Journal Entry: October 9th 2016

October 9th, 2016

In some ways, I have allowed politics to become an idol. Maybe THE idol in my life right now. I follow it incessantly, yet hardly pray for my country, or open my Bible. I KNOW the truth, and the truth is that my country is not what I want it to be. Our values are not what I want them to be.

But doesn’t that miss the point? Is God not sovereign?
The answer of course is yes, but my idolatry and obsession over this election means that I am living more like it is a “no”.
Humbling indeed.

Both of our primary candidates are so deeply and fundamentally flawed. I recognize we are all deeply and fundamentally flawed, but can you recall a time where both candidates are such a far cry from anything resembling submission to the authority of God? This troubles me, but probably not for the right reasons as I think about it.

It troubles me because it means that the America that I have in my mind, that I believed would be present in my future, is fading rapidly. This America had strong Judeo-Christian values, was proud of what it meant to be an American and all that came with that.

This identity is dying and it breaks my heart. But it also means that (selfishly) my life will be harder. Prosperity will be threatened, my values will be of the minority and maybe even censored before too long.

So what are the right reasons for being troubled by this? Obviously the moral decline of our leadership is indicative of the moral decline of our nation. Wayward morality always has consequences. History has proved this time and time again. Heck, you don’t even need the Bible to see it but I believe Scripture provides the most coherent explanation.

Say what you want about the Founding Fathers, because many say they weren’t Christians. I don’t argue that here, I will say that they did view the world with a moral framework. There was a starting point, a foundation of morality that they looked to for inspiration and guidance.

We are losing this framework. We have no foundation or starting point to look to. And like a house without a strong frame or a body without bones, we fall in on ourselves.

There will be suffering and more suffering. Physical, psychological, social, economic. This is probably the saddest part of this, but also the greatest opportunity because suffering forces us to ask some pretty big questions.

What is the purpose of this?
Why do I suffer?
Is there any hope?

It is here that I return, because the answers to these questions, and the example of our lives is where the Church is indeed Salt and Light.

Salt prevents decay. Light shines brightest in the darkness.

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:13-16

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Random Thoughts: #TourDeDC2016

Last week I visited our nations capitol, Washington DC. I toured the Capitol, the White House, the Library of Congress, various museums, monuments, and the sacred grounds of Arlington National Cemetery.

Visiting these various locations prompted so many thoughts (some random, some deliberate) that it has taken me some time to process through them all. Here are some of the main takeaways.

America: Scarred but still Great

I knew there was a reason that I rejected the notion that America was never great. This statement has been a common refrain by many who reject the mantra of Donald Trump when he says “Make America Great Again”. They simply state that “America was never great.”

A simple tour of DC proves this to be false.

Washington

The Washington monument. Created to honor our very first President. A man who, when given the opportunity to expand power, chose to relinquish power back to the people. This principle, the idea that the government belongs to the people, is great.

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Abraham Lincoln. A man who fought for the idea that all men are created equal and managed to keep our nation intact as it sought to dissolve. This is great.

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This photo is front the entrance to the Holocaust Museum. A museum dedicated to remembering the millions of lives that were exterminated by the evil Nazi regime.

When confronted with evil in the world, the United States fought to destroy it.

And succeeded. This is great.

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Finally. Arlington National Cemetery. Countless rows of head stones with the names of honorable Americans. Many of whom died in combat securing the very freedom we have to proclaim that our country was never great.

The free air that we breathe is because of their sacrifice.

This is great.

Our Nation has its scars. A past full of things that caused deep pain and sorrow for many. But don’t you? What do you expect from a nation full of people that have pasts full of things that have caused deep pain and sorrow? We are scarred, but this does not fully eliminate the collective greatness of our Nation. Our scars do not define us. Just like your scars do not define you.

The Rest of DC:

  • DC was surprisingly quiet despite it being election season. I anticipated more but was actually pleasantly surprised.
  • Uber is the way to go when traveling around town
  • Clean city! As someone who understands custodial operations, I appreciated this aspect
  • Knocked off another MLB park while visiting. Enjoyed watching the Nationals play the Braves.

Thanks for stopping by!

– Brian

My Word for 2016

NewThe practice of choosing a word for the year is something I have done for the last three years under the encouragement of the leadership of a local church. The word has served as a point of focus in my walk with Christ.

My word for 2016 is New.

new |n(y)o͞o|

adjective

1 not existing before; made, introduced, or discovered recently or now for the first time

2 just beginning or beginning anew and regarded as better than what went before

We celebrate things that are new.

  • New Years are exciting.
  • New Cars smell amazing.
  • New Shoes look great.

As I thought about my word for this year, I was reminded that the Lord celebrates making things new as well.

We are given a new heart and a new spirit

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 36:26

We are a new creation

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

2 Corinthians 5:17

We follow a new command

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

John 13:34

We will see a new heaven and new earth

1Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea… 5He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Revelation 21:1,5

I just listened to a sermon today that said God views each day with the same excitement that we view each year. His mercies are new each and every day.

I am made new. You can be too.

Why We Need Community

I love golf. I have been playing for about 22 years now and the game has taught me a lot. Golf is unique because it is an individual sport. I have been on golf “teams” but even then we are just the sum of our individual contributions. This tendency to try and “go it alone” leaks into my walk with Jesus and the consequences are unsettling.

Here’s the thing: Following Jesus is not an individual endeavor. The Church does not function well when we fly solo. I do not function well as a member of the Church when I choose to fly solo.

I need community. We all need community.

But first, what is community?

One definition of community is “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”

A second definition is “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common

For our purposes, our definition of community is a combination and simplification that is best understood as “a committed group of Christ followers navigating life together.”

Seems simple enough, right? Yet I still struggle in isolation. We still struggle without community.

Why is that though? Why is it that I struggle when I am isolation? Why do I need community?

In Scripture we discover some answers to these questions –

  • Built for Relationship

So God created mankind in his own image,

in the image of God he created them;

male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:27

Being created in the image of God truly means something. We carry His imprint whether we like it or not. The thing about God is that He is relational. His relationship with the Son and Holy Spirit was always there.

Just think, the idea of relationship always was.

As carriers of His likeness, we are wired for relationship. Relationship with Him and with others around us. The context for this relationship is found in a community setting.

  • Better Together

Two are better than one,

because they have a good return for their labor:

If either of them falls down,

one can help the other up.

But pity anyone who falls

and has no one to help them up.

Ecclesiastes 4:9 – 10

Allow me to share an illustration most of us can relate to – Have you ever gone to a theme park alone? Ever been to a movie alone?  I have done both and I can honestly say that my experience was not nearly as fulfilling as any time I went with someone else. Life is a lot like that as well. When I go to theme parks, my motto is the more the merrier because it is so much fun to experience theme parks with a host of friends! We are better together!

A life lived in community is fun, but it also has some other very real benefits.

Consider this illustration – Have you ever witnessed a friend making a bad decision that you knew would result in pain/suffering?

You know what I am talking about. This person is convinced they are making a good decision and are blind to any alternatives. Or maybe you have been that person. I know I have. I know I have had the blinders on and when I crashed I inevitably said “well I didn’t see that coming”.

But you know who did? The people that knew me best. My close friends and family in many cases.

We all have blind spots. A community can protect us from those blind spots and help us to make wise decisions.

  • Community Needs You

Though one may be overpowered,

two can defend themselves.

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:12

When I was in Basic Training, I learned very early on that I was no longer an individual. The Army has a way of beating that out of you. Any action that can be perceived as an individual action was met with swift punishment. We always did things as a team. The smallest unit was a group of two and your partner was called your “Battle Buddy”. My battle buddy was a guy named PVT Addison. We both learned early on that we had to rely on each other. I needed him, and he needed me.

The Church is like that.

I need community, and community needs me. There are blind spots that I can clear. There are bits of wisdom and insight that I can share to save someone pain and suffering. And then there are wonderful experiences that we can celebrate together!

You are the same. People need you. You are valuable. Jesus can and will use you.

Random Thoughts: April 2015

April has been a great month!

We are 1/3 of the way through 2015 and that is staggering to consider. It seems that this part of the year is really when life starts to pick up the pace heading into summer. (Although, summer in Florida is loosely defined as April-October).

I am really excited about some of the content I read/heard this month. Here is the latest in Titles and Tunes.

Titles

Chasing Daylight

I highlighted this book last month as a Title that I had just started. I finished it this month and my sentiment remains the same: GO and READ IT!

I am passionate about time and living a fully engaged life. Chasing Daylight focuses on this topic and offers a good mix of the philosophical and practical perspective on focused living. Living with intensity and purpose, particularly in pursuit of the mission of Jesus Christ.

It is a must read for anyone that does not want to waste their lives.

Good to Great (Audio Book)

Have you ever wondered what separates the best organizations from the rest of the marketplace? Good to Great drills down and finds the answer.

I own the hard copy of this book and will likely read it at some point, but the audio book was good for my time on the road this month. If you don’t have time to devote to reading, then I would recommend audio books. They are a good option if you are on the road a lot or you can combine them with a daily workout routine.

I recommend Good to Great for anyone that is a Leadership/Business nerd like me. My favorite concept from the book was the Hedgehog Concept. I don’t want to bore you with the details, so check out this video of Jim Collins explaining the Hedgehog Concept.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUrdbmNBpyY

Podcasts

North Point Community Church

Time of Your Life by Andy Stanley

This was a video series that I watched with Rightnow Media, but I am counting it as a podcast. Regardless, you can find the resource here: http://northpoint.org/messages/time-of-your-life/

Once again, this message is on Time. You should watch/listen to this, my words cannot do it justice.

Tunes

My Top 5 Tunes as of Today

  1. Don’t It – Billy Currington (I was raised on Country music so it never really leaves me!)
  2. Because He Lives – Matt Maher
  3. Riptide – Vance Joy (Catchy tune!)
  4. Come as You Are – Crowder
  5. No Turning Back – Brandon Heath

Travels

#TourDeBama

#TourDeFLA

#TourDeGA

I went on vacation this month for about a week, and it was much needed. I traveled through Florida and Alabama visiting family and friends. I even made a short trip into Georgia. I visited some new places but also places I would consider home. Small towns where I lived, and small towns where my family came from and has lived for over a century. At the end of the day, it was the people that made the difference for me.

This is not so much a Random Thought as it is a life principle:

People Matter Most.

I hope you feel the same way.

Here are some truly Random Thoughts before I head into May!

  • I was glad that UK did not go undefeated
  • However, the evil empire won a National Title = bummer
  • The Masters remains one of the best events in all of Sports
  • Gator Football is going to be rebuilding for the next 2 years
  • Apple is the greatest Company of our generation, take some time to appreciate that

Thanks for stopping by!

When the Struggle is Real

“The Struggle is Real”

Struggle

This statement has gained popularity lately, and is usually reserved for “First World Problems” or when something trivial happens that we need to make light of.

I admit, I’ve said it before and got a few laughs.

But what about when the struggle IS real? What are we to make of life when we cannot make light of it?

Life is tough. This reality is inescapable. There will be seasons when the struggle is real.

I have been through a few seasons like that. In fact, I am just coming out of a season like that. For a few months, I was just in a funk. I felt like the Lord was distant and there was nothing I could do about it.

Of course I knew this wasn’t the case, but I certainly didn’t feel it.

All of the Christian clichés in the world couldn’t help me feel better about my situation.

I was struggling. I was suffering.

Suffering is part of the Christian experience. Suffering teaches us lessons that may be learned through no other medium.

As C.S. Lewis says – “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

In these moments of pain, suffering, and confusion we are driven to a greater reliance on the Lord. Our faith in the Lord is tested, and forced to grow.

We are forced to lean into the Lord and trust that He will catch us in this time. Allow me to share an analogy that helps me visualize this.

The Jump

I went skydiving last September with a handful of friends from my hometown. I was apprehensive at first, but the challenge was just too much for me to turn down. We all speculated on the drive down that our moment of greatest fear would be as we approached the door for our jump. As the plane begin its ascent, reality began to set in. I turned to my buddy Daniel and said “Well, at this point the fastest way down is going to be by jumping.” He agreed, and we both concluded that since we were strapped in, we pretty much had no choice at this point.

We had to jump.

Just think, here I was, attached to a stranger jumping from 15,000 feet into the blue Florida sky. I was relying on this stranger, and our parachute.

The Jump

Needless to say, I survived.

I have discovered that our walk with the Lord is a lot like this, especially in the realm of suffering.

The Lord often invites us to greater reliance on Him but sometimes He pushes us to the edge so that our only choice is to jump and discover our complete reliance on Him. The latter of these two options is certainly more difficult. It is nice to have the choice to acknowledge my reliance on the Lord as opposed to skydiving into His peace. Either way, the fact is that the Lord is really all I have.

I say all of that to make this point: when the struggle is real, it helps to consider that the Lord is likely using that to make you look more like Him.

That is the goal after all: to look more and more like Jesus.

Recognizing this purpose has not made my struggles any easier, but it has helped me to understand and even be grateful for the experience. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

It is my prayer that if you are in the midst of a trial, that you would jump. Embrace it as an opportunity for growth that could not be achieved any other way. Cling to the Lord and recognize that He is ALWAYS all that you have

My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.

Psalm 119:50

The Greatest Game Ever Played

As I navigated 18 holes of golf this weekend with my Dad, I found myself thinking about how the game of golf uniquely reflects life. Most athletes would say that sports in general reflect life, and they are right in saying so. Adversity, perseverance, teamwork, dedication etc are inherent in all sports but I believe that golf most precisely reflects life. Consider the following principles:

  • Individual Sport

Golf is an individual sport. We have tried to make teams, but golf in its purest form is about you. Your swing, your decisions, your shot, resulting in your score. People can teach you everything about the game, but at the end of the day YOU must execute.

Life is a lot like this. Your time, your decisions, your habits, your relationships, resulting in your life. Not unlike golf, you can get a bad break here or there. Heck, you can get a string of bad breaks. It happens. However, it is your response to those bad breaks that will define your life. People can teach you how to live, but it is up to you to decide.

At the end of your life, the Lord will hold you accountable for how you lived. Be sure to live well.

  • Great Challenge = Great Opportunity

If you have ever attempted a round of golf, then you know how hard it is. You must use a small club to hit an even smaller ball, to a relatively small target, hundreds of yards away, guarded by just about any natural barrier imaginable. For some reason, this challenge keeps me coming back. I have played the sport for 20+ years and I keep coming back.

And therein we find the principle: Great challenge = Great opportunity.

All it takes is one incredible shot to redeem a round. The routine shots in golf are not the ones that you remember; it’s the shots that you achieve against all odds.

The long par 5 you reach in two.

The bunker shot you hole out to save par.

The punch shot through a small gap in the trees (I have failed at this shot a few times and have the scar to prove it).

You face many great challenges in each round, but those challenges are an opportunity for greatness. You will never hit the miraculous shot if you don’t take a chance.

Life is a lot like this.

You are faced with great challenges, but those are great opportunities! Go after them with everything you have so you can at least say you gave it your best shot. Who knows, perhaps you will pull off the miraculous.

I think the Lord calls us to live like this. A life of full engagement, viewing challenges as opportunities, and impossible situations as faith expanding experiences.

  • Every Shot is Unique

Variables, variables. So many variables. Wind direction and speed, lie, grass length, distance, pin location, green speed, humidity, temperature, etc.

I think this is one of the reasons golf is so challenging.

Every shot is unique.

Life is a lot like this.

Every day is unique.

Full of variables as well. Relationships, challenges, frustrations, experiences, lessons, opportunities.

I often lose sight of this, usually around Monday when I am wishing my days away to get back to my weekend. I hope for an “easy week” so I can get to my weekend.

I sacrifice 5 days in order to relax for 2.

Something about that math just doesn’t add up for me. And it shouldn’t, because life doesn’t work like that.

I think about when the Psalmist says “Show me, LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.”

I ask myself this: Given the reality that my life is fleeting, how then should I live each day?

Golf has been called the Greatest Game Ever Played, a gentlemen’s sport they tell me.

Now I don’t know about all of that, but what I do know is that this game has taught me a great deal about life.

Here is the one difference though: I will play many rounds of golf, but I only get ONE shot at life.

Better make it count.

– B