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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Hidden Greatness

 It was a warm and sunny afternoon as I strolled through the many rows of white gravestones. For the first time in my life, I was fulfilling a long-time wish to visit the hallowed ground of Arlington National Cemetery. Not only had I hoped to see the more widely-recognized graves like the Eternal Flame and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier but I had also planned on paying my respects at the graves of four very special young of whom I knew.
 On my way to finding their final resting place, the meaning of such great sacrifice was driven home as I witnessed the end of a caisson funeral procession for one who had recently passed on. Sounds of "Taps" echoed around the cemetery and, nearby, the Navy Band played "America the Beautiful" as the rhythmic beat of the horses took the casket past me.
 Upon reaching the area where the four fallen service members lie, I was struck by something profound as I found each one's gravesite: there was no mention of "loving husband" or "father, brother, and friend." It was simply a name, rank, dates, and military honors.

 I was very intrigued by this because I realized that, in the case of three of the fallen heroes, there was a story that went far beyond such humble mention. Daniel Clay, Benjamin Tiffner, and Andy Kim were three young men who lived boldly for their Lord. The lives they impacted in their short time on earth will only be calculable in Heaven. The stories I have heard about these individuals and the influence they continue to have today, even through their death, never cease to amaze me. 
 As I stood and thought about the incredible witness these fellows were for God, it struck me that greatness is sometimes hidden. In looking at these headstones, it is clear that they don't tell everything about these guys. They are...well...extremely humble. Understated. Plain. 
 But often, this is how a true leader makes a difference. It isn't often in the obvious ways but the simple acts of extraordinary faith and love that set someone apart from others. From the outside, we can often judge a person and think that they do not have the "it" factor; they don't have the flash, the good looks, the charisma, the talent, etc. And so we pass them by...missing the fact that they just might be the one God has chosen for an extraordinary destiny. Their greatness isn't easily discernible...except to those who know what to look for and where to find it. To those whose lives that individual has touched, that person is special and they know that the outside doesn't tell the whole story. 
 A true leader doesn't announce to the world how great he or she is. They simply live it - quietly, humbly, honorably - every single day. They choose faith over fear. They choose trust over worry. They choose God over themselves. And they serve. They serve selflessly in whatever way they can. Because they know this life isn't about them to begin with. And one by one, they make a difference. They change the world, one act at a time. I've personally come to know people like this, and it has never failed to change who I am every single time. Because often, I've judged people by what I can tell first-off and failed to see what their heart truly is about. I've gone by my own perception and later been convicted of how blind I really am. 
 In walking away from those grave sites, I made a choice to look for greatness in the least-expected places. To come around to how God sees hearts...not how I view the exterior. What matters to Him often is considered irrelevant to the world...but that's okay. Because He's about the unseen. I just have to ask Him for sight so that I do not miss His "angels unawares" whoever they may be. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Don't Erase The Past

 I stood and stared at the black marks on the otherwise polished white exterior wall of the inner courtyard. This building spoke of strength. After all, it is the Pentagon: the center of our nation's military operations both here at home and around the world. Thanks to a generous opportunity from a friend, I was able to tour this amazing place this past week and see it in action for myself. But at that moment, all I could think of was the significance behind those black marks. Charred marks from a fire that seared the date of 9/11 forever into the hearts of minds of our country. Standing in that wing of the building, this is all that remains of that dark day. The other walls have been rebuilt, and there is a memorial to the victims of the attack...but that is all - except for these marks. My friend tells me that these char marks could've been removed, but it was decided that they should remain as a reminder of what happened here. 
 Then I notice a striking and profound truth: there was a conscious choice not to remove the scars. For those involved in cleanup efforts, they felt that to wipe away the black was to erase from the future human memory the history of that sad day. But to leave it was to signify the story -to tell those who would come later that this building has seen it all...and survived. It still stands, rebuilt and re-born. 
 I feel a stirring in the soul...and I see it now: the fire of life has charred the walls of my heart and left me burned and broken for a time. The pain has roared through my seemingly tranquil life and changed me forever. And at times, as I tried to rebuild, I did consider wiping the marks away. Just forgetting it an effort to move on. But I have come to realize that to erase the scars is to eradicate the story. It is to leave no evidence of how far I've come. No indication of where I've been. It is to erase God. 
 See, His hand is traced in the turbulent as well as in the tranquil. Both are part of the narrative He writes for me...and for you. And when we try to wash away the evidence of that narrative - painful though it may be - we fail to recognize that this is how we can remember how He has walked in that pain with us. And how He has brought us safely through. He always helps us rebuild. We are re-born out of the suffering we face thanks to the grace He gives us. But there are remnants of the fire. Reminders that life hasn't been perfect...but He has. Life hasn't always been fair...but He has been forever good. And through it all, we have never stopped being loved by Him. challenge to you and to myself today is: whatever your "fire marks" are, don't try to hide them. To attempt to wash them away - because they are part of you. They tell your story. And they point to a sovereign God who has carried you. Be thankful for the fire that has tested you - because His hand can be traced even through the pain. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Blogging Again

Hello all!
       I'm back from vacation and will begin blogging again soon. In the upcoming weeks, I will be posting about some insights I gained over my break, and I hope they will bless you as well. I missed all of you and look forward to being back on the social media loop once again. God bless you, and keep living in grace everyday!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Taking A Break

 I just want to let you know that I will not be posting to this blog for a couple weeks. I am taking a break to recharge and spend time with family. I will return here soon!
 If you need to speak with me during this time, you can go to my "Contact Me" page on this blog and email me at the address listed. I will also try to check my Twitter account from time to time. 
 May God bless you as you continue to walk in faith everyday and banish your fears in the light of His grace!

Quote of the Day

"Some have questioned how Christ can love us when he denies many temporal blessings. Outward blessings however are never a sign of love or hatred. You cannot conclude that Christ hates you because he afflicts; or that he loves you because you are blessed in temporal blessings. The smallest drop of grace is a greater sign of Christ's love than all the glory and pleasures of the earth...Afflictions are far from being signs of Christ's hatred. Many times they are evidence of His love. The people of God only lack what is bad for them. God has promised to withhold no good thing. A father who loves his child only keeps things from him for his good, because he loves him. You can conclude that if you lack something of enjoyment, it is withheld since it is not best for you. It is no defect in the love of Christ, but a defect in what you are asking for."
                           - David Clarkson in Voices from the Past

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Quote of the Day

"Every Christian may truly say, God loves me better than I do myself."
                          - Richard Sibbes

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Quote of the Day

"The greatest sorrow and burden you can lay upon the Father, the greatest unkindness you can do to Him, is not to believe that He loves you." 
                                           - John Owen

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Beautiful Things

 Beautiful things. They surround us every day. But how often do we notice them? How often do we take a moment to thank the Creator for the many ways He manifests His love? The countless times He blesses? 
 Just the simple fact that I am breathing in this moment is a gift. And the amazing truth that I am allowed to have a relationship with the One who made me is the greatest gift of all! 
 This world and all that's in it was made by God and for Him alone. While mankind has sinfully tainted it in many ways, somehow there is still a remaining beauty everywhere we look...because He is beautiful in and of Himself. He is the One by which all beauty is measured and, in looking at the creation around us, the gift of friendship, the blessing of kindness, and so much more, we can begin to grasp the heart of God. And when we know Him personally, we can start to see Grace displayed in so many ways. Even in the hard things, we can know that there is goodness still to be had. Because He is good. And we are always loved.
 I believe we can only truly begin to fulfill our reason for being on this earth when we start to center our focus around the God for whom all this awesomeness exists. If we begin to look for the countless manifestations of His care and love, it will change how we live. It will transform how we think. It will alter the trajectory of our futures. Because won't simply be about us anymore. It will be about Him. And because our eyes are open to His gifts, our hearts will become open to His love. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Quote of the Day

"God's purpose for my life was that I have a passion for God's glory and that I have a passion for my joy in that glory, and that these two are one passion."
                              - Jonathan Edwards 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Living In Grace

 I assume several of you are probably following The Masters golf tournament this weekend. I have been following a very neat story this week of a young amateur  competitor who is playing Augusta for the very first time...and I felt I had to share it with you. Bryson DeChambeau, a 22-year-old who has already won the U.S. Amateur title and the NCAA title and will soon turn pro, has been making headlines for his infectious personality, his old-fashioned looks, and his different but highly effective golf swing. But something the commentators said yesterday about him really stuck with me as I watched the coverage. DeChambeau had been playing incredibly well all afternoon but had just hit a terrible shot which eventually cost him 3 strokes. One of commentators made mention that, "we haven't seen him lose his head though" to which the other commentator added, "And that's what this young man is truly all about. A lot of people ask if he's nervous, and he'll tell you, 'Look. I've been saved by grace. It doesn't's just another golf shot. If I can perform to the highest level, great. If not, than it's an opportunity to show my grace-character.'" 

 Living in grace allows you to live life without fear. When you know that what you have isn't entirely yours...when you know that everything else is second to honoring the One who made you and loves you...then you can risk and fail but not be a failure. You can stumble and fall but not lose hope. You can be cast down and not be destroyed. You can have faith because your joy isn't determined by your circumstances. 
 Whatever your challenges are today...don't be afraid because God is already there. 

Prayer of the Day

"Grant me to know that I truly live only when I live to Thee, that all else is trifling."
                                              - The Valley of Vision

Friday, April 8, 2016

Quote of the Day

"Remember, O my soul, it is thy duty and privilege to rejoice in God; He requires it of thee for all His favors of grace. Rejoice then in the Giver and His goodness!"
                           - The Valley of Vision

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Big Faith In A World of Fear

 The heart rate speeds, and the mind flies from one thought to another. Anxious feelings drive me more than I like to admit. Deadlines loom large. Questions about how things will work out or what direction to take. All these things? They take my peace and steal my joy. In the midst of such maddening fears, faith gets lost. I cease to look to the Source of my life and take my gaze off the One who alone gives calm in a world gone crazy. 
 And yet, in the midst of my self-made confusion, He speaks. Often through the little things, He reminds me gently that fear is just a lie. He tells me that I will once again be centered on what really matters if I'll just open my eyes and count the ways He loves. If I'll just remember that He holds all in His capable hands. And didn't He once say that even the little birds do not fall to the ground without His notice? That the very hairs on my head are numbered and known by Him? "Do not be afraid," is His message. For my life is worth more than the little birds (Matthew 10:29-31). 
 Faith. I'm beginning to see how much I need it daily. How often I am led toward unbelief because I do not trust Him! This journey of Grace takes so much heart! Fighting the fear, facing the doubts - it takes courage in abundance! And only He can provide it. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Quote of the Day

"God's afflictive providences are the strokes of a father, not the wounds of an enemy...out of the bitterest drug God distills His glory, and our happiness."
                             - Thomas Watson in Religion: Our True Interest

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Prayer of the Day

"I bless Thee for tempering every distress with joy; too much of the former might weigh me down, too much of the latter might puff me up. Thou are wise to give me a taste of both."
                       - The Valley of Vision

Monday, April 4, 2016

Quote of the Day

"To know that nothing hurts the godly, is a matter of comfort; but to be assured that all things which fall shall cooperate for their good, that all crosses shall be turned into blessings, that showers of affliction water the withering root of their grace and make it flourish more; this may fill their hearts with joy till they run over."
                                     - Thomas Watson

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Quote of the Day

"Christ went more willingly to the cross than we do to the throne of grace."
                                        - Thomas Watson

Friday, April 1, 2016

Quote of the Day

"A truly humble man is sensible of his natural distance from God; of his dependence on Him; of the insufficiency of his own power and wisdom; and that it is by God's power that he upheld and provided for, and that he needs God's wisdom to lead and guide him, and His might to enable him to do what he ought for Him."
                        - Jonathan Edwards