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Monday, September 05, 2016

Tay's Purity Ring Letter for 13th Birthday...


As it is with most special things I’ve done with you and your sisters over the years, you’re the last one I experience it with every time.  I remember the same feeling with the daddy-daughter dances when you and I were taking that last dance and I realized I would never have this opportunity again.  I suppose that makes it special in it’s own way and I kinda like that we share that together.

I’ve thought a lot about this day for a long time…and when I say long time, I mean ever since you were born.  From the first day I laid eyes on your little 4 pound body, I began thinking about your whole life.  I thought about what your personality would be like, what your facial features would be like, what you’d grow up loving to do, what our relationship would be like and how it would be different from your sisters, and especially this day when I would take you out and give you your ‘purity ring’ spending some time telling you how much I love you and my dreams for your future.  It’s finally here.

What makes a purity ring special really has little to do with the ring.  I mean, it costs money and it’s made of gold and all, but it’s what it symbolizes that makes it really, really special.  Whenever you look at it, you’ll hopefully be reminded that your mom and I pray for you all the time.  We pray for your heart to be protected from sin and hurt so that it can be a pure vessel for God to use to help others in this world.  It’s so easy for your heart to be damaged along the way and destroyed by things you see, hear, or experience.  You need to know that we, as your mom and dad, have always prayed for God to protect you from anything that would make your heart hard and cause your heart hurt.

That’s why when the battle with fear overtook your life when you were little through Nathan’s accident and all the events that surrounded that, our heart broke for you and all the pain and heartache you were experiencing at a young age.  I remember wishing I could take it away from you and experience it for you if only to see you free from fear.  But for some reason, God allowed you to experience that and I believe it’s made you more sensitive in life, which turned what Satan meant to harm you into something God is using to help the world around you.  I say that to remind you that even if things don’t go perfect from this point on (and they won’t), that’s ok, God can forgive and heal and use you in spite of that. 

This is not a “perfection ring”, it’s a ‘purity right’.  I feel like I need to tell you that because you are a pleaser and you long to be perfect…and Satan can use that to really mess you up.  That’s why God has given us grace, so that when you fall down or fail, he is there to pick you up, brush you off, and give you a second chance.  I just don’t want you to feel like you have to be perfect…but I do want you to strive to guard your heart and keep it pure.  Your mom and I are still striving for that to this day and our parents are still praying that we will want to seek righteousness and holiness and purity and truth, instead of giving into peer pressure and temptation and sin.  I’m telling you that the pure life is the free life.  There isn’t any guilt or shame when you fight to stay pure.  It makes you feel alive and clean…that is more than money can buy…it’s priceless.

This ring is primarily to remind you to keep your mind and body sexually pure for your husband someday should God bless you with a man that loves you deeply and wants to marry you.  Our world says it’s no big deal to have sex before marriage and that you’re stupid to wait, but love waits…lust doesn’t.  I want your relationship with your future husband to be one that isn’t build on physical lust, though it’s ok to have crushes and be attracted to guys.  Lust is selfish and when you give into it, it ruins what love is, which is pure and selfless and sacrificial.  If there comes a time when you feel drawn to cross a line physically with a guy (which probably seems a little gross now), I hope this ring will remind you of your commitment to stay pure and to not have sex before marriage.  Your mom and I waited to have sex and it was probably one of the best decisions we ever made.  I remember looking at your mom’s purity ring her dad gave her and it reminded me to not cross boundaries with her even when I was tempted to.  I felt like I wanted to honor her by keeping her pure so that she could honor her parents and God.  So it was good for her to talk to me about her dad giving her the ring and what it meant for her…it guarded her until our wedding night.

There’s one last thing I want to say…and I really want you to hear this…ok?  There is nothing you could do to make me love you more or love you less.  You could mess up and break this promise to stay pure and I will not love you less.  You don’t have to hide from your mom or I thinking we will reject you.  We will ache and feel hurt, but we will never abandon you or heap guilt or shame on you.  We will hug you and remind you that God can cleanse you and purify you with his love and grace.  I have made many mistakes along the way and one thing I love about God is that he died for my sins…he doesn’t rub my face in them or hold them against me, he forgives and forgets…that is grace.  You need to know that if you break this promise, it’s not over.  You are not damaged goods.  We will forgive you and God will forgive you with an even more pure love than we could ever show you.  I just don’t want this commitment to be built on guilt…this ring is given to you as a token of love and protection.  You could never do anything to make us not love you…you will always be our beautiful and tender daughter and nothing you could ever do will change that.  Period.

And if a day comes in the future when you are married and you find yourself hurting or rejected or abandoned by the very people you trusted, whether it’s friends or even a future husband, I want you to know that we will always be here for you.  Even more than that, I will drive as far as I have to in order to find you and take you in my arms and hug you so that you know that you’re not alone, everything will be ok, and that God will bring you through your sorrow and suffering.  Wherever you go, you will never be far from our hearts.  Whatever you do, you will always be our little girl and we will do anything we can to be your biggest fans whether you experience exciting success or devastating failure.  We are only a phone call away and we will drop everything to be there for you.  No matter who comes and goes in your life, you will always be our daughter and nothing will ever change that.  Nothing.

I’m so proud of you and I hope this day that we get to spend together and this ring that your mom and I got you will be something you never forget your whole life.  You can’t believe how thankful we are for who you’ve become and who you’re becoming.  I feel like the luckiest dad alive and I love you with my whole heart.  I pray that your purity will give you a passion for God and the power to do anything you put your mind to.  Just know that your mom and I will be cheering you on as your biggest fans your whole life long.  You’ll always be our baby girl.  We love you, Tay!

With great love and pride,

Your Dad and Mom

Friday, July 01, 2016

Some Reflections on Life and Ministry…

Some Reflections on Life and Ministry…

-       Confluence is the best path to Influence.  There is nothing like a team win.
-       There is no trust without risk.  There is no love without hurt. 
-       It is better to be grateful than to be great.
-       There are times I’ve loved and lost…so love doesn’t always win, but that’s not why you love in the first place.
-       When you stop obeying God’s voice it won’t be long before you stop hearing God’s voice.  It’s called quenching the Spirit.
-       When I was younger I thought Lust would be my greatest lifelong threat; turns out it’s Fear.  There’s not even a close second.
-       The only way to stay present is to give thanks.  Daily gratitude grounds me.
-       I’ve always wondered why Self-Control is the last fruit of the Spirit mentioned.  It feels like the others are unsustainable, or worse, unachievable without it.
-       I’m grateful that God seemed to gravitate to passion more than perfection as he chose people to use in the Bible.  People who said, “Why me?” not “Pick me!”
-       I’ve noticed the people who make history create the future by changing the present.  
-       A good indication of who I really am is what I think about when I’m idle and what I do when no one’s watching.  I need to keep a pulse on these two realities.
-       I’m least afraid when I’m not hiding.  So it’s true: Nothing to hide…Nothing to fear.  Secrecy breeds Anxiety.
-       The only thing worse than people talking about you behind your back is not having anyone talk about you behind your back.  Going on the offensive with your life is always offensive to someone.
-       Don’t thank God for someone without finding a way to somehow tell them about it.  Encouragement that isn’t shared didn’t happen.  Our hearts are starving for kind words.
-       Giving the benefit of the doubt frees a person almost as much as forgiveness.  People spend so much time holding people hostage which means they are always at the prison themselves making sure no one escapes.
-       My wife is not a ball and chain; she’s my anchor.
-       My kids don’t keep me from doing what I want, they often show me how much I’ve been missing.
-       I feel most satisfied when I’m most sanctified.  A good heart produces a good life.
-       Sin—though it may not seem so to the senses—isn’t merely annoying me, it’s ultimately destroying me.  To think otherwise is foolish.
-       Love, don’t shove.  I’ve never seen someone transform via force. 
-       The church is at her best when she’s willing to admit and apologize for her worst.  Humility and vulnerability are magnetic. 
-       Truth will flex, but it will never change. 
-       A professing christian that doesn’t follow Christ is more detrimental to the gospel than a professing atheist.  I can’t even bring myself to capitalize the word.
-       The worst feeling at the end of a day is knowing I have spent my time but not invested it.
-       No matter how hard I try to avoid it, I always end up treating people as badly as I treat myself.  The harder I am on myself the harsher I am on others. 
-       I’ve noticed that most successful people are always busy trying to make everyone around them successful.  This is the secret of success.
-       The best feeling is the world is feeling like my home is a place of shalom.  Peace is priceless.
-       No one has ever created lasting family traditions without first creating healthy family values.  Traditions are spawned from an environment of relaxed respect.
-       Everyday I must work to eliminate the noise in my head so that I can hear the voice in my heart. 
-       There are days when it seems that all the human heart is looking for is a safe person to be one's self with.
-       Evil spelled backwards is Live.  This can’t be accidental any more than Stressed spelled backwards is Desserts.  It’s, at the very least, astounding.
-       There is no comfort like knowing there are people who will love me unconditionally even if I fail spectacularly. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Tithing Story...God Story.

This past year Heidi and I have made it a priority to give not just our tithe, but to give above and beyond when God prompts our hearts to give as we see needs around us. It was just something we felt stirred to add to our spiritual disciplines. But let me dispel a myth right away...upon this desire to practice more radical generosity, God didn't just open the floodgates and shower down financial blessing beyond what we could handle, in fact, just the opposite. Last year we experienced more mishaps and pitfalls, costly fixes and unplanned bills, than ever before. I think I'd call it fiscal hemorrhaging.

But we stayed the course in our commitment. We obeyed beyond what we saw and sensed...that's faith.

Fast forward to a couple weekends ago when we finished the "Blessed to be a Blessing" series at church...I was sharing at the Saturday Night service how God is a generous God and that this past year He was inviting the Holdridge Family to a deeper degree of generosity. It had been a tough year and many days I wanted to abandon the idea all together, but I know that sometimes you have to be "tested before you're trusted". If he can't trust us with what He gives us already, he certainly won't entrust us with more.

My prayer all year was: "God, I want to bless you so that you can bless me so that I can bless others." This prayer stayed with me all year.

So back to a couple weekend ago...I was sharing the journey we had this year as we stretched out to trust God not necessarily seeing immediate blessing, but wanting to obey His voice. The interesting thing was that my car that I just paid off was just taken into the shop that week because it was leaking coolant and the mechanic told me that there was a crack in the engine block and that the engine needed to be replaced to the tune of $3,000 to $3,500! Here I am sharing with our body the way God called us into deeper generosity and in my heart I was sorta feeling, "So then why is my car basically broken down and worthless now?" I was literally borrowing someone's car while ours was out sitting next to the shop waiting for us to either replace the engine or sell it for scraps.

After I got done speaking that night, I was mingling with people in the cafe' when a guy came up and handed me a check. As he was handing it to me he said, "My wife and I talked this afternoon and we haven't really done this much, but we felt strongly that we should give this to you tonight." I opened the check and it was $3,500!!! I stood there shocked that God would know our need and meet it so precisely. I knew He could do it, I just didn't think he would do it! (just being honest)

But that was just the beginning...

I was driving home that night and I got a message on my phone that someone needed me to call them. It was the guy who was letting us borrow his car while ours was out of commission. I thought, "He needs his car back." So before I got out of my car, I gave him a jingle. He answered the phone and to make a long story less long, he told me that he and his wife had talked that evening and felt strongly that they were supposed to give us the car that we were borrowing from them. WHAT?! But what he said next was the God-part of the conversation: "And if you end up getting your other car fixed, you can just give this to Kami as her first car." What he didn't know was that Kami was asking all week long, "Dad, I would love that car! It's so cute and perfect. Could we buy it from them?" I said over and over that week: "NO. Absolutely not! We don't even have two cars right now, we're not buying a third when our second car is dead! What are you, nuts? It ain't happening!"

After I hung up the phone I was utterly amazed that in a matter of 20 minutes someone handed me a check to cover the costs of fixing our car and someone else gave us a car. Kami wasn't going to believe it. I went inside to share the events of the last half and hour with my family.

I love sharing with our kids "God stuff" because I want them to know that God doesn't always answer our prayers according to our desires because He knows best, but sometimes he does more amazing things than we could even imagine to pray for. I would have never prayed for what just happened...I just don't have enough faith or imagination.

As I shared with Kami, she was ecstatic! I told her: "You remember how you kept saying this week, 'I love that car...I would love to have that as my first car'? Well, God heard your simple desire...not even your need cause you don't NEED a car, he heart your WANT. He cares about your desires. He heard you." It was a special moment I didn't want to pass by without giving glory to God.

But it wasn't over yet...

The next day the breaks gave out in Kami's newly acquired car and I had to take it over to the same shop where my other car was sadly sitting in the lawn. I told the mechanic that the brakes had completely gone out and needed to be looked at. He took a look and later that day called us and told us to come and pick up the car. We got out our credit card to pay for the brake fix and he looked at us and said, "This one is covered." We told him that we didn't want him to do that...that we could pay for it. He just looked at us and said, "I want to." We thanked him and walked out of the shop blown away that God kept going before us...almost like he just wanted to show off at this point!

But the story gets better...

One of our friends at church said to us that we should try a certain product that you can pour into your coolant that has fiberglass and aluminum chips that will sometimes clog the crack and take care of the coolant leak. He said it was worth a try, so I dropped it off at his house and he flushed out the coolant, put in brand new coolant, and dumped this miracle product in as well. He let it run for over and hour and said that it wasn't leaking anymore....that it looked like it did the trick!!

So for now, I'm driving around my car, (I don't know how long this quick fix will last), Kami is driving around her car, God took care of our brake bill through the generosity of our mechanic who was led to do it for free, and we have a $3,500 check that is in our bank account just in case our car eventually needs some work. Unreal!

I just wanted to share this glory story...because it's been a long year of sob stories as it relates to our finances. All I know is that whether God gives us anything in return or not, the blessing comes from faithfulness and obedience....but it sure is amazing when our loving Father shows us that he knows us and wants to care for us in a custom way literally proving his individual love for us as His children.

Friday, April 08, 2016

Talking to my Soul...

Just some of my inner dialogue as I start the day.  I have to talk to myself in order to not go insane.  This is a conversation I had with my Soul just this morning:

1. Why do overlook your blessings and obsess about your blunders?
2. Don’t you know how many people love you?  Stop and take stock.
3. Why do you vacillate between feeling bored or busy? When will you settle into feeling blessed?
4. Remind yourself of the power of your words…then tell someone how much they mean to you.
5. Trust the truth.  Even if it stings…that’s because it’s cleaning out infection.  Don’t always run away from pain.  Some pain is purifying.
6. Love your enemies. It’s the only way for them not to control your life and dominate your thoughts.  Wish them well inside your mind.
7. Leave everything better than you found it.  Whatever garbage is littering life as you walk through it, pick it up and get rid of it on behalf of the world.
8. Resistance means you’re moving.  Every vehicle gets great gas mileage when it’s idling.  Don’t try to conserve fuel, just make sure the fuel you use gets you somewhere meaningful.
9. Jesus’ definition of love is being full of grace and truth.  Eliminate either and you cease to have love.
10. You can do more than your lizard brain suggests, don’t talk yourself out of hard things…overcoming those things helps you to keep respecting yourself.
11. There is nothing that happened yesterday that a good time of confession before God and good night of sleep won’t remedy…don’t sweat it.
12. Don’t get caught up into the “how much-how many” game in leadership, live without guile and you will lead without guilt.
13. Trust more people because most people are trustworthy.  Don’t let the one bad experience define reality and the rest of your future.
14. Look for ways to give credit to other people and not to seek it for yourself.  This is the key to deep joy and deeper satisfaction.
15. Allow yourself to feel down for longer stretches.  Your heart needs to lament losses not just rush back into the arena to crank out more product.  Take care of your heart and it will take care of you.
16. Don’t cover up disappointment with helping others.  It distracts you from troubleshooting your own personal problems and really fixing them. 
17. Find out what is fun for you and fight to keep doing it.  Don’t let the duties of life drown out your desires and delights.  It seems to be the first cargo that people throw overboard when life gets busy.
18. Don’t keep lying to yourself about that hidden sin.  It may seem alluring, but it’s click-bait meant to get it’s grapple hooks in you and drag you to the slaughter house.
19. Make sure you take time to get to know the bats in your belfry.  Those boxes in your mental attic need to be sorted through and labeled.  Name each box and what it contains or the clutter up there in your noggin will scare you from going there and you need a clean mind to have a clear vision.
20. Do things that will cause you to look up to yourself.  You can’t keep doing things you know to be wrong and expect that to not affect your soundness of mind and sleep.  That’s just how it works.
21. Let that person go.  Make the attempt to repair the relationship and if it doesn’t pan out, don’t feel bad about not feeling bad about their self-destructive choices.  It’s not your problem if you’ve made an attempt to make amends.  Some people don’t want to fix things as hard as it is to believe.
22. Forgive people especially if what they did really hurt you.  You can’t let them steal any more of your life away through unforgiveness.  Do it for you.  You need to be freed to lead and you can’t do this if you’re being motivated by radioactive resentment.
23. Give things to people with no strings attached.  We were meant to do this and you don’t know it until you actually do it.
24. Devote your life to the pursuit of joy.  Not just pleasure or happiness, but joy.  Count and recount all the things you have to be thankful for and take joy in them.
25. Don’t feel guilty about taking care of yourself and doing what you enjoy.  You’re of no help to people if you don’t feel alive in your living.
26. What scares you?  Move toward that and wonder about what it would look like to overcome the fear with faith.  Most of it is in your head and when you conquer your fears there is a release of power that is needed to survive in this life.
27. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Not asking for helping is probably the most professional form of pride.
28. Be liberal with compliments.  Lower your standards for what you’re looking to see happen before you dole them out.  Look for the little things and make much of them.  People aren’t getting affirmed or appreciated like you think they are.
29. If you’re rich, try to place yourself in the shoes of someone who isn’t and respond to God’s prompting.  If you’re shy, put yourself in the shoes of someone who isn’t and respond accordingly.  If you’re young, imagine what it must feel like to get old and follow whatever your heart says to do next.  This simple act holds the world together.
30. Let people know how much they mean to you on a regular basis.  Never miss an opportunity to fill people in on their meaning in your life.
31. Get your priorities straight without delay…1. God 2. Marriage 3. Kids. 4. Everything Else.  Jesus said ‘seek first the kingdom of God and everything else will fall into place’.  If you know your ‘priorities’ you are more likely to succeed in life.
32. Celebrate small wins by pausing and saying, “I did it.  That felt good.”  You may be the only one that ever sees all the little victories along the way…so take time to congratulate yourself and then get about the business of getting comfortable in thankless obscurity.
33. Stop doing things that contribute to feelings of self-hatred.  Whether it is laziness, watching too much TV, drinking too much beer, disappearing on your family, trolling Facebook, obsessing over politics, being greedy instead of generous…begin to remove these parasites that are sucking the lifeblood out of your existence.
34. Invest in the next generation.  Stoop down to let that little girl know that her dress is pretty.  Tell that young boy that he did a great job.  Stop a teen in the hall and let them know you love how they seem to care about others around them.  Don’t let them create their own world hived off from the generation before them.  Pursue them.
35. Give away money to things that mean something to eternity.  Only then will your money have meaning, which fascinatingly enough makes your life feel more meaningful and less miserable now.
36. Ask God to do a miracle once in while.  Don’t be afraid of being disappointed if he doesn’t answer your every request like a genie.  He won’t always move your molehill, but he seems to get a kick out of moving mountains.  Learn to pray for things He cares about…there’s a better success rate in answered prayer when you start with that premise.
37. Don’t take yourself so seriously…people can’t stand to be around people that are always uprightly uptight.  You’re not as big a deal as you think and the sooner you embrace that, people will gravitate to the light of your lightheartedness.
38. There is no more generative attitude than gratitude.  Live with poised positivity and wide-eyed wonder and you will find yourself in the presence of greatness without ever fighting to get there.

39. Above all, live for the pleasure of God.  There is nothing so fulfilling as the deep sense that you’re pleasing your Creator by making his dreams come true by living out his designs and desires for your life.  That is my experience anyhow.