Mystery

The church we go to is in the middle of a sermon series titled, “Identity Crisis.” We are working our way through the book of Colossians. I have read Colossians, heard sermons on it and likely even preached a sermon from the book. However, I haven’t spent the kind of time in study of the letter like I am right now. One of the epic things our church does (Grace Orlando) is they write and provide these handy dandy sermon guides. They are packed full of tons of great stuff – background info on Colossians like what was happening when Paul wrote it, what are the main themes, where Paul was when he wrote it, etc. This provides a holistic approach to the book we are studying. The guide also provides space to take notes during the sermon and a handful of thought-provoking questions to guide personal reflection time and our community groups for further study/discussion.

Over the last month, I have been following up the sermon and studying Colossians in my personal Bible study time. Today I read from the end of chapter one and the beginning of chapter two. As I read, the word ‘mystery’ stood out to me. Paul talks about the mystery of God. He goes on to say the mystery of God is Christ. This can be kinda confusing, but at the same time simple. The mystery of Christ is how mysterious, wonderful and strange it is that the God who created everything would take on the form of his creation, live among us a sinless life so he may die in our place taking our punishment so we may be presented righteous before a holy God. This is a mystery. How did this happen? I daresay, the details of how exactly the incarnation works can not be known by us mere humans. It is a mystery.

As I read this, it occurred to me in our digital age we have lost some of the mystery that is mystery. Maybe I should clarify, I have lost some of the mystery that is mystery. I suspect you may be the same though. In a time when we can pull a handheld computer out of our back pocket and ask Google anything and in a fraction of a second have a more information at our fingertips than was previously possible after hours of research at a library a decade a half ago, we have lost mystery. Mystery is about not knowing all the information. It is about having missing pieces. It is about having to think through and figure out the missing details and connect the dots. We rarely have to do that anymore as Google will accomplish all the hard work for us. We get consumed with information and details and facts and knowing the whole story.

On one hand, this is very attractive to me. I like to know the details. I like to know what is going on. I like to know as much information as I can. I like to know what is happening. I don’t like surprises and I don’t like to be surprised. I have a need to know. So, for me having a wealth of knowledge at my fingertips is a great resource… but at the same time, it breeds an inability to not have all the facts.

In some ways, it reduces my ability to have joy and satisfaction. It robs me of the pleasure of surprise. It takes away the excitement of not knowing. The exhilaration of the unknown. The unknown brings with it a sense of adventure and wonder and excitement that I often miss out on because I am so consumed with having to know all the details, every little piece, every aspect, all the facts.

But sometimes, the facts and information can’t be known. Won’t be known. Shouldn’t be known.

Mystery brings with it a sense of awe and wonder. No matter how awesome something is, once we figure it out it is difficult for it to carry the same power of awe and wonder. Fire is amazing. But it doesn’t hold the same awe for us who know it is simply a combustion or burning, in which substances combine chemically with oxygen from the air and typically give our bright light, heat and smoke. It is amazing, but it doesn’t hold the same sense of awe and wonder since we have figured it out. Travel over long distances doesn’t hold the same sense of awe it used to. We live in a global reality where we can be anywhere within a matter of hours. Our communities and commutes have grown exponentially over the last 200 hundred years and we now live farther away from our jobs than many people traveled in their whole lives. A 30 mile commute takes an hour in traffic when 100 years ago it would take 10 hours or more to walk there or about 8 hours if you had a horse to ride.

In some ways, the digital age has inhibited our ability to be awed and wondered. Again, maybe I should correct myself and say it has inhibited MY ability to be awed and wondered. Not entirely. There are still things that awe me. Creation never ceases to awe me. Looking at the magnificence of what God has created… it is awesome. As I get older and adjust work/life schedule to better accommodate family, it is harder for me to go run at night, which happens to be my favorite time to run for a variety of reasons. One of the reasons I enjoy running at night, is looking up to the stars and being awed by the vast expanse that is space. I;m not much of an astronomer, but I know enough to know you can tell what time of year it is based on where the Orion constellation is in the night sky. Mountains always awe me. Their hugeness and greatness towering over the landscape is moving. Most of any existence of water on the planet awes me. With the exception of the plethora of retention ponds we have everywhere in Florida (A funny side note, when Ronda and I first started dating and would visit her family in Florida I would ask about why there were so many retention ponds everywhere. She answered me one day, ‘to keep the alligators from coming back.’ I took it as Gospel. I didn’t realize until years later when I said something to her about this that she was joking. They do serve to collect the excess water so as to keep Florida from becoming a swamp again and therefore sorta serve to to keep the gators at bay… but not really.) I Waterfalls amaze me. Springs amaze me. Rivers and creeks amaze me. The beach amazes me. How the moon affects the beach amazes me. Rocks amaze me. Hahaha, I sound like a little kid with that one! But it is true. Trees amaze me. Creation amazes me.

My wife amazes me. She amazes me for more reasons that I could justly articulate. But her commitment and love for me amazes me. Her devotion to God amazes me. Her warm heart and caring soul amaze me. Her never-ending service to me and the boys amazes me. Her strength amazes me. She amazes me.

My boys amaze me… and not always in good ways! They are fantastic, wonderful humans who are amazing. Their caring spirits, good hearts, imaginations and laughter amazes me. Who they are becoming as men amazes me.

I am amazed by the wonder of a God who created me, provides for me as a father and who died for me so I can spend eternity in his presence. The mystery of how he did that is not lost on me. I don’t understand it. I can’t understand it. But I accept it.

Let’s not lose mystery from our lives. I live technology and I love the world I live in, the digital age I wouldn’t want to give it all up… but I equally don’t want to give up being amazed by mystery.

What is mysterious or amazing to you?

Stay Connected

 As he approached the cliff’s edge he was very shaky and nervous. He looked down and slightly tugged on his harness to make sure he was hooked in. He was. He visually inspected the carabiner and figure eight to ensure they were properly attached to his harness. He had gloves on. He bang to slowly inch backwards towards the edge of the cliff.

The closer he got the more nervous he became.

He got to the edge. He froze.

He called back from the edge and begged to be pulled up. He started to go again… stopped and once more begged to be pulled up. It was the point of no return. He was over the edge. He couldn’t go back up.

Back he couldn’t go down either.

He was frozen. Neither able to go up or down. Stuck.

He was going do stay on the cliff face until he died… which fortunately wasn’t going to be long!

Before he knew it he, was rappelling down the cliff. He was still afraid, but at least now he was moving… down.

As he unclipped from the rope, he realized he had conquered his fears. He was still afraid of heights, but they had not won this battle.

In September, I had an opportunity to take two young men from the Independent Living Program at Grace Landing on a camping trip as a culmination of a mentoring program we did with them this spring/summer. The first activity of this trip was a rock climbing trip. This portion of the trip was going to push their limits and challenge their fears. If you have never gone rock climbing or rappelling before, you must pay singular attention and your focus must be on the task at hand. One of the things you learn very quickly, is being connected to the rope is critical… lifesaving.

If you aren’t connected to the rope you will die.

Hands down. There is no way around it. Losing connection to the rope, while on the rock face will end tragically. Over the course of the weekend, one of the conversations I had with the guys was as a man the very real need to stay connected to a community… but more than that, the need to stay connected to God. We are not able to navigate this life on our own. We simply can’t do it. And too many times, we men view asking for help or relying on others as weakness. It isn’t weak to recognize where you need help and then ask for help. Being a part of a community, having a support network allows us to draw on a larger range of experiences and resources to navigate the rough waters of life. Having several other dudes who care deeply about you, allows you a built in accountability network as well as confidants and friends to carry you through the tough times.

But more important than all this, is of course the connection we have to have with God. Having a community of other men is highly beneficial, but we must be connected to the ultimate source. God should be the foundation for all we do and all we are. Relying on him in tough times. Turning to him in good times. Trusting him no matter what is swirling around us in life is essential to being successful. Other people will disappoint us. It’s a matter of when, not if they will. Being connected to God allows us to manage through the times other people let us down.

I encouraged our guys to stay connected to a community, but more importantly to stay connected to God.

the BEGINNING of it all

3630_3630_5Monday June 2nd, 2014 started out like any other Monday morning. As the day progressed there were a few differences that eventually bubbled to the surface.
Eli is now 37. He is closer to 40 than he ever has been. This is the first day of his life as  37 year old man. Old man.
That wasn’t the only beginning. It marked the beginning of a journey Eli has been preparing for over the last four or five years. Eli began a new job.
It was the first day of Eli being on staff with Grace Landing, a faith-based non-profit located in Kissimmee. Eli is coming on staff in a new position at Grace Landing which will be a part of the expected growth that will propel Grace Landing into the mainstream of the community based care and foster care licensing realm. Eli will be the first person at Grace Landing to recruit, train and support foster parents. Eli will be the first Foster Care Licensing Specialist in the history of Grace Landing.
This is a very exciting time not just for Eli, but for Grace Landing. This is a move they have been planning for the last several years and with Eli coming on staff the journey is just now beginning. Eli has much to bring to the table for an organization such as Grace Landing. But, Grace Landing has much to bring to the table as an organization for someone like Eli.
As the hiring process began in a very humble way and progressed and moved through to its final stages, it became clear to all those involved this indeed was the direction God had been leading them both.
Eli will be build on his experiences as a case worker for the state of Florida as well as his experience in ministry in the local church, but also his education and experience in mental health counseling. Eli has recently completed a master’s degree in mental health counseling and will be putting his hard-earned education to use in this position.
Eli will be able to further expound and clarify his love and passion for families as he identifies, trains and equips families to serve the foster children of central Florida. Eli has been searching for an outlet such as this to share his insights and passion for the family and this position at Grace Landing is precisely what he needs to be able to do that.
This isn’t really the beginning of it all… but it is certainly the beginning of a time tat will see incredible growth in the lives of both Eli and Grace Landing.
While 37 may be three years away from being over the hill… it is a lifetime away from being the end of the journey for Eli. This is just the beginning…

Mammoth Cave

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It’s hard to tell where we are in this photo, but we are at the visitors center at Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. One of the goals we set for ourselves as a family on this trip was to share some of the natural beauty and landmarks of our country with the boys.

Goal accomplished.

We have seen the western hemisphere’s longest arch span bridge (New River Gorge), we saw a state forest full of boulders (Coopers Rock State Forest), we have hiked along craggy cliffs and waterfalls (Clifty Falls), crushed pennies with the help of a train, driven over the Ohio river (leading source to the mighty Mississippi river), visited the world’s largest mapped and surveyed cave system (Mammoth Cave) and driven through several beautiful cities (Jacksonville, Charlotte, Columbia, Cincinnati, Louisville, Nashville, Atlanta), driven over and through mountains.

Growing up, we hardly flew anywhere. If we were going on a vacation we drove to get there. This didn’t stop us from going to places that were far from home. This was the first long road trip we have taken as a family, almost 3000 miles by the time we get home tomorrow.

It has been a blast. Not nearly as painful as I would have anticipated. We have had a great time seeing family, seeing the sights and driving in a car.

No matter what the rest of the year holds in store, this week will certainly rank as one of the best weeks of the year.

Hands down.

The Most Exciting Baptism I’ve Ever Been To.

There is this dude in my father in-law’s church who has some sort of seizure disorder. I’m not sure what it is, but with little to no stimulation comes a seizure or blackout.

Too many people in the room, car moving too fast, almost any physical exertion. Anything.

He decides he wants to get baptized. Awesome! So my father in-law, me and one other dude get in the pool with this dude (because we know it is going to be touch and go with him in the pool). He starts off by jumping into the pool. Stands up and says, ‘the doctor said I will never swim again, just had to check.’ He then blacks out and almost drowns twice before we ‘dunk’ him. We get him aware again and he is on his knees in the pool. We dunk him backwards and bring him up… too fast. He goes into a full seizure and almost drowns a third time. It definitely took all three of us to keep him above water. After a few minutes, he comes around and gets out of the pool. I tell him later that was the most exciting baptism I’ve ever been a part of. He was very proud of that.

I wonder, is my relationship with Christ characterized by that kind of excitement? He knew the potential dangers of this outward sign of belonging to God, yet it was important to him to do it.

Am I that excited about letting people know of my convictions regarding Christ?

Are you?

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The Most Exciting Baptism I've Ever Been To.

There is this dude in my father in-law’s church who has some sort of seizure disorder. I’m not sure what it is, but with little to no stimulation comes a seizure or blackout.

Too many people in the room, car moving too fast, almost any physical exertion. Anything.

He decides he wants to get baptized. Awesome! So my father in-law, me and one other dude get in the pool with this dude (because we know it is going to be touch and go with him in the pool). He starts off by jumping into the pool. Stands up and says, ‘the doctor said I will never swim again, just had to check.’ He then blacks out and almost drowns twice before we ‘dunk’ him. We get him aware again and he is on his knees in the pool. We dunk him backwards and bring him up… too fast. He goes into a full seizure and almost drowns a third time. It definitely took all three of us to keep him above water. After a few minutes, he comes around and gets out of the pool. I tell him later that was the most exciting baptism I’ve ever been a part of. He was very proud of that.

I wonder, is my relationship with Christ characterized by that kind of excitement? He knew the potential dangers of this outward sign of belonging to God, yet it was important to him to do it.

Am I that excited about letting people know of my convictions regarding Christ?

Are you?

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