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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

New site

The new site is fully operational now with subscription capabilities and regular updates. Thanks for checking us out here. Please drop by the new site to continue to follow.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New Site

Hey friends. Thanks for stopping by to check out the blog. I'd like to invite you over to our new site. Our blog is now hosted there at the Ridley Barron Ministries website. There you can read the blog. We will have RSS capabilities soon and you can check out all the other stuff that is going on with Lisa and me. Thanks for being a follower of the blog and, as always, I welcome your thoughts on topics you'd like to hear about. Take a look and give me your thoughts. God bless!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Voice

I don't think I've talked much about our family pet on here. In fact, I don't think I've mentioned him at all. His name is Tuck (named by Lisa after we first got him because of his affinity for tucking his nose into tight places and going to sleep). He is part Maltese and part Shih Tzu. Did you ever wonder where a name like Shih Tzu came from--did someone sneeze and decide that it would be a great name for a breed of dog? Ah, but that must be the cold medicine talking. Back to Tuck.

Tuck and I have a special relationship that frustrates the rest of the family. You see, like all dogs, Tuck has to be escorted into the backyard throughout the day to take care of personal matters. When others take him out, it's not unusual for them to come back in the door exasperated and sweaty from chasing Tuck into the street, the neighbor's yard, or the field behind our house.

Not so with me. In fact, when one of the kids can't get Tuck to respond, they'll often call me out to get him to come. It doesn't work all the time and occasionally he has run from me. For the most part, though, when he hears my voice, he responds. Whether it is in the house or in the yard, he knows my voice.

He's laid up in my lap right now. Tossed over on his back with all four paws up in the air, he is sound asleep. He almost looks dead. However, if I spoke right now and asked him if he wanted to go outside, I have little doubt he would stand, stretch (yoga-style) and trot to the back door.

It made me think of this verse.

3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. 5 They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.” John 10:3-5 NLT

A good measure of your relationship to anyone--including God--is how well you know their voice. My kids know when I call them from downstairs. My wife doesn't need caller ID when I call her on the phone. My dog can detect me from across the yard. And those of us who are truly following after God will learn to hear His voice whenever He speaks. Make no mistake about it, He will. I pray you are able to hear His voice when He does.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Infections

I've got one of those sinus infection "thingies" going on this morning. Actually, it started yesterday and I tried to wish it away. So I got up, went for a run, finished cutting the grass and worked my way through Monday. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't fight off what seemed to be inevitable. It probably wasn't helped by playing a double-header last night in the Middle Tennessee heat.

So, this morning, I find myself working from my "bed office." I can't stand it. I've always said I'd rather pull a muscle or break a finger than to have a sinus infection. They drive me crazy--raw nose and all. I think it's because when you pull a muscle, you can kind of accommodate the problem...maybe limp a little or limit your use of that part of the body. Not a sinus thing. You can't exactly stop breathing. So, the nose keeps dripping and the body keeps aching from this stupid infection.

Infections are the same no matter where they are. They can sap your energy. They can cause you to operate at half speed (or worse). And they require all the effort of the body to fight them, drawing resources from other areas.

Did you hear me say that infections are the same no matter where they are? Not just in the human body. In your organization, in your family, in your circle of friends. Infections (those people who have negative attitudes or bitter hearts) can rip your family and ravage your church. They sap the energy from the group, cause it to limp along at half speed and require resources from other areas to be concentrated on them.

No matter how hard you might wish them away, they can't be ignored. The only answer--fight them. In my case, it's fluids, anti-biotics and lots of rest. But to fight your own special "infection" you may have to have a hard conversation and stand up to the one who is bringing the organization down. The sooner, the better. Especially when it comes to my sinus "thingy."

Monday, August 08, 2011

Your story

I've been reflecting on something the last few days while I was in Georgia with Lisa at my mom's house. It is truly amazing how one person's story effects others. I know that I have spent the last seven years watching as Josh's story has touched thousands of people. I am thankful that God has given me that opportunity. I've also seen how Lisa's story has impacted hundreds of women as she talks about God's grace through very difficult times. This weekend, I was thinking about how my life was touched by the countless stories of the people of Honduras.

A young, single mom who goes weeks without pay to continue to serve these orphan children. She gives and gives when she, herself, is in need of provision.

A young boy whose parents throw him down a well because he is not what they expected in a child. His mild learning disabilities "disqualify" him from being part of their family.

A 14 year old who has come to the home to be away from her family, a family that forced her into prostitution to make money for their drug habits.

A young man who stands in the mud of his village where he is raising his family of 6 in a one room hut with no electricity, no running water. He smiles with pride at me as he shows off his beautiful children.

Two questions I have to ask. What's your story? How are you using it to impact others? All of us have a story. Every day that passes, another twist in the plot unfolds. But stories aren't written to be kept on a shelf. They are shared with others to make an impact. To change the reader in such a way that the story never leaves his heart or mind. What will you do with God's story in your life? Others are watching, waiting, wanting to read. Wanting to be changed by who you are and what God is doing in the pages of your story.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

A great week in Honduras


It is a surreal experience riding through the Honduran countryside in a giant yellow school bus. There is absolutely no telling what your eyes will see. From the menagerie of animals alongside the road (I'm not talking about the fields beside the road. I'm talking about standing at the edge of the road) to the myriad of houses and shacks and lean-tos that dot the landscape. But this is where I found myself with my family on Tuesday.

We were wrapping up the last hours of a nine-day mission trip to the northern part of the country. I can't tell you the full impact of what I experienced last week nor can I adequately put into words how it touched my family. I can simply say we left El Progresso changed. How can you not be? I have a different understanding of many things. I reflected on them as we made our journey on Tuesday.

I know what intense poverty is. It's not having to live with basic cable; it's living without ever seeing a television. It's not having to trust in an unreliable vehicle for your daily transportation; it's walking everywhere you have to go no matter how many miles that may be. It's not relying on the government to give you food; it's going without food because the government is too poor to provide for its people. It's not your inability to pay the water bill; it's having no source of fresh water to draw from at all. I don't make these statements to down play those who live in more moderate levels of poverty. It's just to say that when someone is considered poor because they only have one TV or ride the public transportation or live in a two-room house, we are fooling ourselves.

I also learned the international need of belonging is best met with the international language of love. Like my friend, Pepe. Pepe is a 12 year old young man who lives in an orphanage just outside El Progresso. His smile could light a thousand villages and his heart overflows with love that he wants to give to somebody. For his privacy, I won't share the details behind why he was there at the home. Suffice it to say, he's there. And if it weren't for customs agents and international laws and restrictive adoption policies, he'd probably be here at my house today (at the unanimous pleading of all 6 of the Barrons). He might not be the only one.

Yes. It was a very good week. And it would be a great tragedy for me to come home and be unchanged by the faces and stories of people like Moises and Gabby, Julie and Wendy, Marvin and Luis. But a greater tragedy would be if I failed to tell you that they exist--along with billions of others like them on the planet. And you and I can make a difference. It might be by giving. It might be by going. You choose. But to ignore the "least of the little ones" as my grandmother used to call them, would be a sin in the greatest of proportions.

Anyone who sets himself up as "religious" by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world. James 1:26-27 the Message

Monday, July 25, 2011

Here we come..

The final articles of clothing are being tucked away in the suitcases and we've double-checked our passports and our backpacks for the necessary items. There is a huge sense of excitement around the Barron household today as we get ready for our first--and I hope its the first of many--family mission trip. That's right. All six of the Barrons will be headed out with other team members from our church to Honduras. For the next several days we will be serving alongside each other in an orphanage and a small village of under-resourced families.

I'm telling you this for three reasons. First, we covet your prayers as our team loads up and heads south tomorrow morning. Pray for us as we serve this week and as we return at the end of the trip. We'll need strength and health and energy. Most of all, I want all of us to be a pure reflection of Jesus as we go. I want us to love the Honduran people as we minister to them and with them this week.

Secondly, I imagine you'l hear some about this trip when we get back. I'll have much to say so I'm giving you advanced warning about where we are going and what it is we are doing.

Third, I mentioned that I'd love for this to become a tradition for our family, even as our kids get older and have children of their own. Wouldn't that be a cool way to pass along the love of Christ to your family--to serve alongside them as you act out Christ's love for the world? So I mentioned it so you could pray about the idea as well. Maybe God would lead you to take your family, a group of your friends or some co-workers to serve some place where there is a need. It doesn't have to be around the world. It could be across town. I'm pretty confident that God would love your willing heart. I'm even more confident that, no matter where you live, there are abundant needs that you could help meet. Give it some thought. Better yet, give it some prayer.

Here's a bonus reason. If you're my neighbor, don't forget to keep an eye on my house while I'm gone. If there is a really crazy party going on, it's not me.

Friday, July 22, 2011

They get it

In the speaking that I do for healthcare professionals, I work to encourage and challenge them on the quality of care and the safety they provide to their patients. One of the things that has become very apparent to me is the importance of remembering one simple but significant fact--we are all people. We (neither the medical professional nor their patient) are not numbers or statistics or cases or events. We are people. When a tragedy strikes in a hospital, people from both sides of the bed are impacted. There are victims in all corners of the "room." I think coming back to this simple truth is a huge first-step in changing the way healthcare--and life in general--are done.

So, I love it when I see an organization or a wing of a hospital or a team of professionals or an average family that gets it. And I love to applaud them when they do. This week was just one example of a group of people understanding how important it is that we treat each other with compassion.

Lisa and I were with the associates of Christus Spohn Health System in Corpus Christi, Texas. They are a wonderful group of people who are, honestly, trying to bounce back from a rough period in their recent history. I think they are making incredible progress and, based on what I heard this week, will rebuild the trust and quality that they are desiring for an organization. In our time together, they shared "Mission Moments"--highlights of moments in their six hospitals that capture the heart of their mission. Let me share one with you that should remind ALL of us what it means to love others.

They had a patient who was to be terminally extubated--a fancy way of saying that the lady was approaching the end of life and the tube keeping her alive was to be removed. As fate would have it, her husband of 62 years was a patient on the second floor of the same hospital. One very in-tune nurse made the connection between the two and put a plan into motion. This hospital has one particular room with an amazing ocean view--the kind you would pay top dollar for in a local hotel. It actually was the room next to the gentleman's and was empty on this particular day. The nurse got with his team and made arrangements for the couple to be brought into the room for their last moments together. Their beds were arranged so that the two could look each other in the fac --one's head at the other's feet--as the last few minutes of their life together passed. Family was brought in. Pictures were taken. Memories were made. And, as one patient's life came to an end, another's was filled with some final memories that would have never happened if not for this nurse and his team.

Life is fragile. And it is filled with plenty of challenges and changes. We can't avoid them or ignore them. What we can do is empower each other to traverse these rough patches in our journey by bearing them--the pain, the sorrow, the loss and the grief--together.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Self-control (for men)

Peter and Paul both wrote about self-control a pretty good bit in the Bible. In their letters, they encouraged readers to pursue self-control and teach others to seek the same fruit for themselves. I've been thinking about that throughout today as I've contemplated the significance of that trait, especially for men.

In a world looking for role models that are worth following, self-control seems to be a disappearing trait. I think that's the reason why the sports page looks like a police report these days. It is why men struggle with secret sins or failed attempts at greatness. What can't be controlled cannot be used for good. And, for many men, the desires of self are the greatest obstacles we face as we strive to be what God created us to be.

It is our desire that drives us to bitterness, rage, lust and war. It is our desire that keeps us from realizing the dream of family, relationships, careers and commitment. Stephen Covey once wrote,

You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage--pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically--to say 'no' to other things. And the way to do that is by having a bigger 'yes' burning inside. The enemy of the 'best' is often the 'good.'

Self-control is the art of deciding what is most important for you and allowing nothing to keep you from fulfilling that dream in you. If I want to commit to my marriage and it is the most important thing for me, then other women, my career or my fantasies will not force me to become distracted. That means I am willing to take whatever steps, whatever measures necessary to avoid the traps of "good" when "best" awaits me.

Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life and have it to the full." (My translation: I've come to take your good and turn it into my best)

Guys, we've become distracted. Dare I say out of control? At a time when our families need us, our kids are looking for direction and our culture is eroding away, we've convinced ourselves that our self-worth (and, therefore, our purpose) is found in money, power, prestige, popularity and comfort. Nothing could be further from the truth. Guys, don't fall prey to the distractions of this world. Money disappears. Power is fleeting. Prestige only lasts as long as you have the attention of a world with A.D.D. Nothing will satisfy you more than the pursuit of God and His Kingdom. That pursuit cannot happen without self-control.

Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You're not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It's the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won't last forever. It won't be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does. 1 Peter 5:8-11 The Message

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Good knees

It's that time of year again. Around the first of the summer, I dust off the glove and try to coax my body back into playing shape for softball. We're about three weeks into our season and I must tell you there are parts of my body that I didn't even know could hurt this bad. For as long as I have played sports, I've played with one style--get as dirty as you can. By the end of last week's games, I looked like the old "Pig Pen" character from Charlie Brown. I was covered head to toe with the dirt from dives and tumbles. Lisa even hosed me down on the back porch before she let me inside.

So, by Tuesday morning (and even still today) my body was screaming--"Hey, I'm almost 44 years old, you goofball. Take better care of me!!" Joints creak. Muscles are as tight as they can be. It takes me about 30 seconds to straighten my back every time I sit for longer than 15 minutes. I love it! Yeah, I'm tired of the aches and pains...but I'll be right back in the dirt of my shortstop position next Monday night. And there's a good chance I'll be sore by Tuesday morning.

Then I read this passage in the Bible this morning.

Therefore God exalted [Jesus] to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11

I had a funny thought when I got to that bold-faced part. That includes me. It says every knee will bow. Every knee! And it doesn't say one thing about struggling to get back up...or creaks and groans...or pains associated with bending joints that are worn out! I'll bow. Just like every one else. Isn't that cool? This old body won't need dusting off any more. I'll get a new one. With it, I will worship alongside people from every nation and tribe and race...and I'll smile as I kneel on knees that are pain-free.

Monday, July 11, 2011

I told you so

Don't you just hate when someone says, "I told you so?" The implication is that they were right and you were wrong, that you somehow missed the mark with your information. Even worse, it shouts, "If you had only listened to me, I could have saved you a whole lot of heartache."

I've heard that phrase over the years in a ton of different settings. My older sisters used it on me at an early age as the sibling rivalry heated up around our home. Friends would use it at school as we would debate the important things of life--"Could Mark really down two chocolate milks in less than 30 seconds without puking in the lunchroom?" There were parents, coaches, teachers, professors--all who shared their knowledge with me and then reminded me how wise they truly were with the phrase. I've used it myself more times than I would probably care to admit. It can be annoying, especially if the end result of our ignorance is a costly embarrassment.

So, imagine my surprise this morning when I found someone else using it--someone I really wouldn't have expected. Jesus.

See, I have told you ahead of time. Matthew 24:25 NIV

Okay, he didn't use the exact phrase. And I'm quite sure that Jesus wasn't trying to boost His self-confidence by proving His point. He had just shared His description of future generations, specifically those that would be a part of end time events. Just before He warns us about others who would try to lead us astray with false claims, He tells His disciples, "See, I have told you..."

Let's be honest. This isn't the only thing that God has told us. His word is filled with encouragements, warnings, teachings and principles for living. The problem for us, for our world, is that we have simply chosen not to listen. The embarrassment is ours because we choose to ignore the wisdom. The truth is you and I can't really ever look at God and ask, "Why didn't I know this? Why didn't you tell us it would be this way?"

I think He will simply say, "I told you so."

Friday, July 08, 2011

Real men...

I just wrapped a great time with a friend of mine this morning. It was actually supposed to be a golf game but God had other things in mind. So, we chatted over a breakfast sandwich and bottle of water. This guy is a true friend and brother of mine and, as we are prone to do when we are together, our conversation turned to our personal faith journeys.

We started talking about the challenges of being a man in this culture. Let me be perfectly clear. Brian and I agree that being a pure man in this culture is stinking hard. Every where you turn, you are slammed with images of women who are half-dressed (if you're lucky). It's on TV, in magazines and papers, at the movies and...on the pew next to you at church.

I don't believe this is by accident. I was talking with a lady yesterday who was expressing how much she desired her husband to be a leader for her family, a spiritual leader. Any good enemy knows that the best way to destroy your foe is to take out the leader. That's exactly what happens when men compromise their purity by taking just one more look, a lingering gaze, a second trip through the website or justifying what they watch with "it's just part of the show." What happens--whether we want to admit it or not--is that guilt comes in. Guilt keeps us from leading and leaderless families exist in a state of chaos.

You can list a 1000 problems our country faces (most of which I would agree are problems). They include a sense of entitlement, poor work ethic, lack of respect, loss of integrity, drop in education, too much debt, too little income and not enough common sense. Strangely enough, I believe that the core of most of these problems can be traced back to homes where dad just isn't getting it done as a leader. Here is the thing that may shock some of you. I believe most of these dads want to provide for and protect their families. They want to lead. They want to do the right thing. They just don't feel competent.

The media has emasculated most dads by making them look like buffoons on sitcoms. The education system has become more about teaching to a test rather than teaching people how to be life-long learners. Technology and convenience have removed most men from the accountability and mentorship of wiser, older men. We are throwing young men to the dogs and then scratching our heads when they don't come back as 5-star fathers. Here is what you can do to stem the tide:
  • Pray for the men in your life. Soldiers die protecting their leaders. We should be willing to do the same for the men (husbands, fathers, brothers, Congressmen, Presidents) in our lives.
  • Encourage these men to seek the counsel and accountability of others. Do not let them isolate themselves from other men. We need that fellowship.
  • Help your men "purify" the culture in which they live. Throw out the bad influences. Eliminate the temptations. Applaud them when they do the same and encourage them when they are struggling.
  • Be good followers. Whether its your father (who deserves your respect no matter how old you are) or your husband (who longs to fulfill a role he has probably been ill prepared for) or your pastor, don't follow him without questions. Follow him with integrity. You'll learn the difference.
Men, here is my challenge to you. Demand purity...for yourself and all those who surround you. Sink yourself into the only handbook ever written for how to life life on this earth--the Bible. Trust yourself completely to the fellowship of other guys who long to do the same. Be courageous. Following Christ is not for the faint of heart. There is no room for sissies!!

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

The Art of Encouragement

I learned the fine art of a cut down early in life. I learned it from some of the best. Like many of you, I cut my teeth on sarcasm in elementary school--an occasional jab here, a nice slam there. All of us would play to the crowd. The more "oohs" we got, the more important it was that we come back with another good one.

Then there were the TV shows. One of my favorite was "Welcome Back, Kotter." It was a story of a young man who returns to his old neighborhood to become a teacher. The class room became a testing ground for some of the best "slams" ever heard to mankind at that point. "You're so ugly..." or "You're so short..." became standard fair in our playground chatter or our lunchroom battles.

The sad thing is, many of us never grew out of that mentality--cutting others down so we could feel better about ourselves. Sure, we've grown up to more "adult" phrases. Our "You're so short..." has progressed to "You'll never guess what they did." But it's a put down nonetheless and it's sole purpose is elevating ourselves at the expense of others. It's good for a few laughs and many people can take it without letting it get personal. But as I watch another generation of kids grow up with "Yo mama" jokes and similar slams, I wonder how far removed we can become from what God intended us to treat each other like.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up... 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

I love a good laugh just like anyone else. But I also remember the times I've been on the receiving end of hurtful jabs. Like most of you, I laugh it off and pretend to move on. But words can sting and wound the soul. How much better would our lives be if we could find the lost of art encouragement again--if we could rediscover that ability to lift others with our words and encourage them to face another day? There is enough in this life to put us down and keep us there. There is no challenge in joining the crowd when it comes to belittling others. Learning to use our words as gifts that bring healing is an art worth rediscovering and one that should be applauded in others when we see it taking place. I hope you hear the words of encouragement you need today.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pursuing a dream

My family has gotten caught up in this summer's version of the "America's Got Talent" TV show. If you have never seen the show, you should give it a try some time. I find that we watch just to see the crazy things people will do for their 15 seconds of fame. Believe me, some of the acts border on the line of true insanity. It's a hoot!!

Last night's episode was much of the same thing. Every thing from magic tricks to dance teams to attempts at singing filled the hour long show. But one of the first auditions of the night caught my attention because it was a little different.

The lady was a 42 year old singer. She had always dreamed of being a singer but her parents had basically told her "no" all of her life. Others came along and reinforced the message. When she took her first voice lesson in her late 20s, the instructor even told her that it was much too late for her (hope she got her money back). Everyone watching was prepared for the worst. Let's face it, when mom and dad tell you no, there is probably a good reason for it.

This lady silenced the place with her incredible voice. Even though I'm not a fan of opera, I was as floored as the crowd was at the event. While she sang, no one made a sound. Even the judges were blown away and joined the standing ovation as the final notes drifted to the floor. It was beautiful...and the emotions that spilled forth from that little lady as the applause thundered told a beautiful story.

It made me think of millions of others like her who never have the courage to chase their dream. They spend more time listening to the chorus of voices telling them they will never be good enough. Even the ones who should be on our side can turn against us and stand in our way as we pursue the dream. For many, that is where it ends. The dream fizzles. The passion fades. Our voices never sing one note of one chorus.

Now, I'm not advising you to ignore good wisdom. The counsel of wise friends has saved me from embarrassment more times than I can remember. But when God gives you the dream--when it is clearly His voice that issues the call--don't let anything keep you from pursuing it. This world would be a far different place if not for the men and women who refused to listen to the crowd and chose to follow His voice. At the end of the day--no, at the end of every day--we perform for an audience of One. I can assure you that no matter what the sound is that comes from your life, He stands over you and applauds you--not because of what you've done but because of His deep love for you.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Kingdom

I was eight years old the first time I got to visit the Magic Kingdom. I will never forget what that experience was like. Just like millions of other kids who have walked through those gates, I thought I had found the perfect place.

But the weeks leading up to that visit were like a young child's personal hell. I was convinced that someone had fooled with every clock and calendar around my house. There was no way it should be taking this long for the days to pass. With each day's end, I would mark one more day off, bursting in anticipation of what this World would be like. I had heard the stories from friends and family. I had seen the brochures and was a regular watcher of "Wonderful World of Disney" each week. Heck, I even knew the names of most of the Mouseketeers.

So, when the day came, I was sick to my stomach with excitement. You can imagine me standing on my tiptoes trying to see through the crowded monorail car, yearning for that first look at the Kingdom. It was stinking awesome!!

Now, would you think I was crazy if I told you that I got to the gate, after all that waiting and anticipation, and returned home without going in? You would think to yourself, "What!? Are you insane? You missed the best parts." And you'd be right.

I feel like many people today have that kind of experience with God. Most of us know "about" Him. We've heard the stories and the confessions of others who have experienced Him personally. But do we ever really enter the Kingdom? Do we ever go beyond this casual affirmation that He is there so that we can have a relationship with Him like He desires?

Look, if I hadn't gone deeper into the Kingdom, I would have never known what I missed. I would not have comprehended what it was like to ride Space Mountain. I would have never gotten my "real, authentic musket" from Pirates of the Caribbean (yes, there was a ride long before there was a movie). Most of all, I would have never known what all the Kingdom excitement was about. If you don't really know God or you can't say your relationship with Him is exciting, dangerous, or adventurous...I'd submit to you that you haven't gone deep enough. There is a whole big world awaiting you just inside the gates. You just have to be willing to enter in without hesitation.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

People

What we are doing (Lisa and I) through Ridley Barron Ministries is about people. That may seem like such an obvious statement. Maybe it is to everyone else but me. I was giving that some thought today.

Like most of you, I hate customer service calls. Why? Because no one wants to treat you like a person any more. It is about customer numbers and quotas and bottom lines. Racing through life gets lonely because we forget that the most important thing we share is not space nor oxygen nor natural resources...it is the "humanness" we hold in common.

So one of the things we are trying to do is put up this big flashing sign over everything we do that says, "After all, we are just human." The health care provider that makes a mistake leading to an adverse event? A human who needs healing and compassion. (Read this)

The couple who finds themselves at each other's throat and at the end of their rope? Humans who simply need encouragement in their journey.

The sick child, the overworked CEO, the confused teen and the out of work breadwinner? They...we...are all humans who need to feel the love and compassion of others in our own breed. God help us if we never get to the point where we can see each other as people again. People who have emotions, fears, dreams and families. People who simply want to be treated like people. It is in finding community again that we learn that "they" are no different than "we"--despite their position or their skin color or their status or language. When we understand this--live this--the world becomes a better place...for all people.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Hope

13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT

I have often defined the word "hope" as "the belief that tomorrow is worth getting up for." It is that perception that the next minute--the next breath of our lives--contains possibility. Love is essential to all that we are and do but, as one author has put it, it is the soil of hope that allows love to grow.

Between wanting something and having something there is the potential for a multitude of feelings. We can allow past disappointments to keep us from seeing the potential of the future. This leads to despair and discouragement. We can allow fear to creep in. Fear freezes us in our tracks and keeps us from living life to the fullest. That's why Scripture says that perfect love drives out fear. Perfect love frees us to live without the dark shadows of fear. Finally, there is hope. Hope is connected to faith. Without faith, we cannot find hope in the trying times. Lack of faith makes it awfully hard for us to see the "light at the end of the tunnel." But misplaced faith is as bad (or worse) than having no hope. Faith must be found in God.

Hope is what Ridley Barron Ministries is built on. That's why Lisa and I have chosen to do what we do. Our belief is that the soul that is given new hope can face life with greater purpose and reach the full abundance that Christ promised each of us (John 10:10). We want to bring hope to those who have experienced life changing tragedies or world-rocking challenges. Our hope is to bring others hope. In so doing, my prayer is that many will come to believe that there is great possibility in the next hour, their next relationship, their next opportunity. That hope is found in a changeless God who has given Lisa and I both the promise that tomorrow is worth living.

Hope. Healing. Forgiveness. Because tomorrow is worth living.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Take a deep breath

God's timing is always good. That doesn't mean we will always like it, but it is always good. Several months ago, two of our very good friends approached us at church one Sunday morning with a gift. He had won a get away for two in a golf tournament. After praying with his wife, the two of them felt led to give it to us as a gift. They insisted we take it and made us promise we would use it. (Just to prove how good God is, he played in the same tournament this year and won the same, exact getaway again. Just proves you can't out give God). So, Lisa brought home the certificate and scheduled our time away. It began yesterday, just a few days after my doctor told me to get away from my stress. Great timing!

I thought about that this morning as Lisa and I were hiking through the beautiful surroundings. It was raining but it mattered very little to either of us. The sound of the gentle drops as they sprinkled into the canopy of trees was relaxing. The hills weren't so much. But I loved every minute of it.

I got to the top of one of the rises and took a deep breath. The fresh air filling my lungs was amazing. I turned to Lisa and said, "You know, it's a cool feeling when you get to the top of one of these hills and take a deep breath. It's like saying, 'Hey, cool, I made it without stopping.'"

Lisa laughed and replied, "It's a lot like life isn't it?"

So true. It is like life. There is a unique feeling when you tackle that next hill and take a second to relax and catch your breath. That's what these three days are for us. A chance to catch our breath and thank God for what he has done and look with anticipation towards what is next.

The danger is when you forget to take a breath and you charge headlong into the next hill. That's our tendency as humans, especially those of the American variety. Don't stop, don't even slow down. Someone may take your place in line or get a half-step ahead of you. Here is the exciting news. We all finish at the same line. What matters is not how much you get done before you reach that line but Who you serve in getting there. God set the example for us in the beginning; Jesus followed suit in his time here on earth. There is a time for work (six days God worked in creation) and a time for climbing (Jesus ministering to thousands) but rest must be a part of who we are and what we do on a regular basis. When else will we take the time to celebrate the victories, the hills climbed and the blessings of God?

Pardon me if I don't answer my phone. I taking my next breath.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Not me?!

What could make a grown man cry standing in the "Home" section of a Super Walmart? Strange things happen when someone is faced, once again, with their mortality. Let me explain.

Last week I was in Columbus, Georgia hanging out with my mom. I had taken our two youngest children, Abby and Landon, so they could see their grandmother and so I'd have a little company for the long ride. They had been patiently a part of the process all day Wednesday as we ran errands with mom and helped her take care of some necessary things. So, to reward them and me, we went to a movie at a discount show on Wednesday night--"Diary of a Wimpy Kid: part 2." (No, that's not the reason for my aforementioned tears). Somewhere about the 30 minute mark in the movie, I started having a chest pain. I chalked it up to a little too much gravy in my home cooked meal and continued to enjoy the movie. By the time the credits rolled, the pain was more intense and very consistent. I kept trying to shrug it off but I also knew my family's history with their heart.

We left the movie and went to Walmart. We were simply going to run in and grab a few things that I needed for mom's house (I usually do a little maintenance and upkeep on the place when I go down to visit). The pain intensified and so did my concern. By the time we reached the store, I was more than just a little afraid. Trying to find a place to call my sister for her help (she lives in Columbus) without alarming the girls, I asked them to sit in the car and let me just run in.

Standing between the air filters and the light bulbs, I had a very passionate prayer time with God. All I could think of was me having a heart attack in housewares while my daughters sat in the truck, oblivious to what was going on. I began to cry. I retreated further into the housewares department so I could talk with my sister and so the other customers wouldn't worry about the strange man in the paint aisle.

Long story short, Harriet (my sister) and I went to the ER with my nephew, Carter. EKGs were fine. Wait time was not. They immediately did the EKG and asked me to wait to see a doctor. Two and a half hours (yes, it was almost 1 a.m.) and four ambulance arrivals later I left, much to Lisa's disdain. My thinking was that they were obviously not too concerned so I guess I shouldn't be. Final prognosis with my personal physician was my ticker is great, I was just a little too stressed. Too many changes happening too fast and I needed to ramp up my coping mechanisms. You gotta love it when your doctor's prescription is, "You need to play a little more golf and spend a little more time at the pool."

I'm okay now. I guess, honestly, I was okay then. But the whole event puts things into perspective for me---again. Standing in that Walmart that night, I was faced with the reality of my own mortality in ways we don't like to be. In similar ways to April, 2004 when my wife and son were taken from me. When you're wondering what will happen to your wife and kids if something happens to you, the light bulbs suddenly don't matter as much. I'm thankful it was nothing serious this time, but as I have challenged you all before, don't take for granted the half-seconds of life that we have been given. One half of a second changed my world seven years ago when three guys ran a stop sign. One half of a second almost changed the world of my family Wednesday night. I hope you prayerfully consider how you spend every half second you are given. Once they are gone, they will never be recaptured.

Got to run now. Time for granola and vitamins and exercise. I've got a trillion half seconds ahead of me and I don't want to "miss" them because I didn't take care of myself.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Daddy

It's been another great Father's Day around the Barron household. Nothing crazy or extreme (which is how I like it since our family tends to be going 90 mph most of the time). We got up, went to church, had Po' Boy sandwiches (Lisa-style) for lunch, spent a little bit of time by the pool and then hung out at the house. I love my life. I love my kids. I love being a daddy.

The day started with an interesting question from Lisa. We had just finished our morning prayer time. We were laying in the bed chatting in those last few minutes before we had to get up and get going.

"Rid..."

When Lisa starts a sentence like that, I know something good is about to come out. Usually its some great thought or a thought-provoking question. This morning it was this question. "What are your three best memories of your dad...not counting him being the biggest fan at all your ballgames growing up?"

For those who are newer to my blog, my dad passed away in February, 2004--just two months before the accident that took my wife and son. He was, indeed, one of my biggest fans (along with my mom) from the moment I stepped onto my first playing field at age 7. Her question got my head to thinking. With just a few words, Lisa had opened a flood gate of feelings and emotions that I had not thought about in many months.

I didn't realize how much I missed my dad. I shared my first two thoughts (actually, I cheated and rattled off about 6 or 7), then I paused. The last one was one of my favorite and I had purposely saved it to bring up the rear.

I've always been an early riser, even as a kid. Many mornings, I would get up early and cross the hall at our house in Columbus, Georgia. Daddy would have already shaved and crawled back into bed next to mom. I would slip around to his side of the bed and crawl in underneath the sheets. There, in the last minutes before the sun would crash through his window, daddy and I would lay and listen to "Cousin Al." (Cousin Al was a local radio personality on the AM dial who played country music, talked about RC Colas and moon pies and spun his own brand of homespun humor.). But as I recounted the memory to Lisa, I was pushed back in my mind to those mornings long ago. The warmth of my daddy as he put his huge arm around my shoulders. The smell of his after-shave as it cascaded around the pillow and sheets. Mom laughing at the two of us as we cackled at Al's goofy sense of humor.

I was a very blessed kid. I guess I still am. Do you really ever outgrow the positive impact of the people who mean the most to you growing up--moms and dads, teachers and coaches, grandparents? I know that, even 7 years after he has gone, my daddy still holds a powerful place in my heart and mind.

My prayer of thanks goes out today for all of those men who today hold the "daddy" role for someone. Not all of you are "fathers" but many of you are "daddies" in the truest sense of the word. And my prayer also goes out to so many who never knew their dad or never had the positive influence of a loving daddy in their life. I pray you may come to know the love of the best Father, indeed, the only Father who can love you purely.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Hard

There are some days (much like this one today) where it seems like life is just a little harder than others. Things pile up. Schedules don't work out. Even the simplest of things turns out to be not so simple.

I've had two doctor's appointments, some news that hit me from the blind-side and some really poor customer service from a couple of places today. Needless to say, I've spent more time on the phone than I have on my work. The part that really aggravates me is that I always get off the phone from these conversations feeling like I am the reason there is a problem even when it's their product that didn't do what was promised. Funny how that happens, huh?

I caught myself day-dreaming. I was simply wondering what the best method of therapy is when you get in these situations. How do you talk yourself into being loving to the guy on the other end of the phone? How do you remain calm when you look at your agenda and the list has only gotten longer the harder you've worked?

Jesus answered such "demands" throughout his time here. But he always had a good solution for the pressures--he got away. He disconnected. He allowed himself the privilege of stepping away. Therein lies our problem. In this world where we are always "on" it's increasingly impossible to step away. Between the cell phones and the i-Pads, the e-mails and the Tweets, there has to be a place to unplug from the demands and power down for a little while. Jesus knew it and he modeled it for us.

Take a look at this example. Jesus' cousin, John the Baptist, has just been beheaded. John's followers have taken his body to be buried and have shared the awful news with Jesus. Jesus responds by getting away, retreating to a solitary place. Maybe it's time for you...and me..to do the same.

When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. Matthew 14:13

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Words Worth Sharing

I know my blogs have been infrequent lately. There are a couple of reasons why. First, our schedule has been completely out of whack. With the transition from my church office (after 7 years on staff) to home, there have been many hours of cleaning, organizing and "waste management" as I filtered through my files. This has been a hit-and-miss project between trips and family responsibilities.

The other reason is probably the larger one. I've just been at a loss for words (some of you might be shaking your head in disbelief right now). But it's not a loss in the sense that I don't have anything at all to say. Oh, I could definitely write something. But when I began this blog several years ago, I committed not to write just for the sake of writing. I wanted to be sure that the feelings and thoughts that are shared here are worth your reading them. At points, it's caused me to have long lulls in my blogging. At other points, it's caused me to question whether or not it was time to drop the blog all together. At the risk of writing just to be writing, I won't carry on about it. I just thought it was a good time to let you know where I've been blog-wise. God is teaching me some really cool things through my personal study and the activity at Ridley Barron Ministries with our traveling and speaking has been very encouraging. Now, I'll just have to find time to pause and reflect. Then maybe I'll find some words worth sharing.

Hope it will be worth the wait...

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

The incredible choice to forgive

It is not unusual for me to start up my e-mail these days and find that I have a new friend, someone who is reaching out for comfort or encouragement after their own tragic circumstances. I love that God has given me those opportunities. I only pray that I am able to "handle" them with His wisdom and His compassion. Today, it happened again. A young lady was asking about her own personal pain after losing a family member. She asked about God's will and about her desire to question God. Let me share a brief part of what I shared with her. I think it's a good reminder of how big and strong God can be for us in even the most difficult situations.

Let me start by saying I am very sorry for your loss. I want to encourage you with a few things. First, you need to understand that God may or may not have chosen to cause this accident. More likely, He didn't and what caused it was simply excess water on the road. Could He have stopped this from occurring? Absolutely. But, with the foreknowledge He had, God saw the potential of good that could come from this accident. I know that's hard to comprehend when its our family member but it is true nonetheless. There is potential for great good to come from any tragic loss (Romans 8:28). What determines that is our willingness to join God in what He is up to and our ability to embrace and offer forgiveness and move on.

Secondly, scream at God all you choose. It will not bother Him. He understands the level of your hurt and disappointment. He knows the raw emotions you have. He is not afraid of your "ranting." If you read the Bible carefully, you will see that many people in the Bible asked God questions (David, Moses, Job). The point is, if you are going to question God, you better be ready to hear the answers He has for you.

Lastly, remember this very important lesson for all of your life. Forgiveness, like love, is not an emotion. It is a decision. It is something you will have to choose every day for the rest of your life and, with time, it will get easier if you do it every day. There are days you will wake up and not want to forgive because of the emotions that you feel. That's okay. Choose to do it any way. Don't let bitterness in. It is a poison that kills no one but you.

Understand this, God has very big, very incredible plans for you (Jeremiah 29:11, Ephesians 3:20) but you will NEVER know them until you choose to forgive and surrender every part of your life to what He is attempting to do in you and for you.

I can't tell you how much I love talking about forgiveness. There is such freedom when you and I can give and receive forgiveness. The receiving part is easier (notice I said easier. It's not always easy). Most of us love to be forgiven. But giving forgiveness to someone who has wronged us or has taken our loved ones life or has chosen poorly can be far more difficult. But I assure you, the rewards are equally--maybe even more--satisfying.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Blessed

Lisa and I returned last night from a quick trip out of town with our board of directors. It really doesn't seem right to call them a board. Pardon the pun but it seems a little too stiff (get it? board? stiff?) We had such an amazing time with this group as we prayed, planned, and dreamed about the future of where our ministry is taking us. I'm thankful for each of these people and what they mean to us--past, present and future.

We also had the privilege of worshipping with the Orchard Church down in Ellijay, Georgia. What a great group of people! Pastor Steve and his group there at the Orchard were a pleasure to be with Sunday morning. There hearts are hungry and, even in the brief time we were with Steve and his wife Sherry, it is easy to see that they are leading this group in an amazing way.

We came home to be greeted by four very tired teens. All of them have been at camp this week. I can't tell you how incredible it was to hear each of their stories as they shared what God was teaching them and what He had shown them this week. It's such an encouragement as a dad as you pray and teach and guide and direct them. There are days you want to scream because you don't think they'll ever get it. Those are the days that I am reminded that I have caused my share of screams in past years. (I know you are shocked to find that I've not always been an angel). I am also reminded of the patience of a loving God. Man, the things He has to put up with from me as He patiently waits for me to "get it." In many instances, He is still waiting.

I am thankful for the life God has blessed me with. The weekend as a whole reminded me how blessed I am: the company of friends at our retreat, the heart of like-minded followers of Christ as worshipped together, the love of family. I am also reminded that this life I'm given is not for my benefit or my fulfillment. If I ever try to find my purpose in "things" I'll only be disappointed. People and plans will disappoint me at some point, some more frequently than others. It's only by staying focused on what God has in store that I can know true contentment in all things.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

The Remarkable Story of Sidd Finch

In 1985, Sports Illustrated broke the story of a young man by the name of Hayden Sidd Finch. The 28-year old Mets rookie became an overnight sensation before he had ever thrown a single pitch. The focus of all the attention was Finch's eccentric lifestyle and his ability to top out his pitches at speeds of close to 170 miles an hour. Absolutely unheard of at that point. In fact, the fastest pitches on record before Finch's arrival were Nolan Ryan and Goose Gossage at 103 mph--a full 65 mph slower.

Upon the release of the story, the sports world was ablaze...as was my circle of "experts" in my hometown. Immediately the conversation began as to what the rest of the baseball world would do to keep up. My friends were talking about things like the human eye's ability to "catch up" to a ball thrown that fast and whether or not the standard wooden bat could withstand such an impact if they ever did. I even had friends wondering how much a ticket to Finch's first game would cost.

It was all useless conversation. Finch never pitched a single pitch in the major leagues for New York. In fact, he never threw a pitch at all. You see, Sidd was the product of a baseball writer's imagination. The article was released on April 1, 1985 as part of an April Fool's gag by the magazine. And we bought every bit of the lie. Oh, how we bought it!

Did you know that lies are the number one weapon of Satan? He used a lie to trick Adam and Even in the garden; he has been up to it ever since. Noah, Moses, Abraham, David and many other great heroes of the Bible were victims of the lies. We are too. We hear him when he tells us we aren't good enough. We buy the lie when he tells us that no one loves us. He convinces us with the twisting of truth and sways us into believing that our secrets will never hurt anyone else. Before long, he has us talking and worrying and debating the "facts" of something that was never true in the first place. The end result? Lives that are a mess. We live at a frantic pace to fulfill the lie when God says that the truth is what sets us free. Lies entangle and bind; Jesus alone sets us free to live life to the fullest.

Finch's life "story" created quite a response...one that was completely based on a lie. My hope is that our lives are always built on the truth. Truth that is found in God's great love for us as it is revealed in the Bible. Don't buy the lie. You'll just feel like a fool.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Tough assignments

At some point, we all have tough assignments. It's the nature of life. Maybe it's telling a friend something that might disappoint them. Or, you might be a boss who has to let an employee go or tell them they didn't get the job. I can tell you the first few times you have to break your child's bad habits by disciplining them, it is no easy task.

I was reading this afternoon the story of David and Nathan. Here's a little background for the less familiar. David is king of Israel. But he has committed an awful sin against God by sleeping with another man's wife and then having the man killed, trying to cover up his sin. Nathan is one of David's prophets and a trusted advisor. In 2 Samuel 12:1, we read this:

The Lord sent Nathan to David.

Can you imagine the butterflies in Nathan's stomach? After all, he is just a prophet and David is the king over all of Israel. With one word and no explanation, David could have Nathan executed and his family put in prison. Nathan has one of those extremely tough assignments. He must confront the king with his sin.

I thought back seven years to a phone call I received on an April morning. The nurse that day must have drawn the short straw. Can you imagine the conversations that took place that day in the hallways of that hospital? I'm sure when the bad news got out about my son's over medication, there was no rush of volunteers to pick up the phone and be the one to deliver the news. But it had to be done. Someone had to make the call.

One of the things that I'm learning in my travels is that no one relishes that assignment. Health care is no different than ministry; ministry is no different than friendship. No one wants to be the bearer of the difficult news. I guess that's why "total disclosure" has become such a hot topic among medical professionals. But it's not a new subject. Long ago, God gave us wisdom on how to handle these tough assignments. His words of wisdom go something like this:

Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. Proverbs 27:6 NIV

The lesson Proverbs is trying to teach us is this. The successful delivery of "tough words" is not determined on the who or the how but on the strength of the relationship before the conversation takes place. Whether its ministry or parenting or health care, tough words are best delivered on the back of a relationship that has been invested in. When you and I keep short accounts with those we know--when we build trust and dependability in the long run--we will be better prepared for tough words to be said and heard the day bad news arrives.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Wonder

For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. Romans 1:20 New Living Translation

With the warmer temperatures and the break in the spring storms, I've found myself outside a bit more the last few days. It started early yesterday as I took the dog for his morning romp in the wet grass. As he sniffed from one blade of grass to the next, something in the field behind the house caught my eye. Two small rabbits were caught up in what appeared to be a game of tag. In the early morning light, I could see them as they chased each other back and forth through the high grass. Overhead, two small birds were chasing a hawk who dared to venture too close to their nest. Their brave defense of their "home" against the much larger bird was comical to watch. All around me, the world was coming awake for another day. As the wonder inside me began to build, the verse above came to mind.

I am reminded that wonder leads to worship. Stated differently, that which captures our attention and enthralls our hearts is the very thing we worship. Observing the field behind my house pointed my heart towards a God who is the beginning of all life--the Creator of every thing that lives. It reminded me of His infinite power, His limitless creativity and His constant love for me.

However, misplaced wonder can lead to false worship. To be in awe of nature is one thing. To worship a tree or bird or bush is another. Here is where we fall into traps. I am amazed at the ability of an athlete in competition or a professor with great intellect. I may be amazed by them but to worship them is to fall short, to miss the One who is worthy of the worship. A neurosurgeon with great skill or a writer with mastery of words may draw accolades for their work, but only the Creator is worthy of our wonder and our worship.

The problem is a culture who is too easily impressed with ourselves. Our idols are talented, smart, popular, wealthy, beautiful...but they are finite, impotent, imperfect and frail. Their minds could never reach the scope of God's omniscience. Their power could not touch His omnipotence. At their very best, they would be but a shadow of the character of God.

If only we could find ourselves less in awe of the creation and more in awe of its Creator. I pray I can find less wonder for the irreverent behavior of man and more worship for the reverent existence of a holy God. May we--all of us--never lose our sense of wonder when it comes to God.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

How could we ever forget?

In many ways, it was just like any other Sunday. I woke up in my bed next to my beautiful wife. After getting ready for church, I walked into my driveway and grabbed the paper. There, I read of nations in turmoil, people in fear and many who live with no freedom. I drove in my car to my church where I led our Ridgeview family in worship. We prayed and sang and read God's word without one moment of fear. I took my family to lunch and then came home for a day of rest. I watched a ball game on TV and read a little on the Internet. Through it all, I have been constantly reminded of what this weekend is, what it stands for.

I have also been reminded why it is so important that I never forget the men and women who have served our country with their lives. They have stood on foreign shores. They have sacrificed their tomorrows so that my tomorrow would be bright. They gave up many freedoms so that ours would not have to be surrendered. What we have did not come easy, nor did it come cheap. It came through the blood, sweat and sacrifice of those who knew that freedom comes with a heavy price.

So, thank you, veterans. Thank you for going, giving, serving and dying. How could we ever forget the sacrifices you have made?

I don't care how you choose to remember...just remember. It's that important.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

That's your opinion

I sat on the patio of one of my favorite burger places for lunch today. I was by myself so it gave me a chance to participate in one of my favorite hobbies--people watching. Today is the last day of school here, so the downtown area was filled with teenagers who were eating lunch to celebrate their last day. Just more to watch for me.

After 15 years in student ministry, I still have a keen interest in watching the habits of teens--the goofiness, the showboating, the flirting....you get the picture. I watched with particular interest today as 5 young guys sat at a table about 20 feet away. You know teenage boys. There is always plenty to watch. Every now and then I would catch bits of their conversation. Through it all, what I observed was this constant "maneuvering" to win the approval of the other guys at the table. Maybe it was a joke someone made or some commentary on some girl at school. It was really quite enjoyable.

Then I started wondering what they were really thinking. All five seemed to be pretty confident boys, very social and sure of themselves. But I began to imagine what each of them might be thinking as they carried out their interactions. What were their fears? What were their real opinions of each other? Were they really that confident or did they, like most of us, harbor secret doubts about their "likeability"?

As adults, we are not so far removed (if at all) from those same worries. We play social games where we may think one thing and say another, just to meet the approval of those around us. We worry about other's thoughts and opinions. Makes you wonder how life would be different if we a) didn't worry so much about other's opinions and b) made the commitment to be honest with one another, even in uncomfortable situations.

With that in mind, I thought I'd end the blog on a lighter note. What if our greeting cards were as honest as we should be with one another? What might they say? (NOTE: the expressions of "love" below are not the opinions of this blogger and have been borrowed from a friend of mine. Enjoy)

I've always wanted to have someone to hold, someone to love.
After I met you, I changed my mind.

Looking back over the years that we've been together, I can't help but wonder...
...what the heck was I thinking?

Congratulations on your promotion.
Before you go though, would you like to take the knife out of my back? You may need it for another promotion.

When we were together, you always said you would die for me.
Now that we're apart, I expect you to keep your promise.

I must admit that our relationship has brought religion back into my life.
Before I met you, I never really believed in Hell

I hope it made you laugh a little and realize, there are only two opinions that matter. What Christ thinks of you and what you believe about yourself.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Still Here

Welcome to the first work day after the rapture. I must admit that I'm a little disappointed. My office looks the same and I was hoping that my "heavenly body" would be a little leaner. But, hey, at least we made it, right?

Enough with the sarcasm. Like many of you I watched the minutes tick by with interest on Saturday evening. Not because I believed that Mr. Camping was remotely correct (although he could have been) but because I wanted to see the world's reaction when 6:01 came and most of us were still here.

There were the typical skeptical remarks, the wisecracks and the outright condemnations. I, too, was upset by the fact that Mr. Camping's predictions put yet another black-eye on the Christian faith and those who profess to follow Jesus. I was far more upset to read that many millions of dollars have been bilked from Camping's followers to put up billboards and to promote his prophecy; millions that could have dug fresh wells in third-world countries, built orphanages in Eastern Europe or battled poverty all over the world. Millions of misplaced dollars were used for something that really didn't matter. Why? Because whether the world ends today or tomorrow or a 100 years from now, there are really only two things that you and I can do about it--get ready and get others ready.

I have to admit that my heart kind of went out to the 89 year old Camping though. I don't know the man. I have never listened to one minute of his teachings. I don't know his character. But he and I have one thing in common, we're looking forward to heaven. As they used to say in my grandmother's little church in South Georgia--the great homecoming. On this, Mr. Camping and I can most definitely agree..."when we all get to heaven what a day of rejoicing that will be." Hope you're ready...whenever it comes.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Braces

I got braces on my teeth when I was 33 years old. Not quite a teenager. Till that point, I had resisted with everything in me. I just didn't have a desire to spend the time or energy that it would take...nor did I look forward to the inconvenience. Besides, I reasoned, I could chew my food just fine and talking was no problem. What else did I need? I was content.

Then came my friend, Dana. Dana and I had a pretty good friendship right from the beginning. There was one problem. Dana was an orthodontist. And not just any orthodontist. He was the kind that never saw a smile he couldn't make better. He didn't gently introduce the idea of braces to me. He pretty much told me when and where to show up to get those teeth fixed. So, I did, much to his amusement and my family's delight.

I remember the first meal. Just the feeling of soup sliding across my teeth hurt. It would set me on edge to hear someone crunching on an apple or a piece of ice. I didn't think it would ever end. Then the second hour came and it got worse. Dana had warned me. He had told me it would be that way. Then he offered me this hope, "The teeth will settle into their new place. When they do, the pain will subside and you'll like what you see."

I thought about that moment this morning as our staff was talking about transitions. For those of you who haven't heard, I recently stepped aside as pastor at Ridgeview Church to pursue Ridley Barron Ministries with a full-time focus. My family and I will continue to worship and serve alongside our faith family at RCC. But God had made it very clear that this was the next step for us. Lisa and I have a passion to continue using our stories to offer hope and encouragement to others. God is choosing to use it through this ministry.

Transitions are hard, no matter what they look like or when they occur. They take on many forms--children starting school, starting to drive, graduation, marriage, a new job, a new school or a new hometown. Each transition comes with its own set of challenges and concerns. I'm thankful that God has promised not to leave us through any of those times.

My family faces its own unsettled feelings as we make this move of faith. I'm not sure what God wants to do with this. I'm not sure how long it will last. I'm not sure where it will take us. I'm not sure....but God is. And, in those moments when fear starts to creep in and my flesh takes control, I hear him saying, "Hang on. You will settle into your new place if you just trust me. When you do, the pain will subside and I promise you will like what you see." So, just like with Dana (although he isn't quite God), I keep trusting. I keep looking in the mirror watching the changes. I keep holding onto the promise that He is a professional...He knows just what He is doing.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wannabes

There was an interesting article that I came across this morning. Entitled "SEALS expose those who have faked service," the article talked about the number of people in our country who try to pass themselves off as former members of the elite team that carries out America's most dangerous military missions. It seems that true Navy SEAL veterans have their hands full trying to debunk the myths created by these "wannabes." One vet says he gets upwards of 4o inquiries a day from people wanting to verify the stories of their family members, co-workers, friends and--believe it or not--pastors. That number is only expected to rise after the fame that has risen from their latest mission--the capture/slaying of Osama bin Laden, international terrorist.

It seems that many Americans--men and women--want to be associated with the famous group. I can't imagine many of them would stick to their story if they were forced to go through even one day of what it takes to make the team. Brutal workouts. Days without sleeping or eating. Dangerous missions behind enemy lines. Discipline that would humble many professional athletes.

It got me thinking about a more relevant question for all of us. Do we treat Jesus the same way? Let's face it, you don't get more famous than Jesus. The name is known in almost every nation on the face of the earth. Today, he has over 2 billion people who call themselves "team members." But do they really know what it takes to follow this Man? Confronted with the reality of what it means to be a true Christ follower, I believe most would shrink away, unable to meet the "demands". The irony, though, is that all Christ demands of us is surrender. That's right. Give up, give in and give Him control. What a humbling thought to know that God's free gift scares us, intimidates us from following through on our claims to know Him.

One SEAL vet from the article said, "There were about 500 SEALs who operated in Vietnam and I've met all 20,000 of them." My prayer is that when we claim the name of Christ, we understand, first, what it really means to be "in Christ." The world wants to know the hope of those who follow the man from Nazareth. But they won't find it in those who brag about a relationship that they have no intention of living out.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Taking Chances

I have found over the years that there are many ways I get the gospel wrong. Really wrong. Probably one of the most commons errors I find in my thinking is that this gospel is about me, that its focus is me and my comfort. The closer I read the Bible and the more I think about these things, the more I come to this radical conclusion...God is not concerned with my comfort. He did not die on the Cross to make me feel better about myself or so that He could promise me a better way of life. Jesus died for God's glory, not mine.

When I clear my mind and learn to live in light of this reality (and it is no easy task) I learn that life is not about being safe and cautious. It's about living dangerously on behalf of God. Let me put it to you this way: if what we do in our lives has no possibility of failure, it has no basis in faith.

I recently had a conversation about this with a young man I know. This guy is a solid as you could find. He is dependable, mature, full of integrity. He has just come to the conclusion his life is too safe--that very little about who he is or what he does requires God's presence to get it done. Over the years I have had numerous conversations with older Christ followers who echoed His thoughts. They will tell you of their previous journey of faith--church attendance, honest living, dependable lifestyle--you know the spiel. Then their eyes begin to twinkle and there is a new sense of enthusiasm as they talk about living "recklessly" in the hands of God. Launching new careers, moving to new locales, walking away from everything in their life that gave them "security" and embracing full dependence on God.

I'm there again. I'm at that place where I don't want to get to the end of my life and finish safely. I don't want 50 people gathered at my grave site some day...way off in the future...looking at each other with tears in their eyes saying, "Ridley was safe. He caused few ripples, left few marks of his own." NO! I'd rather them stand in a worship center celebrating somewhere, laughing at some of the foolish things I attempted for the Kingdom. I want to know that I left the biggest dent in the world (even if the dent comes from running headlong into walls that the world said couldn't be moved). I think the greatest disaster for the Church today would be for Jesus to come and find that we spent more time worshipping our comfort than we did living out our faith.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Changes

Spotted on Facebook and shared with me by a friend:
You hear Osama is dead with no proof of a body and you celebrate. You hear Christ died and rose with no proof of a body and you speculate?

Man, has a lot happened since my last blog on Wednesday. Tornadoes have left a 375 mile track of destruction through the Southeast. Fires have burned much of Texas. Flood waters are ravaging towns up and down the Mississippi. The two decade long game of "hide-and-seek" with bin Laden has come to an end (USA-1, bin Laden-...never mind, game over). And as we are fast approaching summer, we are waking up to forty degree temperatures in Franklin...just a day after it was in the mid-eighties here.

Changes are all around us. My sister was digging through some old photos looking for something recently and came across some pictures of Josh. She forwarded them to me. Flashing from the screen were those amazing blue eyes and that precious grin. In one picture, my mom was holding him and I thought about how much had changed for all of us since that day. Her husband gone. My wife and son gone. Harrison and Abby much older and--in their mind--much wiser. Remarried, new children, new town, new job.

No matter what, changes come. To resist them is like standing waist deep in the ocean trying to keep the waves from hitting the beach. You may disrupt a few waves but the ocean still comes...and comes. Rather than resisting the waves--or the changes--it's usually easier and more fun to learn to ride whatever wave life brings you. I can tell you that you won't like every wave. Some will take you places you didn't want to go. Others will push you into uncomfortable positions. But many will give you the ride you desired. They will enable you to see things you never could and to feel things you once thought impossible.

Yes, change is inevitable. We very seldom want to embrace it. But in embracing change we are able to embrace all the possibilities of God.

We'll be out the rest of the week partnering with some new friends in Indianapolis at St. Vincent's Hospital. Please be in prayer for us as we go.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A God Who "Tortures" part 2

I don't usually blog twice in one day but it would appear that my friend and I have stirred up a little controversy with the blog from earlier today. Since I'm going to be out of pocket for an event for a couple of days and usually don't take the time to blog over the weekend, I thought I'd take a second to respond.

I'm not sure about the statement that I "skirted the issue" with my earlier blog. I certainly didn't intend to with my comments. So I thought I'd come back and try to make myself a little more clear in my answer.

First of all, I want to affirm the comments of one of my readers regarding the Bible. I love hearing the thoughts and opinions of others. The Internet has opened us to a world of possibilities in this area. Sometimes, though, I worry that the abundance of books and resources make us too "smart for our own good." When it comes to these difficult subjects I feel like its essential that we go back to the Bible itself--and only the Bible--as the source for truth. Like many of you, I love C. S. Lewis. He is not God. Neither is the opinion of some best-selling author. To go one step further, my feelings are not what's important here. Not to offend my readers but neither are yours

The only thing that truly matters here is God's plan and how it is revealed to us in the Bible. I will not allow myself to be trapped into saying anything I'm not sure about. Yes, I can offer my opinions. But the only thing I will offer as fact is what the Bible says is truth.

With that, I will tell you the facts. There is no other name under heaven by which men will be saved (Acts 4:12). None. God's plan would not be very fair if He came up with one plan for the Middle East (aka Jesus dying for our sins) and another for the Far East (the Seven-fold path to enlightenment) and another for North America (Native American mysticism). He, Himself, would be the author of confusion. God is NOT the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33).

Next fact, there is a real hell that the "lost" will face. Once again, if everyone will eventually be saved, then why send Jesus in the first place? Why force your Son to die? Why not just give everyone a pass?

Finally, whether I think it's fair or not, those who do not have Jesus are still lost. This is why Jesus came..."to seek and save that which is lost" (Luke 19:10). If those who have never heard the name of Jesus get some kind of free "pass" for not being exposed to the Gospel, then we are endangering the whole world by sharing Jesus with them. We are creating greater responsibility for them when their ignorance would be a greater blessing.

The part I don't know--the part I only have opinions about--is what a just God will do about such situations. I will not call Him unfair. In my mind, I don't have a right to call God unfair when He didn't have to give me life in the first place. If creation had been my idea--if I had asked God to create me--then maybe I could write the rules. I didn't so I can't. What God chooses to do and what wisdom He uses to do it with is what separates a Creator from His creation.

This I do know. When it is all said and done, the question of His "fairness" and "justice" will not be a question any longer. I don't know answers beyond what the Bible gives me. I am not God (everyone can say "amen" on that one). I don't want to be. He is doing just fine without me. And I will not offer apologies for a plan that He has put in place, revealed in His word, taught while here in the flesh and made clear through His Holy Spirit.