One Step Away…

Or, “Steppin’ In It!”

step In It -2How 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.

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“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

Love Is The Answer

Is Your Glass Half Full, or Half Empty?

sky-universe-LGLP-Half Empty for Book

It’s Always FULL!

Every time you let Anger and Hatred in your heart, it replaces Love. Allowing Fear and Doubt in your Heart, replaces Faith. Think of that proverbial glass of water that is either “Half Full” or “Half Empty”. Truth be known, the glass is “ALWAYS FULL”. Way back in eighth grade my science teacher taught a very simple concept, Displacement.

In a nutshell… although the glass might be only “Half Full” of water. The other half is filled with air. The more air pumped into the glass, the less water. The more water, the less air. Displacement. The water displaces air and visa-versa.

The heart is the same. It is always full. Sometimes it has more LOVE than HATE. Other times, not. The good news is that you are in control of what goes in your heart. Negative thoughts are generated in our mind, not the Heart. As Christians, we are taught to Love People; including our enemies. God never asks us to like our enemies; but He does TELL us to Love them! Perplexing?

Growing up, being told what to do was just about the worst thing for me. After all, what kid likes to be told “clean your plate”, “do your chores” or the worst, “Pick Up Your Room!”?

Is it any wonder that we would push back on something called Commandments? Especially Ten of them. For me, probably like most of my generation, when someone would mention the Ten Commandments, my first thought was always of Charlton Heston. Once I got that picture of him as Moses on that mountain out of my head and began to focus. All the “Thou’s” and “Shalt’s” would get in the way. Being a casual (lazy) reader, it was so much work, like a different language.

Then, one day, someone introduced me to Matthew 22:37-39. Answering the question “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”. Jesus responded by saying, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” For me, that summed it up in a few, simple words.

Jesus was saying… Love God, Love People”. Not a Thee, Thou or Shalt in it! Truly words to live by.

Those four words are the essence of being a Christian. If all of us could only follow those two simple guidelines of love. Like the song says, “What a Wonderful World it would be”.

Going forward and contemplating that those simple four words, encompass all ten commandments. “Love God”, covers the first four and “Love People” the final six. Wow! What would Charlton Heston have done with that? Standing on the mountain top with a lot smaller tablet? Maybe an iPad? Certainly, it would have made for a shorter movie. Starting each commandment with Love, instead of Thou, might have caught my attention back then.

Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s was all about love. While some took it to the extreme with “Free Love”. Most believed it was all about loving one another in the biblical sense. Our culture was permeated with Love. It was in our music with songs like “All You Need is Love”. It was throughout our politics as well. Love was the original basis of the Peace crusade. Sadly, greed and vitriol eventually engulfed the movement. Love was also the core of the Civil Rights protests. Led by Reverend Martin Luther King in Love and Peace with statements like “I love you. I would rather die than hate you.”

So often I see today’s protests and think about those days…

One thing is missing. LOVE!

Here’s a video that we put together called Love Is The Answer” featuring a wonderful version of the old Todd Rundgren song performed by Rumer. Enjoy!

 

There is no growth without Friction!

PERSEVERE!

“In the confrontation between the Stream and the Rock, the Stream ALWAYS Wins… Not through strength, but through Persistence.” 
-H. Jackson Brown Jr.

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We live in a frenzied world, oft times it seems most of us wish life was effortless. If we only could accomplish all our dreams. Without problems, barriers and disappointment. Really? Think how boring that would be. Making it through all the problems and obstacles in life, while persevering, fortifies us. Giving us a deep sense of accomplishment. Building character and preparing us for future difficulties and tough times.

The next time you are overwhelmed with trouble or hard times, be thankful, and know that you are getting stronger!

Think of how our bodies were created to deal with stress and injury. The first time you grab a shovel, head to the backyard for some gardening. What happens? Blisters! Just saying the word brings pain. You work hard all day to provide some food or bring some beauty into the world, and what’s the result? Your hands and knees are covered in those tender bubbles just under your skin. If one pops, you know the pain that follows. In addition to the blisters, muscle throughout your body feels like you just finished a game of football, and you were the Football!

Why?

You’ve changed your routine. You’re stretching and growing. You have started using your hands and body for physical labor. With all the pain and blisters, our body is simply protecting us from doing major damage. While your blisters and muscle slow you down for healing. Your body is recreating itself to tolerate your new activities in the garden. God didn’t promise that there would never be pain. Instead, God designed our bodies to change and become what we need them to be, to handle the task at hand. The circumstances of our lives are no different.

Sure, there are times when we feel like we can’t take one more step; that there is no clear path to a good ending. Like the blisters, it hurts and sometimes the pain feels unbearable. God knows your pain. Like any loving Father, He would do anything to eliminate your agony. Akin to how our body uses pain to slow us down, recreating stronger, more resilient, skin and muscle. So too, God has created us with His protection as He molds us to become stronger and more resistant through tough times. Story after story in the Bible depicts how the weakest were favored, blessed and honed by God to do great things. Often through extreme trials. At the end, all were given everything they needed to persevere.

Reading the plight of the Israelites during their four hundred, thirty years as slaves. Made me oft times wonder; how could that be? After all these were Gods Chosen People. Imagine, that entire culture, enslaved as “sub-human”, manual laborers for over four hundred years. Every dirty, sweaty job, too lowly for the oppressors, forced on the Israelites. Was God mad, was He  punishing them?

Understanding how God created our bodies to get stronger in adversity, it follows that the same regeneration was happening to the Israelites. After over four hundred years of toil and hard work, what shape do you think the Israelites were in? The vision of scraggly, starving slaves just doesn’t seem to fit God’s purposes, especially for His chosen people. Clearly they were well fed, not starving. Starving them would not serve their master’s needs building an empire. So the Israelites labored for four hundred years. Getting stronger every day, physically and spiritually. Is it any wonder that they became conquerors? Just as God will provide What you need, When you need it; He refined and strengthened the Israelites, mind, body and soul for the mission ahead.

We all have those times when we are overwhelmed with trouble or hard times. Experience has taught me, that it is at those times, God is making us stronger and more resilient. Physically and spiritually. Sometimes we need new tools to move on. Other times we just need to slow down. Whatever the need, God has a plan, and will provide all that is needed. When trouble comes, be thankful, not fretful. God is making you stronger, better.

Have faith in God; listening for His still, quiet voice for direction, and Persevere!


“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  -James 1:4

 

Everything!

OCD, A Blessing or a Curse?

OCD

During lunch with a friend recently; we talked about the revelation of my OCD (Obsessive, Compulsive, Disorder) tendencies. He smiled and started talking about our friend who is a “Classic” OCD case. Our friend was always a slave to his idiosyncrasies. We reminisced how our friend used his OCD as an excuse to fail. It seemed all his failures were related to his “disorder”.

It is an exceptional blessing to be who God created me to be. Without my attention to detail and unrelenting drive to get things right, my life would have been so radically different. God has blessed me throughout my life with keen eyes and extraordinary hearing. Both bless me with intense discernment for all things, big and small. The other side of my attention to detail is an intense desire to get things done perfectly. Thankfully, early on, God taught me not be a slave to things that are not in my control. “Let Go, & Let God.” Working to remember that “Done is better than Perfect”; and always following God’s lead to be aware, using tough times for growth, not self-condemnation.

In my walk with God over the last fifty years, God has led me to see Him in EVERYTHING. That is one of the greatest blessings of being OCD. Seeing God in the smallest details. Sure, when you gaze at the stars, the grandeur of His design is awe inspiring. The same magnificence is found in an Ant Hill or Bee Hive. My “personality disorder” has favored me with so many abilities. Thanks to God, by His design, there truly is no “disorder”.

“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way;” Psalm 37:23

Sometimes, my attention to detail has led me to seeing God in the “Not So Godly”. Music from the likes of Jethro Tull, prophetic words from someone that had never stepped foot in a Church. Seeing Everything as God’s plan and design; nothing is wasted, all things come from Him. For me, it is impossible to look at the stars, or the insect world, and not see His clear and perfect design. The continuity above and below is clearly by plan, not happenstance.

Seeing God in Everything is exactly that. Everything; Big, Small, Good and Bad. In the Micro and the Macro.

How Great Thou Art!

Manification

The Quest for Wisdom and Understanding…

Manification-prayer

When we boil away everything that people do in their lives to attain the desires of our hearts. Don’t we all simply seek wisdom? Seek to understand?

Starting with that first time we see a brightly colored toy… Why are we drawn to it, what is it? We seek it out, we touch it. We even taste it trying to figure out just what it is. So, the journey for knowledge begins. As humans, it never stops. Until, on that last day, we finally close our eyes. Even then. Aren’t we probably paying close attention to what happens next? Is there a bright light? Are any of our family there after we pass? Do I see my life pass before me as I go? All, for the sake of understanding.

If you’re like me, we apply our knowledge and understanding to provide comfort and perspective for our life. “I know the reason I got fired.” I coulda, shoulda done that. My degree means that Im fully capable to do this job.” I can do this, I saw the YouTube video. If I cram all week, Ill be ready for the test.

Is it any wonder then, as humans, we apply “our” knowledge and understanding to everything in our life? Especially the things we don’t understand. When we think of situations, good and bad. We view them exclusively from our perspective. “I would have done that differently.” Heres how I handled that. Why did they do that? It would have been simpler, my way. You cant let people do that to you, here’s what I’d do.”

Don’t we also apply this thinking to the world? “That leader is crazy!” Oft times, not working to understand their complete situation, or their comprehension. Instead, we apply our knowledge, to their decisions, and deem them Crazy. Albeit, a lot of decisions are crazy. Like with most of us, the decision probably makes perfect sense to the person making it.

As a Christian, my life has been blessed with God’s wisdom and understanding. However, it seems the more turned over to Him, the less is needed to know and to understand. After all, He is the God of the Universe. His will be done.

Humans use their knowledge to “Manify” everything to help them understand. Have you ever said something like “My computer doesn’t like me”, My phone is in a bad mood, or “this thing has a mind of its own”? Really? Doesn’t our understanding tell us that inanimate objects don’t think or feel? Still, we apply human traits to them. Don’t get me started about how much we do this with animals. Especially with our pets that are “just like one of the family”.

“Manifying” complex issues help us to cope, to “wrap our heads around the problem”. A lot of us enjoy watching the latest space adventures on TV or at the movies. Men and women traveling the universe in search of life. Have you ever noticed that the life we find, looks and acts a lot like us? The best explanation of the “Manification” of adventures in space I’ve heard, came from the creator of Star Trek, Gene Rodenberry. He said he merely wanted to create a Cowboy Western in Space; with Ray Guns instead of six shooters. Simply said, he was taking something very complex and making a clear analogy to a human experience. With that, things like Warp Speed and Food Replicators became more fathomable.

We “Manify” Machines every day. Why? Don’t the robots we see in movies and commercials look and act like Humans? They don’t need to. Go spend some time in a modern manufacturing facility. You’ll see thousands of robots. All shapes and sizes. Not a human form among them. Still, to grasp the concept, we “Manify” them. Usually including eyes, a nose and a mouth that they don’t need nor use.

So too, we “Manify” Christianity. Working to understand God’s teachings, but from our perspective and understanding. We relate to Christian concepts by applying human notions. Not that this is bad. God does this throughout the bible. Much like the first time a child asks their parent where babies come from. God, like most fathers, could explain the entire process, in detail. However, what good would it do; given the comprehension of the child? Isn’t that how, as parents, we end up with stories about Storks, Tooth Fairies and Santa Claus? God loves us, he knows what we can and cannot handle.

The challenge is not when God “Manifies” something. It’s when we, as humans do. “Manification” shows up in how we limit the power and the will of God. We apply our perceptions to His power and abilities.

“That’ll never work.” I dont understand how I could be healed of this? Sure, I pray about it. But money doesn’t grow on trees.” We can’t wrap our heads around a Miracle… so we “Manify” something that is pure God. As Humans, all things are NOT possible. With God, All things ARE possible.

“And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.” Job 28:28

Letting go and letting God is not about God. He’s got this. Letting go is all about letting go of our Human perceptions and limitations…

Once we find God, seeking wisdom and understanding becomes seeking only Him.

The Key

The Key-5

“Let Go of the Rope!”

Aren’t we all looking for that Key? The Key that unlocks the mysteries of life. That opens the door to an unrestricted existence? One, simple understanding that lifts the burden of obligation? Ah, to never have to balance a checkbook again. Finding that perfect marriage, to that perfect person. Complete acceptance in any social situation. Never again wondering, how I am going to do this or that, or, what do “They” think.

Getting the key is oft times a monumental step, albeit daunting. Dad giving you the key to the family car. The key to that first house. Your boss handing over your first key to a private office, or getting the key to your first business. Or, when you give your car key to your sixteen-year-old. Daunting indeed.

As Christians, we often believe we’ve got it all figured out. Still, we need to balance checkbooks. Relationships can be difficult, and we continue to fall victim to peer pressure. How can that be? Understanding that we are a continual work in progress, life can still be tough. It seems we apply all we learn in Church, yet life continues to punch us in the face.

Not that I have it all figured out. I don’t. God has been working on me for years, bringing me closer to him; farther away from all the stuff of the World. Looking back, I’ve noticed a simple understanding that has filled my life, eliminating a host of hardships.

Do you remember playing “Tug-O-War” as kids? Maybe you still play. It’s been a while for me, but I always loved it. A team effort that looked to be winnable only through brute strength. As our team got better, we realized it was more of a “head” game. All about strategy that took the best advantage of the available strength. Our strategies always included “Psyching” out our opponents before the match. Mainly so that they would start the game doubting their abilities. However, my favorite move was the “fake out”. That glorious move when all at once, our team would give slack in the rope to the other team. Instantly, they would think they “had” us. Usually, the other team would let up at the first sign of a slack in the rope. With a shout, our team would jerk back with everything we had. “Hooking” them like a fish on the line. We won more matches with that move.

You might be wondering what does this have to do with “The Key”? Think of it as an analogy of our walk with God. We start thinking that our “Brute Strength” will get us through everything in life. Then we give our lives to Christ. Do we? Whether we are pulling on the rope; asking God for what we believe we need. Or, those times when we give into God, praying, “Your Will Not Mine”. All the time, ready to yank back on the rope when We believe it’s needed. Isn’t “The Key” to let go of the rope? Truly give it ALL to God.

Through out my life, when I would let go of the rope and let God have it. He has never let me down. When we weren’t sure where the next dollar was coming from. Where we would live? How we would eat? Giving it all to God, He always had our back, without fail. Sure, we weren’t dripping in money, gold and diamonds, but He always provided.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”Matthew 6:33

There was the time I dropped out of High School. Thinking my life was never going to be what I dreamed, scared and frustrated I gave it all to God. Had I not dropped out, I’m not sure that I would have met my bride Kayleen. Certainly, ordered steps into a wonderful, blessed life, with God lighting our path. More recently, when I gave up alcohol and pain pills. On my knees, with the fear of losing everything, I gave it all to God. He not only carried me through. From that day, all desire and thought of using were gone. Wiped out entirely. That is the God factor for me. When you give it completely to Him, it goes away. Completely. So many times, when I have planned things out on my own, holding on to the rope… While things might improve, they were still there. Tempting and taunting me me, pulling back on the rope.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. – Hebrews 10:23

The Key? Let Go and Let God!

“All Things are Possible” by Dan Peek

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