Losing my song

The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness;
    He will quiet you by his love;
He will exult over you with loud singing.”
Zephaniah 3:17

“I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
Psalm 104:33

Singing.

It’s been my deepest form of expression since…as long as I can remember. And in fact, even when I was still developing, I’m told that I did flips  in my Mother’s womb when she would sing. I sing when I’m excited, when I’m joyful, when I’m down, when I’m feeling hopeless. I just about always have a song on my heart, and it directly corresponds with what I want to communicate with God. Song is, you might even say, my prayer language.

Not that I don’t ever pray. I am in prayer all day long. And I journal a good bit too, though not as much as I’d like. But song is where me & Jesus just seem to communicate with each other most, and most intimately.

But this summer, I found myself in a real physical struggle to swallow anything that was not in liquid form. Because of this, I was referred to a Gastroenterologist who ran some tests and told me I have two different issues going on with my esophagus and then set me on path to correct those problems. And, pretty quickly things started getting better! What a relief to be able to sit down for a meal without fear of choking!

But something else happened. My voice changed. Quite rapidly, I started noticing difficulty hitting the high notes I was quite accustomed to singing without trouble. Then, it went from being difficult to impossible. And then I lost pitch control. Within a short time, I pretty much lost my singing voice. I mean, I have some ability to sing in a medium-ish range. But with the pitch control problems, it’s just not enjoyable to sing at all. In fact, it’s painful. Physically painful, but even more so, emotionally painful.

I feel as though I’m losing my way. Losing my voice. Losing my identity. Losing my song.

This must be a little like what Samson felt when he lost his strength and had his eyes gouged out. Personally, I’d rather have no strength and no sight than no voice, no song. Well, I’ve never really had any physical strength to speak of anyway, so maybe that’s not a great comparison.
I don’t know what it’s like to be able to pull 700 pound gates – frame, posts, and all – right out of the ground and carry them on my shoulders. But that was Samson’s gift. He must have felt so terribly isolated, abandoned, and alone when he lost that gift.

And now, I feel like I’ve lost my gift. And I wonder who cut my hair off. Okay, I’ve never had very long hair, but I wonder what I’ve done – or failed to do – that has brought this on.

Then a small voice inside of me says “maybe it’s just time to develop a new prayer language”.

So I find myself on a new journey. It hurts. I don’t like it. I just want my voice back. And maybe someday it will come back. But I know God has allowed this – even ordained it. So It will be okay. Even good. And I believe He will use it for good. He still loves me. He still desires me to seek Him earnestly and often.

I can learn a new song, even if I never sing again. I must. I will.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.
Psalm 43:5

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Faithless

A few weeks back, a man spoke at our church. He was from a very poor area of the world, and his story was moving.

So why wasn’t I moved?

The short version: He grew up in a broken home, never knowing his biological dad. He was raised by his grandmother because his mom could not afford to raise him. He grew up angry at his father. He felt he had no hope, turned to drug use, and was working in a factory as a teenager. He ended up living with his father, but the relationship was very volatile. But then one day, while hanging out with friends drinking, someone invited him to church. And that began a change in him that has continued to this day. He ended up working as a janitor for the church, and then got the opportunity to attend high school, then college, and that led to him receiving a decent job that led to an even better job and a promotion and a better job yet. Today he is a husband and father and owns his own house, his own vehicle. It is a remarkable story of transformation – a true rags to riches story. And he credits his relationship with Christ as the reason for it all.

So why did I walk away that morning feeling a bit empty, cheated, by this remarkable story? Why am I still troubled?

Over the past month or so, I’ve had something new take place in my life. A medical problem that I couldn’t overcome with rest, exercise, and a healthy diet. My interaction with doctors, for my adult life, has been relegated to annual physicals and very occasional need for something stronger than over-the-counter meds to counteract an infection. But now I’m facing something that requires the expertise of not one, but two medical specialists. And my biggest concern in it all? Not my health.

My wallet.

How much will all these tests and procedures and medicines cost me? My personal journaling began centering not around asking God to heal me – no! My time with God became a monologue regarding the negative financial impact this medical issue has on me and my family, and how I need Him to come through for us.

As if He ever hasn’t.

But then God began doing a work on me – exposing the heart of the issue to me.  I am called to a life of faith. And that call gives me NO guarantees of financial fortune or even physical safety. But isn’t that almost an assumption? If you get right down to it, isn’t there a real expectation, especially in the western world but in other areas as well, that Christianity is really salvation from suffering? Look at all the good works being done around the world in the name of Christ. Aren’t they, for the most part, an attempt to bring people up from a low standard of living to something a little better, or maybe a lot better? Not that I would decry Christians who are paying for (monetarily and through sweat equity) others to have uncontaminated drinking water or a clean, safe place to lay their head at night. But is that what Christ really calls us to – calls us for?

“Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head”.

These are the very words of Jesus – recorded in the book of Matthew and again in Luke. The cost of discipleship is high. And who am I to expect that Christ has saved me from hardship or poverty or financial failure? Hasn’t He, in fact, saved me from much worse, and to much greater?

My prayer life is turning. It’s scary for me – like walking on water scary walking on thin air with no parachute scary. Not able to see where my next step will land, yet walking forward confidently.

My heart is to be faithful rather than fearful. Oh, God make it so!

“I believe; help my unbelief!”
-Mark 9:24

Grocery Visits and Supreme Court Rulings

In light of the recent SCOTUS decision, much has been said. Plenty. I don’t need to write even a word, but I appreciate this light-hearted, even comical, yet sincere and thoughtful post by a long-time family friend. Worth taking time to read and consider.

Life @Thorntonville

“Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; His going out is sure as the dawn; He will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” Hosea 6:3 ESV

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV

 Grocery Visits and Supreme Court Rulings

I was in a local taco shop eating nachos when my daughter looked at the television screen over the soda counter. “Mom, look,” she pointed as her large blue eyes opened widely telling me something big had just happened. I turned to watch as the Supreme Court’s ruling on same sex marriage scrolled across the screen.

“What’s going to happen?” she asked looking for an “everything is fine” kind of response. Truth is, I really didn’t know what to say…so I stated the obvious, “Probably, there are…

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A Legacy of the Word

Today, I had a unique once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something pretty amazing. The church that my parents are part of is building a new worship center, and chose to honor my Dad in a fairly unique manner by using a bible that belonged to him for many years in the dedication ceremony. They dug a hole that is in the approximate location where the new church pulpit will reside, and my Dad’s Bible was placed in that hole and essentially buried there as a literal and figurative representation that the church’s foundation is built on the Word of God.

I happened to be in town this weekend so I thought it would be pretty awesome to go observe that dedication ceremony. So there I was, about to watch my Dad do something not many men are given the honor of doing, ever.

And then he turned to me, handed me the Bible, and asked me to do the honors.

I can’t think of a more visible way to demonstrate the godly, biblically centered legacy that has been handed to me by my Dad. It was truly humbling, and a memory that I will always think about with great fondness and reverence.

This legacy is in sharp contrast to what my Dad’s father handed him. Three words paint the picture: abuse, alcoholism, and abandonment.

But God.

No man on earth has ever gotten fatherhood totally right. But my Dad gave his heart and life to Christ in his mid-twenties, and that made all the difference. I have countless memories of my Dad studying scripture, sharing what he’d been studying with me, and passing along his pursuit of Christ and his desire to let the Word of God be his guide. It really has changed his life. Is still changing his life.

And mine.

And I pray, my children and theirs – for generations to come!

Unless the Lord build the house, those who build labor in vain” – Psalm 127:1

Byrds
Turn! Turn! Turn! (to Everything There Is a Season)

These are the familiar title and lyrics to a song made popular by The Byrds in 1965. A little before my time, and yet a song that is as applicable today as then. You may not know,  it wasn’t actually written by The Byrds, but by a guy named Pete Seeger, in the late 1950s – a little more before my time. And yet in truth, the words of the song were not even original to Mr. Seeger. Those honors go to “the writer” of the book of Ecclesiastes (chapter 3), who many theorize to be King Solomon. Wayyy before my time.

And yet, as a Foster Parent, and especially as a Foster Parent of teens, this song/scripture has some key truths. Simple truths, really, that can be hard to live out.

Let’s face it. These teens are fairly set in their ways. I can try to bend them toward “my way” of doing things, but often that option can be disastrous. I can drop hints and take the passive aggressive approach, but that practically guarantees I will have a very lousy relationship with them. And with little or no relationship, I will be a very ineffective parent.

A time to keep silence, a time to speak.

Proverbs 19:11 states “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense (NIV). As a foster parent, and I think especially as a foster Dad to two teens, there are many times when I know I have the “right” to correct my foster kids, when I know I have a better, healthier, way to “do things”. But it would be better for everyone if I just kept my mouth shut. I’m not perfect in this, but I’d say it’s an area where I’m learning, growing.

A time to plant, a time to reap.

So much of what we’re doing as foster parents to teens is about planting. At this point, it’s not gonna be so much about what they’re taught, but what they’ve caught. A consistent example through the way we live is more important than the words we say. Being humble. Taking on an attitude of consistent servant leadership. Deferring my way, my wants in order to make peace. And this lines up with scripture.  Jesus said that the peacemakers will be called children of God (Mathew 5:9).  The Apostle Paul instructs believers to be at peace with all people, as much as is within our power (Romans 12:18).

My wife and I started our foster care journey almost two decades ago. Time has born out the truths of these lyrics, these words of scripture. We still have relationships with some of the “kids” (kids no longer) who were in our care at that time. We did a little planting then, we’re seeing God do the reaping over time. And they don’t so much remember anything we ever spoke to them, but sometimes they come to us and ask us to speak into their lives now. There is a time for every purpose under heaven.