Twice I was Lost (continued…again)

Being lost in the unforgiving elements of winter, deep in the Pennsylvania mountains, is an unpleasant experience for sure and one that I never desire to repeat. To this day, if I ever feel even the slightest bit lost, I can re-experience some of those same fear-filled feelings. But, this blog has been titled, “Twice I was Lost.” Just when was the other time?

images-2In the fall of 1971, I found myself in the middle of making the most important decision of my life. I had one foot in a dark and dying life condition and one foot in truth. Friends were sharing the gospel with me for the first time in my life and I was noticeably moved. They lovingly and gently told me the truth about my soul’s lost condition and sinfulness. They challenged me to read the gospel of John in the Bible and find God’s truth-filled perspective. So, during the week I was seeking a way out from my lost condition and on weekends, still unsure of which life to live, I was seeking the opposite. Don’t get me wrong; I was never one to take any decision lightly, especially one this big. I was counting the cost of becoming a disciple – a Christ follower. I had discovered it’s pretty easy to follow the lost into darkness with little resistance, but radically different to be found by and follow Jesus into the light.

1UXNOnKMTJGt7lJAenlM_man_prayingSomeone once told me that hell is so dark that you will not be able to see your hand in front of you. That’s lost, eternally lost. A better picture for me, though, describes hell as the absence of God. I can’t imagine any place where there is an absence of the presence of God: His creation, His love, His acceptance, His forgiveness, His Light and His salvation. Just before the Christmas of 1971, I dropped to my knees in complete surrender and I asked Jesus to forgive me of my sin and come into my heart so that I would no longer be “lost.” I found The Light that would guide me home. Thank God for His indescribable gift of His Son, especially at this Christmas time. Forty-three years ago I was lost for the last time. Are you still wandering? He’s waiting.

Encouragement, Uncategorized

Twice I was Lost (continued)

 A very merry Christmas to each of you!

 Being lost in the deep forests of the Appalachian Mountains is something one takes all necessary precautions to avoid. I was not planning on being lost that day, tracking a wounded deer that normally just walks in circles until they lie down and die. I was not planning on a whiteout keeping me from locating my bearings, but I knew that in mountain survival tactics one heads down. So down and down I went, slipping, sliding, dropping things and falling as fast as I could in an attempt to beat the darkness of nightfall. The snow was now above my knees as I could no longer pull my legs up, but rather pushing them through the freezing white heaviness to take another step.  I was feverishly praying, “Lord, please help me out of here!” Finally I hear a small trickle of a stream as I breathed a huge sigh of relief. A trickle often means a larger, faster flowing stream further down and that normally means eventual access to a bridge and a road.

images-6Two hunters picked me up walking under the moonlight on an old snow-covered gravel based forestry road and they volunteered to take me back to where my vehicle was parked. I didn’t tell them I was lost, saving the embarrassment, but they kept asking, “You walked from mountain to mountain all the way from where?” My starting point was another county away.  As best as we could figure over 12 miles was covered. I was soaked in sweat and I was sure they could hear my heart beating, as well as, my hands shaking partly out of exhaustion and partly out of fear. I had honestly entertained the thought that I might never see my wife and two young boys again. Seeing the warm glow of lights and wood smoke bellowing from the flu at the camp was a welcoming sight. It was a relief that finally put my whole spirit, soul and body at ease.


To be continued: lost a second time…

Marriage, Postmarital, Premarital

The Ten Commandments of Marriage V

images-39. Thou Shalt Be Engaged in Mission Together
What was the wisdom of God in bringing the two of you together? What were/are the redemptive purposes for this marriage relationship? These questions should lead you to what we call our marriage co-mission. More than likely your work place or local church place has a mission. Why wouldn’t the first institution God created have a mission? Think about all the things the two of you are involved in and write those things down. Now combine the items that you are involved in together, like raising your children, teaching the youth group or owning and maintaining your home. Begin to write your mission paragraph with your co-mission items, dreams and visions for the future. This paragraph might change over the years, but it will continually give you the purpose of your call together.

images10. Thou Shalt Practice the Nine Most Important Words in Marriage
The nine most important words of marriage can take years of maturing to find and even longer to say. These words mean business. They are free of pride. They require a humble spirit and a letting go of your ego. The nine most important words of marriage have instant medicinal purposes in the relationship. They bring healing. These words can initiate change, help you start over and keep you from going back to an old pattern. When thoughtfully and truthfully communicated, these words are some of the most powerful words in the marriage relationship. If you will learn them, practice them and speak them they will be a lifetime of wisdom. What are the nine most important words in marriage?
I am sorry; I was wrong, please forgive me.


Twice I was Lost

images-5Hunting alone is never a good idea. It was a cold, but beautiful early afternoon in the mountains of Pennsylvania. I had found my sweet spot earlier in the year while cutting firewood. I cleared the snow and leaves away at the base of a large white oak tree for silent footing and began the wait. After standing there for hours, I finally see brown movement several hundred yards below and to my left. It was why a hunter braves the elements, a white tail deer, but too far away to identify buck or doe. Looking at the deer in my scope, I could tell it was acting a bit strange, but unable to detect the problem. I made a decision to gather my things and sneak quietly toward it. Finally coming across its track, the “strange” behavior was easily recognizable. I discovered the deer was bleeding from an earlier wound. Knowing this animal would most likely not make it through the night, I chose to track it in an attempt to return home with some fresh venison and end its suffering.

images-4An unnerving thing happened along the way. I got lost, very lost. While tracking the deer, it started to snow heavily. I was unsure where I was headed, but knew I could follow my tracks back to my stand. Now the snow had completely covered up my tracks and I hadn’t a clue of where I was or which direction to head. For some reason, I had left my compass at home and it was so cloudy with such heavy snowfall, I could not use the sun for position. Now my strategy changed from deer hunting to somehow not freezing to death and getting out of Penn’s woods safely before nightfall. It was becoming more and more difficult to push my way through the deep snow, visibility was poor and I was out of drinking water. I had crossed so many ridges and now north, south, east and west were all in any (unknown to me) direction. The worst was yet to come because it was beginning to become dusk. “Keep your head, Steve, because you are really lost for the second time in your life.”

To be continued…

Marriage, Postmarital, Premarital

The Ten Commandments of Marriage IV

And two more marriage commandments…

7.  Thou Shalt Change Yourself First Change.  Very few people even like the word. It conjures thoughts of having to give in, give up or surrender to the will of another. Or, our thinking might go something like this, “If I change first, then he/she will change and that’s what I’m really after.” It doesn’t work that way. We change because God is asking us to change, showing us a deficit in our life. We change because it’s best for our relationship. However, if we change solely based upon what another desires, it will not be a lasting change. We change because we are motivated for our own reasons to make that change. Otherwise, in the end, we will resent the one requiring change from us. Growing up, growing closer as a couple and growing closer to God requires our openness to change for the better. As I take responsibility for personal change, my marriage will change.article-2186932-147E1BC0000005DC-3_634x286

 8.  Thou Shalt Ask God Rather Than Fight  Learning this one can take years of marriage practice. Once again, it’s connected to prayer, but not at first. All too frequently, early on in marriage, we ‘know’ that we’re right. And, if we’re right our spouse is wrong. And, if our spouse is wrong we win the fight, right? Wrong! If one of us loses, we both lose. Why? Because we are one. If we’re one in spirit then it’s no longer you against me, but us. In other words, Steve is Mary and Mary is Steve. Only one person came back down the aisle after you spoke your vows. If you are fighting and arguing to win, then you are losing. James chapter four and verse one begins by asking a question. That amazing question is, “What causes fights and quarrels among you?” Fortunately, James provides an answer. He wisely says, “You do not have because you do not ask God.” Is it really that simple? The choice is ours, fighting and arguing or praying and agreement.

Marriage, Postmarital, Premarital

The Ten Commandments of Marriage III

Continuing with the theme of the Ten Commandments of marriage:

5. Thou Shalt Honor One Another

Honor one another…now that’s a tough one. Perhaps the number one way to show honor to your mate is to freely give them your time, to prioritize your mate over yourself, your work and your children.   Honor is saying that next to my relationship with God, you are the most important person in my life. We need to continually honor with our words and back those words up with our actions, as well as, our respect. We must regularly tell our spouse we love them and then demonstrate that love through honor.  If we do not demonstrate honor, our words will fall to the ground meaningless. In honor we pray for and with our mate regularly. To communicate with God together is the most intimate thing you can be involved in. To honor God by bringing your marriage requests before Him will actually build more honor, admiration and affirmation into your relationship.images

6. Thou Shalt Maintain Your Sexual Love

Love does not come as natural for men as it seems to for woman. Women excel in this area, while men grow into this area. However, men would see themselves excelling in sex. But sex without the love factor…well, it’s just sex. And sex without relationship is lust. God planned the boundaries of sex to be within marriage. The enemy of our soul has planned for all sex to be outside of marriage. Pornography has made sex into something we take while God’s plan has always been that sex is something we give. Which one provides the most satisfaction? Which one is the most love filled? Which one comes with commitment? There is only one answer and so it seems reasonable that maintaining our sexual love is another way to honor God and one another. Within marriage, we need to be reminded that our body is not ours; it belongs to our spouse (I Corinthians 7:2-5). A healthy sexual life flows out of a healthy love life. Your sex life as a couple is often a picture of the rest of your marriage. Lastly, life is birthed out of our sexual intimacy as a couple.

Marriage, Postmarital, Premarital, Singles, Uncategorized

The Ten Commandments of Marriage II

We’ve started a series on the ten commandments of marriage and today we consider numbers three and four.

3. Thou Shalt Love Her or Him and Make Them Holy

images-2Did you know that you could help make your spouse holy? Yep, it’s all right there in the Scripture. I Corinthians seven says that a believing spouse can sanctify an unbelieving one. You can only imagine how a believing spouse can bless, sanctify and edify their believing spouse. When we become our spouses cheer leader, even when they feel as though they are losing the game, we help build them up to increase their faith for a better future. Far too many individuals see themselves as their spouse’s critic and it is killing their emotional connection. Criticism does not motivate, love does. We are called to speak the truth in a love-filled manner with our speech full of grace. Because of who the Proverbs 31 woman was, her husband found himself sitting at the gate, a respected elder. As you reflect God to one other you will build holiness in one another.

4. Thou Shalt Play Togetherimages-3

Can you remember all the fun things you thought of and once did while dating? Are you still laughing together, really laughing? Marriage has to be fun. If it was not meant to be fun, then God would not have created it. What has happened with humor in your relationship? Where did it go since children came along or all the medical bills came due? Boredom is simply unacceptable within marriage. If we can predict a daily routine, then we have lost spontaneity and excitement. We have allowed tedium, dullness and monotony to set in. Break that cycle by bringing home flowers, sending a card to your spouse’s work place, turning the stove off and running out for Chinese or playing a game that is not too competitive. Rent one of your favorite funny movies and laugh again. Regularly search for, listen for and check the Internet for local happenings that you can attend together and have fun again. Recently, we attended a local “bridge bust” and then laughed the whole way home about how it truly was a “bust.”  Finally, make a list of fun and creative things to do together and prioritize them, you’ll never regret it.  Proverbs reminds us that a merry heart has medicinal purposes, so make fun a priority.