Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I Hope

Wouldn’t it be great if we could actually PhotoShop life? Just imagine being able to cover up all the blemishes that show up. You could actually take out individuals or objects that you do not want to see. A sky that looked to be plain and dreary can be replaced with a beautiful blue that warms even the coldest hearts.

If only. . .

Battery Park
(New York, NY)
It is an obvious point, but what we see in our eye line cannot be changed by human efforts. There is not some magical PhotoShop app that we can download to change what is going on around us. 
For this reason:
* We doubt.
* We hurt.
* We are confused.

Notice that none of this can be changed by human efforts. We do our best to cover the blemishes so that no one can see the ugly. We fake a smile in order for others to think that the sky is always blue in our world. Yet with every button we push, the picture gets more and more disfigured.

There is a scripture that most of us could quote, but have the most difficult time downloading. The download is difficult because it takes so much more than just pushing a button.
II Corinthians 5:6-7:
6 We are sure of this. We know that while we are at home in this body we are not with the Lord. 7 Our life is lived by faith. We do not live by what we see in front of us. (NLT) 

How is it possible to not live by what we see right in front of us? The only way is to live life by faith. Faith is defined in Hebrews as the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things you cannot see. It is a choice to hope…it is a constant search for gathering evidence of His hand at work in your world.

Central Park West
(New York, NY)
Choosing to live in this kind of place, you make the decision to let go of the controls. It lets the Master know, You decide how the picture looks. If you need my imperfections to be seen by others, You know what is best. If my skies need to be gray in order for me to mature, You have charge over my days. I cannot see it…but You can.

So, I hope…

Thursday, February 23, 2012


I despised rainouts. It did not matter whether it was during my time in Little League, 
High School, American Legion, or College Baseball…it would just ruin my day for our games to be rained out. All of the time spent in preparation for game day, and then this.

Rainy days (seasons) are still no fun. Even if you are lucky enough to remember your umbrella, you still have to fight it while getting in and out of your vehicle. Then you constantly have to pay attention for the next puddle of water, as if it were some sort of land mine. 
These kind of days just make getting from place to place that much more difficult. 

Rainy Day
(Forest Hill, MD)
How great it would be if the sun shined all the time in our world. 
Think about it: No disruptions – No hassle – No planning – Just get up and go.
I don’t have to tell you that rainy seasons show up. Forget the notion of rainy days…seasons roll in that will test the very merit of your desire to press on. Seasons that will have you longing for a break in the clouds just to let you know that the sun is still out there.

I opened my devotional today to this opening line: All sunshine makes for a desert. This is from an old Arab Proverb that has been around for centuries, but it is so timely for today.
Without the rain, drought conditions occur.
With no rain, we cannot grow.
The beauty of a rainbow would never be experienced, if not for rain.

(Forest Hill, MD)

Quite honestly, I need my schedule shaken up at times. As I look back on some of those rainouts while playing baseball, I realize how good for our team some of them were. I was always curious as to why our coaches would be thrilled when Mother Nature would prohibit us from playing on some scheduled days. 

(Forest Hill, MD)
Some of us needed to get healthy again.
It also allowed our best pitchers to rest up and our rotation to be reset.
Last but certainly not least; it would give us another day of preparation.

The more I mature, the less I despise the rainy seasons. I’ve learned that the longer the sun does shine, the less time I will spend in preparation (prayer – fasting – sacrifice). 
All of a sudden, I then realize that I’m walking in a dry and thirsty land. For it has led me to a desert place where there is no water.

Cherish the rainy seasons…you will then learn how to appreciate the sun when it truly does shine.   

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Kids are often a great inspiration for all sorts of craziness. Yesterday was my oldest sons day, and our conversations grow more and more intriguing as he gets older.
While heading home last evening, I asked him if I was still going to be cool enough for him to hang out with after he grows up? 
His reply was: “Nope. In just a few years, you are going to go – bloop, bloop, bloop. 

Hamburg St - Federal Hill
(Baltimore, MD)

You may have no idea what this bloop word is, but I understand it clearly. What he meant was that when I get old, I’m going to die. He was joking around and we had a good laugh over it…but it did get me to thinking about things.

On this journey of life, we all experience the highs and the lows. When happy things happen to us = we are happy. When bad things occur = worry, doubt, and concern fill those places where happiness used to be. 
We have all heard that happiness is derived from the root word happenings. When good things happen to you…naturally, you are happy. But what about the moments when those happenings are not so good?

In our flesh, we do not enjoy this part of the process. As part of our human nature, we do not like for things to have to die. A natural death on this earth is something that not one human being has control over. Scripture tells us that it is appointed…our time is set.

Wall Painting - Federal Hill
(Baltimore, MD)
But there is a death that we do have control over – this death is one of the most difficult events that any of us have to face. We even learn from the Apostle Paul that this operation has be done daily. It is the death of our will.

Salvation in Christ is a gift freely given to us by our Lord and Savior…but a death still has to occur. With death comes a separation. A separation from our wants and what we feel is vital to our existence. It is an actual war against our thought processes and what we think of the daily happenings in our lives.

When we die to our flesh, we are proving our dependence on Jesus. When worry, doubt, and concern engulf you in the middle of bad times, what you are actually saying is: God, your way is wrong.

(II Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and 
self-discipline. 8 … With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News.) (NLT)

This journey with Him is not all about suffering. But we cannot get caught up in the mentality that Christ followers will not go through difficult moments. Life is a tough teacher. When you make the choice to say, “Not my will, but thine be done”, the process is only beginning. There are some things that have to die. His thoughts are not my thoughts; and His ways are not like mine. It is in the Romans 8 experience that I begin to understand that all things work together for the good. And once I begin to grasp this principle, JOY takes the place of the trivial emotions that once held me captive.

Bad happenings…this is only a season in my process. 
Something needs to bloop, bloop, bloop … for it is working together for my good. If your present is difficult, find JOY in knowing that He’s going to finish what He has begun in you. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Floor it

A recent statement by John Maxwell caught my attention: He said, “To get unstuck, you first have to go back to the place where you got stuck.” The statement sounds ridiculously elementary to understand, yet incredibly difficult to put into action.    

We are forward moving creatures that want to advance in everything that we put our minds and hands to. But there are moments in our lives when we have to go back to a certain spot before we can ever take a giant leap forward.

(Baltimore, MD)
I’ve often wondered why that I have made the same mistakes over and over again, and it comes back to one simple thing: I didn’t learn my lesson the first time. When we make the conscious choice to go back to the root cause of why we are where we are, we learn invaluable information that helps us to gain traction.

Federal Hill
(Baltimore, MD)
My vehicle has unfortunately been stuck on many occasions. If there is one good thing that has come out of these many debacles, it is that I have had experience to learn from. I have learned that if, EARLY ON, I will put the car in reverse and ease forward and backward a little…traction will eventually be found that will free me from my stuck position. Usually, the only time I have had to obtain help from an outside source is when my stubbornness gets the best of me. I become so determined to continue in the direction I was headed that all I do is spin. 
I’m moving, but going nowhere.

Your giant leap forward could be just one small step backwards away. In reality, it really is not a step back…it is only a return to get your traction back. And when you feel life catch hold and begin to move, floor it. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

my Security Blanket

The older I get, the more I begin to realize that walking this road of life is like walking through a mine field. It reminds me of running a trail course that goes up into the woods with only a small path cut out to guide your way. You constantly have to watch for where your next footprint will be left. You might be jumping over a root that is sticking up, or a rock that could easily cause you to stumble.

Wouldn’t life be so much easier if we knew where the traps were? If we knew those things, we could breeze through each and every day without a worry or concern because we could avoid the objects that often times stop our progress.

Jerusalem Mill
(Fallston, MD)

In order to catch something that you want, a trap has to be set.
When I wanted to ask my now wife out on our first date…that is exactly what I did. I wasn’t confident enough that she would accept my initial overture, so as only a young man with a motive would do, I tricked her. I told her that a bunch of our college buddies were going out to eat and wondered if she wanted to go with us? She thought it would be fun and accepted the opportunity to ride to the restaurant with me. Once we arrived, she immediately turned to me and asked where everyone else was. Without stuttering, I told her that we had gotten there early and I asked the hostess for a table to seat 11. (I knew all along that no one else was showing up, and yes, I have repented for this lie.)

Our first date was a trap…and we sat there with 9 other empty chairs for the entirety of our meal. How I got out of that one is still a mystery to me. But it must have worked, for she is still with me after nearly 15 years of marriage.

Landmark Theatres
(Fells Point - Baltimore, MD)
This might feel like a weird segway, but the enemy of our existence does this exact thing. He will paint the most beautiful depiction on his invitation to you. He will tell you anything in order to get you to accept. And without realizing the trap that is set before us, we agree to go along. 

The New Living Translation of Proverbs 3:26 says, For the Lord is your security. He will keep your foot from being caught in a trap.

I have come to the understanding that the only times I get caught in something that brings negativity into my life is when I stop focusing on His way. I become so blinded with my own flesh that I stop feeding the spiritual man that lies within me. The fleshly side of me is the one who becomes caught in the euphoria of this world – the material – the selfish. This leads me straight into the trap of a waiting enemy.

Fells Point
(Baltimore, MD)
It is imperative that we guard ourselves at every moment. The temptation to appease our flesh is constantly rolling in on us like a wave out on the ocean. Can we avoid these traps on our own? The answer to that is simple: NO.

The Lord is my security. He (alone) will keep my foot from being caught in a trap.

The great apostle Paul had to do it, and so do I. I must die (to my will) daily. It is God’s will, and not that of my own. For then, my steps will be ordered by Him.

It brings great faith into my world to know, Jesus Christ is my security blanket.
I have nothing to fear.  

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Who Am I?

Ever have trouble identifying yourself?

Some might say:
I’m an alcoholic.
I’m a doctor.
I’m a father.
I’m a liar.

All of these perceptions begin to work together to create an idea of who we really think we are. Before we know it, if we are not careful, we can begin to believe the notion that we define our identity.

Rocks State Park
(Jarrettsville, MD)
There are all sorts of titles we give ourselves when it comes to our idea of identification. All of those things listed above are things you did or are doing, but they are not who we truly are. If our heart has been given over to the creator of this world, then doesn’t He define who we are? 

When we make the decision to give our life over to the one who created it, our identity becomes BIGGER than our activity. It is a celebratory fact to know that I am one that is greatly loved by God. I am not defined by my mistakes nor the ugliness of my past / present. His word tells me that He makes all things new. A new life – A new opportunity – A new moment is mine because I am accepted and chosen by Him. 

Inner Harbor
(Baltimore, MD)
Think with me a moment, can we really understand the love of God until we have children?
I remember the scariest part of having our first child. For me, it came after everyone has left. My wife had just had surgery and was forced to lie flat of her back for a period of time. I sat there (ALL ALONE) and held Max realizing that he was not going away! This thing was going home with us.

I remember Susan saying, “Isn’t it amazing that so much love already exists in us for him?”
(I remember saying, ‘Well, Susan….I don’t know. Let’s see how he turns out. Scholarships. Athletic. Music. See if he is good looking and has an outgoing personality. Let’s wait and see how he turns out first.’)
I didn’t say that!

Not one individual would look at this new gift of life and say anything close to that. Yet so many of us live under a cloud of condemnation because we feel like the jury is still out as to what God thinks about us!

Federal Hill
(Baltimore, MD)
As the thoughts of how unworthy you are to experience the good things in life begin to pile upon you each day, identify yourself as His child. Identify yourself by the love He has for you. And get this - There is nothing you can do to change the fact that you were chosen by Him long before you were even in your mother’s womb. For our God is LOVE.

Say it everyday:
I AM – Chosen.
I AM – Loved.
I AM – the Temple of God.
I AM – more than a conqueror through Him.

That is WHO I am. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"Just the WAY you are”

Long before Bruno Mars came out with his song, ‘Just the way you are’ - the great one, 
Billy Joel coined the phrase, ‘I love you…just the way you are.’ I’m convinced that Bruno couldn’t have received inspiration for his version any other way.

On this day set aside to put into action our love for those that mean so very much to us, I’ve come to realize more than ever what these five words could mean to our Valentine.

Scripture says that if you compare yourself with another…you are not wise. Marriages and other relationships have been destroyed because of this very thing.

For all that ever comes out of these comparisons is absolute ignorance.

Too many live this life with if only
If only my wife would be like her.
If only our marriage was like them.
If only I could get my life together like him/her.

This year I celebrate 17 years that Susan Hill has been my Valentine. This June will be our 15th year of marital chaos J. Chaos because life together with your best friend never allows normal to take over. It brings this for the simple reason: best friends are consistently pushing one another to reach for and become more. Average will not do, for greatness is found beyond the ordinary.

I do not claim to know it all, but I do know one thing: Anytime my wife and I have struggled, it can always be traced back to comparing.
If I were more like _____; if she were more like ______; if our marriage could be more like ______; on an on the list goes, which leads to ignorant comments and decisions that are made.

I am so far from perfect. I wake up everyday to climb back into the fight of striving to be a better man, husband, and father. 
Yet, Susan Hill has never tried to change me…she has only challenged me to be better. In other words, she doesn’t compare me to other men in this world, nor does she compare our marriage to another. She loves me just the way I am. That is how we have made it through the ‘chaos’ of these 17 years.

I’m humbled to have been given the greatest gift a man could ever ask for. 
And there is nothing more meaningful one could say to another...
“Su…I wouldn’t change a thing about you.”

Billy Joel, sing it for me:
I said I love you and that's forever
And this I promise from the heart
I could not love you any better
I love you just the way you are.

Disclaimer: Mushy? Yes. Ashamed? No. 

Monday, February 13, 2012


I do not like to admit this publicly, but there are moments when I feel disconnected. We really like for everyone around to feel like that we have everything in order and in its proper place…but quite often I find myself in a place where I’m separated from what I need most. Without fail, when I begin to focus in upon my dilemma, the exact same thing always happens – I try to fix it on my own.
It is my go to reaction to begin the process of figuring out why I’m here and how did I get so far from the connection that I had.

I’ve come to realize that when I try doing things on my own, it is like pushing a car. 
I make progress, but good grief is it ever slow!

(Forest Hill, MD)
In my prayer time today, I shared with God that I simply felt disconnected. While feeling this way for a couple of weeks now, I have spent time trying to seek approval from Him. Basically, I have been depending solely upon my own abilities of ‘good works’ to try and get the job done.

It is a shame to admit, but that is what happens to we humans quite often. We can feel disconnected from Him, or all of a sudden experience difficult times, and we immediately feel like we need to do something to fix it. What we miss is that those ‘moments’ are not to be fixed, they are to be experienced.

I have begun to realize that my character is formed during these times. I loved how I heard it put once: Character is produced through us; it is not manufactured by us.

There is no questioning that God is concerned with where we end up in eternity, but we often fail to realize that He is also tuned in to our journey as well. It can be paralleled with the marriage vow. The culmination of LOVE is not the marriage vows on your wedding day. That moment is the beginning of a lifelong commitment to weather the storms that your relationship will encounter. Those vows will be tested by weak moments when you feel like all hope is lost. And when those times show up, it is imperative that we realize we are not as strong when we are alone. The salvation experience is much the same way: it did not begin with a commitment to SOMETHING – it started with dependence on SOMEBODY.

(Towson, MD)

This journey with Christ is not about earning something or doing something out of ritual…it is simply about relationship. For when I can’t – He can. And when I feel disconnected, I’ve finally figured out that I need to check my ego at the door. It is not about what I can or cannot do – it is about admitting, “Father, I can’t do this without you.”

(II Corinthians 12:10  - For when I am weak, thou art strong.)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Ridiculously Crazy

Have you ever thought to yourself: If my dreams became the future of all mankind…would this world be better for it?
I have listened to the dreams of my children, and they are so cool. From Sam being a Rockette - to Grady being a Starship Trooper - then over to Max who will play all eleven offensive positions in football (at one time). It is the normal reaction in our minds though to think, ‘just give them a little time until reality sits in and those dreams will adjust. 
REALITY. In my maturation process in life, I have grown to greatly dislike the mention of that word.
Erwin McManus (from his book Wide Awake) said, “Our imagination is not limited…our thinking so often is.” Because of what others have said cannot be done, we often stop short. Amazing how the thoughts of others help us to form our own realities.
Conowingo Dam Area
(Darlington, MD)

How many things in this life would we never have experienced, had we not had someone just ridiculously crazy enough to not let reality stand in his or her way of success? It truly shames me when I think of the prayers I’ve prayed, and the dreams I’ve had that ended up making God wonder why I think so little of Him?
It is the reason why it is so imperative that we “…walk by faith and not by sight.” I feel that it would do all of us good to check in on our dreams and see if they are impossible enough? In other words, are we asking for way to little from the one of who created the heavens and earth?
(Forest Hill, MD)

Why not say to your present reality - 
For WITH GOD nothing shall be impossible.  (Luke 1:37) – then go for it.
Sounds ridiculously crazy!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Business Unfinished

Don’t raise your hand, but how many of you have unfinished business?

I always enjoy a good story where payback is involved. The good guys somehow overcome all sorts of obstacles in order to have the opportunity to go back and take care of some unfinished business with the bad guys.

Having unfinished business can haunt you.
It could be with someone who has wronged you…
Possibly it is with missed opportunities…
You might have even left the road littered with unfinished things that you’ve started, but have yet to complete…

Unfinished business.

(Forest Hill, MD)

How about instead of allowing what is unfinished to haunt us, we open the secret places of our hearts and let it motivate us? Instead of allowing unfinished business to create opportunity to point the finger toward others, we instead turn that finger around and point it where it really belongs.

Susquehanna State Park
(Darlington, MD)

Sometimes all it comes down to is perception. How do we view what is left undone?             A teenager lost a contact lens while playing basketball in his driveway. After a fruitless search, he told his mother the lens was nowhere to be found. Undaunted, she went outside and in a few minutes returned with the lens in her hand. "I really looked hard for that, Mom," said the youth. "How'd you manage to find it?" 
"We weren't looking for the same thing," she replied. "You were looking for a small piece of plastic. I was looking for $150." (Source Unknown)

Numbers 13: Moses sent 12 spies to check out the land that God had already promised the children of Israel. 10 of them came back saying, “Not on your life. Those dudes over there are giants.” Joshua and Caleb were the only ones that came back motivated by what they saw. Their unfinished business was seen through different lenses.
We can sit to the side and let unfinished business destroy our dream, or we can open up and let it motivate us toward it. All it really comes down to is what we are looking for. 
Keep allowing what is undone to ruin the dream of tomorrow and you will never move past where you are. But start looking for the motivation, and you will accomplish the impossible. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Cats & Horses

I came across this picture I took recently and spent a few moments just staring at it.

(Forest Hill, MD)
Pictures will do that to you sometimes. You don’t realize at the time you take it what you are possibly capturing. In all the times that I have looked at this picture, I never took the time to notice the cat that was walking around among the horses.

I kind of chuckled because of the symbolism I found in this picture as it relates to my life at times.
You know, there is a big difference in purpose for a horse and a cat. Most horses are fenced in, but everyday they wake up with a designated purpose of carrying riders around or running freely around the pasture. Their boundaries (fences) are set for them and no matter how many times they try to stick their heads through it to eat, they remain where it’s comfortable. They are large enough creatures that most of them could break free, but they choose to remain.

The cat is a whole different story though. I know we have some domesticated kitties who stay inside, but I want to look at the ones who are loose to crawl all over my Jeep after I clean it up!! (SOAPBOX)
These cats have options. They can choose to walk among the horses or they are small enough to slip through most openings and roam freely wherever they choose to go.

(Bel Air, MD)
I wonder which of these creatures would I rather be? So many would be quick to say, ‘I would definitely want to the options that the cat has. I would never want to be fenced in and told where my boundaries are.’ 
So many desire to live in this kind of world, yet what we fail to realize is the indecision that comes with it. When you are allowed to simply roam around searching for what purpose really is, you never stake your claim to what you’ve truly been called to do.

The horse realizes that this is what I was created for. They are trained to realize that their boundaries have been put in their life to find purpose. A horse might be confined to a pasture, but he/she does get a constant supply of hay and fresh baths given frequently.
The cat will wander aimlessly digging through the trash and searching for the next freshly washed car to put their paws on.

In reality, both of these creatures have the option of being free…but I can imagine the horse would tell the cat any day: If you knew what I knew, you would stay in this pasture.

(Forest Hill, MD)
Truth be told, I feel that most of us are symbolically given the options of the cat. There are a few horses in this world whose future is planned for them, but most individuals are given the gift of choice. We can crawl under fences and search the world for what we were created for. It is a beautiful gift that Christ has offered to us. What we must be so careful of is that we don’t wander so far off that we get away from where we are fed. For when we do – a life of purposeless living begins.

Psalm 23
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 
 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, 
he leads me beside quiet waters, 
 3 he refreshes my soul. 
He guides me along the right paths 
for his name’s sake.  (NIV)