In 1989, while appearing as a guest on “the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” legendary actor James “Jimmy” Stewart read a tear-jerker, heartfelt ode to his beloved dog, Beau. He entitled the poem, My Dog Beau. You can see the video of this touching composition on YouTube. I tear up nearly every time I hear it or see it.
However, my dog Bo doesn’t make me cry. He makes me smile. Every day that I get to see Bo, and he sees me, I feel like I must be one of the greatest people to ever live. Bo greets me like nobody’s business. He can’t get close enough to me. So, he rams his head into my chest or my legs, stomach, face, or wherever he can. Additionally, he howls. Man does he howl. He literally goes bananas when I get home from work. I once told my wife that for me to feel loved, “I don’t need much. Just greet me like Bo does every day when I get home.” My wife knew I was kidding, but how great would it be to be loved by someone so much that they went Bonkers every time they saw you? It would be great. It is great. And, not just with my dog Bo.
Around 2000 years ago, the God who spoke all matter, space, and time into existence, took on flesh and lived, breathed, laughed, walked, ate, drank, slept, wept, cried, and finally died because He loved us so much. I sometimes struggle to feel loved by God. In depending on what I can see, touch, smell, taste, and hear, I think I may often miss that still, small voice of God telling me He loves me. He tells us that all of Heaven rejoices when one person repents and turns to Him. (Luke 15:7) I am one of those people. He rejoices over me!
If I never felt anything from God, but simply trusted that He is Who He says He is and look at the extraordinary, inconceivable way that He came after me, that should be enough. But, I believe that God wants us to experience His love.
I have had those goose-bump moments over the years. I’ve had mountain-top seasons of life where God felt incredibly close to me. But, I’ve also had seasons of darkness. I’ve had times where it was difficult to sense Him at all. Over the last several years, part of it through dealing with the pain of depression, I have learned to look for God in what is going on around me. In dealing with major depressive disorder when I was a young man, there were periods of time, sometimes years, where I was in a very dark, sad, lonely place. One day during a time like this, a few guys from church came to hang out with me. I was no fun at all. These guys were definitely not coming to hang out because of what a joy I was to be around. They came because they loved me. After they left, I cried out to God, “Why don’t You love me like that?!?” In that moment, God spoke to my heart. “That was Me. I am loving you through them!” Gulp. I had so often been looking for the mystical, ethereal moments that I was missing what God was right in front of me.
The Bible teaches us that every good and perfect gift comes from our Father in Heaven. (James 1:17). We also know that God is love.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. I John 4:7
Real love is different from what is often portrayed as love. Real love comes from God. Real love is about the other person. Real love gives. When we receive love from anyone that is real, it has come from God. Even though an animal like my dog Bo, don’t necessarily “love,” God, who is love, can love me through any good gift He gives me. God loves me through a beautiful sunset, through the love of my wife, through my friends, and, He can love me through my dog Bo.
The Bible describes the church as the Body of Christ. Only bodies can physically manifest love toward another. We do this by giving of ourselves for the sake of the other person. Right now, the world could use some REAL LOVE. As the church, let’s ask God to show us who we can love today. The best-selling author, Bob Goff’s outstanding book, “Love Does,” nails it. For someone, you may be the answer to their prayers begging God to show them His love.
My wife and I love the show This is Us. I am not saying that I agree with the spiritual lives or beliefs of any of its characters. I am saying that I think it is a remarkable television show. It is remarkable in that it captures a critical insight that I believe I often miss. I think we all miss it sometimes. That crucial truth? Everyone has a backstory. And, everyone’s backstory is different.
For those of you who’ve never watched This is Us, the show constantly pivots between the past, future, and present in the lives of every character introduced. The central figures are the members of the Pearson family. Jack and Rebecca are father and mother to three siblings, Kevin, Kate, and Randall. Kate and Kevin were fraternal twins, and their mom, Rebecca, lost the third child she was carrying during childbirth. Randall had been abandoned at birth and was left in front of a fire station before being brought to the hospital with the same birthdate as Kevin and Kate. Jack and Rebecca decide to adopt Randall. There are over 10 other characters because each of these people have relationships with others either in the past, present, or future.
The acting, script, intensity of relationships, the good and the bad (although Jack is written to be the most flawless human male I’ve ever encountered—despite his alcoholism), are all amazing. But, I think that what impresses me most about the show is that the writers recognized that what people experience in the here and now is the result of not only the circumstances in the moment, but also all of our backstories. The show takes us through what was behind the development of the psyche of each character and even what was behind the “demons,” vices, or neurosis of each character. It also shows those things that may have driven them to succeed, or to have unhealthy ideas of what success is.
I love this show because I have a backstory. You have a backstory. We all have backstories and no one’s is the same. Even the three kids who grew up with the same parents, in the same house, have different backstories. As I make my way in the world I am becoming more and more convinced that considering others’ backstories is a key to being a conduit of God’s grace. We never know what the person next to us has gone through. Even if we have an idea of circumstances they have faced, we don’t live in their skin, with their temperament. I think I have often assumed that everyone has had the same kind of day, week, month, LIFE that I’ve had. They haven’t. Grace. Grace. God’s grace. We all need it. Before I get angry or hurt in relationships Lord help me remember we all have backstories. This is us…people who need Grace.
When I was a young man I often wondered what God’s will was for my life. When I got a little older, I wondered what God’s will was for my life. Now, that I’m probably well past halftime in my life, I think I’m starting to understand God’s will for my life. I think there are general truths that are applicable to everyone.
Love God. Love others.
Jesus said as much Himself, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31
I experienced true life-change and a commitment to knowing and following Jesus when I was 17. On August 17, 1984, I decided I wanted to live my life for the purpose that God created me. That being said, I don’t think I had a clue what that purpose was in any specific sense. My dad, of whom I’ve written about extensively in two books (Woodlawn and Always Fall Forward), was a football coach. He pushed his players and me (I played for him) very hard. He made us work very diligently and I’m glad he did. Still, I can’t help but think that some of my thoughts of God are related to how I perceived my own earthly Dad…that somehow God’s plan for me would be extremely painful and not enjoyable in the moment.
So, I spent my college years “seeking God’s will” for my life. Then, I got out and started working, just a job though….probably not “God’s will.” I knew that “God’s will” would be something that He shared with me in a burning bush moment. I also kind of suspected that God’s will for me would probably be something really difficult, no fun, and almost like penance. I think my thoughts of God and His will were probably not too dissimilar from lots of folks' ideas about God these days. These thoughts are that God is some sort of Cosmic Killjoy who will let you into Heaven through faith in Jesus, but who wants you to prove that faith by living a life devoid of fun and enjoyment.
Today, I’d like to share what I believe is a Biblical view of God’s will.
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11
The mind of man plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
Those three verses tell us things.
1. God does have plans for us and they are for our good, to prosper us, and to give us hope.
2. We should make plans and if we get off-track, God will re-direct us.
3. Trusting God above our own understanding will help keep us on the right path.
Some additional things about God that have helped me see more of Who He is and what His will is for me.
God invented fun.
God invented laughter.
God gave us tastebuds and mouths to eat instead of just having us plug into a wall or something for our needed nutrition.
God invented SEX! All these things should direct our gaze back at the one who gave them to us for our enjoyment within His boundaries. He wants you to enjoy Him through these things!
And, God made you. He made you unique. You are an exclusive blend of talents, temperament, gifting, likes, and dislikes.
In his best-selling book, “First Break All the Rules,” Marcus Buckingham shares with us that people are most satisfied, and enjoy their work the most, when they are doing what they are most uniquely gifted to do. Mr. Buckingham is on to something!
God designed you to do what you are most uniquely gifted to do. What do you love to do? What are you passionate about? Think about this line from Olympic Gold Medalist Eric Liddell from the 80’s classic movie “Chariots of Fire,” when he explained to his sister why he was delaying joining her on the mission field in China:
“I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast!
And when I run I feel his pleasure.”
Have you found that thing that when you are doing it, you feel God’s pleasure? Explore your gifting. Explore your passions. What activity makes you happiest? Investigate that! You may have discovered God’s vocational will for your life. I have a deep desire to help people discover this for themselves. If you want to talk to someone about your own gifting or vocational ideas, just drop me a note.
Billy Graham once said, “Can you see God? You haven’t seen Him? I’ve never seen the wind. I see the effects of the wind, but I’ve never seen the wind. There’s a mystery to it.” Several times over the last several weeks I have sat and listened to the wind. For the last four or five years I have gotten a strong impression that I have been too “busy.” Busy with work. Busy with driving. Busy with playing. Busy with kids. Busy with hobbies. Busy with television. Busy with radio. Busy with internet. Busy with Social Media. Busy-Busy-Busy!
Two people come to mind when I consider my busy-ness. Mary, of Mary and Martha fame is one. Luke tells of a time that Jesus came to visit these sisters of Lazarus, the man who Jesus would later raise from the dead. Martha was busy-busy-busy! She was getting everything ready for their big dinner party. Mary was just sitting there with Jesus. Listening. Talking. Developing a relationship. Martha was working. Work is a good thing. Yet, when Martha complained to Jesus that she was doing all the work and wanted Him to tell her sister to help, His response wasn’t what she was looking for.
But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42
The second person I think of is David.
The Lord has searched for a man after his own heart. The Lord has appointed him as ruler of his people… I Samuel 13:14
I think most of us who know David’s story have been amazed that a man with the kind of baggage he carried would be considered “a man after God’s own heart.” On the other hand, I think it tells us about the graciousness, mercy, and passion of our God. David didn’t do anything halfway. He was all in. He was passionate. And, He really, really seemed to not only love God, but also to know that God really loved Him. How did he get to this point? Biblical timelines and the description of David as the youngest of eight sons tells us that after his anointing he spent the next 15 to 20 years developing. He still hadn’t “arrived,” when he became king as evidenced by his moral failing with Bathsheba and his subsequent murdering of her husband. Still, his heartfelt repentance when confronted with his sin and steadfast pursuit of God are inspiring to me.
So, why all this about David in a post about listening to wind? I have a sneaking suspicion that David spent many days alone in the pastures with his sheep listening to the wind. Birds. Sheep. Silence. I believe David spent many nights alone in the pastures staring up at the sky. Silence. Breeze. Sheep. Silence. Stillness. David wrote from his experiences--
The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Psalm 19:1-3
David spent many days and nights running for his life from someone he had been completely loyal to. King Saul, blinded by a jealous rage was intent on killing David. David poured out his heart to God while hiding out in silence in caves, in the wilderness, alone. Even in these times of frantic activity, David never lost sight of relationship. Perhaps, like Mary, he had learned that sitting still with God was the most important thing he could do. Like Mary, doing nothing, but being with her/his Savior was the One thing he couldn’t do without.
Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you! Psalm 63:3
I need to stop. I need to do nothing. I need to be with my Savior. So, I look forward to listening for the wind today. I hope to see some stars tonight. I want to know my Savior. I know He is there. I just need to be still and listen for Him.
Each day we go into the world with the opportunity to make an impact. Each person whose paths cross ours matters. Lives intersect for a reason. I believe there is One who directs our steps to these sometimes seemingly random meetings. My goal for these encounters is that I make a difference. That is my desire for those who venture across my blog. I hope you are blessed and it makes a difference for you.