Photo Captured 06-09-18: Disney’s Newest Attraction??

Where: Outside of St Augustine, Florida

Who: Christi Hughes

Why: It scared her when she found out it was once alive!

I love visiting and seeing things I have previously read about or only seen in pictures. I also discovering unique things that cause me to pause. If you keep your eyes open there are some awe inspiring, exhilarating, sometimes scary moments out there. When you capture them in a photo they make for a great memory not only for yourself but to share with others.

I am starting a series of blogs with pictures my friends and followers send me that shows something unique, solemn, beautiful, magnificent, frightening, or anything else that captures our attention and hopefully moves our emotions. I plan on taking that pic and making a spiritual metaphor, analogy, connection, or insight from the picture.

Description:

My first photo comes from our visit to Florida. It is a stuffed alligator, 13 feet long! It was between 40 and 50 years old and 800 pounds. It was found near Disney World in Orlando. It was found in a resident’s pool near the resort. Imagine finding this monster in your swimming pool!. I imagine this would have caused quite a stir among Mickey and Minnie. I am confident Disney does not want characters that can eat their guests. Ask Captain Hook about that!

Spiritual Lesson:

And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is [i]life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so. Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day. Genesis 1:29-31

We once cuddled with alligators! Ok, I don’t know about cuddled with these large reptiles but before the Fall in the Garden of Eden, alligators were vegetarians. Yep, you heard me correctly! They didn’t eat other animals and were not a danger to us or us to them! When you look at this magnificent creature at 13 feet long it is hard to imagine swimming with it without feet or even petting it. I was scared to touch it even stuffed! If you read Genesis 1:29-30, you see God referred to plants as our source of food and not animals. I am not pushing for all of us being vegetarians as the Bible doesn’t command us not to eat animals after the fall (Acts 10:9-16). Yet, before sin there was no death so eating meat was not an option. The Fall corrupted all of creation, not just humanity. When I see magnificent creatures like snakes, sharks, lions, and alligators I think about a time people walked with them in harmony. That day will come again because of the redeeming power of Jesus. I look forward to the day there will be no more death!

When I Feel Like I Am Running On A 2 Percent Charge

“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). 

It happens. I am reading something on my phone and finally ready to close my eyes to sleep, so I reach out to put my phone on the wireless charger. It’s always a hit or miss; if I don’t put it exactly in the right spot, it doesn’t connect. Usually by the time I try to plug it in, I am so tired and lazily do not concentrate on what I am doing — I just hope I make the connection. Eureka! Got up this morning, grabbed my phone… it was on 2 percent!

That’s how I feel sometimes in life: like I am running on a 2 percent charge. I bet you can feel my pain. Life is busy, but more than that, it is emotionally draining. Busyness and issues deplete us, from large things to small things, like the missing charge on my phone!

If not proactive, you can find yourself running on 2 percent day after day. That doesn’t leave much energy to give to your Lord, your family, your job, and yourself. It’s easy to want to just coast and try to survive. In a way, we become walking zombies; we are here, but we don’t have much more to give.

Here are a few encouraging words for your journey. Apply them to your parenting, your spiritual walk, your job, or whatever you put your time into. I so believe some of you need this reminder that things can change. Get out of the vicious cycle where you just keep repeating blah over and over again.

1) Don’t ever quit. Don’t ever give up. Don’t raise the white flag. Fight hard. Life is too short. Life is but a vapor, here today and gone tomorrow. Whatever you do, give it your all. God is not glorified by half-efforts. It will not be easy. Obstacles will come:

Obstacles are put in our way to see if what we want is really worth fighting for.

2) Fight fear. Be courageous. You have the Lord, so you have nothing eternal to lose. Sometimes it takes a lot of courage just to show up, but show up you must. Fear never goes away, but courage can prevail:

Courage is resistance of fear, mastery of fear, but not absence of fear.

3) Persevere. This is my word for parenting! Keep pressing on. Keep speaking into your children’s lives when they act like they don’t want to hear. Keep hugging them even though they act like you have leprosy. Keep doing the right things over and over, and not just in parenting. Perseverance is stubborn:

Perseverance is stubbornness with a purpose.

4) Get charged up. Things you can see and touch don’t inspire you. They provide quick gratification and short energy bursts, but they fade. The things that inspire us are felt with the heart. Look for the good in each day even if you have to look a little harder. You need to be inspired, to find motivation to soar:

God wants us successful; He just wants us to be successful in the right things.

Top 5 Christian Acronyms that will Inspire You

1) ICHTHUS (Christian Fish). You see these on bumper stickers and car emblems. It was the ancient symbol Christians used to identify one another. We are called to be “fishers of men.” The Greek Letters form an acronym that speaks to Jesus as the Christ, God, only begotten son, and savior. So when you see the icthus symbol know that is represents our Lord. Early Christians would draw half the fish on the ground and then a Christian passerby would see it and complete the fish and they would connect. They did this because if they were open about their faith then they faced persecution. This symbol was a powerful one for the early church.

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I- Iesous (Jesus)

CH- Christos (Christ)

TH- Theos (God)

U- Uios (Son)

S- Sotier (Savior)

 

2) HOPE– hope is the culmination of our faith. it was what we lean all in on. Hope can serve as an acronym to remind us of what is our hope. Life becomes meaningful and fulfilling when you have strong hope.

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H- Holding

O- On to your

P- Promises

E- Each Day

 

3) FAITH– there is no salvation without faith. There is no abundant living without faith. Faith is the one action every Christian has to be about. Faith is what it is about for a Christian.

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F-Forsaking

A- All other things

I- I

T- Trust

H- Him

 

4) PRAY– if you are like me, your prayer life could uses a boost. I tend to pray quickly and ritualistically at certain times. We need to see prayer as having several functions in speaking to our God.

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P- Praise

R- Repent

A- Ask

Y- Yield

 

5) GRACE- Because of our sin God could have responded in a lot of ways. He could have wiped us out or judged without any hope. Instead He gave grace. Grace is unearned and undeserved favor. I love this acronym to remember what God has done for me.

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G- God's

R- Riches

A-  At

C- Christ's

E- Expense

 

 

 

How I Met My Dream Woman

***Warning- this story contains sappy, cheesy elements mixed with loads of the dramatic. You were warned.

Christi and I have a rather unique story of how we connected. We both attended Union University. She was one grade ahead of me but I knew who she was. Who didn’t know Christi Byrd! She was friends with everyone. She was the Baptist Student Union President and she was Homecoming Queen at Union. Not only did she love Jesus, she was gorgeous. She was godly and beautiful, a perfect mix.

Christi and I were acquaintances at best. I taught a Greek lab (that’s Greek not Geek), where students practiced their Greek vocabulary words. She was in the Greek lab I taught. We also had a few classes together but never really spoke besides a quick hello. I had my own friends and dated a few girls throughout the college years but was always frustrated with the dating scene. It felt so foolish to me. I always felt like a child playing grown up. I mean I had no real clue about love and commitment and neither did they.

With the influence of my youth pastor and my own frustrations, my junior year of college I pushed dating aside. Now I am not saying girls all across campus wept in grief that I was no longer available. I mean I could get a date. The ratio was 4 girls to 1 at Union so every guy had a chance! I just didn’t want to go the dating approach anymore to find the one. I was ready for something more supernatural.

I remember clearly praying to the Lord that I was sick of the effort of dating to find the one. I was 20 years old and I was ready to be single as long as the Lord willed it. I was determined that if I were going to get married, He would need to intervene. Did I want to get married? Absolutely! I just became convinced through my own trial and error that I would probably make the wrong draft pick out of all the potential prospects. I was the Cleveland Browns of dating!

So for a little over a year I stuck to my commitment. I focused on the Lord and enjoyed the mess out of my junior year. Sure My friends worried that I was going to become a monk with my no dating plan and though she has never admitted it, I think my mom worried I had quit liking girls if you know what I mean. Come on mom! That definitely was not the case. I just couldn’t do the games anymore.

In March of 1996 I applied to work as a support staff for the summer for Centrifuge camp. I applied to be the Resident Assistant at the dorms on Union’s campus. It was an extremely competitive job to get and when the list of the thirty or so students who were chosen was published I was on it. I was pumped! I came back to my dorm room and ran into Robert Grisham. Robert and I had been friends since high school and had roomed together a couple of times. I showed him the list and he stopped on a name and said, “Christi Byrd.” I knew who she was as I mentioned above and asked what he was meaning. In a very matter of fact way Robert proceeded to tell me that he thought her and I would get together and I would marry her. It’s like my roommate told me I would be going out to buy a lottery ticket and would win the jackpot. Yeah right! I am pretty sure I told him he had lost his mind.

Summer came and our first day of work we were split up in pairs to do towel laundry. Guess who I got paired up with: Christi Byrd. Now as romantic as doing towel laundry can be, nothing really magical happened that day but we did get to talk. I didn’t think much of it besides what my crazy roommate had told me a month back! As the days went on Christi and I found ourselves in the same spaces more and more. I came up with a brilliant idea for us to study Greek together to get ready for the coming semester. When I told Nathan Joyce, my other roommate, about it he had a field day with the info. He would ask me constantly, “how is studying Christi, I mean Greek, going??”

I enjoyed our time studying together to say the least. The summer was about half way over and by this time my mind was racing. I had Christi on the brain 24/7. We were barely friends and I had no idea what she thought about me. I would have been content to just keep my growing attraction quiet until the night we played Speed.

Speed is a card game you play where you try and get as many cards as you can by having the higher number when you both flipped a card. It goes really fast and you have to pay careful attention. A lot of us were playing in the commons area (we couldn’t go to each other’s rooms because we weren’t allowed to have girls in the room) and Christi and I found ourselves matched up to play. We played and I don’t remember who won but what I do remember was the jolt of lightning that happened when our hands touched while picking up the cards. I know what you are thinking right now. “Dax that’s called static and it happens all the time!” No this was so much different. That hurts! This was like a jolt of lightning that hit us both and it felt magical. I could tell she felt it too. It was a powerful energy that hit me as I touched her soft, inviting hand. It confirmed everything for me in that moment. I knew she was the one or at least I knew I wanted her to be the one. Now how to convince her to say the same about me!

I went home that night in a daze. I had met the girl of my dreams and touching her was like holding on to electricity. I decided that night that I would ask her out. I would break my dating fast because this one could be the one! A few days later I finally saw an opportunity but what I did was nothing like I had planned.

It was a Friday night and our shifts for work at the camp were over. Christi was a lifeguard and she was walking back from the pool and I had just finished playing ping pong with some of the Fuge campers. I saw an opportunity to walk with her and decided this was the moment I would ask her out. We talked all the way back to the common area and sat down and continued to talk. I was getting up the nerve and I finally decided to reveal my feelings.

I saw a moment in the conversation and I took it. Here is how I planned it:

“Christi, it has been fun getting to know you this summer and if you wanted to we should go grab lunch sometime.”

What I actually said:

“Christi, you are going to be my wife. I love you.”

What in the world did I do! It just came out. I knew I had hoped it but I didn’t mean to say it out loud yet! Nothing i could do now. It was out there. Christi just stared at me. She didn’t say anything! I was convinced that I had completely scared her away! When she finally spoke she said: “I absolutely believe the same thing. You will be my husband. I am in love with you too.” It was a joyous moment. I didn’t do a dance but my heart lept and my dreams were being realized in that moment. We had never been out and already proposed our desire to marry each other. No games in this for sure!

Two weeks later we went to Nathan’s wedding. It was at that wedding we began to talk seriously about wedding plans. All this before our first date. When we got back we left to go home for a few weeks before fall semester started. We talked on the phone some but we didn’t see each other being three hours away from each other.

When school started back I couldn’t wait to see Christi. The second week of school Christi spoke for a BSU worship night and I was to do the closing prayer. When I went up there I asked her to come back up. I dropped to a knee, pulled out a ring, and proposed to the girl of my dreams in front of those 300 people. The question I got all that night was: “I didn’t even know you two were dating!” We weren’t! We didn’t go on our first date until after we were engaged! Five months later I married Christi and we have now been married 21 years and counting. She is still the girl of my dreams and God gave her to me! I asked him to provide and He knocked it out of the park! Thank you Lord for bringing us together.

Do You Understand The Words Coming Out of My Mouth?

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As Christians, we throw out “faith jargon,” assuming everyone knows what we mean by them. Truth is I think we sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher to many… wa wa wa wa wa. The words either don’t compute or they mean something completely different to them than we intended. We are flippant in our words, not thinking about the harm we might be doing if misunderstood. I hope you have come to realize the power of words and their ability to both help and harm:

Words are seeds that do more than blow around. They land in our hearts and not the ground. Be careful what you plant and careful what you say. You might have to eat what you planted one day. -Unknown

We need to think through very carefully how we speak our faith. People who are not of the faith won’t get what we are trying to say unless we are careful and patient to explain it well. Of course this means we must understand our own words enough to explain them. If I use words I don’t really comprehend then I probably cannot explain their meaning to others! We tend to use doctrinal terms (sanctification, saved, lost) in our conversations with those outside our faith that can be misunderstood or even offensive. Before you say the gospel offends, realize the problem is not when the gospel offends but when you do! Yes the truth can be confrontational but we often don’t present the truth clearly, but rather a mixture of words and cliches that leave people wondering what we are really trying to say. Some things we say sound plain weird to one who is not in the know (eat my body). One of the biggest challenges facing Christians today is to understand that in a postmodern world our words can be taken several different ways.

Let me give an example: Ask someone if they believe in God and most will say yes. Not everyone will but a high percentage of people still believe in some higher power. If they say yes does that really tell you anything? My professor used to say, “the worst distance between two people is miscommunication.” Someone says they believe in “God,” they might mean that tree is god, or maybe they have a generic understanding of god as some transcendent other that has no connection with his creation, or he might even believe that he is, in fact, a god. “God” can mean so many things and that has never been more true than it it today. When I say I believe in God is it a monotheistic (one god) understanding or is it a polytheistic (many gods) understanding? Do I believe God is personal or distant? Do I see him as sovereign or limited? You see, asking if someone believes in God tells you very little about what they really believe.

We need to learn to speak differently if we want to engage others in our faith. This starts first with us not speaking at all but rather being willing to listen to what they have to say. Too many times we are guilty of wanting to be heard but not showing the slightest interest in listening to them. The Bible tells us to be quick to listen and slow to speak. We are often the opposite,  If we want to engage others in our beliefs we should be open to hearing first what they believe.

When you think about it, it is truly arrogant to come at someone using jargon they probably will not understand and to do so in a way that gives the impression what they have to say doesn’t matter; they just need to listen to the truth and buy into it!

My friends, that was not the way of Jesus. He met people where they were and instead of telling them a bunch of obscure doctrine he listened and spoke to where they were. He could only do this by observing and knowing who they were and what they were about. This meant he had to listen and care enough to find out. We could learn a lot from Jesus on how to talk to people about our faith.

Jesus listened and he cared. When he saw the people of Israel it says he had compassion. That word means to “hurt in the gut.” His care was so deep it pained Him to see their travail. If all we want is to hammer them with words, while failing to listen and to care, then we should be shunned and ignored as heartless bullies.

Jesus listened; he cared; he was also bold. I don’t think we lose our boldness to call out sin or to speak challenge to others by being sensitive to them. Jesus definitely did not hold back! He called the Samaritan woman out; he laid into the Pharisees; he showed the adulteress woman grace but told her to sin no more. Jesus did not mince words. If we are willing to listen and to care, we will find others more open to letting us speak into their lives. We need to earn the right.

Flip that around. You would be same way. If someone came at you with words you didn’t know and made it clear they didn’t want to hear what you had to say but wanted you to just listen and then they spoke strong challenges to you, you would close your ears and have none of it! How dare they!?

We need to dialogue with others about our faith but this means thinking through the jargon we use, listening better, caring more, and speaking boldly for their good and not out of frustration or judgment.

Peter said it best: “ but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

People Don’t Like Being Told They Are Going To Hell

We need to think about how we say things to others who disagree with us about God.

In speaking to those who don’t believe in Jesus, as the Savior of mankind, let me assure you they don’t take kindly to being called lost, ignorant, deceived, or hell-bound. They find it condescending, judgmental, and hateful. If I were a nonbeliever I would not like it either. As a Christian, we have to understand this. We need to “feel” what they are saying and understand that it’s a strong statement we make when we say they are lost or going to Hell. That kind of pronouncement carries with it a lot of emotion and judgment.

We can not be flippant with those words if we want to show that we care. If we are offering the grace of Jesus, we can’t do it from the approach that they are wretched in need of a massive makeover to appease God and really, to appease us. They are no less human and no more unworthy than any of us. We dehumanize people so often with our words all in the name of God. I have been guilty of this myself but I don’t want to continue to treat people as less than human.

That in no way means I don’t believe all people of every race and status are in need of the gospel. Everyone deserves to hear about Christ and needs Him for salvation. My error is insensitivity. I haven’t been as sensitive to them in the words I have used to convey what I believe to be true. We are fools if we think they are not going to struggle with our belief that they are sinners and will go to Hell for eternity in judgment. I mean who wants to hear that! Yet, if we believe that those without Christ are bound for eternity from God then it is the greatest act of love we can give to do everything we can to help them see the way of salvation. Think about it like this: if another person saw me doing something that was harmful to myself and thy intervened, I may not appreciate it in the moment but surely it is an act of mercy and care! I often try to help people who don’t want to admit or recognize their issue(s) but to do nothing feels cruel. No one, I mean no one, is going to shake your hand and thank you for telling them they are going to Hell. Let’s put ourselves in their shoes. We have to think very carefully how we speak to those who are without a relationship with Christ. I suggest the following:1) Before you engage them remind yourself that you are no better than them and the same salvation you say they need, you needed yourself. Give grace because you surely needed grace yourself.

2) This goes with the first one but be humble. This is not about your pride or ego or another notch on your belt or winning an argument. You do this because you care about them so prove it in your words.

3) You should dialogue and debate with them but don’t let emotions or anger influence your words. I have been so guilty of this in my debates. There have been times where my ego got in the way or I let anger cloud my judgment. It undermines everything I am saying when that happens.

4) Be prepared for them to attack you. They are not going to like that you lean on faith and not reason. They are going to ridicule it and disrespect you. You need to be honest that you don’t have the proof they want to see and also that you don’t know all the answers. If they don’t believe then give them that right. Respect their decision. Your job is to share and not to convert. You cannot convert people because you do not have the ability to change their heart.

Let’s think through how we engage people with the gospel. Let’s treat them respectfully and lovingly. Let’s be patient with them just as others were patient with us. Hurting people in the name of truth is wrong. We should present the truth with sensitivity and care.

Five Statements Every Child Should Hear From Their Parents

Words are powerful. Words spoken by parents to their children will help shape them. If we understand the power of our words then we can be more intentional in using them to foster health in our children. I suggest using these five statements on a regular basis with your child(ren):

1) “I am proud of you“- perhaps are kids need to hear this more on their failures than successes. They need to know that our love for them is not conditional based off performance. They need to be able to rest in the consistent grace of their parents.

2) “I am sorry“- our children are people who feel just like we do. We are probably quick to correct them and challenge them to be better but they need to see we are not perfect either. There are times we make mistakes and disappoint them. They need to see us own it and apologize to them. Not only does it set the example for our kids in being willing to apologize when we hurt them but it also shows them respect that we think enough about their feelings to apologize. Sometimes our kids need to hear they were right and we were wrong.

3) “Not everyone will like you“- our kids are special but not everyone will appreciate that. Some just won’t be interested in them and they need to be ok with that. The world should not revolve around our kids and we can’t reinforce their expectation that it does. Help your child not be self-absorbed.

4) “Keep trusting God and He will lead you.”- they need to know that following God is essential for their success in life. Of course words are only as powerful as our actions here. They need to see us trusting in the Lord in our decisions, modeling this for them. We don’t want to teach our children that relying on their own abilities and effort is the key to success. Helping them to become self- sufficient can lead to pride and neglect of God in their life.

5) “It’s okay- mistakes happen“- wiser parents than me have said they wish they would have been easier on their kids, especially in their mistakes. Our kids need to know that it’s ok to fail and that their value is not diminished. We don’t want to teach them to be perfectionists. It will wreck havoc on them and rob them of the joy of life. Let your kids fail and then help them see that it’s ok when they do.