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

The Gideon Principle

NOVEMBER

The GIDEON Principle

Between takes

Can I be counted on when God calls me?

I get tired of being tired! There is so much work to be done but when the time comes to step out into the rugged plains of God’s calling, tired or not, I better be ready to stand up and be counted on.

God trims the fat, prunes the branches and cuts off the dead weight. He is not ever beyond cleaning house, though it’s not always to be free of the unworthy or impure of heart. Sometimes God trims to prove to His adversary boasting superior numbers that He, the Lord, isn’t confined to numbers or ability. God sometimes just likes to show off His superior power by proving He will win with whatever He has at His disposal.

God never worries so neither should we. What we should concern ourselves with is this: will we be fortunate enough to be called upon once God starts making the cuts or will we be asked to sit this one out? I don’t think being left behind is always a bad thing but when we’re called upon we should be situated to stand up. If I hesitate, by the time I’ve decided to screw up my courage and go God will have already moved on down the line.

The Gideon principle is an effective weeding out process God almost always uses in selecting those He chooses to use for His great purpose and tasks that He has devised or undertaken. There is no room for fear, doubt or any distractions. God uses our fear to weed out over half the candidates. But the next cut, though seemingly random, is certainly specific by His own design.

Today I may not be who He needs to accomplish His Will where tomorrow I may be all He needs. Apart from my fear, there is nothing else I can control in being chosen by God or not. Yet fear never completely excludes us from the service of God – it’s what we fear and when we fear it. Gideon never feared the Lord wouldn’t do what He told Gideon that He would do – I think what Gideon feared was himself, his own ability to be used by God – to be affective for God. That’s pretty common, I think. And God seems so patient with us in our reasonable fears. Just be sure that once He answers those fears and concerns we may have, accept His answers and then let yourself be counted on for being willing and prepared to step into the battlefield for the Lord.

Peace to you, today! Sean Gutteridge

IMG_6125

Today’s Scripture:

Judges 7:1-18

1 Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the people who were with him rose early and encamped beside the spring of Harod. And the camp of Midian was north of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley.

2 The LORD said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’

3 Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.'” Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained.

4 And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ shall not go.”

5 So he brought the people down to the water. And the LORD said to Gideon, “Every one who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself. Likewise, every one who kneels down to drink.”

6 And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men, but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water.

7 And the LORD said to Gideon, “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.”

8 So the people took provisions in their hands, and their trumpets. And he sent all the rest of Israel every man to his tent, but retained the 300 men. And the camp of Midian was below him in the valley.

9 That same night the LORD said to him, “Arise, go down against the camp, for I have given it into your hand.

10 But if you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Purah your servant.

11 And you shall hear what they say, and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp.” Then he went down with Purah his servant to the outposts of the armed men who were in the camp.

12 And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the people of the East lay along the valley like locusts in abundance, and their camels were without number, as the sand that is on the seashore in abundance.

13 When Gideon came, behold, a man was telling a dream to his comrade. And he said, “Behold, I dreamed a dream, and behold, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian and came to the tent and struck it so that it fell and turned it upside down, so that the tent lay flat.”

14 And his comrade answered, “This is no other than the sword of Gideon the son of Joash, a man of Israel; God has given into his hand Midian and all the camp.”

15 As soon as Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped. And he returned to the camp of Israel and said, “Arise, for the LORD has given the host of Midian into your hand.”

16 And he divided the 300 men into three companies and put trumpets into the hands of all of them and empty jars, with torches inside the jars.

17 And he said to them, “Look at me, and do likewise. When I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do.

18 When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then blow the trumpets also on every side of all the camp and shout, ‘For the LORD and for Gideon.”

The Destiny of Our Calling

NOVEMBER

Gideon: Reluctant Warrior/PART 3 [The Destiny of Our Calling]

Israel (Day 1 - 4) 599

So what IS our great calling? Have I taken time today to consider what that may be? Is it divine? Is it arbitrary? Are we destined?

God is calling me to do something for Him today and beyond. If I am God’s servant and don’t know what that calling is, then I’ve either not heard His Holy Spirit telling me what it is or I’ve been avoiding His Holy Spirit because I don’t WANT to know what that great calling is. Does His Word not tell us in Isaiah that He hears us? That He will be found by those who seek Him in earnest? That He has answered us while our words to Him are still forming upon our lips?

Don’t you want to do something truly great and incredible? God has a great calling for you but sometimes, when we find it… that calling is either not what we expected or we suddenly find it so incredibly impossible to believe God has called US to it, well… we just can’t find it within ourselves to step into action and (in Faith) do what God has called us to do. I truly believe that He calls each of us to things so special and amazing that are meant specifically for us to do. For a guy like me, that’s, well… that’s pretty exciting! On my own, I’m lost and would be of little use to anyone else.

Stop saying you can’t when God has called you to His great purposes. If He calls you His Great and Mighty person of valor, that’s who you are. Stop making excuses. We’re not weak, we are mighty. We’re not insufficient, we are abundantly supplied with every talent we need to be successful in His endeavors. We may be afraid but He has given us the courage by His presence. Step out into it. What a tragedy if we miss out on the amazing things we might experience. He will strike down our foes and help us conquer any obstacle before us. For if God has called us to succeed, do we really believe there is anything that can stand in our way of fulfilling His Great Calling? THIS is our destiny, this IS our Divine and Great calling. You’ve asked the question and He has answered. Now stop jacking around and let’s get after it!

Peace, Sean Gutteridge

Today’s Scripture:

Judges 6:15-16

15 And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.”

16 And the LORD said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.”

Our Divine Calling

NOVEMBER

Gideon: Reluctant Warrior/PART 2 [Our Divine Calling]

The Casting Shadow at Arbel

a great place to feel perspective, not find it.

I don’t believe God is as desperate as it may seem, when He calls on the likes of me. Though it’s difficult to wrap my head around I’ve come to understand that Gods calling on my life is divine. It’s not random and it’s no accident. And once I’ve declared myself to be under His authority and chosen to be His servant, every task of His is of a divine nature, as well. In this mindset… each action, every thought, every word of each phrase I speak becomes of the utmost importance. They are no longer mine – all have become His. God never moves us without reason and I should take care to be absolutely sure that we are in perfect step, He and I.

With a divine calling comes an enormous responsibility. Having a divine calling also means our call is active. That means that I’m not waiting on God’s call to do something, my call is waiting on me to get going. But our response to God is much like Gideon’s, when he says “But why God?”. When I ask God this, His reply is very telling. He simply says “Do I NOT send you?”. What can I make of this simple (yet telling) statement? Keeping in mind that my divine calling is active, my question to God seems to question, itself, that I doubt the validity of God’s divine calling and His reply tells me three things: First, God’s statement IS my confirmation of the divine calling He has given me. Second, this statement is my conviction for not immediately doing what God has called me to do. But most importantly, God’s statement is the courage I sometimes need to walk in the confidence I should have when walking in the calling God has given me that I WILL be successful. However, even should I not be victorious if I am walking confidently with courage in God’s calling, there can only be victory for God. A divine calling never knows anything but certain victory. And that will always give me peace of mind knowing I’ve been faithful to all that He has asked of me.

 

There is no pressure, now, missing His calling. There is no need to fear NOT hearing His voice. There is no need to believe that I am somehow capable of messing up His divine and Holy plan. Though I may stumble, His Spirit will surely get me where He needs me to be in order that His plans unfold. My only aim is to simply do the following: don’t question the fact that He HAS called us and to take good care of the divine calling He has given us. The fact that He is using me tells me for certain… He is well aware that I’m human and that I’m probably going to need some guidance in getting to His end-point!  Oddly… that actually gives me peace of mind to accept the very real fact that – even in my mistakes – He will get me where He needs me to be! He has confirmed His calling to me. So why am I still sitting here? Man… I gotta get going!

Peace, Sean Gutteridge

Today’s Scripture:

Judges 6:13-14

13 And Gideon said to him, “Please, sir, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

14 And the LORD turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?”

Our Great Calling

NOVEMBER

Gideon: Reluctant Warrior/PART 1 [Our Great Calling]

IMG_2462God see’s things as they are in His eyes, NOT as they appear to be in our own. So who am I to call myself anything other then what God has called me? Will I doubt Him if He greets me as His “mighty man of valor”?

The Holy Spirit greets Gideon, reminding him that The Lord is with Gideon. The Holy Spirit also reminds Gideon of his true identity. 

In every situation, God is with us. In all things… everywhere we go… period. When the Holy Spirit approaches us, He always greets us the same way He greeted Gideon – by reminding us of our identity in Christ and reminding us that God goes with us in all endeavors that are HIS. When we face adversity, His strength is all that we need to rely upon.

So why aren’t we able to walk confidently in who God says we are? Embrace and relish the fact that God has called you to a task because He knows you are capable of accomplishing everything He has called you to do, otherwise He wouldn’t have called you in the first place. Sometimes I think God has more confidence in me then I have in myself. Other times, I think I don’t want to be what God calls me – I run from my true identity because I don’t want to do the hard work that is before me.

We have been called for this moment to serve God and His Holy Spirit confirms our calling with a strong reminder that our God is waiting for us to step into His perfect Will. The Holy Spirit has already prepared the way for us to deliver God’s message and perform His work for us that lies before us. Who are we to question who God calls and how He chooses to work? Who am I to say I am NOT whom HE says I am?

God has specifically chosen YOU today. It’s no accident He wants to use you, it’s very intentional. He has tasks for us today, tomorrow and beyond. But first, we must accept who we are according to Him. Be prepared to see yourself as He sees you. Be willing to be who He creates you to be, in the light of how His Holy Spirit has greeted you today. When we step into this identity, we will find it possible to do the impossible.

Peace, Sean Gutteridge

Today’s Scripture:

Judges 6:11-12

11 Now the angel of the LORD came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites.

12 And the angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, “The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor.”

The Progress of Many, The Power of One

In one year, we’ve seen a huge change already in this place

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011 – Ngariam, Uganda

There comes a point when feeding people just isn’t enough. Jesus fed the 5,000 but was that His real mission? His mission was simple: to expose humanity to a revolutionary and new kind of love, show that ALL men can find close fellowship with the Almighty God and then equip them to change the world by teaching these same Truths to everyone they come in contact with.

The people here have to eat. There is disease, death, sickness and starvation in Uganda. But more prevalent then these things are complacent feeling of apathy brought on by years of being pushed down and held back. These are a people who have given up and accepted that… this life is God’s best for them. There is no self-esteem. There is no drive to rise up. There is no reason for even striving for something greater because they’ve been told so long that this does not exist for them and they’ve heard that so much that they believe it to be true.

Jesus meets needs. That’s what He does. When He rolled up on those 5,000 hungry people gathered on that hillside, He met that impossible need. When He encounters a nation of impoverished and starving people, He meets that need. And when He sees you and I with our own daily struggles and pain, He will meet our needs. But Jesus isn’t solely in the “Needs Met” business. What Jesus Christ is really passionate about is equipping people with the strength to walk boldly in this newfound confidence that only He can bring. He wants to see people rise up and walk on their own – He said it at the pool of Bethesda to the lame man, “Pick up your mat and walk!” and even more incredible, Christ chooses to use the ordinary people of this world to accomplish this mission of His of meeting and equipping needs. Jesus meets needs to display His mercy and His power; He equips so that we may be able to become self – sufficient. Our longing to stay within His grip becomes more then duty or obligation but grows from a deep gratification of the power and mercy He first displayed in reaching out to us. I walk with Christ because I love Him and I truly know Him. But before I walked it was He who chose to raise me up.

The needs are vast

When we first arrived in Ngariam, the experience was overwhelmingly heart breaking. There was so much to do and the task before us seemed impossible. There wasn’t enough money to feed all those kids. Returning home, I racked my brain with this idea and that idea but in the end, I knew… there was very little I could do. Not smart enough or visionary enough to formulate some great plan to “end hunger in Uganda” but I also knew this: I could keep coming here, as often as I could, to at least do something. Still, I sold prints from my trip. I recorded a CD for raising money and awareness for Uganda. I talked and talked and talked about Uganda. I tweeted about Uganda. I planned on starting a 5013 – C (or whatever those non – profit organization thingy’s are called) because, heck… everybody’s starting one these days, why not me? Nothing seemed to work, however and I just seemed to be spinning my wheels. So I just kept trying to go again while desperately thinking of something huge that I could do. And the harder I thought the more frustrated I became. Then came the second trip and again… unbelievable how moved I continued to be. I felt “If everyone could just see what I’m seeing, here…” but coming home this time sent me into a deep depression and sense of failure. How could I NOT have some huge impact, there? I was obviously willing to go. But each time I came home, I still had the same struggles, slipped into the same routines of shallow consumerism. I started thinking that maybe these trips were some sort of way for me to feel like I was really doing something even though deep down I knew… this was a lie. The façade isn’t hard to imagine if you were to see into the deepest parts of my heart. Heck, I couldn’t even give up chocolate doughnuts for week. I cared about Uganda, but could I sacrifice everything for a cause God put before me if it ever came to that? I knew what the answer was before the question was mentally completed. There are people of great faith and then… there are the rest of us. The problem facing God is – there are more of “us” then there are of them.

The answer once again lay in the scripture. We don’t know what ever happened to those 5,000 people fed. We don’t hear about them directly, ever again in the bible. So what can we take away from this? Probably a lot, but for where I was, this is what I took from that passage as I began to relate to my internal “Ugandan Crisis”: Jesus has already met every need that I have ever had and will ever have. I am redeemed, I am saved and I am His child and I’ve promised to follow Him. Beyond that, I need nothing more. I don’t need comfort and I don’t need sleep. I don’t need good health and I don’t need to matter, outside of whatever it may be that He might call me to do for Him tomorrow. I don’t need money and I don’t need people to buy my songs. I don’t need fame and I don’t need to recognize or be recognized by anyone or for anything, except being a true Christ – follower. And His Love flowing through every part of me can only show that.

So here is the truly amazing thing about this year’s November trip to Uganda: change is happening. You must understand that following God into His mission field – where ever that field He has for you resides – will alter you. Just as Moses was literally changed after being before the Lord, God Almighty, we must also know that we too will be changed. To know whether you’ve been on a God mission, all you have to do is look in the mirror. If your first thought is “Who the heck am I even looking at?!” then you’ll know beyond any doubt. And these experiences will change you – inside and out. I’m changed. I don’t think the same; I dwell more on trying to figure out what God’s next plan of action will be – not for MY life, but for the lives He has asked me to help Him change. That’s change on a personal and spiritual level. But on a natural, visible level, we are seeing a great change in Ngariam, too. The people are beginning to stand up on their own. Where there was strife and some bitter resentment between parents of unsponsored children and those receiving sponsorship, communities are now coming together. As a church, we are doing well to continue keeping a steady presence, there, in Ngariam. What that does is show the people there that we are committed and we care. That’s the feeding of the 5,000. But the real change – that part where Jesus has spoken His message and sent everyone home to start living life in a completely different way? That is beginning to take place, too. The Work Program initiated by Tom Cox has given these people a reason to believe again, that life CAN be different. The Work Program has given Ugandan men back their pride through the opportunity for THEM to make a difference in their own communities. The Work Program has been the single biggest impact on this community because it IMPACTS the community. See, we began feeding orphans and widows and now, that Work Program has created working opportunities to also feed community children AND adults, alike through labor done by Ugandan hands. SO when we walk into a care point, we’re now greeted by screaming children AND an entire community. That’s real progress. When people who once argued about whether or not to sell us a bit of land versus giving us an unused field now argue about not giving us enough, that’s progress. We’re eating meals partially grown from the harvest that they’ve grown next to care point buildings they’ve built surrounded by fencing they’ve put up. Yes. We must keep feeding them. We must continue to help them find ways to provide better educational tools like paper and pens, by purchasing better uniforms and newer books. They need medical assistance. They need better water systems for irrigation and sanitation. The needs are still great. Jesus never stopped meeting needs, but at some point He turned to His disciples and said “Now you go and feed my sheep…” spiritually and physically. I am blown away by just how much has changed and I am convinced that these work programs remain at the core for seeing whole communities being dramatically altered.

They must take ownership

Will we be the 5,000? Or will we be the 12 helping Jesus feed the 5,000? It was His miracle, provided the meal. It was the hands of His disciples He used to serve it. Change will happen. Progress can be made. I see it in my own life and I’ve seen it in a starving country called Uganda. Tom has chosen to let God have God’s way with Tom. You and I don’t have to be anything more then who God called US to be; but there are a hundred or more out there in our church alone who are just like Tom – men and women who have the ability to hear God speak an impossible idea to them and then go out and trust that – it being His idea anyways – God will surely see it come to pass. I might not have plans to move to Uganda, but I know that I’d rather walk among the least of the 12 then lead the 5,000 homes on a full stomach.

We can’t raise their flag, nor can we raise up this nation of theirs. Only Christ and His Power can truly change Uganda. But we can be a small part of His plan to see this nation of His be restored and proud once more. I want to do whatever I can. I’ve seen what’s possible with just a small bit of faith and a little hard work.

In the Grip of His Grace… Peace. Sean Gutteridge

Sanctified Through Struggle

I struggle, at times, to understand God’s ways. I get that I’m not suppose to get that. Still… that doesn’t help ease the pain.

I Feel Like Im Always Walking Uphill... Both Ways!

I feel like I am constantly walking uphill… both ways! So where does my hope lie? In Christ. Okay, good. I’ve got that one. But who do I really trust? Of course I trust God but not as completely as I think He would like, and so… I must continue to endure these trials and the pain in this stupid world. I have faith, but my faith isn’t nearly strong enough yet. Certainly not as strong as God understands that it MUST be if I am to accomplish and see all that He needs me to experience and see. AARRGGGHHH!!! (Excuse me while I have my Charlie Brown moment…)

battling between this confidence in God...

...and anguish over things you cannot control...

I battle my confidence in God even as I anguish over things I cannot control. It is in prayer, before Him that He illuminates me: In order for my faith to grow stronger it must be put to the test. And when God sees that my faith has weakened – in any area – He immediately goes to work. And that is the depth of His Love for me. He simply does not stand idly by thinking “Well… we covered this… sure hopes he gets it… I’m sure it’ll all work out…” See, that’s how I parent. That is NOT how God parents. He is the ultimate “pro – active” Father. He gets involved, He gets in the middle of our mess, yet… He refuses to clean up what we’ve spilled. When we come into a saving relationship with His son, Jesus, we are ushered into a new family with a new set of values, standards and rules. We enter a family where growth is expected and demanded while value and self – worth are constantly re-enforced. Christ was the propitiation… that means “sacrifice” (I had to look that word up) for our sins. That means He paid the price so that we might be able to enter into this awesome new family. However; once we enter, God immediately begins the process of sanctifying us as members of His family. To be sanctified is to be made Holy, in the image of Christ, in order that we can begin behaving like members of that family are expected to behave. But here’s the interesting thing about sanctification: even after we enter into this new family, God never forces sanctification upon us. 1 Thessalonians says that it is God’s Will that we be sanctified. But the question is… is it my will? I must be willing to be sanctified before God ever begins this process and being willing goes far beyond a desire just to be holy… it is a conscious “choosing” where as I say to my heavenly Father “This is my will, this is what I want, to be made Holy. So do whatever that takes, God, to get me there.” I can’t try to pray more, or read the bible more, or even serve more in the hope of being sanctified. These things alone DO NOT make me Holy! These things are a reflection of my being sanctified by way of becoming more and more like Christ. Sanctification is the process of transformation from sinner to Son. The effect of sanctification IS a genuine desire to pray more, an authentic thirst for God’s written Word and an uncontrollable quest to serve where ever God’s own Spirit directs me.

My faith is tested in part, because THAT is necessary in this process of being sanctified. So that I may trust even in the midst of my tears. I weep knowing that God is firmly by my side and that Christ has already wept so long ago the stings of this life I now feel. He paid the price for my tears and my pain so that my suffering might only last but a moment in eternity. When I think of it like that… these temporary hardships seem much more bearable and…

… I can actually find Joy and gladness here… today. Not for the circumstances of my present but – thanks to the Atonement of Christ my Savior – for the certainty of my eternal future. And through this all, I smile, hoping to see that perhaps my faith tomorrow may be just a bit stronger from the pain and sorrow of today.

I am rendered speechless… for the divine nature of my God whom I firmly trust has revealed just a small fiber of His nature to me today.

And His Goodness is blinding…  SAG – October 2010

...His Goodness... is Blinding...!

SAG – October 2010

Wanted: Friendship (high maintenance individuals need not apply)

WANTED: LOYAL FRIENDSHIP!!! Apply Inside!

31 DAYS of WISDOM: A Month of Proverbs/DAY 27

(Proverbs Chapter 27)

“WANTED: RELIABLE FRIEND/TALKING OPTIONAL/LOYALTY A MUST/AVAILABLE 24/7 NOT NECESSARY/NEEDED ON OCCASSIONALLY ON WEEKENDS/LOW MAINTENENCE PREFERRED/LOOKING FOR LONGTIME COMITTEMENT”

The phone rings and my first thought is: “Do I time for the possible drama that might await me on the other end of that line?” I won’t tell you whether I take the call or not. The mere fact that I even hesitate to pick up is telling as to the kind of crappy person that I am.

I think face book and text messaging have killed the art of authentic friendship. Hey, I love face book, man! But only because it gives the illusion of me having lots of friends and people who think I’m cool. Regardless of what face book makes me think, I KNOW that I don’t have over 400 friends! I am NOT that delusional! As for text messaging, well… that was invented by a dude, I promise you. Some guy thought “Hey… what if I could come up with a way to communicate by phone without ever having to actually TALK on the phone?” GENIUS! You can’t exactly have a deep conversation via texting. (Though apparently you can have sex through text… don’t ask me how, haven’t figured that one out – nor do I want to.) Friendships seem to be a fading art. Or maybe it’s just that the modern – day friendship looks much different then it use to look. Call me old – school but I prefer friendships forged in loyalty and fused by the fires of truth and honesty. And you can’t find those in a text message, a tweet or a post.

What makes a good friend is seldom found, however, in words or even deeds. Your friendships are defined in those moments of testing and tribulation. I can always define the deepest friendships I have in circumstances where trouble abounds, whether they be troubles of mine or others.

Can you determine who your friends are? The next time you find yourself in the midst of tragedy or difficult circumstances, look around. Who calls? Who writes? Who takes the time to listen to your cries? Who brings you comfort without ever speaking a word? It’s amazing how quickly the guest list shrinks when you’re going through some crisis… even smaller does it get when perhaps you’ve done something wrong and it makes no difference that you’ve asked forgiveness or made amends. By nature, we cast the sinners upon the rocks tossing them over the cliffs. We wash our hands and walk away as fast as our feet can carry us. I’ve done it. I’d venture to say, well… we probably all have.

But its human nature, isn’t it? After all… friends don’t act that way. And we have this great difficulty with that little thing called “forgiveness”. The whole

“…forgive us our sin as we forgive those…”

seems lost on us. We kinda overlook that part. Man, I tell you, I have a hard time letting go of things. I got so much baggage that I can’t seem to drop sometimes I feel like I could open a luggage store for world travelers! Then there are those friends that do something just plain stupid. (I call it the human condition) There’s some great sin that is discovered, some moral stumble, some huge fall from grace – which, by the way, is a fall from HUMAN grace not God’s Grace… there’s a BIG difference – and what’s our reaction? Most people walk away. It’s easier that way, as if remaining somebody’s friend somehow means we condone a person’s behavior. Maybe it makes us uncomfortable. Maybe we just don’t know how to deal with it. And maybe it forces us to look at the sin in our own life and that’s just not something we’re prepared to do. But take a look at Proverbs 27:

“Wounds from a friend are better then kisses from an enemy” (v.6)

“The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume.” (v.9)

“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend” (v.17)

Our misguided definitions of friendship impale our ability to tell a friend the truth. If you can’t speak the truth to a friend… and if you can’t hear the truth from a friend… well, that’s not really much of a friendship, is it. That’s really what I judge my friendships on: if I think I can tell them something I don’t really want to tell them. Here’s a far more difficult question to ponder: what kind of friend are you? Recently, I sat on my couch late one evening and pondered this very question. What kind of friend am I? Do I take the time to listen to a friend’s problems? Do I reach out? Am I simply available with understanding, love, or compassion? Am I willing to risk a friendship to speak the truth? It says in (v.10)

“Never abandon a friend – Then in your time of need, you won’t have to ask relatives for assistance. For it is better to go to a friend then a relative far away.”

My Dog Likes Me... Mans Best Friend (long as I feed him...)

Friends don’t abandon friends. Period. You may not like what a friend does. Or maybe you’ve been hurt by a friend. I don’t think we are expected to continue to allow friends to hurt and abuse us. But we should never abandon a friend. I tell my son all the time “You can know who your friends are by how they treat you. Friends treat each other with respect and kindness.” If you have a friend that abuses you verbally, tears you down in front of others, and consistently behaves in a manner not consistent with the true values of friendship… that’s no friend. Friendship is cultivated over time and shared circumstances. And from time to time, friends let each other down. But patterns develop and as you look back on your friendships, when you see a consistency of love and support and exhortation, chances are you’re looking at a solid friendship. The best friendships are usually those found in a balanced pattern of give and take, very much like a great marriage.

THESE

ARE

MY BEST FRIENDS

Truthfully… I think I wear people out. Why? Well… I’m high maintenance and I’m a taker. I also talk a lot more then I listen. Hey… it is what it is…

but I’ve been working pretty hard on that these last few years! But here was another revelation that came to me sitting on my couch: friendships sometimes are seasonal. And sometimes, a friendship that perhaps once was balanced has somehow, over time, gotten to be out of balance. Is that an end to friendship? Not really, but maybe the friendship needs to be redefined simply because it can no longer operate the way that it once did. So take a step back and realize that… it’s okay for things to change. Allow God to help you navigate through that change and trust Him to bring you the support He knows you might need. We all need friends. God knew this about us – He created us for these relationships. The other thing God reminded me was this: ultimately, He IS the greatest friend I will ever know. And HE will never abandon me through anything. Jesus is a friend who sticks closer then a brother. Sounds like a pretty good friendship… after all, Christ died for that friendship.

As for me, well… I do okay. I just need to BE a better friend, that’s all. And for all my mistakes, I am pretty loyal and reliable! (Even though I talk too much!) Oh, hold on… excuse me while I answer this… I really need to take this call. My friend is on the other line!

Peace –

SAG – September 2010

Fear God and Conquer

Matthew 8:26

But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. (v.27) So the men marveled, saying “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”

I’m gonna tell you right now: the Sea of Galilee (where this passage took place) isn’t as threatening as I thought it would be. It was pristine, quite beautiful and… rather disappointing.  This is where Peter walks on water, where Jesus calms the storm, where Jesus finds Pete fishing again and asks him three times “Do you love me?” I picture a massive, powerful Sea with raging wind and huge waves. When I ask about this, the boat captain shudders and tells me: “Trust me… you do not want a boat ride when the storms pick up. It’s frightening.” Whatever, dude. I’m praying for a storm. I WANT to see Jesus walking across that water. I WANT to ride a storm out and show God how confident that I am in Him; that I am not one of “little faith”.

"You're going out there?" Pointing across the sea where Jesus did much of His ministry in this area

brothers on the sea of Galilee (I’m not pictured… too busy walking on water!)

Do you hear how stupid I sound? Uh, yeah… I know. At the first drop of rain, I’m the guy under the seats yelling “We’re all gonna die!” Because God sends storms in my life and my reaction is typically LESS then He would hope for. And when I see Jesus walking towards me through those storms and hear Him calling out my name to come join Him, I rarely get out of the boat. I panic more often then not. I cry like the little baby that I am and point my finger at God while saying “You don’t Love me, do you?! Other wise, You wouldn’t make me go through this!” I allow fear to over-run my faith more times then I care to admit.

What is it about fear? What a powerful and dominating force fear can be. It can literally paralyze animals and people alike. I call it the “lock – down” mode because I can feel myself “locking up” every time a storm approaches. “He’s going into lock – down… we better do something quick!”

Fear has no place in the daily walk of the believer unless it is a Fear of God. If I Fear God, that means I have an understanding of God – I have gained knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:5) In this state of existence, what possible outside forces should I then fear? As Oswald Chambers wrote, it must have been very disappointing to Jesus the lack of confidence these men had in His powers and abilities. They were his friends, the same guys who had witnessed first hand all that Jesus had already done. But what about the disciples? I wonder what they were feeling? How much greater must their pain been once the sting of this rebuke from Jesus hit them with its full force? (O. Chambers Journal; “The Theology of Rest”) Ouch. That’s all I’m saying. We’ve all felt that same pain ourselves. You know the moment. As soon as you’ve said or done a thing that is not so much horribly grievous as it is disheartening to the one it hurts, the one you deeply love and admire. Growing up, I always hated those moments when I had let my dad down much worse then doing actually doing something really bad. I can’t stand the wounded eyes of disappointment, alright?! Like… just yell at me or something but STOP looking at me like that!

My confidence lies in Him. The storm CAN seem frightening – but it’s looking through the storm that reveals who it is that is beyond the storm, over the storm and IN the storm with me. When I don’t believe I can over come some situation, or withstand a certain storm or come through a faith – blazing, fiery trial… I don’t really understand, yet, what it means to believe in Christ. We get this backwards… just as the disciples did. They followed Jesus but they had yet to arrive at the place where they truly believed IN Jesus and His Power. (Proving the scripture that it DOES take more then wonders and miracles to believe) And to be fair, it’s a process that takes going through many fires and surviving a life – time of storms. “I believe Jesus died on the cross – I believe He rose again – I believe in the communion of saints, in the forgiveness of sins, in the the resurrection of the body and life every lasting…” – it is this initial belief that securely saves the “un” believer, allowing him access to the Father through His son, Jesus Christ. Yet, old and new believers alike are faced with the same task from the very moment of their spiritual rebirth: learning to believe that Christ IS who He says He always has been; BELIEVING that He CAN and WILL do all that we claim and say HE can do.  We preach it to the world on Sunday mornings but are we living it out (through storms and sunny days) the other six days of the week? To know God is to Fear God. To Fear God is to understand God. And what we find in this channel of belief IS life… straight from the wisdom of God’s own mouth.

Life is Fear, but we need NOT fear LIFE. God will take me to the breaking point. It is when I finally DO NOT break that my true confidence in Him is displayed. There are things to pray for, pray over and pray about. We are human. I think God knows us well enough to know THAT. If there was no need to pray there would be no need for Him. But He is molding us and growing us in preparation for that day to come, when we permanently abide in Him throughout His reign without fear of anything BUT Him – a day in which we will have a FULL understanding of Him. In the meantime, it gives our Father in Heaven great moments of Joy when we are able to arrive at this place… even if only temporary. I look forward to the day when this place becomes my permanent place of existence. As for now, I’ll keep learning how to arrive at this place more often AND stay awhile longer!

The crisis shows… who I truly rely upon. There’s no room to fear both circumstances AND God. If I DO fear God there’s nothing left TO fear…

Sean Gutteridge – August 19, 2010

The Greatest Ambition

You begin by telling yourself, “They need this, this can help them, I’m needed over here…” It’s late at night when you are all alone with old music, smelly socks and your private thoughts. It slams home like a wave as suddenly as a rain storm hits from out of the clear blue skies in Colorado or a heavy gust of wind without warning nearly blows you over in Oklahoma: YOU need this. And believe me when I tell you… that’s not a happy thought. It’s frightening and overwhelming and it makes you want to run away and hide.

“All I really need is this thermos…

…that’s ALL I need…”

"I'm King of the..." oh, forget about it.

I Always Wanted To Fly... and be "King of the World!"

Everything I’ve ever wanted in life, well… I never got. I wanted a horse. Not a pony… I wanted a HORSE – that’s all I needed when I was a kid. I also wanted a 1967, 68 or 69 Mustang. I wanted to date the head cheerleader. I wanted be a famous movie star, I wanted to win an Oscar. I wanted to act on Broadway. I wanted more money then I knew what to do with so I’d never have to worry about where my next meal was coming from. I wanted my mother to stop drinking and I wanted to be wise like my dad. I wanted to be a great man like my grandfather, whom everyone loved and admired his entire life. I wanted so many things in life. I even wanted to fly – literally, fly, like a bird – and I wanted to matter in life. The hopes and dreams we share get scattered by the winds along with our innocence as dreams and ambitions fade into existence, crushed one by one. Yet, how can ambition be so bad? Is it something man – made or is it a God – given emotion, tangible to touch… something we must tame?

My dad use to tell me I should always seek God with my best and in so doing, try to be the best… that I could possible be. But he also said that only the fool wants to be “The Best”, higher then all others, number one in everybody’s eyes. The problem with being number one is: there’s always a number two right behind you trying to take your place.

Looking back, having my own horse would have sucked. We had no barn and that’s a lot of manure to have to clean up in my room every day. The head cheerleader isn’t half as good – looking as my wife, the published author of seventeen books (and counting). As for acting on Broadway, well, who wants to be surrounded every day by obnoxious Yankees fans? And being a famous actor has it’s problems, too. Just ask Mel and Lindsey. Famous people (especially in Hollywood) tend to be pretty jacked up. Money is money. The more you have the more you want, so in my older age I’ve come to terms that no one ever has enough of the green stuff except farmers. And winning the Oscar… there’s still a twinge there, but really… a gold naked dude on my mantle? Really??  I HAVE flown like a bird on 12 occasions sky – diving (and doubt I’ll get to lucky number 13), my mom has had a really good 24 months without alcohol. And only a life time will tell whether I find wisdom like my father or earn admiration like my grandfather.

There is a greater ambition; one that I’ve only dreamt was reachable for a fall – short kind of guy like me. It is an ambition where being first means putting self last; an ambition as ambiguous as a logical female; an ambition that changes worlds and humbles kings. The question is… do I have the courage to drink from the same cup that this ambition has been poured from?

Christ says in Matthew 20 v.27 that “whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your slave.” Jesus came to serve NOT be served. So what is YOUR definition of greatness? Is it serving others? Is it being ridiculed? Does it involve giving your life as a ransom for the sake others? This is the kind of greatness that is attainable. This is a greater ambition that I want to find, a kind of greatness found only within Christ. So many things that I wanted in the past, from my childhood even into today, have come up short and empty and leaving me disappointed. It seems everything I ever truly wanted has been kept from my heart… and yet… I have to wonder if perhaps everything I ever longed for might NOT have been what was best for my heart. Seeing someone you love self – destruct, well, it’s not that it is wrong to want them to be okay. My understanding is not Gods understanding and it is not my place to question the workings of my creator. An alcoholic drinks and destroys families. An infant passes away and devastates young parents. A mad – man unloads a gun stealing the lives of innocent children. A husband watches helplessly a wife stray into the arms of another man. What is lost in each event is the absolute lack of control to the one being hurt and the absolute control of a God who has the power to work all things for good. And all I can do is sit back and allow God to use me in each circumstance. My greatness is defined by the manner in which I trust God in every situation and the willingness of my heart to reach out to those God places upon my heart… regardless of the cost.

Let me be very clear: I am NOT great. But for the first time in my life, there is actually something that I desire that I may be able to finally have… if only I am willing to do whatever it takes to get it. The Great Ambition that I seek is attainable, but I must work as I’ve never worked, love like I’ve never loved and sacrifice all that I’ve never been willing to sacrifice if I am to reach it. No… they certainly don’t need me downtown at the Jesus House. They don’t really need me leading them in worship at Westmoore Community Church each Sunday morning and they sure don’t need me in Ngariam, Uganda. But I certainly need to be there for my own sake. I need them… and I need you more then you need me. And I’m good with that.

Live. Love. Serve. THAT is the motto of the Greatest Ambition through Christ, Jesus that I seek. If I can reach that, I’ll have all I need.

All I really want... is the 67 Mustang and my grandfathers character

Although, I wouldn’t mind having my grandfather’s character… or the 1967 Mustang. Heck… I’d even settle for the ’69…

Peace.

SAG – August 2010