God is Good… No Matter What.

God is good, no matter what.

I had a lot of aspirations when I first got into ministry… to be a Senior Minister of a thriving church, to be a published author, and to share the Gospel of Christ throughout the nation.

Eight years into it and I am no longer a Senior Minister, I haven’t gotten past the point of thinking about writing a book, and very few people (although they are very important to me) actually know who I am.

God is good, no matter what.

I have had to keep on reminding myself of that truth ever since the day I got fired from my last church. Up until then I was at least a Senior Minister… I had something to grab a hold of, a light to lead me as I fought up that ladder of what I believed God had called me to be. I may not have had popularity or a book deal, but at least I had that.

It’s funny how one moment you think you’re accomplishing something in life and then, in an instant, all of that can be taken away from you. In a blink of an eye, a group of men looked at me, took my very reason for living in this world, and crushed it.

God is good, no matter what.

Trust me, I have played this over and over again in my head. I have looked for a nugget of truth in the accusations, have cried out for peace, I’ve even tried to build up a wall around my emotions so I didn’t have to think about it. I’ve done everything I know how to do to overcome all of this, and yet none of it has worked. I still hurt, I still have pain, I still feel lost.

God is good, no matter what.

This is true…I know because I’ve lived it. Despite everything I’m going through God has provided me with another full-time ministry position at a place where Heather and I can heal, He has surrounded us with supportive friends and family who have loved us through this storm, and He is encouraging us as we come to Him with our brokenness.

I’m writing this because I need to… deep down I need to understand what God wants me do with this and what He has planned for my life, but another part of me wants to help others who might be going through the same thing. If you are going through some real junk, let me say this to you:

  • Your pain doesn’t define you, God defines you.
  • God has more for you than the junk you are experiencing.
  • Never stop striving after God… like a rock-climber grasping for the next rock, never let go of God.
  • God loves you for you… yeah, He wants to change you into His image, but He still loves you even if you struggle with following Him.
  • Just because God calls you to something it doesn’t mean He’s going to place it in your hands… you may have to go through some growing pains to get there. Remember, it took David 10 years after God anointed Him as king before he sat in that throne.
  • The church is a mess and there are some horrible people in it who need Jesus just as bad as you, so relax and trust that God is changing them like He is changing you. The church might be a mess, but it’s a beautiful mess.
  • Even when God seems distant and acts as if He doesn’t care… He is right there with you, walking through the valley alongside you, helping you to get to the other side.

These are the things that I have been thinking about and leaning on over the last 8 months and it has gotten me through a lot…. my hope is that it can get you through it as well.

God is good, no matter what.

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A Little Bit of Coffee and a Whole Lot of Jesus

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I like coffee. A lot. 

It’s a culmination of a couple of things… it’s the smell, it’s the taste, it’s the process of making it… making sure the coffee to water ratio is just right so you get that perfect taste. 

SIDE NOTE: I am in no way referring to store-bought coffee. That is junk. I prefer freshly roasted, grounded-in-my-office, bold coffee (shout-out to my brother’s coffee, La Terza … do people even do shout-outs anymore?) 

Anyway, I like coffee, but I am finding it even more enjoyable when I combine it with things that I love to do. 

Last weekend I officiated a wedding for some friends of mine (congrats Rhonda and Wes) and they had live music. During that time I found myself sitting back, coffee in hand, enjoying two of the things in this world that get me to relax. 

But something strange happened. 

While I was sitting there enjoying my coffee and music, I felt closer to God. 

This feeling happened again on Sunday. That morning, the Youth Minister of our church preached and I was able to sit in the front pew, coffee in hand, worshipping with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. 

And I felt closer to God. 

I felt as if I needed to test this out, so this morning I got to the office early, turned on Spotify, sat down with (you guessed it) coffee in hand, and closed my eyes.

The feeling came again. I felt closer to God.  

All three of these moments brought me closer to God… so I got to thinking… does everybody have these? 

Do we all have something we enjoy that we can infuse God into the center of? 

I found it in coffee… but can someone find it in cooking, in dancing, in working out, in running, or (in my wife’s case) cleaning? 

I think so. 

It’s not because the act that we do is magical. It’s not as if the coffee is bringing me closer to God. 

It’s coffee that has become my gateway to relaxation and when I’m relaxed and focused on God… 

I feel closer to Him

I can talk with Him

and I can hear Him talk  with me. 

I’m going to start doing this a lot more… I hope you can join me. 

Peace, Love, and Soul.

He did it again…

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Yesterday I woke up at my normal time at 4 AM to make sure I could finish my sermon on time for morning service…

Us procrastinators love last minute deadlines…

I went through my normal routine, got showered, shaved, dressed, kissed my sleeping wife on the cheek, and went to grab my keys. 

Only one problem: I couldn’t find my church keys. 

I looked everywhere until I finally remembered that I left them inside the church the day before while officiating a wedding. 

So I drove to church in order to work on my sermon from the comfort of my van. 

Now I know what you’re thinking…

“Larry, why not just work at home?” 

Good question… it’s because I can’t focus at home… home is not a workplace, it’s a play place. 

Anyway… due to the “cramped” conditions, I worked at half the speed I normally do typing out my sermon and by the time I got let in to the church (thanks Dave) and finished my sermon it was 1 hour before service.

Since Heather and I have only one car, I hurriedly went home and grabbed her and the kids and took them back to church, prayed with my elders, and finished service prep with 10 minutes to go before service. 

To say that I was frazzled was an understatement… but when I am frazzled, He is calm. 

God has an amazing way to show us His amazing calmness when we are at our most frazzled. Jesus tells us to come to Him when we are frazzled, for His work load is easy and light. If we come to Him, He promises to give us rest. 

That’s what yesterday’s worship service did for me. It calmed me, it gave me joy, it replaced all of my frazzledness with a heart ready to lift up and praise Jesus! 

I know, ministers are supposed to have it together (that’s one of the biggest lies in the church)… but I didn’t have it together yesterday, it was God who had it… and I needed it. 

How frazzled are you today? How much do you need God to take away the stress of your life and replace it with His carefree workload? 

Learn today to give it all to God and let Him show you how awesome He truly is!

We Just Became “One of THOSE Families…”

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Yep, that’s right…we just became a “Homeschooling” Family!

And it’s not because we hate the public school system either.

For those of you who know me, you know that I have nothing but love and respect for the people who devote their lives to the public education of our children. My son, Noah, is about to finish Kindergarten at the best Public Elementary School I have ever had the privilege of being a part of. So, in case I haven’t spelled it out clearly enough:

HEATHER AND I LOVE THE EDUCATION THAT LUCE ELEMENTARY HAS GIVEN TO OUR SON!!!

Sorry, didn’t mean to yell…I just wanted to make sure you heard that.

“Alright, Larry…if it’s not because of the school system, then why in God’s name are you pulling them out?”

Exactly. Let me explain…

It is because of God’s name that we are doing this.

Two years ago Heather approached me about homeschooling our children. My response? “I don’t have faith in your ability to teach our kids.”

I know, I know…all the wives out there can feel free to pick up stones to throw at me for that comment, but it was honest, and if I am nothing else, I am honest.

Once I said those horrifying words to my wife, I thought the conversation was over. I had won! Noah was attending public school and I was volunteering there everyday. The girls, meanwhile, were going to a private Christian preschool and we were making plans for Felicity to be enrolled into public school as well. There was no talk of homeschool, no divisive arguments…there was nothing.

And then, while watching tv on the couch, Heather dropped the bombshell…”I think God is calling us to homeschool our kids.”

I sighed, not wanting to talk about it….Heather knew I was trying to avoid it so she said it again, “I think God is calling us to homeschool, Larry.”

“Let’s pray about it.” That was my response I gave when I didn’t really want to talk about something, even though I really was going to pray about it, I still used it to get out of discussing it.

“My mom bought us tickets to the Homeschool convention…I thought we could go and check out some of the curriculum.”

At first, when I heard those words I felt angry….I felt Heather had gone behind my back and done something without discussing it first, but as soon as I turned around and looked my wife in the eyes, I saw something that I had only seen a couple of times in our relationship…

I saw a fiery passion.

I knew we had to go…it was the right thing.

Fast forward to a couple of months later, when we finally arrived in Cincinnati for the convention. Heather and I were excited…well, Heather was excited, I was there…

Our first session was entitled, “100% Mommy, 100% Teacher” by Susan Kemmerer. I liked what I heard, but it was during that session that I heard God say something that I wasn’t expecting:

“You should do this.”

“Do what?”

“You know what.”

“I’m not listening to this…”

I think we’ve all said that to God at one point in our lives, haven’t we? Anyway, we left there with this stirring in my heart for homeschooling. I was confused, but eager to go to my next class on Fathering called, “Father Power” taught by Todd Wilson. Even if I didn’t homeschool, I could always learn to be a better dad.

As soon as we started, I knew I was in for a ride. Todd was an amazing speaker who spoke right to my heart. The first thing Todd said as he started our class was this:

“Your wife will fail as a homeschooling mom if you are not involved. She can’t do this without you.”

And then it hit me…

Heather can’t do this on her own, I was right all along (maybe I was a little wrong, but I’ll take my victories whenever I can)! Heather can’t do this by herself, but she can if I put the same type of passion and investment in her that she puts into our family.

As soon as I “got it” I said to God, “You really want me to do this?”

“Yep…but with My help.”

“Deal.”

Realize that this is nothing more than a paraphrase of how God changed my heart for homeschooling in the course of one weekend. God spoke to me so powerfully that I really felt that I had no choice but to be faithful to my Father. That’s the reason we are homeschooling…

Not because it is better than public school.

Not because Heather and I are perfect teachers, or parents for that matter.

It’s not because we want to seclude our kids from every walk of life, keep them in social bubbles away from negative influences, or any other crazy objection that comes from people who don’t understand why normal Christian parents choose this route. There is only one simple reason as to why we are embarking on this journey…

God told us to.

I can’t explain the transformation that has happened in our family since making the decision God wanted us to make over two years ago. It is wonderful, it is loving, and incredibly freeing. I feel more like a godly dad then I ever have…

I now have faith, not only in my God, but in my wife too.

Peace, Love, and Soul

Larry
A Homeschool Dad

It was the week after Christmas in 1988…I was 5 years old. I had a great Christmas that year, I can’t remember what gits I had gotten, but I do remember I was happy (so all in all, great Christmas). My dad had decided it was time to take down our Christmas tree, pack it up, and put it in the storage until next Thanksgiving, where we would go through the whole Christmas process all over again. I always enjoyed helping Dad out with this task, I don’t know exactly why, maybe because it got me around the biggest role model at that time in my life.

This year was a tad bit different though, it was even better than years before…because it was that year Dad and I made a great discovery:

“What is that,” Dad asked as we took the top part of the tree down. Something was stuck in the branches of the fake tree. Dad may not have known what it was, but I sure did..

“It’s a present!”  I yelled with excitement, hoping that it was for me (I was 5, what did you expect?)

I ran over to my Dad and as I tore that present opened I could a small smile on his face. It was a red robot toy…evidently it was buried in the back of the tree and had gotten stuck in the fake, plastic branches before Christmas, and in the rush and excitement of the morning it had never gotten noticed and was not opened until I found it a week later.

I don’t remember a lot about that robot toy…I don’t know how long I played with it, nor the fate of that Late-Christmas present…but I do remember finding it, opening it, and the inexpressible  joy that I felt that I had a received a gift. I also remember the lesson I learned from that experience:

A gift is not a gift if you don’t open it up.

That gift was picked out by my parents, wrapped with delicate care by their own hands, and placed under the tree with thoughts of how much I would enjoy the present. However, I wonder what would have happened if that gift was never found? I wonder what would have happened if I wouldn’t have opened that gift and received the joy that comes with playing with a new toy?

Does that rip away the title of that red robot being a gift? I don’t think so…at least not entirely…at some level that red robot was intended to be a gift for a little (and cute…ahem) 5 year old boy. Yet, at the same time, if that gift was never opened, even though it was offered as one, it wouldn’t be a fulfilled gift.

The gift of salvation is the same way, isn’t it? I mean, think about it for a second…God, our Heavenly Parent, thought of us while He devised the plan for us to be saved, He wrapped that present up in the act of Jesus’ death and resurrection from the grave, and placed that gift for the whole world to see with thoughts of how much we would enjoy our present (a relationship with Him).

But if we don’t open that gift we cannot be receive the benefits of salvation.

You see, God has presented that gift to EVERYONE…no matter who you are, no matter where you’ve been, or what you’ve done. God thought of you when He died on that cross and resurrected from that grave. Yet not everyone is saved…why? Because they didn’t open the gift, they left it stuck in the tree and all God hopes for is that you find it there.

So how do we open that gift? How do we receive the free gift of God’s salvation?

Psalm 103:17-18, “But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children – with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.”

In other words, anyone who pursues a relationship with God and is faithful to Him shall open that gift and enjoy the benefits of being a child of God.

God has a present for you…it’s time to open it.

Peace, Love, and Soul…