Hills and Valleys

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Our lives are filled with a mixture of hills and valleys. Depending on our season we may feel like we spend a little more time on one than another. If I were to take a poll, most of you would probably feel like you spend a little more time in the valleys of life than on the hilltops.

In this verse (Deuteronomy 11:11) Moses is painting the picture of the landscape that Israel is about the enter (and really our lives.) These are things that stand out:

 It’s a lifescape with hills AND valleys

It takes one to appreciate the other. They compliment each other. While on top of the hills of life we’re able to look back to where we’ve been and what we’ve experienced. Days might seem brighter longer on the hills because there are fewer things casting shadows on us.  Believe it or not…valley’s can be places of protection. In storms, we are advised to get to the lowest place possible for safety, until the storm passes. It’s when we are at our highest that we are susceptible to the damages of life’s storms. Valleys may actually be temporary shelters, helping us avoid even greater storms. Honestly, it’s the journies from the valley to the hilltop and back to the next valley that builds our endurance and strengthens our legs. Without the changing landscape, or staying in either place too long we can become much weaker.

There’s plenty of rain in the land

Think about this.  When you’re on the hill; the rain that you get is only the rain for the hill. But when you’re in the valley; not only do you get the rain for the valley, but you get the runoff from the hill.  It’s the blessings and memories of the “hilltop moments” that give us extra provision and encouragement for the moments in the valleys. There’s plenty of rain for the land…for your life. You just have to look for it and capture it.

God cares for the land and watches over it through each season

Remembering this is probably the most important thing Isreal needed to do, that we need to do. If we’re not careful we feel accomplished on the hill but abandoned in the valley. Forgetting God in either place brings pride, bitterness, rebellion, disobedience and ultimately destruction. Remembering and trusting Him brings protection, provision, and purpose. Every season and elevation of the land, every season and elevation of your life, He’s watching over it.

 

Are you feeling stuck in the valley?

What “runoff” from the hills can you store up or have you stored up to help you through the valleys?

 

 

Whisper

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Really wish I had that hair now….man

 

As a kid, I would spend several nights in the summer with my great-grandmother out in the country. Granny lived in a little brick house in Beech Bluff, TN. No cable tv, (definitely no internet…not sure if Al Gore had invented it yet.) She only had rabbit ears and 3 channels. Her phone hung on the wall with a 10 ft spiral cord. No central heat and air. There was a window unit in the living room (and a box in the back bedroom window pulling a draft through the house.) On super hot days, I’d sit in front of the air conditioner letting it blow right in my face. I remember it taking my breath away as I’d try to breathe in the cold air. (Not sure how safe that was.)

 

Every morning she’d fix coffee in a percolator pot, pour a little in her saucer to cool and then back in her cup. We’d eat toast and honey or bacon and eggs. After breakfast, we’d water the plants on her carport with milk jugs. One summer a turtle would visit most mornings and we’d feed it dog food. We’d work in her garden until about lunch and I’d spend the rest of the afternoon, exploring her backyard, catching grasshoppers, and digging for worms. We might walk down the road to the neighbor for a visit; I’d grab a walking stick that doubled as a sword. They had an old droopy-eyed basset hound that I’d sit and play with his ears. Right before we’d go in for the evening I’d catch a few fireflies and we’d call it a day.  At night we’d sleep with the bedroom window up. Her bed was right next to the window and I’d fall asleep to the sound of crickets and frogs. Occasionally I’d wake up to coyotes or a wildcat and she would scratch my back until I fell back asleep.

This was pretty much the routine every time I stayed and it never got old.

But I did.

Eventually, I outgrew my summer stays with Granny and hadn’t thought about them in a while, until recently and found myself reminiscing.

Especially the last few moments at night. Before I went to sleep, she would have me repeat the “Lord I lay me down...” prayer.

“Now I lay me down to sleep. I  pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord, my soul to take. AMEN!”

Looking back it’s a little morbid…”Just in case I die tonight Jesus…take me to heaven!

That’s crazy!!!

It’s what happened next that has stirred me greatly recently.

Granny would whisper.

I couldn’t make out her words and was really too tired to pay attention. Was she talking to herself…no she was still praying. My small mind didn’t know why … because we had just covered all our bases with the three lines we’d we’d just repeated.

I didn’t understand it then…but I do now.

She still had things she needed to happen in her life. Her only daughter was still weathering the outcomes of a marriage that had ended but had managed to go back to school and get a job. A few years later her daughter would be hit by a drunk driver facing a long recovery. She had 5 grandchildren and at the time 2-3 great-grandchildren. Some of them were doing well, and some of them were probably going through things that I had no idea about. Her legacy would span 8 great-grandchildren, and 1 great-great-grandchild before she passed at 93; right before her 2nd great-great grandchild was born.

Granny didn’t pray very loud…she just confidently whispered…trusting God to do with her words what He will.

The memory of those whispers has returned so vividly recently and it was as if I could actually hear the hushed words. It’s messed with me for a few days now.

I know it sounds crazy!

I’m so thankful for this memory!

IMG_20180806_221519467_LL.jpgAs I was experiencing the full weight of this I began to wonder. How much of who I am is a result of those prayers. What have I received and avoided as a because of those prayers. I believe the prayers that were whispered laying beside her as a young boy along with  the ones when she was all alone and I was all grown up, have had a greater impact than I will ever comprehend. I wonder how many of those prayers have been answered? I’m sure there are many more, about me and other family members, that are still in process and will continue to be answered even though she entered eternity 12 years ago.  Hebrews 11:13-15 talks about how this works.

Many of us may have had parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents that have whispered prayers for us over the years. You are and will be impacted by those prayers.

Be encouraged by this!

But what if you didn’t have that?

THEN, you do that for your future generations.

Mark Batterson believes that “our prayers are genesis moments that create a change in our genealogy.”  I’m thankful for my family and my heritage, but I know, that there has been some shifting in my genealogy and I want to perpetuate that in my children, grandchildren, and even great grandchildren.

Don’t underestimate the power of your whispers.

What matters most is not the volume of your voice, but the volume of your faith.

 

I’d love to hear your story! Feel free to share!

 

Dad’s Home

One of the greatest sounds I get to hear happens when I pull in the drive and walk through the door. Three high-pitched voices squealing…

“Dad’s Home!Dad’s Home”

I don’t arrive home to this procession every time. But, I know one day those squealing voices will silence and the house will be much emptier. I look forward to getting home as much as my girls do. However, there’s more to being home than just walking through the door.

Samuel was one of the greatest prophets in the Bible. His messages always directed and guided God’s people allowing him to find favor with God and Israel. As the last prophet of Israel, Samuel was responsible for anointing and counseling its first two kings, Saul and David. But he could have been responsible for the people rebelling against God more than he realized. He was leading and directing a nation but maybe he failed at home.

“Samuel continued as Israel’s judge for the rest of his life. Each year he traveled around, setting up his court first at Bethel, then at Gilgal, and then at Mizpah. He judged the people of Israel at each of these places then he would return to his home at Ramah, and would hear cases there too. And Samuel built an altar to the Lord at Ramah. As Samuel grew old he appointed his sons to be judges over Israel. Joel and Abijah, his oldest sons, held court in Beersheba. But they were not like their father, for they were greedy for money. They excepted bribes and perverted justice. Finally all the elders of Israel met at Ramah to discuss the matter with Samuel. ‘Look’, they told him, ‘you are now old, and your sons are not like you. Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.”

~1 Samuel 7:15-8:4

Samuel probably loved his son’s dearly and I’m not sure we can make any assumptions about his parenting skills other than work responsibilities required him to spend long stints away from home. As a result, he may have missed some firsts and last milestones of his boys. First steps, last diapers, potty training, first crush, questions about God and growing up. He did, apparently, try to teach them how to continue in the family ministry. But, did his time away from home have a negative effect on his sons? We also know that even when he was home he was still working. Is it possible that his commitment to the responsibilities as Prophet overshadowed and took precedence over his commitment and responsibilities as a dad, even when he was home? Did Samuel feel the same tension that we feel today trying to balance work and play, family and duty, responsibilities and relationships? I know I struggle at times with feeling guilty for not being home but then pressured to get work done, even when I’m home. When I’m home I’m at work and when I’m at work I’m at home.

How can we keep from repeating Samuel’s mistake and have a better chance of leaving a legacy within our children that will continue after we are gone? It’s simple but not easy.

GO HOME

I’m blessed with a job that has fairly flexible hours. Not everyone has that opportunity. There are seasons when I have to be away from home more than usual. That is the exception to the rule…not the rule. While growing up, my dad worked swing shift sometimes 60+ hours a week. Some of those hours were mandatory, some of them weren’t. Some of you may work many hours a week. But let me ask you this…How many of those are by choice? Could you go home instead? Is it an opportunity to make a few extra dollars so you can make extra payments or purchases? I promise, that in the end, your family would rather have you than things. Is to impress the bosses or coworkers or to advance your career? Those are important and worthy endeavors but at what expense.

Over time my dad had finally worked his way into a position where he could take off a lot more. The problem is my sister and I were now both grown and out of the house with families of our own. I honor and am grateful for him and believe he was doing what he thought was best, but I’d rather have had him home more than more stuff.

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Trust me when I say that your kids feel the same way. They are waiting for you to get home. They get excited when you get there (even if your teenager only grunts when theysee you.) Understand that there will always be more work to do, but you won’t always have kids at home.

So don’t work over today…go home. Hug your wife, play with your kids.

BE THERE

This may seem like a strange request. But as stated above. There have been times when my body is at work and my heart is at home. The flip happens, when my body is at home and my mind is at work. I’m a divided individual. My kids are laughing in front of me and I’m thinking about a call I forgot to return, a project I need to get finished, or event details that still need to be covered. It’s sometimes hard to do, but BE where you are. Especially when you’re home. Those moments go by so fast. You are directly impacting a life. Take a minute, get alone (the bathroom usually works)…write down everything that you’re worried about, or needs to get done. Take a deep breath. Fold the list and put it on top of your wallet (to pick up the next morning on the way out the door)and go be with your family!

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On the other hand, don’t collapse in front of the TV and veg out. Put your phone down and get out of your social and news feed (this is a hard habit for me.) Get up, go outside with your kids, play in the floor, dance or wrestle with them. Swing them around if you’re able. Do something to get your blood flowing and your kids giggling. You don’t have to spend hours…just a few minutes. You’re making memories for them and you. Things you’ll laugh about later in life.

LEAD THERE

Guys, we are the thermostat for our homes. Failing to set it right will cost us much more than any utility bill ever could. How we lead our kids today is building their future for tomorrow. It’s not that we choose to fail. We’re just tired. We were never lead ourselves and don’t know where to start, so we feel incompetent. We think “tomorrow” will be a better day to start.

I’m not saying you have to be a general and whip everyone into shape with a list of rules, expectations, rewards, and punishments. It’s simpler than that, yet harder than that. It’s conversations, life lessons, and reinforcement. It takes humility, transparency, grace, and probably most of all patience. It’s more about what you do than what you say. At the same time, your words are powerful and have the potential to build up and tear down.

Here are some questions to ponder. Do you discuss family values and then live them out yourself, setting the example? Do you hold yourself to the same expectations that you set for your kids? How do you treat or talk about other people? Do you let your emotions control you when they shouldn’t? Do you serve with your family? Do you model your love for your wife? Do you pray with your kids? (NOT JUST FOR YOUR KIDS. It can be awkward if you’ve never done it. Check out how in this post.) None of these things really depend on giving orders and directives. Leadership is more than being a boss, it’s simply about influence.

Being home may sound like a little more work than your actual job. And honestly, most days, IT IS. But the compensation far outweighs and the legacy will far outlast any paycheck.

Maybe you’re in a position where you want to be a better dad at home, but you don’t know where to start. I recently had the opportunity to share a message series at my church called Family Matters. Check out PART 2 on Parenting. I’m not perfect by any means, but I’d love to offer any encouragement or support I can. Contact me with any questions or thoughts. I’d love to hear from you!

Year after Year

Does anyone else have difficulty keeping track of time? Days turn into weeks and months into a year very quickly. It’s hard to keep up. It’s even more difficult when you’re having fun and the old cliche’ rings true, “Time flies when your having fun.” However, the opposite is also true. When you’re in a season that you are ready to be out of, it seems to last F.O.R.E.V.E.R.!

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