Most Fridays I feature a website, blog, book, or video that for me has become a favorite. It may be a favorite resource, a source of inspiration, or just something I found interesting. Please feel free to comment, and I hope you might share a favorite or two of your own in the comment section. Who knows, maybe I will feature something you shared as a future Friday Favorite.
Sometimes we wonder and there may even be times when we have cause to doubt, but when we take the time to “pause” and look around we will find God…especially when Creation Calls and we are listening!
Sixteen hours in a car driving to and from Indiana for a wedding last weekend afforded me a good bit of time to reflect on the first six months of 2011. In the moments when my family dozed, one thought emerged almost as often as overpasses appeared on the horizon:
I had not “paused” as often as I hoped to this year.
My first inclination was to go through a long list of excuses why, and those familiar with my story might consider most to be legitimate. Regardless of the excuses, though, one question lingered.
Is there a correlation between pausing and being grateful?
When you live your life at a pace life dictates, you miss what opportunities are present to go deeper, past those surface level observations. At the surface everything is a blur, much like when you lie in bed at night and the day just plays through your head like a movie preview trailer. But if you truly desire to see the real story being written by your life, you need to make an effort to look past the obvious and find the picture God is painting.
Why Me and Why Now is the second installment in a series of posts called My Cancer Confessionals, where I lift the mask on how I “try” to leverage my faith in the midst of adversity. I outlined earlier my concern that my optimistic and encouraging attitude might lead readers to believe I somehow never have doubts, fears, or concerns…all of which couldn’t be further from the truth. For me, trusting God periodis a day-to-day challenge, and some days are just harder than others. But thanks to my personal relationship with my Heavenly Father, on those tough days when I don’t have what I need, He is there to bridge the gap and that relationship grows deeper.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” Proverbs 3:5 NIV
Truth be told, my world, my life, and yes, even my faith has ebbed and flowed in the midst of all the sub-plots in my life and was what I was referring to in my post entitled Paradigm Shift. As one dream was coming true, Shari and I deciding to get married and were signing up for our church’s 2:1 pre-marital mentoring program, a nightmare re-emerged as I learned my merkel cell cancer had metastasized. What was thought to be remote and isolated had now taken on a “popcorn” effect (one doctor’s term) and popped up in multiple areas of my body.
If you were to take the time to poll my family, my friends, and my co-workers asking them to describe my outlook on life, most if not all, would described me as an optimist…a glass half-full guy. Dig a little deeper into what makes me tick and spend a little time reading through my DISC profile (high D & I) you would learn that being an encourager is another characteristics which makes up who I am. Optimism and encouragement come naturally to me and throughout my career they have been utilized to build teams and help grow businesses.
However in the scope of writing blog such as Leveraging Life, I have a genuine concern, what comes naturally (optimism and encouragement) could be taken out of context or be misconstrued leaving readers with a false impression that I never have doubts, that I live my life without fear, or that I somehow trust blindly when facing trials or adversity.
“saying trust God period and living trust God period are two totally different mindsets…one is contingent on circumstance and situation warranting that trust, and the other is influenced by a relationship which is nurtured through circumstance and situation creating an environment of trust.”
“Why is Good Friday called Good if it pertains to the day Jesus was crucified?”
This innocent question came my way recently and as I was about to give my answer, an answer that had more to do with fasting and sacrificial rituals, I paused and said it’s called “Good” because a great exchange that took place that Friday.
“Jesus exchanged His human life for my eternal life…and your eternal life as well.”
As I said in last week’s post Amazing Love, faith for me over the last five years has become very personal. By that I mean it has less to do about attendance because of an obligation and everything to do with God, His grace, His love, and a desire to know my Savior Jesus Christ. Subsequently the lens from which I view life and how my life is impacted by what is shared in the Bible results in new and different meanings for things I grew up taking for granted. And while I know I’m not alone in what I perceive to be my spiritual maturity, one of the biggest changes is how I view the cross. Specifically what took place that Good Friday which as the song title says leaves me Sweetly Broken.
To the cross I look, to the cross I cling Of it’s suffering I do drink Of it’s work I do sing
For on it my Savior both bruised and crushed Showed that God is love And God is just
At the cross You beckon me You draw me gently to my knees, and I am Lost for words, so lost in love, I’m sweetly broken, wholly surrendered
What a priceless gift, undeserved life Have I been given Through Christ crucified
You’ve called me out of death You’ve called me into life And I was under Your wrath Now through the cross I’m reconciled
At the cross You beckon me You draw me gently to my knees, and I am Lost for words, so lost in love, I’m sweetly broken, wholly surrendered
In awe of the cross I must confess How wondrous Your redeeming love and How great is Your faithfulness
What you see here is what greeted Shari on the afternoon I proposed. Most people would say three weeks is just too short of period of time to plan a wedding. A lot of life was crammed into those 21 incredible days, plus we had so much affirmation in the God Winks which paved the way to March 19, 2011, their was no denying that Saturday would be the day when Shari and I became husband and wife.
Regardless of the size, weddings require planning, coordination, and organization in order to insure the day is filled with memories. Time usually is the best friend a bride and groom have to guaranty those memories are good memories. Our wedding and the variables that went with it…schedules, location, catering, musician, rings, etc…each obstacles in their own right at some point, all somehow fell in place as the day approached. And those who know us and our story, saw first hand all the God Winks in those 21 days, even my car being broken into two days before the ceremony.
Our God Wink Story
Shari and I met in 2008 while we attended different locations (campuses) of North Point Church. I was a member of and served at the Buckhead Church campus, and Shari was a member of and served at the Alpharetta Church campus some 15 miles away. As much as I would have liked to participate in Fusion (our singles program) at my home campus, Buckhead, making two trips downtown on a Sunday just didn’t make much sense. Fortunately for me I had the option to join the Alpharetta group and in our eyes that was where the God Winks began for us. And despite meeting then, both of us were in different places and that was all it was meeting and going our separate ways for the next two years.
Random, Fate, or another God Wink
In the spring of 2010 we both signed up for Fusion again, and yes for me once again Alpharetta…not Buckhead. Odds were about the same 400+ singles randomly assigned to 7-8 different host homes, yet we find ourselves not only placed in the same host home, but also in the same small group within that home. Coincidence, chance…destiny…we know it to be one big defining God Wink!
I mentioned in my last post “Where are the God Winks” that I would highlight some of the God Winks from my life and I thought career would be a great place to start because it incorporates networking and how God can connect all those dots.
A God Wink is … something taken as evidence that a higher power is at work; a coincidence.
I have been in the auto industry since college; actually I started selling Ford’s as a way to earn some extra spending money while at the University of Georgia. I did rather well working weekends and a few nights here and there which gave me the opportunity to create my own job description as the UGA on-campus College Graduate Plan coordinator. No one exactly knew what I did, but the title helped me negotiate the need to have an “on-campus” demonstrator available to show to potential buyers….a brand new Mustang GT. Not a bad thing for a 21 year old college senior to have in Athens and actually a pretty cool perk.
I think most of us were taught to view life through a lens where [ cause = effect ] or in other words, your efforts usually lead to your rewards.
Think back to school…how hard you studied was reflected in the grade you received.
Fast forward to when you’re out of school, work hard, contribute to the overall company mission, give a 110%…you make a decent living, buy a nice house, and add something to your 401k each month.
Sure the journey can be easier when blessed with gifts and talents, but even blessings bear the weight of stewardship which requires making sound choices in our use of those talents and gifts.
If not careful our education and the culture we become a part of leads us to believe we are self-made, which if unchecked, feeds our pride and inflates our egos in such a way we begin to believe we had no Spiritual help along the way. At some point in life there comes a time when we are forced to acknowledge those circumstances and the timing that was out of our control. Some say timing is a by-product of trust, and others believe fate is the result of faith. Life at its simpliest level comes down to a choice about what we believe and Who we believe in.
A God Wink is …an event or experience, often identified as coincidence, so astonishing that it could only have come from God…answered prayer.
I have a hard time seeing what God is doing in my life because I’m so caught up in doing life, and as a result I miss a lot of what should be evident. But having people in my life who know me and know God in their own personal way are quick to share with me what I fail to see. Another huge factor was when my Pastor at Buckhead Church shared his thoughts on what he called “connecting the dots”, something when done with the help of those friends illustrates the picture God is painting in my life. The first thing you must do is pause, my One Word for 2011, at specific points of time each year to review where you’ve been and where you’re going. Basically for me it comes down to a simple question, am I in sync with God in the 5 F’s of my life, Faith-Family-Friends-Finances-Fitness? Sometimes the picture is crystal clear and I can see exactly where I’m going, and at other times only part of the picture is clear and that’s where your friends come in as God uses them to highlight some of the dots.
For example, this snapshot in time Family, Friends, and Finances are as clear as any other time in my life, but test results are painting a cloudy, obscure picture in the Fitness category…which causes me to pause and remember I’m not alone and my Heavenly Father wants me to Trust Him period and to place my Faith in Him and take comfort in the promise He is with me and Shari.
Most Fridays I feature a website, blog, or a book that for me has become a favorite. It maybe a favorite resource, a source of inspiration, or just some distraction I frequent. Give the Friday Favorite a look, read, or listen, and please feel free to comment about mine and share a favorite or two of your own in the comment section. Who knows maybe we will feature one of yours as a future Friday Favorite.
How the book When God Winks by SQuire Rushnell came into my life was a God Wink itself now that I look back.
While in a nursing home battling a Sepsis blood infection, I was left with no other choice but to try an sell my dream home. The uncertainty of my health and certain closing of my business forced me to put my home on the market in 2007 only a few months ahead of the real estate market starting to tank. Fortunately for me God’s timing prevailed and I had a contract in four days and I closed in five weeks with a couple who had already sold their home.
With no home to go back to I moved into my parent’s home while waiting to get strong enough for surgery. Barely able to walk, surrounded by books, with time on my hands, ”When God Winks” literally fell into my lap (or to be exact) dropped at my feet as I reached for another book. If the title When God Winks didn’t have my attention, the caption on the cover, “how the power of coincidence guides your life”, certainly did.
God wink: something taken as evidence that a higher power is at work; a coincidence.
As 2010 came to an end and 2011 began I found myself doing quite a bit of reflecting, maybe more than usual. I think for most of us a change of season or a change of year brings that on, but this year more than before this has been a prevailing mindset. For me, I think that comes from being in a great place personally, professionally, and spiritually.
Now don’t get me wrong my life isn’t perfect, but the reality is life is so much richer than it has ever been before. Certainly not in the monetary sense, because I’ve made a lot more, but it’s rich on so many other levels. Words like fulfilling, promise, satisfaction, peace, and trust all come to mind and when they do I find myself wondering where I’d be if I had not come to know God in a real and personal way. A real relationship with God and His Son Jesus Christ, not just religion; faith grounded in grace not acts, deeds, and ritual.
So much of what has gone on these last four years came from me not depending on me, not trying to earn something I’d never be worthy of, and me not trusting God for this but not for that…..just trusting God period in all things!
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
In the spirit of my one word for 2011, pause, and because of this reflective mindset I thought it was the appropriate time to share my story….my testimony and the reason why I’m trying to Leverage Life better now than before….because of this personal relationship!
My Story 1964-2007
My name is Tom Martin and I grew up in a family where church was a part of my life for as long as I can remember. But for me faith came to represent attendance and obligation which carried forward as I became an adult.
After graduating from college most people would say work dominated my life. I still went to church but it had become the thing I did on Sunday before playing golf. Just when I thought everything was the way it was supposed to be, the company I worked for twelve years was sold and I started questioning God’s role in my life. And then when I found myself with serious health issues I became disillusioned with God and drifted away.
As I tried to process what was going on in my world I think God used those two crises to get my attention. I realized that the people who were supporting me were the family and friends who came second to my career all those years, and I felt if they could extend me so much grace and mercy maybe God could as well.
As I recovered from surgery I was having trouble gaining clarity on moving forward with my life and my sister Molly sent me an email with a message that said, “not sure if this is what you’re looking for but it might be a place to start.” I thought it was probably something she’d seen on Oprah, but it was a youtube link to the “It’s Personal” series. At first it was difficult to grasp because Andy wasn’t talking about going to church he was talking about having a relationship with God, and after watching it over and over, I knew that was what was missing in my life all those years.
I started to attend Buckhead Church with family last year and found some of the clarity I was looking for in the Hope Mentoring program. David Schmidt was my Hope mentor and he helped me learn what it meant to have a relationship with God. Participating in Starting Point, joining a men’s small group, and volunteering on the production team have all played a role in my being here today.
This past year has not been perfect, there still were challenges personally and for my family, but there is a peace that comes from leaning into that relationship and just watching God be God in my life and lives of my family.
I’d like to thank my family for their love and especially Molly for have the courage to send that email. I’d also like to David Schmidt, Paul Cote, and Russ West for being the kind of friends who went out of their way to reassure me that they could see God working in my life when I had my doubts. And a final thank you to all of you who have prayed for me throughout this journey, I believe that my declaration today that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior is the answer to all those prayers. From My Baptism Video Testimony May 31, 2009
Feel free to contact me for more information or additional links to learn more about anything featured in this post or with questions on how you can also begin to have a personal relationship with your Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ.
trusting God period
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