#tbt – Good to the last drop!

(Originally written 8/28/06)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance; against such there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22,23)

“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.  They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.  The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.  They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”  (Psa 14:1-3)

Goodness is one of the aspects of the fruit of the Spirit that I’ve found difficult to understand, thus the lateness of this next installment.  One of the toughest things to wrap my mind around is that, if we’re to take the Bible as truth (which I do), we are to believe that a person who doesn’t follow God is incapable of being good.  But, how can that be?  We all know of many people who are atheists, Buddhists, Muslims, Wiccans who do good deeds.  There are many philanthropists who want nothing to do with Christianity.  So, how can the Bible claim that anyone who doesn’t believe in and follow God is not good?

See, this used to be a sticking point for me before I became a Christian.  I saw myself as a good person.  I hadn’t killed anybody, I tried to be nice to people, and, sure, I told the occasional lie, but that didn’t make me a bad person, did it?

My problem was that I was comparing myself to other people.  I put myself somewhere in between Hitler and Mother Teresa, as a lot of us probably do.  What we don’t realize is that, being judged under the goodness of God, our goodness accounts for nothing.  This point was brought home to me by an effective illustration.  This girl was on a farm and happened to see a sheep.  She was amazed at how white the sheep’s wool was.  At that moment, it started to snow, and when she saw the wool compared to the pure whiteness of the snow, she saw how dingy and gray the sheep really was.  That’s how we compare ourselves.  We look at each other and measure ourselves against each other’s goodness.  “Well, we’re better than our neighbors, who yell at their kids all day long.”  “I’m better than my coworker, who cheats on his timesheet.”  Here’s the thing.  There is none that does good.  No, not one.  Suppose I handed you two glasses of water.  I told you one of them only had a cup of mud mixed in it, while the other had four cups of mud mixed in.  Which would you drink?  I know I would drink neither and go look for some pure water.  Well, we all have some mud in us.  None of us is pure.  Every one of us has sinned.  If you’ve told a lie, if you’ve lusted after someone else, if you’ve hated another person, those are all sins.  How many good deeds can you do to counteract those actions?  How much water can you add to muddy water to get rid of the mud?  You can dilute the mud, but the mud will still be there.

So, if there is none good, how can we possibly cultivate goodness as Christians?  Well, that’s the amazing thing.  Jesus forgives us of ALL of our sins.  He takes the mud out of our lives and makes our water clean and pure again.  Unfortunately, since we’re all human, we will stumble, we will sin, and our waters will get muddy again and again.  But Jesus is patient with us and He’s willing to continue to make us clean.  Some people take this as license to sin continually, since all their sins will be covered.  But that is absolutely wrong.  As true Christians, as people who have devoted their lives to Jesus, as people who daily take up their cross, the last thing they would want to do is sin, because they know the price that was paid for their salvation, their freedom from the bondage of sin.  Why would anyone willingly put the shackles of bondage back on?

One of the most important distinctions about the goodness of the world and the goodness of the Spirit is the intent behind it.  People of the world do good things in order to buy their way into heaven.  They think that if they do more good than bad, they will be accepted.  The question that brings up is, how many good deeds does it take to erase a bad deed?  And who’s keeping score?  And how does one know for sure that their scorecard has them on the winning team?

Christians do good deeds because it’s what Jesus wants them to do.  They don’t need to earn their way to heaven; the ticket has already been paid.

I know these are generalities, and there are plenty of Christians who still try to earn their way into heaven, unwilling to trust that the grace of Christ is sufficient, just as there are some non-Christians who do good deeds for the sake of the good deed.  But it’s the bad deeds that will send them to hell, no matter how good they try to be.

Want to see how good you are?  There’s a test at www.needgod.com.  See how well you do.

#tbt — Gentle on My Mind

(Originally written 8/12/06)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”
Gal 5:22,23

Gentlenesss — to be gentle is to be considerate and kindly in disposition, according to dictionary.com. It’s a good biblical definition as well. The Greek word chrestotes – the word for gentleness – is defined as kindness and goodness. The word gentleness appears only four times in the Bible, twice in the Old Testament, and twice in the New Testament. 2 Samuel 22:36 says, “Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy gentleness hath made me great.” David is speaking after he has been rescued from Saul’s clutches. His song is repeated in Psalm 18:35. “Thy gentleness hath made me great.” Incredible words, but what’s even more incredible is that every Christian, every child of God, can say those same words. It is God’s gentleness, His kindness, that allows all of us to come to Him, to come to the cross, ask for His forgiveness, and, more importantly, to be granted that forgiveness. The third appearance of the word is in 2 Corinthians 10:1, which says, “Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you:” Again, it refers to the gentleness of our Lord and Savior. But what, exactly, does it mean? How do we exhibit gentleness in our lives as proof of the Holy Spirit within us? There are a couple of excellent descriptions in the Bible. 1 Thessalonians 2:7 says, “But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children.”So, one aspect of gentleness is to care for people as you would care for your children. 2 Timothy 2:24, 25 says, “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” The servant of the Lord must not strive. To strive means to quarrel, fight, argue. So, another aspect of gentleness is not getting involved in conflict. That just means with our friends, right? Can’t we still argue with the people we don’t get along with? No. “But be gentle to all.” Even those who cause us grief. Family, co-workers, people who cut us off in traffic. We know we can’t do that on our own. We would like nothing more than to argue about everything. It is human nature to be combative, and it’s only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can allow ourselves to be gentle toward each other. So, what can I do to ensure I’m bearing fruit in this aspect? I can think twice before getting into an argument with someone. I know there will be times when conflict will be inevitable and at those times I will have to make sure I remember to do all I do in love, showing the gentleness to others that Jesus shows to me. Will it be easy? Not always. Will it be possible? Absolutely, as long as I rely on the strength of my Creator and Savior to guide my steps.

#tbt – Patience is a Virtue…

(Originally written 8/5/06)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, against such there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23 KJV)

Longsuffering. This is one study I’ve been dreading doing. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been tested on every aspect of the fruit of the Spirit I’ve studied so far, and I was not looking forward to my test in long-suffering.

The Greek word for long-suffering is makrothymia, and it’s defined as patience, forbearance, internal and external control in a difficult circumstance, which control could exhibit itself by delaying an action. Out of the seventeen times longsuffering is mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments, ten refer to the patience of God. Four times God’s mercy is tied in with his long-suffering. It’s because He is merciful that He is patient with us. His longsuffering appears throughout the Bible. Many times God was ready to pour his wrath on people who justly deserved it, but his mercy stayed his hand, sometimes temporarily, and sometimes permanently.

1 Peter 3:20 mentions how “the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.” God intended to destroy the earth and its entire people, for they had become ungodly, partaking in immoral practices. Genesis 6:5 says, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8). The Lord stayed His hand for one hundred and twenty years, waiting for Noah to build the ark that would save him and his family.I cant imagine waiting one hundred twenty minutes to do something I want to do, much less one hundred twenty years. Long-suffering – patience – is definitely something I struggle with, along with just about everyone else in the world. This is a rush-rush world, gotta have it now, a minute from now it will be too late. We are a society that needs microwave instructions for Pop-Tarts! We have instant coffee that can be ready in mere moments, fast food drive-thrus so we dont even need to get out of our cars to get food, which, by the way, never really seems to be fast, and can sometimes only barely be called food. Credit cards ensure we never have to wait to get the latest gadget, the 60-inch plasma TV we just have to have. We can’t wait till we can afford to pay for it straight out, because by then, the newest model will be out and we will need to get that one!

We are a society that can’t wait for a webpage to load up on a dial-up service. We need to have DSL – no, wait, too slow, make mine cable! (And yes, I’m guilty of this one. That status bar that shows the progress when a webpage is loading is the bane of my existence!) And heaven forbid there are more than three people in front of you in a line at a store. You’re going to have to spend maybe an extra five minutes waiting in line! About the only place where this rule doesn’t seem to apply is at Disney World. People willingly stand in line for over an hour in order to get on a five-minute ride. As one of those people who do that on a regular basis, it’s amazing to me that you never see the people in this line get frustrated or angry. Most people are talking with friends or family and just enjoying the experience. That might be a good attitude to take with you when you are waiting at the bank. Talk to the person behind you, enjoy the momentary break from having to rush anywhere.

So, as Christians, one of the aspects of the fruit of the Spirit, one way you know that you’re heading in the right direction in your spiritual growth, is if you develop patience, if you can exhibit self-control in order to delay an action. In this day and age, that could seem nearly impossible. But of course, nothing’s impossible with God. I’ve had to ask myself how patient, how long-suffering I am. Compared to before I was a Christian, I can tell I’ve grown by leaps and bounds, but by no means have I got the patience thing down yet. I hate waiting, I struggle with self-control, and I find myself in situations I shouldn’t be in. So, does that mean I’ve fallen out of the will of God when that happens? I don’t think so. God is merciful, and He is the ultimate in long-suffering and patience. And if He can be patient with me as I fall headlong into trouble, how can I not be patient with people who stumble across my path? If God is willing to wait for me to get my act together, how can I not be willing to wait on someone in my life who’s making a scene? Our patience is tested daily, whether by someone who cuts us off in traffic or by the person in front of us in the line who can’t seem to make up his mind whether he should go for the Big Mac or the Quarter Pounder. Remember, every single one of those trials is a good thing. Romans 5:3-5 says “We glory in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience, experience, and experience, hope, and hope maketh not ashamed because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”

For those long-suffering folks who read this entire blog, I salute you, and I’m glad I was able to help you work patience, experience and hope. God bless you all.

#tbt – Vizualize whirled peas…

(Originally written 7/31/06)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, against such there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23 KJV)

Okay, so it’s been a while since I last blogged about the fruit of the Spirit, but it seems every time I’m about to write on one, I get challenges in my life that test the fruit which I’m studying. It was no different with peace. The last week has been anything but peaceful. My mind has been a jumble of thoughts and emotions, and peace has been the furthest thing from my mind.
Continue reading #tbt – Vizualize whirled peas…

#tbt – Joy. It’s not just a dishwashing liquid!

(Originally written 7/20/06)

Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me [with thy] free spirit. Psa. 51:12

This was going to be a theoretical discussion about joy, but I’m beginning to see that God is going to use this study as a way to test me as well.  I’ve already been tested on love.  I’ve had to come face to face with what I consider to be love, what I do to show that love, and I come up woefully short of the mark.  As I mentioned before, I grew up disconnected from other people, so I didn’t really know what it was like to forge loving bonds until much later in life.  And even to this day, I still think that is one of the toughest things I deal with.  And, of course, since I really don’t understand love here on earth, it makes it that much harder to understand God’s love, an unconditional love that never asks for anything, and yet gives everything.  A love that will always be there, no matter what.  When the love I see and feel here on earth is so fleeting, it’s just hard to grasp the concept of self-sacrificing love, agape.  So, I’m working on it.
Which brings me to joy.  I’m always big on saying I may not always be happy, but I’m always joyful.  The joy is from knowing I’m saved, knowing that my future is secure.  But, just like David, I’ve let the worries of the world steal my joy.  I’ve let trivialities knock me down, forcing me to take my eyes off God.  And if I’m not focusing on God, I forget the reason why I do all that I do.  I’m reminded of Peter, when he walked on water.  As long as he focused on Jesus, he was safe from the storm, but as soon as he concentrated on the storm, he lost faith, was afraid, and fell into the water.  The cool thing about it is that Jesus was right there to pull him up, just like He’s there to pull us all up out of the crashing waves.
David wrote Psalm 51 after being confronted by Nathan for the sins he’d committed.  There was no question that, although David broke every commandment, he was still saved.  But, he was no longer joyful.  He’d let the world intrude into his relationship with God.  Instead of looking to the heavens toward his Creator, he chose to look down to earth where Bathsheba bathed.  I’ve been looking down at the earth for too long.  I’ve forgotten that nothing here on earth matters if I’m not focused on Jesus, on my Creator, my Savior, my King.
Joy is not happiness.  Happiness depends on current circumstances.  Something good happens, you’re happy.  Something bad happens, you’re not happy.  But being joyful is completely different.  1 Thessalonians 5:16 says “Rejoice evermore.”  Always be joyful?  How’s that possible?  Things go wrong, life takes a nasty turn, how can you be joyful in times like that?  That’s where happiness and joy are different.  You can be joyful and not be happy.  Happiness is the temporary state, joy is the eternal state.  Can you be happy and not joyful?  Absolutely.  But it’s an empty happiness, almost an echo of happiness and not the real thing.
You can lose your joy.  David did.  Any time you take your eyes off the prize, you lose sight of your goal.  My goal is heaven, and eternal unity with the Lord Jesus.  I forget that goal in pursuit of earthly goals: a good job, a wife, the next good book or TV show or movie.  Those things can make you happy, but they cannot bring you eternal joy like God can.
I’ve been acting a lot like David lately and I realize this.  I know I have sinned and fallen far short of where I should be.  I’ve let my joy wither while I concentrated on the elusive pursuit of happiness which, while a constitutional right, is not as fulfilling or satisfying as the pursuit of joy.  Today, I pray like David did, Lord, restore unto me the joy of my salvation, remind me of the important things, help me to walk the path You have set for me, no matter the price, no matter the consequences.  I’m ready to go wherever You need me, whenever You need me there.  Restore my heart, and allow me to appreciate Your love for me, how deep and eternal and unchanging it is.  Holy Spirit, fill me with joy, fill me with wisdom, guide me today and every day.  Jesus, help me to be more like you, help me to keep the old man dead and buried.  Amen.

#BlackLivesMatter?

I’m half black, half white, and fully Hispanic. But let’s pretend I was white and wrote the following:

“It was a warm evening in September, a couple of weeks after Dillon Taylor got shot, and somewhere in the mix I brought up Salt Lake City, hoping to spark a ‘conscious conversation.’ Then it happened. The nightmarish response. ‘What’s happening in Salt Lake City?” one of my black roommates asked. ‘I heard some kid got shot or something like that.’…These non-indictments reiterated what I’m up against every single day: the unintentional ignorance of black people. But I was also aware of my willingness to put away my justified ‘white rage’ in order to ensure my interactions with black people remain comfortable.”

That sounds pretty racist, doesn’t it? Would it still sound racist if black and white were reversed and it mentioned Michael Brown and Ferguson instead of Dillon Taylor and Salt Lake City? Of course it would.

This is exactly what Priscilla Ward did in a recent piece she wrote for Salon, in which she complains about the racist attitudes of those around her.

I’ve got bad news for you, Ms. Ward. You are a racist.

Judging by your article, your “justified ‘black rage’” is directed solely at the fact that all white people don’t automatically know everything about your culture. That’s not racism. That’s lack of knowledge. I’m sure you don’t know everything there is to know about “white culture.” Your roommates even tried to reach out and ask you questions, to which your implied response was that they should have already known.

There never seems to be a time when someone actually calls you any names, prohibits you from doing anything, or prevents you from going anywhere. I’m sure if you had chosen to wear your bonnet, fry chicken, and sing some Aretha songs, a desire you felt you needed to suppress, your roommates would have accepted it wholeheartedly. Nowhere in your article do you mention any blatantly racist action from them, only that they lacked knowledge about your culture. The irony is that you make a point of mentioning that you had to pretend to care about things in “white culture,” such as Taylor Swift, and yet you expect everyone around you to care about “black culture.”

You end the article by saying that you still don’t share who you are or what you are all about, but instead you choose to continue being angry. It’s a self-imposed censorship, because you apparently see everyone around you as racist. And yet you will say things like, “I don’t say ‘white.’ I use ‘they’ instead.” Again, if the roles were reversed, those would be the words of a racist.

It is because of people like you who fabricate racial issues where there are none that I take issue with hashtags such as #BlackLivesMatter. In a post I wrote last week on abortion, #AllLivesMatter, I mentioned that we should be saying #AllLivesMatter instead of #BlackLivesMatter. It led to a lively discussion on race relations in one of my Facebook groups. While at no point did I mean to make light of the black lives that are lost or of any unfairness aimed at blacks, my issue with the hashtag is that it’s based on two misrepresentations:

“#HandsUpDontShoot” — This came about because of the falsehood that Michael Brown was surrendering, with his hands up, when he was shot. It was confirmed, by the autopsy and by several witnesses — black witnesses — that he was doing no such thing. He was charging at Officer Wilson when he was shot.

“#ICantBreathe” — This was another hashtag based on misinformation. Eric Garner did not die from being choked to death. His death occurred in the ambulance and was caused by several health issues, such as asthma and obesity. Another fact that seems to escape media attention is that the entire arrest was supervised by a black officer.

Yes, these were both tragedies and shouldn’t have happened. But let’s be honest. Both men were resisting arrest. The color of their skin was incidental. If they had complied with the officers, the situations might not have ended in tragedy. And yet, these men are the poster children of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Race-baiting, hate-filled speakers such as Al Sharpton are the spokespersons for the movement. Riots and violence are the response of the movement.

Here are some questions for those who support #BlackLivesMatter.

Which black lives matter?

Is it based solely on skin color?

Do blacks with lighter skin matter as much?

Do other races that have dark skin — such as Hispanics and Arabs — matter?

Do black lives that have been taken by white officers matter more than black lives that have been taken by other blacks?

And as I mentioned in my previous post, what about the 16,000,000 black babies that have been aborted in the last 42 years? Do they matter?

There does need to be a conversation about racial discrimination in this country, but as long as it involves imagined slights and imaginary heroes, there will never be a resolution.

#AllLivesMatter

I’m a conservative, and I’m pro-choice.

I believe a woman can choose when she wants to have sex.
I believe a woman can choose whom she wishes to have sex with.
I believe a woman can choose where she wants to have sex.
I believe a woman can choose how and why she wants to have sex.
I even believe a woman can choose what kind of protection to use, or even whether to use it.

But once a woman gets pregnant, choice is over and it’s time for consequences.

I originally planned on writing a cute little allegory comparing sex to a party and children to vases (trust me, it made sense), but the situation is too serious to couch in parables and metaphors. There is a genocide occurring in the United States, and it is not only tolerated, but has been legalized by our government. Over a million unborn children are killed yearly in this country. That’s more than 3,000 deaths per day. Per. Day. Imagine 9/11 happening every day for the last 42 years.

In general, most women decided to have abortions because of the following reasons, none of which is even remotely good enough to warrant the taking of a life:
a) a baby would have interfered with other responsibilities
b) they couldn’t afford the child
c) they didn’t want to be single parents

(Note: This does not include rape, incest, or fetal/maternal health, which make up less than 2% of abortions.)

The consequences of an unplanned pregnancy should not be paid by the unborn child. And yet, millions of innocent children have paid that price. In the time it has taken you to read up to this point, an average of 60 abortions have taken place in this country.

Here is a behind-the-scenes look at what is going on in some of these abortion clinics: (Warning: some viewers may be disturbed by this video – although everyone should find the content disturbing.)

On January 22, there will be celebrations honoring the 42nd anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision. Even some churches are celebrating this “milestone.” But here’s the truth. This is not a celebration of choice. It’s a celebration of death. Since the Roe vs. Wade decision, over 50,000,000 babies have been killed in the U.S. That’s 5 cities with a population the size of New York City.

Right now, it’s trendy and socially conscious to chant or tweet #BlackLivesMatter. But here’s a sobering fact. Of the 50,000,000 babies that have been aborted, 16,000,000 of those have been black babies. That’s over 30% of the total from a group that comprises 13% of the population. 80% of Planned Parenthood clinics are in minority neighborhoods. Black lives matter, but only once they’re born?

Shouldn’t we say #AllLivesMatter? Shouldn’t we stop the slaughter? Shouldn’t we be defending the most defenseless among us?

For more information, check out www.liveaction.org.

3 Things I learned from Eugene

Since his first appearance on AMC’s The Walking Dead, “Doctor” Eugene Porter has been one of the quirkiest characters. His antics led to him becoming one of my favorites on the show. My fiancée and I were discussing him one day a couple of weeks ago, and I introduced her to another Eugene from back in the 80s.

It occurred to me that I could combine the two Eugenes and, within a week, the following video was born.

As with anything dealing with pop culture, SPOILERS AHEAD!

For anyone unfamiliar with Eugene, here’s a quick summary. He crossed paths with an ex-military man named Abraham. Weak, cowardly, yet intelligent, Eugene convinced Abraham that he was a scientist on a mission to get to Washington D.C., where he would be able to create a cure for the undead plague. As more people joined him and Abraham, Eugene continued playing the part of scientist by using his vast wealth of knowledge and extensive vocabulary. What was puzzling was that he was able to do this while looking nothing like a typical scientist. Which, as it turns out, he wasn’t.

After completing the video project, I realized there were three things I learned from Eugene.

1. Be true to myself.
Eugene is an expert at this. From his Tennessee top hat to his cargo shorts, Eugene is a man who knows who he is and he’s comfortable with that. He dresses how he likes and has made perfectly clear that no one will be damming up his Kentucky waterfall. But it’s not just his outer self that Eugene is true to. He’s fully aware of how smart he is and has no problems admitting it. Actually, he sometimes admits it too freely and too often. He’s also honest with himself about his cowardice, and he’s willing to do anything it takes to avoid danger.

2. Be true to others.
Eugene is not so good with this one. From the moment he first meets Abraham, Eugene pretends he’s something he’s not so that he can survive and be accepted. Telling that lie was easy. Maintaining that lie proved tougher.


Tweet: Telling the lie is easy. Maintaining the lie is hard.


In order to keep up the lie, Eugene had to shoot a truck, blow up a bus, and wreak general havoc in trying to slow his group down. The longer it took to get to their destination, the longer he could keep up the lie. People died trying to help him fulfill his “mission.” The funny thing is, I believe that if Eugene had just been honest and told them he was a smart guy who could probably come up with some solutions in D.C., Abraham and the others might still have helped him. Lying set Eugene on a course for disaster. As Shakespeare said, “at the length truth will out.”

3. Be true to my mission.
Eugene stayed true to his mission, but it was the wrong mission. It was a mission based on falsehoods and it was destined to fail.

I find it easy to make decisions about where I want to go and what I want to do, but if I’m not true to myself or to others, my mission will fail. My mission for this year is wrapped around the word “COMPLETE,” but I’ve realized that it’s not enough to want to complete things. I need to complete the right things.

The Prodigal Son Returns!

“A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to [his] father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls [to me].’ So he divided to them [his] livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.” (Luke 15:11-13)

Writing has become so difficult for me that it feels like I’m crawling when I should be running, and I have no one to blame but myself. I turned away from writing. I have allowed those “muscles” to atrophy. And now I struggle to put words on paper, much like an inactive athlete struggles to regain his endurance.

I’m well-trained in writing. I know usage. I know grammar. I have an extensive vocabulary. But I have not written. I have remained sedentary. I realize the fault is solely my own. I am the prodigal son.

I’ve turned away from what I love in order to indulge in pastimes like watching TV and playing video games. Those are fun, but they get me nothing. They are what Jesus might have called “prodigal living.” They entertain for a while, but there is a part of me which knows what I should be doing, and knows I’m ignoring the thing I was called to do. I’m the athlete who has decided running to the buffet is more rewarding than running a race. I’m the artist who has decided painting a house is just as fun as pouring my heart out on canvas. I’m the writer who has decided that indulging in other people’s stories is better than creating my own.

“But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want.” (Luke 15:14)

Maybe you have experienced a time of famine, when you know in your heart that you have left your first love. You have left what makes you YOU. And you think you can never go back.

“I’ll never be an athlete.”

“I’ll never be an artist.”

“I’ll never be a writer.”

You think it’s too late. That’s what the prodigal son thought. He said, “It’s too late for me to go back to being my father’s son. Maybe I can be at least a servant.” And we say the same. We find things similar to what we want to do, but aren’t what we want to do. Because doing the things we love will take time and effort. And we don’t believe we have either to spare. We don’t believe we are worthy of those dreams because we’ve spent so long feeding “swine,” feeding those indulgences which threw us off track.

But here’s the truth. Just like the father embraced his son as soon as he saw him, those dreams of ours, those things we were made for, will embrace us the moment we turn back to them. It’s never too late. The athlete can rebuild his endurance. The artist can put brush to canvas once more. And the writer can again put words on paper. Will it be easy? No, but it is possible. Is it worth the pain and the struggle? Absolutely.

However, I’m not sure the prodigal analogy works perfectly. For one thing, even though our dreams are always waiting for us to come back, they can’t physically embrace us. But the bigger reason why this is an imperfect analogy is because we never find out exactly what the son did once he returned. Did he accept the father’s love? Or did guilt just continue to eat away at him for what he had done? I’d like to think that, because Jesus is telling the story, it has a happy ending and the son did not let past regrets interfere with the present.

As a returning prodigal, how do I ensure a happy ending for me? For instance, by now I could have completed the revision of my novel, and maybe even have sold some copies. But if I concentrate on the past, then I will paralyze myself for the present by thinking of all the things I could have done. Instead, I can plan on completing my revision now. I can move forward from here. I can practice my craft and remember that writing is what I love to do. It is what I was made to do. I was given this gift, this “portion of goods that falls to me,” and I’ve wasted it often. The question is whether I will continue to do so.

I don’t know if any of this is accurate or even if it makes sense. But what I do know is that, thanks to pondering this, I have been writing. I sat at my desk, keyboard in front of me, and practiced my craft. Will anyone see this? I don’t know. But I’m seeing it. I’m seeing I still have the ability to write. Even though I haven’t practiced my craft, I can still write. Am I writing well? Probably not as well as I can be, but that’s not the point. I will sit here at the computer every day and write. And by writing, I will get better. I will improve. And I will be a better steward of the gift which has been given to me.

It Was a Very Good Year

As we are fully aware of, this time of year always brings out “Best of” and “Top Ten” lists, so in the spirit of the season, I have compiled a list of my Top Ten Firsts of 2012:

10. Red Robin – While not an earth-shattering first, it still deserves mention, because I got to share the experience with my best friend, Rob. The food and service were phenomenal and have been every time I have gone since. Now if only Rob could say the same…
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