Becki, my mom and I lined up at the brand new Chickfila on Navy Blvd early Wednesday and camped out for 24 hours up until the grand opening Thursday. We had lots of fun and earned free Chickfila for a year!

All of us Wednesday morning

All of us Wednesday morning

Becki, Figment and me

Becki, Figment and me

Our camp site

Our camp site

Grand Opening in 1 Day

Grand Opening in 1 Day

We won!

We won!

On a few occasions people driving by bellowed out of their vehicles, “Get a job!” One person in particular showed off his hand dexterity by holding only his middle finger up while shouting. Maybe that’s an acceptable greeting on his home planet but not around here!  It offended me. It angered me. It made me think those people are ignorant and rude.

I happen to have a job and took a vacation day to be at the camp out.  They were reacting to the situation without knowing me or my life at all.  And, if any of them profess to be Christians, I think their gospel is complete poison.

The Lord turned the situation around on me. How often do I do the same thing by judging situations and people in my life without knowing the people or their lives first. It’s so easy to think homeless people are bums who need to get jobs, to criticize and condemn politicians, to look down on those without Jesus as they do wrong things, etc. When I do, I’m no better than the guy who flicked me off at Chickfila. My Christian example is shot and I’m causing offense and anger.

With the Lord’s help, never again!

Thursday off from work meant early morning fishing

Thursday off from work meant early morning fishing

Choppy gulf waters murky as sweet tea

Choppy gulf waters murky as sweet tea

We ended up catching 16 catfish including this big one.

We ended up catching 16 catfish including this big one.

We also caught this sea turtle

We also caught this sea turtle

We had a chat while I got the hook out

We had a chat while I got the hook out

Looks like Crush from Finding Nemo!

Looks like Crush from Finding Nemo!

We caught a second one right before we left

We caught a second one right before we left

Parents Outside Theater

Parents Outside Theater

Recently Becki, my parents and I watched Noah at a local theater. We went into it not looking for a Biblically accurate account but instead hoping to be entertained, and we were not disappointed. Afterwards, as I pondered the movie, I realized that I am Noah.

Humanity had become completely corrupt except for righteous Noah. God decided to pour out His wrath as a ferocious flood. God called Noah to build an ark out of gopherwood. Humanity bore God’s wrath and drowned while Noah and his family were saved to start again.

Humanity (including me) became completely corrupt again except for sinless Jesus. God decided to pour out His wrath as death. God called Jesus to build an ark out of the wood from His own Roman crucifixion cross. Jesus bore God’s wrath and died while humanity and I were offered a chance to be saved to start again.

Because of Jesus I am Noah!

Sunrise Prayer Jog Selfie

Sunrise Prayer Jog Selfie

Recently my wife and I vacationed in Daytona Beach. I would be starting a morning shift at Regions bank upon returning home (a very different environment from church work), so we decided to get up early during vacation to prepare my body. I leveraged that time to take sunrise prayer jogs along the beach.

During my jogs the tide would be going out dramatically (a fifty yard difference or more from high tide), leaving behind a thin sheen of water on the beach and a host of jellyfish stuck in it. Apparently, during evening high tide the jellyfish drifted far up on the beach and as the tide ebbed out they would linger and get stuck.

Beached Jellyfish

Beached Jellyfish

Seeing the scene, I thought of myself as a jellyfish in life, following the Lord into the world and reaching out to those in sin. If I’m the one influencing those in sin, I picture myself being far up on the beach during high tide. If I become influenced by and settled into sin myself, I imagine the tide ebbing away and myself lingering far up on the beach. Before I know it, the Lord’s Presence has gone out to sea but I’m left helplessly stuck on the beach.

Going into a ‘secular’ job at Regions this thought is key. I feel called by God to be at Regions at this point in my life. I have followed Him onto the bank ‘beach’ and I need to follow the Spirit’s lead in reaching out to those stuck in sin while not getting stuck myself.

Genesis 13:12 NIV, “Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom”

My wife and I went out to the beach for some shark fishing

My wife and I went out to the beach for some shark fishing

Recently my wife and I went out to the beach (Perdido Key Public Beach Access #2) for an afternoon of shark fishing. Well, I went for shark fishing and my wife came in support of me. Our friends David and Sara Sewell joined us. By shark fishing, I mean catching small fish

Sewell's pointing out dolphins

Sewell’s pointing out dolphins

from shore with shrimp, rigging the fish up on big hooks, kayaking them out well past the first sand bar into the gulf, and returning to the shore to wait for a shark to hit.
At first we didn’t catch much of anything with shrimp, so I used a frozen Lady Fish I had from a previous fishing trip as shark bait. Something hit but quickly dropped it. When we brought in the bait we saw teeth marks gashed in the fish, but of course away from the hook.

Fishing with shrimp for shark bait

Returning from kayaking out sting ray bait

Eventually, we caught live bait – a sting ray small enough to fit in my hand. I hooked it up for shark bait (monofilament leader with a circle hook the size of my index finger bent) and paddled it out. Sting ray has traditionally been prime time shark bait.

Reeling in sting ray shark pole at dusk

Minutes turned into half hours and then hours with no sharks. David and Sara left. Sunset came calling. Becki and I decided to leave the shark pole out while simultaneously packing up. Nothing. So, I dejectedly began to real in the sting ray shark pole. Darkness was beginning to replace the sunset so I quickened my reeling. I imagine the sting ray was zipping through the water.

Then, it happened. Something large hammered my sting ray. The drag began to release and scream. I set the hook with a yank. Shark on! Becki came down from taking a load to the van and aided with her iPhone light. The shark fought hard and ran up and down the beach. After half an hour’s fight we landed the shark, a four and a half foot blacktip!

We snapped pictures. I picked up the shark by the tail for one picture and looked down in time to see it bending its body and nearly taking a chunk out of my calf. “Wow!” I exclaimed while quickly pulling it away from my leg. After the pictures I released the shark back into the water. What an unexpectedly great way to end a fishing trip!

Fighting the shark

Fighting the shark

Shark fin in the water

Shark fin in the water

"Wow"

“Wow”

Hugging the shark

Hugging the shark

4.5 Foot Blacktip Shark

4.5 Foot Blacktip Shark

Farmland

Posted: September 15, 2013 in Theological Thoughts
Tags: , ,

My wife and me at the farm (notice the field behind)

A few months ago my brother got married on the front porch of his wife’s family farmhouse in Illinois. I had the privilege of attending and being a groomsmen. Standing there on the porch and looking out, I beheld miles and miles of picturesque farmland, literally as far as the eye could see. For this Michigander turned Floridian it was a beautiful sight.

Remembering that scene brings to mind the words of Jesus in John 4:35 NIV, “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” This verse is used to encourage believers to look past themselves and see people (the harvest) who are lost in life without Jesus. Growing up in church, I have heard this most of my life with the connotation that the lost harvest should come into the church (the barn) and find Jesus. If that’s the case, after resigning my youth pastorate a week and a half ago, my opportunities for meaningful ministry should lessen substantially. I’m sad about that.

Standing on the porch in Illinois I saw harvest farmland for miles around. It would be silly to think the harvest would magically move into the barns where the waiting farmers would receive them. Thinking Jesus was talking about lost people coming into the church to be saved and me thinking my opportunities have lessened are just as silly. Granted, staff pastors do have great opportunities for ministry and lost people do come to know Jesus in churches, but typically people go out into the fields to harvest and then bring the harvest into the barns. I think that’s more of what Jesus meant. I have the opportunity for this season of my life to follow Jesus’ lead and go out eyes open into the ripe harvest fields of lost people. I’m excited about that!

Me in the fitness center

Me in the fitness center

I make use of the free fitness center at our apartment complex (well, “free” as much as it is included in our monthly rent).  Last week a pungent odor (something like a well used middle school gym locker room that hasn’t been ventilated in a very long time) greeted me there.  Phew!  Apparently, the normal smell of activity in the room wasn’t being replaced and refreshed by outside air.  The staggering smell left me searching for solutions.  I came up with turning on fans, leaving the door open and looking to open the windows.

For me in life it’s easy to settle into rhythms of routine that end up becoming ruts.  It’s comfortable to close myself off to the outside air of activities, ideas and thoughts, especially those contrary to my ruts.  I may be comfortable but my life stagnates and slowly begins to stink.

Recently I’ve been making a conscious effort to open myself up to outside air from the Lord, my wonderful wife, and other people.  The Lord is responding to that effort by bringing all kinds of fresh air through my life in the form of unique opportunities, new notions and constructive criticism.  It’s been a challenge at times but what a different it’s been making in my life.

Acts 2:1-2 NASB, “1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.”  Holy Spirit, fill the whole house of my life.  Refresh and recirculate my activities, ideas and thoughts.  I open myself a fresh and anew to you today!

Saturday seemed like the perfect day to go fishing.  I had heard that quite a few different kinds of fish are being caught on the beaches now (Sheepshead, Pompano, Red Fish and Black Drum – a fish I have never caught).  I excitedly looked at the weather and tide forecast for the rest of the week.  Saturday the tide would be coming up in the afternoon, the temperature would be comfortable and the wind would be out of the south / southeast.  So, I sectioned off Saturday to seek some fish!

Me at the windy beach

Me at the windy beach

Saturday a very blustery side-shore wind kicking up waves and causing a strong current greeted me.  I threw out a test line to see if fishing was a possibility.  I could feel the weight skipping on the sea flooras the current pulled my bait down the beach.  I relocated and tried again in two other spots to no avail.  I decided right then and there to not only check the tide and weather but also the wind speed, current and wave prediction before deciding to section of a Saturday for fish seeking.

Then, I decided to at least take advantage of being out at the beach before leaving.  I made sure my pants were rolled up and took a leisurely walk in the surf. My mind relaxed and wandered in thought and prayer.  I felt some needed reassurances that the Lord will lead me through the many new things going on in my life.  I also noticed some beautiful sights like seagulls chilling, herons dive bombing fish out in the gulf and sea foam resembling the foaminess at the top of root beer floats!

Fishing failure but fun nonetheless.

Looks like root beer float foam!

Looks like root beer float foam!

Ever since I was a little squirt I’ve known that Jesus loves me.  John 3:16 and the song Jesus Loves Me have been foundations securely stationed in my soul.  This month in youth group we’ve been learning about the Lord’s love for us and how we in return can love Him.  This past Sunday I experienced the love of Jesus in a very unique way.

While getting ready for my day I got down on my knees to spend a few moments praying.  My mind wandered and I wondered what entering the Throne Room of heaven would look  like considering the triunity of God.  I imagined three thrones set up for the Spirit, Son and Father.  That scene quickly dissolved (probably erased for heresy by Holy Spirit) and was replaced with one throne for God the Father and another throne at His right hand for Jesus the Son with Holy Spirit present to enable (see Luke 22:69, Hebrews 12:2, Revelation 22:1).

I approached the throne of God (see Hebrews 4:16).  Reverently I recited, “I come in the name of Jesus,” (see John 16:23) and looked to His throne.  I could vaguely see His face and it filled with warmth and welcome for me.  I felt a burst of excitement and love in my heart for my Savior and felt a rush of His love for me, far greater than my love for Him.  I realized that Jesus loves me far more than I have ever loved Him.  Immediately a prayer left my lips, “Help me to love You like You love me and to love others like You do.”

I understand that in and of myself I don’t love Jesus like He loves me.  For that matter, I don’t have the capacity to love Him like He deserves to be loved.  So, that prayer has become an anthem in my heart.

Matthew 22:37-39 NIV, “37 Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”