The Peace of God, Which Surpasses All Understanding

In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul talks about “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding”.  When I read this I thought how incredible that must be and immediately set out to try to see what I could find about the peace of God. I wanted to make this peace feel more tangible.

The Hebrew word “shalom” is the word used most often in the bible to describe peace, but this word has much more meaning than just not being in a state of conflict. According to Strong’s Concordance, Shalom means completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, and of course, the absence of agitation or discord. Shalom comes from the root verb shalom meaning to be complete, perfect and full.

In looking at this definition, I find the vast majority of the things I find myself seeking in life. Aside from love, I would say it is a pretty complete list. My way of attempting to achieve these things is pretty tiring though.

In the pursuit of health, I work out, watch my diet, keep track of my weight, my cholesterol, my blood pressure and a host of other things. As I get older, healing takes longer and trips to the doctor become more frequent.

In the pursuit of welfare and prosperity, I spend a couple of weeks per month away from my family traveling for work. When I am home, I work long hours and often bring work home with me. After all this, I even lose sleep at night worrying about what I didn’t get done in the pursuit of perfection.

Our home best represents our pursuit of tranquility. My wife Diana and I spend countless hours and a fair portion of our income paying for, cleaning, maintaining and decorating our home so that we have a place to enjoy time with our friends and family.

In the midst of this flurry of activity, we try to squeeze in a little rest so we can get up and start our pursuits anew. I’m getting tired just thinking about all of this.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not complaining, I just needed to put some things into perspective. Now let’s get to the important question; how do I get this peace that Paul speaks of?

As it turns out, I simply need to submit my requests to God in prayer and petition, with thanksgiving. Not as easy as it sounds for a guy like me who grew up like a lot of American men, believing that real men can do it all by themselves without help from anyone. It is certainly worth the effort though considering how this kind of peace would impact my life, and the lives of those closest to me.

So in conclusion, I’m going to swallow my pride and pray for the sake of my family and have faith that God will make good on His promise. I am truly thankful for my health, my family and the quality of the life we lead together. My wife Diana is the proof on this earth that God loves me. I am blessed beyond measure. So I pray to you Lord that you would show me your ways and help me walk the path that you would choose for me. I want to experience your peace. Amen.

Posted in God's Promises | Tagged , | 2 Comments

When a Man Doesn’t Lead

Dogs, like people, crave leadership.

Dogs, like people, crave leadership.

I had a wonderful opportunity to spend four days with Cesar Milan at his Dog Psychology Center for a workshop where he “trains people and rehabilitates dogs”.  My wife and I have three rescue dogs and our Queensland heeler, shepherd mix was starting to get aggressive with both dogs and people. At the urging of my Mother and Wife, I went to “The dog whisperer” for help.

Cesar is truly an amazing man with a gift for helping people relate to the dogs in their lives. He is also a man of God and  acknowledges that God is his “pack leader”.
Cesar began by explaining that most dog behavioral problems stem from two root causes:  lack of leadership in the household and lack of agreement on the rules and boundaries of the household.  After five minutes with Cesar, it became clear that Aussie was just anxious and needed me to step up and be the leader of my pack.  Over the course of the next four days Cesar showed me and 42 other dog lovers what that looked like.  I was unprepared for the changes that would take place over the next few days.
As I watched the wild, unpredictable and at times even aggressive dog I had come to know transform into a calm, confident and purposeful companion, I began to see that this was the relationship God had designed for us to have. Being an American man, I had always believed that discipline, rules and boundaries were impositions that a dog would certainly not desire. When I learned that dogs are pack animals who are made to follow a leader and thrive with consistent rules, boundaries and relentless discipline, it got me thinking that maybe people are not designed that differently.  Would my family be more at ease, more centered and happier if I provided this kind of calm, consistent and assertive leadership?  As it turns out, the answer is yes.
So I ‘ve been back home for about a month now, and wife gratefully acknowledges that I have come back a different man.  I realize that I have only begun a slow process of becoming the leader that God created me to be, but starting that journey has made all he difference in the world to those I love.  I’ll keep writing about the setbacks and victories along the way.
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Waiting on My Miracle?

My small group was discussing a rather short and straight forward story in the Gospel of John. John 5:1-9 is the story of an invalid who spent 38 years coming to a pool that was known for its healing powers, but could never get to the waters in time to receive the healing he sought. Jesus came to him and simply asked if he wanted to get well, then told the man to get up and walk, which he did and was healed.

This story brought up a surprising number of questions from the group but left me asking myself if this man simply over complicated his situation instead of just asking God for healing, and having the faith to just get up and walk.

When Jesus asked him if he wanted to get well, the man did not answer with a yes or no, he told his story of how when the waters were stirred, someone would always get to the waters before him. This apparently went on for over three decades. It had the ring of an excuse, like he already knew that he hadn’t really made an honest effort to ask for and receive what he wanted all these years. It made me ask myself what things in my life have I delayed God’s blessing on by making up complicated excuses for not simply giving it up to God and taking that first step in faith?

The first thing that comes to mind is this blog. I have often prayed that God would show me my calling and open the doors for these things to happen. It has been on my heart for years now but I never seem to get it going. I’ve tinkered with software, graphics, domain names and all the trappings of a WordPress site. what I haven’t done is simply start writing and hit the publish button. Could it be I am the invalid lying by the pool? Could I have spent the past 40 plus years waiting for the waters to be stirred and for someone to help me into them. when all I had to do was just ask and then take that first step in faith? Certainly if God can heal an invalid of 38 years, He can inspire me to write a blog post once a week. I need to take the first step in faith though.

So enough procrastination. I am going to hit publish now and see what God will do with this.

Posted in Stepping Out in Faith | Tagged | 1 Comment

When You Find What You Were Made to Do

I spent the better part of the morning looking back over my career and my life in general. I was specifically looking at the big achievements, successes and times when I was really on top of my game. I wanted to understand what specifically I was doing that made me feel so good and perform so well. Was there a common skill or talent? What was my mental state? What were the circumstances? Who was I doing it with and how did we work together? I wanted to see if I could identify the conditions where I thrived so I could seek out similar circumstances in a job or other business opportunity.

As 11:00 rolled around, I packed it up to meet my wife at home and take our dog Aussie to a sheep herding class. I know that sounds a bit strange, but Aussie is a Queensland Heeler, Australian Shepherd mix. We noticed that he tended to herd other dogs at the dog park and even the kids in the neighborhood. A few months back another dog owner told us about this sheep herding class not far from our house. We looked it up but had not yet taken him there as the only day classes were held was on Wednesdays, and I had to work.

Well, since having to put our twelve year old lab to sleep last week, Aussie has been pretty depressed. Since I am “in transition” my schedule is pretty flexible and we thought that now would be a good time to check out this class and see if it wouldn’t get all of our minds off Bo. So we packed Aussie, lots of water, a couple of beach chairs and $30 cash into the car and off we went.

After introductions and a couple of demonstrations from more experienced herding dogs, it was Aussies turn to see if he had the instinct to keep a flock of eight sheep together and following the leader, which was me. Within minutes of letting Aussie off the leash and reassuring him it was alright to go near the sheep, I was dumbfounded to see him jump right in and start circling the sheep, herding the strays back to the rest of the flock and looking to me with excited and eager eyes, for direction. At that moment I thought back to the morning’s exercise and thought Aussie was in his element, on top of his game. He was completely alive because he was doing what he was created to do.

The other dog owners nodded and smiled, many commenting that Aussie “was a natural”. The instructor agreed saying how much he enjoyed seeing dogs embrace their instincts for the first time. I had to agree. It was moving and inspirational to see a dog I had lived with for three years suddenly spring to life like I had never seen before. I wanted to experience this feeling in my own life. I wanted to find that thing for which I was created to do

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Goodbye to a Good Friend

Yesterday was a tough day. I took my 12 year old yellow lab, Bo, into the vet’s office. He has been suffering with cancer for about nine months now. We had been treating it with pain medication to make him comfortable, but in the last few weeks he started developing a lot more tumors on his skin and some were starting to bleed. Even though Bo’s demeanor was always happy and glad to see me, he started giving me these looks like he was suffering. This prompted the trip back to the vet to get a more objective opinion.

Well, the news was not good, but expected. The cancer had spread rapidly and the tumors on the outside likely mirrored ones inside his chest and on his organs. It was time to let my buddy rest. He would have kept going as long as he could just to be with us, but I didn’t think that was fair to him.

I took him home and told Diana the news. After feeding him many of his favorite treats, laying in the grass on the front lawn together like he loves to do, we gave his brother Aussie (our Australian shepherd/Queensland healer mix) some time to say goodbye, and headed back to the vet to give Bo the peace he deserved. It was a hard thing to do, but in the end, when his muscles relaxed, I could see once again the care free face of my good friend and companion of 12 years. All of the tension and pain that had built up over the last nine months just melted away and he was at rest. I will miss him more that anyone will ever know.

Since leaving the vet’s office, I keep thinking of what a loyal and loving dog he has been. He was always there at the door to greet me and was always excited to go anywhere with me. In the last few months, he no longer could bear to walk more than a few hundred yards and more than once, I had to carry him home on my shoulders when we would walk too far. He gave everything of himself to me and Diana. My only regret was that I couldn’t see life as simply as he did. I let work and other preoccupations get in the way of those simple but loving moments when we would be reunited at the end of the day. How many times did I simply walk past him on my way in the door or simply give him a pat and go on to do something else.

Maybe that was what God wanted to teach me through our life together. That a dog could love so much and ask for so little yet be content, should be a lesson to us all. As I struggle to find a new job and set out on a new chapter in my life, God wants me to see that it is the relationships with Him and other people that make all the difference in life. Could it be that we love our dog’s so much because they are such an accurate reflection of God’s character?

I have many, many fond memories of Bo. I drove through a blinding snowstorm to pick him up from a farmer in Iowa when he was eight weeks old. I had fifth pick of the litter, but since nobody else showed up, I had my choice. Bo was one of the two strong males in the litter and would certainly have been picked by someone else had the snow not kept the others away. I’ve always thought that was God’s hand making sure e would be together.

When I was dating Diana, Bo would hear her car in the distance and would run to the window, excitedly anticipating her arrival long before I knew she was near. He taught her, to her own surprise, that she was indeed “a dog person”. When Diana would leave to go home after a date, Bo would give me these looks that very clearly said, “don’t screw this up. I want her to be my Mommy”. He loved her just as I do, from the moment we saw her. On our wedding day, unprompted, he followed us down the isle after we were pronounced man and wife and proudly took his place in our newly formed family.

Bo was a gentle and loving dog. He was loved by everyone he met. Our friends, neighbors and even people we met while out on a walk, all knew him and loved him. Just outside his last trip to the vet, a little girl came up to pet him and he gently allowed here to hug and squeeze him without a bit of resistance. The two little puppies in the waiting room at the vet could probably sense that something was wrong, but they licked and played with Bo like he was their best friend. Up until the last, he was making new friends.

I could probably go on forever about Bo. He has put more smiles on my face and warmed my heart for twelve years now. I will always think fondly of him and remember the good times we had. I love him with all of my heart. He showed me how to open myself up and love more deeply. I don’t know if dog’s go to heaven, but I certainly see God’s hand in his creation and I’m sure God would not want love like that to cease to exist. Just before bed last night, I looked at the side of the bed where Bo normally would lay down, and pictured him laying next to God’s bed in heaven. He is certainly worthy in my eyes and I pray that he is running, playing and making new friends in heaven right now.

I love you and I miss you Bo. You have blessed my life more than you could ever know. You have made me a better man.

Posted in When Life Happens | Tagged | 1 Comment

What has God Created Me For?

When I look back at the commonalities between the things that I’ve done well and enjoyed, the things that became my biggest accomplishments, there are four things that come to mind. The first I already covered, is the desire to create or build things. Next is my love of teaching others followed by helping people in general. The final one is leadership.

These four foundational skills are the basis for discovering what God’s plan for my life is. God has shut the door at my current job in order to open a new one for the next phase of my life. I have faith that he has an incredible plan for my life but also know that I need to take the first steps in faith to see God’s plan come to fruition.

Rick Warren, my pastor did a sermon today on destiny. We are planning the next ten years for our church and he is encouraging us to do the same for our own lives. In Exodus chapter 4, Moses is trying to tell God he is not equipped to lead the Jews out of Egypt. God asks him “what is in your hand?” and Moses replies “a rod”. This was his rod for herding sheep, the profession that Moses had spent his life doing. This was the tool of his trade. God used that staff to part the red sea, to bring water from the stone and Moses lead the Jews for 40 years with that staff. Moses’ occupation had prepared him for God’s true plan for his life.

In the same way I have to assume that every skill, experience and talent God has blessed me with was intentional and that I am to use them to fulfill his plan for my life.

Posted in Discovering You Purpose, Leadership | 1 Comment

Who am I?

God created me in his own image. He created me with the desire to create.The Helix Nebula - a composite photo taken by the Hubble Space Telescope This simple statement. Says a lot about the essence of who I am any why I do the things I do.

Ever since I was little I had a deep fascination with how things worked. I wondered at all kinds of things, from how my Dad’s lawnmower worked, to how an ant could carry a beetle over 100 times it’s own weight. I especially liked to stare closely at the simplest things in nature and marvel at the detail. As I grew up and discovered photography, I began to capture this fascination on film and later on digital images.

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