Ben Franklin: Determined To Stay Free

July 31

“They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” 

Ben Franklin, 1759

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Ah, the sweet refreshing feel of rain in the midst of a drought. When I find myself in a spiritual drought, God often brings that same kind of cooling rain to cool things off in my spirit – sort of to let me know that… He is still there. I shouldn’t need it but I admit that I do. And I do the same thing in those spiritual moments that I do in those natural moments, when a soft rain comes (however brief) in the midst of the intensity of an overbearing heat wave: I go and stand outside in the rain. I’m sure I look like an idiot, just standing outside in the rain – hands raised high, eyes closed, just getting drenched. But it feels so good to bask in the cool, wet rain for even just a few minutes before the scorching heat returns. And it will return… the heat. It always does. But God is still with me, even in the heat of this suffocating drought.

“I am determined to defend my rights and maintain my freedom or sell my life in the attempt.” – – Nathanael Greene

Sometimes, I get more done in the drought then I do in the cooling rain – while the rain refreshes me, I tend to be more focused and driven in those droughts provided I stay focused long enough to accept that my tasks for Him remain the same in whatever the conditions may be. 

Peace, SAG

Today’s Scripture: Galatians 5:1

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Easy Days and Fast-Food Nights (A Dad’s Guide To Surviving Mom Being Gone)

Insanity is hereditary. You get it from your children.  ~ Sam Levenson

 
My wife left town for a few days. It’s much easier now then it was when the kids were younger but I won’t lie… at least for me, it never gets easy. Probably because I’m a freaking moron and part of the blessing of marrying the woman that I did was that I understood how drastically she off-sets my moron-ness. I’m cool with it. I’m good at stuff but where this thing is concerned – running things without my wife – I have a very simple philosophy: survive and advance. By any means. Sometimes, without her, it can be easier then other times and each time she leaves… I never know how things will go – but I know this: things certainly won’t get boring.   

Look: I won’t win any dad of the year awards, but then again… neither will most of you. Can we all get real, though? When mom goes out of town we aren’t looking to win any awards. We’re simply looking to survive. By any means necessary. That’s just the Truth of it. 

Here’s what you need to understand, in the midst of your doing whatever it takes to survive… Mom’s going to return and she will discover several things: she will find that the fruit she left out for you to eat is rotted, brown and untouched. The ice-cream she hid in the deep freezer out in the garage, however (hidden under 10 lbs. of steak and pork chops) is gone… all 4 gallons. Even the Rocky Road. All, ALL of the food in the food pantry (except for all things chocolate, anything chip-based or remotely unhealthy) is still there. Unopened. Unused. Uneaten. She spent $50 that she should’ve used for her trip on gas to purchase provisions for you to feed her children. In reality, which she may never discover, is that the pantry was only even opened quite by accident when you remembered on day three that this is where dog treats are kept and that this was why the dogs had been making that unnerving sound each night at the exact same time – on the hour – because you had forgotten dogs (like children when mom is away) expect treats each night. Opening said pantry led to the amazing discovery of potato chips which, consequently, led to the brilliant idea of “Chip Night” where you announced to your kids that tonight, dinner would consist of “Make your favorite bowl of chips” and you proceeded to line the counter in buffet-style with every chip you could find. Thinking back, that could explain why everybody felt so sick the next day. Hmmm. Perhaps that “medical emergency” wasn’t as dire as you first expected. Mom will also discover that all that laundry she raced to finish before she left still lies in the laundry baskets in everyone’s room. Hey… at least she won’t have to do laundry when she returns, right? Though trust me… don’t try out this logic. It won’t go well for you. Please. Just trust me on this. Your logic of getting two full wears (maybe three) out of your underwear thus financially saving the family money… a bad, bad argument. Mom will also discover that you’ve taught the kids a “new technique” to bathing, called… “The French-Bath”. Kids love it. Mom does not. At least you can honestly say this time “Yeah, babe… The kids took bathes… for the most part…” Hey, water and soap is water and soap, right? So what’s the difference if you’re washing in a shower or under a sink. Mom will explain the difference to you a few nights later. That is, if she has recovered from the shock of ALSO discovering exactly how you HAVE managed to feed her children DESPITE not having eaten a single thing she actually left you to eat. She will have to figure out how to make $23.50 last to the end of the month because that’s all that is left in your bank account. When she checks on-line to see how she possibly could have so poorly mismanaged the family finances this month, she will see an unusual amount of charges over a 3-day period (oddly enough, the exact same three days she was gone and left her bank card with a certain individual) at places such as Sonic, Inc. McDonald’s. Eagle One Pizza. Sub-Way… three times in one day. (That was “Healthy Sub-Way-Day” where we decided to finally settle once and for all exactly where the BEST Sub-Way in south OKC really was. Results were inconclusive.) Darn you, on-line banking. And heaven help us if we have to actually get the kids to some important appointment, doctor or otherwise. Mom will discovery each missed appointment as she checks the 500 missed calls on the family land-line. (That’s that annoying ringing sound that periodically went off from the device that has numbers on it and SORT of looks like a phone but couldn’t possibly be one because it wouldn’t fit in your pocket. Remember? The device that you quickly found if you just ignore it for about 30 seconds, it stops that incessant ringing?) “Didn’t you check the messages from the doctors office reminding you of those appointments?!?” Uh… I haven’t checked messages in, like, never. If you can’t text it, I’m not getting it. And even then, I’m lucky if I even check my I-phone for messages missed more then twice a day. That’s the truth. Mom will actually cede this point to you. But by this point, you’re so far in the hole, it’s really pointless anyways. You’re a dead-beat and everybody knows it. My wife is a writer. I just became another chapter in another book. I’m use to it, actually. I’ve grown accustomed to reading her books and looking for scenes where I can run in excited to exclaim to her “Hey! That’s me! That’s me! I REMEMBER doing that!” 
It’s unavoidable. Remember, we’re being honest, here. The reality is… I’m not dragging you other fellas down to my level. I’m sure you do all the stuff I’m suppose to do but don’t. I’m sure you do the laundry when your wife is gone, fix a perfectly balanced, three course meal while getting them to bed on time washed, teeth brushed, etc. etc. whatever. And in truth, I admire you. I truly do. But I have learned several techniques that I’ve perfected over the years and honestly, now that the kids are older, well… it’s so much easier to blame crap on them. “The kids over-slept” “The kids were arguing.” “The kids hid all the food you left except the chips” “The kids told me this is what mom has us do.” Which leads me to tip #1 to surviving mom’s absence: at every possible point, blame your children for anything that mom points out you did wrong. Seriously. What’s the point of having kids if you can’t blame crap on them? All that money I’ve spent on them over the years, this is getting a little bang for those bucks. House is a wreck? “I don’t know honey. This place was immaculate thirty minutes before you got home but you know how quickly your kids can wreck a clean house…” She can’t argue against that because, well, there’s actually some truth to that statement and she knows this all too well. It has no bearing at all that you never picked up a single thing the entire time she was gone. But this actually leads to my second (and perhaps my greatest) tip of all to you: Tip #2 is to actually clean the house. Not perfectly. Run the vacuum in the most obvious places where she’s sure to notice. Make the living room look better then it did when she left. Put clean dishes away and move 3 days worth of dishes into the dishwasher. Don’t even turn it on. Take out the over flowing kitchen trash. Spray that girlie – smelling freshener in the entry way and BAM! Her first impression will be lasting. Even as she is discovering everything you didn’t do, if she comes home to a clean house AND her bed is made… this thought will continually pop into her mind even as she discovers your worst transgressions… “But he DID clean the house and make our bed…” First impressions matter. They do. Tip #3: make your kids do most of the work. Take out the trash. Run the vacuum. Make your bed. Remind them how pleasant life will be when mom returns to a clean house! And remind them of all the fun crap they got to do but now… it’s time to pay the piper. They owe you. It’s time to pay that bill. Tip #4: Don’t bother bribing your kids to NOT tell mom. Moms gonna find out. They may tell they may not. It doesn’t matter so don’t waste money or future treats and favors because here’s what you need to remember: you love your kids, but they’re also little rats. They are gonna roll on you. They are gonna throw you under the bus. They will rat you out. Maybe not even on purpose but even by accident, one of them at some point and time will blurt out “Mom! Can we do ‘Chips Night’ again, like we did when you were gone a few weeks ago? That was the best!” That’s not going to be the best conversation for you but at least, instead of shushing your kids, you can just shrug and grin at your wife. YOUR invoice just came due, so take it like a man. Tip #5: Make sure no kid dies on your watch. If she comes home and everyone is alive, it may seem small, but this is a great response to every exasperated “You did WHAT…?!” because, hey, let’s face it: that’s no small feat. Everybody survived your idiocy and no lives were lost in the course of her absence. And if she minimalizes that, well… what exactly does that say about her as a mother? Really. (Although verbalizing this is NOT advisable. You can think it. Just don’t say it. Again… just trust me on this.)  

Tip #6: Tell your wife up front the moment she walks through the door “Honey… I made a lot of mistakes while you were gone… I just tried to survive. But we need you to make our lives normal again and I sure missed you…!” Kiss her appreciatively. Then take whatever comes. Trust me: it makes all the difference. Because everything mom discovers will be a confirmation that you, too, understand how much you and your kids need mom to be back home. My son put it best once, when he said to his mom after a particularly rough week without her “Mom… you know we love dad. And honestly, we have a lot of fun when you’re gone. But we really need you home because, well… without you, things just sorta fall apart. We barely survived dad and things are just too stressful without you…”   

That pretty much sums it up. Mom brings a balance and a stability – at least, in this household. And after a few days… we’re all sick of potato chips, ice-cream and staying up too late. The moment mom walks in the door, the three of us are thinking the same thing: “Thank You LORD for bringing Mom home SAFELY!” It’s good to have a great mom. Nobody in this house takes her for granted. Trust me. They’ve had to survive with dad too many times! Hug your wife today… let her know you appreciate her – even if you happen to be the perfect father and/or husband! 
Peace to you today! And honey… get back home, safely. We need you! Just give me a heads up when your close so we can clean up the living room, take out the trash and make the bed! Love you! Sean

Joseph Warren: Freedom’s Shadow

July 30

“Nevertheless, to the persecution and tyranny of his cruel ministry we will not tamely submit — appealing to Heaven for the justice of our cause, we determine to die or be free.” — Joseph Warren, 1775

In the shadow of the cross, I find so much conflict where there should only be peace on the heels of a deep humility. It is there that I come face to face with the ugly truth of my sin and the beautiful reality of God’s Grace. Conflict, however; arises as pride and lust and my own sinful humanity lurk, too, in the shadows. And each day becomes a struggle to once more pick it up and carry my cross for His sake. He paid the price and bore the pain of MY sin and shame. In return, He asks only that I carry it a little ways not to earn His love but to show the world that I am truly His. The cross no longer holds my sin. All that remains is the small sacrifice of my own self for the sake of His will and without my sin and shame, well… it has become a much lighter cross!

“The truth is, all might be free if they valued freedom, and defended it as they ought.”  Samuel Adams

Can you imagine all that we could see? All that we might do? All that we might experience, if we could just come to that place of picking that thing up each day and carry it unwaveringly through the streets? In the shadow of the cross is strength. There is healing in it’s shadows. There is Grace and Hope and so much Power but it can only be found in the shadow of the cross. And we must go to where the shadows source of light has been cast from. His Spirit beckons us, revealing what we are, who He is and what He has done. But we must step into the shadows to find Light. Interesting. And we must step in continually, at every turn – in every day – even after Salvation. NOT to be saved over and over again, but to find our strength and… also to be reminded of what we need of Him AND all that we have from Him, as well. Value your freedom and defend it today, as you should. It is the thing, above all others, that we have been called to in Christ, Jesus.

Peace today. Sean G.

 Today’s Scripture: Galatians 5:13

13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Henry Knox: When Fortune Frowns

July 29 

“We want great men who, when fortune frowns, will not be discouraged.” Henry Knox

The aches and pains are often deeper then what I can rub away. When sitting hurts as much as getting up and moving, well… I’m at a loss. Pain can seldom be ignored but it’s not always easy to know how to make it go away or even ease it. Looking to God’s Word is a great place to start.

There will be these days when nothing seems to fall into place. And though I’m not expected to like it, I must never let these days defeat me entirely. Whether the anguish and discouragement comes from a physical set of circumstances or mental or even spiritual, I must remember that even in these times it is I who always holds the advantage. I can not afford to stay long in my feelings of discouragement, for the longer I rest there, the more likely I am to remain there.

I climb out of the pits of despair, particularly after the worst of defeats, by simply tuning my heart to the God of my Salvation and singing His glorious praises. I am not happy for these sufferings or these pains that I feel… but I am able to rejoice, knowing that He is with me and He has suffered along side me. He has given me the way to retreat and so I retreat – back into the safety of His assurances for my good-will and blessed life. I rise up again. I am mended. And I am renewed to begin the battles all over again – once more, as always – with Him at my side. This is the place I find solitude in, as I rub away the aches  while I smile. Peace to you, today. Sean G.

Today’s Scripture: Romans 5:3

3 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance

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President George W. Bush: Staying in Time

July 28

President George W. Bush

“Life takes its own turns, makes its own demands, writes its own story, and along the way, we start to realize we are not the author.”
President George W. Bush

 Keeping time as a musician is a critical, fundamental element in any good set or playing any song well. Time. Stay in time and the song stays alive… even when that time is a bit loose or intentionally slightly off. Perfect time is never the goal, but finding the right time in each moment is what I always strive for.

Spiritually, keeping in Time with the Love of God is equally as critical in my striving forward in the purpose and will of God. He tries to keep me in His time which isn’t always some straight forward, steady meter. But it’s my job to find that meter and time signature. And it can change on a dime. I play with some great musicians and they have this ability to follow me at each turn. When I’m off they follow me and ultimately, we make it sound as if where we went is exactly where we meant to go! The difference with God is… He never makes a mistake. His meter and time signatures are always intentional and His melodies are the most beautiful sounds that you could ever imagine. And they lead to an amazing ending through melodious turns and brilliant bridges that, although seem at times difficult to follow, prove to be heart-searing experiences which make us better. When we trust, He’s not difficult to follow but we must trust the master musician. He knows where He’s going and we’d be foolish NOT to follow Him there!

Peace, today. SAG

Today’s Scripture: Jude 1:20-21

20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit,

21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.

President Thomas Jefferson: My Listening Ear

July 27 

President Thomas Jefferson

“Every man cannot have his way in all things.” President Thomas Jefferson

Friendships are measured in terms of what we put into them and what we allow God to show us through each old and new relationship we have. There is a fresh and peaceful perspective if we will sometimes listen to the stories of new people we meet.

My wife listens to people so well. I think it’s a marvel to observe. I talk too much and listen less. As a result, I learn less about others. Being effective in ministry and in service, in general, requires a great set of ears and a very small mouth. Speak less, listen more. Let God’s Spirit give you the Words to speak and the Wisdom to know when to speak. That’s what I try to remember – sometimes with little success.

When I’m not talking I’m able to learn what ails others. I discover their joys, their pains; I find out what struggles they have and where their strengths and passion lie. I pick up on frustrations and anticipations. Patience presents itself when I give somebody the opportunity to simply express some complaint even if that complaint may be me. In my quiet yet attentive state, the Holy Spirit is constantly forming my reply regardless of the circumstances surrounding my conversations so that when I finally DO speak, my words have weight and my thoughts, answers and my reply all have wisdom.

Let others speak more and you will discover that you will have a heightened sense and a new found ability to speak to others with far greater ease… and effectiveness.

Peace, Sean Gutteridge

Today’s Scripture: Galatians 6:9-10

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Samuel Adams: Bestowed With Abounding Joy 

July 26

Samuel Adams

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“Were the talents and virtues which heaven has bestowed on men given merely to make them more obedient drudges, to be sacrificed to the follies and ambition of a few? Or, were not the noble gifts so equally dispensed with a divine purpose and law, that they should as nearly as possible be equally exerted, and the blessings of Providence be equally enjoyed by all?”  President Samuel Adams

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… I can do all things through him who strengthens me…

To be able to do all things, I must first know how to access the Lord’s strength and before I am able to do that, I must have both an awareness that I need His strength AND the experience of actually being in need.

“I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.” Philippians 4:12

I have tasted sorrow. I have felt pain. I have lived through brief moments of darkness but never have I found myself living in these states in continuum inertia. To need this kind of strength is to find one’s self at the absolute end, even to the point of near death. Paul found himself many times at this place, understanding that his very next moment might very well be his last.

I think, however; even more importantly, Paul knew what it was like to need God’s strength in those polar opposite moments, as well. How many of us think about needing God’s strength when we are on top of the summit, at life’s absolute best? When was the last time I prayed for God to give me strength when things couldn’t possibly be any better? That’s odd, to me, to think about. But look again at verse 12 and isn’t that exactly what Paul is saying here?

(V.12) “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”

Paul knew how to abound; he knew the secret of facing “plenty” and “abundance” and it is clear that he never emphasizes one over the other. People face different circumstances, and though some may appear more difficult then others, to God every person’s personal plights and pains are relevant to Him. Whatever we have had to go through, God has been there and to a certain degree, we’ve all needed strength to persevere… strength we almost certainly did not have. I understand this. I am even able to absorb an utilize that strength on occasion. But for me, I treat the Lord’s strength more like a tool to be put away when I’m finished with it then a garment that I put on each day. For Paul, it was a life-style, a way of living continually. That’s why he could say “in every circumstance” because for him, it didn’t matter what he was experiencing or what he was going through. The balanced life treats each moment the same, approaches every circumstance identically. In this life-style, God becomes the source of every muscle, every breath, every movement and every thought. And God’s Holy Spirit acts as our filter, helping us know what’s important to God and what we can simply walk away from. Yeah… it’s weird to articulate and explain, even to myself. But it still makes sense – even when I can’t explain it exactly right! But I do know this: I have an idea of where my strength comes from in all difficulties. I want to be able to say the same for those times of blessing and triumph. I want to start facing abundance and plenty like I face adversity and need: in the knowledge that I really CAN do all things through Christ who gives me strength! When I learn this, I am most certain that I will abound with Joy and strength, whether I am being brought low or raised high…

Peace, Sean Gutteridge.

Today’s Scripture: Philippians 4:12-13

12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.

13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

President Abraham Lincoln: Mercy’s Fruit

July 25

President Abraham Lincoln

 

“I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.”
President Abraham Lincoln

Weakness is often the greater path to God’s righteousness and mercy. We seek strength but refuse to accept that the path to the strength of our Holy God must often travel through our own weakness. What a difficult road it is to both travel and grasp. We resist and often detest our weakness and the weakness of others but we can never know the pure beauty of God’s strength until we embrace our own weakness and, in the end, yield to them in the full knowledge that only by His mercy can we move forward into His strength by walking away from ourselves and into His complete control.

There is no room for ourselves nor our abilities within His Will nor anywhere within His plans. He may use us but only as it fits perfectly into His sovereign Will. When I accept this and long for this, I will find that insurmountable strength that comes only from a deep fear, longing and utter knowing of The Lord, my God.

Peace, SeanG.

Today’s Scripture: Romans 5:6-8

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

For one will scarcely die for a righteous person-though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die-

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

President James Madison: This Most Serious Business

July 24

President James Madison

“Let me recommend the best medicine in the world: a long journey, at a mild season, through a pleasant country, in easy stages.” President James Madison


Some times you just gotta take off and have some fun with your family. We went and saw a movie with the kids this afternoon and more enjoyable then the movie was enjoying my children enjoying the movie; seeing my beautiful wife not be troubled over dire finances – if only for a few short hours; even relaxing a bit, myself. Life is so short and I often squander moments to enjoy. More grievious, I believe, is my NOT creating more of these simple moments. Quality can’t be purchased but it CAN be crafted and if God hasn’t given these treasures to us to not merely safe guard but also enjoy, then… what’s the point?

 So much is made of such serious topics like propitiation and sanctification and a bunch of other “ations” and as important as these topics are, God sometimes needs us to just take a vacation in absolute mind and quality even if it’s having the good sense to turn off the phone and walk away from the desk and go play hooky from the serious stuff in order to enjoy some time with those we love which really… is the most serious stuff!

Peace, today! Sean G.

Today’s Scripture: Ecclesiastes 9:7; 9-10

7 Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.

9 Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun.

10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Death, to which you are going.

President Ronald Reagan: Pushed Through the Fire

July 23

President Ronald Reagan

“The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave.”
President Ronald Reagan

 This Oklahoma heat is my Kryptonite. African heat… I can handle. But this un-nerves my soul and sucks the very life from me. I don’t want to take cold showers or swim in lakes or pools (although the pool’s not bad) simply because I don’t enjoy being wet. Yeah. When it gets hot, I become VERY high maintenance. Just ask my wife. I’m worse then the kids. And that’s no exaggeration! Without the AC working, we do everything imaginable: we go swimming (if desperate enough), we stay at church a little bit longer; we may even go to a movie spending nearly $75 that we can’t really afford… but I’d do anything to escape this heat!

I’m like that spiritually, sometimes. I’ll do anything to escape the heat. God puts me in the fire or near the furnace and I spend more time complaining and trying to figure a way out then trying to find a way to deal with the heat. But the heat is where God refines me. The heat molds me and makes me able to bare difficulties where a greater endurance because not only does the heat make me stronger and more impervious to the enemy’s attacks but gives me a spiritual reference to remember that not only has God’s flame strengthened me but He will be with me always no matter where He has asked me to go. If God has pushed me into the flame, He will certainly push me on through the flame as well.

Peace, today. Sean Gutteridge

Today’s Scripture: Matthew 14:29

29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.