Jesus Doesn't Bite
Today I got to have some precious one on one time with my daughter. She sat in my lap, we snuggled, and she talked.
I told her how much I love her, and she said, "Yes mom! Big yaya!" (Translation: big love)
I smiled and said she was right. Then I asked her who could love her more.
"Jesus!" She replied.
Again, I smiled as she gave me her most precious grin. Then she got serious and said, "Jesus love me, huh mom?" I said yes. Then she said, "Jesus would no bite me, huh Mom? Jesus no bite, huh?"
I had to laugh at her sweet, child reasoning. I assured her that I did not believe that Jesus would ever bite her. She smiled and waved her head back and forth with pleasure.
It took me a while to think about how significant her statement was. Not too long ago Emily had a real problem with biting, especially her larger foster brother. We explained to her that if you love someone you do not bite them. Obviously, she made the connection. She realized that if Jesus does love her, then he would never bite her.
How right she is! How I thank God for the reminder. No matter how things may hurt us in this life, Jesus never will. Thank God that Jesus doesn't bite! :)
Gift Card Shopping Spree
Crystal and I went on our weekly date last night. We didn't have a lot of money in the budget this week for our date, so we had to get creative. We started off by having dinner at Taco Bell followed by a milkshake at Carl's Jr.
After our meal and dessert, we went on a gift card shopping spree. We had small amounts of money left on several gift cards totaling a little over $16 and about $2 in change in our pockets. We made it a challenge to see how much we could buy using only that money. We went to Toys 'R' Us, Wal-Mart, and Linens 'N' Things. Here's what we got for $2 cash out of pocket:
- Bag of Dove Christmas chocolates
- 2 Hot Wheels cars
- Package of 2 erasable kid's highlighters
- Ream of paper for our home office
- 4 giant coloring books
- 24-pack of Crayons
- King-sized Snickers bar
- Hand towel
- Wash cloth
Believe it or not, we had a blast. The challenge and creativity required for this date made it one of the best we remember in quite a while!
Life's Everyday Blessings
The book Ruthless Trust talks about seeing everything around us as manifestations of the glory of God:
Those who look beyond the literal see the world as a metaphor for God. When they direct us to the majesty of the mountains, the beauty of the prairies, the variety of wildflowers along the roadside, the smell of mint and hay on a summer morning, the rumble of a train through the valley, the sound of a waterfall, they birth the Word in our midst. They dare us to dream of our homeland, where eye has not seen, neither has ear heard, nor has the imagination conceived of the beauty that awaits us.
Since reading this, I've been watching for ways that God is revealing himself to me through the things I see in my life as a husband, father, and child of God. Here are just a few of my everyday blessings, the blessings that give me small glimpses of what heaven might look like.
- A smile and a slobber-kiss from a one-year-old with only 4 teeth.
- Waking up to find that Emily has crawled into bed with me sometime during the night. Let the tickle-fest begin!
- Hugs and kisses from my wife and a love for her that grows stronger and deeper with each day.
- Watching my adopted daughter's life being transformed by love and a relationship with God.
- Sunshine, puffy clouds, and crisp air the day after a storm.
- My teenage daughter's giggle of pure joy.
- The radiant beauty of a wife in love with her Lord.
- Clouds at sunset painted pink by the light of the setting sun.
- Laughing our heads off during a family game night.
I've added a feed containing my twitter feed to the right sidebar of the home page. If you scroll down a bit from the top, you'll see it. My twitter updates are little snippets of what I'm doing, thinking, and feeling. Enjoy!
Greg's Bucket List
Last week, my wife, my daughter, and I saw the movie The Bucket List. It is about two men who were diagnosed with terminal cancer at approximately the same time. One of the men was talking about an assignment his college philosophy professor gave him, an assignment to make a list of all the things that he wanted to do before he kicked the bucket: a bucket list. The two men set off to complete the things on their list in the short time they had left to live.
I like the idea of having a bucket list, so I made up my own. A lifetime is a long time, so I'm sure some of these items will change before I kick the bucket. Here's the list I came up with for now.
Completed goals will be displayed in lavender
Goals that are in progress will be displayed in gray
1/42 and 4 in progress
001. Build my own businesses large enough that they are providing enough income that I don't have to work for anyone else.
002. Visit each of the 7 continents. [1/7]
003. Visit each of the 50 U.S. states. [30/50]
004. Visit each of the U.S. National Parks.
005. Take a cruise to Alaska.
006. Visit New Orleans.
007. Visit Austin, Texas.
008. Visit New Zealand.
009. See the northern lights.
010. Visit Cairo, Egypt to see the Great Pyramids
011. Go on a K-Love music cruise
012. Thru hike the Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and Pacific Crest Trail. (This is the triple crown of United States distance hiking.)
013. Thru hike the Wonderland Trail.
014. Thru hike the Tahoe Rim Trail.
015. Thru hike the John Muir Trail.
016. Take a cycling tour of Europe.
017. Ride my bike across the United States.
018. Climb Mount Ranier.
019. Climb Mount St. Helens.
020. Trek to the Everest Base Camp.
021. Climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
022. Go winter camping.
023. Ride the Great Divide mountain bike route.
024. Thru hike the Te Araroa trail in New Zealand.
025. Raft the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.
Just for Fun
026. Get my pilot's license.
027. Go skydiving. (Actually, this may not be fun. I'm afraid of heights. But it is a stretch, and I think it'll be good for me to face this fear.)
Education and Culture
028. Read all of the recommended literature listed in the appendix of How to Read a Book.
029. Read a book from an author in every country in the world.
030. Read at least one biography of each U.S. president, in order. [1/45]
031. Attend an opera.
032. Attend a Broadway musical.
033. Learn to play the saxophone.
034. Take an ethnic cooking class in the native country.
035. See Diana Krall in concert.
036. Own recordings of all the works listed in The NPR Guide to Building a Classical CD Collection
037. Learn to play golf.
038. Train for and complete a triathlon.
039. Complete a 365 photo project. [I took a photo a day between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2018]
040. Attend a Rebirth Workshop.
041. Photograph a total solar eclipse.
042. Take a nature photography trip to Iceland.
My Gift - A Poem (101 Things #10)
Crystal was having a rough day today, so I started to write her a note. It came out as a poem somehow. Please, no heckling. A professional poet, I am not. :)
My gift from up above,
you are the object of my love.
My gift from heaven's throne,
life's better together than on my own.
My gift from God on high,
without you, I'd not get by.
My gift from God's abounding grace,
how I love to see your sweet face.
My gift from God, each day, each hour,
I'm thrilled this life is ours to share.
I am so tired of this road, the road I call 'What Next Lane'. It seems I have traveled here so often I have every crack and rock memorized along the path; and yet it always seems a bit different and a bit more daunting than it was the time before. I stand before a road that leads to 'who knows where' and wonder if I will ever get there. It seems I am stalled in neutral on this road, going neither forward or backward. I know it is but a temporary and powerful illusion. And yet, the power draws me into a place dripping with self pity and egotism. My eyes lose their luster and the light seems to dim.
What is the point of this road? As I stare at the familiar foreboding of time past I realize my sight is darkly distorted through the lens of myself. I look upon my Savior and the light returns, illuminating my path yet again. I am saddened to see that my path seems hidden still to me. The tears of sadness and despair run gently down my cheeks. Why can't I see? What am I to do? So many questions fill my mind, and then their comes a calm -- a calm in the midst of my stormy thoughts. A gentle whisper soothes my soul. "Trust me...I will not let you go."
The Gift of Pain
What is the point of creation? In God's infinite knowledge, he decided to create mankind and this world, but why? His decision was not based on his need, and he already foresaw the sin that would so horribly distort and separate his creation from Him. So why did he bother to create us and this world anyway? I have spent countless hours pondering this philosophical repose, the amount of time rising exponentially with each new painful trial I journey through. Pain. Alas, it is the great catalyst for many of my unceasing questions and thoughts. Every fiber of my being screams out in protest against pain. Can the two somehow relate to each other?
Surely the sovereign Creator experiences deep sorrow relating to the condition of his creation if he truly desires that none should perish. I am convinced that somehow the answer to "Why?" is wrapped intimately in the vast and measureless love of God. Would all his work and sorrow regarding his creation be worth it for just one who would receive and believe in the Holy One? I feel certain that God thinks so, however incapable my mind will always be of truly understanding the depth of such a concept. How much will we be able to grasp regarding the vastness of God's love on this side of eternity? For me, it is simply too marvelous to even begin to behold. How then does a God so rich in love and abounding in mercy allow and ultimately design such great suffering and sorrow in our temporal earthly existence?
Somehow I know deep in the intensity of my soul that our pain must be one of God's greatest gifts of love. The gift of pain? Ha! The very sound of such a sentence can seem heretical and absurd; and yet, is it truly? In all of our self sufficiency, egotism, and brilliance we often feel no true need for God. We are self made, picturesque, miniature deities of our own private affairs and need nothing more than time to accomplish all our great achievements. How often am I guilty of such absurd reasonings that lead me to the deft, deceptive thoughts that I somehow am in control of my life? I am grieved to find, that it happens far too often. What then does it take to help me realize my finite mortality? Ah, pain seems to be such a masterful teacher. So vast are the tools that etch us through the pains we face in this life. Sadly, most often it is the utter horror of pain that reflects most brilliantly my desperate need for God. It is in my despair that my limits are most clearly realized and my fragility draws me near to the one who gives me life and sustains me through His grace.
The gift of pain then is what, exactly? Have I not made it clear? The gift is the clarity that pain can bring regarding our finite state and our need for our infinite Creator. Pain longingly draws our souls back to the one who we were created for. As naturally as a child longs for their mother during their desperate times of need, so our soul naturally longs for our sovereign deity. Pain provides a clarity of soul that no other agent this side of Heaven seems to be able to perform. Constant is our longing for more of God, for redemption, for help during our times of deep pain. All self sufficiency gets stripped away and the truth of our state is revealed clearly to us: we need God! Only through the knowledge of our need are we helped and ultimately saved by his immense and matchless grace.
Therefore, I submit that pain truly is a gift to those who in their sinful nature would never realize their deep, true need for the one and only God! Could that lead us to the answer to why God bothered to create us at all? Does he feel that the joy of intimacy with even one of his creation somehow makes all the pain and suffering worth the cost? While I may never begin to understand the implications of this truth, I have no doubt that God does indeed believe we are worth the cost.
A Grief That Fills My Soul
It has been a rough week for me. My heart has been heavy as I think about my oldest daughter and pray earnestly for her. Surrendering her to another was difficult enough. Now praying and hoping that she will see the truth? Well, that is even harder somehow. As the others sleep peacefully through the night unaware of the ravings of this wounded warrior, I pray as I have never prayed before. Clenching my fists, I raise them to God and cry out for his mercy. I cannot lose another child!
I plead for Rachelle. I plead for her soul, for her sight, for her healing. I plead to the one who can do all things, and I know it is He who gives me the will to pray. I cry for the daughter of my dreams that is among the walking dead. I cry for all that she has missed, all the pain she has embodied. I cry for her losses and ours. I cry, and in the midst of my sorrow I sense the sorrow of my Lord. I want to do something, anything, that will help her. I want to run and hold her close, to wash her in my tears and caress her with my words of love. I want to do something.
Then I remember it is not about me. I have done all of those things, and now I fight this unseen war on my knees as I never have before. I will never give up or back down. I will for all of my life carry her before the throne.
I must remember that she was never really mine. She has always been God's.
Purchased Weight Bench and Free Weights (101 Things #25)
I got some money from my parents for my birthday this week, so I started looking around for a set of free weights and a bench for my garage. (I canceled our gym membership to save some money and still wanted to work out.) I found a great deal on a very nice weight bench and 295-pound set of free weights. The set shows some wear, and I had to drive to Oroville -- a town about half an hour away -- to get it, but the price made it worth it. I can't wait to start my strength training again! My neck and back muscles will thank me.