Keeping a Clear Rearview



Even though the weather was beautiful today and the Mrs. & I were able to spend some quality time together, there were still a few projects that needed to be done.  One of those was to install the replacement reverse camera on my Honda Accord (fun project… I know). 

Over the past few months, the view on the dashboard screen had become increasingly cloudy until it eventually was just black.  Sure, you could still see the guidance lines, but everything else was dark forcing me to resort to the old fashioned way of backing up my car; turning my head. 

I know.  I can hear it now, ‘Oh no Brad, you may have to look back when going in reverse like they taught you in Driver’s Ed!…’  I’ll admit, it was a throw-back to the old days when I didn’t have that convenient camera to rely on keeping me from running over someone, or into something, I shouldn’t.  

Thanks to YouTube and eBay, I was able to get the OEM part for a fraction of the cost and install it myself within only a few short minutes.  That first look into the dashboard screen was nothing less than nirvana!  

Without even realizing it, I had become totally dependent on that little camera’s view behind me.  I realized just how much the rearview is crucial to the safety of all those around me.  Though it’s a small piece of equipment, it makes a big difference in my ability to drive safely.  

It occurred to me that, when our view of the past becomes cloudy, or even forgotten, our future safety can be endangered.  Whether that view of the past includes things that were painful or joyful, they can all teach us something which will help us to become better, and safer, as we move through our lives.

It may be the memory of a parent, or grandparent, doing something silly, teaching us to put the lid back on the milk carton, or just the loving care of a friend. All of them accumulate into who we are now.  Rather than putting the past completely behind us, if we allow ourselves to learn from, not only the good memories, but the mistakes made by us, and others, seeing the good even in the bad, we will be better for it. 

Hopefully, your rear camera is clear tonight.  If not, I encourage you to be open to re-evaluating some of those things you’ve put aside from the past to see where you may find a good lesson to glean from, or, to see where your vision may be clouded from unforgiveness.   Forgiveness for those who’ve hurt us in the past will help open the door for us to new relationships, peace of heart, and fulfillment.  It will help us to keep that rearview clean and clear making the road ahead safer for ourselves, and, for others…     

Love Always…

Sunshine After the Rain


Finding the path to peace in life can seem daunting at best.  For most of us, the path to the end of the day is enough to think about.  Yet, as the days go by and turn into weeks, months, and years, we can look back and learn from the paths we’ve taken seeing that, even in the darkest of times, there was a light to guide us.

It has been some time now since I last blogged.  For a number of reasons, I decided to take a break after completing my 365-day quest to blog every day last year. Those reasons included no less than changes in family dynamics, work stress, and a need to spend more quality time with the Mrs. in the evenings.  All were factors.  I will admit, however, that I missed the nightly routine of sharing my thoughts of the day with you.

Yesterday, during our morning walk together, the Mrs. and I were bundled up to keep warm after a cold Fall rain that fell earlier that morning.  The air was cool & fresh.  Even though it was misty, the clouds were beginning to part and the sun was starting to shine through the rain drenched tree leaves.  To top off all the Fall greatness around us, it was also Friday and I was ready for a break.  This week had been a stressful one full of travel, work pressure, and life.  So, this walk was perfect timing. 

As we walked past a puddle in the sidewalk, something pulled at my heart to look back at the leaves in the water on the sidewalk.  The sun had begun to shine down on them in the midst of the rain.  Inside my heart, it was as if the Lord began to speak in that still, small, loving voice of His saying, ‘There is always sunshine after the rain’… 

Over the past few years, many of us have gone through difficult times with the loss of family members, loss of relationships, and family health issues that rip away at every part of our hearts.  Often, it’s easy to look at those situations and become overshadowed by the dark clouds.  It seems like the rains will never stop.  We go from one downpour to another.  For those like me, you may even feel like you’re putting your best ‘face on’, but inside you’re hurting and find it hard to share with others out of fear of being perceived as weak. 

In spite of ourselves, there is a steady hand at work beneath those dark clouds to guide us, protect us, and comfort us.  It’s a loving, but strong hand.  One that will never leave us or forsake us.  It’s the hand of the Master.   Our heavenly Father who sees all, knows all, and loves always. 

So today, look up.  There will be sunshine at the end of the rain.  Even in the midst of the storm when the thunder is drowning out His voice, know that He is with you.  He will calm the storms and bring you peace.  His light will shine and push back the darkness in due season.

When the day comes and the sun is shining again in your life, you will be able to look back and see that you were never alone.  His hand was there with you and His light is there now to make the right path known to you.   If it weren’t for that unconditional, never ending loving hand in my life, I truly don’t know where I would be.  I suspect it wouldn’t be where I am today, and I know I wouldn’t be blessed with the Mrs. in my life. 

We all face the rain and walk through it from time to time.  The key is to remember, even when it’s cold and dark all around us, is that, one day, the sun WILL shine again.  We will be ok.  No matter what life may throw at us, He will keep us and shine the light on our path; even in the midst of the rain… 

Spinning Around in the Chair of Life


Let’s face it, half of the battles we face in life are those brought about by our own decisions; whether we thought they were from good intentions or bad.  Others come our way naturally through interactions with those around us whose decisions affect us (both good or bad).   How do we navigate this life of seeming uncontrollable circumstance?  We never really know what the next day may bring us.

Like many my age, I’ve wrestled with the natural inclination to turn inward and to look backward second-guessing decisions made long ago by myself and by others.  It’s a process of reconciliation we all go through as we realize later in life the things we once thought to be true are not and those we never thought true are.

As I get towards the end of that phase of maturing, I’m finding a sense of peace that I hadn’t had before brought about by a letting go of the things I had no control of and the realization that I’m not alone with the poor decisions I’ve made.  Learning to forgive one’s self is a good thing even when others still hold onto what they believe in order to appease their need for self-justification.

Occasionally spinning around in that chair of life allows us all to look back at life today and forward at life in the future.  It can be a difficult process at first as the enemy of our soul will try to condemn us for the poor choices we’ve made or tempt us to overly self-inflate ourselves taking more credit than we deserve for the good choices made.  The one reassuring thing that has given me healing and peace of heart & mind has been the still, small voice of a loving Father who has shown Himself real to me through it all.  In that, I can find rest; and so, can you.

Tonight, if you’re near that stage where you’re able to turn around in that chair of life and look around at the past, present, and future, I want to encourage you to ask your loving creator to show you when, and how, He was with you through those times.  I know that He will.  When He does, don’t be surprised if you begin to see things differently.  Most importantly, you will grow in your faith knowing He will always be with as you as you travel through this short life here on Earth.   And, that, is exciting!

He Will Meet You by the Water


By the shores of Lake Michigan, one could look out and see nothing but water.  It was like the ocean, just without the salt.  We loved walking along the beach with Mom picking up stones to skip, looking for lost treasure, and wading into the crashing waves. Mom has always loved the big lake.  Growing up only a short car ride away, we would go there every summer.

There’s always been something special about large bodies of water that captivate me.  They have not only been places of rest for my soul, but I’ve felt a sense of connection with them; something inherent inside of me is drawn to them.  Perhaps some of my distant past relatives were sailors, fishermen, or just lived by the sea (something I know is probably the case based on the recent DNA test we took). 

l’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way.  Certainly, there are many others who are drawn to the water just like me.  It’s as though part of us innately longs to be near it.  It could be as simple as our survival nature calling us, or it could be something more.  

Even Jesus spent much his life and ministry near the Sea of Galilee.  Peter and John, both fisherman by trade, were two of His closest followers.  Water’s association with our faith is seen in the act of being baptized (the submersion under water after repentance) to symbolize our souls being cleansed; our old life being cast away and new life being born.

More than anything, we all need water to live.  It’s the basic building block of life as and the very first thing scientists look for when searching for other planets like our own.

If the longing within to be near water is indeed a spiritual one as well as a physical one, what is it saying to us when we feel it?  For me, it’s saying there’s a part of my soul that feels empty.  There may be a hurt or wound that needs healing.  My inner man may be longing for a lost relationship to be restored.  Or, God may be calling me to a place where He can wash me from within of the uncleanness that has built up by living in this fallen world.

It’s in this way that God speaks to us.  Many people think that God will never speak to them, but He does. He made us to hear His voice and to be drawn to certain things for a reason.  The instincts we feel, at times, could very well be our Heavenly Father looking to speak to us. 

You may have been feeling empty, hurt, or just carrying a burden that you need to let go of lately and, for some unknown reason, you have been longing to get away to a place by the water.  It may be a small stretch to think that it’s God calling to your heart, but it’s possible.

The truth is, He cares and wants to fill us with ‘joy overflowing’.  He wants to give us ‘rivers of living water’ flowing from within our hearts.  His plan is for us to have ‘life, and life more abundantly’. 

For what it’s worth, He’s waiting for you by the water (whether real water or imagined).  Jesus walked on water to get to his disciples who were tossed by the sea and He’s walking to you too.  He’s reaching out His hand to you tonight.  If you take it, He will speak to the storm in your life and bring His calm.  You don’t need to go to a distant ocean somewhere, you just need to open your heart to Him, and He will come in, wash away the mess, and fill you again.  I promise…

Throw The First Stone


Tonight’s blog is a bit more personal to me than some.  Throughout most of my life, I’ve tried to do the right thing.  I’ve sought after God, I’ve served my community, I’ve loved my family, and I’ve tried to be good to everyone I meet.  Yet, like all of us, there have been times when I’ve fallen flat on my face from poor decisions; sometimes hurting those I love the most.

During those times of personal failure, whether public or not, I’ve experienced the wonderful grace of a loving God.  People, on the other hand, have been another story.  What is so freely given by our heavenly father, is difficult to come by from some of those whom we share this beautiful world with.

Surely, there are those to whom forgiving others is as natural as eating and sleeping.  Why is it so much easier for some than others to forgive?  From my own experience, it’s because they too have been in a place where they were in need of forgiveness themselves and found it.

For the past several days I’ve had the Bible story of the woman caught in adultery in my heart.  In Jesus’s time, if caught in the act of adultery as she was, it was punishable by stoning; to death.  This woman, who had been caught in the act, was dragged before Jesus who was sitting and writing on the ground. 

As the woman pleaded for mercy, her accusers quoted the law to Jesus and asked His opinion as to what they should do all the while trying to trap Him.   At that moment, I’m sure His mind was far less concerned with their judgmental testing of His faith than it was of her brokenness; both for being caught and knowing her brokenness before being caught. 

His response to them sums up the entire gospel for me and it is one of my favorite quotes in the Bible.  He looked at them and said, ‘He who is guilty of no sin, throw the first stone…’   One by one they dropped their stones on the ground knowing they too were adulterers, liars, and broken vessels.  Left alone with the woman, Jesus asked her where her accusers were, and she said they were gone.  He looked at her and said, ‘Neither do I condemn you.  Go, and sin no more’. 

All of us have been on one side of that story in our lives.  I know I have.  I have had to fight the sense of self-righteousness when it swelled within while seeing the fallen sit on trial; whether in court or in the court of public opinion.  I’ve also been on the receiving end of those with stones accusing me of both true and untrue offenses, gleefully ready to stone me to death out of ‘righteous’ anger. 

Jesus settled the issue for us in one pivotal moment in time by asking us all to judge ourselves before judging others and then extending undeserved grace & mercy.  His simple, yet powerful example of love goes beyond our ability to fully comprehend leaving us with the same choice; if any of us are without sin, then we can throw the first stone.  The reality is, none of us are without fault.

This is a hard thing for some who have felt betrayed or hurt. The need for the offender to pay a price takes over, and if allowed to flourish, brings bitterness; the end thereof turning into hate itself.   Self-righteousness blinds us from hate and can even keep us from receiving the forgiveness we seek as God has promised to not forgive us if we can’t forgive others.

Whether you’ve been on either side of that story, know tonight that the same grace Jesus gave to the woman that day, he extends to us today.  When we put our stones down, He will forgive us our sins.  And, when others have judged us to death, because of His rich mercy and grace, the same forgiveness is extended by His hand to us too.   That’s the miracle of God’s love; Jesus.

The Old Barn Out Back


When I was young, during my teens, our family moved to a home just on the opposite side of the river from downtown.  The area was full of homes built in the 1800s for merchants who would ride their horses into where they worked. 

Our home, although modernized, had an old barn in the back where they used to keep their horses.  It was a two-story barn and the exterior wood was faded gray from years of weathering.  Inside, there was a small work area and a rickety wooden stairway leading to the upstairs loft where I feared going.  Full of old tools and piles of wood, the loft was dusty and dangerous.  One never knew what critters might be living up there; possums, racoons, squirrels, and who knows what else.

Behind the barn, we built a fenced area for the dogs and a dog house inside of a smaller enclosed area to help protect them from the weather.  It was my job to clean the dog pen and keep them fed, so I was in and out of that old barn every day (not to mention the trash cans we would keep inside where I would take the trash to or the shovel, snowblower, and riding lawnmower for my other chores). 

Over time, I became accustomed to that old barn.  The nostalgia of it, and some of the old tools that had been stored in it for so many years, were unique in a world that was so quickly changing.  Even at a young age, I learned that something can last a long time if you take care of it.  It may have been old, but as we repaired parts that needed it, I could see why it lasted so long. 

Thinking about it now, the barn reminds me a little of life.  We all have a ‘Barn out back’ in some ways, where we keep those old memories of experiences, some good and some bad, that are no longer in the front of our minds, but ones we still hold onto.  It’s where we store all our past hopes and dreams that we just can’t find any room for in our lives anymore.  It may even have critters (bad memories) crawling around that we try to avoid, but that make their way out when we least expect them to.

Somewhere in that barn, are the tools we turn to in times of trouble.  Even though those tools help us through the difficult times, we put them back in the barn until we need them again.  Some tools may be old and dangerous (habits and self-sufficiency).  Others may be very helpful and productive in our lives (prayer and faith).

Every so often, we need to clean that old barn. We need to rid it of those old tools that have become dangerous, empty the trash that has built up over time, organize the clutter, and shore up the weak supports so the weight of the world won’t come crashing down on us when it storms. 

I’ll always cherish what I learned from that barn.  Looking back, I can see that even an old, rotted building can teach lessons to anyone willing to learn.  For me, I’m still working on my ‘Old barn’.  It’s a work in progress but, thankfully, I have the help of the Master Carpenter. 

His strength helps to lift and remove the garbage and old hurts.  His light helps to shine on the places of darkness where critters may be living.   And, the wind & water of His Spirit help to blow out all the dirt and refresh what’s stale. 

The barn out back in my mind & soul doesn’t scare me anymore.  It’s only when I leave the door open that darkness and the storms of life can hurt me now.   Over the years, it’s become a place of refuge; a place where I know I can go to meet Jesus.  He is the master of the barn now and will always be there with me.  He fills it with joy, peace, light, and, most of all, He fills it with His love that nothing outside of that barn can bring…

Why Aspire to be at ‘The Top’?


For most of us, the allure of being at the top of the ladder has been something we could only dream of.  A few of us, though we think about how great it may be, resist the idea of being at the top of the heap or in the front of the crowd. 

The dream of ‘Having it all’ is something our culture promotes continually.  Everywhere we turn we see billboards, magazines, television shows, and the commercials showing the perfect figured young people sipping a glass of fruit drink while dangling their feet from a pool’s edge overlooking the ocean.  To that I say, ‘Yeah, whatever…’

Reality can be quite a slap in the face with our daily rituals of being to work on time, fighting traffic, stressing over nearly every part of our day, and then finding time to just relax when we get home. It’s about enough to make us all wish for that top place.  Yet, for the few who do attain it, though they may say it’s wonderful, often regret their now vaulted position having missed out on many of life’s simpler pleasures.

It’s no surprise that many today who can’t take that vacation to the luxury hotel by the beach look for a place where they can just get away from it all for a while.  If being at the top isn’t available, the next best thing is to sit outside and leave everything behind.

How we approach the aspiration to be ‘Top Dog’ is often a part of our personality makeup. Being a mixture of Types A, B, and D, the three sides of me often compete with each other between drive, social aspirations, and the security of a set routine.   Personality wise, to put it bluntly, I’m a mutt, for which, I’m glad.  I wouldn’t want to be too much of any trait. 

Learning who we are and how we’re built will help us to set realistic expectations of ourselves in life.  Part of us may want to be at the top (Type A) but the part of us that likes order (Type D) may be too strong to allow us to take chances.   Or, the part of us that is fearful of social settings (Type C) may keep us from the hidden desire to be the social king (or queen) that our other side (Type B) would love to be.

Mostly, knowing how God created us is essential to finding the right path in our life; knowing why we have the desires we have for success and what our natural gifts are, will allow us to have attainable goals.  The person He made us to be probably won’t be the person at the top of the heap. In fact, it may be the person who helps others to get there before we do ourselves.  Which, in His eyes, would be considered greatness. 

So, the next time you feel the need to be at ‘The Top’ or to just get away from it all instead, remember that you’re created for a purpose.  That purpose may be the opposite of what the world says you should be; and that’s ok.  If you don’t do anything else with your life other than learning what, and who, God made you to be, what His plan is for your life, and then acting on it, you can consider yourself a huge success.  And that, you can bank on because, like my old university president used to tell us, ‘God makes no small plans’. When we tap into His plans and purposes with a humble, realistic view of ourselves then ‘The Top’ doesn’t seem as great as the life He already has planned out for us…