Trust and a Broken Tooth

We’ve all experienced the trust fall when we were in school. You turn your back towards someone, cross your arms, and when they say, “Ready!’ you lean back, keeping your legs straight and trust this individual will not let your head bang against the ground. And if they do let your head bounce off the ground, at least catch it on the rebound

Trust is a firm belief in someone’s ability or strength. To have visceral trust means to believe so much in someone or something that it goes beyond thoughts. To viscerally trust someone, you can feel that trust deep inside of you.

Trust is hard to come by these days. We want trust, but then a senseless act of violence thrusts us back into guarding our families and ourselves. Trust is something that we don’t just offer to anyone, unless they are some type of authority.

The three-legged race takes complete trust in another individual. In elementary school, I should have started off every introduction of myself with, “Hi! I’m Sammy and I am incredibly clumsy.” This would have given fair warning to all those around me, if I got injured in someway, they don’t need to be shocked. If an accident could happen to me, it seemed to just happen. One particular day in gym class was no exception to this rule.

We were all going to do team competitions all over the gym. The teacher began to pair us off, two by two. I watched as all of the athletic kids, or not so clumsy kids, got paired up with one another. Finally, I was paired up with someone. If I were the clumsiest in our class, this guy was a close second. Our first event was the three-legged race.

I remember like it was yesterday. The teacher tied my left knee to my partner’s right knee with a couple of bandanas. We got set to take on several other groups in our class. My partner and I talked strategy. We would move our inner legs first, that way we could get a great start to syncing this run together. When the whistle blew, we were off and moving in sync. It was something of a miracle that the two of us could move the length of the gym floor they way we did. It was as if we were meant to be tied together.

Most of the other groups struggled to get going or fell half way down the gym, we, however, seemed to glide to the other side. We became confident. We just knew we were going to win. Then came the turn. We didn’t talk about the turn in our pre-race strategy session. We tried to talk our way through it as we neared the end of the floor, but stumbled a couple of times. These weren’t huge stumbles, but they were enough for my shoelace on my right shoe to come untied and subsequently get stepped on by our inner legs.

As we made the turn and began our sprint back, my shoelace pulled my foot our from under me and we came crashing down. Being tied together, I only had one hand to catch myself with, which I was unsuccessful at doing. My face planted on the hardwood gym floor, mouth first. I watched in a daze as one of my front teeth chipped and scattered across the floor in front of me. The gym teacher rushed over to see if I was ok and sent me to the nurse. My race was over.

Eventually, I went to the dentist, they repaired my tooth and everything was back to normal. I may have been a little jaded towards being partnered with the other kid ever again because I lacked trust in him, well us, to not have another accident.

Over the past two months, we have been teaching elementary students about God’s promises. God promises to be with me, God promises to fight for me, God promises to work in my life, etc. Promises take trust that the Promise Giver will come through. None of us are strangers to broken promises. If you are, I am completely jealous of your life. Sometimes promises are blatantly broken for something better, or they are unavoidably broken because we are human and can’t do anything about the situation.

As a kid, I loved playing baseball. My mom took me to every game. I was one of the best players on my team and just wanted my dad to attend some of the time. Every time I asked, he would promise to be there, but whether unavoidable or not, my dad broke those promises, repeatedly. Broken promises from parents or grandparents hurt so much because they are the ones we trust the most.

Trust is given to two types of people, authority figures and those we get to know. Parents, grandparents, teachers, pastors, policemen, just to name a few, are authorities in our lives, that because of their position garner trust immediately. Authority figures in or lives garner more trust when we get to know them. Anyone we have a relationship with, garners more trust the longer and more deeply we get to know them.

In the Bible, Hebrews 11, is known as the chapter of the heroes of faith. Faith and trust are closely related. Faith is a deeper form of trust. The chapter begins by talking about Abel, the son of Adam and Eve. It was by faith that Abel gave his tithe, by faith that Enoch trusted God and was taken to heaven. It was by faith that Noah spent years building an ark even though he had never seen rain. He trusted God was going to flood the earth, so he spent years building.

Abraham moved where God told him to and trusted God to give him a son, to which he waited until he was 99 years old for God to do the unthinkable. Sarah, Abraham’s wife, was past childbearing age but believed God would fulfill His promise to her. Isaac, by faith blessed Jacob and Esau. Jacob, by faith blessed all of Joseph’s sons. By faith Moses lead Israel out of Egypt. By faith the people of Israel walked through the Red Sea on dry ground and when they reached the land God promised them, marched around Jericho 13 times before the walls fell down.

How do we have the trust in God which everyone of the these “Heroes of the Fatih” had? What did they understand about God that gave them this confidence? How did Abraham trust God for decades before his son was born? How does anyone trust God for an incredible length of time before He fulfills His promise?

Trust in God comes like trust in anyone else. We can have ultimate trust in God, because He is our ultimate authority. He is the one authority in our lives that can’t let us down. I believe these “Heroes of Faith” understood Numbers 23:19, “God isn’t a mere human. He can’t lie. He isn’t a human being. He doesn’t change His mind. He speaks, and then He acts. He makes a promise, and then He keeps it.”

Breaking a promise isn’t something God is ever going to do. He is a promise keeper. Whatever promise He has made to you, you can trust He will come through.

We can grow our trust in God through our relationship with Him. The immanence of God means that He is closer than close. He cares about our minutest of details. If we will only draw near to God, He will draw near to us. The more time we spend in His presence, the more we get to know Him. The more time spent with God, the more we recognize His voice. Our ability to trust God is directly correlates to the time we spend with Him. And it is not about quantity of time spent, but the quality of time spent with God. So make every moment with God count.

I can trust God because of His authority and the relationship I have with Him. My ability to trust God is dependent on me spending time with Him. When I lack trust or faith, I just need to get alone with Him and hear His voice.

My trust in my teammate and myself cost me a broken tooth, and my trust in my dad showed me that people can let us down. According to Numbers 23:19, God won’t let us down…“He can’t lie…He doesn’t change His mind…He makes and promise, and then He keeps it.”

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When God Doesn’t Intervene

Reflecting back over the school shooting that happened in Florida…my heart aches. My heart aches for the mothers and fathers whom have lost their sons and daughters and for people’s lives whom are forever changed, because one person made a horrific decision.

It’s easy for us to hate the man, Nikolas Cruz, because we start to dehumanize him. We are disgusted by his actions and don’t understand how anyone could all of the sudden snap. “He can’t be human,” we tell ourselves. But, the truth is, he is human and he made a horrible choice that took 17 lives that were cut short. Cruz was mentally unstable and has a history of mental illness. Does that make what he did any less grotesque? No, but it simply brings a little clarity to the situation and begs the question, “why was he sold the guns in the first place?”

His actions don’t only affect those 17 kids and the ones that are in the hospital that will live with the physical and emotional scars, but all of their families, friends, loved ones, and every parent across America who have their kids in public schools. My heart aches for all of these people. It’s not fair. Why does this keep happening?

I just finished reading a book by Brené Brown, “Braving the Wilderness”. In this book one of the topics she writes about is our ability to hate others is directly tied to our dehumanizing them. That what makes racism so prevalent in some cultures. It’s easier to hate a people group, if you think they are less than human. But, no one is less than human. According to scripture, God created us in His image (see Genesis 1:27). And that’s the beauty of humanity. We all, no matter our race, nationality, or social status, reflect the image of God.

God is pro people. God loves all of us…equally. He is pro humanity. Even when we are at our worst, God still loved us and sent Jesus to die for us. Even the worst of us.

When you tell people that you are a Jesus follower, especially in the wake of tragedies, you will inevitably be asked, “If God is real, why would He allow violence to happen.” “If God is all powerful and all loving, why does he allow people to die this way?” “Why does he allow violent things to happen to women and children?” “Why does God allow senseless violence?”

It’s the great paradox of understanding God. God loves us and gives us free will. That is, he gives us the ability to choose what we do and how we live our lives. We are free to choose everything from how we live, whom we worship or don’t worship at all. If he didn’t allow things (good or bad) to happen, then He would be taking away our free will, or at least the free will of horrible people.

God loves us and sent His Son, Jesus, to die for us because we as humans have a long history of making horrible choices. Because God gave us free will, sin and evil entered the world through one man’s actions (Adam eating the fruit in the garden of Eden see Genesis 3:6).

When sin and evil entered the world, we became capable of evil. Everything became about putting ourselves first. Thinking of ourselves more highly than others. Evil happens because we don’t put ourselves in the other persons shoes. We don’t love each other the way God intended us to love all.

God is Good. His Goodness gives Him the distinct privilege to be the Moral Lawgiver. It is this moral law by which the majority of humanity choose to live.

For God to intervene when bad things are about to happen, would be to take away someone’s free will. If God, takes away free will, even just from one person, He would cease to be God and would be reduced to nothing more than a puppet master and we, His marionettes.

God loves all of humanity…Black, white, yellow, red, brown…it doesn’t matter your race or color, nationality, or decisions you’ve made in the past (good or bad). Whether you were born in a mansion in America or a grass hut in Africa. God loves us equally. Just as a parent loves their children. It is up to us, as humanity, to return that love to God by accepting the free gift of salvation through His Son Jesus.

When you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, Jesus said that the two greatest commandments were to love God and love your neighbor as yourself (see Matthew 22:37-39). Love God, Love Others.

So where is God and why does He not intervene?

God is constantly watching over each and every one of us. He is deeply grieved when violent things happen. His heart breaks when a human chooses to act out evil towards another person. But, He loves us and has given us free will, so he can’t intervene in every situation. God cares about every person in every situation. The one promise we can rest on is that God will never abandon us…

Deuteronomy 31:6

“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

My thoughts and prayers are with all of those whom are directly or indirectly affected by this and every tragedy like it. I can’t imagine the loss and pain you are feeling, but I am praying that God will comfort you.

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Successful Communication in Marriage

I am an emotional, experience oriented person. I am constantly looking at how I can connect with my kids, my wife and my closest friends. This is a great personality to have, especially for what I do: ministry. The problem lies in the fact that I don’t see the details. At home, it is as if I have tunnel vision and I only see what I want to see. I’d rather be in the moment, or even sometimes in my own head, than to search out or look for responsibilities I could get done at home.

Alissa, on the other hand, seems to see everything that needs to happen. She is great at balancing, time spent with kids and making sure things get done around the house. She also works outside the home. She is doer and great at making sure we function well as a family.

Alissa’s dad, Scott, was a doer. From sun up until sundown, he was working as a postal carrier or accomplishing something around his house. I always felt so lazy when we would visit and I was just sitting down watching TV while he was out re-roofing his own house or changing the oil in my car. He could accomplish more in a day than I could in two weeks. It was amazing to watch. Alissa is just like her dad. She sees what needs to be done, almost instinctively. She doesn’t need a list, because it is all in her head. It’s almost as if she has bionic vision that scans a room and detects the disorder.

I could clean the house and miss huge piles of clothes or several dishes just because they were in a place I’m not use to them being. Alissa, however, covers every detail and seems to know where everything is all the time. She sees everything it takes to run our house smoothly and effectively. She is looking ahead while I am trying to just live in the moment. She sees the messes made, the floors needing vacuumed, kids needing to be bathed, the dinners needing to be cooked, and the events we need to attend or plan. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Understanding her dad and where she comes from, helps me communicate with her and better see the world (and our house) the way she sees it.

If you are an emotional, experiential person like me, I am not knocking us. I have recently discovered part of the reason I am the way I am is because I don’t want to miss any experience with anyone. I have a drive to be better than my father. I want to be present for my kids, my wife, and my friends. I feel like I am giving my family the best life by simply being present. Being present these days doesn’t come easy. With our need to be connected to the world, phones and social media feed that need, I’m not always great at experiencing the moment in the way I should.

We help bring balance and peace, at least sometimes, to doers. Doers bring balance to us because they have a perspective we don’t see. They also don’t allow their emotions to take over. I can get all bent out of shape because of a conversation, I just want people to love me, but then I can talk it over with Alissa and she is able to show me where I may have read to much into a statement or an action made by the other person.

What I have to do is be better at helping Alissa accomplish the tasks she sees. If I slow down enough to try to see things from her perspective, it allows us to talk out all that needs to be done and for us to finish the tasks that she sees so that she can be present in the moment with the kids and me. It allows her to experience what makes her feel good and come alive.

There are times where Alissa let’s it all go and relaxes, but then its double time from both of us to complete the tasks later. We bring balance to one another.

In order for us to get to a point where we fully understand each other, we have to take the time to listen to understand, not to respond or defend.

Frustrations in our relationship usually stem from how we communicate. Sometimes, we can be saying the exact same thing, but in two entirely different ways. We butt heads trying to get the other to see the our side, only to later realize we were saying the same thing.

My insecurities make our communication ugly, because I constantly get defensive. Most of the time, I can’t help becoming defensive. I can’t figure out what it is inside of me that builds the wall, brick by brick, whenever Alissa doesn’t see things the way I do.

So you have two people saying the exact same thing in two different ways and one of them is becoming overly defensive because his insecurities and emotions take over.

There is a technique I once read about and have heard others talk about called, “active listening.” This is where you listen, understand, and then repeat back to the person what they said in your own words. You do this, not to build a five step resolution to their problem, but just to show them you were listening and are trying to understand their perspective. There are a lot of hurting and lonely people in marriages where the “fixer” just wants to make the problem go away. Which, if you think about it, is pretty presumptuous and arrogant to think we can fix it.

I’ve come to realize, Alissa doesn’t need me to fix her or her problems. She needs me to feel what she feels and process through her emotions with her. That is active listening. Putting myself in her shoes and exploring how it would make me feel. Not fixing it. Just sitting in the moment.

We are living our best life now, because we are beginning to understand each others perspective. As Alissa says, “we will never fully know one another, because we are always changing.” We have a lifetime to fully discover one another.

Listening to understand takes knowing where each other comes from and how we were raised. Listening effectively takes great perspective and time to cultivate. To be great at anything, we have to be willing to put in the work.

The way to effective communication is to stop and listen. It sounds incredibly simple, but is increasingly difficult in a culture where we need to constantly be busy. I can only truly listen if I am doing so in order to understand, rather than listening to build my defense. My insecurities have to be made to realize, complaints are not a reflection of how anyone feels about me, but are usually just a need for clarification.

Listening to understand brings clarity. Listening to understand and being aware of where each other comes from brings you closer to one another.

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The Greatest Catch

Fear is an emotion which we all have, that seems to grip us in some area of our life and just won’t let go. We are only born with two fears, the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. Every other fear we have in life is a developed or learned fear.

Looking at my kids, I see this statement to be true. Jonas use to love for daddy to throw him high into the air and now he’s terrified of it. I still have yet to figure out why he is so afraid, and I promise it’s not because I missed catching him. I guess my question would be, when did his fear of falling become greater than his trust in dad’s ability to catch him?

As kids, we all have moments that we can look back on and see how fearless we were. We would suggest something that was out of this world, only to be shot down by a sensible adult, “Oh Sammy, that will never work. You can’t do that.” We believed in ourselves like no one else. No jump was too big for us to handle. “I can make that!” we tell ourselves.

When I was about seven or eight years old, my dad had a blue 1976 Chevy truck with a cloth bench seat, which he named Betsy. My dad loved that truck. You would have thought Betsy was a part of the family.

At the house we lived in, there was a chain-link fence around the entire yard with metal spikes of death protruding from the top. The fence was set up in such as way as to give us a makeshift driveway. It had to be done this way because our house was off of a one-way alley. My dad would back Betsy up into our driveway and pull right up to the fence gate. The fence, at the time it seemed to be ten feet tall, but in reality, was probably only five or six feet tall.

Every little boy has at one time or another thought to himself, “I can make that jump!” and then preceded that thought with the greatest act of courage ever imagined. The stakes are made higher when mom or dad, in this case, tells you not to try and jump over the fence because, “you could hurt yourself.”

It was a warm, summer day. I was wearing a light blue tank-top and some Hawaiian shorts my mom had made for me a few weeks prior. My dad and I had just gotten home and he backed his truck into the driveway to unload stuff from the bed of his truck. To get all of the stuff out, we had to open the tailgate. And on this day, the tailgate fell just inches away from the fence.

We got everything cleared out of the back of the truck and as my dad went inside, he warned, “Don’t try to jump over the fence, you could hurt yourself.” Now in my defense, isn’t it a green light to try something stupid when your parent tells you not to do something and then immediately leaves the scene? As my dad walked inside, I hopped down out of the bed of the truck. I turned to walk in the gate, but something inside of me wouldn’t let go of how great I would feel if I jumped over the fence from the bed of Betsy onto the ground on the other side. It seemed like a much better entrance into our yard than walking through a boring gate. It was my destiny.

I hopped back up into the bed of the truck and got as close to the cab as I could. I knew that if I got a running start I could make the jump. I mustered up all the courage I had inside of me to defy my dad and make the grandest entrance our yard had ever seen. I got ready, I got set, I counted down, 3…2…1…and I was off and running. With each step came a little bit more excitement, until I got towards the end of the truck and realized I had misjudged the distance of the truck and the fence and how far up I’d actually have to jump, but that didn’t stop me.

As I leapt off of the tailgate into the air, I picked my feet up to clear the fence, the problem was, I didn’t even get high enough to clear my thighs over the fence. I crashed into the metal bar that ran along the top of the fence, which sent me into a flip over it. But, instead of completing the flip over the fence and landing on the ground, the metal spikes of death grabbed my shorts in the middle of my thigh, stopping my momentum, tearing my shorts from the middle of my thigh down to the hemmed seam at the bottom. To which, I was left dangling upside-down with my shorts around my ankles, a huge scrape down my leg, and my shoe snagged on one of the metal spikes. I couldn’t shake free either. There was nothing left to do, but to yell for my dad’s help and deal with the consequences of my defiance.

At what point in our lives do we stop taking risks? Even though others told us we can’t do it or that it is too dangerous, we still attempted to defy all odds and make the grandest of entrances. We believed that we were different and we could accomplish what everyone else said we couldn’t. Instead of living our best life and taking risks we’ve succumbed to the fear of failure, insecurities, and the fear of what others think of us. We begin to listen to those around us, tell us who we are and what we can accomplish instead of believing in ourselves and defining who we are in our own terms.

I’m as guilty as they come. I have, for far too long, been afraid of what others have thought of me. I catch myself from time to time, instead of listening to the conversation I am having, clamoring over the thoughts that those I am talking with have of me.

I understand that everyone isn’t this way, but I believe the vast majority of us struggle with our fears of what others think. The fear of failure and the fear of what others think may not solely depend on one another, but are closely related. Not only has fear made me socially awkward at times, it has brought me some of my biggest regrets of chances I didn’t take. I feared failure and people more than getting wrapped up in the excitement of what could be. In high school, fear of missing a catch in a football game, kept me sidelined more times than not for fear of letting my team down.

What we fail to realize is our fear of letting others down, actually causes us to let them down in one way or another. We have people in our lives that, at times, need us to be fearless. They need us to lead and not hold back. They need us in the game, no matter what the stakes, and not sitting on the sidelines in the crowd.

I’ve taken some risks, but they were always calculated and I knew I already had the support of the majority of people in my life to which I look to for acceptance.

I’m learning that husbands and fathers not only provide security in their houses, which gives comfort and stability, but we also provide security in our kids lives of who they are. After all, our identities are given to us by our fathers and so we find security in them as well. Fathers are so incredibly important to the development of children. Part of the reason we are a culture full of insecure people is because we are also a society of a fatherless generation.And there are more ways than one for a father to be absent. He doesn’t have to be out of the home to be absent from his family.

However, for those of us that grew up without a father, we can’t allow it to be an excuse for who we are for the rest of our lives. Eventually, we have to take responsibility for who we are and find our security in something else…someone else. If we don’t confidently determine who we are and who we are going to be, there is a world full of people out there that will take great joy in defining us. They will tell us who we are and what we should do and keep us trapped in the confines of their picture of us.

Which is why my relationship with Jesus will be my saving grace. My security is no longer found in who I am or who my father says I am, but in who God, my Heavenly Father, says I am.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

Romans 8:37

“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”

Philippians 4:13

“Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.””

Matthew 19:26

We have to get to a point where our fear of falling is swallowed up by our overwhelming  trust in His ability to catch us.

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