December 24, 2007

Oh Dear me!

OK, this is going to be blunt and humiliating but I have to come clean. There is never a time or circumstance in my life when I find myself more helpless and crying out, "Oh Dear me!" than when my body is being attacked by some sort of wretched intestinal virus. I was awakened Saturday night (Sunday morning) by my daughter just as she was about to hurl for the first of many times. Then my son followed suit starting @ 2-3am. My poor wife slept on their floor and probably got about 2 hours of sleep. When any of us get sick, she's like Rocky Balboa in Rocky IV.

As of late in my life my immune system has definitely grown stronger. I don't get sinus infections or other garbage like that near as much as I used to. But these stupid viruses have got my number. So naturally yesterday about 2-3pm I felt the cold sweat coming on...I ran upstairs to my bedroom...barely fell on the bed before I almost passed out. The next 12 hours my body felt like someone had shoved me into a toaster and pushed the lever down. All I remember from last night is laying there saying, "God.......please!"

The reason for me sharing all of this is simply to say (at least for me) there is nothing like the hated intestinal stomach virus to remind me that I am a frail, helpless, mortal weenie that at any time can be rendered powerless and paralyzed by something completely invisible. And even in the midst of feeling like a Peterbilt has parked on top of me, God will never give me more than I can handle. Never.

Oh, and also, my wife is much tougher than me.
That's not even remotely humiliating!

December 21, 2007

Just the right time....

Just the other day I got a note from one of my former students. What was so great about it was that it simply said "Thanks". There was much more to it than that, but the essence of the message was "I was thinking about the impact you've had on my life...and I wanted to say "Thank You". And like so often in life, this note came at "just the right time".

It's like there are these times in your life when you're not down or sad or depressed or even unhappy with what you're doing, you just need encouragement. And what's crazy is you usually don't even know you need it until someone sends it your way. This was definitely the case for me the other day. But this got me thinking about the character of God and how He tends to operate.

In Romans 5:6, Paul tells us that Christ came at "just the right time" to die for us sinners. I've always sort of passed over this and not thought too much about it. Ultimately we have no idea why it was "just the right time" - why not now or 300 years before? That's not for us to know. This is God's M.O. - He does everything at just the right time! He leads us to the desert, He brings us to the water, He brings the trial & struggle, He relieves the burden, and He brings the encouragement at "just the right time". And often...we are totally unaware.

I hope you're encouraged knowing that the God who "supplies all our needs according to His riches" is paying great attention to your life. He knows your needs and your heart. And He does everything at "just the right time".

December 18, 2007


So that I don't make any presumptions, if you've never studied and read through My Utmost For His Highest you need to get a copy NOW. Oswald Chambers shares some of the deepest, yet most foundational insights into scripture that I've ever read. You simply must go through this treasured book.

As I'm reading today he's touching on Romans 8:28. He begins talking about how we inadvertently become loyal to the work and the service and to all the things that we claim to be doing for God...and at the same time lose our loyalty to the person of Jesus Christ. We love the Godly things we're committed to but they often distract us from the One to whom we should be most loyal.

Chambers makes the statement that "The idea is not that we do work for God, but that we are so loyal to Him that He can do His work through us...."

So, am I loyal to Him...or to all the stuff I claim to be doing for Him?
We must ask & answer this question prayerfully.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him and are called according to His purpose."

December 14, 2007

The Peace of God

Have you ever lost something valuable to you? Like you misplaced your wallet or your keys and you spend hours...days...weeks...searching - possibly destroying - everything you own to find them. When you lose something that is important to you a couple of things happen: 1)you will basically do anything conceivable to find it and 2)you discover just how valuable that thing was to start with.

About 13 years ago I lost something. The most difficult thing about it was that it wasn't something tangible, that maybe I had stuck in a cabinet or under the bed. I woke up one morning and my peace was gone. Yes, you read that right. I felt as though the peace I had in my life - the peace that only God can give - had been ripped right out of my heart. It was paralyzing. I remember sitting on the steps that morning with my Mom, refusing to eat, unable to explain the source of my struggle. All I knew was that the "peace" that Paul speaks of in Philippians 4 was no longer taking up residence in me. And I had no explanation.

When I speak about this peace being gone what it felt like to me was that there was this pain or uneasiness in my gut - in that place within you that can tell you quickly that you shouldn't have had that 5th slice of pizza and also sends messages to your brain like "Oh, I did not need to see that man's femur pop out through his shin!" There was this painful stirring going on in my soul and as the days passed I began to have one mission in life: find out WHY! Where had my peace gone? Why had it left me? What was God trying to tell me? And so the journey began.

I wish I could tell you that a couple of days or even weeks later I woke up and sunshine was shooting out my ears and everything was better. That would be a lie. The next 7-8 months of my life were a day-to-day process of almost re-learning what it meant to walk with God. I had made a series of choices that led up to this and I see now that there were choices and decisions I would face in the days that followed. God was preparing my heart. He was taking me through a fire that had to be heated up hotter than usual so that He could pose the question to my heart: "Are you ready to be mine? Are you ready to seek me first? Are you ready to follow me wherever I lead you? Do whatever I ask? Or are you still holding on to this or that?" These questions are not easy ones to ask or answer. But make no mistake, when God is ready to ask them He does whatever it takes to speak clearly. The journey for us is figuring out how to listen.

Oswald Chambers speaks of this in My Utmost For His Highest. He says, "Whenever you obey God, His seal is always that of peace...which is not natural, but the peace of Jesus. Whenever peace does not come, tarry 'til it does or find out the reason why it does not." This all began for me on December 5th, 1994. I read these words from Chambers 9 days later. A light went off in my head and I knew what had to be done. I had to "find out the reason" and make it right.

My friend Jarrod is the only person I know of who can identify with what I went through. Thankfully - and definitely not coincidentally - we went through this at almost the exact same time. But there may come a day when you wake up and wonder who snuck into your room in the middle of the night and stole this prize possession of peace. If it happens, know that it wasn't stolen. God is trying to get your attention. "...tarry 'til it does or find out the reason why it does not." Because without a doubt it will return. And when it does, your heart will be refined, polished, stronger, and ready to walk the narrow road.

"The peace I give isn't like the peace the world gives. So don't be troubled or afraid." John 14:27

December 10, 2007

I Finished the Race

26.2 miles. I can't believe I finally did it. There are so many thoughts and impressions running through me after this monumental event in my life.

First of all, I thought I would break down and get really emotional when I crossed the Finish line. That didn't happen. For 2 reasons. First off, I think I was so insanely exhausted that I looked like I was intoxicated, stumbling up through the Finish Gate. I left everything I had on the pavement. But the other reason was that somewhere around 24-25 miles it began to dawn on me, "I'm about to finish this thing. I'm about to conquer this mighty beast." I began to have these thoughts of all those days out running, preparing, praying. All that time and sweat and prayer that was spent. I felt so overwhelmed with gratitude to the Lord that I almost started to lose it. I think I even spurted, choked and made some funny noises as I was trying to hold back the tears. It was just indescribable.

The other thing that's still fresh on my mind is that the first 7-8 miles of this race were pure adrenaline. Those first 60 minutes there was never a shortage of people lining the streets, cheering you on, injecting you with enthusiasm and encouragement. There were people yelling my name (b/c they could read it on my number bib) and I was yelling back. I was so pumped I think there had to be people noticing, "Check out that guy who's running with that goofy big smile on his face." As I ran through this, I was instantly struck that this should be a picture of the church. We should be there, spurring and encouraging each other on. Even those we don't know us should be affected by our enthusiasm and our desire to see them "finish the race".

So many times, at just the right time, I would run up on someone wearing a shirt with encouragement from God's Word on the back: "they will run and not grow weary..." or "I can do all things through Christ...". God's timing and His Word are always perfect. And then of course was my sister-in-law hanging out the car window at mile 18 yelling, "Go Brian!" That was awesome!

Everyone should experience this. You may not be a runner - may never be - so it may be in your cards that you need to be the one on the side of the road holding the sign that says, "You Can Do It Dad" or "We Love You Nancy". In some shape, form or fashion everyone needs to experience this rush and impact of 26.2 miles. It will change your life.

December 7, 2007

Strolling Down Memory Lane

We arrived at my parents house in Arlington last night. I got up this morning to go for my last run before the marathon. It was a pretty intense and memorable 4-5 miles.

First off, when we left Wichita yesterday it was about 35. When I left to go running at 8am it was already 65 and humid. Just one of the reasons why I don't mind not living in Texas anymore! My run took me for a jog down memory lane. Some of the memories good, others I'd rather forget.

I went past a church parking lot where so many of my friends in high school would go to hang out and drink. Yes, you heard me right. And don't think that memory wasn't screaming in my face. It was like the enemy was ready for me with signs and flashing lights saying, "Remember what you used to do here loser!?" Ouch.

I went past the rec center where I worked for so many summers in college. This is where I met Morgan and fell in love with her. Lots of great memories there. And the rec center is just a block from the house I grew up in (maybe that "grew up" statement has an unfinished tone to it!) and my elementary school. I was running down some of the streets that Kevin James and I would ride our skateboards and bikes on everyday of the summer. And then there was Bailey Junior High School. Man, did I know how to get in trouble at that school! As I was running in front of the school a mom was going to her car. She jokingly said, "You don't look like you go to Bailey!" I kept running and yelled back to her, "Not for 25 years!" Again, ouch.

I got back and was still a little hung up on this whole running by my bad memories thing. I sat down at the table to read my Bible. I've been reading through Romans and I'm now to chapter 8. I start reading and the very first verse of Romans 8 tells us that "Now there is NO condemnation for those of us who are in Christ Jesus." This weight I had jogged with for 30 minutes was immediately lifted off of me. Jesus was saying, "You keep bringing that up...but I don't know what you're talking about. I threw it in the sea."

I don't know what you might be running with, carrying it on your back or in your heart, but God says to you, "Lay it down, walk away, and don't come back to it. I'm throwing it away." That's freedom. That's the essence of our hope and peace.

So, in 48 hours I'll be pounding the streets of Dallas running the White Rock Marathon. The forecast is 68 and rain. I'm definitely not excited about that. I'd rather it be 45-50 and sunny. But at least I'll be running without that weight on my back!

December 3, 2007

Feast or Famine?

This past weekend was such a huge reminder and encouragement that the longing in my life for peace, satisfaction, hope, purpose and connecting & communing with my Creator will only be met through the time I spend "feasting" on His word (as my friend Nathan Jones likes to put it).

I watched many students this weekend who were visibly shaken, convicted and renewed by God. Many of them commented that "I felt closer to God this weekend than I have in a long time." My hope for them (any you) is that we get a clue and realize that it comes as we draw near to God - as we seek the truth of His Word and let it seap into the cracks of our soul. These feelings will go away. It's not an "if" but a "when". And when they go away, if your heart is not set on His Word, you will all of a sudden start wondering, "Where did God go?"

He doesn't go anywhere. We do! Our hearts wander - they run off chasing things that will fade away. I think of the words from Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing: "Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love. Here's my heart, Lord, take and seal it. Seal it for Thy courts above." And the way God "seals our heart" is through the power of His Word. Period.

So, are you feasting on every word of life and hope and purpose He has placed at His table for you? Or are you withering away through your own self-inflicted famine? It's your choice. Come join me at the table and let's dig in.