Living the sequel

Our lives, books filled with characters and plots, and story lines, sometimes filled with drama, sometimes filled with dreams. Chapters end, giving way to new beginnings, all with familiar rings, marching onward to who knows where. The Author knows the ending, but the characters, blind, are intertwined with one another in ways whose impact is seldom fully realized until the conclusion.  The Author alone knows their purpose, and their parts in one another’s lives. 

Plot twists complicate an otherwise boring tale, as the Author uses pain and sorrow, joy and revelry to shape each characters’ soul, preparing them for the sequel.

The novel, replete with romance, and heroism, gain and loss, sorrow and sadness, for most, will not make the best seller list, nor even be known by many, but have an impact on the few who truly experience, truly come to life with the words of its pages.

Live the sequel, make way for new beginnings, and allow the plot to thicken, for therein lies the basis for the Author to develop character in this fictitious tale until its denouement.

Living the sequel,

SB

Copyright 2019. Journey for life. All rights reserved

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Chasing dragons

The world around me, filled with brokenness and loneliness; people searching for something they didn’t know they’d lost. Oh, they feel the emptiness, but they can’t quite put their finger on it, and they try to fill the void the best way they know how.

Like the drug addict chasing the feeling from the first time they got high, they reach for familiar crutch, the bottle of Beam, the girl on the corner who’s also searching, the destructive patterns spiral out of control.

With the dragon in front of them, just out of reach, they careen a hundred miles an hour in the wrong direction, never noticing that You were right beside them all along, with arms open wide, waiting to welcome them home.

How I wish they could see You, waiting gently for them to stop running. How I wish they could hear Your voice and know Your love, and know that You will revive their barren, cold, dead hearts.

Your promise is that You will fill us and change our hearts, restoring what is broken, giving us a new song to sing. You take us and shape us to what You have for us.

Ezekiel 36:26 New International Version (NIV)

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh”

Open their eyes, Lord, and their hearts to Your love that washes over us and changes us. Make perfect in us that which is not.

Humbly,

SB

Copyright 2018 journey for life. All rights reserved.

See you later

In our church, we don’t say “Goodbye” to those we bury. When they know Jesus as their Savior, we say “see you later” because of the promise we have of eternal life in Heaven.  (John 3:16-17:  For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him…”)

Yesterday, we laid to rest one of our bikers. Rick was one of the original bikers who brought the idea of a “Blessing of the bikes” to our pastor over twenty years ago. The event started that year with only six bikers, and has grown to over 15,000.

“Gasbag”, as his handle was, for reasons that might be obvious, was himself a recovering crack cocaine addict and recovering alcoholic. Somehow, when he was at his worst, God reached down and got a hold of his life and changed him forever. Oh, he was still rough around the edges, but when God cleaned up his heart, he lived his life differently.

One day, when a man three days into quitting cocaine cold turkey came into our church seeking refuge and God, our pastor asked those who understood recovery to gather around him. Over thirty people from our congregation gathered around him, Gasbag being the first, and held prayer for him. The man sat there, trembling from withdrawal, but wanting to make a change in his life. He’d wrecked relationships with his wife and children, and countless others, but laid his heart open to receive a Savior.

Over the next several years, this man went through a process of rehab, jail time, and reconciliation, in part, because Gasbag was willing to stand with him, right where he was, and show him what Jesus had done for him.

We know, without a doubt, that Gasbag is in Heaven with his Lord and Savior. While it’s sad for those of us still on Earth, we know that we will one day see him again in Heaven. We are thankful that he allowed his life to be changed and thankful that he shred Jesus with other people. Perhaps there are others out there who will be a Gasbag. It may make a difference for someone for all eternity.

Be a Gasbag, today, my friends!

See you later,

SB

Copyright 2018 journey for life. All rights reserved

Unmerited favor

Grace. Oh it’s amazing. For reasons I cannot begin to fathom, our Lord has bestowed unmerited favor on me time and time again.

Last Saturday morning, my 82 year old mother suffered a heart attack. In the wee hours of the morning, I was woken up by our oldest daughter, home from college for Christmas break. Both she and my mother have bedrooms in the basement of our home. She told me that Nana thought she was having a heart attack. I lept out of bed and called an ambulance, which took her to the local hospital. The kids and I waited in the lobby while they got her settled into the emergency room; it seemed like an eternity.

Eventually, the doctor came to speak with us. The look of concern on his face was discomforting and he shared with us that her heart stopped twice while they were getting her settled. He and a team of nurses performed CPR and brought her back. Shaken, he also shared with us that when she came to, she told them not to revive her if it happened again. She has no written medical directive, and he was visibly upset by her instruction. I assured him that was consistent with anything she’s ever told me about dying, and that it was OK to let her go if it happened again. She knows where she’s going and she’s ready to go there.

The nurses all gathered around when she asked to see me for what we thought would be the last time. As I looked down on my mothers tiny, frail body, her face seemed shrunken and her eyes looked different. The nurses were crying and telling me they were sorry. My mother shared a few words with me, said she had no regrets and told me to make sure her grandkids knew she loved them.

Just then, the cardiologist on call entered the room and demanded to know why the cath lab staff hadn’t been prepped. The nurses apologized to me for his bedside manner, and proceeded to alert the cath lab team. Within moments, she was whisked away to surgery, after saying goodbye to my kids. We were ushered to the family waiting area where I made contact with other family members to let them know what happened.

Some time later (because honestly it’s hard to keep track of time in times like those) we were informed that the surgery was successful, that they put a stint into her heart and removed the 90% blockage. She came home from the hospital just two days later on Christmas Eve.

While we were leaving the hospital on Sunday afternoon, my son ran into a friend and his wife who live nearly an hour north of us. Puzzled at what they’d be doing in the hospital in our town, they shared that his father suffered a hear attack on his way to visit family. He was in the cath lab having surgery by the same doctor who did my mom’s. Hours later, we were informed that he didn’t make it.

Although I was thrilled that my mom was okay, I felt a strange sense of guilt that Jim wasn’t. He was younger than my mom, and as far as I know, had no sense of eternal life. Yet he passed and mom didn’t. My family attended his funeral visitation this week while I stayed with my mother. Such a strange dichotomy of feelings washed over me.

I’ve experienced this same dichotomy of emotions when my friend, Bob, buried his 19 year old son who died in a tragic car accident on the weekend my husband and I flew to visit our son for the first time since he left home for college; and the day our school experienced a mass stabbing when my daughter stayed home in an ironic twist of fate, but I drove my son early to school that day so he could take a youth retreat invitation to his friend who ended up the first victim.

I am repeatedly reminded in ways that my simple mind cannot understand that God’s ways are not my ways. The Bible instructs is to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. I am both rejoicing and mourning today.

Be blessed today, my friends. We don’t know what tomorrow holds, but we know Who holds tomorrow.

Blessings,

SB

Copyright 2018 Journey For Life. All rights reserved

Fixing it ALL – the humbling process of fixing my life.

Many years ago, I was ready to make some life changes.  In fact, in January of that year, I decided it was the time to fix EVERYTHING that was wrong with my life!   I wrote out a very detailed list of goals – it included perfecting everything in my 1) Physical life/fitness (ie.. get skinny once and for all)  2)Financial (out of debt, college for kids paid for, retirement fully funded, etc) 3) Spiritual life (ie, get to know God in an up close and personal way) and 4) Relational (ie, fix everything that’s ever been wrong in my marriage, become the friend that I should be, etc).     I went at it like gangbusters for about 2 weeks.   I was conscious of everything I ate and drank, I logged more miles on the treadmill than I had in a very long time.  I created a budget, read my Bible every day, tried to engage my husband in deep, philosophical discussions.     And then…  fell of the wagon.  I failed at every single one of my goals.

The problem wasn’t lack of desire… or even that my goals were bad.  The problem was that I tried to fix everything all at the same time – and I got overwhelmed, and in the end, fixed nothing.

Fast forward a few years – I learned to set much more REALISTIC goals.  Because I had previously learned that I couldn’t fix everything all at the same time, I decided to pick one or two things to really focus on, master, gain some confidence – and then move on to other areas while maintaining the one.

I realize that my life is a work in progress – I didn’t get where I am (either good or bad) overnight, and I’m not going to be able to change overnight either.  On occasion, I lose sight of this and become frustrated with people who haven’t “gotten it” yet until I remember that I am still growing too, and there are plenty of things I haven’t “gotten” yet.  God allows me to continue growing and learning – He is so much more patient with me than I am with myself or others – I guess that’s why He’s God and I’m not.

As we approach New Years, there are plenty of people making resolutions.  My resolution is simply this:  to continuously improve something – to consciously work toward making something better tomorrow than it is today – in whatever area of life I choose.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year, my friends.  Thanks so much for supporting my journey!

My challenge to you all today is to leave something better than you found it.

Blessings,

SB

Copyright 2018 journey for life. All rights reserved

The Poison Grape

If we all knew it was poison, would we consume?

Seems like a silly questions, but is surprisingly difficult question to answer.   In the story of Adam and Eve and the fall of man in Genesis, the apple was sweet, but led to destruction.  

Sadly, alcohol is that apple for some. Seemingly innocent, many people can consume a glass or two of wine, or have a few beers during a football game without issue.   In and of itself, my personal opinion on the use of alcohol is that it’s not a terribly big deal.  However, I continue to encounter people whose lives have literally been wrecked by alcohol, and I go back to my original question – if they had known the consequences of the poison, would they partake?

Many years ago, there was a husband / wife couple in the church that I attended at the time who apparently made a suicide pact with one another to drink themselves to death.  The wife succeeded the initial attempt, leaving her husband and grown children to bury her.  Within a few short weeks, the husband tried again, this time succeeding.  For all the pain and sorrow I harbored at the time of my life, I couldn’t understand their choice.   I could only imagine the overwhelming desperation their selfish acts left on their children. It was heartbreaking.

In my current circle of acquaintances is a man who has a similar death wish. I have watched from afar the powerful grip alcohol has on his life over the past 12 months since he first drank himself into seizures the day after Christmas, 2017.  He has been in and out of rehab so many times this year I have lost count.  He has lost almost all of his family, except for a daughter, torn between babysitting her dad and needing to be in a safe place.  Never in all my years of mentoring and working with addicted people have I ever seen such a powerful demon as this man has.  It is truly, truly heartbreaking.  I wonder to myself, if he’d have known how things would have turned out, would he have ever taken the first drink?

Oftentimes we don’t see the big picture – we can’t see the long term destruction in our choices, and so we fall into them. Like quicksand, they pull us deeper and deeper, until we feel like we can’t ever be pulled out. My heart breaks for all those who are under the grip of this powerful poison, especially at this time of year, when it seems so many are searching for a lost happiness. The beautiful thing is that is exactly where Jesus specializes – in giving power to the powerless, restoring the completely broken, making beautiful things out of the ashes of our lives.

It reminds me of the beautiful verse in Psalm – not what I’d consider my life-verse, but one that truly speaks to me.

Thinking about all those struggling with addictions – it hits pretty hard this time of year – but know that God sees you struggling and wants to help you. May you reach your hand out for him to pull you to safety and put your feet on solid ground, and make something beautiful of you.

Be blessed today, my friends.

SB

Copyright 2018 Journey For Life – All rights reserved.

Song of the day: Beautiful things (Gungor)

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change, at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found?
Could a garden come out from this ground, at all?You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of usAll around,
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found, in youYou make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us
Oh, you make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of usYou make me new,
You are making me new
You make me new,
You are making me new
(Making me new)You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us
Oh, you make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of usYou make me new,
You are making me new
You make me new,
You are making me newSongwriters: Brian Johnson / Christa Black / Jeremy RiddleBeautiful Things lyrics © Music Services, Inc

Outgiving

In 2012, my husband had a life-changing medical event and was off work for nearly a year.   At Christmas-time that year, he got word that there was a package for him at his place of employment.  He stopped one day to pick up it up, and brought home two enormous gift bags the size of large garbage bags.   The folks at his shop said only that one of their customers, who had heard about Rich’s injury, stopped by with the package – they didn’t know who it was or weren’t telling.

We gathered the entire family around to open the gift.  We were awestruck by what we saw.  Though not knowing us at all, someone had tried to find gifts appropriate for each person in the family.  There were games, and blankets, and candles, and decorative pillows, and treats, and all kinds of goodies.  In addition to the thoughtful trinkets, there was a devotional book along with a Christmas card about the Savior of the World.  

We were all completely humbled that someone we didn’t know would have taken the time and effort to have so elaborately put together as thoughtful of a package as they possibly could without knowing the family.  All they knew was that Rich was out of work – and they felt his family should get to have a Christmas.   

We tried to find out who had left the gift so that we could properly thank them, but were never able to.  In reality, I don’t believe they did it to receive a thank you. 

I wept hard that night at the thought of the compassion bestowed upon us.   I vowed to always do my best to do similar for other families, and every year, now, I look for opportunities to be a blessing to others

Just a few weeks ago, one of the store managers where Rich works had a heart attack, and is off work for 8 weeks.   Almost immediately after it happened, Rich asked if we could organize a financial gift for him and his family.  He said he’d like to ask the other guys in the shop to contribute but didn’t know what kind of response he’d get.  I assured him that we’d be happy to not only organize, but fill the gap to make it a good financial blessing for his family.   He got to work collecting money, and we put the final amount into a card last Friday and gave it to the man, who was overwhelmed with emotion.  

The following day, Rich found out that the company had achieved a sales target it had been trying to achieve for 4 years, and so gave everyone in the company a bonus – it happened to be the exact amount that we had put into the envelope for the manager.    My husband was surprised about this.  When he told me about it, I simply smiled and thought, “you can’t out-give God.”  This is a principal I’ve long known, and it is a such a blessing for me to see that others can see it as well. 

photo cred: sheisstronginhim.com

Be Blessed today, my friends!

SB

copyright 2018 Journey For Life  All Rights Reserved