.posthidden {display:none} .postshown {display:inline} By His Own Hand. . .

4/07/2017

Running and redemption

Just a quick post as I liked the imagery that came from real life today. . .

So I ran 7 miles today successfully.  Yay for that.  But as I began running, I had the thought of "I'm going to redeem myself after the fiasco last week."  After all:

Last week I was running in 80/90 degree weather.  Today it was 50/60.
Last week I ran two days in a row.  Today I had taken a rest day in-between.
Last week I decided somewhat last minute to change my plans.  Today I had prepped myself all week.
Last week I was in a rush to get to a show.  Today I have a little extra time before I have to get going.

But isn't that the picture of our Christian struggle?  We try to do things on our own, in bad timing, ignorant of what we've just gone through, never looking ahead, squeezing things into our busy lives that only serve to distract and ultimately disappoint us.  Instead of trusting in God and His plan, we decide we know better.

And then we fail.

But God offers us a different way of doing things.  A redeeming not only eternally but daily.  In our struggle, in our pursuit, our task is to rely on God's way.  And here's the important part (that I have to constantly remind myself of): Jesus said "Come to me, all who are weary, and I will give you rest."  But He didn't stop there.  "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

There are all kinds of exhortations in the New Testament about our side of sanctification- faith without deeds is dead (James 2:17-18), work our your salvation (Philippians 2:12), the life we live we live by faith (Galatians 2:20).  But we aren't left to our own strength, as God works in us (Philippians 2:13) and He will complete us (1:6).  So keep fighting.  Keep working.  Keep running.



7 miles is not a burden-less task.  But it's way easier to do it when you're doing it right.

4/03/2017

The grief rock

I haven't talked much publicly about my grief process.  Writing is a great way for me to express as it sets thoughts in a tangible way- not that those thoughts can't change or aren't temporary, but I can use them as an assessment of a specific point.  Also, whether the audience ends up being me alone or something more exposed like this, I think there's value in writing to the invisible audience.  So anyway, I came up with this analogy, and it's probably a little obtuse, but not as bad as the molecular reaction turkey handshake.

It's like a rock that I carry around.  Maybe a little larger than a microwave.  And this rock, it has a lot of different materials, a lot of different surfaces and textures. . . it seems like you can look at it from every angle and it always seems a little different, there's always something new to discover.  Some parts of it are smooth, too smooth to grip, and other parts are rough, sharp even.  And so sometimes I am carrying the rock and it is scraping my hands, or maybe I hold it to one side and it jabs into my torso, or if I sling it over my back it can't stay still because the smooth parts won't grip on to anything.  Sometimes when I'm carrying it I notice its weight.  It's not unbearably heavy, but it's also not something that is easy to carry around.  Mostly it's uncomfortable.  But sometimes I'm carrying it and don't even notice it; I can run and hold it above my head, or tote it behind me as I work on other things with my hands.  Sometimes I'm even able to set it down for a while and go and do other things.  . . but I always come back to it.  Sometimes I kick it or punch it, but that only proves to hurt me and not change the rock at all.
And so I find myself asking a lot of questions about it.  Is there something useful I'm supposed to be doing with it?  Is there an opportunity to shape it into something new?  The material won't change, but perhaps I can craft it into something.  Or maybe I'm not supposed to carry it around.  Is there somewhere I should put it, set it as a monument or memorial so that I can come back to it if I want, but I don't have to continue to cart it everywhere?  Or maybe. . . is there some other option?  It seems there is always something new to be discovered about it.  Do I just keep doing what I'm doing with it, just embrace it as a part of the daily walk of life?

As I thought through this imagery last night after what had ended up being a day where I was aware of the weight and the roughness and the discomfort, I realized there's something else to add.  Because there is Someone else in the picture.  Someone who is right here with me.  Someone who has dealt with this kind of rock.  Someone who understands.  Someone who offers compassion.  Someone who offers to help.  And so now my question is this: am I supposed to give my rock to Him?  Is it something we can trade back and forth, or is it something that I need to let go of completely?  If I can be rid of it, how do I do that?  How do I let go?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A line from "Hello, Dolly" has been bouncing around in my head (which, side note, until I became a widower I never realized how often that is used as a storytelling device, including in theater.  I suppose any new normal brings an awareness and sensitivity to any similar experience):

But lately, Ephraim, I've begun to realize that for a long time... I have not shed one tear.  Nor have I been for one moment outrageously happy.

I can't begin to tell you how much I identify with that statement.  But near the end of that same monologue, she states:

I've decided to join the human race again.

In many ways, that is what I've been moving towards these past few months.  To return to my life.  To return to God and His plan and His will.  To join the land of the living.

So while the question still remains, I will continue to seek the Answer.

3/31/2017

Running and performing

First of all, one of my resolutions for this year was to write around once a week, no matter how little or how mundane.  That obviously hasn't happened.
Another one of my resolutions was to not tell people my resolutions.

So....0 for 2 so far.

 So in my journey to become healthy again, I have picked up running. I've always enjoyed running, and I'm glad to make the time for it in my schedule, as it's very much a prayer/zen/sometimes the only time I get to see the sun place.  I signed up for a half marathon in May, both to keep myself motivated to run and to get a decent time so I can have a higher corral placement at the 2018 Disney Marathon.  And also, I really enjoy running.
While I haven't been following a specific training plan for the half, I've just reverted to the opening weeks of marathon training (which is 16 weeks, and I'll have only done about 8 weeks of serious training before this race arrives, so math?  Half the marathon, half the training time?).  So this week was supposed to be 17 total miles (3-4-3-7).  But with my schedule this week (more on that in a moment) my available times to run that distance were:
This afternoon from 4:30-6 and be late for call
Tonight 11:30-1AM (after getting home from the show)
Tomorrow morning 5-6:30 AM
Sunday morning 5-6:30 AM
Sunday night 11-12:30
Originally I was gonna do tonight because I really enjoy night running, but tomorrow and Sunday are both slammed and I thought I would appreciate having decent hour of sleep tonight.
 As I thought through my day today I change my mind and decided to try and squeeze it in this afternoon. Which is fine timing wise, but it was very hot. Also I ran Thursday morning and was on my feet most of the first half of the day. So the end of my story/rambling is that I only got 45 minutes of running and before I had to give up. Now, I recognize that 45 straight minutes is an accomplishment. I couldn't tell you before the past few weeks the last time I ran that long consecutively. Probably been at least two years, if not more. But I was disappointed in myself because I'm supposed to get seven, and ended up with between 4-4.5, and even thouch it was probably physical factors more than anything, I hate losing the mental game.   So I need to recognize my limitations, but also not give up; if I keep going consistently, and stay on target next week, or even if I fail the long run again, I'm still doing so much better than I ever would have expected.  Also I know that I'm super busy and running is a "hobby" and therefore should not get precedence.


 Which brings me to my next topic:

 Someone asked me recently why I try and take Mondays off. To answer that question, let me show you my schedule for this past couple and upcoming couple days-
Wednesday- 7:30-8:45 rehearsal at UNF
9-10:30 practice at JU
10:30 lesson
11-12 rehearsal
12-1 lunch (ended up donating blood during this time period)
2-3:30 rehearsal
Commute to Palm Coast
5-6 practice
6-10:30 rehearsal

Thursday
7-12 DeLand/Orlando
Commute back to Palm Coast
3-5 rehearsal
6 call for Addams
Show ends 10, commute back to Jax

Friday
7-8 warm-up/practice
9-10 rehearsal UNF
10:30-11:15 rehearsal
12 masterclass
Lunch
2-3 rehearsal
Commute to daytona
6 call, show ends 10

Saturday
7-9 men's Bible study
9-11 set up sound for church
Commute to Melbourne
2 funeral
Commute to Daytona
6 call, show ends 10

Sunday
7:30-11:30 church
Commute to Daytona
Show 2
Commute to Palm Coast
Rehearsal 6-10

 That's why I try to take Mondays off.   And God is good in that I have the ability to find a day off. We all need to break. Also, I know that this is just my schedule from February to April, so don't get the idea that I am always quite this busy. But this is what I mean when I say I'm crazy in the spring.

The end.

2/28/2017

February Statistics

Performances: 7 (+9 class/lab)
Pieces performed: 41
Cities worked in: 4
Miles driven: 3,442
Miles ran: 3.1
Pounds lost: ~19
Nights of sleep before midnight: 22
Sweet potatoes consumed: 5

God is good!!


.... and so are sweet potatoes.

2/14/2017

Completion

A disclaimer- this entry is going to be a little different, in that rather than being a theoretical/application entry, it's going to be a more personal one.  I'm not entirely sure I'll really develop any points or come to any strong conclusion.  I don't talk much in depth about my experiences surrounding losing my wife to cancer, partially because it's inevitably awkward for me and awkward for them and really, who knows what to do with a 28 year old widower anyway?

. . . seriously, if you know, pass that along, because I definitely don't have a great idea.  I could tell you lots of things not to do, but that is not the purpose for today.

So anyway, with that prelude. . .


Matt preached this past week on being made in the image of God as well as related that to gender/sexuality/marriage/identity.  His sermon is here if you want to go take a listen.  I think he did a great job handling it.  There was one part that stuck out to me, and I know that if I don't think through it, even if I don't come to a conclusion, that it will eat away at me, and that's not healthy.  It is the idea that, when God brings a husband and wife together, his purpose is in using them to complete each other.  The weaknesses of one are bolstered by the strengths of the other, there's a fit, a match, that makes each person irrevocably tied together.


So what I wrote in my notes in the heat of the moment was: "Cam completed me- and then He took her?  So am I complete still?"


Now, I could easily write up a page about how really I will never be complete until I'm made perfect in Christ, whether in death or on His return.  And that's where we as Christians place hope boils down to.  But that really only addresses the second half of the statement, so. . . I'm gonna break this down.

Cam completed me. . . I don't know that I've ever really thought about it in those terms, but it's definitely something I can get behind.  Although I wasn't looking for that at the time, once the two of us had the first "serious talk" and started sharing our past experiences and our future hopes and dreams, it was clear we were meant to be together.  I mean, we went on a 6 mile walk-and-talk in mid-February, and by the end of March I was looking for engagement rings, and I popped the question May 4.  Granted, we had "not" been dating for a couple of years leading up to that. . . but really I don't know that either of us had thought seriously about us being together.

Well. . .  maybe she had.  Apparently when we went on our Disney non-dates she was concerned over her appearance, and also she got real mad at me when I dressed in my own special ways.


(I mean, just look at those faces: thinly veiled anger and sheepish grin.  America's finest) 
(but seriously I got in big trouble once for wearing elf shorts with bells on them)



And then He took her- this is something I still wrestle with (I mean, clearly- the language is aggressive).  I had some clarity a few weeks ago, conceptually that she was never "mine" to begin with.  She was always God's child, this was His plan and intent, and I was given the great opportunity to know her, love her, and see her through to the end of her life here.  That's still not an easy pill to swallow, but that's where trusting in God's goodness comes into contact with everyday life.  Do I trust His promises, do I trust His character, do I truly believe that what He says is completely true?  I can choose not to, but I have peace in knowing that I can trust Him, I have joy in that He shaped me through Cam's life and death, and I have hope for the future because He's still walking alongside me and leading me.


So. . . am I complete still?  I mean, there's a part missing.  I don't think that gap will be bridged on this side of heaven.  But the cool part in thinking through this is recognizing the pieces of Cameron that live on in me: some that I cultivate, others that surprise me.  I find myself trying to find alternate/positive-spin perspectives in hard circumstances (which is so completely a Cam thing and in no way a me thing).  I'm a bit more in tune to the movement of the wind and fascinated by the moon.  I take a whole lot more pictures than I used to.  Sometimes I just sit and soak in the surroundings.  I really, really want to go to Jurassic Quest (but of course I'm busy the weekend it's in Jacksonville).  I'm more aware of other people as people, with backgrounds and histories and struggles, and am still learning to be patient even when they frustrate me.  So I am certainly changed.



Today is Valentine's Day.  Tomorrow would be our second anniversary.  How do I glorify God in the midst of pain?

By recognizing that there is purpose in the pain.

By choosing to rejoice anyway.

By continuing to stay faithful to God.

By knowing my completion lies in Christ, and my task is to strive for that every day.



I know I won't do those things perfectly, and I can't do them on my own, but God's grace, power, and love is far greater than anything I face on this earth.

2/07/2017

Service vs. Serving

A question was posed that has dug into my mind and heart and I can't let it go:

As ministry leaders, what are we teaching people?

I don't mean the skills necessary to do whatever task- skills like reading music or changing a diaper or creating a document.  I'm talking about spiritual growth.  So maybe the question would be better stated: As ministry leaders, what are we teaching people as we disciple them?  And maybe the question before that is are we taking time to disciple the people serving in our ministries?

This should be the difference between the church and every other gathering of people, whether it relate to work or hobby or whatever.  We ought to be using ministry moments to encourage, correct, and sometimes even rebuke.  But it is very easy to get caught up in the tasks that we forget about the people.  The disciples did it constantly, and we certainly fare no better sometimes.

Although this isn't some official delineation, this is the best way I can think of to describe what happens.  It's the idea of service vs. serving.  Service, as a noun, focuses on the act, the end result of the ministry.  Serving, as both gerund and participle, require thought about the person doing the act.  And so, a comparison of the thought process (these are extremes; certainly there are areas we do better in and ones we can work on):


Service: 
My value is found in the work I do.
I am loved when I serve, and I am encouraged only once my service begins to drop.
The church desires for me to serve, and so they provide opportunities to "work for the Lord."

Serving:
My value is found in Christ, and so I serve Him.
I am loved.  I am encouraged continually, regardless of my current service.
The church desires to see me grow closer to God, and so they provide an opportunity for me to serve.


Do we praise our workers only on the week they do well, or do we continually thank and praise them, even when they mess up? Do we take the time to teach them from difficult experiences, or just get annoyed and begin to write them off both emotionally and from our scheduling? Do we chide the children's worker who loves kids and teaches them about Jesus but forgot to clean up the mess of animal crackers- or do we see their love of Christ poured into lives and thank God sincerely that they're a part of our team? Do we desire zeal for good works more than zeal for God? Are we cultivating an environment where people can do a lot, or can we craft an experience where they will grow and stretch in their faith?



Not easy questions, but if we want to see people grow in Christ, we must examine the way we are leading.  And that also requires us to check ourselves, to recognize as leaders that we don't have it all together and need God's grace just as much as those who are on our team.

1/31/2017

How is the Bible transforming you?

This was a question posed last week at Lifegroup, and I had an answer but I didn't have the words for it.  I kind of do now?  I haven't quite collected my thoughts on this completely but I know if I don't set some of it down then none of it will ever come to light.

For me, lately, I have been rediscovering the comfort that is in Scripture.  I posted about it with Psalm 119 a couple weeks ago, but it goes further than that.  My brain is just too tired to form coherent sentences, so I'll leave you with some scripture that has comforted me recently (for now and someday soon I will expand on this thought!!).

Lamentations 3:22-24
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

Psalm 119:176
I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments.

Job 19:25
For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.

Romans 6:4
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Romans 8:1
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.