Two Peas….One Pod…

This past weekend, we took our annual trip to the mountains in Pigeon Forge. This trip that we take each year, never gets old. There is so much to do there you really don’t get much R&R on your vacation. This year we went a week later than normal and what a difference a week makes. The trees were in full Fall color, the mountains were amazing and we got to see more rocks than usual due to the lack of rain in the area.

This trip each year reminds me of what God can do:

1 – He is a Master Artist – Only a great master could paint each tree, each leaf and place them exactly where they need to be to make them look amazing. Only a Master Artist could make the sun rise and paint the sky the way that He does each morning….

2 – He is the Great Provider – Only God could put a family, the Olivers, in the middle of nowhere, provide for them through the Cherokee Indians until their farm was up and running and preserve their homestead for almost 200 years so that we can enjoy it and learn from them today…

3 – He is the Ultimate Decorator – All of those rocks, all of that water, those winding curves, all in one place for us to enjoy

4 – He is the Great Protector – Throughout the years, the settlers had to face hardships that we don’t see today: raising and storing food for the winter, protection from the elements, from wild animals

This year, I saw another side of God that I have not seen before. He is also the Master Planner. This was the second year that we were able to take the boys but the first year that we were able to really show them the mountains. Last year we were still learning to be their parents and how to take care of them. This year, we as a family got to see and do things as a family more so than last year. Steph is around the boys all day while homeschooling them so I don’t  get to spend as much time with them as she does.

Through all that we went through to grow our family, we could not have gotten 2 more perfectly matched kids. I love both of our boys and could not imagine loving them any more if we shared the same DNA. I love going home to be with Steph and the boys like never before but I saw first hand how well God planned Joseph and Jason for us.

20161020_123547They both have likes and dislikes similar to me and Steph but this past week, I REALLY saw first hand how much alike Joseph and I are. Both of us are accident magnets. Both of us like technology. He learned how to operate the blue ray, dvd, xbox all on his own. He has my old computer in his classroom and flies through the games and websites that he can look at. He took hundreds of pictures on his tablet (he forgets to charge it like I do) and he went up to so many complete strangers that had college football shirts on and told them “Roll Tide!”

Jason and I both share a lot of likes and dislikes but nothing like Joseph and I do. How does something like that happen? I look at them each day and thank God with everything that I have that He brought them to us. He had them picked out for us before they were born. He knew then the hardships and struggles that they would face and that He would give us the strength and wisdom to help them overcome their struggles. Regardless of how hard Steph and I tried to force God’s hand to give us kids the way that WE wanted it, HE had a different plan. He had a better plan.

He knew the right kids to fit in with our family, the sons that Steph and I would have to raise into Godly men. He knew the son that would be so much like me its like we were made from the same mold, or as Steph said countless times this past weekend….

2 peas….1 pod

And I’m ok with that!

Dear God

I am so amazed by the life You have given me. You gave me an amazing wife and now You have given Steph and I an amazing family with the 2 boys that are perfect for us. I can’t remember life before them and now could not imagine my life without them. They are respectful and polite to others and will drive you crazy in the blink of an eye. They are an incredible blessing, one that I am so not worthy of. You made it happen.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28

Keith

Grace…

When we drive on any interstate in Atlanta, We all see the lottery signs and think……”what if…..” What if we had more money than we could spend? What if we had enough money? so that we didn’t have to work and didn’t have to worry. We wouldn’t have to have health insurance. We would have enough money to pay our own medical bills. We could all say it wouldn’t change us, but  would it? We can all say we would keep working but would we?

What about time? What if we had enough time in our day to get everything done. If I just had more time then I could do more. If I more time then I could help others more, I could spend more time with family, I could read my bible more, I could have that quiet time. If I had just a few more hours in each day then I could ____________ fill in the blank.

What if we had everything, time, money, resources, people, that we think that we need to make it in this world? What if we realized that what we think we need to make it and what we truly need in this world are two different things all together?

What if we realized what it really is that we need and how easy it is……to receive it?

So what is it that we need to make it through this life?

Grace

You are probably sitting there thinking “Grace, that’s one of those church words, you know grace, faith, and that big church word, salvation, that we don’t talk a lot about. We don’t hear it used a lot except in closing prayers just before we head for the buffet after church.

Question is do we really have a clue about what “Grace” is?

Grace is God showing His love to us even though we don’t deserve it. We can’t earn God’s grace. It is one of the greatest gifts that we will ever receive. We don’t deserve to be saved from sin and to have eternal life. But God showed His grace by saving us from the punishment for our sins when we trusted in Jesus as our Savior. God also shows His grace by giving us strength and guidance, and by taking care of us every day. God, by His grace, gives us strength to handle the difficult problems and seemingly impossible situations in our lives.

Ephesians 2:8-9 New International Version (NIV)

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast.

So what is Grace? How can we truly understand what Grace is? Thankfully, Jesus had the insight to know that some of his teachings would not be understood easily. Some of the things that He taught we have all scratched our heads and wondered what he meant or why He said what he said. That’s why Christ often taught through parables. One of  those parables, the prodigal son, really hits close to home for a lot of us. We have all had our rebellious moments against our parents, our boss at work, and others in our lives.

If you have been in church, you have probably heard this story in Luke 15 many times. The younger son decides he has had enough of living under his parent’s authority and decides he wants to take what is his and move on. He obviously thought he was smarter than his father and knew what was best for him so he took his share of his inheritance and headed out.

Funny thing about life, just when you think you have it made and know all that there is to know about it, life will throw you a curve here and there and get your attention. The son, who had it made, living it up having a good time until….the money ran out. Just like many of today’s lottery winners. Look it up sometime, Google lottery winners years later. Many are desolate. Many have lost or spent it all. Some are even living on unemployment.

Really?

So what happens when the money runs out? What happens when we don’t have a clue where to turn?

“Daaaaaaaaaadddd!!!!!”

Just like the prodigal son, just like I have had to do so many times in my own life, we run for dad. The prodigal son had spent and lost everything that he had. He had even taken a job that was so degrading, feeding the pigs in the field in the hopes that he could eat some of the food meant for the pigs but even that fell through as no one would give him anything.

Then he realized how well his father’s servants were treated? They had food to eat. They had better lives than he had. “I’ll go back to my dad and work as a servant for him”

Faith……

The son had faith in his father. He knew that those who served his father were provided for. He knew that his father took care of them, but he also knew that if he couldn’t continued to live the life he had chosen for himself instead of the life he could have as a servant of the father. He stepped out in the faith in his father and went home.

As the son nears his father’s home, the father runs to meet him, puts on him his best robe, kills the fatted calf, and has a feast upon his return. The son, probably still covered in the mud from feeding pigs and dust from the road, deserved none of this but because the father loved him……

Grace…….

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith”

Even though the son was covered in his filth, because he had faith in his father, his father extended grace to him. His father didn’t give the son what he deserved. He covered the worst in his son, with the best that he had.

Because we have faith in God, regardless of how bad our sins are that we have committed, God extends us grace. He covers us with His very best, Jesus Christ who bled and died as payment for our sins. God extends us grace daily because we are not perfect. I fail daily. We fail daily. We need grace extended to us daily. Think about some of the greatest men of the bible and how even they, needed……Grace. Moses, led the children of Israel out of Egypt, parted the red sea, delivered the 10 commandments even though he broke all 10 of them at once when he smashed the tablets. Moses was a murderer.

David had killed Goliath and went on to become one of the greatest kings of the old testament. He also committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed on the battlefield. The apostle Paul, one of the greatest men of the new testament times who wrote a large portion of the New Testament, before his Damascus road enlightenment, persecuted Christians and took part in the stoning of Stephen. All of these men, these sinners, were extended the Grace that only God can give and they went on to become great men of the bible.

But what if that one thing that we need daily more than air……didn’t exist? What if God took a day off? For one day WE had full control of our lives? What if for one day, God’s protection and provision…….didn’t exist? What if for one day, God’s grace in our lives, wasn’t there and we had to pay for all the wrong that we did on that one day. The sins in our lives, big and small, we would have to pay for. Even the not so obvious sins….that thought you have about the person who cuts you off on the interstate, that thought you have that pops in your head when the attractive woman OR man for you lades, and yes women can have those thoughts too they are just better at hidding it. What about when that thought comes to the front of your mind. What about that hateful thought you have about your boss when he asks you to do something that you don’t want to do.

What if for one day God’s forgiveness doesn’t exist? What if God…..called in sick?

We get a little siffle and we call in sick. Here in the south just the hint of a snowflake shuts down the world and we stay at home taking a day off. Because of the love that God has for us, because of the gift of grace He extends to us many times throughout every day, that doesn’t happen. God doesn’t take a day off. God doesn’t use sick days. God’s love and God’s grace are never ending.

Grace is the one thing that we need daily and it’s the easiest thing in the world to receive. It is a GIFT. You can’t go to the mall and buy it. You can’t find it on craigslist or eBay. It’s not shared on facebook, twitter or pinterest.

It’s yours for the taking. All you have to do….is ask. Regardless of your age, regardless of who you are or what you have done, all that you have to do is ask.

Never Grow Up….

Its that time again. Another election year where we decide who will lead our country for the next 4 years. This is an important decision that none of us should take lightly. Each time an election year comes up, I remember a simple 6th grade classroom. Mrs. Whitten was our teacher and she made a lasting impression on me about the importance of respect, honor, devotion to our country and so much more. She made us memorize the Presidential Oath. We learned about the Constitution, The Declaration of Independence. It was important to her, and she made it important to me.

She also made us think about what we wanted to do when we grow up. We had to think about what we wanted to do with our lives. We even had to research our field of choice, get more information on it and write a report on it. For me, it was a no brainer. In Mrs. Whitten’s class in 6th grade I was determined to be a lawyer and nothing else (Ironically years later it was to open a night club Franklin’s). After all, the lawyers that we saw on TV shows, drove nice cars, lived in big houses, and had a LOT of money.

What I didn’t know is how much reading is involved to be a lawyer. How many late nights, weekends, time away from family that lawyers have to put it. There is no way in this world that I would ever want to be a lawyer. It is so far from who I am and what I love to do, but Mrs. Whitten still made me think about what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Today, life has forced me into growing up. We have a house, 2 cars, 2 boys, and things in life that we enjoy doing. These cost money. To earn money, I have to have a job. Having a job means having responsibilities and people that I am responsible for. Being responsible, means sadly, growing up.

I watch the boys with envious eyes. I see how they, like me, love to play the Xbox, love to play on their tablets. Joseph would rather play on those that be outside any day. Jason loves cars, jeeps, trucks and especially Hot Wheels. I have a collection of unopened Hot Wheels in my office downstairs and he can’t understand why I don’t open them and play with them. He is all the time bringing me one of his cars, to add to my collection.

I see life in their eyes. I see imagination in their faces. I love it when I go downstairs and there are toys, racetracks and cars, light sabers everywhere. I love picking up a light saber and battling Joseph. I love it when Jason wants to help me do anything even if it is walking beside me cutting grass. I love being a kid again, with them not thinking about grown up junk, bills, working on the house, laundry.

At the beginning of 2016, I made the decision to change jobs. My current job, requires a long drive to and from work. It is 10 hour days either on a job site or estimating new projects. I come in to work at 6:30 and work solid until I leave at 4:30. If I am lucky, I get just a few hours with the boys before bedtime and then if I can stay awake from being exhausted, I get some time with Steph. This is not how I pictured being grown up.

So my prayer for a while now is “God, please make my job better.”

God answered.

At the end of this week, I will have completed my 2 weeks notice that I turned in to my current employer. God answered my prayer and is going to make my job better. He opened another door for me. Fortunately, it is a door that I walked out of, to come here, but with better circumstances. No job is perfect but the one that I am returning to, is a familiar door. It is an opportunity that will allow me more time with my family, more time to take care of responsibilities, and more time for me. All of these are important, and will give me the chance to make life seem a little less grown up.

Dear God

Once again, You have shown that You are faithful and that You care about me. You care when I am hurting and miserable. You care that I miss my family time. You only want the best for me. You have allowed me to see my prayers were for what I wanted and not what You have in store for me and You have protected me and my family. Go with me, watch over us and protect us.

I will trust in You!

Keith