What To Look For- A Thanksgiving Dadstory

I was looking for a box, when what I really needed were bags.

The cardinal rule of the trash can is, “Remove a full bag, replace with an empty one.” There is nothing worse to some people than going to the trash can and finding that there is no liner to catch the discarded waste.

(photo: my 3 biggest reasons to be thankful!)

When I don’t replace the trash can liner, it is usually because the unused bags somehow elude me. Such was the case on this date I’m thinking about right now.

I gave it my cursory glance around in the usual places before disturbing her, but I finally had to ask. “Honey, where are the trash bags?” “In the drawer,” she replied.

Our kitchen isn’t large, but it has its share of drawers. I calmly and methodically checked them all. No trash can liners. I had in mind what I would see when I found them.

Small cardboard box, with “Glad” or some similar brand name on the outside, the trademark smell of Febreeze (her favorite kind comes equipped with deodorizer), and a tightly rolled store of white, plastic bags complete with hard-to-separate layers at the open end.

They weren’t in the last place I looked. They were actually in the first place I looked, but I didn’t see them. Because I was looking for a box, not a bag.

It was pretty significant when the idea struck me.She came from the other room and walked straight to the drawer, where stored against the front panel was a few loose, white, plastic garbage can liners. I actually said, “Oh, I guess I was looking for a box.” How often do we not find what we are looking for because we are expecting something other than what we are trying to find?

You can’t expect to find something you aren’t looking for.

Similarly, you can’t expect to get the answer to a question you don’t ask. But somehow we get upset when we finally get the full picture. I guess we expect others to read our minds. Asking the question that is on your mind may be uncomfortable, but once it is out in the open, there’s bound to be tremendous relief on both sides of the conversation. What’s the worst that could happen?

When you waste your time with assumptions about what to expect from others, or what others expect from you, you can neither solve problems nor recognize blessings. I hope a lot of each of these happen this Thanksgiving.

God Bless!

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The Key to a Better Sunday Afternoon. A DadStory.

I spent the afternoon sitting at home with the family, napping on the couch while something played on Netflix.

Mountain Dew and Doritos gave me the strength to get up and take to the woods for a little while. Night shifts like last night’s require a little extra something to get me going, and after serving at church most of the day, I really needed the boost.

He was waiting when I came back. He wanted to play a big-boy game. Taking down a paper deer with a BB gun was just his game. It was getting dark when we started, and we saw the sun take its resting place before we were finished.

(Above: Almost everything I love in one photo. Juju’s around somewhere…)

Fish (sticks) for supper with ranch and hot sauce. For me, at least. Have ketchup if you like. They did. Options abound after a trip to the grocery store.

“Come sit on my bed with me and we’ll talk about… somethin’.” His tone and cadence are comical, and he knows it. Usually. This time I’m not sure he did know. He’s been craving time that’s been hard to come by; little did he know that he said it so clearly. Anything would do, as long as it’s me and you.

Read to me? Sure you can. Two of us listened to one. We started a little too late; bedtime was on us. Prayers and kisses, but only after commands to brush your teeth about 5 times. I hope that changes soon, but not too soon.

Things would have been a lot different this afternoon, if I was the same person who started this day. But I’m not.

That’s the key to having a better Sunday afternoon. Let Sunday morning change you.

I  got tired of all the things that try to pull me in the wrong direction, and even some things that pull me in the right direction- assuming that I was someone other than who I am. I’ve tried to be that person but I can’t.

So I started by calling some things off, just for today. Oh, and I won’t be at that meeting tomorrow either.

Then I decided to call it quits. Two months ought to be enough time for all of us to make alternate plans to get by. I don’t feel bad saying I’ve had enough of something that now makes me anxious and angry every time I have to do it. I won’t be keeping you awake at night much longer, babe. Maybe we can lay down at the same time.

Can I narrow my focus to the things that give me the greatest return on my time? The greatest freedom to help others and myself? What other choice do I have? God answered Moses, “What’s that in your hand? That and Me is all you need.” I’m paraphrasing, of course.

When I started the drive, I was anxious. By the time I got home, I knew just what to do with the rest of those campaign funds I won’t be needing next year.

I can’t stand to try living up to everyone’s expectations anymore. So, I won’t. I get to decide whose opinion is important and whose is not. It isn’t that I won’t do some really important things that will require me to seek understanding and patience from the people I love. It’s just that right now, as of today, the list of who I’m listening to got drastically shorter.

What did he say at church today? Your life’s purpose is found where passion and compassion meet. For me, compassion starts at home. Always has. I guess I’ve been keeping that to myself too much lately.

All the defining moments of my life have happened in church. And they all have been overwhelmingly simple. Are you missing defining moments because you’re in the wrong place or the wrong frame of mind?

Attitude is Influence, and You Own It

Attitude will take you places others never thought you could go. Or, it will take you places you never want to go. Like the time I finally got mom to agree to let me rope in the high school rodeo. My bad attitude took me a step too far when I said, “But you know roping will lead to bull riding someday…” That statement tore to shreds my chances of ever rodeoing while I lived under my mom’s roof.

(Photo credit: http://www.wadecounselingoffrisco.com/index.html)

Attitude is especially important when you realize that, even when you are not trying to influence others, your attitude will do the influencing for you. Attitude is an issue of ownership; either you own your attitude, or your attitude owns you.

Either you are intentionally influencing others, or unintentionally influencing others. You never get the results you want by going out there and just wishing for the best. So, to get the best results, you must plan to influence others for the best with a positive attitude.

Your attitude is infectious. Your children will see things as you see them. They’ll see themselves they way you see them. Your view will be their view.

This all sounds well and hokey. But the implications are huge. Ever complained about your job to your spouse? If you ever choose to complain about your job to your spouse, do not count on him or her to try to convince you not to complain about your job. In other words, as you see your job and talk about your job, is the way your spouse will view and talk about your job. If you can’t buoy yourself concerning your job and get through the rough patch you’re facing, then you can’t expect someone else to, even those closest to you.

Your spouse will likely be supportive and encouraging at first, because that person cares about you. But the seeds you sow will determine the harvest you reap in the long run. If you’re an adult then you likely spend a significant time at work. The worst thing for your relationship is for your spouse to always feel like you are under-appreciated and mistreated by those you work with, especially is that is not actually the case.

The way my wife paints what I do to my children is extremely important. I have a career that takes me away from home at odd times for long hours. I have suffered my share of legitimate issues and had gripes that were warranted, many if not all of which I have shared with my wife. I have had times when I was really down on my job and I made it known at home. Following times like that, it takes a long time and a lot of effort to get my family back in a good place with what I do.

When my oldest son was much younger, he could not understand what I did or why I was gone for hours at at time. This was especially true when I was working as a crisis counselor, studying for a msater’s degree, and completing an internship at the same time. But whenever I was gone, and he asked about me, my wife would tell him, “Daddy is gone to help a kid.” So if he had a chance to tell what I did, that’s what he would say. It meant the world to know she was painting me in the best light during the long hours away from my baby boy.

The people who care about you most, your family, feel for you if you’re having a tough time. So make sure that you are presenting everything appropriately, with the right attitude.

If you put down your pastor, don’t expect your kids to respect him.

If you tear down your spouse, don’t expect your kids to respect their mother or father.

Air your struggles and grievances in person or online, and see if the institutions you actually respect and hold dear, in spite of the present circumstances, will be respected or held dear by anyone else.

You own your attitude… or else, your attitude will own you. You’ll be freed by your attitude, or held captive by it. You will liberate others with it, or you’ll tie them down. You’ll get a boost of wind in your sails or you’ll seal your fate, based on your attitude and how it impacts those closest and most important to you.

For sure, each person owns his own attitude. But your spouse or children’s choice of attitude may be forming based on inaccuracies you present in your attitude. In other words, if your life doing the things you do does not truly stink, stop presenting everything as that way.

Decide to be an intentional influencer for the best by the attitude you choose to develop.

The Value of Walls

(Photo credit http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/documents/)

When everyone around you finds their lives in shambles, even people you never thought would give in, and especially those in the world who are looking for a hope in someone, they are going to flee to the great, walled city. And what will you offer them? What will the church offer them? Will they find safety and security?

“Then I came to the governors beyond the river, and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me. When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.
Nehemiah‬ ‭2:9-10‬‬‬‬‬‬

Nehemiah surveyed the wall and determined the damage.

Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach. Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work. But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do? will ye rebel against the king?”
‭‭Nehemiah‬ ‭2:17-19‬ ‭‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Walls work. If you want to create a defensible position, pick a position that puts a barrier, preferably an impenetrable barrier, between you and your enemy.

If you have a property that needs to be defended, and no barrier exists, you build a barrier. You build a wall.

Jerusalem is a prime example. Named Jebus while a capital of the Jebusites, David conquered it and made it the capital of his kingdom in Israel. The original Walls of Jerusalem were completed by Solomon and stood for about 200 years without being breached. The first breach in the wall was made by the Israelite king Joash when he prevailed over Amaziah, king of Judah.

Uzziah (Azariah) repaired the walls, added catapults and towers, and prepared towers in the desert to extend the defensive capabilities in the kingdom, after his father Amaziah was killed. Joash added some towers and castles in the wilderness. It was a time of renewal for the defenses of Jerusalem

Following after, wicked king Ahaz paid no attention to the status of Zion’s defenses. He was happy to let in anything that seemed right to him. He was content to go outside of the walls and away from the Temple to worship false gods in groves set on high places. The walls were weak and started to decay. The gates were open when they should have been closed.

This was the state of things when Hezekiah rose to power as king of Judah. 2 Chronicles 29 tells us he brought back the priests and Levites to be consecrated. He instructed them to purify the Temple. This took so long they had to delay the Passover celebration. But when they had the feast, Hezekiah called everyone to Jerusalem- come inside the walls- and celebrate God’s salvation together. 2 Chron. 30:26 tells us there had not been such a celebration since the time of Solomon.

The revival that Hezekiah called for led the people to go out of the city, break down the idols, saw down the pagan groves, and restore the land to Jehovah.

There remained something to be done however, and it went unnoticed until a threat rose up. The wall was broken down. It became a source of grave concern when the Assyrians rose up to attack Judah. The walled cities of the kingdom were attacked first. The defenses that were placed “out there” were captured first. People fled from their own cities to Jerusalem. The 10 tribes of Israel outside of Judah were carried away into captivity at this time.
Hezekiah knew that an enemy had arisen to threaten them.

When everyone around you finds their lives in shambles, even people you never thought would give in, and especially those in the world who are looking for a hope in someone, they are going to flee to the great, walled city. And what will you offer them? What will the church offer them? Will they find safety and security?

Hezekiah thought he could get away with paying his way out of danger. 2 Kings 18:14-15 tells us that the king sent to Sennnacherib asking for a price- what will it take for you to leave us alone? The price was so high that Hezekiah emptied the treasury of silver, and cut the gold off of the doors of the Temple, to satisfy the ransom.

No doubt, Hezekiah’s intentions were good. But there is no alternative to dealing with evil other than to destroy it. There are no substitutes for walls

Hezekiah broadened the defenses by adding an outer wall to the city. He repaired the breaches that had developed over years of neglect. He prepared shields and darts and set captains over the army. He stored up water to prepare for a siege, while cutting off the water supply to Sennacherib’s armies (2 Ch. 32:3-6). He told the people:

“Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him: With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.”
‭‭2 Chronicles‬ ‭32:7-8‬ ‭KJV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

‬Sennacherib sent his captains to taunt and to overthrow the people’s confidence. Why do you listen to Hezekiah? What makes you believe your God will deliver you, when so many nations have fallen before our king? The people listened from their safe perch atop their wall.

It’s time to tell the devil, “Put up, or shut up. Talk is cheap. You’re standing at the base of this wall I’ve put up. It looks to me like I’m the one with the advantage here. I’m the one on the high ground.”

The world will accuse you. You aren’t supposed to defend yourself. You aren’t supposed to go against the grain. You’re supposed to go with the path of least resistance. That’s the way of the world; it always has been, and always will be.

Eventually the entire wall was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar when he carried the inhabitants away to Babylon.

This was the state of the city walls when Nehemiah came to Jerusalem with the blessing of King Xerxes. Heaps of ruins lay where the wall had stood, and much of the material was compromised by fire.

Nehemiah’s sorrow when he heard the state of Jerusalem was apparent to the king, and his passion to do something about it prompted him to request leave to go to his city to rebuild it.

Isaiah had warned:

“And it shall come to pass, that thy choicest valleys shall be full of chariots, and the horsemen shall set themselves in array at the gate. And he discovered the covering of Judah, and thou didst look in that day to the armour of the house of the forest. Ye have seen also the breaches of the city of David, that they are many: and ye gathered together the waters of the lower pool. And ye have numbered the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses have ye broken down to fortify the wall. Ye made also a ditch between the two walls for the water of the old pool: but ye have not looked unto the maker thereof, neither had respect unto him that fashioned it long ago.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭22:7-11‬ ‭KJV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

It seems Hezekiah heeded the warning, but the generations that followed did not. Judah had its reckoning.

I wish we would be in such sorrow as Nehemiah was in, and have such passion, to rebuild the breaches that have been made in our lives, our homes, our church, and our society. The lack of conscious attention to the walls of protection is what landed the kingdom in this place to begin with.

What do you have that’s so important, so valuable, that you need to build walls around it to protect it?

The Gospel- [Phl 1:7 KJV] Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.
[1Pe 3:15 KJV] But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and [be] ready always to [give] an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

The Faith- [Jde 1:3 KJV] Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort [you] that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.

Integrity- [Pro 11:3 KJV] 3 The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them.
[Pro 19:1 KJV] 1 Better [is] the poor that walketh in his integrity, than [he that is] perverse in his lips, and is a fool.
[Pro 20:7 KJV] 7 The just [man] walketh in his integrity: his children [are] blessed after him.

The soul- [Pro 22:5 KJV] 5 Thorns [and] snares [are] in the way of the froward: he that doth keep his soul shall be far from them.

A person with well-built walls is a person of conviction. Deciding what is right based on applying God’s word and a desire to please God no matter the cost- that is wall building. You never have to repent over keeping strong boundaries.

Setting boundaries (“building walls”) will come with its share of difficulties. Dr. Henry Cloud states in a recent post,

“The angry person has a character problem. If you reinforce this character problem, it will return tomorrow and the next day in other situations. It is not the situation that’s making the person angry, but the feeling that they are entitled to things from others. They want to control others and, as a result, they have no control over themselves. So, when they lose their wished-for control over someone, they “lose it.” They get angry.”

The scripture from Nehemiah 2:10 said they were grieved exceedingly that there was a man who cared about the welfare of Israel. You’re going to tick off a lot of people when you decide that it’s time to make a change. Others around you will be grieved, even angry, defensive, and on the attack.

What happened to you? “You’re tearing down the gods you worshipped,” Sennacherib’s messengers said. You’re a drunk, a fornicator, a liar, a thief, a cheat, negligent, a deadbeat dad. “Believe the lies we tell about you.”

Like Sanballot and his ilk, they’ll say, “What are you doing? Is this some sort of rebellion? You can’t do that, you’re under our authority. You’re mine! You can’t build those walls! Look how weak you are, how flimsy your defenses! A fox will breathe on you and you’ll crumble!”

The world will accuse you. You aren’t supposed to defend yourself. You aren’t supposed to go against the grain. You’re supposed to go with the path of least resistance. That’s the way of the world; it always has been, and always will be. “Rebellion and anarchy,” if you upset their fun or make them feel convicted over how their living.

These are the people who claim your successes, but skip out when you lose your kids, your family, your home, your place in the church, your standing in the community.

Answer them like Nehemiah- “The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem.”
‭‭Nehemiah‬ ‭2:20‬ ‭KJV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Walls will protect you. A strong boundary and selective criteria for what you allow in are necessary. See the value of walls- rise up and build.

A Start-Again DadStory

Photo: Getting ready to break’em in at the Buck Creek St. Jude Trail Ride in Alamo, TN.

It was quite a morning. Crisp fall weather made the horses lively to begin with. While my dad’s mount has been on rides in the past, my little steed had not been off the farm since arriving on the premises since he was 2 years ago- maybe 10 or 12 years ago. Horses seem to arrive on the old homestead but never leave. It was time to turn this pasture rat into a lean, mean, trail-eating machine.

We were saddling up for the Buck Creek St. Jude Trail Ride, West Tennessee’s largest trail ride and a huge moneymaker for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. We had never attended in the past. Along with the fun day of horseback riding and helping a great cause, my dad and I needed the chance to get a couple of horses ready for a 3-day trail ride later this month.

Every sight, sound, and moving tree branch got ol’ Sonny’s attention. There were horses as far as the eye could see, and he was on sensory overload. Dead-broke, but green and unpredictable in the new environment, this promised to be interesting.

 

A little about me and my cowboy cred- I’ve ridden all my life. Trail rides, chasing calves, riding buckers bareback in the pasture, 4-H horse shows, raising and training foals, and rehabilitating former race horses into moldable hunter-jumpers or fox hunting mounts are all a part of my resume. Riding was a huge part of my life until I went off to college.

Then, like so many things in life, horse-related activity came to a stand still. I left some things undone, like the colt I raised but never quite got trained. I left some things neglected- my old saddle I bought when I was 12 with money I earned working construction with my dad.

I came back home, and as I started building a life with a family of my own, riding and working the farm didn’t materialize as priorities. Time remained stopped on these old childhood dreams for a while yet. I married, worked, started and finished 2 college degrees, had children, and started a career.

The story has been told time and again- you never know what you’ve got until you try to live without it. The refrain over and over is that children grow up and leave the farm for better things, only to return to their roots in agriculture and rural living. Prodigals returning. I guess that’s me.

Change, even desired change, is very difficult. Change is especially difficult when you look back and realize the distance and the effort it will take to get to where you want to be. I’ve experienced it all. Physical health, higher education, relationships, and especially ministry and Christian living. In each of these areas, I have looked back and wondered, “How did I get so far from where I should be? And can I ever get back on track?”

The answer to the first question doesn’t matter so much, at least not at first. What is important is understanding that getting where you want to be in any area of life begins with deciding on a first step and taking it. Then, it’s a series of steps over time that gets you to the outcome you want. Guilt will try to overtake you because of the things you neglected or the time you wasted. There’s nothing to be done about that now. Guilt is counterproductive; it will stop you from acting. And action is paramount to achieving.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:13‬ ‭NLT

‬‬God gives grace. First Corinthians 13:13 speaks of faith, hope, and love. Hope is best defined as having determination and direction- a will and a way. In this scriptural context, faith provides the will, and love is the way. Hope falls in the overlap of faith and love, so if you have no faith, you have no hope. If you have no love, you have no hope. You may be driven and you may have a plan to achieve what you want in life, but without the faith in God and the love of Jesus Christ, you’ll never overcome the times of crushing doubt about the future, or guilt about the past.

It is amazing the difference 20 miles under saddle will make in a horse. Sonny has a long way to go, but he got a good start today. It wasn’t perfect, but it was an achievement. I have a long way to go, too. My steps so far have been slow and sometimes faltering. But I want to see my boys have the benefit of knowing Jesus, family, and a few good horses in their lifetime. I want to build something that’s ours under God. Something meaningful. And there is no way to do that, other than to start.

You want to start something today? Let me know; I’d love to hear about it.

 

A DadStory About Contentment

Photo: 5 years ago as of the day of this posting. There’s something great about this time of year!

It was a beautiful day. All 208.8 miles of it.

The first thing I noticed- the sun was bright and the breeze was cool. It was some of the most autumn of all the autumn weather we’ve had so far in West Tennessee. A lot of asphalt was being laid on the highways. It’s finally cool enough I guess, and the extra tax money we’re contributing must have kicked in.

I saw the fullest, whitest cotton fields I’ve seen all season driving through Crockett County. They were even picking some when I came through Dyer County. Dust clouds arose from the bean and corn fields- It is that strange and wonderful time when everything is ready all at once.

Trees are still green, though. Which is fine. There’s no reason to rush the fall foliage. No sooner than it gets here, it’ll be gone. Like the way the weeks and months of 2017 have ticked down so quickly, I wonder where the year has gone, and I’m a little bit sad.

I wonder if I’m the only one who noticed all this today. Because today I have travelled for work, and the people I have met are so focused on the immediate problems in their lives that a lot of the blessings can end up going by unnoticed.

I witnessed tears today. One family experienced the wonder of new birth; another, the gut punch of miscarriage. The scars of cuts made in desperation were there. The inside scars of physical abuse, they were there today, too. Frightful parents, at the end of their rope; I saw them as well.

I spoke my recommendations. I ascertained safety. I assessed. I even spoke my piece- I told her being treated like trash doesn’t make you trash. Believe the people who care about you. If God didn’t take you, it isn’t because he hates you. He loves you and he has something left for you to do.

Somewhere, there are two kids I know are safe and sound, treated with the utmost care. I’m missing them. The highlight of my day is when I had to ask their mama to meet me halfway through Gibson County because I left something at home I needed. Circumstances put them close enough to bring me what I needed. I saw those two boys for the only few waking minutes they and I would have today. In a few minutes, when I’m done writing this, I’ll go look at them and kiss them while they sleep.

I travelled from near the Mississippi River in Northwest Tennessee to nearly the Tennessee River in the Southwest, on rural state highways; through 7 counties including my own. God sped me along safely, and I was blessed. I prayed. I looked around. I knew the day would end and the labors would end, and I felt hope.

I hope I’m not the only one who found some contentment, in the midst of the busyness, and even the tragedy, of today. In a discontented state, it’s easy to become a victim. It’s easy to blame others, even those closest to us, for our dis-ease and discomfort. We have a society of such people these days. It’s the worst when adults blame their children for the problems they experience as a family. It seems that children are either being accused or ignored these days. And in that environment, it is a learned behavior to blame others, blame circumstances, avoid responsibility. And so the world turns…

I have a better hope than that. I look forward to better things. And I can see God in everything. In the sky and the fields. In the opportunity to help another person. In the faces of my loving family. In the Word of God. If it wasn’t for the Lord, where would I be?

Just thoughts on a page. But this is my DadStory today. Do you have one? Let me know.

Education- The Most Expensive, Least Valued Thing Govenment Can Mess Up

That which is given without being earned is not appreciated. And that which the government gives away is first stolen from others who earned.

A free education is perhaps the least valued of all things granted by the government. After decades of government-run K-12 education, the workforce development folks are looking to government-run community college and eventually universal college education to prepare students for real work.

How can government-run education be any better? Let government run the entire education system?

Here are some experiences I have had lately with the homework the government has prescribed to my 5th grader.

In Social Studies, as per the curriculum for 5th graders in Tennessee, he has been learning about the Civil War and significant figures of the war. No timeline of events or battles. Just that it happened, some people were involved with it, and it led to the abolition of slavery. I would expect history would include the history of something like the American Civil War. But there is only this humanistic, interpretive standpoint being presented, in a way that boils everything down to the simplest possible terms. He is being taught what everyone who has heard about the Civil War says today. And that is the educational system’s goal- plant these seeds that will stick with students for a lifetime, a superficial, simplistic version of very complex times, issues, and individuals.

In Reading (ELA, or English Language Arts), they have been reading the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, a United Nations document adopted in 1948, that is a humanistic document based on relative truth, not absolute truth. It says, as many in the media today have tried to say, that our rights are granted by government. Because this is a document about human rights, then the impression to be gained is that government is the arbiter of what is good. Government did not teach, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” nor did it teach, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” No, the God that first taught, “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, mind, and strength,” is the one who taught us how to treat other people. This is the very thing I feared when I first read about the change our incoming superintendent of schools was making to the reading comprehension curriculum, and a teacher linked to the “EngageNY,” New York’s program for ELA, as an example. When I asked that teacher via a public comment on her Facebook post, if the reading requirements would be the same as New York’s, my question and the link to EngageNY were deleted.

In math, my son has been working problems involving decimals in multiple forms, one of which is called extended form. Here is an example: 6,500.6=6(10^100)+5(10^10)+6(1/10). For those who haven’t seen exponents notated this way, that is 10 to the 100th power, and 10 to the 10th power, respectively. He’s great at math, by the way. However, at my suggestion, my son asked his math teacher respectfully, “When will we ever use expanded for in real life?” She responded, “When you count money.” My son may have oversimplified her answer, but truly, if this is how money counting is being taught, it is no wonder most people require a machine to tell them correct change owed.

The Chamber of Commerce, one of the very institutions lamenting that lack of a ready workforce to attract new industry, supports Common Core curriculum. The education system is bent on testing and teaching to the test. A 4-year college degree is still the ticket to success as reported in government schools, and the State now pays for 2-year degrees as a way to propel any and all students toward a Bachelor’s degree. Tennessee wants to get to 55% of all Tennesseans having a 4-year degree.

But you can’t have it both ways. You can have government-indoctrinated, social justice-styled drones, or you can have well-educated, well-informed, and skillful graduates that are ready to take on a variety of expanded educational opportunities. As long as politicians and cronies present government as the solution, and as long as the average American believes them, we will continue this spiral. And we haven’t even gotten onto the subject of corporate welfare…

7 Things That Amaze Me

Thirteen of us raised money for St. Jude by running the Marathon for Memories in Trenton, TN on Sept. 16th. I’m amazed by these people!

  • The love of God through Jesus Christ, that when we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

  • The generosity of people. Twenty-nine teams of runners raised over $17,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital on Saturday at the Marathon for Memories in Trenton, TN (thanks, Mark Finton and family). Churches and church organizations of all kinds raised money and provided relief, and will continue to do so, following this summer’s massive hurricanes in Texas and Florida (Shout out to First Church (UPC) of Pearland; the United Pentecostal Church Relief Fund and affiliated organizations, Compassion Services International and Reach Out America, the latter of which received some of the $1 million President Trump donated; and my own local church at Beech Bluff UPC, among many, many others).

  • The upbringing of a family that works hard and cares about people. Thanks, Mom and Dad.

  • The love and servant heart of a wife who never stops loving, who gets cracked up in the oddest way by the things I say or do and who will step out on faith as long as she is convinced God is in it. She made the decision to give a sacrificial offering to the missionary who visited on Sunday when she knew better than anyone we could have used it on something else. Something else that would have been of far lower value. Thanks, baby.

  • Amazing sons. They’re fun and full of personality. They’re great at reading AND math. They love animals and Jesus, and Mommy and Daddy. And they’re lights in a dark world. Not just for us either…

  • A home in the greatest State of the Greatest Nation on Earth. We are duty-bound to pray and stand up for this home with which we are blessed.

  • The calling to be saved, loved of God, and a minister of His Word. It’s the most amazing thing there is.

Bonus thing I’m amazed by: the speed of this kid!

 

There’s a lot more to be amazed by and thankful for, but I’ll let you think of some for yourself. Care to share?

After Charlottesville

I’m typing this on the fly as I get ready for church this morning. Not aiming for perfection, just to get out an important message.

On the ride to church today, I’ll tell my sons that they are strong men of God who are called to do good to everyone. These boys who know no hate for anyone based on appearances, and have only been taught to hate the sin that is common to all men and women, now have to be pointed to this horrific example as a way to show the evil that is in the heart of people who do not truly know God, and who can be so easily convinced of their own righteousness, in the absense of the Holy Spirit.

At the same time, they need to realize this message in the context of saved vs. lost, not white vs. black or any other skin color. There is plenty of blame to go around for what led to the violence in Charlottesville. None of it belongs to them. The potential is in each and every one of us if not purged by God. It’s a lesson about what not to become. They aren’t guilty because of their skin color, the color of the people involved in Charlottesville over the weekend, or the actions of anyone in history.

And if anyone tells them otherwise, they shouldn’t believe it. They will be victors in Christ, not victims of a societal crackdown because of the actions of a few evil people.

Run Burdened- An Important DadStory

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Ever felt like quitting?

The Tough Mudder Nashville 5K has come and gone, and in the aftermath, I’m reminded of a lesson I learned early on in training for this event…

Run burdened.

Because you rarely run a straight course with no obstacles in the way, the best way to prepare is to run burdened. Run with some added weight, run with some extra exercises, run after strength training.

Run when you don’t want to run, and always at least a little bit farther than you wanted to.

Run when you’re alone. Not just when you don’t have a training partner. When you feel all alone, keep running. Run when you’ve lost your best friend in the world. When you’re grieving, run on.

Run when you’re sick. Not just when you’re sinuses are acting up or you have a stomach thing. When you’re disgusted with it all, keep running. When you don’t know what to do about it, run on.

Run when you’ve made a mistake. Not just the kind that makes you physically sore. When you’ve hurt the one you love, keep running. When you don’t know if you’ll ever be able to make amends, run on.

Run when you just don’t feel like doing it. Not just when you don’t’ feel like physically running. When life is tough and you feel stuck, keep running.

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:11‬

Life is less of a straight line, and more of a spiral. It can trend upward or downward, but there will be good times and bad all along the way. If where you are now seems familiar, it’s because you’ve been here before. And you’ll be here again. It’s best to prepare yourself; trouble is not forever, and success will be short-lived.

But if you decide to stop running when you meet some resistance, then you can be sure your troubles will last longer than they have to last. If you decide to stop running when your power alone is not enough, you’ll never cross the finish line. When I run a race, I have a cheering section that gets me through. In the race of life, I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.

The next race I’ll run is a relay marathon called Marathon For Memories, benefitting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. I’ll have a whole team competing with me, including my wife Julie and my two boys. It’s coming up on September 16th in Trenton, TN. Stayed locked here at the blog to find out more.

Want to have a story worth telling? Read more here at the blog and let me know how I can help you make yours a great one. Got a DadStory to share? Send yours to glengaugh@gmail.com.

 

A Change-For-the-Better DadStory

Have you ever doubted your capacity to change for the better?

We are not now what we will become.

I’m sure someone has said it this way before, more or less. The truth is that whatever you are at this point in time, is not what you will be in the future.

The changes we experience may be faster and more drastic between youth and adulthood, but if you aren’t happy with who you are now, that’s ok. You have the capacity to change for the better.

I wasn’t satisfied; in fact, I was downright discouraged when I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. It impacted my comfort and lifestyle more than anything I had ever experienced. The worst case scenario presented to me was to have to live with a colostomy bag for the rest of my life. God let me go through just enough of the pain and the pressure to change my lifestyle to challenge my faith and see what I was willing to take. Then, when biweekly injections failed to work, He healed me. It’s about as drastic of an example I can think of personally; I was doomed to be one way, but by His grace I changed. I was healed.

When I train to run a race, and the difficulty is at its toughest, and I feel like no progress is being made, I have to remember a time when I had to stop running altogether because I couldn’t go 15 minutes without finding a bathroom. During that really hard time, I still ran as much as possible in spite of it all, planning for being at the point of having to stop wherever I happened to be, and even keeping toilet paper with me in case of emergency as I ran in the woods and fields around my house. I even ran two or three races during that time period, fasting so my intestines would be empty and I’d be less likely to have to stop or have an “accident.”

I suppose I’m reminded to count my blessings after sitting in the middle of the filed road where I train the other day, declaring to God how much I hate the pain of training. I was spent after a short time. It wasn’t a good day at all for me. I pitched a hissy fit as my mother would call it. Then I got in position without another single word and finished that round of exercises. I quit earlier than I intended to that day. But it became to me, as it was 2 years ago dealing with my illness, a matter of starting again. Starting again is all that matters. In the middle of what you’re going through, whether minutes, days, weeks, or months go by, it’s important to start again.

Because you are not now what you will be in the future. And what you become depends on what you do now.

Change always takes longer and proves to be more difficult than you ever thought it would be. No matter how many times in the past you’ve made improvements, or how many wrongs you’ve corrected, you’ll still be surprised the next time you try to be more of who you want to become.

The Tough Mudder 5k in Nashville at Nissan Stadium is tomorrow, and because of these lessons I’ve been talking about, I know it is a beginning, not and end, to the changes I’m making. Watch out for updates from the course and more lessons I’ve learned while training for the experience.

Want to have a story worth telling? Read more here and let me know how I can help. Got a DadStory to share? Send yours to glengaugh@gmail.com.

A Tough Mudder DadStory

What challenges your notion of self-sufficiency?

I’m not a stranger to obstacle course races, but I think a Tough Mudder is going to be a new experience.

My brother and I are set for the Mudder 5k In Nashville on August 12th. Running has been a constant workout activity for me for a long time, but body weight exercises, core conditioning, jumping and sprints have been only occasional activities. In the few obstacle courses I have completed, my physical training has been lacking.

I am not an unfit person; in fact, I do frequent manual labor of medium to high difficulty. But focusing on completing a task is not the same as fitness being the task, and natural ability on its own will not make you a winner, or even a finisher necessarily.

That’s where the real difficulty with training comes in. I’m not alone in feeling like I am insufficient on my own, or in having a real hard time mentally when facing the fact that I’m wrong. Such a realization brought me to running back around 2010. I was 30, had two sons, and after working a desk job for several years, I was unfit. Going back to my glory days wasn’t an option, but I figured I could be alive, healthy, and giving my sons a run for their money long into their teenage years. So I prepared for my first 5k.

Every new challenge requires a different level of preparation. And the start of training reveals just how insufficient you are, which is why all too few people with potential actually take up new challenges. It’s hard, and it makes you feel small.

Nearly a month into dedicated training for the Tough Mudder, I still feel small. But I’m making strides. Just as when I first trained for a 5k, a 10-miler, and a half marathon. Just as when I decided to go back to finish my college education. Just as when I accepted a call to ministry and opted to run for public office. I read this morning that our country was founded on reflection and choice; so are our lives.

Reflect on how difficult the obstacle was, realize you’re now stronger than you were before, and that you will excel even more the next time for having endured the difficulty.

Choose to move forward, whether your most recent attempt was a failure or a success.

I believe your ability to do these two things will not only decide whether you grow and thrive, but it will also determine your legacy to those closest and most important to you.

One week to the Tough Mudder 5k in Nashville at Nissan Stadium. I’ll be posting my thoughts on challenges met and lessons learned through the process of training. Want to have a story worth telling? Read more here and let me know how I can help. Got a DadStory to share? Send yours to glengaugh@gmail.com.

I See You Healed

Update: My symptoms have been nearly nonexistent since writing this post. I believe Christ has honored my obedience, because out of my sickness and the message of healing I received, others were also meant to be healed. I was a roadblock to that until I wrote this post. I’m believing for miracles in the lives of those who have read this and those who have yet to read it.

I should have written this a couple of weeks ago. It’s a story that has begged to be written.

I’m dealing with a little health issue. I’ve dealt with it for around three years now, most of that time doing nothing substantial about it. It finally got to the point it was impacting my daily living significantly. So a few doctor’s visits, tests, and a colonoscopy later, I find out that I have ulcerative colitis. Actually, it took two doctors and a nurse practitioner with a colonoscopy in the middle, then one last doctor (the right one) and a second colonoscopy, to find out the diagnosis.

That being said, I’ve been feeling really bad for a really long time. I’m sure I won’t realize how bad until I finally get my condition completely under control. We’re still trying to do that.

Being an Apostolic Pentecostal, I believe in the gift of divine healing. I have claimed and held to the promise of healing. Hasn’t happened yet. No impact on my faith, just some discouragement every now and then when I’m at my worst. Even though I have had prayer many times, I finally spoke publicly to the church about what I have been going through one Sunday. My family has been aware for quite some time and have been praying for me consistently.

So out of the blue one day, I come home from work. I start seeing these little notes everywhere- on the door coming into the house, on the light switch, on and inside of the refrigerator, and on the mirror in the bathroom.

image

My mother-in-law had been in prayer for me that day when God told her to see me healed. So she did. She told my wife about it. Julie took over and wrote all the little notes, taping them all over the house, putting them in my bag I carry to work, and stuffing them in drawers where I would eventually find them. This has been at least two weeks ago, and just yesterday I found new notes that she put in different places. She is still writing those notes. I know she believes completely.

Again in prayer, God told my mother-in-law, “Glen is going to have a collision with healing.” She has been faithful to share each time she hears from Him.

So I haven’t experienced the fullness of healing yet. But I still believe. And I know what my next step should have been all this time. I’m taking it right now.

I should have written this a long time ago. I’m writing it now: I see you healed.

I wondered why so many people have crossed my path lately in need of healing. I’ve been guilty of neglecting prayer where prayer was desperately needed. I rectified one such lapse a couple of weeks ago with a coworker who had been really sick. She felt God move. I she her healed. Another coworker suffered a stroke. But many prayed, and God spared him. He has a long way to recovery, a recovery that may only be possible by divine healing. I see him healed.

I’d love to see you, speak to you, and touch you according to the scriptures to pray for your healing. It isn’t possible to do that for all of you. But I still see you healed.

From your chronic depression, I see you healed.
Your cancer and your heart disease, I see you healed.
Your headaches, tumors, and infections, I see you healed.
Your long-term disabilities, your chronic, recurrent conditions, I see you healed.
Your grief and strife and bitterness, I see you healed.
Your self-inflicted wounds, your unrelenting guilt, I see you healed.
Your traumas that were outside of your control, I see you healed.
Your type 1 and type 2 diabetes, I see you healed.
Your unexpected emergency, illness or injury, I see you healed.

In the name of Jesus Christ, I see you healed.

Some even in Christianity don’t believe what I’m proclaiming right now. I don’t care. I believe for you even if you don’t believe for yourself.

I know that my healing is not just for me. These simple but profound expressions of faith for my healing is not just for me either. It’s my calling to tell you that you are healed. I’ll get my healing as I’m faithful to tell you that your healing is here.

When you experience your healing, do something for me. Cry out to Jesus out of joy and ask Him for more of His Spirit and grace. And share healing with others. When you pray in the name of Jesus Christ, healing will happen.

See more about my faith here.

Belief in God, and What’s Wrong in our Country Today

A theology of endowed rights is foundational to our Nation’s government, ongoing success, and longevity. It’s codified in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,chat among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Recently, a cable news anchor, Chris Cuomo, made this statement:

Our rights do not come from God, that’s your faith, that’s my faith, but that’s not our country. Our laws come from collective agreement and compromise.

I contend that theology is the basis of all of our beliefs, individually, whether we recognize it our not. Bad theology impacts our culture and enters our government.

What theology was Chris Cuomo influenced by when he made the statement above? Secular humanism. The belief that man is his own god and creates the definition of right and wrong himself. Interestingly, Chief Justice Roy Moore of Alabama, in defending his stay on issuing marriage certificates to same-sex couples, cites natural law as his basis. The difference between the two viewpoints is illustrated in a statement Cuomo made earlier in the interview:

Well you don’t believe that as a matter of personal opinion, right? But times change, definitions change, we didn’t think blacks were equal to whites, that changed.

Cuomo cites natural law in regard to blacks being equal to whites. After all, God created mankind in His own image. Why can’t natural law, instituted by God, be recognized as the basis of our man-made laws? All of our man-made laws should support and protect people as God-created, with inherent dignity and intrinsic value.

Why can’t marriage between a man and a woman be recognized as protected by that same natural law? The same source of truth protects mankind and marriage as God’s creation.

Cuomo tried to divide religious belief from governance, and it just doesn’t work. Because everything we do is influenced by our beliefs about God- our theology. And in this conversation, by saying, “that’s your faith, not our country,” God is not acknowledged as God, mankind is.

Belief in God that influences our laws and society is not the problem. Trying to live in this divided way, invoking God when we want and pushing him aside when we want, is what is wrong in our country today.

As believers in God’s Word, we cannot be lured into living on the terms created by humanists. Faith in God and His law is central and influences everything. By God’s grace, faith in Jesus Christ influenced our founding, and by that same grace and our vigilance, faith in Christ will continue to guide the course of our country.

Freedom of Speech, the Gospel, and Calling Out Evil

(image via http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Francis)

The Pope’s comments on the Charlie Hebdo massacre are disheartening because of the exception he apparently made for violence in the face of behavior that is considered insulting by others toward Islam.

The Pope said Thursday that while violence is wrong, it is also wrong for people to mock the faiths of others.
Speaking to reporters while traveling by plane to the Philippines, Francis said certain language is virtually certain to provoke an angry, violent reaction from someone.
“You cannot react violently,” the Pope said. He added, however, that if a good friend “says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch. This is normal.”
Francis added that “you cannot provoke, you cannot insult other people’s faiths, you cannot make fun of faith.”
And the Pope does believe it is a “provocation” to “make other people’s religions a joke” because “things can happen” as a result.

“Why? Why is this world so messed up that I agree with Piers Morgan?”, commented one of my friends on Facebook. I can understand the angst. My belief is that, however much I disagree with Mr. Morgan’s political views, there appears to be a shred of decency in him. And the world is in desperate need of decency.

It is decency that allows someone to disagree with both parties on an issue, and yet, after one of those sides decides to commit murder, the decent person says, “The murderers are evil and wrong,” without the need to qualify anything else.

I have no need to partake of the cartoons published by Charlie Hebdo. They do me no good at all whatsoever. Whatever message being portrayed is lost on me because I can’t stomach the graphics used to portray the message. I’m sure I would judge many of the views the magazine expresses to be wrong, but how can I say they are wrong to express them? As a lifelong American who values the right to express myself anytime, anywhere, in any way I please, I cannot say those cartoonists were wrong.

We, as free people, understand that there is a such thing as an “off switch” when offensive content comes on our televisions. We “vote with our feet” when we enter a performance that turns out to be offensive in some way. We know we can cover our kids’ eyes and ears and go somewhere else. We don’t buy magazines that portray nudity and pornography, if that’s not what we want to look at. A great portion of the rest of the world, and way too much of America, takes no responsibility for doing what it takes to protect themselves, and instead want to cry afoul at offensiveness. Abolish offensiveness. Shout it down, destroy it (and too often the person who perpetrates it), make it “hate speech”.

I have left the realm of nudity and profanity as I write about offensiveness at this point. Incidentally, the majority of people trying to end offensiveness have no problem with those two things, and would call me a prude for saying that there is something wrong with them. That is exactly why, as much as I hate and avoid many forms of expression that are popular today in the world, I will defend the right of those who spread such filth to do so.

The fact of the matter is, I am the offensive one in the eyes of so many people today. I pray, I believe the Bible is God’s inspired Word and live by it, I’m a minister of the Gospel, I believe in marriage between one man and one woman, I am raising a traditional family (which has been declared dead, by the way), I’m pro-life, pro-protecting-my-family-with-a-gun if it comes down to it, pro-freedom and personal responsibility in this world. I live like I have a responsibility to Christ and my neighbor, because I absolutely do.

And because so much about me is so offensive to the world today, it is in my best interest to stand up for free speech, free expression, free assembly, and freedom of religion. Because if today I am able to condemn someone’s right to speak, then tomorrow I most certainly will be the one facing condemnation.

The Pope did not defend free speech in his remarks. Is the Pope’s reaction coincidental, considering that Charlie Hebdo has also mocked priests due to sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church? Or is the Pope so secure in his ability to continue speaking freely that he isn’t concerned about ramifications of limiting free speech and expression? I’m certain the Pope fears no censorship, but what about you and me?

We have had sermons subpoenaed in Texas. Conservative groups targeted by the IRS. Children and teens required to declare their religion to the government in order to be permitted to homeschool. And on and on.

Freedom of speech allows the Gospel to move. Paul utilized every right of Roman citizenship to move the Gospel across the world. Should we be concerned with being able to do this as well?

Saints in oppressed areas of the world look to the free world, particularly America, and pray that we can keep a firm foothold on the freedoms that make us utterly distinct from the rest of the world. They see our freedom as a blessing from Almighty God, to be cherished and defended.

In a country where all have the freedom to say anything they want, even if it is offensive, there is nothing that can stop the move of the Holy Ghost except our unwillingness to preach the Gospel. The Gospel has no comparison; darkness cannot handle the Light. The Light can stand for Himself and nothing can touch Him.

This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. (‭1 John‬ ‭1‬:‭5‬ KJV)

So mock me and mock my Gospel. I’m not going to shoot you up. I won’t even try to shut you up. But I’ll use the same freedom you have to convince you that there is a better way.

I believe it is time we attack evil and leave free expression alone. It’s time we call out evil doers and have compassion on those who are victimized, not equivocate and resort to terrorshaming people who “had it coming”. Government has excused the latter and neglected the former. Only morally decent people who are not afraid can call out evil and shine light into darkness. And though we may lose our rights as free people one day, we still have the chance today to exercise free speech, defending that right for ourselves and others.

Why My Kids Make It Worthwhile to be a #DadsOnMission

I love the United States of America. I am heartbroken at what we have become. The American nation, and the American church for that matter, need a spiritual revival and renewal. But I am extremely thankful to live my convictions and share those with my kids.

We have begun Bible quizzing with my oldest son. He is 8 years old. He took highest-scoring quizzer in his first tournament, and he won 2nd place team in the tournament along with a buddy.

It has been an emotional roller coaster getting him to study. He simply has not wanted to do it. Tonight, even after winning this past Saturday, he cried as soon as we mentioned studying his Proverbs. Thirty minutes later we were able to start, and after an hour he had settled in and learned 5 new proverbs.

Once we finished studying, out of nowhere, he wanted to have church in his room. He ran to get his bath over with, then set up a chair for a pulpit and pillows on the floor for his brother, mother, and me to sit on. We prayed and sang songs. He asked me to lead the opening prayer and his mother to lead the closing prayer. We all shook hands, hugged, and greeted one another.

He even named the church- Spring Creek Pentecostal Church, after the community we live in. I truly believe that it is a foretelling of things to come. Spring Creek needs an Apostolic church. I think one just started.

imageLittle brother is joyful and does everything his brother does. We spent all of 2014 working as a family on a pro-life initiative called Yes On 1, to pass a state constitutional amendment to strengthen protections for the unborn. A few weeks ago, as his brother and I were working on quizzing, he set up a chair as a display table, with pamphlets and a “Yes On 1” sign, like we did dozens of times at churches and events. Then he said to me, “I need somebody to walk by so I can tell them vote yes on 1!” It was a heart-wrencher, seeing him do what he had seen us do, and having that be important to him at this stage in life, just because it is important to us as his parents.

I don’t write this to convey that my wife and I are super parents, because I, at least, am not. Julie instills so much in the boys that I never could because she is a work-at-home mom, constantly there for them. I need more help as a parent than my sinful pride will allow me to admit. But I am encouraged, and I grow daily, and I ask God for help and cover them with prayer.

And because of the way I see my sons growing, I will continue to be a Dad On Mission, reaching and teaching, to make sure I hand them a baton worth carrying to the finish line.

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Four Guaranteed Experiences, and One Thing You’ll Never Experience, When You Step Out in Faith to Do God’s Work

We’ve been meeting bi-weekly for some time now. The closer we get to November 4th, the more sense it made to be in closer, more frequent contact. Yes On 1 has been a massive undertaking. The goal is to mobilize pro-life voters to pass a historic amendment to the Tennessee Constitution and bring life back to our state. A wrongly decided state Supreme Court decision in 2000 made Tennessee an abortion destination by interpreting a “fundamental right” to abortion in our state constitution and undoing the most basic legal protections for women and unborn children.

Around the time of one of our meetings, our regional coordinator sent an email reporting on the ways many of our volunteers have experienced personal trials as our campaign is coming down to its final days. He also gave us scriptural encouragement to continue on in our work.

As our enemy sees us giving our all in service to others, attacks are inevitable. Here are 4 guaranteed experiences that are destined to challenge you as you seek to do God’s work.

I am going to operationalize doing “God’s work” as doing “service,” or serving others- individuals, groups, or even entire communities. In our work with the Yes On 1 campaign, my wife and I have served voters who needed to understand the issue Amendment 1 intends to address. We also have striven to serve volunteers who are passionate about creating positive change in Tennessee. Ultimately, we hope our efforts serve vulnerable women and unborn children. Service to others is God’s work.

Fear. There are going to have bouts with fear when you set out to serve others. I see fear often in the eyes of social work students I am serving at Union University, who have never yet had to sit across from vulnerable people and be competent, compassionate helpers. The fear of being misunderstood, being rejected, or being defeated can be paralyzing. But you can’t be (or stay) paralyzed. You can’t stay stuck wondering, “What do I do now?” In a world that needs your connectedness, you can’t afford to be shut down and out of the fight.

Frustration. The work of serving others is rife with frustration. Service is messy, under-appreciated, and not immediately fulfilling. One of the questions we ask job candidates at Youth Villages is, “How do you gauge your personal effectiveness?” One of the reasons this question is so important is, if you are expecting to rely on “warm fuzzies” to get you through the difficult days, it ain’t gonna happen. The paycheck won’t keep you on the job either, because too often long hours serving others ends with too few tangible results. People don’t always follow through on your good ideas. And when they do, it isn’t often enough that you will get the gratitude you deserve. Nobody who serves others long does it for a paycheck or a pat on the back. It takes a long-term view and an inner-confidence that you are making a difference through service.

How is this tracking with you so far? Well, take some time to ponder over the first two of four guaranteed experiences you will face when you do God’s work of serving others. We will have two more guaranteed experiences, and the one thing you are guaranteed to never experience, in the next post.

The Meaning in the Mess

I know you’re tired. I am too.

It seems like it never ends. There is always too much to do, and not enough time to do it all. The daily care of, well, everything, pulls, and drags, and threatens to take you down.

And then when you look at all that is going on around you in the world- immoral things, evil things, threatening things, things that were once far away but now seem ever so much closer to home- you know you should care and be involved, but how can you?

You know there are people in need, but how can you help? How can you start to right the wrongs that are in the world? What can you do, with so little time, energy, and resources?

I feel this way. A lot of the time, I feel this way. But I’m in good company- I’m with you and with the Apostle Paul when it comes to feeling this way:

In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭11‬:‭27-29‬)

In the middle of weariness and pain, hunger and thirst, in addition to all the “daily cares,” it is easy to adopt the attitude of “I can’t, I don’t have time, it’s not my problem.”

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And, focusing on the battle all the time, with all of the obstacles and struggles, will wear you out. Compassion fatigue sets in. Vicarious trauma sets in. We are overwhelmed with the death and destruction that goes on around us, in the world and in our own cities, and our brain has to dissociate from it all for our own good.

The problem is, in a world that needs your connectedness, you can’t afford to be shut down and out of the fight.

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭12‬:‭9‬)

There is no joy in this world, but there is glory in the fight. Why? Because when we are in the fight, we receive God’s grace to make it through. In this cycle of pain upon pain, hurt upon hurt, grace is supernaturally injected into our lives, and we find meaning in the mess.

My family and I have been working on a pro-life initiative called Yes On 1 for over a year. We had a meeting tonight and came to a conclusion along with some of our other stalwart volunteers- we feel like we are in a state of limbo. We have 33 days left until Election Day, when we will know if all of our prayer and labor has paid off. All of our hours and sacrifice, conviction and passion- will it make a difference? And besides all of this, the daily cares- bills and work and dangers and trials.

I don’t want to be numb! I don’t want to say its somebody else’s problem! For my sake and your sake and my children’s’ sake, I can’t give up. Neither can you.

My children are watching. And I know it is all worth while on nights like tonight. We ended our meeting in prayer. My boys had been playing in another room. My wife called for them to come in with us during the prayer. They entered, and folded their hands in prayer, with their heads down, as the adults took turns leading in prayer. I asked my oldest son if he wanted to lead prayer. He said no. But after I led for a few moments, he said, “Dad, I’m ready to lead prayer now.” And he said,

Dear Jesus, thank you for this beautiful day you have given us, and for allowing us to come here to be together to talk about Yes On 1, so we can protect women and babies, and so we can fight the abortion army, and Lord, help people to vote yes on Amendment 1, in Jesus name, Amen.

And it’s all worth it. For him to get it, and to have joy in the work we are doing, that he sees his mother and father doing, and that he can pray about with such sincerity- it is all worthwhile. And there I find it- the meaning in the mess, the reason to fight on, the strength to continue to stand.

If I can help you step into the fight with conviction and confidence, I want to know! It’s a combination of planning and deciding and acting. Email me at glengaugh@gmail.com and I’ll connect with you. For the sake of the call- Glen

The Battle Cry

(original photo from the youth service)

These are the speaking notes for a youth service I preached for TN District North American Missionary Nathan McCrury on this past Friday night, Sept. 19th, in Parker’s Crossroads, TN. The service was in an outdoor amphitheater at the city park. They have their weekly services in a community building in the park. Pray for the Parker’s Crossroads United Pentecostals as they lift a battle cry over the community of their calling!

Click here for an audio recording of the message.

The Battle Cry- not a shout of praise and worship. A shout of aggression, determination, a declaration.

2 functions of a battle cry according to Wikipedia- arouse aggression and induce intimidation.

We’ve come tonight to commit spiritual warfare, to break the back of the devil, to take dominion over spiritual wickedness in high places. Be prepared to be attacked by the enemy. But do not be afraid.

Judges 7:9-15 Gideon saw

And when Gideon was come, behold, there was a man that told a dream unto his fellow, and said, Behold, I dreamed a dream, and, lo, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian, and came unto a tent, and smote it that it fell, and overturned it, that the tent lay along. And his fellow answered and said, This is nothing else save the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel: for into his hand hath God delivered Midian, and all the host. And it was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof, that he worshipped, and returned into the host of Israel, and said, Arise; for the Lord hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian. (‭Judges‬ ‭7‬:‭13-15‬ KJV)

The enemy declared its own doom.
There is a spirit out there, slinging its head, flinging its venom. The devil stalks like a lion seeking who he can devour. But it is toothless, clawless, and powerless. Gideon had to see that before he could go into battle.

Judges 7:15-18 Gideon stood

And it was so, when Gideon heard the telling of the dream, and the interpretation thereof, that he worshipped, and returned into the host of Israel, and said, Arise; for the Lord hath delivered into your hand the host of Midian. And he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet in every man’s hand, with empty pitchers, and lamps within the pitchers. And he said unto them, Look on me, and do likewise: and, behold, when I come to the outside of the camp, it shall be that, as I do, so shall ye do. When I blow with a trumpet, I and all that are with me, then blow ye the trumpets also on every side of all the camp, and say, The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon. (‭Judges‬ ‭7‬:‭15-18‬ KJV)

Arise, he said. He placed them and he placed himself. There they all remained.

Judges‬ ‭7‬:‭19-2 Gideon shouted the battle cry. The sword of The Lord and of Gideon.

So Gideon, and the hundred men that were with him, came unto the outside of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch; and they had but newly set the watch: and they blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers that were in their hands. And the three companies blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers, and held the lamps in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands to blow withal: and they cried, The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon. And they stood every man in his place round about the camp: and all the host ran, and cried, and fled. (‭Judges‬ ‭7‬:‭19-21‬ KJV)

The battle cry is passed down through generations. What we accept slowly creeps into our generations. What we preach does too. What we practice is more powerful still. But what we war against with our battle cry says more about us than all the rest of it- what our children will take up war against will be a testament to us or a judgment against us.

Satan is writhing. Shout him down. Bruise his head. That’s our legacy. We get to bruise him.

Jesus delivered the enemy to us. He lead captivity captive. All we have to do is take dominion. 

There are things that grieve my spirit going on in this world. When I see what the devil and the culture is making out of our youth, I get angry. When I hear the lies that the world is deceiving so many with, I get beside myself with anger. The way everything is accepted and nothing is rejected. There’s some things we need to reject. The culture is inoculating our kids against the shock that sin is supposed to cause. They’re used to gay classmates and teachers. They hear the stories of premarital sex. They learn how to be tolerant. There are things we aren’t supposed to tolerate.

We, and our students, don’t do the world any good by being tolerant of sin. We need to see that The Lord is on our side. We need to plant our feet and stand in the right. And we need a blood-curling battle cry!

Click here for an audio recording of the message.

The Case for Children

I have written very little this week because I am preparing to speak twice this coming weekend, a youth service on Friday night which I am preaching, and a Sunday night service in which I am speaking on Life and the pro-life Yes On 1 campaign. So with nothing new to contribute, I pulled out this sermon called The Case for Children. I appreciate you reading it. Forgive any errors, as these were speaking notes and I did not proof them for publishing.

A sermon on the occassion of Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, January 19, 2014.

And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. (Mark 10:13, 14 KJV)

20120606-001648.jpgAs far as we know, Adam and Eve were each created as physically mature adults. But that does not mean that conception and birth were not a part of the creation. God created man in His own image. Hebrews 1:2-3 tells us he is that Jesus is the “express image” of God. We surly remember that Mary was told she would “conceive” and “bring forth a son” (Luke 1:31). So though Adam and Eve were not conceived in the womb, they were made in the image of the only begotten son of God, with the plan that He would be conceived of woman at an appointed time. From the time man was created, there was to be an unbroken chain of life: the life still in the womb not to be excluded from personhood, but to be respected as integral to God’s plan.

If I am honest with you and if I’m honest with myself, i would have to say i have been led before the throne of God by my children as often if not more so than I have done so for them. The first time one of my children led me to God was before my oldest was ever born. At their births I was again taken before The Lord in the wonder of that special event. The first time time they realized what those voices, hands, fingers, feet and toes could do, and how they refused to stop using them once realizing how wonderful it was to scream, laugh, crawl, walk, and meddle in a continuous state of curiosity and experimentation. 

20120630-112635.jpgIf judged by the way the world judges utility and productivity, children have absolutely nothing to offer. But we know better than that. Nothing can melt a heart, incite a rage, induce a chuckle, or provoke conviction like a child. Children provide a peek into the brief period of innocence that mankind experienced before we fundamentally and dramatically ruined our relationship with God and altered our destiny forever. WE NEED CHILDREN, FOR OF SUCH IS THE KINGDOM OF GOD!

Regardless of the circumstances in which a child may be conceived, the child himself or herself still meets God’s standard, brings God’s blessings, and is for God’s pleasure. 
“Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5 KJV)

“Thus saith the Lord, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the Lord that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself;” (Isaiah 44:24 KJV)

In spite of the biblical case for life, we live in a society today that makes it easy to disregard the life of a child purely for the sake of choice. For the sake of self. The biggest reason for abortions is cited as “not ready to have a child.” Gender selection and risk of genetic defect are not unheard of as reasons for abortion. The case is made in the public arena that poverty, risk of abuse or neglect, and the prospect of life-long illness make abortion a humane choice for children at risk of facing such obstacles. 

20121016-002811.jpgThere is no doctrine of “better off dead” in the bible. There is no list of conditions that are too much for God to handle, no situation in which we mortals have to intervene on God’s behalf for the sake of a child. How absurd! But this is not a statement of imagination or exaggeration- we only have to look at the reality of the choices people are making and listen to the volume of the voices rabidly rushing to justify taking human life. Theses voices erode the value of unborn life for the sake of self, but in doing so they devalue the life of every living person.

Jesus entered the world into a climate that brought forth institutionalized murder of children. Herod declared, in his jealousy, for himself and for the sake of his crown, that all children of 2 years old and younger, were to be killed. There is a spirit of Herod in our world today that says taking the life of the innocent for personal preference, in order to protect and preserve one’s way of life, is ok. As a society we are wearing the crown of kingship over our own lives and are willing to sacrifice others, and paint it as justifiable, in order to keep that crown. 

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6 KJV)

The WAY- those who try to say there are many ways to know God use the illustration of an elephant and blind men who are feeling the elephant trying to decipher what it is. All the others are definitely feeling of an elephant. The elephant in the room is this- unless you are following Jesus Christ, you are charting your own course and being your own god. When we decide is situation is impossible and act on our own fears and insecurities, we take Christ’s authority on ourselves and we hopelessly make a mess of it. We reject God’s perfect provision and try to handle things we cannot possibly handle on our own. Jesus is the way out of hopelessness- the way out of no way!

The TRUTH- Truth today is a la carte in the eyes of the world. Pick and choose. Here a little, there a little. The concept of absolute truth is rejected, because in order to claim that there is only one truth is to say that you are right and others are wrong, which is simply not permissible these days. As believers we are discouraged from speaking out because we might offend someone. The issue is that we do not speak the truth in love to people who need to hear it.

The LIFE- the voices that reject absolute truth and a single path to God also reject the absolute value of life. 

The world is making the case for preference. The case for privacy. The case for live and let live. The case for convenience. The case for the mother. The case for “Why should a teenager be saddled with a baby because of one mistake?” The case for choice.

So why am I standing before you today making the case for Children? Because no one is created to die. We are all created to live.

Never before has the taking of human life been presented as so positive, so innocuous, and so liberating, such that masses are deceived into supporting it or lulled into allowing it. I may not be speaking to people who support abortion, but I am speaking to people who are in danger of being lulled into allowing it to happen.

The cause of protecting life is a concern of the living. You and me. 

Three Things Church Leaders Must Do Daily

Self-care is not a touchy-freely topic. It is an essential part of effective work and a fulfilling life. When we don’t care for ourselves, everything and everyone around us suffers.

Self-care suffers when we move automatically from one project to the next. Meetings consume all of our free time and energy. One sermon is preached, and the next is delved into immediately. One holiday season ends and we have to prepare for the next one. As we go from one thing to the next, our spouses can easily become unsatisfied, our children miserable, and our churches underserved. Self-care is essential to shepherding.

The upsides are tremendous; the downsides can be devastating. As I have been training our staff at Beech Bluff Pentecostal on how to recognize sexual exploitation, the point I make is that our best defense and our only real tool for detecting such behavior is an informed and attentive leader group and congregation.

Three things suffer when we don’t take care of ourselves. Conversely, these three things add tremendously to our lives and ministries, if we will do them daily.

Pray– Prayer focuses us on the One about whom all of this is. We need the recharge that a vibrant prayer life provides. None of our spiritual endeavors can succeed without prayer. If what we do is really all about loving God and our neighbors, then we must make time for prayer. Anyone who has allowed prayer to suffer as he or she continued to spin wheels for the kingdom can attest to the freedom and power that is discovered in taking time to pray.

Protect– Packing our days with activity, even important activity, does not leave time to stop and pay attention to who is around us and what is going on around us. Ask a parent who suddenly finds his daughter is on drugs, a CEO who sacrifices his marriage, or a pastor who loses out with God. Distractions and dangers creep in slowly, and their impact is felt suddenly. The areas of our home and property that are unattended invite vandals and thieves; the areas of our lives that are unattended invite the one who kills, steals, and destroys.

Appreciate– I taught our church staff one time what a PET project is- one that is planned, executed, and after which, thanks is offered. A project doesn’t wrap until all those who contribute get their due appreciation. Too often we plan, execute… then plan again, execute again, without thanking God or man. Appreciation greases often-used wheels that are in danger of being worn out. Even if you would rather wear out than rust out, there is no reason to wear out too quickly. Appreciate your fellow-laborers, your family, and the satisfaction of a job well-done.

The casualties that will result from neglecting these three daily, essential practices could be catastrophic. Unethical and dangerous behaviors result when you’re tired and you start cutting corners. If pride takes the place of purpose, you may say or do things that you can never take back. Jesus said it best when he said, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).

For your sake, and the sake of so many who depend on you, take care of yourself. Here’s three things to start with everyday.

A Call To Action

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