A Life Worth Living

Image may contain: motorcycle, tree and outdoorOn May 16th, my grandson and I were coming home from the Wheelerville School. I was the substitute teacher in his classroom that day, and the bonus for him was that he got to ride on the back of my Honda Shadow VT1100C. We left school and came down off of Clip Hill, heading for  home in Johnstown, NY. The rumble of my motorcycle on that beautiful spring day was accented by the warm, moist air rushing by us, and the brilliant sunshine that was pouring down from a deep blue sky. It was one of the most perfect Spring days I have experienced in my 48 years of riding motorcycles.

We were traveling at normal highway speed in a line of traffic, and at a safe distance from the vehicle ahead of us. As we approached the Sir William Johnson Fire House, which was just outside of town, something happened. At that moment, I glanced down at my odometer to check the mileage, and make a quick mental calculation on when to stop and refill my gas tank. My eyes were off the road for about three seconds, but when I looked back up, terror gripped my heart. The driver in front of me had decided to suddenly break and make quick left-hand turn at the very moment I had looked down. It was a perfect storm of chance events, and the results were not going to be good.

When I looked up at the road ahead I realized there was not enough space to stop my bike, or manuever around the stopped vehicle. I downshifted, hit both breaks and leaned the bike over trying to protect my grandson, while getting as much stopping power as I could before we hit the vehicle. We impacted it’s rear right bumper at about 25mph and my bike went down on the road while my grandson and I were catapulted into the air. He ended up with a few abrasions on his knees, and a scraped up faceplate on his helmet, but I did not fare as well. My right side bounced off the road, I slid along the tar and finally flopped into a muddy ditch 35 feet away. I had a few crack ribs, four breaks in my lower right leg, an open fracture, cracked bones in my right foot, strained tendons and ligaments in my right leg, and numerous cuts and abrasions all over my body.

Ambulances came to take us to a local hospital where my grandson was checked over and released with a few scrapes. I was rushed to Albany Medical Center where I underwent emergency surgery on my leg. After setting the broken bones, and two and a half hours on the operating table, I was brought back to my hospital room in pain, but happy to be alive. My leg now has 4 titanium screws, 25 stitches and a long titanium rod running inside the full length of my right Tibia. I have weeks ahead of me with my leg elevate, and more weeks of physical therapy for me to return to full strength. And the bike? Well it has relatively minor damage that can be repaired, but I have no collision insurance so it’s all on me.

The obvious question I have been asked by numerous people who visited me since the accident is: “So are you ready to give up the motorcycle?” My answer has been pretty much the same each time,”Why? Did you stop driving when you wrecked your car? Did you give up fishing when you hooked yourself? Did you give up walking when you fell down?” Now let me clarify that I will drive with more care. I will stay back even further from other vehicles. I will stay even more alert to what is ahead. Yes! But, will I stop riding my motorcycle and no longer enjoy that sweet pleasure of life? The answer will always be an emphatic, No! Not until the Lord says it’s time to give it up. When I hear that from Him, it’s over!

A life worth living is the one you can enjoy without fear controlling your decisions. It is filled with risk, and blessed with reward. It is punctuated by mistakes and elevated by victories. It may be colored by pain at times, but it is also made real with unbounded joy. Most of all, it comes alive in moments of glory, or seasons of sorrow that happen as we live it to the fullest. Some may opt to live a safe, protected, bubble-wrapped life, but I submit to you that such a life is not worth living. It is simply existing in the safety net where risk is eliminated and so is passion. When victories are minimal, and the adventure of living has been sanitized away so that routine runs the show, and there are no unwanted surprises, this is no life at all. It is simply existing in a protected safety zone of comfort until you die.

How do you categorize your life? Is it neatly packaged, and clearly ordered so that you feel secure and safe, and the adventure is all but eliminated? Is it an air-conditioned, climate controlled, bug free, green zone of organized boredom? Life is short, and you must make the most of the time you have. Perhaps it is time to strap on a helmet, feel the wind in your face and see what it’s like to live a little on the edge. Break out for your deadly routines and try something different, even a bit dangerous. You can begin to live the adventure you always wanted. It only takes one decision, one step in a new direction.

You don’t have to climb Mount Everest, jump out of an air plane, trek to the South Pole or walk the Great Wall of China. Others can do such extreme things. No, you only have to break out of the mold, the comfort you have surrounded yourself with, and try something different, simple and new. It could be eating at a very different kind of restaurant, reading a new book or learning to dance. Perhaps it is vacationing in a new spot you saw on a map, or learing to drive a motorcycle or paddle a kayak. The possibilities are endless. Once you get a breakthrough, nothing will ever be the same. The question you must ask yourself is this; “Is my life the unmarked trail of adventure I want it to be, or is it the predictable, sign covered road I will safely walk, till I die?”

What is a life worth living? That, my friends, is the million dollar question we each must answer for ourselves. Mine will be very different from yours, but such a life will leave you breathless with anticipation for what might come next. It will stir your imagination, require fresh courage and fill you with the joy of discovering something you never experienced before. It will have moments of danger and risk, but it will bring the satisfaction of doing something others look at and wish they had done. A life worth living really is there for the taking. It’s just one decision away, and you can have it today. The question is, do you want it, and will you take the first step to get it? If not, take a moment to discover what’s holding you back and then move beyond it. Your life, the one you always wanted is out there waiting for you.. now go get it!

When You Have To Make A Choice

It-is-not-hard-to-make-decisions-once-you-know-what-your-values-are.Over more than 40 years of counseling and personal ministry, I have noticed that sometimes there are no easy answers to the thorny problems of life. We can do our best, try our hardest, and give it all we have, but in the end we may still come up with the “short end of the stick”. There just may not be enough time, wisdome, knowledge, finances or personal skills. Like it or not, when that happens, we are put in a position where a decision must be made. That hard choice is always based upon the reality of what is, even if we don’t like where “it” is going.

This is especially true when that place of hard, naked reality is caused by someone you know, love and trust. If that happens, it can feel like such a punch in the gut that we can become stuck in the quicksand of life. Unfortunately, every action we take from that point forward, seems to make it harder to think clearly. It becomes more difficult to have good judgement so we can move forward in the right direction. When life, or someone in it, gives us a raw deal, it can hold us captive and produce what I have come to call “SP”, or  “Situational Paralysis”.

The inability to make a decision, or move in a defined direction in traumatic situations, causes “SP” to set in. This can be a painful and frustrating thing for everyone involved. It makes some feel trapped in an invisible prison, where there is no key to unlock the door. For others, it becomes a reality where life is frozen in place, and emotions are locked to an event that is re-experianced almost daily. The twilight-zone of existance this creates is nearly impossible to break out of, and many have succumbed to it, literally putting the rest of  their productive lives on hold.

I have seen the hardiest of souls crumble, and watched them flounder in life like a wounded bird, wasting precious time by wondering what to do next. It could have happened because of personal ignorance, lack of information or unmet expectations. It may have been the result of thoughtlessness, the uncaring actions of someone who is focused elsewhere, or through perceived or genuine trauma. However it happens, it is a painful reality, and until it is dismanteled and overcome, those suffering under it are virtually held captive for life.

The key that unlocks this demonic trap is quite simple, once you know it. I have discsovered that what sets people free to begin making good decisions again, is knowing what their values are, and holding to the convictions that are anchored to them. Values and convictions don’t just define who  we  are as people, they actually define the life we live. These are the foundation stones of everyone’s character, and the reality is, character is what makes us who we are. More than that, it is what makes our life what it is.

We all have character within us, in one form or another. It is there from the earliest stages of our life. Every mother will tell you, even in the womb, their children all behaved differently. Every mother also knows their newborn children were all distinctly different at birth. The Bibile says that difference is the inborn character God gave them.  Psalms 149:13 says, “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb” The Hebrew words, “formed” and “inward” mean, to gather and bring together the mind, heart and feelings of an umborn child. It is a very intimate, first-hand knowledge of that child’s nature and personality.

In case you missed it, this is the bedrock of who we are, and how we make decisions, and it is fused into the reality of how God made us. What people don’t realize is when we ignore our Creator, we also defy the design for wholeness and unity He placed within us. This produces a break from reality, and it disconnects us from the truth of who we are in any crisis. When crisis happens, especially in important relationships, it strikes at the root of our innermost need for unity and security, and this is the reason why we become paralized in such situations.

When people begin to refine their character, values and convictions according to God’s design, and His eternal word, nothing shakes them. The faithful, unchanging love, and absolute truth of God, becomes an anchor for the soul, and the calm in every storm. The mighty wind that destroy others, is simply a powerful force that is harnessed to propel us forward into our destiny. For those who are securely embraced by the truth of who God made them to be, it is impossible to stop them from moving forward. It is impossible to take away their vision, or hold them captive by anything in this world. Why? Because they may be in this broken, beautiful world, but they are not of it. That, my friends, brings the untimate freedom, and it releases everyone from every captivity.

Are you suffering under the bondage to “SP”? Are you paralized by some past situation, feeling emotionally stuck to it, and lacking clear vision for the future? Prehaps it is time to go back to the roots of who you are, what your real values are, and who God made you to be. Psalm 139:14 says; “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made, wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well”.  It’s time to hand your life back over to the One who made it. He is the only One who can lift you up, pull you out of the mirey clay and set your feet upon a rock. He has already broken the power of everything that wants to hold you back.

How do you do this? Just invite Jesus into your life. Surrender every situation, every hurt, every place you are stuck, to Him. Give Him your weakness and failures, and he will give you His love and strength. In that wonderful exchange, you can start to move forward through His never-ending strength, and begin to step into all that God has prepared for you, from the foundation of the world. He has been waiting a long time to pour His love out on you. Go ahead and receve that love and forgiveness right now……

If you invited Jesus to take over your life, shoot me an email with your address. My email is wemmons@gmail.com.  I have some great, free materials to send you that will help you as you walk forward with God in this new life.

 

 

Walking In Your Wilderness

wilderness

Deuteronomy 32:10 says “He found him in a desert, and in a howling waste of a wilderness, He encircled him, He cared for him as the apple of His eye”. What a powerful picture is painted here of God’s concern and care for those who a wandering in a wilderness of life. It matters not if they chose it for themselves, it happened unexpectedly or God Himself actually took them there. The point is, they were in it alone, and in His own time God came to them and cared for them, whether they deserved it or not.

I say the above because there is a time in everyone’s life when they find ourselves totally alone. This is not so much a physical thing, but it’s more of an emotional and spiritual season of isolation. When it finds us, we cannot avoid the impact it has on everything we hold dear. This wandering might last a few weeks, a few months or even longer, but once it arrives, it does not depart until it’s work is done. This isolated plateau of the soul is identified in the Bible as a place called “the wilderness”. We arrive in this place by ourselves, distracted and in an unrefined condition, but rest assured, we will not leave it the same way.

In this empty season no one is there to carry us, guide us or give us the companionship we think we need. Not one person is there at our side, providing step by step instructions to bring us into the new place we need to be. The fact is, every man or woman of God who is destined to fulfill their life calling, has to make this journey. Even those who do not know God, but are hungry to do better, will be taken to this place. The truth is, I believe this trip into the wasteland of our soul, is a necessary part of healthy personal and spiritual growth. As a result, it is my conviction that these times of barrenness should not be avoided, but they should be looked at with clarity, embraced with sincerity and fully walked out.

It is only during our wilderness experience that we are fundamentally changed. Our metal is tested, our character is developed and our flaws are painfully exposed. It can be a powerful time of personal evaluation and transformation. The excess baggage and wrong thinking we have picked up in life are finally thrown off. What is really important and genuinely necessary comes into clear focus, perhaps for the first time. For some, this brings a shocking revelation of how shallow and self-absorbed they really are. For others, it is a grand adventure as they rediscover who they are, and begin to build upon that good foundation to become even better. These are powerful times we enter into alone and unsettled, but emerge focused and quite comfortable in our own skin.

I was just in such a season not long ago. I got back from a powerful ministry trip to the Philippines. Myself and an Apostle did two conferences and ministered at numerous church meetings. When I returned home, my wife then flew off to California to be with our daughter, who was having our 10th grandchild. I was alone in our house, after all that personal attention and activity, surrounded by the “stuff” of our lives. I was totally alone for two weeks, and the impact this had on me was quite deep. It became a time of introspection, where I was able to seek God, ponder my life and consider how I got “here”. I reflected on the family I grew up in, the wilderness seasons I had been through, and the lessons I learned that made me the man I am.

I pondered how my father was a strong presence of security in our home. He made us feel wanted, valued and safe. He was an intelligent, slender, quiet, thoughtful man who spoke very few words, but meant every word he said. He was kind and gentle, filled with internal strength yet tender. He had a will of iron and a backbone that could support it. He was an outdoors-men to the bone and loved the woods, but could still carry his own with any city dweller. His word was his bond. He had a peaceful stability about him that filled our lives, and had the power to make everything alright, even when it wasn’t. On his death bed, his bright blue eyes looked at me with a calm resolve and they were able to reassured me that even this would be fine.

His example, both the good and the bad, served to shape me in ways I am just now discovering. Among other things, he taught me the wholesome value of a strong cup of hot, black tea and a slow cooked venison stew. He taught me the blessing of honest work and the need for personal sacrifice when it came to family. He showed me that failing to plan for retirement meant you could never retire. He showed me how to love the wife God gave me, and how to care for my family, no matter what the personal cost might be. He demonstrated the value of living debt free, and within our financial means. He also showed me why it was important to pay cash for the things we needed or wanted. The truth is, my father taught me how to be a real man.

Because of that, I became the kind of man my children could look up to. I showed them it’s OK to not always be right, but it is good to always be willing to make things right. They learned how to be a leader in their own homes, and the voice of reason to their children, when it is needed. They were shown how to love their wives and children in ways that are meaningful to them, and to do what must be done to provide for their families. Most of all, I taught them not to see the government as their source of income. Welfare is NOT a lifestyle, it is an emergency crutch until someone who needs it can get back on your feet. They were taught to seek God, plan with care and work hard. They learned from me that these things are more than enough to bring them all the provision they will ever need.

How did I learn these things, you might ask? These truth’s became life lessons during my wilderness wanderings. They became real when there was no one to prop me up or carry me, but Jesus. It was the time I found myself needing a teaching job. I prayed and sought God, and the perfect job opened up where there had been none the week before. It was the time I quit my teaching job, at age 35, and my a wife and three boys followed me back to college. We needed a place to live in Plattsburgh NY, and out of nowhere an apartment opened up near the college that we could afford. It was the time our cupboards were totally empty and I gave my sons the last of the powdered milk and instant mashed potatoes for breakfast. I went to class hungry that morning, but when I returned home that evening, food filled our shelves, our hallway and every counter top in our kitchen. I told no one but God about our need, and He showed me His faithfulness.

Without those wilderness journey’s my knowledge of God, and experiences with Him, would be sorely lacking. Unless I had been willing to walk through those barren wastelands, I would have never seen God’s ability to bring such abundant provision in my desperate lack. My faith was built up, my trust was properly anchored and my life story was enriched, all because of a desert trip. How grateful I am that many times God has led me into a waste-howling wilderness, to be tempted, tried and tested. At times I failed, but even in my failure I still learned valuable lessons that changed my life forever. The truth is, I would not trade those experiences for any amount of money or fame, because they made me, and my family, what we are today.

Right now, are you looking at a dry, sandy landscape, where there is no water and everything looks dead? Are you feeling alone in a barren landscape, with no clear answers, and you wonder where God is in all of it? If so, let me suggest to you that your current condition is actually designed by God to change you in ways you don’t yet understand. He is simply doing with you the very same thing He did with Jesus. What a privilege that is!

You need to walk it out, one step at a time, and pray with an honest and pure heart. You need to get real about your weaknesses until you find the place of rest in God. Once you are open to change and ready embrace your own weakness, you can then exchange your whole, weak mess for the strength God offers. Until then, you will find yourself a desert dweller. Perhaps this is your time to finally change and fully embrace the truth about who you really are. Once that’s been done, you can move on. Never forget that today’s wilderness is the perfect foundation for the God-ordained life you will walk in tomorrow !

Lessons From A Gold Mine

My wife and I are frequently in Canada for ministry and we both have come to love that nation and its multi-cultural identity. The French influence of Québec brings a touch of Europe to the nation that we enjoy in different ways. The fact is I have always had a strong affection for the Canadian people because I lived every summer of my youth on Meacham Lake which is a public campsite about 20 miles from the border. As a result I had many Canadian friends and several Canadian girlfriends as well. Because of this, every trip we make into Canada brings a warm familiarity that is kind of like going home.

One of the churches that we love and we often visit for ministry is in a place called Thetford Mines. It’s a beautiful community with a strong French influence and several great churches that are growing. On one such visit our host pastors, who are also dear friends, ask us to go with them to visit a woman who lived north of the city and was ill. She as in a deteriorating condition and wanted us to come and pray for her.

As we drove through the countryside to her house, the pastors explained that her husband had just retired. They were both in their mid-sixties and had been looking forward to this time for many years. They now had the time to travel, help in the church and just enjoy life now that work was behind them. When this illness hit it put everything on hold.

We finally arrived at the house and after knocking on the door a younger man, whom I assumed might be the oldest son, welcomed us in. He took us into the living room and there sat an elegant woman in a wheel chair. It was clear she was in her mid-sixties. Her hair was neatly pulled back and there was a refinement about her that the younger man clearly enjoyed. The moment we sat he offered us a cup of tea and then we began a conversation half in English and half in French as the pastor interpreted.

As I looked around the room, something caught my eye. There on the wall was a picture of the younger man standing next to a much younger version this same woman. It was a wedding picture and I immediately thought, “How could this be the same man and woman?” The question just hung there in my mind. I have a Master Degree in Biology and my scientific mind looked at the picture before me knowing the pieces just didn’t fit. How could this be her 65 year old retired husband when he looked to be about 45?

As the man talked about their life together and the career he had, I discovered what the secret was. He had spent most of his life some 3000+ feet underground in a gold mine. Four or five days a week, 12 hours a day he had breathed purified air and drank purified water. He had been shielded all those years from natural radiation, ultraviolet, the suns rays and the pollution that is evident on the surface of our fallen world. Even the nightly news, with its negative slant, could not be picked up so far underground thus his main source of entertainment had been his Bible and the Christian music he brought with him.

The biblical reality that this demonstrates is astounding. Think for just a moment what it means to be in Christ and shielded by His love. Jesus conquered sin, hell, death and the grave by his death on the cross and resurrection. Because of this, nothing in heaven or on earth has the power to break through that barrier and separate us from His love. Just as this man was protected from the natural destructive elements of this world, so we are protected in a more perfect way when we are found in Christ. If we can ever get this reality down inside us, life as we know it will change forever.

May I suggest that for those who feel the sting of death and destruction creeping in upon their lives, there is an answer. Surrender your life to Christ, and once you are found in Him, you are shielded. That does not mean you won’t have problems or that people won’t still act selfishly. What it does mean is that you will have a place of refuge to go when problems do come. Best of all you will have a healer and a savior who really is the lover of your soul.