Monday, September 21, 2015

7 Years That Feel Like Yesterday

7 years ago Emilie & I were getting ready to begin a life-group around our firepit when I received a phone call that would forever change life, the way I looked at the world, and the way I viewed my relationship with God.

On the other end of the phone was my uncle telling me that my grandparents had been in a motorcycle accident & things weren't looking good for either of them. We lived 3 hours away. We finished our group & left. 

I will never forget walking in the hospital room & seeing my grandma there. She looked like herself, but at the same time she didn't. So many emotions, questions, wishes, regrets...all came flooding in at once. I will never forget pleading with God to heal her. Yet nothing happened. She didn't get better & we had to make a difficult decisions the next day. I will never forget it. I was angry & I was mad & I was sad & I was confused. God chose not to heal her. The strongest woman in my life, the woman I knew prayed for me every day, and multiple times a day was gone. He didn't heal her. Or did He?

As the years have passed, as I have grown closer to God & matured I have come to the realization that God did heal her, just not in the way I wanted Him to. My grandma will never hurt again. She will never experience sadness again. She is where followers of Jesus long to the presence of the God who created her, called her & sustained her. He healed her...and made her perfect...and called her home.

As hard as it is to think of all the things she missed in my life & my family's life...I can honestly say I am no longer sad. I miss her dearly. Every day I miss her. Life would look much different if she were still here. But she's not here...she's with Jesus. And that is the reason I am not sad. I rejoice in knowing that she is experiencing the fullness of God & complete joy that she prayed I would experience for so many years. I rejoice knowing that I will see her again. I rejoice knowing that she will always be my grandma, and I will always be her grandson. Death did not defeat her...a motorcycle accident did not defeat her...death was not the end, because we have a hope in the One who defeated death. 

I cannot wait to see her again...and she better have a cherry pie waiting for me...

Mary Rita Raney

Sunday, September 20, 2015's a funny thing isn't it? We all have influence. Some of us choose to ignore our influence or pretend that it doesn't exist...but we all have influence; don't kid yourself. 

You have the ability to influence people in a way that takes them forward, holds them in place, or pushes them further back. How do you influence? Who have you influenced? Who is influencing you?

I'm a firm believer that our lives often reflect very closely people & elements we have allowed to influence us. You have control over what you allow to influence also have control over how you influence others.

Saturday night I had the opportunity to attend a Lecrae concert in Topeka, KS with my family & some good friends. As I was standing there, watching & listening (& feeling the bass thump in my chest)...I couldn't help but just observe my son as he looked. Lecrae is easily one of his favorite artists & he knows the words to nearly every song. His favorite two songs: "Tell The World" & "Background". I am so grateful for people like Lecrae who have chosen to influence people like my son in a way that takes him forward. "Tell The World" is a song about being a billboard for Jesus. Represent Him to the world. "Background" is a song about getting out of the way & letting God lead your life while you play the background. There aren't any greater things that I pray for in my son's life than these two things. That he would allow God to lead him & that he would grow to be a man who is a billboard for God. As I watched my son in his element, singing & dancing to someone he has been so influenced by...I couldn't help but be grateful.

Grateful for everyone who has influenced my life. Family, friends, coaches, teachers, professors, counselors, doctors, many I can't even begin to name them. My life, my family & my ministry is a reflection of those who have influenced me. I'm also grateful for the many opportunities I have had to influence others over the years. Whether in coffee shops or basketball arenas, football locker rooms or church sanctuaries, at funeral & weddings...or at business meetings. I am so grateful for the opportunities to influence & I look forward to many, many more. 

Influence is a funny thing...It contributes to making you who you are...and yet, it is also something that you can use to change the life of others. 

Always Believe,


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Joy, Values, Love, Sin, Murder & Other Random Stuff

So this past week or so has been an interesting one to say the least. I've experienced the great joy of being back in the teaching saddle at Grace Crossing, I'm beginning to feel better with every passing day it seems (yet I'm fighting off a flu bug I think), I feel like I'm coming out of a dark tunnel in many ways. I have enjoyed seeing my kids get back to school & transition so smoothly. I have witnessed the excitement of our people when we announced the move to our new building. So many moments of joy in the past week. But in the midst of all that joy was a sucker-punch to the gut that was a very real reminder of just how powerful sin is in our lives & in our culture.

Last week, a college friend of mine from my DePauw days was murdered in Dallas. Many of you may have seen the coverage on the news. She was a great girl. One of my favorites. We were Bonner Scholars together and had many of the same friends in our circles. She had a very giving heart & a magnetic presence that made people want to be around her. She impacted many, many people. I regret not keeping in touch with her since we graduated. But this incident has spurred communication with many old friends as we have shared memories, and for that I have been grateful. As new details continue to come out in her case it makes it all the more sad & made me stop & think about the world we all live in & must find a way to navigate through.

What is it that makes What is it that drives you to do the things you do? What motivates someone to kill another person? How can someone drift that far? As a culture how have we become numb to things that should be repulsive to us? Those of you who know me...know that I have friends in many different demographic groups & I love them all. Color does not matter to me, socioeconomic status does not matter to me, education level does not matter to me. People matter to me. People matter to God. If we valued each other the way God values each of us, how would things change?

I am starting to think that many people drift because we have things out of order in life. Our Actions, Our Relationships. Our Values. What if we've missed it? What if we've allowed our actions & our relationships to define our values, when it should be the exact opposite? What if we could each focus on our values in life, our beliefs, and have that be the catalyst for our actions & our relationships? Would anything change? I would argue that it absolutely would.

I see a world that is drifting, and behavior modification is not the answer. New policies & procedures are not the answer. The only answer is a change in the heart...a change in our values...a return to focusing on building WHO we are, and not just WHAT we are or WHAT we do.

May I never lose sight of the fact that I am a follower of Jesus PRIOR to being a pastor, or a husband, or a father, or a leader. The way I follow Jesus should influence everything else in my life.

I have to wonder...would my friend still be here today if we lived in a world where people focused on basing their lives on values & beliefs...instead of greed, jealousy, & every other sin you can think of. Satan is a great on guard my friends. I believe in a God who is bigger...a Jesus who has overcome...and a Spirit who continues to shape me into who I am called to be.

So again I ask...what is it that makes