The Break Up

“For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭2:10‬ 
     I love Chex Mix.  Like deep down passionately have an obsessive affection for Chex Mix.

The truth, Chex Mix has never loved me back.

I mean sure it sits there in the bowl with enticing whispers of tasty savor.  But love me? Chex Mix has never loved me.

Yet, over and over I drift toward the ways of the salty and savory Bold Party Blend black bag.  My hands converge on Chex and rye chips with a delicate care to not break or damage the perfectly blended balance of flavor as it hits my tongue.

And despite my passion for the snack it has never once thanked me or showed any care for me.  In fact, it’s been more obstacle than help in my journey toward living a healthier lifestyle.  Chex Mix has been the stumbling block to my choices of greens and grapes.

So dearly loved Chex Mix, we are breaking up.

Absurd, right?

But we all have a Chex Mix. We all have things, people, or habits that we believe we love but never love us back.  In fact this is not the first time Chex Mix and I have had this conversation.  It has been an on again, off again infatuation.  One where I have sworn I was done, only to find myself lured into its web of tasty goodness.

And I bet if you searched your life, you have a Chex Mix too. If you looked deep down you have an affinity, affection or obsession with something or someone who will never love you back no matter how much attention you give it.

Maybe your Chex Mix is the Instagram or Snapchat.  Maybe your Chex Mix is a someone.  Maybe your Chex Mix is a dream that was never your dream to begin with.  But we all have a Chex Mix in our life.

Here is what the writer of Proverbs says: “For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.”

The first step to a break up is knowledge.  More importantly wisdom and truth.  It’s the point of realization that what it is you love and are lost in will never reciprocate your affections.  It’s sounds silly, but it’s true.  No matter your love for Dr. Dreamy on whatever hospital based show you watch, he will never love you back.  Often our investments in our infatuation steal time and energy away from the authentic in our lives.

There is a freedom in truth. And when the truth is that you are enough without the Chex Mix of life, you find freedom.  When the truth sets in that you are enough without the detractors and distractions, you find freedom.

So Chex Mix, we are through.  I am breaking up with you.  And no I won’t be coming back this time.

So what’s your Chex Mix?

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Timing is Everything

 During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God.  Exodus 2:23

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I was 13 years old. If my memory serves it was early in the morning. The phone rang.  Mama cried out “No.” Then said she would be on the next plane.  Grandpa Jacobs had passed. It was the first real taste of loss in my life.  And loss has a way of creating a shift.

I am not sure how the news reached Moses, but I imagine somehow it did. Moses was on the run from Egypt for killing a man.  He found himself far off in a desert tending sheep for the man who became his father-in-law.

The king was dead.  More precisely, the man who he knew as grandfather was gone.

I always find intricacy in the bible narrative.  Maybe Moses as he penned the retelling of this story in Exodus was fast forwarding the story to the good parts like the plagues and the Red Sea.  So in effort to get to the movie making moments he clumps details together.  But in my opinion each word of scripture has significance.

So Moses telling his own story in third person noted that the king is dead had to bear out some meaning to the story as a whole.

I don’t see editorial errors in the details of Moses.  Much like a puzzle, I begin to put the pieces together.

Unpack the patttern:

The king is dead.

Israel cries out.

Moses is missing…or at least no longer in Egypt.

What I see is in the details. Opportunity has a timeline.

Much as Esther came to prominence “for such a time as this” and Christ came in the “fullness of time”, Moses has a moment in time.  It is the divine timing of opportunity. It is the ideal fragment in the course of time for Moses to step up and step into his calling.

Our situation and station may not be as big as leading a nation out of slavery, but our opportunities have timelines. God designs our life with comings and goings that position us perfectly in the moments that only he could orchestrate.

You exist and live in the ideal opportunity for the calling God has placed on your life. You are here now because the God of the universe placed you here and now. You have a call for this time. So when the kings in your life die, God can find you ready, prepared and positioned to say yes to what he has called you to.

It is a Moses Moment.

Our Pet Rock

In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’
Joshua 4:6


In our HGTV dominated vernacular, the home we currently live in has been affectionately deemed “the river house.”  You guessed it, because it is on the river.  We moved our blended family of 7 into the property, choosing it over “green house” and “blue house”.  Yes, we are that creative in our naming of properties.

But if you walk up the winding sidewalk to the front entrance of the River House what you will see doesn’t seem so out of place. Just to the right of the door in the bed of plants is one single 30 pound decorative river rock. Fitting since we live on the river.

But that stone is so much more than just a yard decoration.  When and if we ever pack up the river house, that rock, affectionately called Rocky (yes, the creativity of our children overwhelms even me) will go with us.

For more than a year, my wife, Rachael and I walked a road of challenges that may never be fully told. The road to the River House was one that was filled with God’s provision and nearly impossible rivers to cross.

The book of Joshua tells a similar story.  The children of Israel had spent 40 years in the desert wandering. One generation was waiting on another to pass so that they may walk into the promises of God. In the middle of the wander, God still showed up faithfully providing food and miraculous keeping their 5th century B.C. Chuck Taylor’s from never wearing out.

Now, documented in Joshua 4, the children of Israel have just seen God do it again. Much like his predecessor, Moses, Joshua stood at the edge of an impossible situation.  Moses’ Red Sea was Joshua’s Jordan River.

The bible tells us the Jordan was at flood stage and God to told to the tell the people get ready.

How do a million plus people cross a flooded river? As my son Isaac would say, “simple.”  The less than complicated plan took more faith.  Joshua sent the priest out ahead of the people carrying the Ark of the Covenant.

The Ark was the symbolic representation of the presence of God in the Old Testament.  So in short, the priests were carrying God to the Jordan River.  Scripture documents that as the first step of the first priest gets wet, the river goes dry.  And millions of people pass into their promise.

In the middle of this process, the Lord commands Joshua to do something to mark the moment.  He sends 12 men, one from each tribe of Israel to walk back into the now dry Jordan River and pick up a stone.  These 12 stones were stacked as a memorial to the moment. And Joshua stated this to the people:

In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”

Now back to our pet rock. There were days, weeks and even months in the process of dating and dreaming that Rachael and I felt we were standing at an impassable Jordan River.  Often our obstacles seemed and felt insurmountable.  But through faith and facing fear, we stepped foot into our Jordan River.  And amazingly saw and continue to see God do amazing things. And we did not want our tribe of kids to miss it.

So we did what any good parent would do, we bought a rock. Rocky, as more creativity spilled out from our kids in naming this new family member, Rocky sits in the front yard.  While neatly part of the natural ascetics of the River House, Rocky will go where we go. Nashville Condo, Beach House, House down the street…no matter what creative name we give the next place we call home, Rocky will move as well for this one simple purpose: we never want our kids to forget all God has done to get us here. And we firmly believe that God is not done.

In fact our hope is that our children’s children will ask why there is a rock so out of place.  And they will look at their kids and say “let me tell you a story of what God did for our family…”

 

God’s Not Done

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:6

Gods Not Done

In truth, I often have lacked confidence. I have tried over the years to change this. It is a dangerous thing to admit when one of the primary ways I am gifted is communication. When words are the weapons of choice you choose being confident of what will come off your lips is a strong quality to have.

I have often said words are like toothpaste: you can squeeze them out, but never put them back in.

So when the Apostle Paul writes these words: “being confident of this” there is a instant struggle to find connection.  The distinction is that Paul was placing his confidence not in his own capacities, but in the abilities of the one who had made the promises.  The very trust of Paul had nothing to do with Paul.  And maybe that is where I (and maybe you) struggle.  We put ourselves in the place of the promise maker.  We place the weight on ourselves to fulfill the promises that God promised to do.

I would bet if you are a Bible believing, praying, devoted follower of Jesus, God has promised you some things.  I have my list. In fact many of them are scribbled in pages of journals stained with tears where I was overwhelmed that he would make such a promise to me.  But he has and he still does.

And as I reflect, there are promises that have yet to come to pass. There are works that have not yet been completed. Things left undone, so it seems. And I wonder when? When will you complete that work?  When will that promise come to pass?

Then I have to remind myself that God began the work. Often when outcomes are not what we want or seem slow in arriving, we begin to question if God was ever involved in the equation to begin with.  We (by we, I mean me) start to wonder if what I heard, what was so clear in my heart in that moment, if it was even God.  Which can lead to even more dangerous trains of thought of my own unworthiness that he would promise me anything at all.

This is where the reminder is crucial: HE began the work.  It is his work that is being demonstrated in and through my life.  My requirement is obedience not to make the his promises come to pass.

One of the songwriters of the Psalms said it simply: God always, always fulfills his promises.

While seemingly a passive put off in the moments of life’s greatest trials it is still truth. God’s not done even when promises seem undone.  He is still at work.  He is still in the business of fulfilling his promises. While the process may put us to the test, he made the promise.  And his promises always come to pass.  The challenge for us is to be persistent in our obedience in the process of seeing him fulfill the promise.

There are things inked on those journal pages that I ask “why not today God?”  Why is this promise still not fulfilled? And there are other pages where pen bled on page with the word of the Lord with promises he completed in what seems like the most improbable, incredible, even supernatural ways.  And that reminds me that very simply, God’s not done.

And with incomplete promises in hand, I put all my confidence and trust in this:
that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:6

Work Your Wall

Adjoining this, Jedaiah son of Harumaph made repairs opposite his house, and Hattush son of Hashabneiah made repairs next to him. 
Nehemiah 3:10

WORK YOUR WALL

As I sat in church recently, the pastor read a passage of Nehemiah.  While he continued on in his delivery, my feet got stuck in the list of workers of the wall.

The quick backstory of Nehemiah is that he had left Jerusalem and was in the service of another king.  God birthed a vision in the man for from home that sparked a desire to return to his people and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.  After some surveying of the situation the work begins.

As with much of the scripture familiarity can be a death sentence to the story.  We get so accustomed to the overarching narrative that we miss the nuggets tucked neatly in the details.  On that particular Sunday, I got lost in the mining of truth I had not noticed before.

I knew the story.  I knew Nehemiah the visionary.  I knew the ending, the wall gets built in spite of opposition.  But what I may have seen for the first time or the hundredth time and just never noticed was this passage:

Adjoining this, Jedaiah son of Harumaph made repairs opposite his house, and Hattush son of Hashabneiah made repairs next to him.  Nehemiah 3:10

I know little about Jedaiah son of Harumaph.  In fact I am unsure if he is found anywhere else in scripture.  I’ll confess, I have not done an in depth search for him or his lineage.  Yet I was stuck in a simple truth from his life. Jedaiah looked out his front door, saw a situation and did something about it. Jedaiah saw the wall in front of him needing repaired and worked the wall.

Now not to miss, others were working on the wall.  But Jedaiah, son of Harumaph, took responsibility for the wall right in front of him.

I think as people of faith there is a lot to learn from this Jerusalem craftsman.  We often miss what is right in front of us.  We have grown so accustom to the broken places in our sight line that we fail to see them as places that need repaired.  Or we continue to brush it off that one day I will tend to that.  One day that will get fixed.

And one day passes into the next and it stays unrepaired.

The broken marriage stays broken.
The shattered relationship with your kids stays shattered.
The mess that may not even be of your own making stays a mess.

And day after day it stares back at us begging to be fixed.  The wall stays broken, busted and unfixed.

Jedaiah on that day decided to do something about it.  He worked his wall.  He took responsibility for lied right in front of him.

It is my job to raise my kids…and work my wall.
It is my job to invest in my marriage…and work my wall.
It is my responsibility to love and demonstrate Jesus to those I work with.
I have to work my wall.
You have to work your wall.

It is time we quit looking past the broken places in the wall right in front of us. It is time we work our walls.

#justbeingjeff

 

I wish I’d never been born.

After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day he was born.
Job 3:1

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Call it a slip of the tongue.  Call it a verbal foupa. Call it what you like but we have all said it…
“What the…I wish I had never been born.”

You can fill in the blank with whatever word choice flies off your tongue in monumental moments of frustration.  But in truth we have all done it.

I do not think Job’s statement translates exact, but I think it is pretty close.  Job lost everything, literally everything barring a wife that encouraged her husband to call it quits. She made the suggestion to curse God and die. Lots of love in that tent.

Now most of have not lost the family fortune and every one of our children. Most of us do not sit and fester with sores all over our body while be less than encouraged by your friends, but Job did.

And after this “Job opened his mouth and…” out came the unthinkable.  Job wished he’d never been born.  Job saw no way out of his situation and simply wished he’d never been born into it.

We all have breaking points in the journey.  We all face days of hardship and hell.  We all in some way can side with Job.  And in more truth, most of us never get to where Job got.

Yet what we learn from Job is wrapped is these words:

God might kill me, but I have no other hope.
I am going to argue my case with him.

Job 13:15

Job was willing to reach a place most of us never reach. A point of physical and spiritual desperation.  Job resolved that even if God struck him down.  Even if his loss became loss of life he had no other place to put his hope.  Job was willing to petition the only one who could possibly reverse his situation.

I have never walked where Job walked.  I have never faced insurmountable loss. I pray I never do.  But this I walk away with that even if it kills me, in my desperate moments I can take my case before Christ. In my hurt, my struggle, the very moments of life that feel as though I want to curse the very day I was brought into existence, there also comes the belief that even if it were to cost me everything, I have no other place to place my hope.

Even if it kills me, I will still put my hope in him.

 

#ICYMI

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
Romans 8:31

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I have a love/hate for social media.  Like tonight, I was able to see a picture of my 86 year old grandfather whom unfortunately I have not had the opportunity to visit in far too long.   Wrapped in hate is the demand to edit our life down to snippets and snapshots that tell the story, at least the pieces of the story we want told.

In truth, we really only tell what we want people to know.  We select, edit and share the best pieces of life.  We paint and present our greatest hits and leave all our hurts and hardships on the cutting room floor.

And there are seasons and situations of life that get left untold.  So here are pieces of the last year that have been left untold.   We often go back and share with “in case you missed it”.

So this is my ICYMI because most of you did miss it and mostly because I quit putting my life on display for the world to judge.  I quit snapping, sharing, tweeting and posting simply because my personal life was simply that personal.  It was a journey of hurt and joy.  It was a pathway of loss and recovery.  In the end, it was the redemption of life, ministry and love.

For more than a year, I walked in a life of complete paradox.  So much of life was crumbling all around me while my God was simultaneously taking the broken pieces and rebuilding the walls. Disaster seemed to be constant companion.  Interestingly enough it was partnered with blessing and restoration.

In the midst of my heartache, God gave more than I deserved.  Much of that came packaged in the beauty and love a long lost friend.  A friend that I had no idea would come to mean so much in my life.

By now, if we are friends on Facebook and those few in the inner circle of my life, you are aware that I am re-married.

Rachael is my reward.  She is my best-friend, my heart’s love and the person I trust with all the pieces of my life and heart. Her beauty is only surpassed by her passion for Jesus.  Wrapped in laughter is a friendship that blossomed into a love and a love that was sealed with a promise.

On June 23, 2017 that old friend became my wife and my partner in this life.

A blog post is not enough space to tell the story of all God did to get us here.  There are not words to fully unpack what it took and the best description may simply be that the Lord still works in mysterious ways.  And even better yet is that the Lord works and is still working all things for the good of those who love him.

God has a way of taking the broken pieces of our life and arranging them into beautiful mosaics.  Up close all we see are the broken pieces, but as we step back we begin to see how the hand of an artist arranged and selected each one precisely to craft a thing of beauty.

My life, my marriage to Rachael is simply that, a Mosiac masterfully arranged by the hand of God. If you look close you will still see broken chunks with jagged edges.  But as you step back what you will see is something beautiful that only God could have put together.

Just in case you missed it…