10 Years

2014-05-30 04.07.0810 Years ago today, I stood at the front of a church and had a group of men surround me, lay hands on me, and ordain me into full-time vocational ministry as a pastor in a Baptist church in Asheville, North Carolina. It was an emotional day for me. My parents and my brother had made the trip down to Asheville and my father preached at the service. This marked a major career shift for me as I left my engineering career behind me and looked ahead to where I had felt God had been leading and calling me.

In the musical “Rent,” the characters tried to measure a year and decided that they would do it in love. How do I measure a decade? 10 years? 10 years, 3 churches, 3 children, 2 lost parents, 2 states, 2 denominations, and 1 seminary degree later, I’m still standing. My ordination was recognized by my current denomination just a few months ago. What I do today looks very different from what I was doing 10 years ago in some ways, and very much the same in other ways. The growth that I have seen in myself over this past decade can only be attributed to what God has done in my life. I hope that others who have walked this past decade with me have seen that same growth.

There have been times that I’ve looked back and said, “What was I thinking?” There are still days that come here and there when I wonder whether I should be doing what I’m doing, I think that’s natural for all of us. When I stop to really consider it though, those thoughts don’t last for a long time, I do my best to gently sweep them aside to look at the things in front of me that confirm my calling, that help me to remember why I do what I do and how success is measured in the eyes of God versus the eyes of the world.

It hasn’t been an easy road by any marks, but easy is not always best. What God has shown me and what I have seen over this past decade has managed to both astound me and horrify me, and probably so many other things in between those two.

I’ve measured many milestones in my life over the past few years. Some of those milestones have been good and celebratory while others have given me cause to stop and reflect, ask questions, and even weep. If milestones help me to reflect or lead to growth, I guess I can’t complain, and if I do, I’m not sure who will listen.

If you had told me 10 years ago where I would be today, I’m not so sure that I would have believed you. My hope is that 10 years from now, I won’t be quite as surprised by my circumstances, not because they haven’t changed or because there hasn’t been growth, but because I’ve gotten used to expecting the unexpected.

I’m grateful that God has used me these past 10 years and I know that I’ve made a difference, regardless of whether that difference has been great or small. I hope and pray that I can continue to be used to make a difference. I might not make a lot of money, I might not achieve fortune and fame, but if God can use a broken vessel like me, than that’s a pretty good case against atheism…..in my opinion.

The Power of Words

angelouHaving been one of those engineering types in college, I merely had to take 2 English courses before I got on with the rest of my engineering studies. When I look back on that, while I was glad, in some ways, to not have to be bogged down with literature courses or creative writing courses, I feel like there is an awful lot that I missed along the way.

English classes in high school feel far off to me now for more than the obvious reason that they were more than 20 years ago. For whatever reason, I don’t remember a whole lot of what we studied, although I do remember some of the books. While there were a number of classics that we read like The Great Gatsby, Catcher In the Rye, The Grapes of Wrath, and others, I feel like some other important works and authors of both American and English literature were passed over.

One of those important authors who I felt was passed over died yesterday. Maya Angelou, the African American poet and writer whose work spanned and influenced multiple generations, died in her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Although I knew of Angelou by name and even by the names of some of her works, I had never delved into any of those works. I was preoccupied with other things, although I wouldn’t necessarily say that those other things were more important. The beauty of the written word is that it can be enjoyed, cherished, and influential even posthumously. That’s what Angelou’s words will have to be for me.

What strikes me about Angelou is her commitment to words and her commitment to live them out. As unfamiliar as I am with her writing, it doesn’t take a scholar to understand that Angelou was not simply a poet and writer who wrote words to earn a living or to be an influence, she wrote words because it was who she was and how she expressed herself. She was able to capture in story the feelings that many others had experienced before and since her. That is the power of words, to articulate emotions in literary form that have seemed elusive to those who have experienced them.

“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” has risen to the top of my reading list. I expect that when I read it that I will not be disappointed. I expect that the power of her words will strike me in much the same way that those words have struck thousands before me. I expect that the hype of this author and poet will live up to the expectation that it created.

Thank you, Ms. Angelou, for your courageous words. I look forward to knowing you more through what you’ve written. I look forward to learning more about myself and the world because of what you have left behind.

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

2014-05-26 11.24.45I grew up with two parents who were not really big sports fans. My parents both grew up in Brooklyn and my dad was able to go to Brooklyn Dodgers games when he was a boy through the Boys Club down at the Naval Yard in Brooklyn. Once the Dodgers moved away though, he didn’t really stay connected to baseball. Even with this connection, he never really embraced sports or had any real enthusiasm for them. Because of this lack of enthusiasm, I did not attend my first professional sporting event until later on during high school when I went to see a Mets game with some friends.

Somewhere along the way, I embraced baseball, like so many other young boys. I didn’t play for more than a few years growing up, but I collected trading cards and began learning the names of the players. Although I was born in Brooklyn and started out as a Yankees fan in the late 70s, I migrated over to become a Red Sox fan somewhere in the 80s. That migration changed me around and I fell in love with the game even more once I began going to Fenway Park in Boston.

I never knew what I was missing until I started experiencing all of this for myself. And to think, some of my friends had been experiencing this from the time that they were really young. They had been to Shea Stadium and Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park, and probably so many other ballparks. They had eaten the peanuts and popcorn, they had drank the soda, they had the ice cream in plastic baseball helmets, they had brought their glove and caught foul balls. Me, I hadn’t done any of that.

So, when it was my turn to pass on the Great American Pastime to my kids, I would seize the opportunity.

We have a minor league ball team, so this past weekend, it was time for our family to experience what I had never experienced as a kid. That’s just what we did, on a beautiful Memorial Day, we took time as a family to take in a game, to eat hot dogs, to drink soda, to bake in the sun, and to embrace this game that had hooked so many before us.

With a 7 year old, 5 year old, and 2 year old, we made it to the Seventh Inning Stretch. We sang “Take Me Out to the Ballpark” and then we left. I hope that it’s just the beginning of something…..you know, like Humphrey Bogart said in Casablanca, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

I can’t wait to get back to the ballpark and experience it all over again…..in a way that I never had before.

A Memory

My wife reminded our family that a year ago, we were on our way halfway across the country for me to officially graduate from seminary. I had finished all of my coursework the December prior, but I had worked so hard that I wanted to be a part of a celebration to commemorate the day. A lot happened on that trip and even during that celebration, not the least of which was a reminder of the verses that my mom had kept on her bedside table in the months leading up to her death (story here). We had a great time as a family traveling through Asheville, Nashville, St. Louis, and Iowa on our way to St. Paul, Minnesota. It’s a trip full of memories that I hope my children will cherish for years to come.

The last few days, I’ve been reading the posts of many of my seminary friends who are celebrating this weekend and their own commencement from seminary. It’s brought up a lot of memories from just one year ago.

When I knew that there would be a ceremony in St. Paul, Minnesota, I talked to my wife and we decided that it would be fun to go out and celebrate as a family. After all, while I was the one doing the studying, my whole family contributed to my education along the way. They all played an integral part and for that I am thankful.

This year, our trip will be to Disney. With some of the money that I got after my father died, it made sense to use it for us as a family.

Disney…..the place where dreams come true. Right? Well, sort of. Disney has always held a special place in my heart. I grew up going to Disney World as my grandparents lived in Florida, not too far from Disney World. My wife and I, before we decided to start our family, took a “Last Hurrah” trip to Disney without kids. We had an incredible time together and have been waiting about 9 years to go back again.

As my kids are getting older, they are able to remember more and more. Every trip, every activity, every moment spent with them is being stored away in their memory banks. Some of the greatest memories that I have as a kid were the road trips that my family and I would take. Long Island for holidays. Upstate New York in the summertime. South Carolina in the summertime. There are so many memories couched in these trips that I could probably spend a year recounting those stories on this blog.

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me that life moves fast and that kids grow up before you know it, I would be incredibly rich. Instead of ignoring that advice, I’ve tried my best to seize the opportunities that come before me. I get a giggle out of some of my friends who take their kids somewhere special and they are more consumed with the airport than the actual destination.

I’m finding out that kids don’t care as much as we do about the things that we are doing. All it takes is some creativity and time and they’ll be pretty content with whatever they get. In a culture where screens have taken over and consumed much of the time of our children, we have to work harder to keep them engaged with things that stimulate their minds and bodies.

As often as I can, I want to help create a memory for my children. It’s the memories that have sustained me long after my mom and dad have been gone. It’s the memories that are the most valuable possessions that I have received from them, not money or other keepsakes.

Make a memory today!

What’s Been Given

memorial-dayI grew up in a small town in southwestern Connecticut. It was far from Mayberry, but it had a small town feel in many ways. One of those ways was during Memorial Day weekend. In fact, some of my fondest memories as a kid were of Memorial Day and the parade that they had every year.

My father was the pastor of a small church that was located right in the middle of the town. For a stretch, there was a group from the church who would make floats for the parade to commemorate those who had given and sacrificed for our country. For as long as I can remember, my dad would march in the parade somewhere. The parade would begin at a shopping plaza on one side of town and end up at the cemetery on the other side of town where there were a number of veterans buried. There a service would be held and my father would generally sing “God Bless America” and another patriotic song.

That was my memory of Memorial Day, a day that had been set aside to remember those who had sacrificed and given all for freedom. How fortunate I am to have those memories, both of my dad and of the day.

When most people think of Memorial Day, I fear that they just see it as a day off from work, a day where they can barbecue or sit out by the pool or lake. It’s been harder for me as I’ve moved away from my hometown to find places where I can remember the same way that I did as a boy growing up. It doesn’t seem like there is the same emphasis on Memorial Day as I was used to, but greater than that is the fact that my stage of life has not always allowed me to take advantage of some of the events and activities that are offered.

As I spend time today thinking about those who I know who have served and all of those who remain nameless to me but who sacrificed, I have to force myself to remain quiet, even if for just a moment or two. I need to force myself to focus on the meaning of today so as to not let it get past me.

My family was not a military family, although I had an uncle who was a Marine and a cousin who was in the Coast Guard. My family was not as personally impacted by wars as others were, but the depth of gratitude is no less in us. I am grateful that others have served, have sacrificed, have given all they had.

Today is a day to remember. Take time to remember that many have given everything so that we might have something called freedom. I am grateful to all who have given.

No thoughts and words of sacrifice can be spoken in my hearing without reminding me of the greatest sacrifice ever given and the gift of freedom that we receive through the One who gave all that we might have life. For that sacrifice, I am eternally grateful.

Freedom is rarely free. To those who have given and paid the price to maintain that freedom, I salute you. Thank you for all that you have done.

Becoming THAT Guy

I remember when I was young and in high school. My dad was the pastor of a small Baptist church in Connecticut. We never had more than about 100 members, so it was a fairly small congregation. While there was a good handful of youth when my brother was in high school, there were only about 4 or 5 of us by the time I got to the youth group. I had a hard time feeling like I had such a small support group.

The college and career age group was much larger and I found myself spending an awful lot of time with them. My youth pastor and I connected very well and we would spend hours upon hours playing ping pong in the basement of the church, talking about the deep subjects of life, religion, and relationships. His brother was also part of the group and we connected as well. He played guitar, and for a young teenager like me, that was cool. We began hanging out and he began teaching we what he knew about playing guitar.

These guys were about fifteen years older than me, but back then, it seemed like they were light years ahead. I was in awe of them and appreciated the fact that they would spend time with a young guy like me. I never felt like I was a burden or a pain in the neck, even though I had to have shown my age on many occasions. These guys genuinely cared for me and loved me enough to invest in me, teach me, train me, and disciple me. What an incredible gift.

When you’re fifteen years old, the world seems so much bigger than it really is, you seem like you’re bulletproof and invulnerable. Twenty-five seems so far off and the idea of being thirty and married was an even further distant thought in my mind. While there were teenage dreams, they were just that, dreams, and they were never really entertained. I looked at the place where these guys were as so far off, a distant place at which I wouldn’t arrive for quite some time.

When I was in my early 30s, my wife and I moved to Asheville, North Carolina and I became an associate pastor at a church. I worked a lot with the youth and began to take a few of them under my wing. When that all happened, I began to realize that I was becoming THAT guy, the guy that I had looked up to, the guy who had become a friend and mentor to me.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it at the time. It’s that dose of reality that gently nudges you, awakening you to what’s real and right in front of you and I didn’t know if I was ready for it. I gave myself plenty of time to grow up between the time that I was that fifteen year old boy and when I hit my early thirties. I got married later, carelessly spent my fair share of money, and had my heart broken a time or two. I had lived enough life to inject some maturity into my being, but not so much that I felt like it had left an indelible mark on me.

As I stood in a rehearsal the other day listening to sixteen year old sing one of the songs that I normally sing, I realized even more so how I had become THAT guy……and I smiled. I realized that, like it or not, I was embracing the role that I had found myself occupying. I was passing on the torch, I was becoming the mentor and realizing that I needed to empower, teach, and train all those that come after me.

It’s not always a good feeling to realize that “your time has passed.” I smile as I write that and think of the Rolling Stones and other geriatric rockers who continue to tour and make music although they’re grandparents and even great-grandparents. But when the music’s in you, you’ve got to let it out, I can’t fault them. But for me, I’ve got to pass on what I know, I’ve got to invest in those who come behind me, that’s my legacy. I have to try to instill in them the faith that has helped me to grow and become who I am today.

I’ve become THAT guy and I think that’s a good thing. I am so thankful for those two brothers who made an indelible mark on my life. Their care, concern, and love have helped me to be who I am today. Because of the investment that they made in me, I have a heart to pass that on to the next generation, much the same way that they invested and passed things on to me. Pay it forward, pass it on, invest in what is to come.

The Fog

fog lighthouseHave you ever experienced “the fog”? It’s not a literal fog, like when it rains or the temperature changes dramatically. It’s the fog of life, it’s what happens when it seems that everything begins to cave in around you. You feel lost, you feel alone, you feel as if the oppressive fog can actually begin to suffocate you if you don’t find some clarity, if you don’t find some space.

I have a few friends who have been going through an awful lot. One of these friends’ wife and son had cancer. They’ve been cleared for now, but there are always little scares that come along the way. Every status update that I read stops my heart for a split second and that’s what happened the other day. Surgery in their family has become a minor thing considering some of the other stuff that they’ve been through and I wonder how they get through the fog they’re in, I wonder how they can sustain just one more thing.

I have another friend whose wife is being treated for breast cancer, the same cancer that took his mom. They have hope and from the pictures that I have seen, it looks as if they try to laugh as often as possible. I imagine that they are in a fog.

Another friend’s daughter went in to the hospital with what they thought was the flu and hasn’t left since. She has an infection that is being stubborn and inconsiderate, it just won’t leave. He and his wife spend hours upon hours at the hospital. They’re moving towards a potential surgery that they hope will bring some resolution and healing. They are in a fog.

One of my best friends from seminary was burned by a grease fire in Haiti. He was moved to Florida and then back to his home in Iowa to get the best treatment. He has been separated from his kids, has had to have surgery, and is finally being released to continue the healing process. He’s in a place that used to be home, but Haiti is where his heart is. His family is in a fog.

It’s too easy to get consumed by the fog, but the amazing thing as I watch all of these situations play out from my own vantage point is the faith, hope, and love that emanates from my friends. Sure, it’s hard to see in the fog, but they somehow manage to fight the fog with the Light and Hope that they find in Christ. It doesn’t mean that the pain goes away. It doesn’t mean that things are normal and perfect. It simply means that they know that they are not alone.

Can you see the Light in the fog? Do you know that you aren’t alone? Do you trust? Do you have faith? Do you have hope? Those things don’t take the pain and uncertainty away, but when you know the One who gives us faith, who gives us hope, who holds our faith, the fog can sometimes begin to clear or at least there might be a light shining through that thick fog.

I’ve been trying to crawl out of my own fog. I am grateful for the inspiration of friends who walk so boldly before me. I am grateful to call them my friends and grateful that they have shown me faith, hope, and love in new ways. Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

Selah

There’s Just Something About It

baby listeningListen……I get we’re in the digital age. Everything comes in a hard copy form or in a digital form. Sometimes you can buy one and get the other for free. When you have limited space, the digital form is really beneficial. But, hey, there’s just something about going to the store to buy a brand new book or a brand new CD. If you’re a real purist, you can’t wait to open up the latest 180 gram LP. There’s something about the real thing that you just don’t get from digital.

I’ve been a Coldplay fan since well before Mylo Xyloto, going back to the days of Parachutes and A Rush of Blood to the Head. I was excited to get Ghost Stories when it came out this week and I contemplated going digital with this one. After all, I had just done a major purge (which means getting rid of anything, for me) of my music collection and am always looking at ways that I can keep from bringing the clutter back into the house.

But, alas, Target had a special release with 3 extra songs which always seems to grab the fans, at least it grabs me. So, it was off to Target that I went to pick up Ghost Stories. After standing in line, I walked quickly to my car. I should tell you that I have become an expert at opening CDs, Blu Rays, and DVDs. It’s become its own art form to me, slicing through the plastic wrap, negotiating the sticky label off without leaving its traces remaining on the case. I quickly unwrapped it and pulled the CD from its clear case. The CD player stood there before me, awaiting the silver goodness that I was ready to put in its mouth. It almost anticipated the beats and rhythms that it would soon be spewing out once I fed it.

Anticipation. What will it sound like? Will I like it? Will it meet my expectations? How will they start? How will they end? What will be in between? These questions and many more are the questions that run through my mind as I spend these seconds which seem like an eternity anticipating what will come out once I have fed the monster.

Sure, I could have bought the digital download and put it on my MP3 player, blasted it equally as loud in my car, and enjoyed every minute of it, but it just wouldn’t be the same. There’s something about opening up the CD and pulling out the CD insert for the first time. It has that smell, not quite like a new car, but almost like a new book. You turn the pages, you read the notes and words, and the smell creates for you an experience. Music should be more than listened to…..it should be experienced.

So I listen, I ingest, I process. I put aside my preconceived notions of what I would hear and do my best to listen with an open mind, to listen with an open spirit. As I listen, I like some of what I hear and dislike some of it as well. But after I listen, I listen some more. The CD spins around and around as the monster in my dashboard continues to spew out beats, rhythms, and melodies. One listen……two listens……three listens…..and it’s happening, it’s beginning to grow on me. All of the things that I expected and didn’t find are replaced by the newness of what is and what’s playing all around me.

Yes, music needs to be experienced, and though I’m doing it less often than I did before, part of that experience is the purchase of a CD or an LP. If you haven’t tried it in a while, you might want to give it a whirl. Choose wisely though, one false step or disappointment could not only ruin this experience but any future experiences that you might consider as well.

Happy listening!

A Week of Lasts

This is a week of lasts. Well, maybe it’s just one last. It will be the last week for my younger son being in junior kindergarten. In the Fall, it’s on to elementary school where he will join his brother, further complicating our life’s schedule and effectively helping me realize that I am getting old.

Amidst the week of lasts (well, one last), this whole season of life has been kind of a season of lasts for me. Pretty soon it will be the last time that I go to the house that was owned by my parents. Pretty soon I will get rid of some of the extraneous stuff that belonged to my parents. Pretty soon I will be closing a chapter of life as I try to move on and understand a little better what it means to adjust to the new normal.

Last week, I took some of the last remaining stuff that belonged to my parents from the townhouse. I don’t like to throw things away, especially when it’s something that’s perfectly good, but I knew that I had to do some of that. I brought some of my dad’s counseling books to a counseling center in Williamsburg that he was supposed to have worked for when he moved down. They were grateful for the donation and as I stood there talking to the receptionist, I wanted the words to keep coming because I felt like, in a way, the moment I left that office, I would be saying good-bye to yet another part of my father. I awkwardly lingered there at the desk in silence for a moment and I could tell that there was discomfort in the receptionist by the look in her eyes.

As I walked to my car, my heart sank a little bit. My dad’s heart was in counseling, he loved to help people. He loved to help people in ways that he had never been helped before. Those books were a part of him, and although I knew that I wouldn’t and couldn’t use them, it still pained me to get rid of them. At least they were going to a good place, unlike some of his awards and certifications that I threw in a dumpster later on.

My uncle and I drove to the transfer station and I watched as a few of the counseling certifications that my dad had earned were thrown into the dumpster. My heart sank a little bit more. I had kept the ones that I thought I might like to have, but these just didn’t seem as important to me. But still, I hate to throw things away and as I watched those plaques slide across the piles of garbage in that dumpster, I felt like another piece of my dad was being thrown from my life.

As my uncle and I were driving from place to place last week, he told me that every time he drove these roads that we were on, he thought of my dad. I echoed his sentiments as I had done my fair share of driving on these roads myself. He was verbally working out my parents’ timeline in Williamsburg as we drove. Was your mom really just in the house for 2 months before she was diagnosed with cancer? Yes. She only lasted another 6 months after that. And after that, Dad only lasted another 6 months before he was unable to care for himself. He barely celebrated a year of living in a house that was his own.

Sometime in the not too distant future (I hope), I will sell my parents’ townhouse and there will be very little reason to drive down those roads anymore. I can still visit my relatives in Williamsburg, but it might get harder before it gets easier. Unfortunately, as I’ve mentioned in other posts, place is important and we can associate an awful lot with a place. Williamsburg, for all of its advantages and wonderments, reminds me of death. The death of my parents. The death of their dreams. The death of my dreams for them. As hard as I try to find new meaning for that place, there’s a lot working against it.

The one advantage of endings is that they can lead to new beginnings. That’s what I’m hoping for. I don’t know what’s around the bend, but I hope that it’s better than what the last few years have held. I don’t want to wish life away or hastily move through moments of growth and learning, but I am longing for peace and I’m hoping that it’s not as elusive and far off as it’s seemed to have been. Here’s hoping that these weeks of last things might lead to weeks of new things as well.

Run Far and Fast

I was reading the story of David and Bathsheba this morning is 2 Samuel 11. The story never grows old to me and in some ways, I feel like shouting at the page the way that I would shout at the screen while watching a cheesy horror movie. “Don’t do it, David. You’re gonna regret this!” It’s like those slow motion moments in life where you can see everything playing out but you can’t do anything to change it or make things different.

For those of you not familiar with the story, David, the King of Israel, is hanging out at home during the season when most kings are off with their troops at war. He finds himself struggling with insomnia and he does what most of us would probably do if the same thing happened to us, he goes for a walk. His walk takes him on the roof of the palace where he can most likely survey his kingdom, looking over it all from his vantage point, he could probably see just about everything…..and he did. While his eyes overlooked his kingdom, they happened upon a beautiful woman bathing on her roof.

Instead of going back inside and trying to find something else to help him sleep, David sent someone to find out about the woman. Once he found out who she was, he sent messengers to retrieve her. Once they had brought her to him, he slept with her. She gets pregnant and David’s bad decision process continues to spiral out of control as he concocts a plan to have her husband sleep with her to make it seem like he was the one who impregnated her. Then, after all of his other plans fail, he has her husband killed.

The text reads fairly quickly through some of David’s bad decisions. “But David remained in Jerusalem.” “…and David sent someone to find out about her.” “Then David sent messengers to get her.” “…and he slept with her.” In the course of 4 verses in 2 Samuel, David makes some decisions of monumental proportion, very bad ones.

I try to convince myself that David’s downward spiral could never be mine, but that’s just naïve. If I had a dollar for every person who used the phrase, “I would never…..” and eventually did the very thing that they claimed they would never do, I would be a rich man. As much as I would hope to never be in a situation like David, I look at the different decisions that he made along the way. Can you really claim that it was just one decision? I don’t think so, it looks like a series of bad decisions.

But the thing that gets me every time is that after the last bad decision, David still had a means to make things right. After he saw her, he could have gone back inside. After he found out who she was, he could have left it there. After he had her brought to him, he could have sent her home. After he slept with her, he could have confessed. But it’s never that easy. We make one mistake and it seems like a chain reaction or dominoes, everything topples over one piece at a time.

What a contrast between the story of David and the story of Joseph in Genesis 39. Joseph was being seduced by Potiphar’s wife and he ran………far and fast. He didn’t hang around to see how this would play out. He didn’t say to himself, “I can handle this.” He just got himself out of the situation. He escaped. Of course, if you know the rest of the story for Joseph, it didn’t immediately end well for him, but it did eventually. It did for David too, but the life lessons that he learned may have been less painful learned through other circumstances.

As I journey through life, I realize that there are circumstances that I come upon from which I need to run far and fast. I can’t stick around to see how they play out. We can’t pray harder that we can sustain a tempting situation WHILE we’re in the middle of that tempting situation, we’ve just got to run. While we can’t deny the power of God and the Holy Spirit, we also can’t walk into the lion’s den and expect that we won’t get bitten. Sure, it happened to Daniel, but he didn’t have much of a choice. Don’t temp God, and don’t let yourself be tempted.

What a lesson to learn. I am grateful for David’s mistakes for two reasons. First of all, I can learn from them. Second of all, I realize that even in the midst of his screw ups, God still loved him and forgave him. Sure, there were consequences for his actions, but God did not abandon him, and that’s really good news.