Building a Life Worth Living: Gloriously lost in the Dessert

Recently, like the last two day recently, my future in the military has been decided; I am to be medically retired on the 25th of July.  To be honest, up to this point I had become, once again, quite complacent.  Then as the shadow of reality crept overhead, it sank in “I’ve got to figure out what I’m going to do!”  Notice here that I said “what”; however, this isn’t the what do I want to be when I grow up, incidentally I still don’t have an answer to that question, or the what school to go to or what degree to pursue or so on and so forth.  As previously stated, I’m a “Doer” a man in motion, plans within plans within plans.  Fallback options if the first few fail or I simply get bored.  This “What” is more life-altering than those; this “What” means finally stopping running away from God (like I could anyway) and taking a leap of faith.
To be very honest, I toyed with the idea of pursing my passion for the culinary arts, there was the idea of turning my photography and videography into a career, and even the thought of simply running….running and never stopping going somewhere where I could be secluded and alone with my misery.
But God, those have to be two of my most favorite words in all of scripture.  They form the framework for every situation, circumstance or bad choice I’ve made in my own life.  Each time myself or my choices or others have meant to destroy me, those words ring out, BUT GOD!
But I digress.  In a recent post I quoted the Psalmist in chapter 51:7-17; and too be honest I only used it because it speaks of how The Father Views a broken and contrite heart….but as I read those words again, I began to weap. 
THE ENTIRE PASSAGE WAS WRITTEN FOR ME< TO ME< ABOUT ME!!!!  Never before has a piece of scripture reached out right into my life and quite plainly and loudly TOLD me exactly what I need and what I need to do.  Check this out:
Psalm 51:7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; was me and I will be whiter than snow.
Who among us hasn’t or doesn’t feel that we’ve “done it this time”, “God will never reach into this muddy mess I’ve drug his name through this time.”  “I’ve simply gone to far.”  Whom among you hasn’t SCREAMED AT GOD in desperation to FIX our situation!  CLEANSE ME OH LORD!!!!
Psalm 51:8; Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.”
For me my days are plagued by depression and I long for Joy and Peace and Gladness…a reason to rejoice.  I feel “Crushed” as the passage says….
Oh, it’s getting good now….its at this point my ears perked up and my spirit really began listening…..
V.9 “Hide your face from y sins and blot out all my iniquity.  (Morgan’s translation  Lord, please forgive all this crap I’ve done AGAIN and lets pretend like it never happened….just don’t let me do it again!)
v.10 Create in my a PURE heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit from me.
For me this means, free me from all my selfish ambitions – my desire to “be the man”, to be important, to be “Somebody” and create the kind of sticktoitness that it will take following the Hard road….Like PAUL!
V.11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 
Despite all I’ve done, please don’t leave me lord!
V.12 Restore to me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
This WILLING SPIRIT is an attitude and and outlook.  The attitude is that it’s all because of Jesus and he deserves all of me because it’s all because He shed his blood that I’m even able to draw breath, that I’m not cast out of the father’s sight, that I am beloved of the KING.  To always remember that it is for Him that I live and I will go and do where He is and what He is doing – regardless……
V.13 THEN I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. 
(Just like was done for me….this is my calling….to go to the marginalized and let them know they are not alone, there are those of us who’ve been there.  And God does not hate them, regardless of what they’ve been told.  Whether Gay or Lesbian, Muslim, Hindu, black or white, young or old, homeless or rich, Junkie or quarterback….WE ARE ALL THE SAME IN THE SIGHT OF GOD.  GOD IS LOVE! 
I could most certainly go on and on and on with this passage, but that wasn’t so much the point of this entry…although it is the best part.
Nope, this entry is to simply say…HERE AM I, SEND ME!
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Building A Life Worth Living: Restoration and Renewal

Restoration; noun, the act of restoring, renewal, revival or re-establishment; a return of something to a former, original, normal or unimpaired condition.

What a magnificent concept; Renewal – to make something New AGAIN!

My journey through the valley of despair as it were, is still quite ongoing and still monumentally difficult and often very painful.  Each day something new arises to remind me that i am broken.

BUT THAT’S THE KEY!   How can a person ever hope to be restored, not only wto what our life once looked like, but restored to the Life God has intended for us to be living if what they have built their life into isn’t first stripped away..

Depression and consequences of choices made often seem to build on one another creating a sort of Inner Perfect Storm.  There’s always this black cloud following me from the moment I arise each morning until I finally drift to sleep each night.  each day I awaken with the ever-present sadness that has plagued my life as of late.  Trying to find a way out of the chaos and a path to the end of my pain is most all I ever think about.  Perhaps, i’m unhappy, uncontent and without peace because I’m not living the life God has planned for me.  Which brings mye full-circle to the state of being broken.  To most of my peers, colleagues family and friends, this means there is something wrong with me,that must be repaired or set right.  I can get back to being “Morgan”, but the more I gaze into the heart of the Father the more I begin to see myself through his eyes and from his vantage point.  It’s hard, change always is.  It’s rough and real change, the kind that transforms something most would simply discard into something new and old, beautiful and weathered, and something that is once again useful. 

Through therapy I’ve learned a lot of skills that allow me to cope with the different challenges I face.  It’s a new fight each day.  Sometimes I win, not always, but the ratio of wins to losses is increasing all the time.  But, in times of “high” stress, not the debilitating kind, but the times where I must turn my mind, I stumbled across my new hobby woodworking.

This is where I find some beautiful inspiration.  I love the idea of taking things like old wood from a barn or old-style paned glass windows and turning these things into furniture.  It involves restoration and renewal; two sides of the same coin, but each important.

Restoration takes things most would consider to have served its purpose and is no longer useful and putting in time, energy and a lot of work to breathe new life into once was considered “Dead”.  Restoration begins by striping away all the former finish to reveal the unblemished surface beneath.  This process is always abrasive and takes a lot of work; yet is arguably the most important step on the road to renewal.  If you don’t get all the old off, the new will not hold.

The Psalmist speaks of how god views “broken” people in Psalms 51:7-17

 7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
   wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
   let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins
   and blot out all my iniquity.
 10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
   and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
   or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
   and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
   so that sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
   you who are God my Savior,
   and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord,
   and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
   you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is<sup class="footnote" value="[b]”> a broken spirit;
   a broken and contrite heart
   you, God, will not despise”

What is astonishing to me is that we all continue chasing after our own desires.  Many of us struggle to grab hold of a dream that doesn’t turn out to be a nightmare; or we find ourselves shipwrecked when our dreams come true, yet they were nothing like what we imagined.  Certain were we, that THIS life was what we wanted, what would make us happy, whole, complete and what we would die for; yet, instead it almost kills us.  It is exhausting trudging through life always thinking, “If I could just get that job or that house or that car or whatever we imagine up for ourselves, then everything would be ok.”  Only to discover that even if those things are achieved and those things are achieved and those dreams realized – they simply aren’t enough.  We find ourselves still searching for something more; something to fill the emptiness we feel deep within.  Its exactly this point that led me to my current state of brokenness.  Dreams seized and promptly self-shattered.

So, I find myself scattered into pieces; struggling, straining to figure out how to put myself back together.  But what if…

What if God doesn’t want me put back together?  What if God wants to take those random bits of me and restore the person whom He created and called to His service.  to take what once was filthy, old and ugly and turn it into something bold and beautiful.

To be continued….

Building A Life Worth Living: A Fresh Perspective

It is ironic how the thing that we often view as the “worst possible” circumstance or outcome or situation we may find ourselves becomes the thing from which the greatest milestones are made.

I very recently came to the point in which I couldn’t promise even myself that I wouldn’t take actions to harm myself.  For me, looking into the future is a dismal exercise; yet, it is the future that I most always look toward and plan for.  More often than not I see nothing but emptiness, darkness, a vast nothing that is more than overwhelming.  Other times I see a pitiful existence that is one of isolation and loneliness.   And then, like brilliant rays of sunlight breaking through the clouds, I get a glimpse of the life that God has laid out for me; a life worth living.

Which brings me to it; the event that allowed me the “time” and “place” to be in a position to look at my situation and affliction through the Father’s Eyes.  On friday of this week I had another attempt on my life.  This time I was resolute; determined to make this one the last attempt and first Success.  It seems God had other plans.  Somehow, I managed to gain enough composure and rational thought to call my therapist as I was on my way to the hospital.  I was driving myself to the E.R.  She was concerned about the cut on my wrist and whether the bleeding was severe.  I assured her it wasn’t.  After many hours and tests and doctors and blood work and recounting what I’ve been struggling for the millionth time; it was decided that I be admitted to the inpatient psychiatry ward of Tripler Army Medical Center. The outcome was that i FINALLY received adequate psychiatry care and proper meds that actually help.

The turning point for me though was not the docs or the meds, it was when the chaplain came to run one of the group sessions.  This chaplain however, was an islamic Chaplain.  He decided to speak on the topic of forgiveness.  AWESOME!  Then he asked two questions; the first, whom does forgiveness serve and second, am I worthy of forgiveness.   And here is where our thinking diverged.  His claim was that forgiveness serves the receiver and that we are born ‘noble human beings’ and ARE worthy of forgiveness.  Ok…the forgiveness serves the reciever i can sort of go with that as an explanation, but that leaves out one of the most important, in my opinion, in all of scripture…and that is to every truly experience anything in life you must first give it away.  The greatest example is John 3:16; for God so LOVED the world that He GAVE his only begotten son….”  True Forgiveness; that which keeps no record and holds no grudge….TRUE forgiveness is FOR the GIVER.  If frees the giver from all the negative aspects of being wounded carry…fear, anger, depression, etc.  I turn to the story of Joseph for the greatest example of a man whom had every reason to hold a grudge and been justified in doing so, yet, chose to look at the course of his life as necessary for the salvation of his whole family.

“You intended to harm me, but God meant it for good, to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

But as for you, ye thought evil against me,…. That must be said and owned, that their intentions were bad; they thought to have contradicted his dreams, and made them of none effect, to have token away his life, or however to have made him a slave all his days: but God meant it unto good; he designed good should come by it, and he brought good out of it: this shows that this action, which was sinful in itself, fell under the decree of God, or was the object of it, and that there was a concourse of providence in it; not that God was the author of sin, which neither his decree about it, nor the concourse of providence with the action as such supposes; he leaving the sinner wholly to his own will in it, and having no concern in the ataxy or disorder of it, but in the issue, through his infinite wisdom, causes it to work for good, as follows:to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive; the nation of the Egyptians and the neighbouring nations, as the Canaanites and others, and particularly his father’s family: thus the sin of the Jews in crucifying Christ, which, notwithstanding the determinate counsel of God, they most freely performed, was what wrought about the greatest good, the salvation of men.

So, while forgiveness, real, genuine forgiveness will have transitory effects which will flow to the receiver; it is FOR the Giver.  It frees them up to go about doing the business of the father and get what needs to be done accomplished.

There is so much more to it than that simple explanation.  I highly recommend reading the book “Total Forgiveness” by Pastor R.T. Kendell.

Now, as to the issue of the worthiness of Forgiveness.  To claim that one is automatically worthy for forgiveness is entirely ludicrous.  The very idea of forgiveness implies that there is a NEED to be forgiven, which further implies that an act, thought, word or even emotion fundamentally caused another or oneself harm.  But, all this is in regards to choices we are faced with.  Worthiness of forgiveness for “original sin”, if you want to call it that, is another thing all together.   To be forgiven for a STATE of BEING is another animal all together.  We are not WORTHY for a perfect, righteous and Holy God to pardon us for going and doing the one thing He told us not to do; in my mind I call that betrayal and disobedience.   i didn’t commit the crime but still suffer the affects of that decision.  And, I am not worthy for God Almighty to take on flesh and suffer and die as payment for my sin.  That is what makes forgiveness such a beautiful thing.  God did not allow His son to die for us, He allowed Christ to die for himself.  Jesus didn’t die FOR us, He did so FOR God.

“I’m just a realist.”

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“I’m not a pessimist, I’m just a realist!”

“Realists” have a skewed view of reality.

Has anyone ever told you they’re not negative; they’re just realists? That they just see the world for how it really is? I found this great quote by a “realist” on a forum: “others are floating on top of pink clouds with rainbows and unicorns expecting gold to drop down from heaven. People are being naively optimistic never anticipating the danger luring beneath the horizon.” I couldn’t help but smile at his description of other people. According to Dictionary.com, a realist is “a person who tends to view or represent things as they really are.” Princeton defines a realist as “a person who accepts the world as it literally is and deals with it accordingly.”
But here’s a question that popped into my head Sunday: do “realists” actually accept the world for how it really is?

Perhaps you’ve even claimed to be a realist before, eh? I know I have from time to time; it’s easy to begin to think that you’ve got things figured out. But Sunday I realized something about “realists.” They aren’t realists. In fact, “realists” have a skewed view of reality.
Consider the supernatural reality behind the situation.

According to God’s word nothing can separate us from the love of God (Rom 8:35-39). Do you truly believe Matthew 19:26 which says that with God all things are possible? Do you take God at His Word and trust in His faithfulness? Or do you get scared at the first sign that things might get a little rough? Whiners are not realists.
In reality, God is all-powerful! And He’s on your side.
In reality, our hope is in God (Rom 5:3-5). Our hope is not in this world (1 Jn 2:17, NIV).
In reality, we know that God will overcome. And through Him, so will we (Rev 12:11).
So I encourage you, when things aren’t looking so good, to consider the supernatural reality behind the situation. Consider the powerful testimony that God is building through your situations; and consider the reality that God is big enough to use anything for His glory (Eph 3:20-21).
God is the ultimate reality, place your hope in Him.

Building a Life Worth Living: Building off of the Maker’s Designs

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. –Proverbs 19:21
And we come to it…planning.  I consider myself a “do-er”; that is, a person who must always be moving.  ALWAYS.  Especially now facing all the constant struggles that I do, I’m always looking, listening, analyzing…PLANNING.
“If X happens, then I’ll do Y, or if X doesn’t happen, then I’ll do B.”  It’s exhausting and it feels almost like manipulation.  
Life, according to the world, is nothing but a series of plans to be made and executed with all the fervor and efficiency our humanity has to offer. And we love to plan, don’t we? Even as believers, we get very motivated and focused on the plan; the road that leads us to the end of the task; the accomplishment of a mission that satisfies some deeply rooted need to succeed and be counted; to make our mark. And while this, in itself, may produce a well-intended work that bears good fruit, we are keenly aware and reminded of our particular failings as people – EVEN WHEN WE SUCCEED. We love to follow plans and we are good at it, but whose plan are we following exactly?
How many of us have had good plans; Even plans for ministry?  I am talking about intense, call-of-God type plans that compel us to action in various ways, sometimes life-altering and always purposeful. Ever have those?
How many of us, once the plan is in motion, suddenly realize that we have decided to take the reigns and steer the direction of that plan? At some point, we forget where our purpose, and our help, comes from.  I’ve known for some time now, that my tenure in the U.S. Air force is coming to a close.  The timing of that is still in question, but it is much sooner than I expected.  So, being the man in perpetual motion, I started to take action to secure my future!  I pursued a position in the secular community – for profit, for comfort, for security.  Then, despite a phenomenal interview and all signs pointing towards a safe and secure job…I was turned down – kind of…
So, after much prayer and a gentle reminding of my call to ministry, I re-vectored and am back on that unsecure, SCARY path that the Living God has called me to.  The hard road.  But, it’s in that uncertainty that I find hope, it is in that uncertainty that I find peace, it is in that uncertainty that I find my place!

Jeremiah 29:11 Says, “For I know the PLANS i have for you, says the Lord, plans for a future and a hope…”
If you notice that what MORGAN has planned is nowhere in that statement from the Almighty…not anywhere.
Ok, Ok, I get it, He has my best interests in mind…but what does that mean, why am I still tortured by a past I cannot forget…
1st Peter 1:5-9 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Remember, that for each of us out there who knows him, there are many others who do not. He has his heart set on those people; those who suffer in hopelessness. So how do we know that our plan is also God’s plan? Well, that is the question isn’t it? I am not sure there is a perfect answer apart from the generic ‘pray about it’ answer you might find in the coffee area of church on Sunday. I do know one thing though: If our plan is focused more on serving the lost and suffering and less on serving ourselves and our ambitions, well then it is probably mostly God.
The funny thing is, God will let us carry out our own plans until we see that His way really is the ONLY way!  Funny how he does that, isn’t it!?