What Brings You Here ?

I am forever fascinated by the Christmas story and what brought each of those in it to their ultimate destination. Each person, in the final analysis, was seeking to fulfill an obligation, seeking answers or seeking an unknown that was greater than themselves. That tells me something very powerful. It says there is an idea, a concept and an in-built knowing in the DNA of every human that must seek the truth. Interestingly enough, we find that truth in seeking it through our own frame of reference and the life experience we have had.

First consider Joseph and Mary. They were seeking shelter in their ancestral village because they were familiar with living in a home. They did not seek a tent, a cave or a houseboat. They went to an Inn. Even though their final destination was adjusted and they ended up in a stable, it was in seeking the familiar in an unfamiliar place that they landed in the exact place they needed to be in order to give birth to the Truth.

Next consider the shepherds. They were humble people who lived in the fields and tended their flocks. When they had their imaginations set on fire by an angelic visitation, what did they do? They began to seek an answer and ended up in the very same stable. They found an unfamiliar answer in a very familiar feeding troth for animals. Nothing could be more suitable than a place such as this for shepherds to discover the Truth.

Last but certainly not least, we have the wise men. They were star gazers who looked to the heavens for answers. Even though astrology is a false belief, God still used what these men knew to bring them to the Truth. They had a working knowledge of the heavens and they used that to follow a star which pointed them to the very spot Truth was to be found. Thus they landed in very unfamiliar territory just because God used the familiar to get them there. I am very encouraged by the concept that He uses what we know to get us to the Truth we don’t know.

When I see people wandering around with unclear vision and no truth to guide their life, it can seem very disheartening. They make decisions and have ideas that cause me to cringe inside. In spite of it all, I am still convinced that the One who made them is more than able to get them to the place where they will see and experience Truth. People may come from different directions and totally different backgrounds. They may have different beliefs and different ideas of what truth is. However, the One who is greater than all that confusion is able to reach them. He uses the familiar to bring each of us to the unfamiliar Truth that God loves us no matter what we have done and He sent Jesus to be the way back to Him. That is the essence of the Christmas message and the Truth we all need to hear.

If you are considering your life, and wondering what Truth really is, be open to the idea that God will use the familiar to lead you into a truth that may be totally unfamiliar. When things happen that don’t make sense, and you find yourself in very strange territory, sit back and look at it from a new perspective. Look for the truth that is embedded in the situation which is designed to set you free. Everything takes on new meaning when we can reframe what happens. Best of all, unexpected change actually becomes a welcomed partner that reveals the Truth to us in this adventure we call life.

The Unexpected Turn

When I was a young man of about 14 my father took it upon himself to teach me how to drive. He was an Adirondack guide and the sole caretaker for the Malenson camp called Forest Lodge on upper Saint Regis Lake, near Paul Smith, NY. One day, on the 4 mile drive from the boat landing, through a narrow dirt road  that led to the lodge, he pulled over and said “ok, son here you go. Now take the wheel and drive us to camp.”

I was beside myself with joy, anticipation, excitement and a touch of good old fashion fear. However, the though of shifting gears and hitting the gas on that 1954, rag-top, 4 wheel drive Willies Jeep quickly overcame any feeling of inadequacy I may have had. In a moment I found myself behind the wheel, sensing and feeling the raw power of that slow-moving, mean green machine.

New-found freedom and unlimited adventure just swept over me. I was the captain of my ship and the master of my fate as I drove my father to our place of work on that early summer morning in 1968. We splashed through deep mud holes and terrified the frogs that were floating there. We crossed a gravel filled river bed, wound around kettle hole lakes and climbed the side of sandy hills which had been deposited by the last glacier that passed our way. It was an amazing journey that I had made hundreds of times but was now actually experiencing in a new way for the very first time.

As we drove along, my mind wandered off to the back-woods adventures and mountain excursions I would surely make with my trusty Jeep. Then my father’s voice broke the moment and I was jerked back to reality. His hand grabbed the wheel just as I was about to take my first unplanned “off-road” trip. A turn I had not expected suddenly bent to the left. I however, was headed in a straight line, right into the tangled brush on the side of the road. That unexpected turn in my moment of distraction, nearly ended this first driving experience in a very unpleasant way.

I learned two things that day I have never forgotten. The first is that we should never allow ourselves the luxury of letting our minds wander so far into the future that we forget to stay focused in the here and now. The future you end up with is always built upon  how well you attend to the present. The second thing I learned is that we all need the help of those who are older and have more experience. Life is designed by God to be multi-generational. When we fail to honor and listen to those who have gone before us, the unexpected turns we encounter have the potential to quickly end our moment in the sun.

Do yourself a huge favor in this new year and never stop looking to the future. Look with anticipation and expectation. We all need this! However, as you look, stay focused on the present and hold in honor those who have gone before you. These are the ones God has given you to help you navigate in the present through those unexpected turns. Like it or not, we all need such people in our lives in order to be happy and successful. None of us can make it alone in this world, and the sooner we embrace that truth the better life will be. Happy New Year !

Seasons Of Life

We live in a part of the country where the seasons play a major role in the lives of everyone. The temperature, daylight, wind and precipitation all change with such dynamic force that how people live each day is actually determined by them. Their manner of dress, outside activities and personal interactions are all held in check by how these things tend to manifest daily.

What we do during each of the different natural seasons may be influenced by those outside factors, but they don’t have to be controlled by them. This key concept produces a very distinct and important difference. What I mean is, we still go outside rain, sun or snow, but what we do when we are outside will definitely change. We still clothe ourselves winter or summer, but what clothes we wear must be appropriate to the environment around us. Thus the season is an influence, and this brings change, but we never allow the season so much control that all our activity is brought to a halt.

In life, how we choose to view our situation does the exact same thing. Our attitude and point of view either allow us to navigate through the difficult seasons of life with fluid ease, or they causes us to fight against each one in agitated frustration. The first leaves us vibrant with fresh answers and new vision while the latter drains us of vitality and robs us of hope and the amazing wonder of just being alive.

What season of life are you in right now? Are you longing for the soft, warm breeze of an emotional spring, but wake up each day to the harsh reality of a biting, bitter winter wind? If circumstances have grabbed the power to control who you are and what you do, then let me be a momentary voice of reason in this confusing season. If you hear what I say it can make all the difference in how you actually live the rest of your life.

First of all, begin to take stock in all you have accomplished, all you have enjoyed and all who love you. These are the magnificent treasures of life that go with you no matter what happens. Secondly, and more importantly, rediscover the amazing love God has for you. He is the penetrating warmth of a blazing summer sun. His love is more than enough to wash away the deepest, darkest pain in your life. Find Him and you will find the answer to every one of life’s unanswered questions. As the saying goes “Wise men still seek Him!” Merry Christmas!

Life On The High Wire

NIAGARA FALLS TIGHTROPESeveral years ago my wife and I were on vacation and we stopped to eat at a restaurant that was located at the very top of a very tall building. We saw the advertisement for this place a few days earlier and decided a meal “in the clouds” would be a great way to wrap up a more memorable vacation. So on a windy, September day we found ourselves hundreds of feet above the ground, surrounded by glass and eating a rather wonderful dinner.

We were enjoying each others company in this lofty place when I happened to glance outside once again. At that moment something caught my eye and it so startled me that I stopped eating and sat there absolutely transfixed. I was certain I must be seeing something that surely could not be there. We were over 800 feet in the air, and in the distance other sky scrapers jutted up into the horizon. Birds were sailing in the wind and occasionally a small cloud would sail by our window. However, there he was, a lone man in perfect balance, walking without a harness on what appeared to be a thread as fine as a human hair. I was absolutely speechless, terrified and in awe all at the same time!

As I ponder this event, I am captured by the idea of what life is like for those who live it on the high wire. No, I’m not talking about actually walking across a wire, hundreds of feet in the air. I will leave that to circus performers. What I mean is something much more practical. What is life like for those who have found that perfect place of balance and daring? It’s the life of controlled risk that propels them into every new day as an adventure to be lived, rather than a difficulty to be endured. This is life on the high wire and once you walk it, you are ruined to live any other way.

This is the life that looks outside itself and desires to help even if is means there is a bit of inconvenience. It’s one that seeks to make the world around them a better place by caring about those things that matter to others. Most of all it takes the time to build relationships and it listens with the heart. Finally, it genuinely supports and encourages others no matter who they are or what are struggling with. This is life on the high wire and it can truly be amazing.

If your life seems to be dragging along in the low lands, perhaps it’s time to look up and see the high wire above that dusty plain. Decide today that you can have a life above those self-centered things that focus your attention in the wrong direction. Once you begin to look outside the window of your own life, you will find inspiration in those who have chosen to live their life on the high wire.

No doubt it will leave you uncertain, unsettled and uncomfortable at times. It may cause you frustration and cost you finances. However, the rewards are so fantastic once you go there, that you will never want to come back. If you only do one thing today, find someone who lives on the high wire and then follow their example. If you do, you will lay your head on the pillow tonight in satisfaction, knowing your life has finally made a difference.

The Well-Worn Path

I have lived most of my life in rural America. I grew up in a village of 600 people in the heart of the northern Adirondacks of New York State. I attended 3 different colleges and helped to start three different churches, all of which were basically rural in nature as well. I guess you could say I am a country boy at heart, even though my life’s work has taken me to some of the largest, and most congested cities on the planet. This has happened  primarily because I love the adventure that comes from not following the well-worn path.

As a kid I was never one to just take the path others ran on, unless I was late. My joy came in cutting across the underbrush, walking through an old abandoned foundation and finding “gold” along the way that others missed. My pockets would be bulging with indian arrow heads,  quartz crystals, tiny moss-covered medicine bottles  and a dozen other national treasures. It was the child-like joy of finding these hidden treasures off the beaten path that made the adventure so rewarding. Others envied my growing stash of loot, but few wanted to go where I went to uncover it.

Here, my friends, is the rub. We all want our lives filled with amazing treasures but we are often hoping to find them along the path we have always taken. I rediscovered a principle recently that I always knew instinctively in my childhood. Namely, I have to get off the well-worn path, that place of comfortable consistency, in order to find the  hidden treasure that has been placed in my life. Until I am willing to risk failure, and the uncomfortable knowledge that I don’t know how things will turn out, I will never experience the thrill of uncovering that which others will never see.

My newest trek off the well-worn path will take me to Nigeria this coming August. I was there 5 years ago doing the MMFI International ministers conference with my wife, and it transformed our lives. We returned home after two weeks and 20, 000 miles of travel, totally exhausted.  However, our pockets were filled to overflowing with the hidden treasure of hundreds of changed  lives in Africa. We ordained 63 pastors and since that time more than a thousand churches have connect to MMFI through those men.

I’ll be going back with my friend and spiritual father Apostle Rick Callahan this time. We will both be digging for the unseen treasure in those godly men and women who attend that conference.  To do that we will also both be investing a great deal of time and money to take this step off the well-worn path. In case you missed it, this means there is a cost that all must pay who go this way… it’s not an easy or a free ride.

What about you? Are you sick of your well-worn path and in need of a new adventure? Has your road become more of a rut and daily life taken on the flavor of luke warm coffee? Perhaps it is time to look off the beaten path and recapture the zeal you once had for living. Step out… take a chance… begin to dream again! Get off the well-worn path and embrace the uncertainty of a life well lived in undiscovered territory. You will be amazed at the adventures that are waiting to happen just because you dared to risk it and go another way.

What’s That Strapped To Your Back?

A note to my readers: It was brought to my attention that the opening story of this particular blog has only minor historical documentation.  I ran across it while doing other research on the internet and it captured my attention. Upon investigation I found some small proof of this practice but I pick it up from the writing of another. The concept has some powerful applications in real life. History records the brutality of the Roman Empire in graphic detail, and there is some second hand evidence that the practice mentioned below was used. That being said I hope you can learn the life lessons it teaches. Thanks for reading!!

One of the most brutal and deadly practices of the Roman Empire was it’s treatment of condemned criminals. Those who had committed crimes against the empire were brutalized by being nailed, naked to a cross for all to ridicule, spit on and mock. However there was still one punishment which was reserved for the worst of the worst which is almost unimaginable for us to think about. Those people who were especially hated for their crimes were sentenced to carry around “dead weight”.

This term has come down through the generations and to us it means to carry that which has no benefit or purpose and actually causes harm. However, to the Romans the term referred to practice of strapping a dead body to a criminal. They were forced to live out there last few weeks in a walking punishment by carrying a maggot infested corpse strapped to their bare back. During the process of decomposition it slowly leaked poisons into the criminal making them sicker and sicker until they finally died a very slow, painful, stench filled death.

Why would I bring up such a disgusting thing? Because I meet people almost daily who unknowingly have “dead weight” strapped to their backs, and for them it’s a normal way of life. I know those who carry bitterness, unforgiveness, resentment and a host of other rotting corpses around, all because of something someone said or did a month, ten years or half a lifetime ago. Over time these things have leaked their poison into them and I watch in unbelief as it bends them over in isolated pain and unsatisfied anger.

What about you? Is there something strapped to your back? Were you offended, hurt, rejected, ignored, betrayed or abused by someone yesterday or perhaps 40 years ago? Since then has life just not been right and every new day causes you to remember just how unfair things are? Do you live an unsatisfied life that is overrun by a need to see justice or vengeance? If this is you, then you are one of those who are carrying “dead weight” and it’s only a matter of time before it kills you. Though you don’t know it, the smell of rotting flesh is all around you and those closest to you know the effects of it all too well.

What’s the solution? It’s amazingly simple…. Forgive! No matter what the hurt, what the abuse, what the trauma inflicted upon you, just forgive.. LET IT GO! Once you make that simple decision, every piece of “dead weight” that is strapped to your back has to fall off. You may not believe it yet, but this is the greatest act of personal liberation anyone can ever give themselves. I think it’s time to ask ourselves, and those we really love, “what’s that strapped to your back?” Once we do, and we choose to forgive, we can walk in the only truth that has the power to set those in captivity free. That truth is found in what Jesus said, “forgive and you shall be forgiven”. Do yourself the greatest favor of all; forgive anyone who hurt you, then get cleaned up and go live your life to the fullest!