Saying Goodbye…

Saying Goodbye…

We all probably say hello and goodbye thousands of times throughout our lives. Hello’s are usually pleasurable and goodbye’s, well, not very often so. Sometimes goodbyes are followed by “catch you later” or “see you tomorrow” or even “see you next year”. There’s an expectation of renewal and the anticipated enjoyment of seeing that friend or acquaintance again, whether it’s just overnight or even a year from now. We simply rest in the knowledge that, God willing, we’ll meet again.

It’s when the goodbye being spoken is to someone that has passed is what carries the most pain. Saying goodbye to a family member, friend or acquaintance that has passed away is an incredibly painful and hard thing to do. You know that you’ll never have that person in your life again and will never, ever, in this life, cross paths to again say hello. I’m sure most of you know this from personal experience and can relate to what I’m saying.

I also know that saying goodbye to a family pet can be just as painful and difficult.

Just the other day, my wife and I had to put our little Chihuahua, Rascal to sleep. We had him for 14½ years and he was just an absolute delight to us.   He filled our lives with such incredible happiness and joy and we looked forward to coming home to him each and every day. His animated doggie personality was just so funny and he and I had our own little love language between us. I could say something ridiculously stupid to him and he would know exactly what I was talking about. I would often laugh out loud at him and he would look at me quizzically as if to say, “what are you laughing at, you’re the one who said something stupid!” He could bark or growl or whimper or whine and I knew exactly what he wanted. The wagging of his tail and the brightness of his eyes filled my life with pure joy. I loved him so much…

He slept next to our bed on top of a hope chest all snuggled in his little dog bed. I think he had about five or ten thousand small blankets littered throughout the house, (well, it certainly seemed like that many). If I woke up at night, I would always reach over and rub him, then make sure he was covered up. Then Randi would do the same thing, but she would take the covers off thinking he was too hot. We did this little dance with him throughout his life. He didn’t care…he just wanted to be with us.

At the moment, it’s just too painful for me to write about his illness and the decision we had to make in the wee hours of the morning that it was time. And, to be honest, the tears come as I write these words. Walking back in the house after being out is the worst. I expect to see and hear him at every turn and seeing the emptiness of the room where he stayed while we were out is just excruciating.

I tried going to work in the hopes that being with my clients and friends at the gym would ease the pain. It didn’t. I lasted an hour. And, my sincere apologies to those whose sessions I had to cancel.

Cherish each and every moment with those whom you love, because they can be taken away from you in an instant. Please re-read that last sentence and allow it to sink in to your very core. I know this life is temporary, as I’ve written about it before. But, it doesn’t for one moment negate or ease the pain for those who are left behind after a loved one passes.

I miss you terribly my little buddy. But, I know that where you now dwell, there is no pain and suffering. Only love…

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The Footstool of God

As a believer, I’ve come to realize that the miraculous can occur in the oddest and oftentimes from the most grim and unpleasant of personal circumstances and that God sometimes exacts His will through the thread of hardship, (I also know this from very personal experiences).Image

A few years ago, I heard a pastor speak who had been wrongfully incarcerated in a federal institution for 18 months, (a federal agricultural offense).  As he spoke, he told the story that when the cell door slammed behind him that first night and as he sat despondently on his bunk, he heard the Lord quietly ask him…”Can you still praise me in this?”.  In his situation and in his fear and self pity he at first wasn’t sure.  But, then he began to sing quietly, praising the Lord.  It was then that he realized the footstool of God was moving…something was happening. 

When the footstool of God moves, the supernatural happens here on earth.  Look around, have you seen evidence of the wondrous and miraculous in and on the earth and maybe in your own life?  Maybe you have…the footstool of God had imperceptibly moved. 

The footstool moment in this particular situation was that this pastor now has one of the most successful prison ministries in the upper Midwest.  Many have come to know the Lord through it and the spiritual fruit is overflowing.  This was his assignment.  He didn’t know it at the time, but he had to go through this experience first before the ministry could come to fruition.  The footstool of God had to move before the work could be started. 

When things look bleak in your life…and I mean really dark and painful and unpleasant things, can you honestly still praise God through it?  Can you look past your present situation and come to an understanding that possibly something miraculous and supernatural is being born from your seemingly dire circumstances? 

Are you able to let yourself to come to a fuller spiritual maturation and allow the extraordinary and inexplicable to occur through your suffering?

Can you cause the footstool of God to move?

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Giving…

I work with a lovely young woman whose husband is in the Army and was just deployed to Afghanistan a few months ago. He will be there for many months to come. When I walk into the gym in the morning to get ready for my day, I greet her knowing that she woke up alone and prepared herself to come to work without the familiar love and companionship of her husband beside her. I can only imagine how many times a day she must think about him…a hundred, a thousand? What must make it worse for her is the additional stress of wondering about his safety. Is he OK now? Will he be OK today? Will he be OK tomorrow? What about next month? What about next year? I know I’m only skimming the surface, but her thoughts must often run wild with the uncertainties of a military spouse left behind at home…to wait. She is a very strong young lady, but I’ll bet there are times in the quiet of her home that she just loses it. I know I probably would.

There are still tens of thousands of our military men and women currently stationed overseas. They’ve left husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, parents and children waiting for them here at home who I’m sure are continually concerned about their comfort as well as their safety. The living conditions in some of the places where our troops serve aren’t fit for farm animals. Yet, they serve, work, fight and often die in these places. When you sit down and think about it…I mean really think about what our troops are experiencing on a day-to-day basis, it’s very sobering.

And, as they always do, here come the holidays. Is it added stress for these families here at home? You bet it is…

I’m humbly asking that you take some time during this Thanksgiving and Christmas season to think about how you might help our men and women overseas. There are a ton of great organizations, locally, regionally and nationally who have wonderful ways in which to help our troops. Whether it is financially or sending much needed resources (foodstuffs, personal items, etc.), please consider helping in any way you can. Just Google “how can I support our troops overseas” or reach out to a local VFW, American Legion or other local military or civic organization in your area and ask how you can help. I’m sure with a little creativity, you’ll be able to come up with something you may be able to do. Anything.

Buy one less holiday pie, one less gift or one less latte or cocktail this year and put that money aside for those who aren’t going to get any of these things anytime soon. Better yet, take the money you were going to spend on a night at the movies (it’ll be out on Netflix soon) or out to dinner and do the same thing. Believe me, you’ll be glad you did.

And, so will someone’s loved one sitting in some lonely, frozen outpost halfway around the world…

Our personal freedoms and liberties are so very often taken for granted in this country. But, realize that it is on the very backs of these incredible and selfless men and women that these very freedoms and liberties are born.

They deserve not one iota less from us.

It’s Temporary…

Everything in the natural is temporary. Everything. Even our planet is temporary. Although it could be hours from now or thousands of years from now until it ceases to be, the earth’s existence is temporary. What brought this to mind were scenes from the recent, horrific flooding events in Colorado. Having lived there for almost a year, I can tell you for this to have happened and for it to have caused so much catastrophic devastation, the rainfall must’ve been never ending and torrential in proportion to normal rainfall. In several days, parts of Colorado received what they normally get in a year. Seeing photos and videos of remote mountain roads that I’ve gleefully traveled washed away, towns that I’ve visited dozens of times now underwater and mountain trails that I’ve hiked in absolute spiritual bliss no longer in existence or buried under tons of mud and debris, just brings to mental clarity that our earth’s permanence is not guaranteed. Not by a long shot. Not the planet itself, not the seas, not the mountains, not the landscape and certainly not the people. It brings you to a sobering realization…

The tragic events happening all over the globe (feel free to bring to mind whichever ones you’d like…as there are plenty), whether man-made or natural, have been occurring at a breakneck pace. And, it’s my opinion that they’re not going to stop, much less diminish in frequency anytime soon. As a matter of fact, I think such occurrences are going to increase. Not only in scope and nature, but in shock value.

My apologies, as I know this particular blog post seems to be a bit of a bummer.

However, au contraire…it gets better.

How we view the world and the things around us is what affects us as humans. What I mean is that most folks respond to stressors and conditions from worldly happenings in a negative way. It causes us to lose our happiness, joy and peace because we feel we’ve lost control. We don’t know what to do and we don’t know where to look for help. But, when we learn to change the dynamic of how we view the world and how not to let it affect us, it is only then that we can live in true peace. Sure, we’re still sympathetic and saddened by tragic events, but we don’t let them rule or control our emotions, or our lives.

I’ve come to the realization that in my own personal impermanence, I can’t and won’t rely on man, or the world for my provision, my protection and my place…that is the key. Because I know that this can only come from God. Unfortunately, folks who rely on the world for such things have difficulty understanding that man, along with the world, is irrevocably fallible and that man and the world can and will fail us. We feel safe as long as things are going our way, then when things go belly up or another tragedy occurs, we’re shocked and surprised that it happened! We become discouraged, but over time invariably return to trusting the world again and continue getting stung again and again. Sound familiar?

God however, will not fail us. Ever. In this temporary life, I’ve chosen not to toil by the sweat of my brow or the muscle of my back. It wasn’t always like that, but it is now. I’ve realized that in my walk with God, He has always been there for me. And, it is only from Him that I’ve prospered. Not from man or the world.

In his uplifting second letter to the Corinthian church in Greece around 55 AD, the apostle Paul wrote about the impermanence of this life, but reveled about what lies ahead for those who believe in God. In 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NIV), Paul said…”Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”.

It bears repeating. “We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”. When thought about from a spiritual perspective, the depth of the corollary goes to the core. It is absolutely awesome. It gives hope…

He knew. Paul knew that the world was wasting away. Even 2000 years ago. He knew that man could provide him nothing. But, God would…and, did.

When we fix our lives on what we see…the natural, we’ll toil and sweat to provide for ourselves, with indeterminable results. But, when we look to what we can’t physically see, (the things of God) and rely on that, and for those who believe…God is our provision, protection and place. Paul anchored this scriptural truth in the next chapter. In 2 Corinthians 5:7, he said…”We live by faith, not by sight”. For those who believe in Him, we are His sons. And, we can expect an inheritance from Him as sons that will palpably and deeply change us. In a world of chaos, again for those who believe, we know that it is only God who can provide for us.trust

So, take a brief look around you, locally and globally…do you really want to continue to trust man to provide for you?

A Ground Hog Moment…

I saw something the other day that broke my heart. I was returning home from the supermarket and noticed something moving on the far side of the road, near the grass. Traffic was very light and as I slowed down to look, a ground hog stood up and looked at me from across the roadway. He was standing over another obviously deceased ground hog that was lying on its back, apparently having been struck by a car. I’m using the word “he” as he was much larger than the dead ground hog which I assumed was a female. As I slowly passed, he did something that I’ll never forget…he laid down sideways over his deceased mate and laid his head and neck over and onto her upturned head and neck, then didn’t move an inch. It was as if he was comforting her, coaxing her to get up and telling her that everything was going to be alright. He was exhibiting the animal kingdom’s rendition of grief and sorrow. It struck me in a very deep place…

It also got me to thinking…why is it that we do the things we do to our fellow man? Constant news reports of various acts of violence and brutality are an every minute occurrence once you log on to a news feed, one incident seemingly more abhorrent than the next. Yes, good things do happen too, but reporting them is usually relegated to a small blurb. It seems folks like to read about the other stuff better.

While I know the animal world can be a violent place, it was this particular act, by an animal, of grief, sorrow and compassion that brought me to write about it. We can drop a few coins in the tip jar at the local convenience store or stop to help a stranded motorist along the highway, but as soon as we get home or to work we’ll yell at our kids, berate our spouses or co-workers, or just remain cold, detached and uninterested in the lives of those around us.

Where is OUR compassion for others?

It took the compassionate, grief-stricken act of a simple ground hog for me to realize that I need to bump it up a few notches. I need to care more than I do now. And, then more than that tomorrow. God does things like that…he uses the most seemingly insignificant circumstances to bring us to our senses. And, sometimes to our knees.

I’ll never forget that road side moment…and, I pray that God will never ALLOW me to forget.

Taking Stock…

Here in New Jersey, lawns are being mowed, bushes and shrubs are being pruned and homes are being cleaned and aired out. Garages are purged of unwanted and stored “stuff”, and then organized along with cars being cleaned and waxed. Its springtime and the yearly ritual of shedding the old and bringing in the new with a “re-birth” of our surroundings are upon us. The days are becoming longer and warmer and people are stepping outside with a renewed sense of purpose.

Everyone is taking stock…of their lives, their belongings and their mindsets. It seems that springtime brings out the desire for a new perspective with some folks re-evaluating and re-generating mundane lives while others continue to live happily and quite contentedly in the status quo. I believe it’s a good thing that we routinely step back and look at our lives with a fresh set of eyes as there are very often things that we need to keep…and things we need to jettison.

I want things in my life that add value….people, belongings and most importantly emotions. We very often maintain our attachments to things that continue to suck the life out of us, (see my blog on “attachments”). And, these unhealthy attachments can keep us from feeling true joy and peace. Unfortunately, some find a skewed sense of comfort in maintaining relationships that keep them from the joy and peace I just mentioned. Maybe it’s the coziness of familiarity or maybe it’s just that they don’t know (or, are afraid) how to rid themselves of it. As I said, these unhealthy relationships can take the form of people, belongings and personal emotions. Are you one of these people? Ask yourself…is this (enter person/thing/emotion here) adding value and true enjoyment in my life, or is it slowly killing me? In either case, you may have to do some reassessing.

I pray that you’re walking in true contentedness throughout your life’s experiences, as that is how it is supposed to be. Let me repeat that…you are supposed to be content in all your experiences, with true peace and joy.

So…are you?

Back in New Jersey…

Well, my family and I are back in the good old Garden State.  The year we spent in Colorado was one of growth (and, hopefully) spiritual maturity.  But, it was a rough and difficult process.  Because, when you’re going through a baptism of fire, it’s not pleasant.  Not one iota.  Being stripped down in almost every facet of your life takes a toll.  However, as I said, we knew it was for a reason, but that didn’t make it any easier.  The refinement of something is very often only successful through that very thing being put through intense heat.  And, believe me…we felt the heat.   However, we knew it was for a purpose.  His purpose.  And, we’ll rest and find peace and joy in that.  A spiritual walk, at times, will always have in it struggles and challenges.  It’s what God does to bring us to the place where He wants us to be.  Without it, we just won’t have the foundational and spiritual anchor(s) to succeed in what He has for us.  A father disciplines his children and it’s no different with our heavenly Father.  No matter if you’re 18 or 80…you can expect it to happen.

I may have mentioned this scripture in another blog essay, but I think it bears repeating again.  James 1:2-4 (NIV) says “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  All the apostles experienced it.  Open the bible to just about any page and you won’t be able to read very much until you see it for yourself.  And, believe me…our experiences come nowhere near the pain and suffering they went through.

Consider it pure joy.  Well, that was the most difficult part for us, but with His help, that’s just what we found.  We realized that we didn’t want to lack anything and that this process was essential to bring to fruition just such an outcome in our lives.

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So, right now, we’re looking forward to seeing what He has for us.  The excitement we feel can barely be contained.  We know that what lies ahead will be for a greater good.  Not only for my family, but for those we love and cherish too.  My wife and I were blessed to have secured employment here in NJ weeks before we left Colorado.  And, we know there is purpose in that too.  There’s purpose in everything.  In a spiritual walk, nothing occurs by accident.  The orchestration is incredible and it’s amazing to watch the Lord do the work.  To be able to see the thread of Christ in our lives as we go through it is reason enough for us just to have a relationship with Him.  But, He wants more for us.  And, THAT is pure joy.

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