Spiritual Growth

Life on the road as a trucker is hard. It’s hard on your health. It’s hard on your marriage. It’s hard on your kids. It’s especially hard on your relationship with God. Only by careful, alert management of our time and resources, can we keep our health, marriage, and family.

Our spiritual health must also be guarded and protected. There’s an old adage, ‘you are what you eat’. I would add to that. You are what you hear. You are what you see. You are what you do.

As a driver, I have many hours every day that I must choose what I will fill my mind with. Will I listen to music? Talk radio? News? Nothing? I have found a better way, a way that builds my mind and heart in God and not in the way of the world, a way to know God better in the solitude of a truck:

  • Worship & Pray
  • Listen & Learn

I know, that sounds basic, even trite. But until I made a plan and started doing it, I was stuck in the rut of complacency and lazy habits.(I still fall back into those too often!)

Worship & Pray

I have learned that when I take time each day, even several times a day, to focus on God, to acknowledge His worth-ness, to thank Him for all He’s done, and to praise His goodness, that my life goes better. Yes, the difficulties of life still happen, but somehow they don’t bother me as much. By scheduling a set time each day ( I set alarms on my phone to remind me) I remind myself in the busyness of life to shift my focus back to Him.

I have several tools that I use to help me respond to Him. Drawing from some of the oldest practices of the church, I use the daily worship routine or Orders. Northumbria Monastery has a daily feed that I follow as well as a feed from the Episcopal church.

I’ve had several people question my use of these, asking if they aren’t just rote prayers and therefore lacking in any real substance. Any worship or prayer has the tendency to become rote and devoid of meaning; even reading scripture can become meaningless. The answer is to focus on the words as I am speaking therm, making sure I am speaking therm to God. When I drift, I start over.

Listen & Learn

The biggest part of my day is spent listening and learning and thinking. I spend about an equal amount of time listening to scripture, Christian and classic fiction, Christian non fiction, along with some preaching thrown in.

One of the greatest joys this past year has been to rediscover a love for the Bible. As I have listened to it as a whole, not just reading it in bits and pieces, I have found a cohesiveness that I have never seen before.

Listening to books is different than reading in that it seems easier to picture what the author is saying. It’s like listening to a friend.

If you are stuck in a rut of spiritual complacency I highly recommend that you take a look at some of these tools that I use and implement your own spiritual growth plan.

Daily worship (Orders) apps. Orders are one way to regularly focus on God in personal worship.

Helps you remember those you are praying for.

Lots of good Christian music.

The bible in many versions and hundreds of daily devotions.

Daily Bible readings and portal to many radio teaching ministries.

Many different Bible versions and hundreds of study helps available for purchase. Best study app for the droid.

General purpose flashcard app. Useful for learning and rehearsing memory verses.

Good Christian audiobooks for purchase and download as mp3 files. Save them on a thumb drive and play them through an FM transmitter to your radio. Wait for their twice yearly sale and get the bigger books including Bibles really cheap.

I group 4-6 hour chunks of scripture into folders, then put therm on the thumb drive interspersed with fiction and non fiction books…bible, fiction, bible, non fiction, etc.

Suggested Books
English Standard Version (ESV) Bible
Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
Classic Christianity, Bob George

Suggested Radio Teachers
Grace To You – John MacArthur
Truth For Life – Alistair Begg
Searchlight – Jon Courson

The Strongest Gentle Man

I would like to tell you a story today about the strongest gentle man I ever knew.

I met him when I was quite young and he, to my childish eyes was very old. (I am now almost 15 years older than he was at that time!) He was always safe. I knew that even when he was angry or disappointed with me, I had no worry about his displeasure showing in an abusive way. When I was young I thought he was perfect, but as I aged, I found that he had faults just like everyone else.

He grew up in a time and a family where men did not readily show emotions, although as he aged he learned to let them out a bit. He expected great things from me, sometimes it seemed more than I was able to give, but I learned that was his way of showing love for me. He showed his love most readily by sacrifice and service. When his family needed to move to a safer locale, he left his tenured job that he enjoyed to give them a chance at a new life. He spent many years surrounded by kids in scouts and church groups, helping to teach and lead them, rather than take his summers to pursue his own interests. Nearly every Sunday and many nights he could be found at the church, leading and teaching and helping.

His faith was important to him. While he did not make a big show of it, his life was run the way he believed God would have it. As I grew older he and I had many disagreements about God and faith. He never tried to force me to believe his way, but neither did he back away from his beliefs, even when as a teenager I said some ugly, hateful things. As a young married adult, I moved my little family into his home, and he welcomed them with open arms. Even when I emotionally abandoned them he loved them and me. He never berated me for my poor choices, but simply offered help and support.

It was only after I had matured a little that I began to see him as he really was, good and bad, and to truly love and respect him.

He went home to be with his God yesterday and I know that there will always be a hole in my heart for my Daddy, the strongest gentlest man I ever knew.

Charles Walter Reader

April 16, 1926 – December 22, 2014

You’re Worthless… and Other Lies

You’re worthless!…

When are you going to grow up?…

Why can’t you be like your brother??…

You’re such a failure…

The world would be a better place without you…


These words hurt. A lot. But they are not the words of a cruel father to his son. They are not the words of a wife to her husband. They are not even the words of an enemy.

They are the words that flow through my mind on an all too often basis.

BUT, they are LIES!

You see, I’m broken. We all are in some ways. My particular brokenness (at least the one I’m disclosing here) is hard to describe to those who don’t deal with it in their life. But it’s very familiar to many of you. All my life I have overextended myself to do great things and then turned right around and sabotaged my efforts. I have heard those words echo in my ears countless times. Why?? What is wrong with me?? Am I insane? Why am I so happy one month and then so low the next?

About a year ago, while searching for an answer to this, I had a shocking revelation. I found a description of a disorder that seemed to fit. I even found a few places that had a self questionnaire…and I fit each marker….

Bipolar Disorder (also called Manic Depressive).

I go through cycles of being very up (manic) followed by times of being very down (depressive). The way I describe it is; when I’m in my upswing, I’m the king of the world and can do no wrong, and when I’m in my downswing, I’m the scum of the earth and can do nothing right. The problem comes when in my upswing I commit to more than I am truly capable of and then in my downswing I abandon all my projects and leave others hanging. That is when the lies come yelling in my brain….

What then is the answer for me? Go to a doctor and get prescribed a bunch of drugs? Just deal with it (that hasn’t worked by the way)? Just chuck it all and go be a hermit (sort of).

I decided I would go to God for the answer. And He gave me one! I can sum it up with the phrase ‘this too shall pass’. He taught me that most of the worst decisions I have made in my life were when I was at the extreme top or bottom of my cycle. So the answer to bad decisions is to not make them in a rush or without good counsel. He taught me to wait.

He taught me to question the thoughts in my head to see if they are true or not.

(I do understand that I have a fairly mild form of BPD, and that there are many people who need medications and specialized treatment… If you, or someone you love needs help, please find it as soon as possible.)

He taught me to see through the lies and to hear His response:

Me: You’re worthless!…

Jesus: Really? I died for a worthless man? No, I came to show you how truly marvelous you are to me!

Me: When are you going to grow up?…

Father: I’ll always think of you as my son. Just rest in me. Besides, I like kids!

Me: Why can’t you be like your brother??…

Jesus: Why would you want to? There is only one like you, and I love you!

Me: You’re such a failure…

Spirit: True, you failed in this instance and have made mistakes in others, but that is how I am teaching you to be more like Jesus. And when you see the tapestry of your life from this side… WOW!

Me: The world would be a better place without you…

Jesus: True, the ‘world’ would likely not notice if you were gone, But Lynn would… and Dustin… and Brendon… and Frank and Debbie… and Gordon and Kathy… and so many others I can’t even mention.

Special Note: Thoughts of self destruction are one of the markers of BPD. While I have never attempted or even seriously considered harming myself, thoughts similar to the last one above go through on a fairly regular basis.

For more information see here:

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. They are different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through from time to time. Bipolar disorder symptoms can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. But bipolar disorder can be treated, and people with this illness can lead full and productive lives.

and here:

Bipolar disorder — sometimes called manic-depressive disorder — is associated with mood swings that range from the lows of depression to the highs of mania. When you become depressed, you may feel sad or hopeless and lose interest or pleasure in most activities. When your mood shifts in the other direction, you may feel euphoric and full of energy. Mood shifts may occur only a few times a year, or as often as several times a day. In some cases, bipolar disorder causes symptoms of depression and mania at the same time.

Although bipolar disorder is a disruptive, long-term condition, you can keep your moods in check by following a treatment plan.

Unto the Least of These

I was shopping today at a big name general merchandise store, just waiting my turn in line to checkout. There was a lady with her two daughters checking out at the register. When she saw the total, she grimaced a little and then asked the cashier to start pulling items off… healthy snacks for lunches… bread…. a couple more items…. From the look on her face and the reaction of her girls, I surmised this wasn’t the first time this had happened. Then a man in line asked the clerk to put the items back on the bill and he would cover the difference. Such a simple act. From his appearance, it wasn’t much for him (about $12). Maybe he’d have to miss a takeout meal this week and eat a sandwich instead. The woman was grateful, of course, and the kids were happy. Life went on.

Later on, as I reflected on this simple event, I started to wonder, what if the woman and her girls hadn’t been nicely dressed and pretty? Would the man still have helped? What if they’d spoken a different language? What if their ancestors had come from a different continent than his? What if they’d been tattooed and pierced? What if she had, in her embarrassment, lashed out in anger at the clerk?

My thoughts then drifted to how often I go into the world among people and never see them as people. I get out of my truck and go shopping as if on a mission. The people around me don’t come to my attention unless it’s as a distraction or interruption of my mission.

Jesus said:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25:34-40 (NIV)

Notice He did not say ‘if it’s convenient’, nor did he say ‘make sure to pay your taxes so there are programs for the poor’. I also don’t think He meant for our helping to necessarily be something special we go out of our way to do. He meant for our attitude to be one of always looking for ways to help those around us. I’m sure that the list He gave is incomplete and also that those who are sick and in prison are not always in an institution. What about the prison of hate or anger or pain? What about the sickness of loneliness or strife?

May God help us all to get out of our shell of self-centeredness and notice those around us, and give us the love and grace for them that He has given to us.

Love?! What is that?

We hear a lot about love in our world and in our church. But what does it mean? And more importantly, how do I show love to others?

The world says love me by not disagreeing with me. Lovers say love me by meeting all my selfish desires. One church says love people by telling them about Jesus. Another church says love people by helping at a soup kitchen or mission.

While these have some element of truth to them, they all fall short of being satisfactory to me. The Apostle Paul said:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a (NIV)

Now I am starting to see what is but I still don’t get how to do it. From the gospels:

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”  “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:28-31 (NIV)

He then went on to tell a story about a man:

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.  The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’  “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”  The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Luke 10:30-37 (NIV)

I think maybe I finally understand:

  • I must get out of my comfort zone to really show love to people.
  • I must get face to face with people to find out what their needs are.
  • I must not care so much about what the right crowd might say about me being with ‘those people’.
  • I must give of ‘my’ stuff to ease the sufferings of others.
  • I must go out of my way to check in on them.

So, what does that mean to me in my day to day existence? How do I get face to face with people when I may have only 20 minutes of actual face to face contact with all people in an average day? How do I check in on people from hundreds of miles away? Should I give to panhandlers on the street when I see them smoking and wearing better clothes than I have?

  • Maybe a good start would be to actually notice others in the truck stops instead of going in on a mission with my head down. Hmmm, actually notice other people?!
  • Maybe getting out of the truck and going in would help too instead of just sitting alone in the cab. Meet real people!
  • Maybe make up some give away food bags that I can hand out as needed.
  • Actually smile and be nice to people, even ones that are… grumpy.

To quote a movie (Mask of Zorro), ‘this is going to take a lot of work’….

Dogs and Cars

Dogs and Cars

From the cab of a truck I get to see a lot of things. One that nearly always makes me smile is the sight of a dog riding in a car. I find typically that they are in one of three states; sleeping like a log, bouncing around the inside, or head stuck out the window.

It struck me today that I could learn a lot about trust and faith in the Master from dogs!

  • When the master says jump in they rarely quibble about it, they’re in!
  • They have no clue where they are going, they just trust the master to be with them.
  • They have no idea of any danger around them, after all, the master will keep them safe.

So too, my response when I’m in unfamiliar circumstances must be:

  • Trust the Master and rest.
  • Fully enjoy everybody that’s riding with me.
  • Immerse myself in the experience.
  • Don’t worry about where He is taking me, He knows.

The LORD bless you, and keep you; The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.’ Numbers 6:24-26 (NASB77)