My Life Four Years Later

Four years ago today, I got called into a meeting with two HR reps at my old job. They sat me down and let me know that my job was being eliminated and that I was no longer needed– effective immediately.

That day started off as most work weekdays do. I showed up and started doing my job with not even the slightest inkling of something fishy. I never suspected the company was about to let 50 employees go that day. I don’t think too many people had a clue of what was about to happen.

I’ve found out that day and every day since that God is bigger than my employment status. He’s bigger than what’s in my checkbook. He’s bigger than any amount of bills that are coming due.

God is bigger than anything I’ve yet faced or will ever face. More than that, God is enough. For whatever still lies ahead for me to face, God is enough.

Looking back, I see that perhaps I was getting a little too complacent with my life at that point. Maybe God needed to shake things up a bit.

I can’t say that my faith has grown by leaps and bounds. I do know more than ever that it’s not a big faith in God that counts but faith in a big God– even if that faith is as minuscule as a mustard seed.

It’s not that I have such a stranglehold on God. There have been days when I know that I’ve been carried, too helpless to hold onto much of anything. God has been holding me.

I repeat what I said earlier– God is enough. God is sufficient. If I ended up with everything I could ever want in this life time and don’t have God, I have nothing. If all I have at the end is God and nothing else, I have everything.

 

18,000 Steps and Counting

I was supposed to meet my friend at Radnor Lake, but that plan fell through. So I had a little deviation from my normal Monday routine. I stopped by Grimey’s Too, one of my favorite used music stores, then headed over to Crockett Park in Brentwood. After all, this was too pretty a day not to get in some walking.

I started off my hike with 7,000 steps on my Fitbit. I ended up with over 18,000. That’s a lot of walking for an hour and a half. I felt great afterward. Sore, but great.

I still believe that the key is to slow down occasionally. That is about as counterculture as you can get these days when the mantra is always more and faster and hurry up. We have all these time-saving devices and actually save less time and have less down time than any previous generation in history.

I work hard at my job. I also know when it’s time to stop. The almighty job can consume you if you let it, but it makes a pretty poor idol. Just ask any of a number of people who dedicated their lives to a company and a career only to get laid off due to “less than expected profits.”

Plus, you can almost never go wrong with exercise and fresh air. Nothing can clear the mind and calm the soul like nature can. The added bonus is all those endorphins that kick in after a good sustained walk (or jog, if you prefer).

You still choose what’s important. You still decide what matters by what you deem worthy to make time for. Too busy is a myth. If something (or someone) is truly significant to you, you will always find time for it (or them). Period.

At the end, I saw probably one of the best college basketball finals ever. I really didn’t have a dog in the hunt, so I was able to truly enjoy the best two teams in college basketball showcasing why they both deserve to be national champions. Unfortunately for North Carolina, Villanova had the last word. And the last shot.

So go for a walk tomorrow. Just get up and move. Preferably outside if the weather is still nice.

 

The Right Answers

“There is great joy in having the right answer, and how sweet is the right word at the right time!” (Proverbs 15:23, VOICE)

I can’t believe that yesterday was October 21, 2015, the day Marty McFly jumps to in the movie Back to the Future Part II.

Some of the movie’s predictions came true.

There are flying hoverboards (just not as prevalent as in the movie.

There are flat-screen TVs and 3D movies (just not of Jaws 19).

OK, so the fashions never came to pass. Neither did that 80’s-themed cafe.

Most disappointing of all, the Cubs got swept out of the playoffs, ending that prediction’s chances of coming to pass. I really would have liked seeing that one fulfilled.

Am I where I thought I’d be at this point 30 years ago? Probably not. Honestly, I don’t even remember what I thought about my 40-something year old self, if I thought about it at all.

Maybe I thought I’d be firmly settled into a career. I do have a full-time job (finally), but I think any notion of working one place for a couple of decades and retiring with a pension is as extinct as those self-drying jackets with those adjustable sleeves that Marty McFly wore.

It seems anymore that nothing is permanent, nothing is for certain, and that the only constant is that things will constantly be changing. Most likely when you’ve just gotten used to everything the way it is.

Then I remember that God is forever the same.  Jesus is unchanging yesterday, today, and the rest of the days after that for as long as there are days, and beyond even that.

Oh, I almost forgot. Tomorrow’s Friday. That’s one thing that won’t ever get old for me. That’s the closest thing to a constant that I can think of. That and sleeping in on Saturday.

 

A Sure Thing

“People with their minds set on you, you keep completely whole, Steady on their feet, because they keep at it and don’t quit. Depend on God and keep at it because in the Lord God you have a sure thing” (Isaiah 26:3, The Message).

That’s a good reminder for us all. In the Lord God we have a sure thing.

Jobs come and go. Relationships come and go. But God is a sure thing.

Those 401Ks and IRAs? Not so much.

When you’re feeling beat up and the week isn’t even over yet, remember that God is a sure thing.

When those people you counted on to be there suddenly aren’t, remember that God is a sure thing.

When you feel like the last of your hopes and dreams has turned to dust and ashes, remember that God is a sure thing.

When fear and anxiety won’t let you sleep at night and all you can thing about are possible worst case scenarios, remember that God is a sure thing.

When you have to say a last goodbye one more time to someone you love, remember that God is a sure thing.

Everything else will pass away, but not God.

Because you belong to God, you are secured forever, because God is a sure thing.

 

 

Five Years Later

It all started on July 25, 2010. That was the day I wrote my first blog for WordPress. It all started as a sort of tribute to one of my favorite writers, Brennan Manning.

Since then, I’ve amassed 1,831 posts (counting this one). That’s one a day if you’re keeping score.

Back then, I had a full-time job at Affinion Group that I liked some days and didn’t like on others. There were days I daydreamed about what it would be like to give my two week notice and other days when I was counting my blessings (mostly those were the Fridays on which I got paid).

Now, after three years of temp jobs and no stability, I look back and see that I really had a good thing there. Of course, hindsight is 20/20. But these days, having a job– any job– is a blessing.

I imagine that there are some blogs that get as many readers on one of their posts as I’ve gotten in all my posts combined. I’m okay with that. It was truly never about the numbers. It was about me finding an outlet for what I’m discovering about myself, life, and God.

I’d keep writing these if I only had two devout readers– my mother and me. Heck, even if it were just me reading these I’d keep writing them.

I hope I have at least five more years of these blogs. My next goal is 2,000 posts, which I should hit by early 2016.

So even though I’ve said it already many times, I’ll say it again. Thank you for reading what I write. Thank you for sticking with me when I got off track occasionally and when I wrote 300 words about nothing in particular. Thanks for your likes and your comments and your shares.

50,000 views is a big accomplishment for me and all the credit goes to you.

PS I would have written this on the actual anniversary of my blog, but it slipped on me like a stealthy ninja. In other words, I forgot.

 

Summer in the 60’s

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First off, I wish the temps here were in the 60’s. That would be better than in the 90’s with ridiculous humidity. It’s like walking into an oven.

What I’m referring to is the fact that most of my musical choices lately have come from the great decade for music, the 1960’s.

Personally, I think the best decade for music was the 70’s. There was so much diversity of styles and genres. You had Led Zeppelin, James Taylor, The Bee Gees, David Bowie, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Al Green, The Allman Brothers, Sly and the Family Stone, Chicago, Santana . . . . the list could go on for days.

But lately, I’ve had a lot of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix playing in my car. Not to mention The Moody Blues, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, and the The Beach Boys.

For me, 60’s music seems best when played in the summertime. And country music was way better back then than it is now. At least in this writer’s humble opinion.

For the record, I’m an 80’s child. That was the music of my growing up years and is still the music that brings back the most vivid and poignant memories. Put on an 80’s song and I will probably be able to tell you where I was and what I was doing the first time I heard it.

But I am a fan of all the decades. I literally have music from every single decade of the 20th and 21st century. I even have a couple of CDs with music from the 1890’s.

As I’ve mentioned a few times before, I have music in my head all the time. I do mean All. The. Time. I’d probably be really good in a job where I picked songs for movie soundtracks because just about every situation will inevitable remind me of a song.

So that’s your music update from me for the month of June. Maybe I’ll update you again in July. Maybe not.

 

 

 

Lent Update for 2015

I have two more weeks to go for my Lent break from social media. So far, so good. More than having extra free time, the best part has been clearing my head and getting my perspective readjusted (again). As much as I love all things social media, it can mess with your head if you let it.

You know it’s time to step away for a bit when you start valuing your self-worth based on social media. I should know, being a recovering approval-addict. I’ve been there, done that, bought the t-shirt and worn it.

I’ll confess that not everything God has shown me during this season of Lent has been fun or easy. I’ve seen just how much I’m addicted to worry and stress and doubts. My faith is smaller than I thought, but I’m also finding out that God os much bigger than I ever imagined.

It’s been a long journey from that day on May 22. 2012 when I got laid off from my job. It hasn’t gone nearly the way I thought it would. But I have seen God’s provision and felt His nearness more in these past three years than ever before.

Lent is a way of me reminding myself that 1) God owns it all and controls it all, not me; 2) if I have God and nothing else, I’m better off than if I had everything but God; 3) it truly will be fine in the end because God said so, and if it’s not fine, then it’s not the end (to borrow a line from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

I think that covers it.

 

When Fear Ends

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Today I open a Bible and flipped around randomly through its pages. I just so happened to look down at where I landed and, lo and behold, I looked right at Psalm 27. Here’s what I read:

The Eternal is my light amidst my darkness
    and my rescue in times of trouble.
    So whom shall I fear?
He surrounds me with a fortress of protection.
    So nothing should cause me alarm” (Psalm 27:1)

That reminded me of something I learned a long time ago about fear.

What are you afraid of right now? What is the greatest cause of anxiety and stress for you at the moment you are reading this?

Imagine the worst-case scenario were to come true (which is highly unlikely– think 1 out of 1,000 times). Imagine that you get fired from your job, you flunk out of school, your checking account goes belly-up.

Now, picture this. Even in the midst of all that wreckage, God is still there. You can lose jobs, money, possessions, friends– even spouses– but you can never lose God, because it’s not you holding on to God, but God holding onto you.

I love the image that I heard somewhere. When you hit rock bottom, you find that God is the Rock at the bottom. And maybe that’s a good place to be, where you have nothing left to stand on but the One True Foundation of Jesus.

An old black preacher described fear as “False Evidence Appearing Real.” The future that fear shows you may look legit, but it is always a lie. That’s because fear will always show you a future without God in it.

God promised in His word that perfect Love casts out fear. Fear can’t stand in the presence of God’s unfailing love. The only way for fear to win is for you to doubt God’s love and believe that it has come to an end. Faith is the antidote to fear and it doesn’t have to be great faith in God. All you need is faith in a great God.

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Where My Trust Is Without Borders

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I think I’ve alluded to this in previous posts, but I am currently unemployed. I haven’t worked since January. There have been times, some of them very recently, when I wondered how I was going to pay my bills. That’s a scary place to be.

Then I sang a song during the 11:11 worship service at Brentwood Baptist Church. It spoke of keeping my eyes above the waves and walking out on the water to wherever God calls me to where my trust is without borders.

I honestly never thought until just now that that’s where I am. When you utterly reach the end of your resources, you find out where your faith and trust lie. You really understand that old cliched saying about never knowing how much you need God until He’s all you’ve got left.

So many can’t find jobs. So many probably have felt worthless and useless and unemployable. Like no one wants or needs what they have to offer.

But as I sang those words, a sweet peace came over me. My faith will be made stronger and I will know more deeply than ever how near my Savior is to those who cry out to Him in desperation. As weird as it sounds, the butterflies are still there. My stomach still feels tied up in knots. But I also know it will be okay in the end. No, more than okay. I will end up EXACTLY where God wants me to be and all this will totally have been worth it to get there.

So as much as I sound like a broken record, I’m still thankful for my life. I’m grateful for waking up this morning and living another 24 hours. I’m thankful for the best family and friends a guy could ever ask for who have stuck with me through good and bad, thick and thin (and through all sorts of other overused phrases like these).

Sometimes, faith really is believing when common sense tells you not to. It may not always look courageous. Sometimes, it may look like barely holding it together and summoning every ounce of strength to not quit on God. It may be praying the most honest prayer ever recorded in history: “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief” and making it through the next five minutes.

All I know is that I have never seen God forsaking His own. I have never seen their families abandoned or left wanting (my paraphrase of a Proverb). I haven’t seen God fail me or let me down or let go of me.

I do still believe, Lord. Help my unbelief. Amen.