Divorced, not disqualified

I know your past is broken
You can move on it’s over now
Here in the presence of the Lord

Tired of running running
Be still and know He’s in control

Here in the Presence, Elevation Worship

Divorced, not disqualified (1)

I am divorced.  There it is said.

This fact that has been hidden. Shamefully masked in messages slipped into social media.  But those words have not been shared.  Today, I am saying them.  I am divorced.

This is not a post searching for sympathy or asking for your empathy. This post is for me.  It pulling back the curtain on what has been hidden because only when we step fully into the light can we truly be seen.

As in any marriage there is fault to be spread around.  This is not the space to discuss details. Nor really are the details necessary for you to realize what I have come to.

Divorce does not change God’s love for me.
Divorce does not undo his sacrifice for my life.
Divorce does not erase the gifts he has put inside me.

And divorce does not disqualify me.
And it doesn’t disqualify you.

After walking through divorce on both sides of the scenario, as a child of divorce and now a divorcee, it is evidently clear as to why God hates divorce. But God never said he hates the divorcee.

I grew up in churches where divorce, especially divorce and remarriage was often presented as the unforgivable sin. It was the scarlet letter of the church. It seemed to be the ultimate dis-qualifier from serving God.

In John 4 we find Jesus sitting with a woman who had previously been married, 4 times in fact. The scripture does not clearly say all the marriages ended in divorce, but based on the time of day she was at the well, this woman wore shame like an overcoat in the heat of the day.

But the loving Savior saw past the past. The story reveals what happens when we see past the irreconcilable differences of divorce. Jesus reveals this woman’s past to her, not condemn her, but to reveal his love for her.  This woman melting in the noonday son had her heart melted by God’s son.

That day she left behind her jar at the well. She left behind the vessel that carried the water and became the vessel that carried his love to her city. This woman we call the Samaritan Woman became the first missionary to the Samaritan people.

Divorce hurts like hell. Divorce destroys things. Divorce is like walking barefoot on glass with the weight of the world on your shoulders.  It leaves you cut and wounded

But divorce does not disqualify you from the calling of God. To be honest, God has in this season of new life restored what he has called me to.  I have found his love in greater ways. I have seen him provide in greater capacity.  And have found my God still capable of using the gifts and talents he has put in my life.

So if you have been lied to, I want to tell you the truth. God can still use you. More so, God wants to use you.

I know your past is broken
You can move on it’s over now
Here in the presence of the Lord

Accidentally On Purpose

“Direction, not intention gets you to your desired destination.”
Andy Stanley

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True confession: I am terrible with directions. I have been known to pull out of my driveway the wrong way. A lot of that is the process of habit.  I turn left out the drive because most days of my life I turn left out of my drive.

My kids will attest that sometimes we end up somewhere “accidentally on purpose”. Let me explain.

“Accidentally on purpose” is where you set out to a specified destination. Get lost. Arrive at another completely different destination and turn to your kids and say “we are here.”  And “here” is not where you set out to end up at all.

Life has been a constant arrival of “heres” in my life.  Outside of few rare occurrences, many of my arrivals have been by accident lacking purpose. Not to negate the reality that life is part adventure and part of the adventure is the discovery of the unknown.  But too often the unknown has been found because there was not a clear direction to where I was going.

The prophet Jeremiah wrote the captives what God was speaking.  It was “I know the plans I have for you…”  God in his usual banter with me says “Jeff, if I have a plan for you, how come you seem to live by accident?”

Oops.

I won’t “accidentally on purpose” become who God has intended for my life to become.  I won’t “accidentally on purpose” arrive at the destination God has for me. I never seem to “accidentally on purpose” live the life laid out for.

Those things only happen when we have purpose. What I have found in my life is when I have misplaced purpose I end up with misplace passions. The passions of my life never change. The passion to communicate, to help people, to live a life full. Yet what happens is when I lack purpose those passions get placed in areas that do not directly get me where God’s plan is leading.

And where I end up is “here” accidentally on purpose.

So the shift is to live with purpose.  Purpose requires decision making, not always my favorite activity.  Purpose requires choosing myself while loving and serving others. Purpose means moving past good intentions to live with action. Purpose means facing fears and opposition and standing strong in the face of both. Purpose means picking a destination and then setting a course to get there.

Otherwise you just end up “here” accidentally on purpose.

In a Moment

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.
Deuteronomy 4:29

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I was 19 and recently divorced.

Not from a marriage, but from my faith. I was one year removed from high school.  After one year in the labor force, I was entering my freshman year of college.

I remember the day of separation vividly as the movie reel ticks in my memory.  I was packing for my first year of college. Brown boxes and duffel bags held my most precious possessions outside of my Ryne Sandberg rookie card which remained on my childhood dresser.  As I held the hardback book that was handed to me by my pastor upon high school graduation, I slid it into the box as an appeasement to my mama.  But in my mind I said to myself “I won’t be needing this.”

And in that moment the great game of hide-and-go-seek began.

I spent the majority of my first semester hiding.  He spent most of those four months seeking.  In the most precarious of positions and places God would interrupt my strategically designed new life without him.

On a cold December night home on break, a praying mama drug an unpraying son to church.  Near the back row seated on a wooden church pew in a classic “pentecostal revival” service I was attempting to do my best hiding, while God was doing his best seeking.  If the preacher who was preaching that night every reads this, I hate to say I don’t remember a word of your sermon.  Not that it was not good, it may have been. It was just I was mid-discussion with Jesus and his voice was louder than yours no matter how much you shouted.

And my 19 year old stubborn insistence was broken down by his unfailing pursuit.  In that moment God reconciled the covenant that I had broken. He redeemed the distance I had created.

In the irony and divinity of God, it was from that Bible I packed up with no intention on using, in that church I had no intention on attending that December night that I preached my first sermon.  That bible now tattered from use and covered in pen and highlighters sits on my self with a duct taped spine as the reminder that we are never too far from God.

It amazes me how I spent most of year running and in a moment he caught me. I had fought so hard to have life my own way and he reminded me that my life was never my own. I had freedom to choose, but my choices had left my life shackled with sin. In that moment, the hider was found the by the seeker. The marriage of my life to the master was reunited.

If you know Jesus, you have had your one moment. If you are far from him, he is seeking you so that your heart and his can be united. It happens in just one moment.

Have you been found?

justbeingjeff

See Shells

So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.
2 Corinthians 4:18

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These seashells sit outside my the door of my house.  They have been there since the day I moved in, not sure how long they were there before that. To say the least, they are out of place.

To properly align the picture you have to realize I do not live in a beachfront villa on the coast.  At least not yet.  I lived in the heart of horse country.  My humble home is tucked back in the Bluegrass state of Kentucky, a far distance from the nearest shoreline.  Which deduction teaches, someone else left those shells there.

Shells are not natural to the landscape of my house and sometimes to our life.  We often much like shells feel out of place.  Our life, our dreams, our passions do not fit the landscape of the land where we are living.

The journey of this shell is untold, but can be assumed. At some point this piece of ocean landscape was the home for something living. It housed life. It sheltered and protected from enemies out to destroy what was inside. It was a shelter from storms that raged all around.

And at some point the life inside that shell was lost.

I have seen the promises of God too often like that shell. The promise was filled with life, the promise was filled with, well, promise and hope. Life with it’s storms and circumstances often feel like it has killed the promises of God.

Then God showed me the story differently. If what is inside this shell never died, it remains hidden in the depth of the ocean. If the life that was in the shell remained alive, it never reaches the shore. If it never reaches the shore, it never reaches my front yard.

It is the storms that raged that washed what was unseen to the shore to be seen.

Often we begrudge life’s storms. We see them simply as obstacles to . But when we realign our perspective, it God may be washing ashore promises that had been hidden before the storm started. That shell, much like God’s promise, was hidden until at just the right moment the storms of life washed ashore for you to pick up.

So maybe the storm is not out to destroy you, but simply meant to wash God’s promises for your life ashore.  Instead of simply seeing storms, maybe we need to see shells.

Where have the storms of life revealed God’s promises for you?

#justbeingjeff

I am broken and getting okay

The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.
Psalm 51:17

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Set in Emilia-Romagna, Italy is the city of Ravenna.  In this Italian city lies the Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo. Situated along the walls of this classic cathedral are 26 mosaics depicting the life of Christ. Each one consisting of hundreds and thousands of little broken pieces of colorful rock and glass purposefully pieced together in the portraits of the Messiah.

I am amazed at the elegance of a mosaic. What I would see as simply fractured chunks, the artist sees as a masterpiece of detail and beauty.

Life has looked like a pile of broken pieces too often.  Chunks of hopes and dreams seemingly destroyed by life and circumstances. It is often hard to admit that you are broken. It is even harder to come to a place of being okay in the brokenness.

The reality is that we are vessels meant and built to be poured through. Too often when life has cracks in it we try to patch up the holes in hopes of holding in all that we have. I am coming to a place of realization that it is under the pressures of life that the cracks in life allow what is inside to leak out. It is in those moments God leaks the most.

So often in the broken times God wants us to be his vessel.  I have spent much of life patching holes, repairing broken cracks and mending hurts to hold in the goodness of God. This seems to be the opposite of what God wants for us.  David said “the sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.” We keep trying to fix what God wants broken.

God’s longing is to take the broken pieces and make a mosaic of your life. God wants to not simply fix the brokenness but use it for his glory. As much as this sounds crazy, God wants you broken. It is a paradox to what we think and even want.  I am not saying God wants you to hurt, but God can use your hurt.  I am not saying God wants to have you walk through heartache and loss, but God wants your broken heart to be a part of mending the hearts of others.

God wants to leak out of the brokenness of our life onto others.

It has taken years and I am still learning to admit this, but I am a broken and I am getting okay with it. Because God is taking those broken pieces with jagged edges of shattered life to make a beautiful mosaic of my life.  A mosaic that stands as a testament and testimony to what God can do with my broken mess.

He simply says”he makes all things beautiful in his time” including all our broken pieces.

For more than me

How joyful are those who fear the Lord
    and delight in obeying his commands.
Their children will be successful everywhere;
    an entire generation of godly people will be blessed.
Psalm 112:1-2

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There is an old expression that says the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Never as evident than in the tight rolled acid washed jeans of every teenage girl at the high school my son attends.  Only to be neatly accessorized by flannel shirts.  And do you even know one song by Nirvana?

I survive flashbacks of Boyz II Men on cd with Martha  Francis Gerbeau t-shirts.  Now looking back I wish I had those tattered jeans to resale for 4 times their original cost as vintage.

Every generation has a signature something and the next steals and modifies into their own.  There is a passing down of culture many times most visibly evident in style and culture.  Tacky clothes and bad haircuts is not all we seem to hand down.  Many times what we pass we are actually passing forward.

The psalmist penned the acrostic poem we know as Psalm 112 unpacking how one generation is the benefactor of the previous.

Their children will be successful everywhere;
   an entire generation of godly people will be blessed.

I think every faith filled parent has prayed a prayer for this to be reality. “God make my kids a success.”  And I believe God hears that prayer. The writer does not tell us the prayers of parents blessed an entire godly generation.  Instead it is not simply the knocking on heavens doors that creates a godly inheritance for the following generation it is their joyful obedience to the commands of the Lord.

Lay hands on your kids and pray, yes.
Encourage them in the Lord, yes.
Teach them the word of the Lord.
All are good and important.

But like table manners, rooting for the home team and the proper way to cut a steak, it is more caught than taught.  Mom and Dad, your joyful obedience to the word of the Lord is just as powerful a tool at creating the success of your kids as anything else.  How we walk in faith not fear will empower them to take steps of their own.  Our prayers that ring off the walls of heaven heard by their ears will set them up for success.  Our improbable dependence on God in impossible situations is the catalyst to an entire godly generation being blessed.

Today, my choice of obedience is not simply a personal choice affecting my faith walk with Jesus, but it is marking boundary lines for the lineage of life coming after me.

If obedience sets a pathway of success, then you can be certain the opposite is true.  A life filled with disobedience and sin will create traps for those that carry your DNA.  The bible on numerous occasions speaks specifically of not just the blessings but curses carried through generations.

Obedience does not guarantee their success.   Much the same as sin does not promise them a life of punishment.  This we can be certain of, we as parents, in our life, choices, decisions and commitments to Jesus are as much affecting their futures as we are our own.

May my three loves find success and be blessed because I was joyfully obedient to the all the Lord commanded me.

The Sound of the Calling

Worship the Lord with gladness.
    Come before him, singing with joy.
Psalm 100:2

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As I type these words my oldest son, edging ever closer to 16, is singing a worship song from this mornings worship set at church.While this would elate any faith filled father, to get full perspective I need to walk through what I have known for over 13 years.

God made it clear that Andrew had a gift of music.  That passion started more as an intrigue.  When Drew was the lone child in the house, daddy time was spent perusing through the local music store.  I was a youth pastor with love for music and enough ability to know I had no ability to actually play an instrument.  But still loved to pretend I one day would.  So I would hold the guitar and his little hands would strum the strings.

So my prayer became that every ounce of love I had for harmonies and melodies would translate to talent in my oldest.   God faithfully answered that prayer. Andrew with moderate to fairly good ability plays percussion, keyboard and guitar.  Most of the latter two self taught courtesy of YouTube.  But what I had known for so long also knew God would have to speak clearly to Andrew.

So after some prompting from our pastor and encouragement from dear old dad, 2 weeks ago Andrew took to the stage guitar in hand. In all honesty, right now Drew just sees himself as a player in the band.  He using the gift and talent in a Sunday setting.  What I know as a dad is what Paul wrote to Timothy, a young pastor:

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.  2 Timothy 1:6

 With every strum and every chord played by Drew, I believe that is what is happening.  The love discovered in the a little music store in Tennessee and prayers I prayed is being fanned into a flame. The classic King James says “stir up the gift” inside you.  Our responsibility is to do the stirring, not God’s.  God has clearly imparted the gifts and talents inside of us. God has made clear to each what the gift is.

Maybe you don’t recognize it as this.  Maybe you write it off as just a skill you have.  But I promise you, it is a gift.  And one that needs stirred up.

I think it is no coincidence that the very next instruction Paul gives Timothy is that God did not give him a spirit of fear.  Paul clearly wanted to remind young Timothy that God gave the gift not the fear.  The reminder was and should be a punch in the spiritual face.  When we let fear or intimidation have the control our gifts get put on the shelf.

So to my oldest son:
Fear will come and knock at your hearts door.  Fear will whisper lies that tell you that you are not good enough.  My reminder as Paul told  Timothy fan the flame, stir up the gift, keep strumming the strings and singing the songs. Every chance you get to play, sing and make a joyful noise to the Lord do it.  It will fight back the enemy called Fear and release the power of God’s anointing on your life.

To everyone else, including me:
The sideline of life is no place to stay when God has put something inside of you. It is a season of putting your gift, talent and calling out there for the world to see and God to use.  Fear is the punk that has kept you hidden.  Fear is the liar that has held back not just what you could give, but the impact you were called to make for Jesus.  So blow on the embers of the spark God has put inside you. Let what seems like a small passion God make a big difference with.

 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28 (emphasis mine)