scared of the queen and runs into the desert to hide.

Wait a minute. This is not the picture I had in my head. Men were not supposed to do these things. Moses saying he cant speak, what a weak excuse! Abraham was impatient and had sex with a woman not his wife. Adultery and trying to rush God? Gideon so unsure of himself he asks God several times? Elijah, my favorite Old Testament figure, runs away at his moment of greatest triumph because he is afraid of a woman!!! These is not what I thought men were supposed to be like. Where was the disconnect? Was the bible wrong? No, the bible is God's Word. So what was the problem?

The problem was with my thinking. The problem was this unattainable image of the prefect, aloof, emotionless man. I was trying to be something that did not exist. I felt like an idiot.

Instead lets take another look at those bible stories. When Moses made his lame excuse God told him that he would send his brother to speak for him. In other words, you going. When Abraham wasted lots of time and effort trying to fulfill God's promise, God made Abraham's wife, Sarah, pregnant after she was 90 years old. In other words, wait, I got this. When Gideon was unsure, God not only reassured him, but also made the enemy army panic when Gideon arrived and they were so confused they killed each other! In other words, I am gonna do it, and you have no idea how, so just do what I told you to do. When Elijah ran for cover and collapsed in exhaustion under a tree, God sent an angel to say, " What are you doing here, Elijah?" I Kings 19:9 God was asking "What in the heck do you think your doing?"

In every one of these stories God was the one behind it all. All the "ownage" was God. So I had it all wrong. Being a man of God was not about the man at all, but instead all about God.

So I am now developing another definition for what a man of God is. Here is what I have so far. This is by no means a complete list, but rather a work in progress. A man of God realizes that without God he is nothing. Only by God's grace is he not in hell from the multitude of his own sin. Because he understands his new humble position, he gives others the same grace that God gave him. Meekness is not a weakness. God in his grace, bestowed on man responsibilities. A man of God is to attend to his responsibilities as if God is watching, because He is. These responsibilities include but are not restricted to; leading his family in God's way, caring for the "stuff" that God allows him to have, Being thankful for the grace and responsibilities. Relating to women in a manner respecting their place as the apex of creation. It was not perfect until women were created. To make an effort to understand their own emotions, so they will not flounder around like an idiot and trample other people, with harsh words, and angry actions. Showing and teaching what a man of God is to other younger, less enlightened men, (known as the brain dead, usually those under the age of 24 years old, also to include those living in their mother's basement).

This blog is part of my effort to do this. I hope to chronicle my journey discovering what it means to be a man of God. This includes manly behaviors like guns, sports, exercise, hiking, working, video gaming, learning, writing, and thinking. And every once in a while I may relate those things that God has chosen to reveal to me.