Saturday, April 8, 2017

Pressing On

What’s in a name?  Everyone has a first name that they were given by their birth parents.  Most people keep that name from day one, and it stays with them until the day they die.  Occasionally, people change their name, maybe first and last, because they didn’t feel like the name really fit them, or maybe it did fit them but they wanted to be someone different.  Other times, people can get nick-names that other people give them at different times in their life based on quirks they have, or physical characteristics, or embarrassing experiences that have now defined you in another person’s life.  Or, maybe we give ourselves names because of how we feel about ourselves and how we see our value in this world based on how others treat us.

It’s easy for me to establish my value & identity on what I hear others say about me and how social media tends to dictate what I should value, and even, if I have any value.  So easy, that I knew I had to make a change.  At the beginning of 2017, I reached a point where I was dissatisfied enough with the messages around me and about me that I knew that I needed to turn them off.  This led to really minimizing my presence on Facebook to almost nothing, but I also knew that I had to make other changes as well.  Most of my life I’ve been overweight....because of my own eating choices and decisions not to push myself to exercise.  I’ve never really been a very athletic person nor have I maintained any interest in team sports since my soccer days in elementary school.  Once I got into a routine of laziness and over-eating, that routine has been seemingly impossible to break.  Which is where I was in January of this year.  I was at the heaviest I had ever been and the year in front of me seemed like there was no plan to be any different.

But since September, we had been studying a book by Max Lucado called “Grace” in the small group with our church, and it had been speaking to me.  I thought I knew about the importance of showing grace to others in my life but there was one thing I had been missing.  Did I think I was worthy of God’s grace in my life? Was I really accepting God’s grace in my life?  Who was I?  It’s that last question that has really captured my attention and caused me to examine things in my life.  It came down to realizing just how much God loves me for who I am right now and how much he has planned for my life!  You see, part of getting overweight and staying overweight is the idea of failure.  I thought I was a failure and always would be a failure because when I would try to exercise and eat a little better, the power of food (which is what I took comfort in) and encounters with soreness and joint pain always won out.  So, I guess I was just always meant to be overweight and lazy, right?

No…not at all.  When I started to really think about how much God loves me everyday, no matter what, is when I knew this wasn’t what or who I was.  If I made a mistake, so what, God still loves me.  “But it’s too hard!” I would say.  Again, no.  Because God loves me, he will give me the strength to succeed.  So I started to really cut back on the amount I was eating and started eating healthier. I spent weeks trying to figure out what healthy foods agree and don’t agree with my weird digestive system (still fine tuning this) and I stopped shoving all the sugar and fat in my mouth all the time.  And I started moving....walking early in the morning, then biking some too, then training the right way for two 5K’s I signed up for in a little over a month.  In the midst of joint pain from my body getting used to all this activity, waking up in the middle of the night with leg cramps from exercising, learning the hard way that I need to stretch better, and learning how to workout with a sprained ankle (because apparently I still don’t know how to walk down stairs sometimes), I start to feel better, start to lose the weight that has been building up for the last 20 + years, and start to realize that I am not who the world tells me I am. I am the creation that God made me and I can do ANYTHING in the grace He gives me each and every day.  Just as God has allowed be to make extraordinary changes in my life in over the last three month, I know that when I wake up tomorrow I will know who I am and Who I belong to………and I will press on.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

What Remains of the Destruction

There are times when I write in order to workout my own thoughts and emotions because it is hard for me to grasp what I see around me and it’s the only way I know how to try and process the events, and in what I see now, the carnage. I am writing this less than 48 hours after the results of the 2016 presidential election and the view is bleak.  I don’t say this because of the individual that has been elected into office but because of all the anger, hatred, mocking, gloating, screaming and shouting that is in almost every social media post, news report, and conversation that is within earshot. 

I understand the emotion that has built up over the course of the last two years with every commercial, debate, rally, news story, and online article that has decried every single candidate with expletive after expletive.  Emotions that push neighbors, co-workers, and even fellow church members to ridicule and mock one another because of differing beliefs and opinions.  Emotions that bring us to the point of publicly questioning the strength of each other’s faith, patriotism, ethical beliefs, and attitudes towards racism, sexism, xenophobic, homophobic outlooks on the world.  I am most troubled by hearing aand reading these statements from people who proclaimed more than their fair share of “amens” in churches led by pastors who have reiterated to congregations of the dangers of this very behavior over the past several months. 

 But when your emotion drives you to call any candidate, political supporter, or anyone else the thousands of hateful, dirty, disgusting words that have been uttered over the last two years……what does that make you?  A Republican?  A Democrat?  A Christian?  A Pro-Life or Pro-Choice advocate?  A Patriot?  Maybe, but so what? When you condemn, criticize, chastise and berate the very people that are created and loved by God, what does that make you?  When you lose your temper and scream at those expressing their opinions...exercising the very rights you hold so dear to your own heart....what does that make you?

When you’re angry that the world around you hates Jesus and doesn’t eve recognize Him anymore…..maybe it’s because they don’t see Jesus in you?  Maybe the Jesus that you proclaim is in control of this nation no matter who is in the White House, is weeping as He sees what his children are saying and doing to each another. 

Maybe…there is a time to just….be….quiet.  And now, so will I.

Monday, April 25, 2016

What's your story?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that everyone has a story. While it may not be a Hollywood blockbuster set to score written by John Williams, it’s still there. This is a story that no one else has ever heard because this story can only be told by your own words about events that have only been seen through your eyes. The trouble is, we spend a huge amount of time avoiding neighbors and co-workers purposely just so we don’t have to tell a story that they might desperately need to hear. 

Sometimes the story doesn't have a happy ending and it may still have some blank chapters at the end, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth sharing. The stories that we bottle-up inside ourselves shove into the deepest areas of our heart are the ones that someone around you desperately needs to hear. Maybe it’s the experience of losing a family member or close friend that broke you to pieces, or it’s the loss of a relationship or job. Maybe it’s finding your life’s passion after years of a bitter and regret-filled life. Whatever your story is, whether it’s on chapter 3 or 80, it’s not meant for you alone. You see, my story isn’t just written by me. Everyone around me: family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, people in my church, are all part of my story. Their experiences, laughter, tears, dreams, regrets and hope is what helps me see the world around me in a way that my eyes aren’t able to see, but only if they tell me their story. And just as my life is richer with their lives, I owe it to them to share my story. It’s not just my story and their story, but it’s our story.

 So what next? Don’t wait until you have a typewriter, don’t proofread over and over just waiting for the perfect words, and don’t wait until you complete three years of Toastmasters. Sit down and write or just talk to someone, but whatever you do, just share. So, what’s your story?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Reclaiming Your Life

Many of us have heard of the term “reclaimed wood”.  This is wood that had once been used as a door, or rafters in a house, or an old barn that had been torn down because of years of neglect or maybe even a fire. Or maybe it was an old piece of furniture like a chest of drawers that had been set out for the trash because of one too many gouges in the side, or a corner that got chipped off or perhaps a knob broke off.  For whatever the reason, the previous owner no longer wanted the chest and it was then considered trash.  But when used construction material or used furniture is taken, stripped of paint, sanded down, and old nails and screws are removed so it can begin a life as something new, this is called reclaimed wood.  Someone has seen something beautiful and found value in that piece of wood, old window or old dresser. 

A lot of times things can happen in our own lives that damage ourselves in ways we think are beyond repair.   A lost job, a lost loved one, an emotional hurt or maybe a sin we’ve committed that we just can’t seem to forgive ourselves of and are certain God will never forgive either.  These are life-changing events and sometimes we allow parts of our life to die after they’ve occurred.  We allow the pain to scar our minds and souls so we spend the rest of our lives with an emotional limp that never seems to go away.  We feel that because of the pain and hurt and suffering we’ve experienced that it’s clearly a sign that God has abandoned us or even worse, was never with us at all.  But the fact that we know what pain feels like means that we also know what it feels like to be healthy and vibrant.  It means at some point we have already experienced God’s love and grace in our life whether we realized it at the time or not. 

Deuteronomy 31:8 says,

 “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you.  He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” 

Now this doesn’t mean that God keeps us from experiencing pain and sorrow because He doesn’t.  The reason there is pain and sorrow in the world to begin with is because people’s sin and selfishness create them with our actions and our own words.  This was not God’s design for Creation, it is what we made it by allowing sin into our lives.  But this verse means that despite the pain and sorrow we have of our own making, God is with us and will never abandon us.  He will always make himself available for our healing and restoration.  He will reclaim our lives if we let Him and we can reclaim our lives to serve Him.  Those parts of your life that were once scarred or dead can now have those nails removed, those nicks and gouges sanded down, and new purpose can be found in what was once left to rot.  Will your life ever be just as it once was? No, but it can still be beautiful and others around you who might have gone through or are going through the same pain you experienced can find hope in your life and can learn from your experiences. 

We can choose to rot like wood sitting in a pile in someone’s backyard, wasting away or we can reclaim our lives for God and allow the beauty of the scars in the weathered wood of our lives to find a new home with a new purpose.  Choose a new life.

Monday, May 5, 2014


Content -- noun - Having substance and measurable.  That which fills a particular spatial area. 

I must provide definable, measurable, and quantifiable value for everything I do, everything I say, and every interaction I have with others.  The world constantly screaming in our ears that we should be making the most of our lives and making sure we don’t fritter away the final hours of each day.  Life has a way of assigning a series of lists and check boxes to every day, and then lying awake at night figuring out how to check more boxes and make more lists the following day.  That is how I feel life has become for me to a degree, and that if I don’t make my quota of meetings, errands and completed chores then my life will have been nothing but a waste.  Nothing I've ever done is enough and my lists of lists are never complete, only growing.

But, I’ve been accumulating too many books that need reading. I’ve driven by too many wooded trails that need exploring.  I’ve spent too much time scrolling the News Feed making sure I didn’t miss anything the rest of the world is doing. I’ve been too busy making sure I check-in at every gas station and Starbucks I frequent.  I’ve spent too much time thinking about what to say than I do wondering if I have anything worth saying.  I’ve expressed too many opinions aloud rather than leaving too many words best left unsaid: criticism, complaining, arguing, and disregarding.  I want to spend more time loving others, helping others, and loving the Creator that has given me the opportunity to love.

Content -- verb - to realize that wherever you are, regardless of how much you have or don’t have, you have enough.  To be joyful with God’s provision in your life.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A weekend with Papa

Have you ever had a time in your life that was so wonderful and filled you with so much joy that you wish time would freeze and you could live it over and over again?  This past weekend was one of those times for when I had the extreme privilege of hearing Wm. Paul Young, author of "The Shack" speak at my church and at a men's retreat.  throughout the series of talks that spanned over three days I laughed, cried, and learned how to feel God's love in my life in brand new ways that I never thought was possible for me.  I cannot possibly share all of the stories Paul told that were both heart-wrenching and utterly hope-filled at the same time, but I wanted to share just a few things that my Papa has been trying to tell me all along.

1.  I love you! I love you! I love you! No matter what you do son, I love and I will always love you.  No matter what!  You can't change this and I won't change this! I am love.

2.  You do not belong to fear and sin.  You, my child, were created in My image, and I am always good.  If there is pain, sorrow, hurt or sin it did not come from Me.  So if I am always good, and you were created in My image, then you do not belong to sin, you belong to me. If you do not belong to sin then sin does not define you, only my love defines you.

3. I don't bring pain and death into this world, but that doesn't mean that I won't use it for something better, something monumental.  I did not create death, but I can use death to create a bigger and better life than you can imagine.  

4. I cannot lie because I am always good.  So, if I ask you to trust me, then nothing can happen that won't be good.  Nothing.

5. In case you've already forgotten, I love you!  

This is what Papa told me this weekend, and if you are quiet and listen really carefully, He's telling you too. If you want to hear part of what Wm Paul Young shared this weekend, you can go to Cornerstone Church's website and listen for yourself.  Now go talk to your Papa!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Where has the time gone?

It’s happened again this year.  In fact, it’s happened more than once this year.  An entire season has gone by far more quickly than I anticipated.  Thinking back to around Memorial Day, I can remember that I had a mental list of things that I wanted to do and projects that I wanted to tackle that just didn’t get done.  What happened?  Life happened: work, sleep, and mostly times when I was just feeling completely unmotivated to do anything and always thinking to myself, “Well, I’ll do that next weekend.”  It never ceases to amaze me how quickly time passes by and how large my ambitions are vs. how committed I am do seeing something through to the end. 

Unfortunately, there are other areas in life that can fall into this same pattern.  We have so many good intentions that never make it past the planning stage. We put off phone calls to family members and old friends to the point where we don’t think about them anymore. We let the Bible sit on the table gathering dust and choose to turn on the T.V. instead of talking to our Father who misses hearing from us.

I often forget that from the day I was born, my time on this planet was already pre-determined and I don’t get an unlimited number of tomorrows or next weeks.  What I choose to do today and every other day is critical to my life and the lives of others.  The opportunities I have to comfort, hug, or even say “I love you” to someone decrease every single day and I don’t get those moments back.  The chances to show hope and love to my neighbors, co-workers, even the person in front of me at the grocery store slips away with every sunset and before I know it, there are no more chances and no more tomorrows. 

I don’t want to think to myself, “If I could live my life over again I would…” rather I want to know exactly where my time has gone and know it was spent well.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The cradle will not rock

My job is fairly uneventful. Mainly a 9 to 5 type of work with some travel thrown in the mix here and there.  I can say it’s been pretty carefree and uninteresting for the most part, that is until this week.  It just so happens that I was scheduled to fly to Boston 24 hours after the bombing at the Boston Marathon two days ago.  There was definitely a pit in my stomach when I heard about this on the news on the drive home when it happened.  Panic and fear immediately hit a city and an event that draws immense international focus and attention.  I was hoping to get an email immediately saying that my conference was canceled.  I was hoping that the hotel, which is one block away from where the blasts happened, would say that everyone has been evacuated and it is closed until further notice. But no, this wasn’t the case.

When I got to Boston I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  Would there be mass chaos or people everywhere in the throes of emotional breakdowns? No, this still wasn’t the case.  What I saw, and still see around me here, is quite the opposite.  While everyone is all too aware of the tragedies of two days ago, the people of Boston are not defeated.  The faces I see around me are still smiling, although maybe not as much as they normally would.  People are still laughing and courteous, although maybe a little more wary of their surroundings than they might otherwise.  The city is still embracing one another, even the visitors such as myself, as they would have otherwise.  The spirit of Boston is still vibrant, and I think even to the point of patting the rest of the nation on the back and saying “It’s going to be okay.”

What does it mean to be tested and tried?  What does it look like to get up when you fall or you're pushed down?  I’ve experienced triumph and I’ve experienced failure and disappointment.  I’ve been beaten down to the point where I almost haven’t been able to get up.  But this is the first time since 9/11 I’ve witnessed first-hand an entire community stand back up and brush itself off.  I don’t think it’s possible to fully understand the events that this city have experienced in the last 48 hours, but I am grateful, and privileged, to witness the recovery that is happening.  I’m glad I came, I’m proud of this city, God Bless America!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Day In Between

Yesterday, it all went down.  The man who spent the last three years of his life dedicated to loving others without concern of what the world thought, who performed miracle after miracle for people who both praised his name and I’m sure some who just took his gift and threw it away, was humiliated, beaten, and then spent hour after agonizing hour hanging by spikes ripping into his flesh.  It was brutal and excruciating pain, made all the worse by Roman soldiers pointing and laughing while throwing die to see who would get his only possessions he ever owned.  But his entire life was preparing him for this day…… was destined to happen from the beginning.  And why was that?  It was because of me and because of you.  We were the hammer, the hammer that drove the nails into his body.  We were the ones who chose to turn away from God time and time again.  We had our own agenda and our own game plan.  We chose evil, and hate, and nasty words, and death, and tearing people down, and letting people starve, and letting children wallow in sickness and did nothing.  We should have been up there, hanging from those beams and writhing in pain.  We deserved this.  But that man, the one named Jesus, he did it for us.  In fact, just as he was being taken captive by the those soldiers the other day, he turned around and gave a little nod to the disciples, saying, “Don’t worry, I’ve got this.” This was yesterday.

Tomorrow, well we know what’s going to happen then.  Jesus was telling us all along what would happen.  While he would die, he would live again.  He would live forever and we could too if we were willing. Yep, that’s what’s going to happen tomorrow and I can’t wait! It will be the best day ever! But what do we do now? What can we do now? What do we know how to do?  Well there is one thing we know how to do because we did it so well before, and that is to be the hammer.  But this time, what if instead of causing pain and death we choose to heal and free.  What if tomorrow, on that amazing day, we look around for people who have build up these walls around themselves.  These walls of anger, fear, failure, pain, sorrow and loneliness that have been building for so many years.  The walls that are now thick and tall, and take our hammers and chip away at them.  Some of these walls we might only crack a little bit, but others might come down with one swing.  What if we hit, and hit, and hit, and hit these walls with love, compassion, understanding, patience, and most importantly God’s forgiveness so that we aren’t the only one who get’s to see Jesus live again and reach out his hand to us? What if other could see and experience this as well?  It’s about time this hammer of mine did some good in this world.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Trainwreck-Celebrating Holidays as a Wiltsey – Part 2

While the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year, I’ve always remembered it to be mostly chaos.  Growing up I don’t recall much about this time of the year being particularly relaxing as we were usually trying to balance our everyday lives with buying a Christmas tree, cleaning, baking, shopping, performing in school Christmas plays and wrapping presents. This was also usually the time of year when my parents would decide to put a fresh coat of paint on the walls before company came.

Over the years, I’ve developed a unique skill of being able to wrap presents of just about any size and shape without too much difficulty.  This was usually a result of being the only one who would wrap about 75 or so presents for the entire family into the wee hours of the morning………even my own.  I would as why was I bothering to wrap my own presents when I already knew what I was getting, but that was a fairly irrelevant point.  Now for most families, food is a fairly significant part of celebrating the holidays.  In my family, it probably attributed to at least half of the yuletide festivities.  Where most mothers might bake one, two, maybe three different kinds of cookies; that would never do with my mom.  She is an incredibly talented baker and would make probably three to four dozen different KINDS of cookies!  And she would make them for everyone: teachers, friends, neighbors, the mechanic, the doctor’s office, the dentist’s office (yeah lots of irony there), just about anyone and everyone.  She also loved to make gingerbread houses with elaborate details like stained glass windows, firewood in the backyard and Christmas trees in the front yard. But when my mom was running short on time during this season, she would recruit my Dad and I to decorate cookies into the early morning hours. You see, my parents thoroughly believed sleep deprivation was an essential part of the Christmas season.  I quite often had those vivid images of sugarplums dancing in my head along with other hallucinations.  The only way my Dad and I could finally get off the hook of decorating these cookies is when we started to ice them with little messages like “Help Me”, or making the snowmen with “yellow snow”. 

But I think one of the greatest character building tasks that my dad would give my brother and I to do is to test all the Christmas lights before we hung them outside.  Now this was back in the day when you had the kind where if one bulb was out, they were ALL out. And it was critical to makes sure all 10 of the 200+ light strands were tested and that all of the burnt out lights were replaced.  That is, after we untangled the thirty-pound tangled ball that they had morphed into over the course of the previous year up in the attic.

But all of this is still part of the amazing childhood that I had, and when I feel that longing to experience the Christmases of my youth, I just cover my hands in pine sap so they stick to everything I touch for about a week and a half.