Lead Me

I love great music. I can get lost for hours in a new or favorite album. Yesterday was one of those days where music seriously played a big part of my day. “Lead Me” by Sanctus Real really spoke to me. I have loved Sanctus for about 10 years now. This song on their latest album is an anthem to believing husbands and fathers. Deeply motivating. I had to share. Beautiful and inspiring.

Click here to listen > Sanctus Real: Lead Me


Man Trip #1

This past Friday and Saturday, me and 6 other guys from our community group went North about 1 hour to spend some time “camping”. One of my buddies, Mike was able to secure a private compound with a “cabin” and multiple private ponds. Our goal was to get to spend some quality time getting to know each other while spending some time enjoying the outdoors.

We arrived Friday afternoon about 5:30 and begun to claim our beds and check out the amenities. After a short while, we got coals going for our beef fajitas with peppers and onions dinner. It was fab! Another pal, Justin pulled out a legit campfire-coal dutch oven and began to whip together a peach cobler to be cooked on the coals for desert. A little fishing at dusk then we headed back to the cabin for a campfire. T’was awesome. We stayed up for a while discussing current struggles and successes in our walk with Christ. Where we were, and where we wanted to be in our relationship with Him. A great time of sharing was followed up by a great nights rest.

Saturday morning we woke up to breakfast burritos a devotion of scripture readings and then headed out for some exploring and more fishing. There was a much larger pond that we began to cast into for a while. Funny as it was, there was a tiny little overflow lake just off the large one that one of the guys curageously threw his line into. With out fail, every one of the 8ish fish that was pulled from this golf-course-green-sized pond was larger than anything else we had caught all weekend. It was a blast. “Fish in a barrel” for sure. We then proceeded to get on some small fishing boats and paddle our way around the larger lake before a quick lunch then departure.

Time getting to know my brothers this weekend was great and I was actually sad to leave as early as we did, about noon yesterday. I believe that we began to break through the “small-talk chatter” and get into some real fellowship. I can’t wait to see where we go from here and how these friendships develop. We will definitely plan another one for the fall. This time, mandatory tenting! Peace.

Satisfied?

“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him” – John Piper

I heard this quote for the first time a few weekends ago (in a great message if you wanna explore for yourself) and it has really help reinforce some thoughts. Our community group has been reading Crazy Love by Francis Chan. It is a great read and I also have the audio version which is great for my running/quite times. One thing that God has been teaching both Traci and I through this book and other real examples and life circumstances has been to live below the status quo and focus on the things that we have been blessed with instead of the things that we may want or desire.

Really it’s a radical thought. It’s revolutionary way of life not supported by the American dream. Not aspiring for the next house, next car, next career step is a cultural faux pas. Not that looking and pressing for those things is necessarily bad, they can just distract and eat up valuable focus and energy. Obviously we have learned by the example of so many others that all the normal luxuries of life do not produce satisfaction. Celebrity figures with all the money, fame, power and prestige that we too often aspire for have proven these temporal things empty again and again.

As God is molding me, (from here till eternity) I am learning humility and satisfaction in Him. A relationship with an invisible God takes a lot of intentional discipline and faith and for me, constant reminders like writing thoughts on my hand to meditate on throughout my day. The phrase of the day for me is “Satisfied?”. When God supplies all of my NEEDS, how can I not be satisfied?

When Jesus commissioned his followers to go share His message of love with others He told them not to take anything with them. No extra anything! Why? Because He is most glorified, or get’s the biggest, proud-father grin, when we are most satisfied in Him and His provisions. On the other hand, He is most sad and broken hearted (like right before the flood!) when we look for that satisfaction (that is only found in Him) in the worldly temporal illusions of satisfaction. What is the focus of your satisfaction? Are you truly satisfied in Him?

“Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.” – Paul. 1st Timothy 6:6

This weekend in Austin.

Friday we left town to head down South to the great land of Austin. We stayed with Traci’s brother Kelly and his family in Georgetown. While there we enjoyed pit fires and conversations in their backyard and laying in the sun Saturday on their trampoline. Very relaxing. The weather was perfect! Our main purpose for going there this weekend was to run in the Austin Capitol 10K which was this morning (Sunday) at 8:45am. Traci’s dad Kip and brother Jeff strolled Addi and Kam around the race start and finish as Traci and I ran the route. Up to the capitol, around the down town area and back around by Town Lake trails. 6.2 miles. Traci and I ran together through the drizzle and mist, finishing at a 9 min per mile pace. We quickly changed clothes and made it to the 11:15 service at the Austin Stone for yet another incredible message and worship session. This evening we were able to hear Kelly speak at this church in Georgetown at TXT3 and then a 4 hour trip back to Tyler. We had a great time this weekend despite Addi being sick with a cold and fever. I love Austin!

"Need money for rent and bills". (part 3)

PART 3

I have been stewing over this for quite some time and have come to some highlights, conclusions and solutions to this string of posts inspired of those who have held the cardboard signs pleading for help throughout my small world.

1. We are all in need of each others help, some more than others. Some are actually brave enough to ask.

2. We are blessed beyond measure and it’s our priveledge to be able to pass along that blessing to those who may benefit. If you can help, do so.

3. We are typically quick to judge but the real Judge is quick to extend mercy and grace. We need to always remember this unbelievable gift.

4. We need to adopt the love of Christ and and love others not excluding those we don’t typically feel comfortable around or associate with. “Rich white people are not the only people who need Christ!” –Matt Carter

5. There are ways to help those in need even if you do not have money to pass out to those who request it. Here is one example:

Last night, our community group was blessed with the opportunity to help serve dinner at the East Texas Rescue Mission. An organized mission to help those without food and a place to stay. This place is legit. Centered on mission and equipping men to learn and grow in Christ and get back on their feet again. This mission is supported by people who volunteer. Some help with maintanence, some with cleaning, teaching and food. Many churches and other organizations help and often those who stay at this mission do when no “outsiders” show up to lend a hand.

We arrived around 5:30 yesterday evening, was instructed on how our team could help distribute dinner and got to “work”. Some helped with drinks, some with spooning dinner and distributing side items, and some with cleaning. I was the hot food transporter. Within 1 hour all 95 men were served and dishes were clean and ready to go for the next day. 1 hour!

1 measly hour of our selfishly, overly-complexed life was set aside and was of value to those who cannot pay us back. It’s great to help serve food but the real mission here is to connect with hurting people. People who have experienced heart-ache, loss, bad decisions, loneliness, and despair just as you and I have. I am not as outgoing as some of the other guys in my group who were able to sit and chat with these men after the meal but hope to be more assertive in this regard one day soon.

When leaving the mission last night I told Traci that I actually felt kind of lame at how easy and effortless it was for us to help. I think my real disappointment was the feeling that there is so much more we can do for our fellow citizens. It’s a shame that we are so centered on ourselves that we don’t even begin to think of ways to consistently do things like this. Think about it. When was the last time we searched for a way to serve then followed through actually serving someone that we don’t know and can not pay us back? Even is we can not show up at a mission to help, we can point or even lend a ride to the brave cardboard holding brothers and sisters in distress to these types of missions.

I really believe that this was a valuable lesson for me and many from our group. One small step into something bigger. I am excited to see where it leads as God moves us in this direction of servanthood and am thankful for the opportunity to have a closing thought and attitude to this series. Sanctification is a word that I never really grasped as a child or even in my earlier years of adulthood. It does now.

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!‘ – Jesus Christ (Matthew 25:40)

Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters. (Part 2)

I finished! I actually finished a whole book! For those who know me, this is an amazing acheivement that I even doubted mid way thru. I began this book in November. Sure it took a while but I made it. I would highly recommend it to fathers surrounded by pink, princesses and ponies.

Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters has been really good for me and I am sure I will end up reading it again in the future. It never hurts to review these kind of topics as times and seasons of life will change for me and my babies and I know I will need to recap. The things that I have picked up on the most from this book is that my responsibility as a father is grand and overwhelming. I influence so many things that I really have never thought about. Eating disorders, sexual behavior, drinking, drugs, depression, and other scary issues that I don’t even want to begin to think about are often results of weak and distant fathers.

But, the good news is that most of the complex problems that plague girls, tweens, teens and young adults is often subdued and even diverted by the presence of a strong father with a strong moral code and the courage and strength to protect his little girls. This is who I want to be and will become. My influence can teach them integrity and to make quality, hormone free decisions, that is if they are modeled in my life. The closing paragraph sums it up well by stating the following:

One day, when she is grown, something between the two of you will shift. If you have done your job well, she will choose another good man to love her, fight for her, and be intimately connect to her. But he will never replace you in her heart, because you were there first. And that’s the ultimate reward for being a good dad.

– Meg Meeker; M.D. & Author.

This has been a great year for me personally and more important, spiritually. My quiet time receives actual time. My prayer life actually lives. I am motivated now more than ever in my role as a father and disciple of Christ. I am feeling new callings on my life and leadership that I have nonchalantly missed for years. I am excited for what is to come with this renewed vigor I feel in my soul.

Spring Break 2010… Mid week synopsis.

It’s Wednesday and I’m loving this week! At home we have been doing some rearranging and switching some accounts around of services such as DirecTV and Suddenlink high speed so we have actually been in the dark since last Friday or so. No satalite till this morning and no high speed till tomorrow afternoon. Retrospectively, It actually has been nice, relaxing and seems to slow down time when you are not always checking sites or having TV on all evening. Refreshing. I actually had to come up to my studio just to get on-line to surf for a few and make this post.

Already this week I have seen Alice in Wonderland (Ok if you ask me… a bit underwhelming), did some yard work, took Traci to Dallas for a meeting with a client, ran, took care of some around the house chores, painted, read, and journaled a bit. I still have some more things on my list but for the most part I’m on track. I still plan to take my beautiful girls our of school early this week for some fun times (hopefully and totally up to the emotional coin flip of my oldest) with daddy.

I am feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and relaxed. I have lived a good percentage of the weekend and week inside of my thoughts and earbuds, listening to podcasts and music galore while reflecting of how fantastic our God really is. I am learning that time to my self for “rest” is a much needed thing for me personally. I love to paint, run, listen to music and just drive around which all in some mysterious way have a sense of healing my inner “up-tightness”. I am enjoying the time and feel that as a result I am able to spend more valuable and engaging time with my family. Now I need to focus on how to get this my needed “Ryan Time” in the midst of a normal crazy week. ?

One thing that I began this week and I would highly encourage you to do is journal. Seriously. I really want to gain form my quiet times. I want to learn, to grow and to make significant steps to put those thing that I gain into practice. I have a hard-bound sketch book that I bought from Hobby Lobby a few months ago that is perfect for jotting down thoughts as I read. I am currently reading the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians. I really enjoy the writings of Paul. Hardcore for sure. If a verse or passage sticks out to me I write it down, word for word, and then the thoughts and prayers that these verses stir in me. It has been really good… already! I would encourage you to do the same, but only if you want help and motivation in reading and memorizing scripture, retaining what you have read and growing in your relationship with Christ.

Peace!

Should Tiger Woods be Forgiven?

I have cable TV on in my office pretty much all day here at work. In the mornings I typically watch ESPN (in football season) and FOXNEWS when it’s not. Afternoons = Food Network. This morning… FOXNEWS. Just now, there was a question and on-line poll presented asking, “Should Tiger Woods be forgiven?”

Wow! Seriously? Should any of us be forgiven of anything?

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. – Colossians 3:13

"Need money for rent and bills." PART 2

PART 2:

As an alleged believer and follower of Christ it’s hard to write (and read) statements like I those made in PART 1.

First of all, I have no money and never cash. Secondly, I have worked very hard for the very little that I do have. I went to school, learned, got jobs, moved on to better jobs, eat on as little money as possible, spend literally nothing every month in our budget column labeled “fun”, sell prized possessions online just to pay for diapers, have picked myself up after layoffs and take on side jobs whenever they are presented. I tend to get very frustrated when I think about the fact that I do and have done far more than the listed and I work all week and even some evenings because I too “Need money for rent and bills”.

If you’ll notice in my type, when I begin to think this way it’s all about I, my, me which is perfectly normal and perfectly wrong. Are any of the things that have come to pass in my life, good or bad, accomplished on my own power? Absolutely not. As we learn through the life of Job, God’s even allows tragedy for us to look inward, upward , and outward. We especially can not claim ownership of the good stuff. James reminds us (1:17) that every good and perfect gift is from our unchanging God. A gift, not a reward or earning for being “good” or “a hard worker”. A gift just because He cares. So when I look at my life and my pocessions, there is no way that I can justify not sharing with those in need. We are all in need.

Throughout the Gospels Christ continually responds to the needs of others. Often the needs of the social outcasts, the hurting, the beggars. He always responds with overwhelming compassion. Doing so, He doesn’t agree to only meet the temporal needs, He busts through it and exceeds the requests with total healing, both physical and spiritual. A perfect example of His excessive provisions is in Jesus’ first miracle at a wedding with a wine shortage. He not only met the need, He produces 180 gallons (900 bottles) of most likely the best wine EVER, in record time, and out of water. He dramatically meets our needs in excess… all the time. If we claim to live as a Christ follower, shouldn’t we do our part to meet the needs, whether big or small to those we encounter?

Even in understanding the proceeding truth we can still be hesitant to give to people claiming need. “What if they use the money I give them something malicious or counterproductive to their ultimate need?” It’s very easy to slip into questioning “What if they use it for drugs?” and rationalize my attitude with past stories I’ve heard. I’ve even known acquaintances that had friends that seriously made a great living off of begging, swindling susceptible givers. So maybe I shouldn’t give any of them anything, right? The problem with all of this speculation is I end up pre-judging these people. I can assume this and that but if I give (like God gives) to these humans in need, then they are responsible for what they do with it, not me. Just as it’s my responsibility to listen to the still small voice and give from what He has given me. That’s it. For me it’s about being obedient and sacrificial to my Master. Obedient and sacrificial. Not pre-judgmental or pretentious. Interestingly, we often beg God for even piddly things and often squander His provisions.

Wow. Processing these revelations have been so good for me. We all are in need of God’s provision and He directs others to bless my life, so maybe He’s directing me to help the needs of the corner paupers. So how do I apply this truth to my life, to this daily opportunity that I have driven by for months now without doing anything at all?

…To be continued.

"Need money for rent and bills." PART 1

Recently I have seen quite a lot of beggars around our part of Tyler. There is a block that we travel though all the time to church, school, work, our grocery store and basically anywhere in South Tyler. Two men specifically are very dedicated to their efforts. On my way to pick up the girls after work I pass them both; holding battered and marker scribbled cardboard signs stating, “Need money for rent and bills.”

There are basically two ways to respond to this multiple-times-a-day scene. #1 Give them money or #2 Don’t. I usually respond with the latter option and when I process this it’s very easy for me to justify my decision.

First of all, I have no money and never cash. Secondly, I have worked very hard for the very little that I do have. I went to school, learned, got jobs, moved on to better jobs, eat on as little money as possible, spend literally nothing every month in our budget column labeled “fun”, sell prized possessions online just to pay for diapers, have picked myself up after layoffs and take on side jobs whenever they are presented. I tend to get very frustrated when I think about the fact that I do and have done far more than the listed and I work all week and even some evenings because I too “Need money for rent and bills”.

So what’s the difference? Am I wrong for feeling this way? I mean sure, I don’t know these guy’s circumstances. They may have just experienced their own tragedies. Broken, sad, desperate, lonely and possibly embarrassed beyond anything I have ever or may ever experience. But capable bodied men standing on the corner all day to collect money for rent and bills? Really? I have seen signs that say “Will work for food”, “Stranded and need a ride”, “Need money for gas”, “Hungry and need food”, etc. I even saw a sign in Austin once that said “Don’t need food, just want beer”. All of these in some way seem more compelling that the one’s that have me so baffled and inspire this string of posts.

*Please bare with me here. This is the beginning of a revelation of which is developing in me and I will deliver in future posts.

Friday's funeral inspired thoughts.

This past Friday me and the guys from my department went to a funeral in support of one of our own’s father in law’s passing. Funerals suck. I hate them and avoid them like a plague. The last one I had been to was about 4 years ago and I hated that one too. If you don’t come to my funeral one day, I wouldn’t blame you. But then, who likes funerals?

Typically funeral messages reflect on what the recently departed did for a job, who they were as a parent or spouse and how they we loved by others. The message at the ceremony was fine. Typical. My friend’s father-in-law seemed to be well respected man by friends and family. Due to his own and personal experience, the preacher determined that the departed was with Christ and that he was not wanting anyone at his funeral to be sad or cry because he was in a better place. He continued to share the Gospel in an ordinary and seemingly surface way. “God loves each of us and wants us to be with Him.” He continued, “if we believe in God we will one day be with Him as He welcomes us saying ‘Well done my good and faithful servant'”. I mean this out of no disrespect for the presiding preacher or the departed, but is that seriously how he will respond to us?

Will the God of creation and the one who endure mocking, lashes and crucifixion for us commend us for being a good person? I didn’t kill innocent people. I worked a job for many years and had kids that I loved and taught to be upright citizens. I loved my wife and went to church when it fit into my schedule. I prayed before meals and valued honesty and lived a moral lifestyle. I believe in God so that makes me a faithful and good servant to Him right? Who are we fooling?

Christ says over in over in the Gospels that to be a true follower of His we must be hardcore. Throughout His ministry Jesus weeds out people who are shallow, weak, and along for the ride. He tells people that true followers eat His flesh and drink His blood. He states that true believers die to themselves and live to accomplish His purpose not just when they feel like it or when it’s scheduled, but everyday. Sacrificing family, careers, self passions, desires and comfort. Jesus is hardcore. He died for me. A true servant works selflessly without fail for a given purpose. He’s the prime example of this.

I guess in some part funerals are really good for us. Humbling, they remind us of the “vapor” that our life is and constantly need to be remained of. Everyday could be our last. Tomorrow even on the way to work or the grocery store our last breath could be taken before that unattentive driver in the SUV plows into us. Morbid though? Sure. But the true focus here is this: Will He, the creator of the universe and the sacrifice for all of my crappy decisions in life really embrace me with gratitude and the sense of a proud father? Or will He give me the familiar nod that we often lend to those we see and barely know as we pass on by?

Light the fire!

It is very sad and disturbing to see the latest rash of crimes in our area. As of this morning, 7 churches have been lit on fire, not by the Spirit but by arsons. How sad yet deeply motivating this can be.

Sunday evening, my sis Jen called in grief as she saw a church on the corner of our street in flames. I ran out the door and down the street to witness this myself. News about other church burnings in the area have recently consumed the local headlines. As I ran down the street that night towards the crime scene, my Jack Bauer sense kicked in. “Maybe the bad guys are still there!” I pondered hopefully yet hesitantly.

I was the first one on the scene, called 911 and watched helplessly. I didn’t see any bad guys. Police and firetrucks poured in quickly shutting off nearby streets and setting up for the all nighter that was to follow. I took this pic about 30 minutes after I got there. The church was destroyed, or shall I say church BUILDING was destroyed. I have been very impressed as “We are not done; Christ is bigger; we are praying for the people who did this; it’s just a building”  has been the theme of the interviewed and affected church members.

Maybe this is part of the plan. Many things that men intend for bad God uses for good. Basically the gist of the Bible: “God overcomes evil with His love and goodness”. Did He, is He, will He use this? Absolutely! Light the fire!

A picture worth a thousand posts.

So many things could be said about this picture. I saw this in the parking lot at school and it made me cringe. From King David’s passion for it, to the masses that have died because of possessing, promoting or even reading it. Recently I have been moved and motivated to grow more in love with it. The answer to the meaning of life recklessly neglected by most. How sad is it when we are not be moved by this common site here in America?

2009 lesson learned. 1 of a million.

I always love this time of year with holiday food, memories, and time off. I am always glad to look into the rear view mirror and evaluate the year. What successes? What failures? It’s amazing how quickly the years pass. Amazing and yet disgusting, really.

2009 has been a great year for my family. We have come out of numerous “throw your hands up in surrender” moments and have been embraced by the loving hands of God time and time again. This time last year we had no idea what to do next or how we would eat the next week. With my job layoff right before Thanksgiving 08 and running our no-income-producing coffee shop, the only thing we could do was to keep focused on our awesome baby girls and other positive aspects of our life while steadily seeking the guidance of the Father. We sold our home and anything else we could just to lessen the monthly expense and to just make it another day.

2009 has brought great jobs, church and a cozy Tyler home. While we are in no means out of this financial valley, I feel peace. Real peace.  Every single month our budget shows us to have an overwhelming negative balance. With 2 kids in full time day care, a gross credit card debt, 2 car payments and mediocre incomes, it’s not easy. Actually it impossible. It’s very difficult being the leader of a family that fails financially. It’s a thought that has hindered my sleep too many times. My family, my responsibility, my burden.

Or is it? We are instructed to place all of of our burdens on the shoulders of Christ who is far more capable to carry them. We are told to “Trust in the Lord with ALL your mind, heart, and soul.” EVERY SINGLE MONTH of 2009 our financial cup has been overfilled by Jehovah Jireh (My God the Provider). From studio and graphic design projects on the side, to gifts from family members and friends God has provided every time. One of the greatest things I have learned in 2009 is to… Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart, mind and soul because every good and perfect gift is from Him. How AWESOME He is!