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!

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.

Surface Issues


Have you ever been around someone you knew was focused completely on themselves but were acting as though they weren’t?  It may be the person who nodes when you tell them about a bad day, but forgets what you said just a few seconds prior and quickly changes the subject to themselves.  Or, maybe the person who wants to be near you because of something you could do to make them look good.

I would suggest that we’ve all experienced someone who was self-absorbed, self-centered, or vain.  Typically, those attributes show themselves more in younger people than those who are over 50.  By the time you hit that age, you’ve had most of that knocked out of you; just by living life.

While working at a church in Southern California, my boss (the Sr. Pastor), mentioned to me in his office that he thought one of the singers was ‘Plastic’.  Being young and naïve, I was confused.  In fact, I thought to myself, ‘Is he saying they are cheap?’  I couldn’t figure it out until another associate pastor explained to me that it means, ‘Pretty on the surface but not much going on inside’. 

I will admit that I was taken back by the pastor’s comment once I learned what it meant (just a little judgmental if I don’t say so myself).  Even though it wasn’t becoming of a pastor and a poor role model, later in my life I understood more of what he was saying.

There are those in this life, and even in the church, who aspire more than anything else to be famous, beautiful, or rich, that they neglect their own personal mental, emotional, and spiritual development.  The sad truth is that, in America, it’s becoming an epidemic. 

I recently took a break from Instagram for that very reason; most of those who are posting photos (not my family & friends) are trying to be the next ‘Instagram Star’.  Some fly all over the world accumulating loads of debt just to get that selfie photo in front of a famous beach, rock, or over a cliff.   Nearly every day we hear of one of these people being killed because of the risk they’re taking just to get ‘The shot’ that will go viral. 

Our culture is driving us to focus so much on fame and appearances that it’s leading to an explosion of people with eating disorders, augmenting their body parts, and suffering from depression caused by a sense that they will never live up to this false image.  My question is where will it all end?  We must battle this ‘Plastic’ surface-focused culture with truth, humility, and by seeking out opportunities to serve others. 

During my time in the Bay Area, one of the things I would do was serve in a local homeless shelter downtown in San Francisco.  A local high school had a community service program that required each student to have at least 100 hours of service before they could graduate.  Often, to help them get their hours in, the school would bus kids to the shelter where they would spend their Saturday serving meals to people who just came off the street.  I saw many of them transformed in a short amount of time by the experience, believe me.

The first step to change is realizing we need to change.  It may take a dramatic event for some to realize they are self-absorbed.  Some may never realize it and live their entire life expecting others to serve them or to raise them up because they are somehow more ‘Gifted’ or beautiful.  

For me, God has a way of keeping me humble.  He knows, and reminds me often, when I may give myself one too many looks in the mirror, feel a little too good about myself when complimented, or just obsess about my life’s dreams.   Over the years life has also humbled me (many times). 

Yet, at my lowest, most humbling moments, I felt that was where I found God the most.  It wasn’t my gift He wanted; it was my heart.  It wasn’t money or even my ‘Not so great’ looks either (joking). God simply wanted me and, even more importantly, He wanted me to serve others. 

When we’re at that place where we give everything to Him is when He will take it and give it back to us in a way we could never have expected, because that’s just what He does.  When we lose our lives, for Him, we will gain life; life eternal…

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…

Unexpected Lump on the Head


We’ve all heard it before, ‘Expect the Unexpected’ in relation to our work, our kids, or life in general.  It’s true.  There is something to the practise of being prepared for nearly anything that could come our way.  Eliminating the surprise is half the battle.  It’s when we aren’t expecting those changes that come our way that we are affected the most.

Last Saturday I was helping to mow a friend’s yard who is elderly.  She has several trees in the front that haven’t been pruned very well, and over time, have grown several large limbs at a height someone like me, who is six-feet-tall, needs to avoid. 

Sure enough, as I was rambling on with the mower listening to my Spotify mix, I suddenly felt, and heard, a crack on the top of my head.  Stepping back, I realized what had happened.  I walked full speed into one of the largest tree limbs smacking the top of my head.  It felt like someone had hit me in the head with a baseball bat.  It was very painful. 

For the rest of that day, and the day after, I struggled with dizziness and the feeling like I was going to faint.  Had I not have given blood that morning and been working in the hot sun for several hours prior, I probably would have had the Mrs. take me to the hospital for an MRI.  But, I knew most of what I was feeling was just fatigue and dehydration.  Still, the whack on the head was very unexpected. I went back today to mow her grass again and, rest assured, I was very aware of that limb this time. 

Running into that tree was a good lesson for me.  It reminded me that we can be moving along on our path of life focused on the task at hand and not even be looking out for the giant limb that’s about ready to knock us in the head if we don’t duck.  I’m sure there are many of you who can relate. There may have been a time when you were living life just chugging ahead with your job and family, when there was a sudden log in the road, tree limb in your path, or just an unexpected obstacle that caused you pain.

The shock of running into those obstacles can shake us and cause us to doubt ourselves. Like most people when they run into barriers, I initially turned on myself to place the blame.  If you’re like me, all I could think of was, ‘How did I not see that coming?’ and ‘You could have killed yourself right here in this woman’s yard.  What would the Mrs. do?’ I asked myself.  ‘You’ve been mowing lawns for over forty years and you would think by now you would know better?’… I think my ego was bruised more than head, frankly. 

We may not be able to prevent events from happening that bring those unexpected logs to block our path or limbs to knock us in the head, but we can learn from them.  If we allow ourselves the freedom to make mistakes and take them as a lesson on what not to do, we’ll be way ahead of what may lay await for us in the future.

If you’ve run into one of those limbs and acquired a nice lump on your head, you’re not alone.  Whether it was physical, emotional, or something in a relationship, you can learn from it.   You may find yourself doing what I did initially by beating yourself up for it.  If you are, I would encourage you to give yourself a break this time and instead ask yourself if there was anything you could have done differently that would have prevented it from happening.

Sometimes, however, there isn’t anything we could have done, but for those times when there is something we could have done, take a close look at how, what, and when it happened so that you can be prepared in the future to help prevent it from happening again.  And most of all, always remember that you’re human and God loves you just the way you are; bumps on the head included…

Sensitivity in an Insensitive World


For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a sensitive person.  Looking back, I can see times when that sensitivity caused insecurity, self-consciousness, and sometimes, a little bit of paranoia.  Being the one to pick up when others were angry, being judgmental, or the opposite when they were truly being kind, was something I thought everyone could feel.  I later realized that it was, and is, something not all people have.  In fact, some people are the exact opposite and railroad everyone around them.

It’s not that I want to be constantly sensitive to things around me. Far from it.  It has caused me more moments of angst than I can count.  As life has progressed and I’m now in my fifties, I’m able to understand those senses and see them for what they are. I no longer allow them to determine my emotional state.  It’s now something that can be used to help make wise decisions, understand people who may not want to share their true emotions, and even sense when others living miles away are hurting about something (don’t ask). 

Being sensitive to others is a trait often associated with the female gender.  Men, typically, are the ones who are thought to be insensitive often consumed by their pride.  Today, more than it was thirty or forty years ago, it’s the male who tends to be the ‘sensitive’ one.  What has contributed to that is something for a sociologist to determine.  Suffice to say, it’s no longer the ‘Man’s world’ we used to know; and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

If that’s you and you’re one of those sensitive types, there are a few things you can do to manage those feelings to prevent them from overwhelming you.  It’s not easy, but it is possible to control those feelings. 

The first thing I would suggest is to realize that every emotion you sense isn’t necessarily reality.  Our mind, and hearts, can play tricks on us in ways we won’t understand until it’s too late; if we let them. 

The second is to ask yourself, ‘Is that emotion something I’m feeling as a result of my own fears, wants, or desires?’  Meaning, ask yourself if you are feeling something because of what you hope or fear to be real.  Often, it’s something we fear more than reality.

Another is to think about the emotion you’re feeling when around another person as possibly something they are dealing with.  The cold truth is that we all feel a vast array of emotions throughout the day. None of us are perfect.  Even the most polished, confident person on the outside may be dealing with such things as depression, addiction, shame, and fear.  They may have a poor self-image that they try to counter with perfectionism.

Finally, before assuming what you’re sensing is just you, take a moment and ask God if He may be trying to tell you something about another person. He may want you to pray for them or encourage them.  He does that.  A lot!  He knows all our feelings, needs, and emotions and is likely to share some of those with others who have a heart of compassion.  That sensitivity may just be something God can use to help bless others.  I know He has in my life. 

Take joy because it’s a special gift to have sensitivity.  It’s not something to be ashamed of or to hide behind.  It’s something to mature in and allow God to use to bless those around you.  When you do, I guarantee you’ll be blessed, and so will others…

Love always,

Brad