Made of Dust

An imperfect guy who likes to write

God Moments – A Journey of Faith

Spiritual Dudes

One night, as I leaned back and stared through the rising smoke of the fire, I exhaled deeply and felt the crisp winter air on my cheeks. I was mesmerized by how clear the sky was, how perfect I could see the stars and the brightness of the moon. I just whispered “Thank you” to my creator.

I had been praying for a group like this for about five years and this felt like a direct answer.

Dudes sitting around a fire, talking sports, marriage, kids, work, and of course, sharing our faith, the challenges and also the victories.

It’s been cold, I wore five layers one night as we gathered with temps in the teens. But men just keep showing up…every single week…no matter what. Why?

We recognize we need other good men, men of faith, to share with, to pray with, and for encouragement. God calls us to this.

We want to be better husbands and fathers. More than that, we want to be spiritual leaders for our families. God calls us to this also!

As I brought my eyes down from star gazing, I took a sip of beer I had in my gloved hand and heard a guy ask the group…“What is God teaching you? What are you going to do about it?”

This same question, is asked every single time we meet. A few men share, there are some long pauses as other men find the courage to talk.

Personal experiences with God came up conversationally. As a group, we discussed the importance of being open to spirituality, something that for many, and especially most men, is difficult.

I didn’t share that night, we will revisit this down the road I’m sure. But I thought it a good idea to give it “a good think” and perhaps write down a few of my most impactful God moments.

Grandpa’s Car

My Grandpa Dye was a hard laborer most of his life. He came from dirt floors and next-to-nothing somewhere off the back roads in southern Kentucky.

After disability forced him to retire early from the factory, he found a good deal on a well-used boat of a car. His dream car, a ’73 Cadillac Deville, pale yellow with white leather interior and those nostalgic big fins on the rear.

Man, he loved that car. He only got to drive it a few years before his health declined to where he was restricted to a bed. He spent equal time at home and at the hospital.

“That old car out there, it’s just a vessel.” he told me as he stared at it from the bedroom window of his basement apartment.

He spent the better part of his last ten years on earth, dying. Doctors would never give him more than a year to live, and he’d outlive it. Over and over this happened for a decade. It was sad to watch and breaks my heart as I recall it today.

After a scare, he eventually agreed to let us sell the Cadillac. He died not long after.

At his funeral I had my very first experience that I recognized as a spiritual moment. I was 14.

In a moment where everyone else in the room was distracted by conversation, I found myself alone at grandpa’s side, staring at him as he lay there.

“It’s just a vessel.” A sense of peace and calm came over me like I had never experienced. At that moment, I truly felt God, the Holy Spirit, Jesus, an Angel or perhaps Grandpa himself whispering to my soul.

The body is just like that old Cadillac, a vehicle for our soul. Nothing more.

“He’s not here.” I thought to myself, “I mean that’s his body, but it’s empty…he is not here, he’s gone somewhere.” I felt completely comforted and somehow just knew, Grandpa was fine.

You Asked for a Sign

From ages 14 to 19, I was curious and interested in spiritual things, but never made an effort for a relationship with Christ. I didn’t even know what that meant.

I was fragile with regard to my beliefs at that time, and too much pressure would have likely made me resent all things related to Christianity.

Mom was good about giving us the choice of going to church, never forcing us to attend. I am grateful to her for that. I chose not to go most often, but every now and then something would stir deep inside me, and I’d go with her.

From ages 19 to 26, I sewed my wild oats. I was still curious, and would occasionally read some random thing from the Bible mom gave to me as a graduation gift. Really though, I was just indifferent about the whole God thing. I was having too much fun and didn’t want to change anything.

Moments before I proposed to Amber.

At 25, I did sort of have a moment though. I proposed to Amber on a beach and just after, I felt a variety of things…one of which was sheer panic.

“God, please give me a sign that this is right!” I prayed to myself as I walked with her down a vacant beach, hand in hand.

A few steps along the shore and we noticed a giant heart freshly etched in the sand with “Jesus Loves You” at it’s center.

Angry With God

Shortly after the birth of my oldest daughter, my aunt passed away after a very short fight against melanoma. It really shook me. I’ve written about this in previous blog posts, but in short, it rocked my spiritual world.

After seeing her for the last time, I was angry with God and let him know it. I raised my fist and my voice, and physically took out frustrations on objects all around me. It was completely out of character for me. I could not rationalize a loving God with the unfair, and somewhat sudden, death of a faithful servant.

Exhausted, I laid my head in my wife’s lap and upon her urging, I prayed. I prayed out loud, something I had never done before. Up to that moment, I had only ever prayed briefly, silently to myself, and usually only for selfish asks.

I can’t explain this accurately, but words I know I would never use and things I know I would have never said began to flow out of my mouth. The words came so easy and felt so right, powerful and comforting.

Tears streamed down my cheeks and a rush came over me. I had no recollection of what I said or how much time passed. I have no doubt, the Holy Spirit was speaking.

I had strange and wildly colorful dreams that night. When I woke up the next morning, I just knew my aunt had passed…and I also knew that I was no longer the same person.

To me, my heart had torn wide open and the spirit of God rushed in to fill it.

Transformation

After that experience, from ages 28-31, I intentionally grew and fostered a relationship with Christ.

Amber and I had already been attending a new, small church plant and was now more motivated to become an active part. We joined small groups, served in various roles and spent much more time at home studying, praying, and discussing spirituality.

I experienced true transformation and for the first time in my life, felt COMPLETE. I realized that there had been this God-shaped hole in my heart. A hole I kept trying to fill with other things, other people, other ideas, etc.

The people of that small church, I will always consider family. Many of them, mentors.

I am thankful for each and every one of them and the unique things they taught me.

The open mindedness it takes to truly love people.

The utter humility it takes to follow Christ.

The spiritual practices that strengthen our relationship with God.

Milestone of Faith

Avery Lynn is certainly far more than a milestone in our faith, but a blog about my spiritual growth without her mention would be worthless.

Three years into the existence of our small church plant and after a forced location switch which we knew would impact attendance, the decision was made to begin closing down the church.

It was during this time, my wife delivered our stillborn child, Avery. Avery was born deceased, only a few days before her due date.

I have written on this many times, verbally told the story even more, and not once have I felt I did an accurate job of detailing it and explaining God’s presence.

It’s so hard to explain to someone that your greatest loss was also the greatest spiritual connection you’ve felt to the Creator.

I have spent every day since trying to regain that closeness to Him. Sounds crazy, I know. His presence was all around, we could feel it. I don’t mean to speak for Amber, but she has shared openly that she felt that way too.

It might have been our names being lifted up through the mouths, minds, hearts and hands of so many…the Holy Spirit covering our hurt with love and encouragement that ONLY God is capable of. Whatever it was, we felt His beautiful peace, His grace, and His mercy.

It was a spiritual high, a high like I’ve never experienced anywhere else.

Amber and I prayed privately over Avery, holding her between us, weeping and praying a lengthy list of “God, we want her to know…” this, that, and the others.

A few days later we prayed a similar prayer over her “coming-home outfit” just before we gave it to my father-in-law to take to the funeral home.

Two weeks later, a lady we barely knew came over to us, shared that she had heard about our loss and that she had been praying for us. To which, we thanked her, smiled and started to walk away.

She grabbed Amber’s elbow and began to tell us that during prayer she had felt God tell her to give us a message.

Her voice quivering from nervousness, she says “I have to share it, because He won’t let me let it go. It doesn’t make any sense to me and if it seems weird to you at all, that’s fine, but I have to get it out…….SHE KNOWS!”

A direct answer to our private prayer… from the mouth of a believer we didn’t know. God loves speaking to us through others. He certainly did that day.

That time in my life was as close to God as I’ve ever felt.

The loss of Avery and for months after that, there was something deeply spiritual going on and it felt like a tremendous gift, a blessing…can you imagine that?

It seems incomprehensible, but I have longed for that same closeness ever since.

I find it in stray minutes or just seconds here and there, during my morning solitude, an occasional scripture that strikes my heart, a heartfelt prayer, or during a particular verse in worship.

Those fleeting moments, I recognize as the Holy Spirit moving…for that time with Avery though, it didn’t move in and out, it moved in and remained with us and only gradually faded away over the following months.

Cover to Cover

I’ve read books in their entirety, followed along in church at their prompting and have even dedicated myself to reading all of the new testament several different times over the past three decades.

I had not ever read the ENTIRE BIBLE though. I don’t believe one needs to, by the way. However, for anybody who is seeking to know more and truly wants to learn more about the Creator, one SHOULD WANT to.

So finally, at age 37, I set out to reach this goal. I wasn’t going to follow any plan, which never seemed to work anyway. I was just going to take it day by day, read at my own pace, and take however long it was going to take.

I made a point to spend my early mornings with God. I set the alarm, spent time in prayer, would read a chapter or two, really trying to read it and understand it. Many mornings, jotting a few notes in the margins, underlining, highlighting, etc.

I’m not going to lie. Some of those old testament books are devastatingly boring and challenging to read. I did it anyway.

When I made it to the end of the Old Testament, the book of Malachi, I knew I had this thing in the bag. The New Testament is an easy read. Fun, filled with lots of great parables, life applications, and fascinating Jesus moments.

What I didn’t expect, is that two years of reading and dedicating time for digging in, praying on it, and really just thinking on what I read…it extended to my understanding of life and ultimately completely changed the way I see the world.

Relationships, work, politics, entertainment, conflict, evil…my views of the world had gone through a major overhaul and it directly related to my engagement of reading the Bible.

Studying the Bible and spending time with your creator will likely change your belief system. Opinions on topics you stood adamantly for or against can and will change dramatically.

So many of those mornings, I encountered God. His presence was undeniable.

Ongoing Journey

I don’t read books twice. I just don’t.

I do plan on reading the Bible cover to cover again though.

After all, it isn’t just a book. It’s a collection of authors, with various styles and formats. The writings were composed from within jail cells, caves, cities and scenic country sides, at different times and in different cultures.

God inspired these writings, in the same way He inspires you and me to utilize our talents and share them with the world.

He gifted these writers with the ability to share His word. So they did.

I believe the Bible is a passionate, living record of God’s love for us.

You want a connection to God?
You want to relate to Him on another level?
You want to experience the fullness of life and feel complete?

Spend time with Him.
Make the effort.
He’s there, reaching out His hand…but we have to choose to reach for Him.

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Summers of Stay-At-Home Dadness

He looked at me, big-eyed with 1/4 of a grin that was progressing towards full on smile. I was just waiting with all seriousness to see what his response would be.

He and his family had just joined us for dinner. We were going through the ‘What have you been up to lately’ chit chat that is standard for us whose lives are full of youth sports and PTA meetings, affording few get-together opportunities. Continue reading

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For A Girl

The words hung in the air, drifting just out of my reach. If I could have, I’d have snatched them out of the air into my fist and stuffed them deep into my pockets to hide the implication.

“She is really good. She plays like a boy.”

Two women standing before me, paused with a quick glance, then continued their conversation without drawing attention to the golf ball of a comment which I had just smashed into the water hazard with a noticeable and awkward “Ker-Plop”. Continue reading

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A letter to Avery Lynn

* This was originally written in 2011. While the setting and the weather were much different today, the sentiment of the letter is exactly the same.
*We’ve added 2 more daughters since I typed this out. 2 more people to share Avery’s story with. 2 more sisters to adore her and celebrate each important milestone with.

 

Avery,

Looking out the window today, some might say the weather is fitting for such an anniversary.  The dark clouds have rolled in, emptied themselves and have taken the day away from us.

The yard is soggy, the grass, flowers and trees that were so close to full bloom for the spring are now left damp, cold and drooping.  Weather says there is more to come tonight and so the dreary day is forecasted into a dreary night.

That’s what some would say.  It’s not, however, what your sisters, your mother and I are saying.  We look out of the window today and see another day filled with hope, a day where the closeness to God, which you delivered for us, can never and will never be forgotten.

Today’s rain reminds me of the refreshing encouragement that God gives to us.  The clean and untainted spiritual blessing of the Holy Spirit brightly penetrates even the thickest of rain clouds.

Your passing is a hand on the small of my back that is always guiding me toward God.  Your passing introduced me to a whole new understanding of life and death and an appreciation for both.

This is only one reason of many that I will never remember your death with emotions of sadness.  Everyday I thank God for your mother, the strongest woman I know.  I thank God daily for Paige and Aubrey, as well as the newest addition soon to arrive.

Avery, I also thank God for you.  I will never forget the four hours we spent in that hospital room….just your mother, you and me.  There was something so divinely special about those moments. It was as if Jesus Himself, along with familiar angels were gathered around us.

I cannot even begin to express the encompassing love, mercy and grace your mother and I experienced in that room with you.  There just aren’t words.  It was real though, very, very real.

Occasionally when someone asks how do I know there is a Heaven or a God, I don’t say it to them because I know they’d never understand, but Avery it’s because of you.  It’s because of your death I tasted Heaven.

I’m sorry for selfish reasons that you didn’t live. Strange as it may sound, I am not sorry you died.  I’m confident you’re happy where you are and likely have a far better understanding of what all took place and why it took place than your mother and I do.

Truth is we feel blessed to have a daughter preparing for our arrival on the other side some day.  There is simply no better place for my daughter to be.

Paige and Aubrey are with me and I’m openly happy to admit that I enjoy their presence in my daily life, but setting aside human pride I must also say it is the second best place for them to be.  This is second best for all of us really.

Someday, a long time from now I know we will be all together.  Call me delusional or disturbed, but it does excite me thinking about that day.

No Avery, today isn’t gloomy for your earthly family…. We celebrate today knowing full well you exist.  You exist in a reality far more special and real than the one we belong to.

We also know that you are aware of us, we’ve been reminded many times, many ways.

We will meet someday in Heaven.  I don’t know that you are a baby there.

At times I like to think you as a bundle of joy for our grandparents and other loved ones who moved on.  Other times I like to think of you as a fully matured being, a young woman, that is preparing for us and will be able to greet us when our veils are lifted.

In fact, I have often dreamed and fantasized about what you and I will say to each other when we first come together on your side of reality.  I fully expect you will know me and I will immediately recognize you, we will be brother and sister in Christ.

Before we speak, I know there will be a long awaited embrace and my first words to you are likely to be “Thank You So Much”.   Heaven was already a place worth living to get to, you being there has only made it that much more desirable and real.

Today we enjoy the life God blessed us with and we celebrate the even better life you have in Heaven.

We know what the weather forecast is, but to be honest….today is one of the most beautiful days of the year.

We sang Happy Birthday at your headstone and know you are enjoying our praise for God in your honor.

Under the direction of your big sister Paige and little sister Aubrey we made you a birthday cake.  Yellow cake, chocolate icing and lots of sprinkles on top….even had your name on it.

I’m sure the celebration you enjoy in Heaven is far greater than this, but we didn’t want your birthday to pass without our own little celebration of what you mean to us.

Lovingly,

Your proud father

 

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Jesus Walks into a Bar

“Jesus walks into a bar….” sounds like the start of a sketchy joke.

What would Jesus do if you invited him to have a beer at your grill-out, the local pub, or sporting event?

Many would say Jesus wouldn’t condemn you, but he wouldn’t tolerate it either. They’d have you believe He would refuse a taste and probably share a parable about why nobody should.

I used to think that. I know my fellow faithful are probably thinking that I changed my opinion to fit my love of tasty brews. It’s actually the opposite. Continue reading

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Headless Chicken

“You just grab it at the neck, step on it there and jerk your hand up real quick like this here, see?”

Before I could process the instructions that had just been grunted at me, I stood in total horror as I watched a headless white chicken begin to sprint in wide circles, flapping it’s wings as though it were about to take off on an adventurous flight.

My brother stood close by looking at me and laughing, but then became distracted when a fowl came close enough for him to give chase. Continue reading

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A Titanic Revelation

She sat there in the passenger seat of my car for what felt like several minutes of thoughtful pause.

I don’t think she knew how to respond. Had he just said “I love you” for the first time? Do I say it back? I’m sure these thoughts were two of many reeling through her mind in those brief seconds.

“I love you too?” She responded with that girlish chuckle that I still recognize today.

We had just been on a date. Not our first, second or third…but about nine months of dates later. Continue reading

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Something’s Gotta Give – Choosing Your Sacrifice

I occasionally catch someone roll their eyes, comment under their breath or even directly to me, that we are lucky. Now and then, someone will say something like, “Well, you all can do that because Amber’s at home”, or “Well, you don’t have to worry about that because you have Amber” or “She’s got plenty of time now that she’s home”.

I won’t argue that we are lucky in that we had opportunity. I won’t argue that we are lucky to have been in a position to do what we chose to do. But really, luck has very little to do with our lifestyle. Continue reading

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I Voodooed Grandma for Christmas

Saturday morning cartoons and the smell of sausage frying in the kitchen were disrupted by a very loud thump, thump and thump.

There she laid at the bottom of our basement stairs. Writhing in pain with one hand up by her face and the other pinned under her crumpled body. She was laying perpendicular to the steps, facing us awkwardly, her face to the side and pressed flat against that cold cement floor.

Our eyes met, she immediately saw the panic in my face as I instantaneously recognized the pain in hers. Continue reading

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Patriotic Jesus

I’m a Facebook junkie, I don’t even care to admit it. I’ve written another blog about my love for it. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things I see there I wish I didn’t. There are of course. Specifically, it isn’t Facebook that annoys me. But like everybody else, it is the posts of certain varieties that leave me shaking my head.

There are certain friends, acquaintances and family members that I’ve just grown accustomed to the type of posts they make. Most are funny, insightful and positive. But then there are the ones frequently spewing negativity.

You know the type…and if you know you are the type, it’s okay. I don’t judge based on Facebook posts and I love you anyway. God gave me thumbs and so I scroll on by. I certainly hope you do the same when I post rants about my Bearcats, humblebrags about my kids, or the latest Advocare products I want you to know about.

The ones that never stop disappointing me on Facebook, though, are my Christian friends and family who share political insight, share articles from CNN or Fox News and expect the world to nod their head in agreement at them.

I’m not nodding. Not that they know or care…but I am not nodding. Continue reading

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