Thoughts from an Ordinary Guy

This journey through life is never boring......

Month: March 2017

The Text of My Life

The Text of My Life/The Book of my Heart

Psalm 18:24 (second half – The Message) – “God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the Book of my Heart to His Eyes.”

Let’s think about that for a few minutes because there is a LOT to it.

God rewrote the text of my life. Isn’t that the truth? I look at so many things that happen, decisions that we make (or don’t make), priorities that shift because God rewrote the text of my life. And your life. The people I know, the things I care about. They have all been rewritten because of God.

And then I think about crises – I think about my Dad getting pancreatic cancer. I think about my Mom falling and breaking four ribs in multiple places – and the fact that she’s been in the hospital 4 times because of complications from that fall and broken ribs. I think about the chronic health issues that I have been dealing with for decades. I think about the earthquake in Haiti and the life ending but also life changing impacts that has had on so many people in the 7 years since it happened.

And I wonder – how could someone make it through these things without knowing that God rewrote the text of their life? How could someone find purpose, find meaning, find life amid the pain of so many things? Many people wrestle with why God “allows” bad things. I choose to wait until I can ask God directly, face to face, in Heaven, “God, why did ……….?”

There’s a requirement in this verse though. In order for God to rewrite the text of our lives, we need to do something. It’s something very simple yet very difficult.

“I opened the book of my Heart to his Eyes.” I wrote earlier about the Casting Crowns concert I was blessed to go to. It was called, “The Very Next Thing” tour and I didn’t really understand what that meant until Mark Hall explained it there.

God wants us to open the book of our Hearts to His Eyes. That means we need to be willing to do “the very next thing” that God leads us to. If we open our hearts to God’s very next thing, God will rewrite the text of our lives.
And then the struggles, while many of them won’t go away, lose their spiritual significance. My Dad’s cancer isn’t going to defeat his faith and it isn’t going to defeat the faith of our family. Because we know God is writing the text of our lives. The text might be different than we wanted.

But God is bigger than we are,

God is bigger than cancer is.

God’s got this.

God’s got my Dad and my Mom.

God’s got me.

Does God have you?
Tom

Grace Graffiti

Grace Graffiti
One of the reasons I like Eugene Peterson’s The Message is because there are many times where there are phrases, words, sentences that really jump out and make you think. For me, many of them do that more so than the more “traditional” versions.

Psalm 17:6-7 is one of those instances. In this Psalm, King David is writing to God, pouring out his soul and basically, if I could sum it up in one sentence saying, “God, I’m trying, help me!”

That is something that I believe all of us could say and should say more. “God I’m trying to……. Help me!” But only if we really mean it. Do we really want God to help? Or do we only want God to help if He does it our way? 

Hmmmm……

But there’s another point in this section of Psalm 17 that really hit me. King David is asking God to paint “Grace Graffiti” on the fences.

What is “Grace Graffiti?” Let’s take a look at what graffiti is. Graffiti is often unplanned. It is some times very neat and organized and sometimes very messy. It changes the look of the neighborhood. Sometimes it makes the building “deeper” – Like the graffiti that the Youth Group at Madison did on the wall by the parking lot by the building Youth Group meets in.

So what then is “grace graffiti?” Grace graffiti is often unplanned, sometimes messy, sometimes beautiful evidence of God’s grace. It’s painted on the fences, drawn on the walls; it’s here, it’s there, it’s something that you can see pretty much anywhere – but you have to look for it.

Sometimes you can see it. Often times you can’t. Sometimes it’s loud. Sometimes it’s quiet. Sometimes it’s the testimony that a former alcoholic turned Christian music artist gives at a concert. Sometimes it’s the quiet prayers of a friend for a father fighting cancer. Sometimes it’s the patience and grace that shows up in second chances.

In Psalm 17, King David is talking to God and asking God to paint grace graffiti on the fences. I think that we need to take it one step further. We should be the ones spreading the evidence of God’s grace all throughout our neighborhoods, at our work places, in our church, in our families, with the people we meet and interact with.

God’s Grace.

Our responsibility is to spread that grace to others. If it were up to us, we wouldn’t. There’s this thing called “The Fall” that gets in the way.

But that’s also why we need to spread God’s grace. Because we all need it and none of us deserve it.

As we move through this thing called life and as we rub shoulders with people who need God’s grace, may we all spread more of the Grace Graffiti throughout our lives and our worlds.

It doesn’t wash off. And if you paint over it, it still shows through.

Grace graffiti.

Try it, your world, your neighborhood, your school, your family will be blessed by it.

TV

How Did They Know?

A good friend of mine said something a number of years ago that still sticks in my memory. She was talking about Pastor Dave, the Senior Pastor at Madison Square Church. At that point, we were not members there, we are now.

She said to me, “He kind of freaks me out! But in a very good way. Every week, we show up at church and he has a worship and sermon that speak to my soul and speak to what we’ve been wrestling with as a family. If I didn’t know better, I’d say he has a bug planted under the back seat of our mini-van.”

Now you and I know that he doesn’t but when God uses someone to speak that clearly to you, it can almost feel that way.

As many of you know, our family is going through some really rough times. My Dad is fighting pancreatic cancer and next week will go in for his 5th chemo treatment. This is the fourth major bout with cancer that he has had and undeniably his hardest prognosis. In addition, my mom fell and broke a number of ribs in a number of places (think at least 8 fractures) that has resulted in 3 stays in the hospital in the last almost 4 weeks. (Update – 4th stay in the hospital started last night)

Tough doesn’t begin to describe it.

But Thursday night, I was graciously gifted the opportunity to attend the Casting Crowns/Danny Gokey/Unspoken concert with my middle child (thank you Emily!). It was a pleasure because she’s an awesome person and good to spend time with her.

But the night was more than that. I left the arena feeling like God used Mark Hall, Danny Gokey and the rest of them to speak to me.

I know it wasn’t just me, but I felt that way. Truly a blessing.

As we wrestle with the issues with my folks and more, I’m going to be doing a good bit of writing. Writing that shares some off the principles of what they talked and sang about. Writing that explores some of the ways we can see God. Some of the ways that God can use difficult times.

I hope you’ll join me for the trip……

I don’t know how long it will take – but this is “The Very Next Thing.”

Thanks,

Tom V

God’s Guest List

In Psalm 15, David asks God a question – how do we get on your guest list?   How do we get invited to a banquet at your place?

God’s advice is very clear cut and very applicable to our lives as well:

  • Walk straight – and no God’s not talking about sobriety tests or any other thing – when He says, “Walk straight” then He is talking about living the kind of life that the Bible calls for.
  • Tell the truth.   Enough said.
  • Don’t hurt your friend.    Hard to do but important.
  • Don’t blame your neighbor – more on that later – but it seems like there is a lot of that going on in America today.
  • Despise the despicable – if it’s despicable, stay away from it.
  • Keep your word, even when it costs you.   Ouch, that’s harder to do than it is to say.
  • Make an honest living.  
  • Never take a bribe.

Now I ask you, how many of the struggles that we currently face in America are because people aren’t following these guidelines?

Hmmmm…….

Tom

So Now What?

The blog has been very quiet lately.   Not because there’s nothing to write about.

Exactly the opposite, there are many many things to write about.

Too many things.

And so I’ve been doing a lot of my writing for my work with the Apparent Project and for my Dad’s CarePage.

That’s right, my Dad has a CarePage.   And I don’t like to have to write on it.   He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer the first part of January and will soon be heading into round #3 of chemo.

What about the rest of the stuff that’s going on?

What about the group of 8th graders I talked to where every single one of them knows someone who is validly concerned about being deported?

What about the tow truck drivers in Detroit who will no longer cross the border into Canada to help a stranded motorist out of fear that they won’t be allowed back in?

What about those in the church who feel even more pushed to the edges than they already did?

What about governmental challenges that threaten the freedom of many?

What about people in government who seem to have stepped away from what they promised?   A former golfing partner of mine is in the US House of Representatives and to say I’m disappointed in the way he is handling things in Washington would be accurate.

So Now What?

Let me share two quotes:

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”    The Lorax

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”   Margaret Meade