Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Power of Burgess Falls

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior."
(Isaiah 43:2-3a ESV)
While this passage was to a nation, it speaks of His character to us still today.

There will be days I feel like I drowning.
There will be days I feel like I'm burning up.
Yet there will not be days without Him.

Even in days when there is a storm surrounding me, and I may feel that I'm at the edge of something unstoppable, I still have a foundation in Him to stand on. Knowing that regardless of my situation, or outcome, He is still the same yesterday, as He is today, as He will be tomorrow. I'm not promised that I will be guided around life's trials to avoid them, I'm just promised that He will be with me through each of them.





It reminded me of a time when we were hiking through Tennessee and came to Burgess Falls. There was a spot we could get to (due to water levels) where we could sit right on the side of the waterfall looking over. Here, in one of the pictures, my wife sits taking a short video of of something we could never quite capture in motion or still photo; and that's the truly awesome power of the rushing water all around us. Getting a chance to sit also at the base of the falls (after an interesting climb down with the kids!) was an experience neither of us will ever forget. Alone, just our family, in front of a power, sound, and mist so incredible it's hard to put into words.

... and that doesn't even begin to describe the power of our God!

Awestruck,
~Matthew

Saturday, April 14, 2012

gen-ius [jeen-yuhs]



So my son and I were watching Sweet Genius today, a cooking and competition show framed around desserts with given themes and ingredients. Aside from the fact that the host was giving me the creeps, the theme of being a genius also came to mind. On the show, they are in search of the Sweet Genius to win the prize and acclaim. However in my world, being a genius takes on a bit more of a serious tone, rather than a whimsical personality and culinary mind as I saw today.

Dictionary.com defines genius as such: "an exceptional natural capacity of intellect, especially as shown in creative and original work in science, art, music, etc."

However my favorite vocabulary resource (Noah Webster's 1828 Dictionary) defines it a bit differently. While one of his alternative definitions certainly describes the one above, his primary definition is much different.
n. [L. from the root of gigno; Gr. to beget.] 1. Among the ancients, a good or evil spirit or demon supposed to preside over a man's destiny in life, that is, to direct his birth and actions and be his guard and guide; a tutelary deity; the ruling and protecting power of men, places or things. This seems to be merely a personification or deification of the particular structure or bent of mind which a man receives from nature, which is the primary signification of the word.
What genius guides me? What genius personifies my state of mind? To me, the answer to both of these questions is not a thing, or idea, but a Name. It's a name above all names; Jesus Christ.

Yet ... there is another ...

To some he goes by Satan, the Devil, Beelzebub, or perhaps you know him by Lucifer, or the father of lies? He has many names. It doesn't take long if you know me close enough to see conflict at times in this genius I am being led by. I would hope that my walk slowly starts to reflect more of the Former Name I mention that any of the latter ones, however I still have many moments that don't exaclty reflect the beauty of Christ.

Thank God for Grace, and not works of merit!
"And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them. (Isaiah 42:16 ESV)
So while I may endure another creepy episode of Sweet Genius with my son to satisfy his mental sweet tooth and some evening time spent with his dad, I'll also thankfully endure another day of trials. I do because I know the Genius that leads me does so with Grace. I may be led astray from time to time by another name, but I know my Shepherds voice, and sweet it is!

~Matthew

"In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government ought to be instructed.. .No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people." - Noah Webster

Thursday, April 12, 2012

God, You are Loved!



... those are the words of my 6 year old daughter that continue to melt my heart. She has such a heart for God, and such a special understanding of love that it makes me smile day after day.
"We love because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19 ESV)

As I write this she walks up to me with a hand wrapped package of a few of her Easter candies with a note that says I <3 You. :)

I remember one time not too long ago we put a list in her room that she wanted to hang on her wall. The task was to think of things that God did for her, so throughout the coming days she could write down things that God did for her and reflect on them. First one on her list? "God created me to love Him" - Simple words with some profound theology! I know that for some, this idea is offensive; self-denial. Worship and submission are evil words in culture. Yet it's at the foot of the cross when I completely give up myself that I rise full of joy and victory. The more I give up my life, the more I enjoy it! It's a daily practice though!

I am laughing in joy as I type this right now because I love how counter-cultural His ways are, and yet how perfect and joy-filled they prove to be. Storms come and go in my life ... but it's His joy that is deeper and longer lasting than any surface level, temporary, happiness I could find elsewhere.

... I think my 6 year old gets it ... I wonder though if she knows that while Christ guides her through me at times, she is also guiding me :)

I love you Sabina ...

And yes ... God, You are Loved!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Got Anxiety?


This sign cracked me up on my last trip to the UK! Reminds me of some battles I had in my past however! Anxiety and I go way back, like longtime friends. Through it, God has given me some amazing lessons, and at the same time, some painful frustrations. We don't hang out as much as we used to, but he does try to visit occasionally; most of the time I just slam the door shut. I could probably begin reciting passages in His Word that talk about anxiety, and through all their familiarity, they still teach me. Today was no different as while reading through Luke 12 with the kids we made our way to verse 25:
"And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?" (Luke 12:25 ESV)
I love how quickly my son picked up his head, looked at me, and recognized the other side of that verse immediately. He said, "You don't add life dad, you waste it." I love the heart of a child. Note that he and I share some wonderful personality traits, yet my old friend seems to enjoy hanging out with him sometimes too. His recognition of his own struggles so early will hopefully keep him from suppressing it like a trap that will spring later in life; my hope is that it will disarm it.

Regardless, the answer for my battle was not a perspective, counseling, or a mindset (while they certainly can help); it was and continues to be Jesus. I've had attitude adjustments before, I've gone through counseling, talked to friends, I've been on medication; no resolution. I can't exactly explain to a non-believer outside of experience how different it is when Jesus' hand pulls you out of a pit; I wish I could put it into words.

I don't know why I have had to go through these fires.
I don't know why others continue to go through them.
I don't know why He decided to rescue me from this.

Yet, I do know He did; and He is getting all the glory here.

I just think today was an interesting day. It was an affirmation for me on where He has brought me thus far, causing me to be thankful all over again, and at the same time it was encouraging for my son. It also was a reminder to me in the ways I need to support and pray for my children (together and individually) as well. I have other struggles, but I know what it feels like to be rescued from one too.

Got Jesus?
~Matthew

All My Eggs (not) in the Basket



It's fascinating to me that as I get farther in my life and career, the idea of retirement passes through my mind from time to time. However, the more it passes in, the quicker it passes out.
"And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ (Luke 12:19 ESV)
... a rich fools errand.

I feel less and less called to retire eventually. Just the concept of living for me, celebrating all my hard work, and taking it easy feels ... well ... uneasy to me. I understand that being lazy and not planning smartly is not exactly what He asks of us. However I don't need storehouse after storehouse so that my bank account is my savior the last 10, 20, 30, 40 years of my life. Again, this "living for me" thing is becoming more foreign to me as the days pass.

I think there is more to a smart financial plan than banking as much cash as I can possibly bank, finding every IRA, 401k, and other investments I can make so that I can live comfortably in my golden years. I don't want comfort, I want an adventure with God.

I don't need a discussion on investing, I'm not exactly ignorant there. I don't need graphs, charts, numbers, and recommendations. I don't need rolling eyes or pounding fists from financial advisers. I just need Jesus. Sorry if that sounds stupid to you ... it sounds awesome to me! :)

A real live Jesus Freak,
~Matthew

Monday, April 9, 2012

Earned Trust



Loving someone is one thing, trusting someone is another. I love my wife, as well as trust her; however the later clearly took more time than the former. Being hurt in relationships causes scars that make trust difficult, but not impossible. Through our dating, engagement, and even earlier years of marriage, I learned to trust my wife my with whole heart; far more difficult than loving her.

Similarly, it's interesting to see the trust journey of some of the earlier biblical characters with God, like Jacob. Having a flawed, but godly father in Isaac, one may think that trust may have been built in the strength of their family (although that was a bit of a mess too!). Regardless, Jacob needed to have his own journey with the Lord, as we all do.

I pause and say that we don't need to place conditions for trusting the Lord. We Trust Him because He is Trustworthy. Yet He knows our fallen human nature, and hurt we have experienced, and stays with us on the journey regardless of how we may doubt Him.

Jacob, as he began to travel to Haran, had a quite amazing dream. Yet even with his knowledge of God, guidance from his father, and own experiences thus far in his life, he still uttered the words "If God will ... then the LORD shall be my God". (Genesis 28:20-21)

I think he loved God. Yet he trusted God ... conditionally.

It got me thinking about my own journey, as Scripture always should. How many times have I waited on God to reveal Himself before I made a motion of trust? Don't get me wrong, there are times when we are called to wait on Him. Clearly though, I know there have been times when I perhaps tested God. Sometimes it came out like this:

"If God will just make this sin less tempting, then perhaps I won't be sinning so much. So I'll just keep on praying that He makes it less tempting."

Why? So sacrifice won't be needed, Matt? So I don't need to lean on trusting Him first?

Trust is something earned indeed. There will never be perfect trust in a human however, as no matter how good willed someone may be, things like pride always like to find a way of sneaking in from time to time. However, we do have Someone we can trust, and trust completely and perfectly. He already has earned that trust ... in many ways.

The tomb is empty ... may I continue to die to self, and rise with Christ


His Path, Daily. And what a beautiful, peaceful, joyful path it is ...

His,
~Matthew

My Prayer/Action: Where in my life am I not trusting God? What will I do about it?
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