Happy Birthday Jenn!!

Wednesday, December 29, 1982 wasn’t that different from most December days in Cedar Rapids. Cloudy and cold. Very, Very Cold!

While Christmas Day was a blistering 40˚ and the week before was in the 50’s. Like usual in Iowa, the weather changed overnight.

This December day was a balmy 17˚, with 16 mph winds. Thankfully, all the snow had melted during the Christmas heat wave, so we didn’t need to deal with ice on the roads.

My plan was to work close to home while Kayleen was in her last month of pregnancy. Especially now that she was 5 days overdue. Without cell phones, the only way to check on Kayleen was to stop at a pay phone, (those archaic devices that used to be on almost every street corner) deposit a quarter and call her on our land line at home. Only on this day she wasn’t answering the phone.

My unease led me to quit work early and head home. Walking in the front door, it seemed no one was home. Further investigation found my son Jason in bed for an afternoon nap, but Kayleen was nowhere to be found. With no response to my calling out her name, my anxiety intensified.

Walking through the house she was not to be found. Then, a noise from the basement led me to wonder if that was her. Thinking it couldn’t be, we never go in the basement. In fact, we had only gone downstairs one time in the six months we had lived in the rental. The day we first looked at it. With very little furniture and no need for storage, why go in the dark, damp basement. Thankfully, it was Kayleen.

There she was… A very large, nine month plus pregnant woman scrubbing the basement clean. Walls, floors, anything she could find to clean. Wondering out loud what she was doing, and why the basement? She gave me that “What do you think I’m doing” look. With a little prodding on my part, she put down the scrub brush and headed upstairs for a nap. Doing my best to keep her resting, she was noticeably anxious. As Yoda might have said, “The Nesting Force was strong with this one”.

We’re not sure what we did for dinner that night but by 9:00pm Kayleen was saying it was time to head to the hospital. Dropping Jason off with a lady we knew from church, who was also our landlord, we headed to the hospital. With no snow and ice to contend with, it was a fast trip. Taking our time parking and getting into the hospital, we were confident that we still had hours to go before meeting our new baby. After all, with our first-born, Jason, labor lasted over eleven hours. Certainly, this one would be at least half of that. After a quick diagnosis by the emergency staff, we were rushed into the delivery room. Everyone was asking, “Why did you wait so long”? We just chocked it up to the naiveté of young, 2nd time parents.

Wondering if Jason would have a brother or a sister didn’t last too long. Kayleen’s labor lasted about an hour and half. At 11:20 pm central daylight savings time, we had our answer. Like with Jason, the hospital let me be with Kayleen for the delivery and to cut the umbilical cord. What a blessing to be there for that first breath of our new baby.

To my surprise, our baby had a full head of long, dark hair. My first thought was Kayleen, we had a Beatle. Ha! In a few minutes we were introduced to our new little girl. Weighing in at 9lbs,12 oz and 22” long, she seemed almost grown. With all that beautiful hair, she also had the most beautiful olive skin. We had a daughter! Like with Jason, we knew her name before she was born. Jennifer Elizabeth McCuen. Our own little JEM.

Almost four years after our first baby was born, we now were blessed to have two beautiful, healthy kids. A boy and a girl. While we thought we were done having children at that point. Thankfully, God had other plans. Jason proved to be a wonderful older brother, caring and attentive, helping Mom whenever he could.

When Jason was born, we thought things were tough financially. The economy was awful, and we really struggled to get by. Fortunately, we were able to find an apartment manager’s job, so rent was never an issue. Moving to Cedar Rapids from Iowa City, we followed the same plan, finding a manager’s job in a nice complex. Well, as soon as we knew Jennifer was on her way, we could no longer serve as managers. Rather than pay rent at the apartment, we opted to find a house to rent. This would provide more room for our growing family. While attending our first church, we met a lady that had a nice house for rent. With a basement that needed cleaning. 😊

Spending our first five years as managers and not paying rent was great, but it taught us some bad habits. Given that economy was 10 times worse in 1982 than when Jason was born, jobs for me were scarce and Kayleen couldn’t work with our new baby and a four-year-old in tow. We had extreme difficulty paying rent. So much so that by the time Jennifer was 2, she had lived in six houses.

Probably the worst financial time of Kayleen and my time together. There are too many stories from that time to fit in this story. Suffice it to say, we became experts at moving and avoiding landlords. Except the one that took us on a high-speed chase on the gravel back roads near a farm house were renting. He caught us.

During this time, we were diligent in attending our new church, praising God for so many blessings, even during all our challenges. Praying constantly and trusting God to help. Looking back, it is easy to see the many times He favored us with love and grace. People went out of their way to help. Truth be known, we never went hungry nor lacked a roof over our head. It is my belief that it was those times that strengthened us for anything that would come at us in years to come. After all, it couldn’t be much worse than six houses in two years. Through it all God answered our prayers abundantly, defining a path that would lead us to Arizona and prosperity.

From the day she was born, Jennifer was full of personality and love. There was rarely a person (or animal) that she didn’t quickly befriend. She always looked at the world through a smile. From the time Jennifer could talk and walk, she was always singing and dancing. If she was having a tough time it seemed all we need to do was put on some music and all was better. The only thing better than a song was a movie with music.

When she was one, she started watching the Wizard of Oz on our VCR. By the time she was two, she HAD to watch it EVERY day. At least once. If not multiple times. This went on for the better part of a year. As parents, we were concerned that this might cause problems going forward. No matter what we tried to get her attention away from the movie, she would always ask to watch OZ. There were probably a lot of worse movies that she could have gotten hooked on. Still we were perplexed.

Then we heard the news, there was a new OZ movie coming out from Disney. First, we tried to keep the news to ourselves. It didn’t take long before Jennifer knew and started asking for us to take her to see it. She was so excited. Her eyes beamed with anticipation of another trip to OZ. Still, my thoughts revolved around how we were going to be able to afford to take her to the movie theater every day. Who knew how long it would be before the new movie would come out on video tape.

Finally, off to the movie we went. To our surprise the new version was radically different from the original. Dark and bleak, with Dorothy’s friends as scary as any of the bad guys. Noticeably missing music, it didn’t feel at all like a return to OZ. More like a Halloween movie including a main character called Jack Pumpkinhead. Wondering what Jennifer’s reaction would be, we kept peaking at our little girl on the edge of her seat, eyes glued to the screen. After piling everyone back into the car, we anxiously waited to hear what Jennifer thought. To this day, the only thing she has ever said about the movie was “I don’t like that Pumpkinhead man. He scares me”. That was the end to all things OZ for our Jennifer. It wasn’t long before Jennifer replaced her daily OZ routine with Sesame Street and Soap Operas. Yes, Soap Operas, her favorite, “Days of Our Lives”.

In June of 1984, Jennifer’s best friend was born. Her sister Jaclyn. From the day Jackie came home they were inseparable. At only eighteen months apart in age, they were more like twins than just siblings. They shared clothes, friends and untold adventures growing up. To this day, one of my favorite sounds is to hear them both laughing uncontrollably together, which happens a lot. When their Mom joins the fray; it’s time for the guys to just sit back, watch and laugh along.

When asked what she wanted to do when she grew up Jennifer would always say, “I’m going to be an actress on a soap opera in New York City”. This led to her love of all things New York, New York. We weren’t looking forward to our little girl trying to make it in the city that never sleeps. However, her drive and commitment to study her art and work towards her dreams was the kind of thing that makes parents proud. She stayed out of trouble and diligently worked towards her goals.

As things will do, her goals evolved. She had met a lot of very talented and like-minded friends in Phoenix from High School and College. Most were headed for careers in the film industry. So off to LA for our Jennifer following her dreams that started so long ago on that “Yellow Brick Road”. While she prefers to be behind the camera rather than in front of it now. For almost ten years Jennifer has stuck to her dreams and weathered the ups and downs of molding a career in the film industry. With her longtime boyfriend Alex, a herd of animals and her unwavering commitment, there’s no doubt that she’ll make her mark on that town.

Happy Birthday Jenn!

All Our Love, All Ways!

Mom & Dad

I Love Music!

Those that know me well, and not so well, know my Love of music. Well, ALL (good) music!

While God blesses us with so much beauty.  Sunsets and Sunrises, full of more color than any artist can capture. The soft irresistible beauty of a kittens face, the delightful aroma of a puppy’s breath. That first time your baby smiles, the memory of your mothers comforting cuddle. ALL, blessings created by God for us to celebrate and be thankful for.

While none of us can recreate this beauty with more Grandeur and Impact than our God, He has given us the ability to create Music. For me, a good song, done well, rivals the beauty and magnificence of almost anything in God’s universe. Leading me to know music as the “Prayer of the Heart”.

Uniquely, the best music seems to be a group effort. There is nothing better than listening to music that is a challenge for the players. Where soloists excel, and everyone involved is in key and in time.

Is Religion Man Made?

“My Dad is bigger than your Dad!

Whether you believe in God or not, doesn’t it seem that the Religions of the World, have caused more grief and suffering, than joy and prosperity? Why is that?

Beginning in ancient times, men used violence, war and destruction to force others to believe like them. Oft times ranting chants like the classic bully metaphor, “My Dad is bigger than your Dad”. Albeit, usually about the power of their God vs. others. Isn’t Religion really all about control? “If you don’t follow My God, and Our rules…” well, you can fill in the blanks.”

Finding Comfort in Conformity

Humans are the only species on the planet to recruit others to their beliefs. We like to believe as a group. It’s in a group that we find comfort in our conformity. Whether we are right or wrong; hanging out with others who believe like us, emboldens and strengthens our convictions.

When meeting someone new, often our first step is to understand their position on Our beliefs. “Are you with me, or agin’ me?” Then, we begin to recruit. If They join us, we whittle away at all their contradictory beliefs until they think and believe just like us.

When they push back; or worse, they contradict our beliefs. We spurn them. Spewing comments about ignorance and misunderstanding. Frequently the vitriol morphs into vicious character attacks. In any case, they are just not welcome in our group. That’s when, as a collective of like-minded followers, we ostracize and “pigeonhole” the non-believer. Retreating to our sanctuary of supporters. Basking in our conformity; while bolstering our confidence, ridiculing the ignorance of the non-believer and their kind.

Inevitably, it seems that we conclude we are better than anyone who doesn’t think and believe like us. Looking down our noses, we shake our heads and wonder why they think and believe the way they do. With that observation, we consider them to be “just like” other non-believers. By lumping all people we disagree with in convenient factions, we can then chastise them in mass. Confident in our disdain for others like them, we rebuke and look down upon them all for their defective beliefs.

This “Better Than You” attitude gives rise to our “haughty” spirit; criticizing all who are not in line with our doctrine. Scripture tells us that a “haughty” spirit comes before a fall. And that pride brings destruction. While we don’t use the word haughty much these days, we do know it’s modern equivalent Bigotry quite well.

“Pride Goes before destruction,    And a haughty spirit before stumbling.” Proverbs 16:18

While God does tell us to come together in His name. He loves us as individuals, not as groups. God wants us to have an independent, one-to-one relationship with Him. Not a relationship with a religion based in conformity to rules instigated by men.

Shelter Becomes the Religion

It seems, eventually we all fall into one type of religion or another. For some it is a dogmatic reverence to a church or spiritual belief. For others it is a religion of Humanism or Environmentalism. For so many, it’s a political persuasion, or simply a favorite sport and team. Sometimes, all the above; choosing comfortable attributes from each. In general, finding comfort and protection in our religion and it’s “like minded” believers.

“I am astonished how quickly you are deserting the One who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is not even a gospel. Evidently some people are troubling you and trying to distort the gospel of Christ.” Galatians 1:6

Today our churches seem to be large sanctuaries for compliant believers to congregate and bloviate. People finding solace in churches with membership numbers in the tens of thousands; statistics typically associated with winning sports teams. Churches, once a community center of praise & worship, are now the community. The center of life for believers; complete with Starbucks and nightly entertainment. Huge congregations that shelter members from the evil, outside world. That is NOT what scripture instructs Christians to do. Hiding while waiting for Jesus’ return.

As Christians our individual relationship with God Brings His grace and keeps us accountable to Him. We are called to love one another, to walk together in peace and joy through the Holy Spirit. It is not our calling to run from the world and provide comfort and solace only to our brothers and sisters in Christ. That is God’s job.

 “It Was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

In the shelter of groups, we can lose sight of God while focusing on what our group believes. It is in these factions that we find justification to be haughty, or bigoted. We’ve all heard the excuse “We were just following orders.” Throughout history, groups have committed atrocities that individuals could not.

Scripture tells us how Jesus was crucified by a religious group. A group frightened by the changes Jesus represented. In effect, a group of like-minded believers acting as a haughty or bigoted mob.

So many groups want to add their beliefs to the Gospel of Christ Jesus. “Jesus Saves”, but only if you abide by the rules we’ve added

“For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM.” Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “HE WHO PRACTICES THEM SHALL LIVE BY THEM.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE”—in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Galatians 3:10-14

Man’s laws added to the Gospel has led to tens of thousands of Christian denominations. All fervently believing their laws and doctrine are the Only way. Reminding me again of that chant… “My Dad is bigger than your Dad”.

Paraphrasing Paul in Galatians…

Jesus plus Something, equals nothing!

Jesus plus NOTHING equals EVERYTHING! 

So… You Call Yourself an Atheist?

See No Evil

That’s Hard to Believe!

Whenever my path leads me to meet someone that identifies themselves as an Atheist. Typically, they go to great lengths to convince me of their position, and lack of belief in God, or an intelligent design. The cliché “me thinks thou dost protest too loudly” always comes to mind.

To me, the word Atheist is an Oxymoron.

How do you turn your back on something that is not there?

While there are probably lots of devout Atheists out there that would vehemently disagree with me. There goes that cliché again. Simply said, in my opinion, the Atheist that repeatedly says “I don’t believe in God” always comes across as someone that believes in God; choosing instead to try and rationalize why God doesn’t exist. Mostly, it seems to me to convince themselves, not me. After all, if they truly thought God wasn’t there, why bother?

My belief is that most Atheists are hoping to protect themselves by denying God’s existence. After all, were they to admit that God does exist, but that they don’t believe in him. Wouldn’t they also then believe in God’s wrath? Are Atheists running away from God, or their inability to have faith? Faith in things unseen? Complete Faith is difficult for all people. Believers and self-appointed non-believers.

Several years ago, going through physical therapy to learn to walk again. My therapist taught me a lot about faith. She started by explaining that my recovery was not about the physical. Muscles, strength and so on. Instead, she told me it was all about faith. She went on to explain how people rely on faith in the unseen, and unknown, every day.

She asked, “when you sit in a chair without looking. How do you know it’s really there?” “When you’re driving in the fog, how do you know there’s not a car coming at you in your lane?” “you don’t.” she said with a sly grin. “You have faith.” “You have trust that the chair is there. You trust that there’s no car in your lane.”You have trust and Faith in things unseen and unknown.”

She went on to tell me that my therapy was about building my faith and trust that my legs would hold me up. Faith and trust that my body would stay balanced when I walked. Things that were not of muscle and physical strength, but of belief. Belief in things unseen and unknown.

The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 2:14

Have you ever encountered an ex-smoker when they are around smokers? Or, an ex-drinker around drunks? In my experience they are so passionate about the mistakes they made, they will go to great lengths to stop the smokers from smoking and stop the drinkers from drinking. Working to show them the errors of their ways. So too is my experience with Atheists. When they find their Faith in God and accept Christ. They are the most passionate Christians you’ll ever meet. You would think their doubts might make them a little timid. How can that be? How can someone with such passionate disbelief become a zealous believer in God. A God they so vehemently disavowed? Faith!

God is here for everyone who seeks Him. Like most, it’s my belief that people who call themselves Atheists know God and believe in Him deeply. For whatever reason, they have chosen to build themselves up by attempting to tear Him down. Much like people who tear down others to make themselves look good. In both cases, it doesn’t work.

So many Christians have told me that they found God when they were at the end of their rope. Including several Atheists. It seems like that’s when they turn to and find God. While everyone they know has turned away, and there seems no where to turn. That’s when God says… “Hey, what about me? I’m right here. Always have been.” It’s at that point, God reaches out His hand and says, “Grab On, let’s get out of here!”

“If we are faithless, He remains faithful,
for He cannot deny Himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13

Are You Hiding?

Hide & Seek

“Olly, Olly, Oxen Free!”

One of my favorite songs by the Beatles is Rain. The oft times uber-cynical John Lennon opens the song with…

“If the rain comes, they run and hide their heads, they might as well be dead. If the rain comes. When the sun shines, they slip into the shade and sip their lemonade.”

As we experience more in our lives, don’t we tend to hide from unpleasantness? Fearing the unknown? Albeit, unpleasant and fearful from our perspective.

Would people suffering from an extended drought run from the Rain? When the sun shines in the rain soaked British Isles, do people seek shade? The sound of thunder and the flash of lightning sends us scurrying for shelter. Still, we’ll watch and listen to fireworks in awe. Perspective can become our taskmaster, clouding our vision, leading us away from those perceived, “uncomfortable” feelings and threatening situations.

Growing up in Iowa my winters were frigid and snowy, summers hot and humid. As a young boy, you would usually find me outside playing. No matter the weather.

Most of my time as an adult has been spent indoors, with complete access to climate control. After all, summer is too hot, winter too cold. People tend to define comfort levels in extremes. Summer is always too hot, winter is always too cold. Usually, in-line with everyone else. When the weatherman says stay inside. We do. Sitting comfortably in our shelters talking about the weather.

My perspective of comfort has changed radically. Those years playing in the snow and sunshine were some of my fondest memories. Comfortable in my playing and unaware of the weather. As an adult my summers seem to have been spent moving from an air-conditioned car to an air-conditioned house, or to my air-conditioned office. When winter comes, hibernation has been my strategy for survival. Over the years, my distain for snow and cold led me to Arizona. Only to find everyone hibernating as well. Like a lot of Iowan’s spend their Winters inside. It is rare to see people enjoying the outdoors amid the Blistering Hot Arizona summer.

What would our pioneering forefathers think of us today? Those drafty log cabins up north had only a fireplace for warmth. Air conditioning was unheard of in the rickety Conestoga Wagons winning the west. In Arizona, they refer to the years before the population exploded in the 50’s and 60’s as BAC. “Before Air Conditioning”.

Why is it we hide? Why do we seek refuge from the things we perceive to be unpleasant or dangerous? Because We Can! Mankind is resilient, and we will go to extreme lengths to be comfortable, be safe and to “feel” good.

Growing up, my family spent every thunderstorm warning, storm or not, in a 3’ x 8′ storm shelter under our house. Sometimes our hibernation could last hours, with nothing but a static filled a.m. radio, a handful of flashlights and each other.

My Mom went through a Tornado as a young girl. That experience changed her forever. She would go to any lengths not to suffer that terror again. Including, insisting that my Dad buy a house in the city that had a concrete storm/bomb shelter. She put all her faith in that refuge of concrete under our front porch.

The storm she went through as a girl changed her perspective of what could happen. She knew the destruction, she knew the fear of being helpless. Even though she was deep underground in the family Storm Shelter on their farm. She felt the fear and saw the aftermath of the obliteration caused by the tornado. Unlike those people that ignore storm and Hurricane warnings, choosing instead to wait out the storm with little to no concern. Mom knew what could happen. After all of the fear of ensured destruction, and hours spent in refuge. Interestingly, we never experienced a damaging storm, and our old house is still standing decades later.

As Christians, we know what can happen as well. Scripture is very clear about what awaits those who live their life without God. Some even know from personal experience the ravages of a life without God. Is it any wonder we seek refuge?

Finding a perceived refuge from the world can make us feel safer while we wait on our Savior’s return. Like Mom, it seems so many take it to extremes. Putting their faith in the things of the world, not God. We hide in the refuge of our churches; not as a Holy Sanctuary, but as shelter from all the things of the world. Instead of gathering together to grow stronger, to empower us to take on the World in the name of God. We bury our heads in a building. Huddling with other believers until the storm passes. We also protect ourselves and our families by surrounding everybody with only acceptable influences. Only the right music, TV and Movies. In a sense, hiding from evil.

People often quote Galatians 6:1 to me to rationalize hiding from the world.

“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” Galatians 6:1

Isn’t our mission to grow the Kingdom of God? How can we do that if we hide in our spiritual storm shelters? Surrounding ourselves with only people re-born in Christ? People that think, pray and act like us. After all, aren’t they already part of the Kingdom of God? How can we relate to anyone living apart from Christ if we don’t comprehend their world?

Sure, God tells us repeatedly in scripture to seek refuge. However, not with each other, not in a building, but in Him! Still, we exile ourselves in a self-induced, spiritual 3′ x 8′ bomb shelter. Believing it will protect us from the spiritual warfare of the world. It won’t.

Sadly, even in what appears to be a protected environment of like-minded believers isn’t completely safe. Aren’t there still temptations, greed and pride? Even in the best Church’s? We’ve all seen it. There is only One Refuge from the evils of the world. God!

Playing Hide & Seek

My experience with some Christians leads me to believe they are playing a spiritual game of Hide & Seek. Hiding from the World while seeking God. That is not what God wants us to do. Instead, aren’t we to go into the world and spread the Good News of Christ Jesus?

“He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.’” Mark 16:15

The old cliché “Preachin’ to the Choir” comes to mind when considering how we spend all our time with like minded Christians. Fellowship with believers is important. In fact, it is vital! That is how we “re-charge” our spirit and study the Word of God; giving us our strength, purpose and armor for the battles in the World.

Courage is when, filled with the Holy Spirit, we step from our Sanctuaries, into the world as disciples of the living God, Christ Jesus. It is then, and only when we are in the World, not of the World, that we can truly be “Fishers of Men”.

“Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I’ll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You’ll be living proof that I didn’t go to all this work for nothing.” Philippians 2:15-25

As Christians, we are the hands and feet of Christ Jesus. Our mission is to go into the world and represent Him. We are not created to hide in a Church, nor a community of like-minded believers; while seeking God. In my experience, we find God when we are servants, helping others. We rejoice and experience God’s Peace, Love and Joy when someone accepts Christ into their heart. Does it make sense to wait for them to come to Church?

“Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.” 
1 Corinthians 12:27

Did Jesus sit in a temple and wait for people to come to Him? If we are like Jesus, we are in the World. Not of the world. We are stoic in sharing God’s Good News, knowing that God Blesses Us not for Us, but so that we can Bless Others!

“Olly, Olly, Oxen Free!”

Come Out, Come Out. Wherever You Are!

One Step Away…

Step In It

Or, “Steppin’ In It?”

How many times do we misstep? For me, it’s often. Usually, “Stepping In It”! We’ve all done it. You’re deep in the decision process. Literally arguing with yourself over what to do. All the while, deep, down inside, you know the answer.

Why the argument?

Oft times you will find me debating in my mind what is the right path. Albeit stuck in a muddy quagmire of my thought processes. Right there, in the middle of my muddy myopic debate. That’s where you usually see me “stepping in it”! Focusing on the debate in my head, not the task at hand, it’s easy to misstep.

All the mental gymnastics and fretting, just to do the right thing. Never mind that the right thing always seems to be at odds with my wants and desires. Doing the right thing can be so much work. Besides, the right path can also lead to a difficult conversation with someone. Who wants that? Those conversations are always filled with drama and are so draining. Most times, arguing with myself is all about getting my way. Even though the right answer is clear.

Christians have come to know the voice lighting the right path, as that still quiet voice of God. We argue anyway.

What do you do with this dilemma? How would you advise a friend struggling with a tough choice? Pray? Follow your heart? Go with your gut? Look at the facts? Go with how you feel? Seek counsel? Most of the advice that comes my way is usually from someone else’s perspective. “What I would do…,” “Here’s how I handled it…”, or the inevitable, “Most people would…” Really? They’re not me. They just don’t know, nor understand. Then, someone pulls out that tattered cliché… “The journey of a thousand miles starts with one step.” They further advise, “just take that first step.”

Invigorated, you feel success is just “One Step Away”! Then, reality sets in… Almost pleading with yourself you ask, “What is the First Step?”. Here we go again. The “Myopic Debate” continues…

Truth be known; and you already know this. Success IS “One Step Away.” Most times you’re too deep in the muck to see it. Sure, this is where you think “I get it. I just need to step closer to God.” Well, you’re right. You do. He will always step closer to you when you do. However, isn’t God already in the middle of the debate raging in your head? After all, who is it that keeps telling you the “right thing” to do?

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you…” -James 4:8

Always work to get closer to God. While you do, learn to “step away” from yourself. Truly, success is just one “Step Away”, by taking yourself out of the debate and focusing on God’s plan for you. The decision is literally a “No Brainer”. Isn’t that another definition of Faith in God? A No Brainer?

My life has been peppered with these decisions. What should be done? What IS the Right thing? It always brings memories of a friend from New York, Tom, who would often say, “Mark, there are two things we can do in life. The Right thing and the Wrong thing. No one wants to do the wrong thing, Right?” You’ll need to add a thick New York accent to fully appreciate my memory of Tom’s profound guidance. After all, who wants to do the wrong thing? None of us. Right?

For me, it comes down to Trust. Is that voice in my head trustworthy? Have MY planning and fretting been trustworthy in the past? In my experience, letting go and trusting God. Things always work out. Maybe not in a way that was considered by me. Still, things ALWAYS work out. So much so that God has taught me that the best plan is to forgo the debate in my head and just give it to Him.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil.” -Proverbs 3:5-7

Next time you find yourself in a mental quandary over the right thing to do. Focus on God and take that one “Step Away” from yourself.

He will light and guide your path in ALL things.

A Clear Window…

Someone asked me the other day why my Blog is called A Clear Window. Here’s the story behind the name…

sky-universe-LGLP-A Clearwindow

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden…” Matthew 5:14

Human senses are amazing. God blesses us with so many ways to comprehend our world. We smell the roses, we taste victory and we hear the call of the wild.

Not to mention the wonders of vision our eyes reveal every second they’re open. Think of all the beautiful sunsets, landscapes and visual delights that the miracle of sight has blessed us with. Our senses not only expose the good in the World; they can also uncover the bad.

Wonderfully, our senses often combine to make our understanding more amazing. We smell the spring rain while watching an orange and red Sunset, listening to water droplets splash the ground. A complete, and perfectly pleasant memory. Joining together, our senses also broadcast hazards or chaos.

We smell smoke and feel heat before a fire, see a speeding car and hear screeching tires before a crash; we feel a ferocious wind and see ominous clouds before a storm.

There’s No 2nd Chance…

As humans; we all learn from, and depend on our senses, every day, in everything we do. It is with that in mind, that we need to be aware of the messages that we send to the world through the senses.

The multi-billion-dollar mouthwash industry is just one example of how seriously we view someone’s “sense” of us. When we first meet someone, our senses conduct an exhaustive investigation. How do they look; what are they wearing, are they fashionable? How’s their breath and body odor? Do they speak clearly; do they know what they’re saying? All, in the blink of Eye. That’s how we get…

Our First Impression!

The First Impression; while not always accurate, is near impossible to eradicate from our memory. Oft times, after years of friendship, those initial thoughts and memories persist. Albeit we usually get to know someone better over time. It’s just part of being a person. Understanding the importance of that “first impression”, humans will go to great lengths to ensure that people see what they want them to see. Not always who they really are.

Christians can fall into the same “first impression” traps. We work meticulously to present the person that we feel a Christian should be. Not necessarily who we are. We look and smell good, we quote scripture, we don’t swear, and people see us go to Church on Sunday.

In my over forty years in the corporate world my colleagues would not see me go out of my way to not preach or proselytize my Christian principles (a story for another day). While still practicing my beliefs; no drinking with the boys, no swearing, always working to help as many people as possible.

Over time, people would comment on my staunch religious beliefs. It was amazing. My co-workers actually “sensed” my faith in Jesus without a word being said.

It was during this time, while in prayer some thirty years ago; God touched my heart with the understanding that through my faith, my body was simply a vehicle for Him. God led me to tear down any walls, or distractions. Anything that would hinder someone’s ability to see Him, through me. In a sense, become “A Clear Window” to God.

In prayer, God led me to the understanding that we need to shine God’s light through the window of our soul. A window that isn’t blocked with obstructions. If our window is covered with the muck and mud that our life throws at it, His light is hidden. So too, if our window is covered in the ornate trappings of a so-called spiritual life; like thick, brightly colored stained glass, God’s light is obstructed as well. Jesus plus nothing, equals everything. It is that “Clear Window” that empowers us to do our part, and let God do the rest. It is that Clear Window to God that leaves a formidable “First Impression”. Not only of me, but of what it means to be a Christian.

Since that day, my prayers start with; “Thank You God for Making Me a Clear Window to you”. While still a “work in progress”, and still having a way to go, it is wonderful to see the impression God leaves when the window is clear, and people can see Him, and only Him through my Clear Window.


“For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:6