To make real difference, you have to show up and speak up. Even during the storms. Even during the unknown terrain. Even during the pain. Even when you would rather stay curled up in bed with the covers over your head. Even when it’s not easy. Even when it’s not popular. That’s how you make a difference in your part of the world. Also God expects nothing less from us. So keep showing up and speaking up. ~OC
Today is Easter. I love Resurrection Sunday. A day to celebrate the Risen King. This year for the first time in many years, I will not be at church celebrating this beautiful day. No, because of the effects of Covid and double pneumonia, I will be watching Easter service online at home. I know a lot of people are also walking through their own storms on this Easter Sunday. So I want to try and encourage you this morning with a few thoughts.
I know it can be hard to find rest when you cannot find peace. I know it can be hard to find rest when there is so much turmoil raging in your life. The weight of those storms make you feel like you are drowning. The pain from those storms are breaking your heart and spirit. Life seems overwhelming. The stress feels overwhelming. The anxiety feels overwhelming. The pain feels overwhelming. The emptiness feels overwhelming. The depression feels overwhelming. The struggle is real. Life is hard. But there is Hope.
During the times when life seems overwhelming, I want to encourage you to run to Jesus. The One who hung on a Cross and laid in a tomb for three days. The One who died for all of those storms and struggles we face. The One who is patiently waiting for us to come to him and lay all our burdens down at his feet. Today is Easter. The day Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of the One who gave it all for us. I can think of no better day to come home to The One who is waiting with open arms.
Let me be honest before I finish. Just because you lay all your junk at the feet of Jesus, does not mean all that junk immediately goes away. Sorry for that truth. But I can guarantee you, when you decide to turn over all that junk to Him, your life will be filled with a beautiful Peace. Your life will be filled with new Hope. New Purpose. You will still have days filled with raging storms, but you will not be walking through those storms alone. No, you will have a risen King walking with you. A risen King holding your hand. A risen King guiding your steps. A risen King making a way for you during those storms of life. So I encourage you to come home today. To find rest in the Risen King. ~OC
For most 2020 was a year to forget. The Covid Pandemic turned most of the world upside down. We watched in horror as we watched so many people and families suffer tremendous suffering and lose. As my wife and I watched all this unfold, we were thankful that Covid19 had not touched us. Until it did.
On Super Bowl Sunday 2021, I woke up a little tired. It had been a long week so I did not think much of it. I took my temperature, but thankfully it was normal. I headed off to church excited for the day. You see, I am a life long Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan and they were playing in the Super Bowl. After church, I headed home and had a little pregame nap. When I woke up everything changed. I woke up with my shirt being soaked in sweat. I took my temperature and it was at 103,6. It would later jump to 104.2 and stay there for several days. I immediately went and had a Covid test. Of course this was on a Sunday, so my results would take a few days. I went home and basically slept through the Bucs winning the Super Bowl. Go Bucs!
On Monday morning I woke up feeling much worse. My temperature was now at 104.2. I also had a terrible headache, body aches, terrible cough and did not want to move. Later in the day, it was determined I needed to make my way to the ER. Once inside the ER, test revealed I had Covid and double pneumonia. I was headed to the Covid floor.
During my stay at the hospital I received Blood Plasma, Steroids and Remdesivir. Being isolated on the Covid floor was tough. When I have been hospitalized in the past, I was used to having visitors and walking the halls. This hospital stay was filled with staff in protective covering and closed doors. Complete Isolation. After more than a week on the Covid floor, I was released. Time to recover from Covid and double pneumonia.
After arriving home, I waited to get better. Surely I would feel better in a few days. But that has not been the case. Today is just under two months since my diagnosis. Unfortunately my symptoms have not gotten much better. My CT Scan shows my lungs are still filled with Covid. I am still dealing with headaches, breathing issues, cough, no appetite, hoarse voice, fatigue and brain fog. Most of my days fill like the movie Groundhogs Day.
My medical team has classified me as a Covid Long Hauler. Not a club anyone wants to be part of. Everything is wait and see at this point. So, what do you do with that news? When you cannot rely on anything that was once reliable. When you have taken every step you know how to take-what then?
You Hope. You Never Give Up.
My life is totally different than it was a few months ago. At times I stand up having no idea where I am going. Trying to process new information has become a challenge. But here’s some good news. God is still in control. His promises never change.
So, I will focus on the unseen. I will continue to pray with great expectancy to wake up one morning with no Covid symptoms. That day when I am renewed physically. But until that day, I will live in Hope. ~OC
“So no wonder we don’t give up. For even though our outer person gradually wears out, our inner being is renewed every single day. We view our slight, short-lived troubles in the light of eternity. We see our difficulties as the substance that produces for us an eternal, weighty glory far beyond all comparison, because we don’t focus our attention on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but the unseen realm is eternal. ~2 Corinthians 4:16-18
I thought you were a Christian, so…
How do you vote that way?
How come you hang out with those type of people?
How do you know rap lyrics? (Mostly 80’s rap).
How do you listen to non-Christian music?
What makes you struggle and questions today’s Church?
I thought you were a Christian, so…
How can you watch certain shows and movies?
How can you support those movements?
How do you not support certain political candidates or party?
Are you sure your a Christian?
I am a whole and imperfect Christian.
Has the church and its people forgotten what that means?
It means I need Jesus in every way possible, because I am a sinner.
It does not mean I have all the answers to life. It does not mean I have life figured out. It does not mean I suddenly like every Christian song or movie ever made.
It means one thing and one thing only:
I am a Christian because I love Jesus.
The truth is, I stray outside of the lines of American Christianity. I do not fit in a neat little perfectly wrapped box. I sometimes can be like that crazy relative we all have.
But that’s exactly what drove me to Jesus in the first place. His grace shines most in my shortcomings.
So if you see me trip up and get a little dirty, don’t assume that I have lost my way.
I am running toward Jesus, but it’s a long, long marathon. I am a Christian who desperately needs Christ.
So how do I respond when people question my faith? When they expect perfection from a deeply flawed individual?
Well, I keep loving Jesus, keep loving others, and keep leaning hard into Grace.
Because I know without a doubt I need Grace every day.
I love Jesus…but I refuse to live in that perfect little box. ~OC
Today’s a new day! God see’s the beauty in our broken lives. ~OC
Today’s a new day! The presence of a storm does not mean Jesus has left the boat. ~OC
At some point in this journey called life, we will face a giant. That giant could be a health issue, a financial need, a career decision or a relationship struggle. These giants can hit us out of nowhere. Sometimes we want to wish our giants away. But we know we cannot just wish these giants away.
Each day these giants are staring you in the face. These giants just will not go away. Sometimes these giants can define us. These giants can overshadow all the great things going on in our lives.
The giants can turn a beautiful life into a hopeless and joyless existence. So what do most people do when facing giants? We usually run away from the giants in our lives.
Where are you running to? When Goliath was raising havoc over Israel, the people were running away from this giant. Except for one boy. When David showed up he had a different plan. He decided to face Goliath head on. No running away for David. No, David had a plan. He had a sling shot and five smooth stone. He only needed one. Most importantly, God was standing with David. God had prepared David to take Goliath down. David decided to run towards what everyone else was running from.
Are you running towards your giant or away from the giant in your life? Our journey is not about running away from our giants, but facing them head on. Maybe we do not have a sling shot and stone, but we have to have a plan. When we decide to run towards our giants, we must run with purpose.
After you decide to face your giants, make sure your running towards God. Only through him can we face and defeat our giants. Trust God with the giants in your life. He will give us the tools to defeat every giant that comes our way. God is our safe place. When we are facing our giants, putting our hope and trust in God is the only way. God will give us victory over every giant we face in life. Run towards that victory. ~OC
Life is full of trials. My life has been marked by health issues. I have walked a 18 year journey of multiple life threatening health issues. But I have endured.
During these trials, I have been helped by the truth that Jesus endured his own suffering and trials. Scripture tells us that great joy gripped Jesus when he looked ahead to what his suffering on the Cross would accomplish. Jesus endured all that suffering knowing he was completing the will of his Father. Jesus endured the suffering on the Cross, knowing the joy his resurrection would bring for generations to come. We are still living in the joy of His resurrection in 2021. And most importantly, Jesus endured the pain of the Cross for the joy of one day being able to present his redeemed sons and daughters before his Father.
The suffering Jesus endured on the Cross was not a joyful experience. As we read in scripture, the pain was excruciating. But Jesus was able to endure. When we walk through the trials of life, we can lean into the promises of Jesus and endure. ~OC
Two Photos. Two Memories. Two Healings. This morning I ran my 800 mile of 2020. My Laura and I have experienced many ups and downs along our crazy beautiful journey. One of those ups is Laura Geddes Paez, pictured with Laura and I at one of our book signings last year. Laura P. was more like a little sister to Laura and I. Laura P. and her wonderful husband René walked through many ups and downs with us. In turn, we walked through some major storms with them. I remember when Laura P. got sick, we declared that one day when our bodies recovered from the battles we were facing, we would run a marathon together. We were both looking forward to that day. Last November, I received my healing. Earlier this year, my dear friend received her healing. Not in the way we had hoped. No, my dear sister received the ultimate healing. No more pain or suffering. So when I run, I am not running alone. No, my dear friend Laura P. is running with me. ~OC
Today’s a new day! Jesus might be using the current crisis and unrest to help us look more like Him. ~OC