Old Shoes, New Souls

Old Shoes

There are two kinds of people in the world: Shoed and Barefoot!  Everyone in my family loves to go barefoot and they have the callouses to prove it!  I prefer to go “shoed” and I have the ‘smooth feet’ to prove that!  I like the comfort and protection that an old pair of shoes offers to my, otherwise, tender feet.  I once had a pair of loafers that served as my “anywear” shoes…lounging, going to the store, running to the mailbox, strolling through the mall…I could wear them anywhere…and I did!  My sister-in-law would always ask if I slept in my shoes…well, what if I do?  So what!

Sadly, my leather topsiders began to lose their souls soles and I had to throw them out.  There was a small funeral, a brief eulogy and a burial under a shrub in the flower garden.  Ugh!  Breaking in a new pair – still trying!.  There is a lot to be said for the familiar, the comfortable, the reliable.  These things become the best gifts of life and are often enjoyed for their memory as much as for their reality – the summer weekends at grandma’s cabin, aromas from the kitchen at Christmas time, cleansing rain showers in mid-spring – these things endure, they inspire, they provide solace.

When my Great-Grandpa Keddy died in 1975, Grandma gave me his old Scofield Bible.  As a 10 year old, I did not fully appreciate the value of the notes and comments Grandpa had scribed in the margins.  However, as I grew older, I began to add to his notes and found that this relic from the past was becoming my guidepost for the future.  Forty plus years later, I still pick up Grandpa Keddy’s Bible and carefully thumb through the pages. The pearls of wisdom and lessons of truth that have been immortalized on its pages come back to life and give me both memory and direction.  His Bible has become familiar, comfortable, reliable.

In an age of multiple translations, Pew Bibles and Power Point Slides, I think we have lost an important element of our faith.  God’s Word is meant to be woven into our daily experiences, our final decisions, our first consideration.  Moses told the people that they should bind them as sign on the hand and write them on the door posts (Deuteronomy 6:8-9).   Are we any different?  Should we not have such a familiarity with God’s Word that we find ourselves driven back to its pages every time we make a decision or come to a fork in the road?

Let me challenge you to re-think how you approach your copy of God’s personal letter to you:

  1. Bring your own

    The next time you go to church, take your own copy of the Bible.  Don’t rely on the Pew Copy or the overhead screen.  See what God has to say in your OWN copy of His letter to you.  When the pastor/speaker gives a reference, look it up.  It’s good to check his ‘reading ability’ and it is helpful to see the words yourself.
  2. Invest in Quality

    Find a copy of the Bible that will endure many years of wear and tear.  Grandpa’s copy was genuine leather and that has allowed me to continue to use his Bible for over 35 years.  With that long-term investment comes an accumulation of three generations of wisdom.  I cut my teeth on the King James Bible but now I prefer the New American Standard Version, but the New International Version is another good one to consider.
  3. Mark up your Copy

    Don’t be afraid to underline. mark up and write notes in your Bible.  The day will come when you are discouraged, depressed, lost in your faith.  Looking back through these notes will encourage and motivate you to grow in your faith and share these lessons with others.
  4. Transfer your notes

    When you replace your Bible, spend some time transferring the notes from the older Bible to the newer one.  This will remind you of all the lessons God has taught you over the years and it will allow you to add to those valuable truths.
  5. Set an Example
    Graduation, wedding, birth, anniversary…these special moments can be your chance to offer the greatest gift of all.  Consider giving a good quality Bible as a gift.  Write a personal message in the front cover with a verse that has impacted your life.

I have not found a pair of topsiders as comfortable as my originals; and I have yet to find a Bible as comfortable as Grandpa’s.  But I continue to add to the notes and look back at the lessons that he penciled in the margins and every time I look through Grandpa’s Bible, I feel as though I have been re-souled.

Open Mic:  Share your thoughts

  1. Do you have a Bible that holds special meaning?
  2. Will you commit to finding a copy of God’s Word that you can call your very own?
-Michael G

The Good Ole’ Days…Are now!

1971_Christmas_10

The picture is from 1971.  I was 6 years old (#4 in picture) and my sister was 9 (#1 in picture).  We were having Christmas with our best friends, Rhonda (#5), Wendy (#2) and Brock (#3).  Our families were so close, we referred to their parents as Aunt Pat and Uncle Ron but we were not related in any way.  We just did everything together.  Our dads preached together; our moms sang together.  I’m pretty sure us kids were even spanked together – by whichever parent happen to catch us (that was allowed back then).

Many summer weekends we would go to their house and spend most the time playing under the branches of the weeping willow tree in the front yard.  The tree was a house; then a castle; then a fortress.  It’s branches became whips, swords, ropes and crowns.  It all depended on the moment and our imagination – the days were magical!

On one of these weekends, I was learning to ride a bike.  Unfortunately, the only available two-wheeler was a girl’s bike.  It was probably Wendy’s…I only remember the banana seat and curved handlebars. Girls Banana Seat Bike Somehow, while wobbling down the driveway, I managed to fall forward and hit my shoulder on the curved handlebar.  I felt a funny crack and after one more failed attempt to ride without training wheels, I ended the day at the ER getting a brace for my broken collarbone.

Ah!  The good ole’ days..great memories…good times!


The house was probably built in the days of the Pilgrims but when we bought it in the early 1970’s, it seemed like a new mansion! It was really just a small 2 bedroom house that the previous owners expanded with an extra bedroom and bath.  We lived there for more than 10 years and never added steps to go up to the front door.  I think dad did this on purpose to confuse the Jehovah’s Witness…they never knew how to approach ‘the house with no steps‘.  1981_Summer_05

Winters are brutal in northern Michigan.  They are cold and long.  And when you live in a house that has newspaper and straw for insulation, cold mornings mean “every kid for himself“. I remember getting up for school; taking my bowl of cereal and sitting on the floor in the dining room next to the only register that produced heat.  I prayed ‘hallelujahs‘ every time the heat came on and uttered Christian curse words when it would turn off.  I think my sister went to one of the registers in the living room to eat her cereal – I did not know and did not care!  I had my hot spot and that’s all that mattered.  My brother is 7 years younger than me.  By the time he was school age, I had already staked a claim on the Dining Room Register…he suffered hypothermia for the first 12 years of his life.

Ah!  The good ole’ days..great memories…good times!


But why?  Why do we always look back and see the past through these rose-colored glasses?  I was there back then and they did not seem extra special and “good ole‘” at the time.  So what changed?  Time?  Has enough time gone by that I have forgotten how difficult life was or how much I hated school and homework?  It is like labor pains…once enough time goes by you forget how bad the pain was…and you are willing to have another kid?  Maybe.

Perhaps we all just employ a bit of ‘selective memory’ when we tell old stories or look through the picture albums.  There is probably an aging or ‘fermenting’ process that makes these memories rich with emotion and fondness.  Whatever it is that creates this altered or selective view of our own past, I think is is a gift from God!

I have another thought about our sepia-toned pasts that bears a few moments:  Could it be that when we were living those moments of our past, they did not seem like the Good Ole’ days because we were more focused on the problem of the moment and sure that every problem we faced was the biggest and worst thing possible.  It is only now, 20+ years later, that we realize that our worst fears never happened; our tendency towards pessimism didn’t pan out; our assured destruction never took place.  We are now able to look back and see that the bad things weren’t really that bad and the good things were actually quite wonderful!

So here is my prediction:  In 20 years, you and I will both look back to this time in our lives and say, “Ah, those were the Good Ole’ Days“.  Why wait?  Let’s see today as the good ole’ days NOW:

  • The sleepless nights from that newborn
  • The angry boss that won’t let you do your job
  • The appliances that keep breaking
  • The sickness that won’t heal...

…it will become part of your past and you will realize that (in most cases) it was not as bad as you thought or at the very least, you survived it when you thought you could not.

Elijah was hunted by the king and in the midst of a famine.  I wonder if he looked back at the Brook Cherith (1 Kings 3:3-6) as part of his good ole days?  Or did he recognize protection and provision in the moments they came?  If he did, then he lived each moment as the “Good Ole Day”.

Don’t wait to have fond memories or live forever pinning for the pleasant past.  Enjoy today…these ARE the good ole’ days!

Open Mic: Share your thoughts

  1. What are some of your current struggles that need to be viewed from a more heavenly perspective?
  2. What are some blessings that you have today to make this a Good Ole’ day?
-Michael G

Pursued and Devoured

There have been times when I wake in a cold sweat, heart pounding and eyes wide open, staring into the darkness of my room.  The fear is real. The pursuit is relentless.  The enemy is within inches of pulling me down when I am rescued by wakefulness.   The nightmare continues in my mind as I lay there – awake – but thinking
about how I could have survived the attack.

These are the the images of being pursued!  It is scary, exhausting, filled with danger.  I experience the gazelle being chased by the cheetah…it is a race for life!  Every dodge and turn can spell survival or death…my chest constricts – I hate this feeling!  Can you relate?  Have you felt this sense of looming doom?  The constricting grasp of financial disaster; the oppressive pressure of unrelenting illness; the suffocation of loss and death.  It pursues…it seeks to cripple and destroy!  Can there be anything good about being pursued?

Would it surprise you, then to know that God pursues you?  Would you be afraid to know that He desires to not only pursue and catch you but to devour you?  We are marked by the Creator and sit squarely in His sights and are the object of His pursuit.

I suppose your view of God and His intentions will determine if this image scares you or thrills you.  For me, it is both.  God is both loving and good .  He is both holy and just.  His goodness and love fill me with the hope that He has nothing but my best in His plan.  His justice and holiness send shivers down the spine of my selfish form.  I don’t want to be pursued and captured by the One Who defines good and evil.  I want to be engulfed by the One Who creates and gives life.  I don’t have a choice – He is both!

How else can we explain His demotion to Earth?  He, the Supreme Ruler, in the comfort and grandeur of His perfect Holy Place stoops to become mere man…to pursue us!  How can we grasp the notion of Him walking among us and experiencing our smallness so that we would be able to see God with skin!…He pursues us!  How can we justify our selfish pursuits for importance, success and significance when He willingly surrendered His life and power to the hands of hateful mob…He pursues us!

  • God comes to Adam & Eve…to commune with His creation – He pursues them
  • God comes to Cain; warns of sin at the door – He pursues him
  • God comes to Abraham; shows him a Promise, a Plan – He pursues him
  • God wrestles with Jacob, maims him, calls him Israel – He pursues him.
  • Jesus comes to a lake, calls them to be fishers of men – He pursues them.
  • God meets Saul on the road, blinds him, calls him Paul – He pursues him.
  • God brings road block, pain, discomfort, blessing, joy, trial… – He pursues us.

Pursued, caught, conquered.  It seems this is what we expect and yet, an almighty hand grabs hold and the glint of cutting steel catches our eye.  The knife is not at our throat; it is at our side.  We are helpless before the sheers and our Maker is removing the weight of our own overgrowth.  The very things we hold closest to us, He lovingly cuts away and the unexpected result is a new sense of freedom…relief!

SheepShearHis pursuit is not to end my life but to fulfill it.  His pursuit is not to devour me but to consume me.  His pursuit is not to remove what I want but to give me what I need.  His passionate pursuit of love stuns me; fills me with wondrous fear and finds me in my darkest hour.  Without His pursuit of us, we would all be forever lost!

May you know the pursuing & consuming love of your Creator.

John 10:14-16

Open Mic: Share your thoughts

  1. How has God pursued you?
  2. How have you resisted His pursuit?
-Michael G

Paste it, Daddy!

MUSIC LESSONS

It’s a perennial favorite!  Every Christmas Eve, we gather the family, go to church, come home, open one present and then watch “It’s A Wonderful Life”.  We always laugh at Uncle Billy tripping over the trash cans and re-quote the line, “This is a very interesting situation!!”   Mr. Potter seems to be more evil each year and a small lump forms in the throat when George re-discovers Zuzu’s petals.  While the main theme is the value of one life lived in sacrifice to others, there are many smaller themes that run throughout the movie.  These sub-themes are potent, profound and enduring.

ZuZu has come home from school with a temperature and is sent to bed to rest and look after her new gift, a  flower.  Her father, George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart), comes home and goes up to check on young Zuzu.  As she lifts up her flower to show to her daddy, a few of the petals fall off.  With memorable cuteness, Zuzu says, “Paste it, daddy!”  George than pretends to re-attach the petals, only to carefully hide them in his pant pocket.  He then urges her to go to sleep so she can dream of a whole garden of flowers. The flower was “broken” and she asked daddy to fix it.  Her beautiful flower was fading and dying and she could do nothing to repair it except offer it to her father.  Granted, my analogy is about to become flawed, but this image has a pearl of wisdom for us.

We have each been given a gift – a talent, a position, a friend, a Life!  There comes a time for all of us when we look at that gift and realize that we have broken it.  Either through abuse or neglect, we all eventually find ourselves sitting with tear-streaked face, watching petals fall to the floor.  Eager to fix it and make it new again, we search for paste and glue, tape and string to re-fashion the forming disaster that is growing before us…and more petals fall!  In helpless abandon, we hide our gift and pretend it never existed.  “If I ignore my failure, it will go away!”

Adam & Eve are the first to take a perfect gift and squander it on a moment of risk and excitement.  They, too, ‘pasted’ leaves to hide their shame but the petals continued to fall. Eventually, God came and asked why they hid in the shadows.  Only He could truly “paste” everything back together as it should have been…through His Son!

Peter claimed to follow Jesus all the way to His death.  But when the moment of courage came, Peter took his gift of discipleship and pulled 3 petals off and tossed them on the floor – “I don’t know Him!”.  A few days later, Jesus pasted him back together with a question.  “Do you love me?”  He then challenged him to “Feed My sheep.”  Judas Iscariot also made a choice to betray and destroy his gift, but he never came back to the Father for forgiveness and love.  He died at the end of his own rope.

This is what I think happens:
know I have screwed up!  My shame is deep.  My guilt is complete.  But it is too complete and too deep for any hope of recovery.  There is no one strong enough to fix what I have done.  I will forever be this old broken flower with falling petals.  After several attempts to fix myself, I give up and settle for dreams of gardens of flowers instead of the real thing. George Bailey is a good guy; a great dad; but he could not paste the petals – he could only pretend to fix it…sort of like you and me!

I believe that this song helps to capture our fear of surrender; our fear of letting God heal and restore.  The question is simple: Is God Strong Enough to Paste you – for good? Listen and read the words as Stacy Orrico sings…

Until we understand that only God is strong enough to forgive and restore, we will always be looking for reasons to condemn ourselves to a life of second-best and “if-onlys”.  It’s time to come to the True Father and simply say, “Paste it, Daddy!” (I John 1:9)

OPEN MIC:  SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

  • How have you tried to fix yourself instead of relying on your Father to paste it?
  • What is a lesson that you have learned from your brokenness and God’s restoration?
  • Share your thoughts below for others to read.  Someone needs to hear your story!

-Michael G

Nose Hairs

Warning:  This post was not approved or proofread by my wife.  I am no longer responsible for any strange feelings you may have after reading it.  If you feel the need to try to understand how my mind works – good luck!  I invite you to offer constructive comments at the end of the post…I will probably ignore them, but you have been warned.

In the mid 90’s, we moved away from our family in Michigan to a very strange place called “Wisconsin“. This whole new world of fried cheese curds and Brat Fests  was exciting but the rabid Packer Fans made us nervous and often homesick. For the first several years, as we adjusted to being so far from family, we would make frequent trips back home.  The 8 hour trek through Chicagoland and then on through to the eastern side of Michigan would often begin at the end of the day.  Once the sun set, my wife and kids would soon fall asleep and I would be left “alone” to navigate through endless toll booths and dark highways.

Driving in the wee hours of the night, the mind and the body come together to do crazy things Continue reading

Call The Marines!

Perhaps a whole new book is needed to address all of the lessons that have been learned from various mentors and teachers in my life.  There are significant lessons that I have learned from my mother that originally seemed appropriate to include in Lessons from my Father because mom and dad always worked together as a team and therefore the lessons are from the Team.  However, I think a separate category is in order for things that are uniquely ‘my mom’!

I worked my way through college – odd jobs, newspaper loading docks, selling plasma (only once – it was too vampire-like for my taste).  One of my jobs was at an architects office.  Oh, it sounds plush, I know.  A budding architect?  An apprentice in the architectural world?  NO!  A lacky!  I ran errands, filled water coolers and made “blue-prints” – but it paid the school bill!

Back in the day‘, blueprints were made by taking specially treated paper and running them through an ammonia vapor bath and then through an ultraviolet light to turn the chemical treated paper “blue”.  Each page would have to be run through the ammonia vapor and Continue reading

Sight Unseen

Hidden Deer

I really enjoy hunting! Deer, turkey, pheasant, small game…anything to get out into the woods – away from the things of man!!! I’m not very good at it; I just enjoy it.  The truth is, my wife would be a better hunter. She can go for a 3 mile run on a busy city street and see a half a dozen deer, a family of pheasant and stray chicken! I go sit in the woods for 15 hours and only see 2 squirrels fighting over a big nut (yes, I mean me!)

There is one experience that I remember very clearly. It was a frosty November morning in southern Wisconsin and I had settled into my deer blind at about 5:30am. Nothing is awake at that hour – including me!  My multiple layers of flannel and Continue reading

Yo-Yos and Wishing Wells

yo yo

The Sleeper, Walk the Dog, Around the World, and the Lindy Loop/Double on a Trapeze! It doesn’t matter which yo-yo trick you try, it always ends with the yo-yo coming back to you – even if you have to re-wind it by hand, like I always do!  I had a cheap plastic yo-yo when I was a kid and after several failed attempts to produce a Sleeping Something-or-other, I gave it an extra hard toss.  The string broke and the yo-yo did not come back.  I suppose it was just a yo!

It is unfortunate how many cliches we seem to have in our modern churches.  Have you ever heard these?

  • Let go and let God
  • God has a plan for you
  • I’ll pray for you
  • God helps those who help themselves
  • Born again Christian
  • I’ve come to know the Lord
  • God always has a purpose…
  • Put it in the Lord’s hands

It’s not that these statements are wrong or misleading – they are just overused or undervalued.   We find comfort in being able to offer something that sounds positive.  If you don’t know what to say, use a cliche!  However, the classic “I’ll pray for you” is barely off our lips before we have completely forgotten what was just told to us.  It would be better to say nothing than to offer empty or forgotten promises.

So what’s the answer?  Changing the words will only replace one cliche for another.  The answer is in the heart.  When we offer or receive a cliche, we must do something with that statement to make it come alive.  Here’s one I heard recently and the more I thought about it, the more I wondered what it really meant.  “Give it to God

When we “give it to God‘ – whatever “it” is – are we just supposed to forget “it” and never think of “it” again?  We pray and tell God all about our problem or issue and then go right back to worrying about it and trying to solve it on our own.  We are like the yo-yo – we throw “it” at God and then pull “it” right back. That’s what makes this a cliche – we say the words but we don’t do the deed.  “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves…” (James 1:22).

5 Things to Consider – What we can do to “Give it to God

  1. Pray – Tell God all about it and ask for His intervention.  He wants to hear it from us – constantly!
  2. Gain – Expect to Gain something from the situation.  This is the ‘purpose‘ or ‘plan‘ that Christians always talk about.
    • growth, perspective, maturity, humility, grace, patience
  3. Lose – Look to Lose something from the situation.  Here is the infamous ‘pruning‘ that ‘removes the dross‘.
    • pride, arrogance, control, anger, bitterness
  4. Stop complaining or having a Pity Party.  Neither God or the rest of us want to hear it (sorry, a tad harsh!)
  5. Start remembering past blessings and answers to prayer.  If you can’t remember any, try reading Psalm 136 or 139.

This is not the final answer on how to deal with the difficult issues of life, but it should be a starting point.  Perhaps we should replace the Yo-Yo with a Wishing Well.  When you drop that coin into a wishing well, it is not only gone forever, but there is the hope that something better  – something greater is waiting for you.  This is not to say that “giving it to God” is equivalent to a magic wishing well or a lucky charm (No!  Not the magically delicious kind!).  God is not sitting idly by waiting to grant our wishes, but He is eagerly waiting for us to surrender our will to His and invite Him to do a great work within us.  So maybe the image we are trying to create is to throw our whole-selves into His care and trust Him to know what is best for us.  More cliches?  Perhaps, but if we really do them, maybe God does have a plan for us after all.

“For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

 

Open Mic:  Share your thoughts

  1. What are some cliches that have not helped or some that have?
  2. How do you turn a cliche into something of worth and value?
-Michael G

Green and Tan

Green & Tan

It was always a fierce battle!  First, the coin toss to determine who would get Green and who would be stuck with Tan.  Green was Great and Tan was Terrible!  Then came the placement of troops.  Whoever won Green would leave the room while the owner of Tan would hide their 20 Tan Troops around the room – you had 4 minutes!  The the owner of Green would then hide his 20 troops – being sure to line up each soldier so that it could eliminate a Tan.  The key was the hidden Sniper.  You had to be sure to hide the Sniper under a dirty sock or Continue reading

6 Marks of Discipleship – #6 Bear Fruit

If you missed the Intro post in this series, be sure to read it.  It will provide more context around this series.

grape vine

Jesus gives 6 very clear statements about being one of His followers or disciples.  These are not requirements for salvation or forgiveness; rather they are conditions or evidences of being His disciple.

  • Mark of Discipleship #1 Hate
  • Mark of Discipleship #2  Suffer
  • Mark of Discipleship #3 Forsake
  • Mark of Discipleship #4 Abide
  • Mark of Discipleship #5 Love

Ask any farmer what he hopes to accomplish with his trade, and he will surely reply, “Produce a large harvest.”  In other words…Bear Fruit.  This metaphor is filled with teachable lessons for the Christian.  Perhaps this is why Jesus returns to this imagery often as He instructed His followers.

“By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” John 15:8 NASB

In the beginning, God chose to test and teach His creation.  He used:  Forbidden Fruit
God had Joseph bring his family to Egypt to build a nation.  He used:  Lack of Fruit (famine)
God promised to give His people a Promised Land flowing with milk & honey: Continue reading

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