Failure

Perdido Key, Florida.  I was in a hotel room, desperately reading my Bible, even more desperately crying out to God.  Somewhere along the way I had, well, lost my way.  And I couldn’t find my way back.

Back to a consistently focused walk with God.

Back to a first-love commitment to Jesus.

Back to a sense of spiritual usefulness and power.

Back to a faith that could at least move me, even when it couldn’t move mountains.

Back to the hope that somehow tomorrow could actually be better than today.

I could have told you how to find your way back to wherever you left your path.  But I was lost as last year’s Easter egg when it came to me.

I heard all the things I already knew in my head.  Didn’t help.

I heard all the platitudes and steps and methods I’d told others and they had told me.  Ditto.

I heard all the sermons I had preached to others about coming back to Jesus, and they were profoundly useless to me.

And what I was reading in the Bible wasn’t helping much, either.  I kept reading passages in psalms where David would pray things like, “Vindicate me, O God, because I have walked in my integrity.”

I didn’t have any integrity.  And the last thing I needed to see in that situation was vindication.  Justice either.

In desperation I silently cried out, “God!  Is there a verse in there for the rest of us?”

And He showed me something that changed my life. [click to continue…]

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I don’t know what else to call them.  But if they were all in the same vicinity or neighborhood, they’d be part of a ghost town.  They’re usually uninhabitable, with windows and doors gone or broken, and the roof letting in morning sunshine.

There’s at least one near you somewhere, but it may not be as easy to see as the hundreds that dot the wide open landscape near where I live.

Abandoned, but never empty.  For lack of a better term, I call them ghost houses.

Not haunted houses, though I’d rather not wander into one of these things after dark.  Broad open daylight either, for that matter.

Once upon a time these places provided a home for families.  Now they sit empty.  Sometimes the reason is obvious; sometimes it doesn’t make sense at all. Just in the last week I’ve seen several once-lovely and spacious homes now left to the elements, vandals, and critters.

Maybe someone died, and left no heir.  Maybe business dried up or sold out and forced a move.  Maybe the place got tied up in some sort of disagreement in court or with a bank.

Regardless, the end result is the same – empty, eroding testaments to lost usefulness and life.

Oh, if they could talk!  Oh, if they could teach us!

Call me weird (okay, who said that?).  But what started as a years-long fascination has led me to visit and photograph over 200 of these old places over the last week.  Most were houses.  But there are also old stores, gas stations, barns, schools, and even a few abandoned churches.

Some are part of the three certifiable ghost towns I’ve visited (a story for another day).  Most stand alone on the edge of town or in the middle of nowhere.

Nobody built one of these planning for them to sit desolate.  But sit they do.  And while the ghost houses have lost their primary purpose because nobody can actually live or work in them anymore, they being dead still speak.

And no, they’re not hollering, “Boo!”

They’re teaching some powerful lessons that speak to us as individuals and leaders, churches and organizations. [click to continue…]

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Don’t Toss Your Confidence

by Andy Wood on March 4, 2011

in Hoarders, LV Alter-egos

Ever hear of Harry Hartman?  

Probably has the distinction of having the shortest major league baseball career ever. 

Harry was a gifted Dodgers ballplayer whose day of glory arrived in 1918 when he was called up from the minors to pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  This was the moment he’d dreamed about, the beginning of a great career! 

But Harry’s dreams began to fade when his first pitch was hit for a single. 

The next batter tripled. 

He walked the next batter on four straight pitches, and when he did throw a strike to the next hitter, it went for a single. 

At that point, Hartman had had enough.  He headed for the showers, dressed, and walked out of the stadium to a naval recruiting office, where he enlisted.  The next day, he was in a military uniform, never to be heard from in professional baseball again.

Safe to say, ol’ Harry left baseball with an itty bitty confidence problem.  And the tragedy of it all?  Harry was good enough.  But he threw away his confidence, and never tried again. [click to continue…]

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Here are seven more ideas, thoughts, or “wish I’d said thats” baking in my mental oven lately. How about you?  Do you have any half-baked ideas you’d like to share?  Drop it in the comment box below. 

Want to see more?  Try here, here, or here.

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“God is a violent pursuer of a wayward soul.” – Brandon Gilbert

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“Even when we fail to validate the gospel, the way we respond to failure can validate the gospel.”  -Nathan Ables [click to continue…]

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What comes to mind when you hear the name “Solomon?”

Yeah, that.  Wisdom.  Too bad he lived long enough to throw his life into reverse. 

Solomon was a piece of work.  He went from healthy, wealthy and wise to hedonistic, weird and wicked.  Finally, toward the end of his reign, the Lord had seen enough.  He spoke to Solomon and told him he was going to tear away all but one tribe from his son (1 Kings 11:13).

Okay.  But why not clean house?  Why not do a clean sweep?  He’d done it before with Israel’s first king.  And may I just say… Saul may have gone from compromiser to crazy, but compared to Solomon, Saul was a saint.

So what gives with God? [click to continue…]

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(Here’s a parable that didn’t quite make it to the Bible.  It’s a follow-up to the story of the Prodigal Son.  In case you missed that first episode, you can find it by clicking here.)  

When last we heard from the Prodigal Son, his loving father, and his older brother, Dad was appealing to the older sibling to come join the party.

“All that I have is yours,” he was saying – which was technically true, since the younger brat had wasted all of his part of the inheritance.

By and by, life settled down.  The older brother continued to do well, and was admired by all for his performance.  The younger son got with the program – for the most part.  Occasionally his friends and family could see some of those old streaks of self-will-run-riot in him.  But for the most part, he lived in great gratitude for his father’s forgiveness and restoration. [click to continue…]

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It’s a little hard to feel sorry for Mo, even when at times in his childhood you would have been tempted to.  He was a sickly child, and his short, thin physique was no match for the other boys who were good at sports. 

Mo was no geek, either.  Something of a slacker in school, the truth was, book learning was way past hard for him.

But he had his looks, right? 

Uh, no.  Sitting atop his bony, wiry frame was a giant schnoz.  The dude was seven shades of ugly. [click to continue…]

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The Bus

by Andy Wood on March 27, 2010

in Esteem, Life Currency, Tense Truths

Inspired by an analogy I heard from my friend Bill at lunch yesterday…

Let’s say you’re a camp counselor.  And on this day you’ve loaded up 45 nine- and ten-year-olds on the bus for an outing.  Everybody’s had a great time as you have taken them into the city or to the beach… picture you own favorite locale for a gang of kids to have a blast.

Now it’s time to head back to the camp.  So you load ‘em up and move ‘em out.

That’s when it hits you.  You forgot the first rule of kids-on-the-bus management.

Yep.  You forgot to count heads.

Forty-one.  Forty-two.  Forty-three.  Forty-uh oh.

It’s every kid herder’s worst fear.  You’ve left somebody behind.  He’s lost.

So what do you do? [click to continue…]

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I think I’ve found another reason to identify with Simon Peter, that famous-for-so-many-reasons disciple of Jesus.  I can already relate to the fact that I feel like I’m supposed to be the first to show off when I think I know the answer to a question.

I can so relate when it comes to answering supernatural statements with in-the-natural answers or observations.

Most of all, I can relate to wanting so bad for my screw-ups to be the secret kind, only to have them aired out for the whole dang world to see.

But there’s another characteristic I see in this impetuous, impulsive, impassioned fisherman that I totally understand:

His randomness.

You just get the idea that Peter’s mama must have had a time trying to get him to do his homework.  The very image of Andrews’s brother planning ahead for anything is laughable.

Ready.  Fire.  Aim.  Uh oh.  Sorry.  Shutting up now.

Resurrection Randomness

So get this scene.  Jesus has been crucified and risen from the dead.  Peter, having denied the Lord publicly had become a reproach and embarrassment to the Lord, himself, and his companions.  But he had also met the risen Christ and experienced the wonder of being forgiven by Christ.

So what now to do? [click to continue…]

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Tense Truth:  Those who fail to learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.  But we are virtually helpless to reinterpret history for ourselves.  We need a Source of truth that isn’t subject to the distortions we bring to hindsight.

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Ms. Past, she’s such a wicked lady,

Ms. Past, she’s always there a waiting,

She’s the Devil’s favorite tool,

She’ll play you like a fool,

She’ll try until she rules.

-Michael and Stormie Omartian

Whoever said hindsight is 20/20 needs new glasses.

Hindsight is blind as a bat. 

It’s a house of mirrors.

You can get more accuracy from a weekend weatherman about a 10-day forecast than you can from looking at life in the mirror.

If hindsight is 20/20, why do historians always argue?

If hindsight is 20/20, why do two people in conflict always tell two completely different stories?  (And tell two more a week later?)

If hindsight is 20/20, why does the same event speak to you completely differently from the perspective of a day, a week, a month, a year, or a generation?

If hindsight is 20/20, why does God repeatedly have to remind the children of Israel about their rescue from Egypt and the whole Red Sea episode?  I’ll tell you why.  [click to continue…]

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