Captivity

ColossiansThis morning I was reading Colossians 2 and verse eight stood out to me. This verse has been highlighted in my Bible for years now. Many years ago, as I spoke with a friend who was leaving his wife this passage came to my attention as my friend used all manner of worldly thinking and ideology to justify and explain to me why he had suddenly lost interest and was no longer in love with his wife. He used philosophy and so-called wisdom based on the elemental principles of the world as his basis for why what he was doing was not only ok to do, but the only right thing to do. I believe was taken captive by a philosophy which was unable to provide any legitimate substance or foundation for rational thinking.

We have to tendency to lean towards philosophies or ways of thinking that allow us to justify our actions. We tend to use our desires and actions to interpret Scriptures, rather than allowing Scripture to interpret how we should live. This is what my friend did. This is why Paul cautions us to not be taken captive by hollow, empty, deceitful philosophy. That sentence was very loaded. Let me try to break it down.

Paul warns us to not be taken captive. In the original Greek language, which Paul would have written this, the idea is to not be robbed. He says, look out, keep watch so that you may not be robbed. Don’t let your clear, rational thinking be taken captive or robbed from you. Do not let your thought processes be hijacked and stolen from you. Use your critical thinking and rational thought skills (which I would argue are inherent, built-in aspects of our existence thanks to being made ‘in the image of God’ who possesses critical thinking and rational thought) to see through the empty philosophy.

Paul says, what has taken us captive is empty or hollow. The word is empty, meaning there is nothing to it. No substance. Hollow. Valueless, no merit, nothing inside. As I glance across my desk I see my coffee mug. It is empty. There is nothing inside it. Right now, that has no value. It has nothing in it. At 0646, the mug might as well be dead to me. The mug has zero value to it, because the value it brings is contingent upon Empty mugwhat fills it. Philosophy, a word we get by through the combining of one of the Greek words for ‘love’ and the Greek word for ‘wisdom’, so the loving of wisdom must have substance to it. The philosophy or the train of thinking about wisdom have be full of something, not hollow or it is useless.

Paul goes on to describe the philosophy which has taken us captive as deceitful. In the original Greek text, the words empty and deceit follow each other. The text literally reads, empty deceit according to the tradition of men, according to the elements of the world. There is much here, but I want to focus on the deceitful aspect. What makes it deceitful? Its emptiness. The fact that it is hollow and promises what it can not deliver. Just like my coffee mug is deceiving into thinking it has value, when it does not because it is empty. So is the philosophy which has bewitched us. It promises big, but delivers nothing. It is deceit because it has no value or substance to it.

It would be presumptuous for me to speak for you, but I don’t want to be taken captive by anything let alone anything which is empty or hollow. Imagine waking up one day, years from now and realizing you have been chasing a hollow, empty dream. Your whole life, everything you put into that pursuit is wasted, all for nothing. Paul is giving us a wake up call to pay attention to the things we place our trust in and what we rely on. Are we trusting in philosophies which are empty and deceitful because they are empty? Are we placing our trust in something of value, something which is not empty? Clearly, Paul is making a subtle argument for placing one’s faith and trust in God and relying on him to find the values and meaning we need to navigate through life. Trust in God is the only thing in the end providing the lasting meaning we crave. There is no other philosophy or tradition providing meaning and purpose equal to what God provides, because God has no equal.

We need to heed the warning and not allow ourselves to be taken captive by empty, deceitful philosophy. We need to place our faith, hope and trust in God each day. We need to allow the Word of God to light our path and direct our steps. (Bet you didn’t expect a theology lesson this morning!)

What empty, deceitful philosophy do you let creep in and distract you?

Bible is lightsaber

Dark Darkness

  

Yesterday, I was asked ‘what do you do when life takes just a little more faith than what you have?’ This is an intriguing question. I was taken a little aback by the question… I hadn’t had coffee yet!

As I thought through my life experiences and how I handled life when the darkness and shadows seemed to overpower the light. This happens to us, doesn’t it? No matter how strong our faith is, there inevitably will come a time when we feel as though the weight is too much. Too overpowering, too overwhelming.

How do we respond? How do we overcome that which is overcoming to us? When I was asked this question, I thought for a minute or two and came up with a couple strategies I have used when the darkness has felt overwhelming. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but a couple strategies that have worked for me in the past.

  1. Remember the outcome of the past – More times than I care to recount, I have felt overwhelmed. I have felt out of control. I have felt crushed by the weight of my circumstances. However, I have survived. Things may not have always worked out the way I hoped they would, but I have made it through. I have come through the darkness and come out on the other side. What has helped me is to remember I made it through, is realizing I have survived. I have been beaten, but not broken. I have been pressed, but not crushed. Keeping this in mind has assisted me in keep perspective and remember this darkness shall too pass.
  2. Remember I am not alone – In everything we face, we are not alone. Not only are there others around us who have faced the same struggles, God himself has entered into his creation and walks alongside me in difficult times. Good has sent me his Holy Spirit to dwell within me. Scriptures refer to the Holy Spirit as the paraclete, or ‘one who comes alongside’ to assist me and carry me and help me through the tough times. The light is always more powerful than the darkness, after all darkness runs from the light. Not only this, Jesus when he walked the earth he felt and experienced all the same things we do here on earth. He felt loss and depression. He felt betrayed. He felt angry. He felt hurt. He experienced the same range of emotions we experience in the same way we do.

There are, no doubt, many others strategies I’ve used to make it through the dark times, but these are the two which stand out most prevalent to me. Hopefully, these will be of assistance to you as well. I recall from the movie ‘the Crow’, a line – “it can’t rain all the time” and this is true. At some point the rain will stop, the sky will clear and the sun will shine. Life comes at us in seasons, some lasting longer than others, and they too shall pass.

Contentment

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Photo courtesy of dailybiblememe.com

Of all the things the apostle Paul wrote, these words are some of the ones I struggle the most with. Words I have some of the hardest time associating with. Learning contentment. This has been a struggle and journey I have been on my whole life.

There have been seasons of my life finding contentment has been easier than other seasons. Some seasons its a minor struggle, others it totally eludes me. Totally.

I wonder what is different about those seasons? Are the desires less? Do I have more of my desires fulfilled? Or is something about me different? Do I walk closer to God during the seasons where contentment comes easier? Do these seasons correlate with seasons of ‘mountaintop’ spiritual seasons? What is the connection and how can I bridge the gap and make the contented seasons become more prevalent?

Why is it so hard to live in a space that seemingly came easily for Paul? I guess it begs the question, did it come easily for Paul? If not, what was his secret and how can I get in on that action?

I can recall reading in the book Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell (I could share many more thoughts on Bell’s books and his current stance on many issues, but now is not the time. Suffice it to say, Velvet Elvis was his first book and therefore remains untainted theologically by Oprah.) that one of the reasons our culture/generation/society has to constantly have music, sound or noise around them is because they are trying to either silence the noise inside their own heads or because they are afraid of the silence that comes from just being still. As I read that years ago, it totally connected with me. It resonated with me. At the time, I constantly had an iPod and earbuds on me or iTunes playing on my MacBook. I couldn’t stand the silence, being left to my own thoughts.

There still remains to question to be answered, what is the cause or root of discontent? The easy answer is sin. Obviously. But really, what is the answer? What is the reason I struggle so much at times with being content?

Because I long for more. My very soul cries out for more. I want more than I can have or am able to have. My soul craves something more. It craves something which can only be filled or supplied by God. The problem is, I often (as all humans do) attempt to fill that longing, that craving with other things which are clearly not able to satisfy. Things unable to fill the hole the void I am desperately attempting to get contented.

Okay. Great. I am trying to make content something which will never be contented because I am trying to content it with the wrong thing.

My heart and soul are restless. It feels as though I need to spend more time finding contentment in God.

I feel as though this is unresolved, but I also feel as though I don’t have much else to say about it right now… I suppose there will be a part two.

Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. Philippians 4:11

Leadership lessons from Paul

Paul wrote a couple letters to the church in Corinth instructing them on the ins and outs of their faith. Paul came under heavy criticisms from this church, a church he labored long and hard with. Paul was attacked by false leaders who had come into the church after he planted and began to fill the heads of the Christ-followers there with misguided thoughts and beliefs. Paul was attacked by false leaders. Leaders who came to the church with less than reputable purposes. Paul’s ministry was attacked by these false leaders. They attempted to lead the Corinthian believers astray and discredit Paul in the process.

The false leaders attacked his character, his influence, his calling and his humility, claiming he was not called to lead. They claimed he was inadequate. They claimed he was not worthy of the task to lead the church he had planted. They called into question his integrity.

Paul countered with several arguments, the first of which was he compared being in ministry to a celebration ceremony of a king who has defeated his enemies. He connected the idea of the king who celebrates his victory with his life being used as a vessel to spread the Gospel message. As a king enters in celebration he has aromatic incense spread before him signifying life to those who have been victorious and death to those who were defeated. Paul says we are like the urn that spreads the incense. It is the message of life or death to those that hear it. Furthermore, as the urn we are not worthy to be in the celebration because we did nothing to celebrate except be the vessel that spreads good smells. None in reality are worthy to partake in the celebration and triumph. I think this leads us to an important piece of being a good leader. A good leaders needs to be  implicitly aware of their own insufficiency, being aware of their need for the grace of God.
Paul also responded by not abdicating his leadership. He didn’t back down from his assertion he was a leader. He realized people are fickle and sway easily when they hear lies from others about their leaders. He wasn’t willing to walk away from all his hard work and the people he built into for years. A little bit of hardship and difficulty weren’t going to be enough to sway him from his ministry to the Corinthians.
The critics asked for letters of recommendation, he claimed his credentials for leadership were the lives of the Corinthians. A leader’s influence is measured by the impact they have on the lives of those around them. Paul in effect said, I don’t need letters of recommendation because you know me. You have seen me, my life. You have seen the changes made in the life of the people around you because of the message of Christ they heard from me. Paul appealed to the changed lives and the impact he had on those around him as his letters of recommendation.
Paul was very sure about his calling. He never vacillated. Those who are unsure of their own vocation cannot possibly be effective leaders. Nothing is more debilitating than a leader who has self-doubt. When we question and doubt where God has placed us and the work he has set before. When we are certain of the mission and purpose God has set before us, we will view everything we do as a privilege and a part of accomplishing the purpose God has set before us. We have to have absolute confidence in what we are doing or else every trial, every hardship will threaten to derail you. I have been there before. I have lacked vision and clarity on where I was and what I was doing and every speed bump became a mountain.
We must have confidence in our calling, but at the same time understand there is nothing about us that makes us intrinsically adequate for the task God has called us to. Realizing our weaknesses and shortcomings allows us to rely on God for strength. God calls us to work for him not because of something we have a value for him, but he calls us for the work that he can do in us and through us. God makes us worthy of the calling he puts on our lives.

Photo by: John P. Nordin

Photo by: John P. Nordin

coffee & donuts

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels did He ever say, “Y OU ARE MY S ON, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU “? And again, “I WILL BE A FATHER TO HIM A ND HE SHALL BE A SON TO ME “? And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, “AND LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP H M.” And of the angels He says, “WHO MAKES HIS ANGELS WINDS, AND H S MINISTERS A FLAME OF FIRE.” But of the Son He says, “Y OUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER, AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM. “YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS; THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU W ITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE YOUR COMPANIONS.” And, “YOU, LORD, IN THE BEGINNING LAID THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH, AND THE HEAVENS ARE THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS; THEY WILL PERISH, BUT YOU REMAIN; AND THEY ALL WILL BECOME OLD LIKE A GARMENT, AND LIKE A MANTLE Y OU WILL ROLL THEM UP; LIKE A GARMENT THEY WILL ALSO BE CHANGED. BUT YOU ARE THE SAME, AND YOUR YEARS WILL NOT COME TO AN END.” But to which of the angels has He ever said, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET “? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation? (‭Hebrews‬ ‭1‬:‭1-14‬ NASB)

Wow!!

My first thought is just wow. Awe and wonder at what I have just read. Of course, this passage is speaking primarily of Jesus and his role in the kingdom of God, but let’s do a little reading between the lines.

Scripture tells us we are sons and daughters, co-heirs with Jesus. If this is so, then our value to God is greater than that of the angels. Think about it for a minute. The writer of Hebrews goes at length to describe the higher place that has been given to jesus a higher place that we to some degree also hold as co-heirs with Jesus. God has never called an angel his child. But he has called us his children.  God did not die on the cross for any angels, but he did for us.

Ephesians says God has lavished his grace upon us. I don’t use the word lavished all that often, maybe you do. What it means is, God has ridiculously poured out his grace on us. He has so limitlessly dumped it out that it’s obnoxious. It’s crazy. It’s out of control. God shamelessly poured out his love by dying on the cross for the likes of us.

If the thought of God loving you that much doesn’t invoke a little bit of joy in you I’m not sure what will.

At it’s heart and essence, fighting for joy is a fight to find contentment and satisfaction in God. Not in things this world has to offer us.

Not coffee and donuts.

We all have some addition or false god that draws our attention and robs is of the joy that can only truly be found in Christ Jesus.

There are many things that draw my attention and focus away from God, but as trivial as this sounds coffee and donuts make that list. They are weak attempts to find satisfaction and joy in something other than God. When I feel anxious or as though I don’t have control of my life, rather than turning to God in prayer and supplication, I turn to coffee to help ca my fears.

At least it’s not cocaine, but it’s still unhealthy. It’s not whatGod intended.

It’s almost like I’m replaying the scene in the garden of Eden all over again. But instead of Adam and Eve it’s just me and I’m the one supplanting God on the throne of my life.

How do we overcome the barriers holding us back from firming joy in God? Focusing on the positive. Finding time for his word. Making the effort to communicate with God in prayer. Engaging with a community of believers who love us enough to challenge us forward.

Today we can find joy in God, if we look for it there. How are you going to find joy in God today?

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Coffee & Donuts

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels did He ever say, “Y OU ARE MY S ON, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU “? And again, “I WILL BE A FATHER TO HIM A ND HE SHALL BE A SON TO ME “? And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, “AND LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP H M.” And of the angels He says, “WHO MAKES HIS ANGELS WINDS, AND H S MINISTERS A FLAME OF FIRE.” But of the Son He says, “Y OUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER, AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM. “YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS; THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU W ITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE YOUR COMPANIONS.” And, “YOU, LORD, IN THE BEGINNING LAID THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH, AND THE HEAVENS ARE THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS; THEY WILL PERISH, BUT YOU REMAIN; AND THEY ALL WILL BECOME OLD LIKE A GARMENT, AND LIKE A MANTLE Y OU WILL ROLL THEM UP; LIKE A GARMENT THEY WILL ALSO BE CHANGED. BUT YOU ARE THE SAME, AND YOUR YEARS WILL NOT COME TO AN END.” But to which of the angels has He ever said, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET “? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation? (‭Hebrews‬ ‭1‬:‭1-14‬ NASB)

Wow!!

My first thought is just wow. Awe and wonder at what I have just read. Of course, this passage is speaking primarily of Jesus and his role in the kingdom of God, but let’s do a little reading between the lines.

Scripture tells us we are sons and daughters, co-heirs with Jesus. If this is so, then our value to God is greater than that of the angels. Think about it for a minute. The writer of Hebrews goes at length to describe the higher place that has been given to jesus a higher place that we to some degree also hold as co-heirs with Jesus. God has never called an angel his child. But he has called us his children.  God did not die on the cross for any angels, but he did for us.

Ephesians says God has lavished his grace upon us. I don’t use the word lavished all that often, maybe you do. What it means is, God has ridiculously poured out his grace on us. He has so limitlessly dumped it out that it’s obnoxious. It’s crazy. It’s out of control. God shamelessly poured out his love by dying on the cross for the likes of us.

If the thought of God loving you that much doesn’t invoke a little bit of joy in you I’m not sure what will.

At it’s heart and essence, fighting for joy is a fight to find contentment and satisfaction in God. Not in things this world has to offer us.

Not coffee and donuts.

We all have some addition or false god that draws our attention and robs is of the joy that can only truly be found in Christ Jesus.

There are many things that draw my attention and focus away from God, but as trivial as this sounds coffee and donuts make that list. They are weak attempts to find satisfaction and joy in something other than God. When I feel anxious or as though I don’t have control of my life, rather than turning to God in prayer and supplication, I turn to coffee to help ca my fears.

At least it’s not cocaine, but it’s still unhealthy. It’s not whatGod intended.

It’s almost like I’m replaying the scene in the garden of Eden all over again. But instead of Adam and Eve it’s just me and I’m the one supplanting God on the throne of my life.

How do we overcome the barriers holding us back from firming joy in God? Focusing on the positive. Finding time for his word. Making the effort to communicate with God in prayer. Engaging with a community of believers who love us enough to challenge us forward.

Today we can find joy in God, if we look for it there. How are you going to find joy in God today?

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My Takeaways from #Catalyst14

catalystI enjoyed the catalyst experience very much overall. I feel like personally, it had much to say to me and where I am in my life currently. It was good to be able to sit in the worship and enjoy the music and to participate in worshipping our Savior. It was also very encouraging to hear all the great sermons we heard in a short time. My friend who picked me up from the airport asked me who my favorite speaker was… I wasn’t able to pick just one! I think they all had some fantastic things to say and were all very challenging of me. So, let me try to funnel that down into a few thoughts of what challenged me the most.

  1. Andy Stanley’s opening message which challenged us to answer the two questions – 1. Who are you? and What breaks your heart?; really stuck with me because I honestly had to really think through the answer to the second one. Not because I don’t know what excites or invigorates me (I hesitate the use the word ‘passion’ since it is so overplayed these days) or what really gets me fired up. I had a hard time with this I think thanks to where I am in my life. I would have answered the questions slightly differently along the way in my life, and as my brain and heart catches up to where I find God has led me in life I found my self searching for what the answer is in this season. Strangely enough, the answer in this season is not very different from the answer it has been in previous seasons of my life. Families. Families break my heart. Families who need help of any kind. I have seen so many families without the resources and tools to do better than what they are doing and this breaks my heart. I realized as I worked as a caseworker, the difference between the families I worked with and me was a very fine line. A fine line of tools that were in my toolbox, but not in theirs. This has been the driving motivator in me finding the path God has set before me for some time in my life. My heart breaks for families in need. This is perfect, considering where I find God has put me. Working with children and families in a local church setting. Working with children and families in the child welfare setting. I guess the first takeaway for me was more of a confirmation or reaffirmation of being in the place God wants me. This has been something I have spent time considering and thinking through recently… just trying to figure out my life.
  2. The second takeaway comes from Dr. Leaf and the small amount of the book we purchased that I have read. This ‘new’ information regarding habit and thought formation has truly revolutionized the way I think about behavioral change. When coupled with what I have been learning through TBRI, I have a new landscape moving forward in the brain and assisting others to make behavioral changes. Not only is it possible to change behavior, but it is possible to change the brain to adjust the thought patterns. This is a total game changer for the way we think about helping people effect change. I am excited to read more in this book and learn more about changing habits.
  3. Robert Madu had words which were very fitting for us at Grace Landing. Being a small organization, it is easy to play the comparison game and look at other agencies and wonder why we aren’t able to do things the ways they are. We aren’t those other agencies, so we can’t do things the way they are doing them. And we shouldn’t want to. God has blessed us in a unique ways to accomplish the ministry he set before us. When I look at the individual pieces of the puzzle we each bring to the table, I am encouraged to see the plan underneath it. We are approaching the issues of young men needing transitional assistance and foster parent training in a revolutionary way! We are coming at these problems in a way that is different than how anyone (in our area, and for the most part throughout the nation) else is addressing them. We are running the race God has set before us and no one else. I also took much comfort in Craig Groeschel’s thoughts on how to experience exponential innovation as they apply to us. The first thing needed to experience exponential change is limited resources. I heard that and thought, well that’s us! Think about how much God is doing through a small, meager organization. We are a part of totally redefining the way foster parent training and recruiting is being done in Florida! Foster care will never be the same thanks to the work we are doing. Are you serious? YES! We are game changers.
  4. The last major takeaway I have is this, we are precisely where God wants us to be. I think we heard that 100 times at catalyst. God has set this ministry before us and we are to run this race to the best that we can, trusting God will provide the resources necessary to finish the race. God is able to accomplish his purposes without or without us, but he has decided to use us to accomplish those purposes in the ministries he has called us to. God has put us here because he has gifted us with what we need to do this work. He hasn’t set before a ministry we aren’t able to accomplish, on the contrary – he has gifted us in a way to accomplish this ministry.
Catalyst was exactly what I needed in life right now. It renewed my mind and reignited my heart.

Help those who can’t help themselves

I have done a lot of different things work-wise. Some of them I have liked, others of them have made me question my will to live. And still others, have ranked among the greatest joys of my life.

I worked in the dependency system for Florida’s Department of Children and Families and their contract agencies for almost five years. I have worked in churches for about 10 years. While these jobs are very different, they carry some similarities between them. They both involve caring for people deeply at their core.
It is hard for to name which I have enjoyed more… but suffice it to say, I have found great pleasure in them both.
God has gifted me with great concern for those who are defenseless. I feel it is my calling, responsibility, job… something I need to do.
This works very well when you work in the fields I have been working in. My heart breaks for those in need, for those who can’t fight their own fight for themselves, for those who need someone to stand with them and equip to better attack their situation.
I learned long ago we all go through life carrying two things: a toolbox and a suitcase. And no matter who you are, there are tools in the toolbox and baggage in the suitcase. At times throughout our lives we need assistance gaining more tools in our toolbox and help unpacking the baggage in the suitcase. Psychologist Abraham Maslow is quoted as saying, ‘if the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail’. We all need more than one tool in our toolbox, and unfortunately we don’t all have more than one tool. We all need to release ourselves of unnecessary baggage at times. As we go through life, we keep packing the suitcase until it is too heavy to carry and we can’t any longer. We get bogged down. We feel defeated. We feel as though there is no end in sight. We need help in unpacking the unhealthy baggage we have loaded our suitcases up with.
While these sound simple and easy, they aren’t always. We need help. And some of us get so weighed down we can’t see the sun any longer and we quickly lose heart. We give up. We become defenseless. We become unable to move forward on our own.
That’s when we need someone to stand up for us… to fight for us… to not allow us to give up.
Jesus did that for us… it only makes sense we do it for each other. I will never forget when Jesus added tools to my toolbox and unloaded the destructive baggage in my suitcase. I’m far from perfect, but I have been loved and accepted by a Savior who is calling me to live like he does. He is calling me to help.
I am here to help.

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Help those who can't help themselves

I have done a lot of different things work-wise. Some of them I have liked, others of them have made me question my will to live. And still others, have ranked among the greatest joys of my life.

I worked in the dependency system for Florida’s Department of Children and Families and their contract agencies for almost five years. I have worked in churches for about 10 years. While these jobs are very different, they carry some similarities between them. They both involve caring for people deeply at their core.
It is hard for to name which I have enjoyed more… but suffice it to say, I have found great pleasure in them both.
God has gifted me with great concern for those who are defenseless. I feel it is my calling, responsibility, job… something I need to do.
This works very well when you work in the fields I have been working in. My heart breaks for those in need, for those who can’t fight their own fight for themselves, for those who need someone to stand with them and equip to better attack their situation.
I learned long ago we all go through life carrying two things: a toolbox and a suitcase. And no matter who you are, there are tools in the toolbox and baggage in the suitcase. At times throughout our lives we need assistance gaining more tools in our toolbox and help unpacking the baggage in the suitcase. Psychologist Abraham Maslow is quoted as saying, ‘if the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail’. We all need more than one tool in our toolbox, and unfortunately we don’t all have more than one tool. We all need to release ourselves of unnecessary baggage at times. As we go through life, we keep packing the suitcase until it is too heavy to carry and we can’t any longer. We get bogged down. We feel defeated. We feel as though there is no end in sight. We need help in unpacking the unhealthy baggage we have loaded our suitcases up with.
While these sound simple and easy, they aren’t always. We need help. And some of us get so weighed down we can’t see the sun any longer and we quickly lose heart. We give up. We become defenseless. We become unable to move forward on our own.
That’s when we need someone to stand up for us… to fight for us… to not allow us to give up.
Jesus did that for us… it only makes sense we do it for each other. I will never forget when Jesus added tools to my toolbox and unloaded the destructive baggage in my suitcase. I’m far from perfect, but I have been loved and accepted by a Savior who is calling me to live like he does. He is calling me to help.
I am here to help.

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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…