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In the Midst of the Valley

Picture courtesy of PD Photo

In the Midst of the Valley is about being in the midst of so much stuff it's hard to see the sky. Ever feel like that? What we don't realize, sometimes, is that there are incredible treasures to be found in the valley! This blog was started because I beleive that the greatest potential for spiritual growth is in the valley - not on the mountain top. These are lessons God has taught me as I go through the valley season of my life. May He use them to minister to you. Mike

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Valleys = Opportunities

Acts 18:40 - After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydie's house, where they met with the brothers and encouraged them. Then they left.

Here are Paul and Silas - working for the Lord, doing the godly thing, sharing the gospel, casting out demons, being arrested and severely whipped, shackles around their ankles, locked in an inner cell of a Philippi jail, and being closely guarded. So what do they do? That begin a praise and worship service. They being began praying and singing hymns to God!! In spit of what we would clearly claim to be heinous treatment by the people and government of Philippi, they worshiped. They weren't complaining or whining about their circumstances. They weren't inciting the people over their mis-treatment. They didn't run to every person who would lend a sympathetic ear and share their sob story. NO!! I don't think Paul and Silas would stoop to that. Instead they turned to their Lord and praised Him.

I recently ran across a definition of worship I like very much. I can't remember where I read it, but I like it. It goes something like this: "Worship is when we take the focus off of what's wrong with us and place it on what's right with God!" Now that's worship. And this is exactly what Paul and Silas did. They didn't even consider what was wrong with them and, instead, focused on what was right with God.

It was also while in the midst of this valley that hey were sensitive to opportunities to minister to others. Take the jailer, for instance. It says that God used this opportunity to use Paul and Silas to minister to and lead the jailer and his entire family to received Jesus as Lord and Savior. They even baptized them afterwards. They didn't run the first chance they got. They could have. The doors were flung open and the shackles had fallen from their feet. They had every opportunity to hit the road and never look back. They could have said, "Adios amigos!" But they didn't. Instead they used their valley experience to make themselves available to God and lead a man and his family to the Lord.

Then, after finally being released. . .appropriately, according to Paul. . .they went directly to Lydia's house. Why? To tell them about their unfair treatment and to solicit sympathy? I think not! Verse 40 says they went and when they met with the brothers Paul and Silas encouraged them. I can hear them now, telling the brothers - many may have been new to the faith - how God used them in spite of their circumstance to share the gospel.

I do believe there was probably some shoutin' and hollerin' going on. Worship probably broke out there as well.

If you're like me, you can use a reminder like this to help us keep in mind that we need to stop whining and complaining about our valleys and 1) worship our Lord, 2) look for opportunities to minister and be used by God while we are in the midst of a valley, and 3) encourage others when we come out on the other side. If you're in the midst of a valley I hope you will take your focus off of what's wrong with your or your circumstance and place it squarely on what's right with God. Remember, the "what's right with God" is way more powerful than what's wrong with you!


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

My Sign

This is my sign. No it's not a peace sign made popular in the '60s and '70s. It's the V-sign. As in V for victory. It was originally made popular during WWII as a sign of victory and encouragement. I use it all the time. When you ride a motorcycle - like a Harley - you wave not like you do in a car, but by lowering your left hand as you pass another rider. I do this, but with the V-sign.

I have found myself using it more and more these days. I'm not sure I know why. Maybe it's the victory I find myself experiencing every day since the loss of Karen. I don't always feel like I'm living in victory. As a matter of fact, some days I feel downright defeated. Then I'm reminded that the only victory Satan and this world have over me is the victory I give them. I choose to live in victory or defeat.

I write about it today. . .well. . .because today is the the second anniversary (for lack of a better term) of her death. That's right on May 8, 2005 Karen went to worship her God for eternity. As this day approached I've asked many to pray for God's grace for me for today. I wasn't sure what to expect or if I should expect anything. I didn't know how I would feel or if I should be feeling anything. Many have reminded me of their prayers for me. Thank you. I really do appreciate it. Those prayers remind me that I can live in victory.

I know the day's not over and something could still happen. And to be honest. . .that would be OK. I hope I would still choose to live in victory.

What about you? What about you, fellow Valley Venturer, are you living in the victory you have in Christ? You do have victory. Allow me to encourage you to live in victory. Start today. . .right now!


Wednesday, April 25, 2007


When I began this blog it was mainly centered around my journey in the valley of dealing with Karen's death. I recently realized that not all valleys are centered around such deep struggles. I knew that, but it just didn't occur to me as in "a ha!"

Many of us, probably all of us, deal with daily struggles. . .our own little personal struggles. I do. Everyday I wake up I struggle with something - pride, arrogance, demanding, a quick tongue, lust (yeah, I'm such a guy), and some I probably don't even realize. God reminded me that it's these little struggles than lead to a life of victory or a life of defeat. I desire to live a victorious life, but often times I fall and stumble and my struggles overwhelm me.

In Romans 7:13-25, Paul shares with us his own personal struggle - it's mine too. It's the struggle of the flesh against the Spirit. Paul says that he often fell in defeat, but he doesn't stay there. He knows there is victory. That victory doesn't come in our will, ability or our conscious decision to do right. For if that's all there is then defeat overtakes us every time. No, Paul tells us that victory comes in the person of Jesus Christ
I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question?

The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. (v. 24-25)

Ohhhh baby!! Thank you Paul for reminding me, and everyone else, that we don't have to live a life of defeat. Thank you for reminding us that there is victory, even over the daily struggles we get up with, live life with, do our jobs with, do family time with, love our families with, and go to bed with in the person of Jesus Christ.

Today I can choose to live in defeat and wallow in the mire of self-pity or I can get up, wrap myself up in the presence and power of Jesus and live a victorious life. . .daily conquering my struggles. You can too!

Won't you choose victory over defeat?

Saturday, April 21, 2007


Friday night I led our 20-30s Singles Bible study. For some reason I felt God leading me to teach about forgiveness. As I was preparing I noticed that God's forgiveness has always been a vital part of His relationship with His people. In the Old Testament it wasn't so much a person forgiving another person as it was God forgiving the Israelites - corporately or individually. There are exceptions of course: Joseph's brothers asking his forgiveness after realizing who he was; and Saul asking Samuel's forgiveness after Samuel caught him keeping some sheep from the Amalekites when Saul was supposed to wipe them from the face of the earth.

In the New Testament, forgiveness, for the most part, moves from a corporate to a personal experience. Jesus, we find, ushered in a personal relationship with God and with it personal forgiveness. We also find that Jesus expanded the concept of forgiveness from God-to-man to man-to-man. Jesus thought so much of forgiveness that He reminded us that unless we forgive each other God won't forgive us. If you think about it He can't. Unforgiveness puts us on the throne of our lives, not God. In Matthew 6:12-15 Jesus is in the middle of teaching the disciples what is now known as the Lord's Prayer when he says. . .
Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.' For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
He says, "forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." The tense is such that we ask God's forgiveness because we have forgiven others.

In Mark 11:24-25 He also says . . .
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."
Again, Jesus emphasizes forgiveness of others so our Father in heaven will forgive us. The problem is that forgiving others seems to be one of those innate things deep down inside us that is so difficult for us to do. Why? Control - to forgive someone else means we release them and our feelings so that we don't hold it against them any longer. Pride. Emotions or feelings. Lack of understanding who we are in Christ. I'm sure there's some I haven't listed. These are usually mine. You may even have one or two that are just yours.

Dr. Howard Zehr (pioneer and internationally known lecturer, writer, and practitioner on the subject of restorative justice) reminds us of a couple of things about forgiveness.
  • Forgiveness is a process, not an event
  • Forgiveness is a decision not an emotion
  • Forgiveness can't wait until you feel like it or you may never forgive
  • Forgiveness doesn't mean forgetting - remembering can help you so you don't find yourself in the same or similar situation again
  • Forgiveness isn't letting people off the hook - there may be still consequences they may have to address
  • Forgiveness can't be willed to happened
  • Forgiveness doesn't mean you deny your hurt or pain
  • Forgiveness is an acknowledgment of the intrinsic worth of the offender - they, too, have a God-given value
Jesus reminded us that it is not only important, but imperative for the believer. If that's so, then who do you need to forgive? A friend? A family member? A co-worker or boss? What about yourself? I have found that the valley can be a difficult place to forgive, but it's forgiveness while in the valley that moves us forward. Like eradicating yourself of boots caked with mud, the journey through the valley is made easier without the baggage of unforgiveness. It may be difficult. It may actually be the hardest thing you've ever had to do. Just remember, your relationship with God depends on it.


Monday, April 16, 2007

The Journey Continues

Several months back - November, I think - I wrote my last post here. Thinking I was somewhat out of the valley I moved on to other passions. . .new passions. This past weekend made me think, was I out of the valley, or was I encountering a new valley? What have I learned during my time in the valley? Am I different because of my valley experience? Was that difference good or bad? Positive or negative? I could go on, but you're probably getting the picture by now.

This last Saturday I posted about a song I heard and how it made me feel - click here to read it. In that post I spoke of loss - the loss of someone you love to death, illness, drugs, alcohol, pornography, an accident, or to anything else. When I say "anything" I don't necessarily mean a physical death, it could be anything that takes control of their life and leads them to a detrimental result.

I got to thinking. . .Did I lose something or someone after Karen's death? I'm not thinking in terms of Karen, obviously I lost her. I'm also not thinking of losing something in me associated with Karen, like I wrote about here. No, I'm thinking more in terms of me personally.

Actually, I'm thinking more along the lines of did I lose something in me. . .a part of me. . .that has made me different? I seem to be more cynical these days. I'm definitely less trusting. I worry about things that Karen used to worry about. I'm less carefree than I used to be. I used to think I had that wild-man faith that John the Baptist exhibited. Now, I find myself needing more confirmation from God about things. I think that's it. I've lost my deeper sense of trust - in God, in people, even in myself. For good or bad, I think I have lost someone I loved to this situation. I've lost the man that once ran wildly, chasing after God, while everyone else sat on the sideline telling him how crazy he was.

I miss that guy. I miss his willingness to go all out for God no matter the circumstance or the obstacles. I've asked God to bring him back. Like the father of the prodigal son, I long to see him again. I watch the horizon for his figure to come racing home - full bore, head low, stride wide open. I wait with anticipation and expectation. I wait for "one day". One day when my heart will be united with my passion for God and the pursuit of His heart above everything else.

Ever feel like that? I know some of you have. I know some of you are feeling like that now. I know some of you feel like you've lost something. . .something very deep within you. . . through the valleys of life. Don't give up. Like the father of the prodigal son, don't lose hope. Don't give in to fears. Don't stop looking forward to "one day."

Until "one day",

Friday, November 03, 2006

New Blog

Alrighty then!

Some of you have been wondering and asking about my new blog. Well here it is.

Here's the link to my new blog. It's in WordPress 2.0. I'm still learning, updating, and modifying. Eventually it will be part of a new website/ministry called ManHeart Ministries. For now, though, check out the blog.

Its called "Man Words"

Oh! I'm using a theme I downloaded and some of it is in German. So if you run across something in German or something isn't quite right ignore it - I'm in the process of tracking down all the changes that need to be made - or email me and I will get to it as soon as I can.

Thanks for your support.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Is the End in Sight?

As many of you know I journal. In my journal I write my thoughts, lessons God is teaching me, struggles I'm wrestling with, the good-the bad-the ugly. It's all right there in my journal. Some days I write pages and pages. Some days I don't even complete an entire paragraph (remember, I'm A.D.D.). I write in first, second, and third person - sometimes in the same paragraph, maybe in the same sentence. I don't really care - it MY journal. :)

Here is what I wrote on October 2, 2006:

I haven't posted anything to the In the Midst of the Valley blog in a while. That has taken a back seat to my new passion. I'm thinking of wrapping it up and closing it. It would still be available, but I don't know what else to add. I just don't know if I could add anything new. I have considered turning it into a book. That would be a lot of work - organizing it, re-writes, publishing, etc. I don't know if I'm ready for a new responsibility. Maybe Gene (my friend and mentor) could give me some insight.

I also dont' know if I've learned all there is to learn about living in the valley. What if there's something else (to learn)? What if I have this big "AHA!" moment?

Then there's the "Have I made it to the mountain top yet?" question. I don't know if I have or not. When will I know? What sould I expect? Do we have mini-mountain top experiences along the way to the "BIG" mountain top - whatever that is?

Then there's the "How do I wrap it up?" question. Do I just say thanks and that's the end? Do I explain myself and what God's doing in my life now and say good night?

Father, grant me the wisdom to move forward. I sense it's time to move on. And if you should want me to put the stuff in a book for others to have in the midst of their valley, please let me know.


So there you have it. Word for word straight from my pen - my thoughts, my struggle, my heart. Is it time to move on? God has definitely impressed a new passion and ministry on my heart and I desire to pursue it at some point. And, of course, what do I do with all this stuff. Believe me, it's good stuff - ok, so I'm a little biased. There's about a year and a half of lessons, insights, thoughts, emotions, and struggles right here for anyone to see and read. Should I publish it? If so, how? Do it myself? Use a publishing company? I just don't have a clue.

Please pray that God would give wisdom and clear direction.

Thanks in advance,

P.S. - Let me know what you think about the publishing stuff.