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Yesterday, driving back from visiting folks in the hospital in Lubbock, I noticed my windshield was a bit dirty.  Now normally, this would not even catch my attention.  In fact, one of the things that drives my wife crazy is to get in my car and have to look through the windshield.  I am notorious for not ever cleaning my windshield.  Now if you live in this area, you know this time of year we begin to catch all kinds of bugs with our windshields out on the highway.  So it is not hard to understand why a windshield might need to be cleaned from time to time.

While the truth may lie more on the side of laziness, I choose to believe that the reason I don’t ever clean my windshield is because I have trained myself to see the bigger picture and not be distracted by the dots on my windshield.

I think there is a life-lesson here.  The reality is, life is always going to be full of distraction.  We may set out to be disciplined and focus time with the Father but distractions pop up constantly.  Technology has not helped in this regard – we are never really disconnected.  Our lifestyle is designed for distraction.  So if we are going to grow through this journey toward becoming the image of Christ, we have got to learn to see the bigger picture and not become distracted by the little things that try to pull our attention away from what matters.

It takes commitment and discipline to create space in our lives for the Spirit to work.  It also takes a willingness to do our best to clear distractions and to create that space.

Today we begin the season of Lent.  For the next 40 days leading up to Easter, we are called to slow down and reduce distractions.  We are called to create space in our busy lives for the Spirit of God to work.  We are drawn to turn back to the God who loved us while we were still sinners – enough to sacrifice Jesus for us.

I challenged our church family this past Sunday to make a couple of practices a part of their Lenten observance this year.  The idea behind these practices is to help us reduce distraction, create space and turn back to God.  The first thing I have challenged them to do is to fast and pray – specifically on Tuesdays through the Lenten season.  We are going to have a time of prayer through the lunch hour here at the church each Tuesday and allow people to come and go in a reflective and contemplative setting.

The other discipline I have challenged our family to do is read through the Gospels over the next 40 days.  We have established a reading plan to help folks stay on track.

I challenge you to join us.  Set aside time – Tuesdays are when we will be doing it – to pray and fast.  Focus on God’s love for you – Jesus’ sacrifice of himself for you.  And spend time in God’s word.  If you would like to follow along with the reading plan we have set up for our family, the best way to get your hands on it is to download our app.  It’s totally free and available for your iPhone or Android or even your tablet.  Just go to the respective app store and search FBC Littlefield.  Once you have installed the app, you will notice several buttons at the bottom of the screen – swipe the page to the left and it will show more buttons (oh wow, look, you can listen to sermons and even see the Pastor’s blog – cool).  The button on the far right is titled 40 Days.  Click on that button and it will take you to the reading plan.  Simply click on the specific day and it will then take you to the text for the day in the YouVersion Bible app – – pretty simple.

However you choose to do it – I challenge you to spend time this Lenten season seeking God.  Spend time in prayer and spend time in God’s word.  By removing distractions and creating space, God can use your efforts to change your life.

Now I guess I need to go wash my windshield.

Be blessed this day!

Take Time to Rest

First Chimnea Fire of 2015

Last night I could not pass up the opportunity.  It was mid-50’s and no wind.  Shorts, flip flops and a fire in the chimnea.  As I sat and just relaxed by the fire and looked at the stars, I have to admit, I felt a little guilty.  There are so many things I could have been doing.

But as I sat there enjoying the moment, I was reminded that sometimes we just need a little time to chill out.  Watching the flames and listening to a little indie is good for the temperament and quite possibly the soul.  God was wrapped up in creating for 6 days and then rested.  What makes us think that we can go non-stop with no down time?

I read a great quote last week in an article discussing sabbath and rest.  The author quoted a pastor friend he knew as saying, “Satan doesn’t take a day off – neither should I.”  But then the author of the article commented that maybe we shouldn’t make Satan our role model.

In American culture, working non-stop with little or no rest has become a badge of honor.  We almost feel guilty to take an evening and not put in some work at home.  Technology has made it easy to work virtually anywhere and at any time.

When do we dis-connect and turn off?  When do we allow our brains to shut down?

God created us for work.  But we are also wired for rest.  We need both.  The reality is, we need rest in order to be more productive.  Our productivity suffers when we don’t take some time to regroup.

So I encourage you this week to find some time to slow down.  Just rest without feeling pressure to produce.

God can do some of his best work when we are not focused on anything in particular.

Be blessed.

The Adventure of Life

Curving Highway

The journey we are on is full of ups and downs, curves, speed bumps and forks in the road.  It is a true adventure in the boldest sense of the word.  We don’t always know where the journey will lead us.  In fact, the reality is, we will never know for sure where this road ends.  It all comes back to faith.  We trust that a life lived to honor God will in conclusion end with God.  I believe this to be true – so much so that I stake my very existence on it.

So we put one foot in front of the other and move forward – setting out daily on the adventure of a lifetime.  Will it be safe?  Maybe but probably not.  Will there be possible pain and struggle – most likely.

You may ask, wouldn’t it be more secure to pull over to the side of the road and stop?  Why risk the potential of pain and struggle?

You could do that.  You could check out and pull over.  You could play it safe.  If you do, you might avoid some pain (although I think pain will come in other ways).  You might even avoid some struggles.  But you will also miss out on the joy of life that can only come in the living of it.

It’s about trust.  Who do you trust?  Yourself?  Your career?  Your friends?

The only trustworthy person I know is God.  Thomas Merton, in Thoughts In Solitude, offers a prayer that speaks to this trust.  He says, “And I know that . . . you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.  Therefore, I will trust in you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.  I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

That is my prayer this morning.  May it be yours as well.

Be blessed!

Refuge In the Father

I recently wrote about the hope we have through a relationship with Jesus – a living hope.  You can read that post here.

This morning during my prayer and reading time, I ran across this passage in Psalm 5 verses 11 and 12:

But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
    let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
    that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

 Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous;
    you surround them with your favor as with a shield.

The hope we have in Christ comes when we take refuge in the Father.  As I read these words this morning some thoughts came to mind – the first being I pray I can be found righteous and known for loving God.  The reality for most of us is that we love God a little.  So may we strive to love him more today.

But the second idea from the passage was one of nearness.  As I meditated on these words, the phrase that kept rolling over in my mind was, “spread your protection over them.”  The image here is that of a mother bird spreading her wings over her young.  There is a profound intimacy inherent in this image – God spreading protection over those who would draw near enough to benefit.

As life throws us curves and bumps in the road, we can choose to try and go it alone.  Or we can choose to take refuge in God.

How will you choose today?

For those who may be reading my ramblings who are not familiar with my setting – I live and minister in America.  And not just America – I live and minister in the state of Texas.  And not just in the great state of Texas, but in the region of Texas we affectionately know as west Texas.  Just so that you can better grasp the environment, west does not just refer to the direction, it is a description.  Yes, we live in the western part of the state, but west Texas is more than just a direction – it is a mindset.  People do not live in west Texas for the beauty of the geography necessarily.  And the smell of feedlots and oil production aren’t a real draw either – unless you own the rights to one of those industries.

I have often mused that the only reason people settled in west Texas in the first place was because the wheels fell off their wagons during the migration to the west coast in the 1800’s and they simply decided to declare this unlikely plLocked armsace “home.”

So why do people live in west Texas?  The answer to that question would be as varied as the number of folks you ask.  But I think a common denominator to each response would be the people.  The people in our are of the state are – for the most part – genuine and friendly.  But another quality of Texans, dare I say Americans, is the attitude of individuality.  And west Texans seem to exemplify that attitude more so than many other folks I meet.  There is something of a frontier spirit – a boldness – an attitude that “I don’t need anyone else – I will make it on my own.”  And in our western mindset, we are conditioned to think of ourselves first.  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” has been modified to “Do unto others before they have a chance to do unto you.”  As genuine and friendly as we may be, we are selfish and self-centered at our core.

And so we live our lives looking out for ourselves.  But the Bible speaks of another way.  The Bible teaches that we really do need each other – that we were created and wired for relationships.  Life is not meant to be lived in solitude.  The old adage that no man is an island is not only true but Biblical.  God created us to not only enjoy being around others but to actually be dependent on others.

As an American living in west Texas, that cuts against the grain.  It is not how I am conditioned.  But when I get very honest with myself, I know, somewhere down deep inside, that it is true.  We all need each other.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the church.  We were each created completely and utterly unique, just like everyone else.  We each have unique qualities, gifts and passions that, when used together, compliment each other and work to fulfill God’s kingdom objectives in a way that we could never do alone.

God created us for community for a purpose.

Regardless of where you live, this truth is relevant to you in your setting.  God created you to serve alongside other believers for the benefit of the kingdom.

Are you plugged into a larger community?

Slow Down and Listen

Each morning, I have roughly a thirty minute commute to work. While there are days I wish I could be to the office quicker, most days I use the time in prayer and meditating on the day ahead – a prayer drive.  It continues to be a beneficial time for me because I know the minute I hit the office, it will be pretty much non-stop until time to go home.

This morning, during my prayer drive I found myself praying when something hit me.  The past few weeks, we have had a lot going on.  As a family we have been facing some pretty big decisions and so I caught myself praying “at God” this morning.  I was firing off all these things I need from God – direction, peace, clarity – when I had a sense that God was telling me, “slow down and listen.”

I must be honest, that was not the first time I have heard that same instruction from God.  I tend to be a type A, get it done personality and find myself doing all the talking when I pray most of the time.  But I have to remind myself that prayer is more than airing a laundry list of needs and desires with an expectation that God’s primary role in creation is sitting patiently listening to my needs and then fulfilling them.  Prayer is a two way line of communication.  But if we fail to slow down and listen, we have made prayer something else.

So today, will you listen?  Not that you do not need to share your heart with God – but will you then allow God to share his heart with you?

It takes discipline and practice – but it is necessary as we seek to become more like the master each day.

Slow down . . . Listen.

Be blessed.

Go Ahead and Knock

This morning, the verse of the day on Bible Gateway was Matthew 7:7-8 – a very familiar passage.  When I was younger, we sang these words in a song.  I memorized these verses as a child and have been back to them in my personal journey all my life.

But this morning, as a I meditated on Jesus’ words in these two verses, I began to see them in a different light.  Here is what Jesus said:

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

The thought hit me, rather than seeing these three examples of seeking God as Jesus simply restating the same action, what if we look at Jesus’ words as a progression toward spiritual maturity.  

At the first stage, we are just curious.  We make some inquiries about God and what God might be up to in the world.  As we gain answers to those questions, we determine to pursue it further.  We make an intentional decision to put some effort into investigating – we now have skin in the game – we become more invested.  Our seeking reveals the truth that caught our attention and peaked our curiosity that began this process.  But now, we are faced with the truth we have sought out and we must decide what to do with it.  At that point, we have to have the courage to follow through – to actually put ourselves out there and risk – we have to actually “knock.”

As we progress along The Way, we will be faced with things about God and this journey that we are on that grab our interest.  Those things will move us to seek out new or renewed truth.  But we have not arrived just because we have been exposed to that truth.  We have to do something with it – we have to step out and follow through – we have to begin to live it.

Don’t just ask today.  And don’t stop short by simply seeking.  Follow through.

Be blessed!

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