42

It’s been a long time since I have posted  on this blog, and time is something I seemingly have borrowed when I consider my life in reflection. Realizing there is much work to do, time is something I can no longer afford to waste or take for granted.

Growing up I never pictured myself over 30. I’m not entirely sure if it was because all of my childhood heroes were dead before 30, or if I just couldn’t picture myself a mature, responsible grown man. My parents divorced when I was 14 and the model my dad left for me was not that of a mature, responsible grown man, and definitely not that of a Godly man – yet , here I am, one day past my 42nd year of  life .

I suppose in some ways, I have beaten the odds. Statistically speaking, children of divorce don’t typically grow up and stay married due to the broken model set before them, unfortunately they will often follow suit.  Five days from now, however, I will celebrate my 18th year of marriage to the same woman who has also given birth to my two beautiful children.  In addition, statistically I should not have overcome my addiction to drugs and alcohol. Oh, please don’t misunderstand – many overcome and go on with their lives but more than 70% of those go back to some form of abuse, and I can gratefully say that I have not. Finally at 42 , when many my age have given in to poor diet (not that mine is perfect, it is still my biggest struggle) I choose to make the best choices I am able and workout 5 days a week, as well as coach my son’s soccer team and I am stronger physically than I ever have been in my life. I have the best job I could ask for, doing what I love to do and I could go on and on  –  The point is my life, though it is not without conflict or struggle at times, is greater than I ever could have imagined – Especially because I had no expectation of a 42nd year of life.

However, all the things I just said about me, have nothing to do with me, but EVERYTHING to do with CHRIST. I am alive solely because of the grace that he has given me. My marriage is intact solely because of the truth of the gospel and the teaching about marriage in the bible. I have remained sober solely because of the strength I have gained internally from prayer and the knowledge of myself I have acquired through bible study , and the support given to me by my brothers and sisters in Christ. Every single day of life and every single breath is God’s grace for me, and I live for him because of it.  For a guy who has seemingly outlived himself by 12 years – I have absolutely been blessed!

All of this reflection is not without concern, however. I have a great deal of concern for the world my kids are growing up in. Needless to say, it is not the world I grew up in. While I may have beaten the odds getting to 42, my kids have the odds stacked highly against them in regards to living a Christian life. Entertainment is now the driving force that shapes culture, and not God. We now live in a Godless culture where he and his name are deemed offensive and are taken out of everything all in the name of “tolerance” while his people are shown none. The over-sexualization of our children is being forced through every possible outlet including those that used to be considered safe. Television networks are tireless in their efforts to push the boundaries on every level so that we are desensitized to all lasciviousness and immorality while modesty, shamefacedness, and purity are ridiculed and downplayed. Traditional marriage is mocked, and perversion is celebrated. The music industry is even worse.

Nothing is shocking anymore that should be, and everything that once was right, is now shocking and despised.

I hate to sound my age, but I suppose maybe this is what 42 sounds like? Maybe this is what a mature, responsible, grown and Godly man  sounds like? Who knows? Not me – I am surprised as anyone  just to be here – but I am, now what will I do with this time I have been given?

There is much to do, and not that 1 blog as one man’s attempt to change the world can do that, but If can just change one person’s world , and then they can change one other , and so on – revolution just might be possible.

Who knows what 43 may look like this time next year?

I am hopeful 😉 dad

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His name was James…

Last night , another chapter of my life came to a close as my father   passed away…

He never let us call him “Dad” or “Daddy”.. It was “Stoney” – a childhood nickname that  he acquired  that he insisted everyone call him by , even us… All of my friends thought it was awesome that we didn’t have to call our dad “dad” ,but not me.. I hated it.  As a dad myself  , I can’t imagine EVER being called anything else but “Daddy” by my kids – but I don’t hold that against him anymore. I know that he had many demons to contend with from his own past and the way he was brought up and this was simply a defense mechanism to keep up at a distance , to keep from getting too close to us…but he was my dad  , and I loved him anyway.

There aren’t very many lessons that he taught me…not alot of those “father /son” moments where he bestowed some wise life lesson or some good bit of fatherly advice..I think in part  , he was still trying to figure it out himself. My dad didn’t have the benefit of an incredible big brother and grandfather to help shape the heart of a young boy like I did..My dad had a more than turbulent relationship with both his parents and an older brother who was in “The Hell’s Angels” back in their heyday..No – my dad was still very much an afraid little boy for the majority of his life… but he was my dad , and I loved him anyway.

There  aren’t many great memories to cling to either .. Most of the time I was scared when he was home or when he had his friends over.. They were always loud dizzy acting and I didn’t understand why then – but there are a few memories that will always be standouts.. There were 2 camping trips that will always mean the  most to me. Both trips it was just he ,my brother and I. One was at a country pond owned by a family friend , the other was on the Flint River.. I have many ,vivid  details from both trips that will always stay with me. The country pond trip we cooked over the open fire . This may not seem to be a big deal , but it was my first time – and all we ate was JUNK!.. The Flint River trip I was a little older , and we put in at one point – floated down the river to a sand bar and camped , then finished the trip to exit point the next day. Along the way we swung from a rope tied to an extended tree branch over the river  – This topped open fire junk food eating by leaps and bounds and was monumental in my life .. I have even blogged about that event here… This trip was truly an ADVENTURE!…But what really made them so awesome was the fact that it was just him and us – no drunk or stoned buddies – just him and us. He actually gave us his time ..he talked to us about stuff… about life ,girls etc…

The memory that really sticks out , was when I was in the 6th grade.  The one thing my father truly impressed on me was a deep love and appreciation for music. From the earliest memories I have  , music was always on in the house , and my dad was always talking about the artist.. I amazed at how much he knew about these people. My dad was a guitar player and played often.. I can’t hear The Doors  or The Beach Boys and not think of him  as these were a few of the staples in his “arsenal”. At any rate , it was in me… BIG TIME and I  seen Motley Crue’s “Looks that Kill video and knew  then what I wanted to do… I had to have DRUMS…I had been trying to convince him for months to buy me a drum set. His answer was always “NO” – You don’t know how to play… But I did.. Not because I had ever sat behind a drum set in my life , but  because I had seen enough music videos and watched the drummers play , that I knew EXACTLY what to do..I had mimicked their movements  , emulated their patterns and played enough air drums to KNOW that I KNEW..and finally the day had come. We were at Music Mart in Smyrna. Music Mart might as well have been Disneyland for me…it was HUGE (long before your cookie cutter Guitar Centers)..and while my dad was looking at guitars , I bee -lined for the drum section where they had an incredible monster of a drum set  on display that from its looks ,had been tried more than a couple of times. This was my ONE SHOT to prove to my dad I had skills and was deserving of a set… “In the air tonight “by Phil Collins was blasting over the stores P.A system and when the time came in the song for the all famous Drum intro – I played right along as hard and as LOUD as I could… and I was good. So good that without realizing it, my eyes closed and I just fell into the groove of that song and played my heart out for the remaining minute and 30 seconds of that song… And when I opened my eyes  , I was surrounded. It seemed like the entire store was gathered around me , and right in the middle  , was my dad.  Fear came over me  .. I didn’t dawn on me that maybe I wasn’t supposed to play these drums and my desire to show my dad I could ,had maybe replaced common sense at that moment… Until he smiled at me.  He smiled the biggest smile I had ever seen him smile.. and I had done it. I had ,even for just a moment -gained his approval and he was proud of me… The whole store cheered for me and  so did he… It was a great day and needless to say for Christmas – I got my drums.

These …these are what I will remember. …Because he was my dad and I didn’t have to “love him anyway “during these times – I just loved him… and he loved us back.

His name was James “Stoney” Stonehart and he was my dad. He died  way too young… and I will miss him.

Breaking the Cycle in 2013…

If you know me , then you know by nature I am an optimist. I give strong diligence to always trying to find the best in every situation , and everyone. Admittedly – this has become extremely difficult in our current time and despite very good things that happened in my own life , 2012 was a hard year to see through positive eyes.  With a culture that has adopted a completely debased mindset and shoved God out of everything , its difficult for even me to fight the Monster within…but I do…and I press on – with much hope for the oncoming year.

The sense of renewal that comes with the passing of the old year and the anticipation of the new one to come is nothing short of exhilarating!  As humans we love the idea of beginning again ,fresh .. another opportunity to somehow ,this time – get it right… To truly change something about our lives for the better … to make a difference. All to often however  , this fades. It fades because the mistakes of last year and it’s consequences follow us , or because while change sounds good – it often requires too much work from us and so we fall back to our old comfortable habits … The truth is –  We allow history to repeat itself and then look to God as somewhere to place  blame .. There should be no need to remind anyone of this – but it was man and his CHOICE that brought sin into the world , not God .The consequence of sin is DEATH ,both physical and spiritual so everything around us now is in a state of decay . This makes renewal almost seem pointless , and yet every year – we vainly look with hopeful eyes to the promise of a new year and what it MAY bring…. but you see , that’s the point –  “The Year” in and of itself doesn’t bring anything… WE DO.

This perspective changes things , doesn’t it? The truth is – “the universe” doesn’t bring anything to you or me ,but rather we bring the universe to us. Bad things happen to good people because of choices made before our time . Our morality in America didn’t just begin to decline , its been going on for decades and every passing generation feels the effects a little stronger from the choices made by the previous  – This very principle goes back to The Garden with Adam and Eve and the CHOICE of sin that THEY made and that we STILL suffer the consequence for. In the 50’s ,morality in America was at an all time high and now just some 60 years later it is truly at rock bottom. We have exchanged EVERY truth with a LIE – just as Eve did with thee fruit from the forbidden tree. The enemy added one word to Gods command  ,and changed mankind forever. In Genesis 2 :16-17  God said ” If you eat of the fruit from the tree of knowledge  of Good and Evil , Surely  -you will die”… Satan simply added the word”Not” and changed it to “Surely you will NOT die”…. But DIE we did… and we still do.

With violence and sexual immorality glorified in today’s culture , I can only imagine what truths we are exchanging for lies that our children will have to face and ultimately suffer for . Drug use continues to become more and more prevalent as people look to escape the reality of this world we have created and in doing so creating more and more of consequences they are trying to numb themselves to. Evil men make evil choices and pure and innocent minds are corrupted , thus making even more soldiers of the enemy for future generations. Economies crash because of greed , fear and paranoia prevail and  inevitably – somewhere  the innocent are slain down for NO APPARENT REASON ….. and we , who have welcomed these evils from previous times , who have exchanged truth for lies , who have pushed God out of EVERYTHING scream out with arms outstretched begging to know “WHERE IS GOD”???

He is exactly where he was when we first betrayed him , and where he was while we still betray him.

More importantly – He is exactly where he was when we nailed HIS son to the cross…. and he still waits there for us to CHOOSE HIM.

The REAL question is – “Where are YOU???”

In the midst of the consequences of our sin , God had a plan.. and through this plan – regardless of what condition the world is in , we can have peace – TRUE PEACE .. we can have renewal – TRUE RENEWAL ..and we can have change – TRUE CHANGE..

There are only 2 agents for change that can be served , and we all serve one  o r the other…2013  can be different from 2012… or not…. The CHOICE is truly ours.

15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

If you are serious about change , as always – The invitation to Study the bible is ALWAYS open…   😉

Read  Romans 12:1-8

 

Bittersweet..

It’s funny , I have probably driven  up this road more than a couple of thousand times in that last 11 years and yet today I noticed things that I hadn’t before… Not that I hadn’t ever seen them before , but I supposed today I really appreciated them.  The small horse farm between our neighborhood and the grocery store seemed to reach out and pull me in – almost as if I was moving in slow motion so that I could fully take in the charm of the old barn , the horses and the tiny house.  I thought to myself of how awesome it was nestled here in suburbia between the ever-growing development of new neighborhoods and shops  , that right here in this 1 mile stretch of road  –  beauty still remained…I appreciated the 3 dead oak trees that I have wondered for years would ever fall , and marveled at them because they hadn’t… They just stood there stoic against the backdrop of  changing fall leaves ,almost as if they were putting on one last show for me before I go…

I just took it all in… Because in a week , my scenery will change. Not that I don’t look forward to the move and the opportunity before me to work with the church there – I mean I still can’t believe that this work will not only be the thing that sustains me and my family ,but it is the work that I truly ,truly love to do… I can barely stand the anticipation of waiting to just to “get there” , and yet –  there is sadness..though I wouldn’t  exactly call it sadness ,but I suppose more of a” nostalgia in real-time” …. It’s bittersweet  – not just leaving  my friends and family ,but my surroundings..my memories here..my road…my grocery store… my town. … Sugar Hill Georgia.

These things will all be new for us in a few weeks ,and while I am riddled with excitement of what our new places will be to us THERE, I’m caught up in a meld of moments of what these places have been to me HERE … For instance –  I obeyed the Gospel of Christ here.. I kicked addiction and got sober here.. I fought for my marriage ,  and won it back  here.. I raised both of my kids here , and this has been their home as long as they can remember…In a very real sense , I too have grown up here!  It should be no surprise to me that in the  last few weeks  I have noticed MORE of what I have taken for granted for so long , and taken advantage of the time left here – and really  , really appreciated this place…

As I sit here in front of the screen thinking of how next to word my next sentence, a  thought enters my head that I just can’t ignore – I wonder how Jesus felt in his last days? I wonder , did he take in all  his surroundings? Although he had left heaven and ultimately emptied himself as deity to the form of a human – surely he appreciated his creation? Surely he took a good look around and saw that it was indeed  , GOOD (Genesis 1:31)…Or his relationships with those that he loved ? His mother? His brothers and sisters? John? …Peter? No question that Jesus dreaded the fate that awaited him –  we see the evidence of the sweat drops of blood as he prayed in the garden for it to pass from him(Luke 22:44) – so how much more did he soak up all the little moments leading up to that dreaded tree? Although he was God – he also was human.. He felt joy and happiness…  as well as pain and anguish and its only my humble opinion ,but he HAD to  have taken a really good look around and said to himself ” It’s gonna be hard to let this go”…

But I’m only presuming , and I wouldn’t dare to make a statement for him that he didn’t say  nor would I assume to know his thoughts on these things – they weren’t revealed in scripture… I suppose its me and my humanity desperately trying to relate to his… But after all – earth is NOT heaven , but man –

It sure does have its moments…

In the last month , I have subjected myself to situations that normally I would not have. Work situations that I normally would turn down due to personality conflicts or control issues… I have done this only for the purpose of  aiding me in the move of my family to another state for the great opportunity that awaits us there to serve our great God and to help others who may be seeking him. Enduring these moments with the knowledge of what waits has been nearly unbearable at times  , and admittedly burdening on my soul…

But today – I drove up my road , on the way to my store , in my town  and took in my surroundings .Maybe for the first time since I have lived here – I made the backdrop the subject , and not just the wallpaper of my mind while I drove from one place to the next …In doing so , it made the events of the past month a little easier to swallow and the taste that will be left  in my mouth of this place , a little sweeter than yesterday.

Maybe for the first time , Sugar Hill GA lived up to its name – It has provided me with a sweetness that has over come the bitterness of leaving , and a regained appetite for the journey to come..

Philippians 3:14  -“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

And press on , I will….   😉