Tag Archives: Rock

Finding true happiness

This evening, our youth group, engaged in a series that helps examine “What makes us happy?”  It’s a Sean McDowell series aimed at helping teenagers understand the true source of happiness, and helping them explore examples of how we may lose sight of God’s truth as it relates to happiness and how we may let the world define it for us.  It’s been a great series, but tonight’s lesson really struck a chord within my heart.  We looked at how the world defines beauty, and how that standard is nearly impossible to fulfill.  Many of the stories and questions didn’t seem so difficult, but I’m not a 16 or 17 year old teenager struggling with “measuring up”.  It’s easy for an older adult to see how much of what this world throws at us is simple meaningless and non-defining.  As we broke into small groups for more in-depth discussion, we posed this question: “What qualities do you look for in a potential relationship…?”  The meat of that question forced the students to search their heart and mind and think about what they look for in a potential mate.  The easy “Sunday School” answer is to look for inner-beauty, character, etc.  We even acknowledged that we are created with a heart that is attracted to the opposite sex.  Most of the time the first thing we notice in someone is their appearance.  It’s biological and kept in the right perspective, biblical.  McDowell even mentioned it in his video monologue, Adam and Eve took the fruit from the forbidden tree, partly because it was pleasing to the eye.  The challenge in this question was to see if there was more depth than that.  The point was made that if the appearance was all you focused on and that’s what you “sold-out” for, then you were certainly setting yourself up for much disappointment.

What really jumped out and got me though, was the tiny bit of reflection that I had as it related to my own personal life, especially when I was a teenager.  My life was pretty simple.  I was well liked (mostly), not really “great” at anything, a typical kid.  I never really had serious dating relationships, pretty decent moral convictions and an idea that I didn’t need to rush anything.  Somewhere around my 17th or 18th year, all of that started to change.  I didn’t realize it then, but I was going through a bit of an identity crisis.  I was spreading my wings and trying out the world, and searching for “fulfillment.”  I was shallow – not in a way that comes across as superficial, or “better than thou”, but in the fact that I wasn’t rooted in anything too deep.  I went to church, but wasn’t “sold-out”.  I worked, but not really all that hard and diligently.  I was popular, but usually because I blended in with someone else.  Deep down I was searching.  I needed affirmation that I was of worth and value.  That came in the form of my first serious relationship.  It’s normal for young people to “fall in love” quickly, but usually when all the fluff is over and done, you fall back on your roots and self-identity and decide if it’s worth pursuing, or if it’s time to move on.  Not me.  I found a relationship that made me feel important and made me feel like I was “wanted”.  When the fluff blew over, I lunged to keep a hold of that feeling.  I had nothing to fall back on.  What happened was a commitment to do whatever I had to do to keep that feeling and that source of identity.  Ultimately that led to life-changing decisions, and later a failed marriage.

I shared this part of me tonight with the young men in my youth group to make this point and hopefully help them see the importance of digging deep and focusing your life on that which grounds you and gives you identity – in the way you were meant to have it.  My challenge to young people is to be certain you are building your life on the “rock” and not the “sand”.  I likened my life approach to tumbleweed that is completely at the mercy of every breath of wind.  I am reminded of a verse in Ephesians (4:14) “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming”.  Now, I am not accusing anyone of cunning deceit.  My failures were largely because I was a follower without any clue as to where I was headed.  That verse is speaking about spiritual maturity and it hit the nail on the head.  If we don’t develop a deep sense of identity in Christ, we will be blown here and there by whatever wind is moving at the moment.  I can share that my life for the past 10-15 years has been much deeper and rooted  in Christ than all the years before.  I still have such a long way to go, but there is a peace to know whom you belong to and to understand the source of a true and fulfilling happiness.

God, today, I thank you for your love and mercy. I thank you for the grace your salvation provides.  I praise you as the rock and true north in my life.  Thank you for providing that anchor for my heart, mind and spirit.  May I honor you with my life and may I always enjoy and accept the happiness, only found in you.  – Amen.

Where were you…

I can not remember a more peaceful and clear morning than what I awoke to on that day.  A junior in college, pursuing a dream of a degree and a career.  I was just beginning to understand the value and depth of brotherhood as a fairly new firefighter – only 5 years on the job.  In the bright blue skies over Athens, WV there wasn’t a hint of the tragedy that was unfolding just 10 hours north of us.  That day was September 11, 2001.  I don’t suppose I will ever forget what I was doing, where I was at when the world, forever, changed.

By the end of the day, my heart was immensely heavy and my mind raced with the questions of why and how.  As a firefighter, I was numb to the thought of losing my entire house in one single moment – it just wasn’t something I could comprehend.  As we gathered at our local station, there were no words spoken, just deep embraces and a look in each pair of eyes that told the story of despair and grief.  Brothers that we had never met, had answered their final call without even the hint of fear or reluctance.  Over the past 14 years, I have read numerous accounts of bravery, watched documentaries detailing how many of the first-responders entered the twin towers that morning, knowing the loss of life was probably great, but with the hope of finding just one and leading them to safety.  Some of the accounts I have studied over and over, and each time, I am just as enamored with the mentality and heart that was displayed on that day.

Today, as I reflect on yet another anniversary, I am humbled by the Holy Spirit to remember that God never leaves us.  He was right in the midst of that tragic day and that He is ultimately in control of this world.  I think of the helplessness that must have been felt by emergency workers and victims alike when it became clear that a safe escape was unlikely and try to wrap my mind around how difficult it must have been to lean on God in that moment.  It is with these thoughts that I pray tonight…

Lord, I humbly fall to my knees tonight and thank you for the precious gift of your son Jesus Christ.  I thank you that you have filled me with your Holy Spirit and that you are always with me.  I pray for the families of each of the victims of the tragedy that unfolded on September 11, 2001. I pray a special measure of comfort would be around each and everyone.  I pray that your presence would be felt and that hearts would turn to you.  I pray for the men in my firehouse, that you would protect each one and that you would always impress upon their hearts your closeness.  I thank you for each one that I call brother and ask that you would grant me the courage and wisdom to be there for them in their time of need.  Bless this nation as we reflect on that day, and cause a spirit of revival and patriotic pride to wash over the face of our country.  I ask these things in your precious and holy name…Amen.

“The LORD is my solid rock, my fortress, my rescuer. My God is my rock—I take refuge in him!—he’s my shield, my salvation’s strength, my place of safety” Psalm 18:2