Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Double Action: Nehemiah

Prayed up and Prepared for battle
Nehemiah, in the Old Testament, teaches us an important and simple lesson regarding prayer and action. 

Nehemiah was an exiled Jew living in the city of Susa (modern day Shush in Iran), serving as the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes in 445 BC (Neh 2). One day the King noticed that Nehemiah appeared sad and asked why.  Nehemiah explained that his home city of Jerusalem was in ruins. The king asked what he wanted to do about it and in response, Nehemiah first "prayed to the God of heaven, and then...answered the king." He asked permission to return to Jerusalem to rebuild its walls and gates.  I love that Nehemiah recognized his need for God's blessing, help, intervention.  Maybe he asked God to give him words to speak! ;)  

He asked God for help then stepped out in faith doing what he felt was right. 

Again in chapter 4, we read that opposition arises while Nehemiah is leading the men of Jerusalem in the rebuilding of its gates and walls.  There are people who want its fortifications to cease.  They want its defenses to stay down.  Nehemiah's response is recorded in verse 9. "But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat."

More often than not, when faced with a mundane problem that would seem fixable with a bit of effort, creativity and hard-earned intelligence, we forego asking God to assist, deliver or remedy the situation.  Sometimes however a problem seems so insurmountable that we earnestly pray for Divine deliverance, then never step out in faith to work out the problem.  Nehemiah went to the God of heaven first, then stood up to face the problem head on. 

To quote one of my favorite verses, "Do your best, prepare for the worst and trust God for the victory." Prov 31:21 (MSG)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Talking to Papa

I've been reading a book by Larry Crabb called the The PAPA Prayer about first praying in a relational way before we pray in a petitionary way.  The essence of prayer being more about getting close with our Father than about getting things from Him, even good things.  It's a eye opening read I can highly recommend. 

One of my favorite pictures of Daniel and I. (2011)
He gave an example I can't get out of my head.  When his son was 8 years old (very close to my Daniel's current age), he and his son took a special trip to New York City just for fun.  They stayed up late at the hotel ordering pizza and movies and on their first full day in the city, played Hide and Seek in Central Park.  Larry tells how he hid behind a large tree trunk, mere feet away from his son.  He let his son search and search in the area, all the while remaining undetected behind the big tree.  After 2 minutes, he watched his son's demeanor suddenly change from fun to fearful.  Larry immediately jumped out from hiding exclaiming, "I'm here!"  His son ran into his daddy's arms saying, "I thought you left me! I thought I was all alone!" Larry's point was that all the plans and promised trips to toy stores faded from importance: in that moment he only wanted his daddy. 

As I've continued to dwell on this story, I realize that every illustration breaks down at some point.  I don't believe that God is hiding from us in a twisted game of Spiritual Hide and Seek.  But, I believe that God is always with us, just like Larry was with his son, even if his son didn't know it.  And not until he saw the desperation on his child's face did the father choose to reveal himself.  

I'm flattered that my boys come to their daddy when they need or want things.  Juice, Water, help reaching a book, a brand new toy, a desire to watch another episode of "Turtleman" (Live Action!)  But, I love it even more when they don't feel the need to ask questions and simply cuddle up with daddy.  Sometimes they tell me they love me and they think I'm a great daddy.  Sometimes they just curl up on my lap, feel safe and trust me.  

That's the relationship I believe our Papa longs for too.  

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Kind Chisel


Have you ever witnessed someone experience the pain of being sculpted?  I have.  It can be a horrible process to observe.

Michelangelo said, "In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it."  Our Lord can clearly envision, in our rugged blocks of marble, the potential to form the very image of Christ.  He "makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into His glorious image" (2 Cor 3:18).  


But the process of having pieces chipped away by a hammer and chisel is nothing short of excruciatingly painful.  Over time, when we truly begin to bear the likeness of Jesus, and the chisel must work closer and closer to the core of who we were designed to be, the pain only increases.  At first, when we look nothing like Jesus, the chunks of rock that are removed are obvious and our grief may be minimal, but as we grow closer to His image, we may be surprised at what pieces still need to be removed.  We may think we love, but it's not yet like Christ loves.  We may think we forgive, but it doesn't come close to resembling the no-record-of-wrongs forgiveness Christ demonstrated to those around Him as He hung on the cross.  Our righteousness is being painfully chipped away so that eventually all that remains is Jesus Himself. 


Remember, Jesus only rebukes and disciplines those He loves (Rev 3:18).  The Father only prunes branches that bear fruit so that they may bear even more fruit (John 15:2). Despite the often unbearable pain that accompanies that sharp chisel, what a comfort to know that He only shapes us because He loves us!  He only prunes away superfluous branches because He there is evidence of fruit in our lives and He wants to help us produce more!

When asked how he created such majestic statues, an anonymous sculptor famously replied, "I simply chip away everything that doesn't look like the desired finish product."  

Lord, chip away everything in our lives that is not like You. 
Spirit, comfort us as we recover. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Lawn Care

My backyard on a good day with boosted saturation
One of my favorite chores, potentially the only chore I could come close to saying I enjoy, is cutting the grass. I don't so much care for the weed whacking part afterward, but I like it to look neat and tidy to a degree.  My insanity stretches only so far.  I rarely edge and I'm not the guy who buys the bags of super grass seed or the 'winter rye' like my Dad spreads every fall to ensure a green winter plot, but I do employ a lawn service to show up a few times a year and spread their toxic chemicals around my yard, messing up my perfectly parallel lines from my last mowing. 

The thing is, I still have patchy spots where no grass grows and that pesky crabgrass sprouts up in far too many places.  In my weaker moments, I want to take a picture of my sub-par yard, send it to the company I enlist and ask if they'd be willing to post my picture on their homepage.  Of course they wouldn't.  Then I imagine they would ask if I'd care to see what my lawn would look like without their help!  

As I cut my grass yesterday, I thought of the care my spiritual life needs.  At times I become satisfied with a decent looking spiritual life, one that looks good from a distance, one that I care for once a week, one that occasionally is bolstered by professionals, perhaps at a spiritual retreat or conference.  But I'm not satisfied with that.  I want more, more of Jesus.  

My yard needs some TLC (tender loving care: not the artist or the channel), it needs a greater investment of time and attention if it's to be full and lush and vibrant, devoid of weeds or dead spots.  My spiritual life craves the same.  

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

This Storm

Sarah and Michael

So many of you have been praying for my family over the past two years and I cannot thank you enough.  God has taught our family so much about relying on Him when our boy Nicky spent so much time in the hospital in 2010 and 2011, teetering a few times on the edge of this life.  God taught us to pursue Him in prayer for healing and deliverance but also for peace and trust in His perfect will.  We saw God move in powerful ways, bringing restoration to Nicky's body when there appeared to be no options left.  

You prayed with us when we shared with you the news that our newborn baby, Michael, was diagnosed with Down Syndrome and was in need of open heart surgery to correct his tiny, incomplete heart.  Once again, God was teaching us to lean into His loving arms, to put aside our selfish plans and dreams and make room for His plans and His dreams for our lives.  You prayed and celebrated with us when God miraculously gave Michael "full range of perfect hearing" after being declared severely and profoundly deaf since birth.  What a privilege it has been to walk the peaks and valleys of this life with you.  

This past April (7 weeks ago) brought a trial unlike anything we've experienced before when "someone in our community" called Pennsylvania's Abuse Hotline accusing Sarah of the abuse and neglect of Michael.  Children & Youth Services (CYS) came to our door and interrogated Sarah for hours. The next day, the day of Michael's second heart surgery to help his lack of weight gain, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh also filed an accusation of Munchausen's by Proxy, indicating that Sarah was trying to starve Michael.  At that point CYS interviewed Michael's Down Syndrome specialist who went on record stating he believed Sarah was "willfully withholding calories from Michael."  This could not have been further from the truth.  (She was actually feeding him 300+ more calories per day than necessary!)

The words absolutely devastating don't begin to describe the level of pain and hurt this inflicted on Sarah's heart.  Sarah has given and done SO much, lovingly caring for our children at home and in the hospital.  To be accused of abuse, neglect and the withholding of food is ridiculous but also an extremely heavy burden to bear.  We were threatened with the removal of all three of our boys, but the option was given for my Mother to move in for the purpose of overseeing Sarah, ensuring she was, in fact, feeding Michael and not neglecting him.  Instance after instance, CYS ignored our requests to contact specific Therapists and Doctors who would provide information in support of Sarah's superb care for our children.  We felt from the beginning that this was an attack from the enemy and were moved to not only pray for truth to prevail, but to worship the Lord in the midst of our suffering, just like Job did when he said, "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord."

One month later, May 15th, CYS released my Mother to go home to Georgia, her husband, her job and her life.  The time she spent with us that month was life giving to us and I am, and have always been, forever in her debt.  Sarah's case was deemed "unfounded" which only means that at the end of the first 30 days, not enough evidence was found to prove her guilty.  We received a new case worker with intent to consider closing the case over the next 3 months at least.  THIS IS NOT OVER.  We covet your prayers.  Agents still make scheduled and unscheduled visits to our home to ensure Sarah is not abusing our children.  We try to take them as opportunities to show the love of Jesus.  It is however, a struggle not to feel like they are the enemy when they pull into our driveway.  We know the truth however.  Ephesians 6:12 says, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."   

Lord, we pray for deliverance.  
Lord, we pray for truth to prevail. 
Lord, we praise You because Your ways are higher. 
Lord, we believe You have a plan not to harm us. 
But to give us a future and a hope. 
We trust in You. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Hearing Test Result

The result of Michael's hearing test came back.  Our son Michael who was clinically profoundly and severely deaf now has clinically perfect hearing in both ears!  Previous audio testing showed flat lines in both ears.  Now both have mountain peaks in the normal hearing range...and that was before they were able to clear the fluid and wax out of his ears, which indicates that his hearing is even stronger than the tests indicated.

He was intensely prayed over on Friday and began to show immediate indication that he could hear: turning toward Sarah when she would call him (never happened before), babbling along with worship on Sunday morning as we sang and a few more indicators.  We were strongly encouraged to continue praying for confirmed healing.  We just happened to have this test lined up today! :)  Divine healing still happens!!!

PRAISE THE LORD GOD WHO HEALS!!!


Prayer request from Sarah

Do you believe that what the Bible says is true? Do you believe that Jesus came, He healed, He died and He rose? Do you believe that we, as believers, possess the authority and power that Jesus did when he healed the deaf? I do.

In John 14:12 Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father."

With everything in me I believe these words. If you are a believer, then take hold of your inheritance and pray big! Pray with the authority and the power that Jesus did. And watch God move. Watch God heal. Watch God blow your mind.

Michael is undergoing a hearing test today that will determine which type of hearing aid he will need. The tests run in the recent past have shown severe to profound loss. Doctors say we need to move forward with aiding his hearing so his speech isn't too effected in the future. I agree. We need to do something. I believe God can heal him and I believe that power of that healing is in us. Will he? I don't know, but I will pray with the expectation that He will. Devastation happens everyday and people plead with God, beg God for a different outcome, a healing, a redo in life, and the result isn't always what we desire, but we have to lean into what Isaiah 55:9 says about His ways being higher than ours. We may not always understand, but we need to trust that our God is good, He is who He says He is, He is Love and we can trust him.

It's important to me that our little boy can hear and I will do whatever is necessary for him to attain that, but first, I will pray with the authority that has been bestowed upon me by the God of the Universe. Please pray with me. It is very important to me that you go into prayer on our behalf with the confidence that this is possible, so I'd encourage you to first bind, or ask God to take away, any doubt that this is possible and then loose, or ask God to fill you with, an unyielding faith that what the doctors claim to be impossible, IS possible. This is not just thinking on the bright side or being positive… This is declaring that the miraculous Can happen and you believe it.

Please pray with us today. Go before the Father with the boldness and confidence that He created you to walk in.

-Sarah

Saturday, March 9, 2013

3 Promises from Proverbs 3

I'm sitting outside on a sunny, cool Pennsylvania Saturday morning, the Rudy soundtrack and welcome-home birds filling the crisp air, reading Proverbs 9 when a breeze blew my page back to Proverbs 3.  The subtitle of that chapter is "Wisdom Bestows Well-Being".  What a great chapter, with the famous verses 5-6 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight."  I love that promise.  I try to make those kind of passages my prayers.  "Lord, may I trust You with all my heart and not lean on my own understanding, may I submit to You in all my ways, believing that You will make my paths straight! I can bank on that."

Verse 7 also has a promise. "Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones."  When we harbor sin in our lives, refusing to address it, ignoring the Spirit that lovingly, yet insistently, calls out to our spirit for holiness, it can physically affect us!  It's not a punishment (that was taken care of at the cross!) but it's a byproduct, a side effect, a consequence!  Few people deny the effect the mind can hold over the body (We see something gross and it can turn our stomachs!) It is the same when we know we are not living as we are called to and we try to carry that weight ourselves.  Bank on it.

The third promise I read is in the next verse. "Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing; and your vats will brim over with new wine." Giving to God, of our time, our talents and our treasure makes sense! (Randy Alcorn has written multiple books on this subject.)  Pastors may be hesitant to talk about tithing because it could come across as their desiring selfish gain, but not only is giving to God of our wealth (the firstfruits of our wealth) beneficial to the furthering of God's Kingdom here on earth, but it's in our own best interest!  I have no intention to preach a prosperity gospel here!  God forgive me if I am.  But I do believe that God will provide our needs just as Jesus promises in Luke 12:27 when He reminds us God clothes the flowers of the field with more splendor than Solomon ever displayed, so how much more will He clothe us, His children?

Give freely to God's work, give generously, give joyously! Honor the Lord with the firstfruits of your wealth and bank on the promise attached.  

Monday, February 25, 2013

Strange Graces

King Josiah remorseful
I woke up in my Comfort Inn bed this morning on my own, feeling quite rested, a nice change after 5 days of a head cold and restless nights.  My voice has been shot for the last two days, which happened to be over my trip to Nashville to have my photo shoot for the next album (July 17).  I have some time before my meeting with Centricity this morning so I threw open the curtains, turned the AC to Heat and crawled back in bed with my Bible.  I opened up to 2 Kings 21 and very studiously thought, "ok, sure."

I read of King Manasseh, who did what the Lord said was wrong.  Everything God told His children to do, Manasseh did horrible things on the opposite end of the spectrum for 55 years.  Then he died, and his son Amon became king at age 22 and did the same things his father did.  He did what the Lord said was wrong, then he was killed by his own officers.  His son Josiah became king at age 8.

Josiah did what the Lord said was right.

At age 18 he discovered the Book of the Law in the Temple, and when it was read to him, he tore his clothes to show how upset he was.  He sought out the advice of God's prophetess Huldah who delivered the message from God,  "I will bring trouble to this place and to the people living here... they have made me angry by all they have done, my anger burns against this place like fire and it will not be put out."  

Then God lets Josiah know that He saw his remorse.

"When you heard my words...you became sorry for what you had done and humbled yourself before Me...You tore your clothes to show how upset you were and you cried in My presence.  This is why I have heard you." 

Then God extends a strange grace.

"So I will let you die and you will be buried in peace.  You won't see all the trouble I will bring to this place."


God was going to let him DIE!? This struck me so hard.  Death, that we often see only as tragic calamity or a trial to be endured, was administered as a grace from God in this instance.  He remained true to His word, but administered grace and allowed Josiah to rule for 23 more years.


God's ways are always higher than our ways!







Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Communication Breakdown

Just had a pretty ordinary event teach me a pretty cool lesson. 

DirecTV just came by to check something on our TV service that involved our internet.  I warned the 2 men who braved the 6 degree weather with wind chills of -20ºF that our internet was temperamental: sometime it's blazing fast, then it decides to take a nap and not work at all.  I'll reset the router and unplug it for 30 seconds (like all my tech savvy friends tell me to do) and eventually it works again.  It's a nuisance and frankly I haven't called [our service provider] to have them come troubleshoot, because you know as soon as they come it will work fine.  

It was obvious to my DirecTV friends why.  The wrong cables were installed.  Where there should be RD6 cables, standard evidently, [service provider] installed RD59s which is why our internet keeps dropping out.  So I need to call [awesome service provider] and have them wire my house properly, then we can get the TV working as it should.  

So now after all the fumbling and jumbling with the connections, our internet won't turn back on, our Home Security System somehow is telling us there's trouble and is beeping randomly and this can evidently affect our phone line too!  I'm posting this blog by grabbing wifi from one of my neighbors.  I don't know which one.  The one without the password.  Thanks, neighbor. 

Lightbulb moment: When my primary lifeline of spiritual food is cut off, or spotty at best, my interactions with all other areas of life are going to be dramatically affected.  

When I'm not hearing clearly from God and His Word, my work, my wife, my kids, my friends & my family suffer and I'm unable to handle the curveballs that life hurls at me.  I need to find out what it is in my life that I can identify as "the wrong cable", yank that sucker out, replace it with something that's going to allow me to receive clear messages from my Provider!  I know that will affect all other areas of my life: communication with those within my home, friends outside my home and my security in Him.

"Remain in Me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in Me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples."
-Jesus (John 15:4-8)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Simple Prayer

I started reading a book by Richard J Foster called Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home and I'm finding it one of the more easy books to read.  The first chapter is called Simple Prayer and I've found it incredibly freeing as I desire to be known among the forces of darkness as a man who prays.  That concept first struck me when I was in high school and reading Frank Peritti's This Present Darkness.  The young Pastor of a small country church was known simply by menacing demons as "the man who prays." 

Foster addresses the notion "that we have to have everything 'just right' in order to pray. That before we can really pray, our lives need to some fine tuning, or we need to know more about how to pray, or we need to study the philosophical questions surrounding prayer, or we need to have a better grasp of the great traditions of prayer.  And on it goes." 

We've all heard the eloquent (and truly sincere and beautiful) prayers of others and think that when it's our turn to pray out loud we'll probably be perceived as grade-schoolers for our simplicity.  But is that not what Jesus said is required to enter the Kingdom?  To change and become like little children?  Foster describes the simple prayer:

In simple prayer we bring ourselves before God just as we are, warts and all.  Like children before a loving father, we open our hearts and make our requests.  We do not try to sort things out, the good from the bad.  We simply and unpretentiously share our concerns and make our petitions.  We tell God, for example, how frustrated we are with the co-worker at the office or the neighbor down the street.  We ask for food, favorable weather, and good health. 

Foster goes on to state that Simple Prayer is the most common form of prayer in the Bible! 

Don't be afraid to pray simply and know that in doing so, you are in good company!

--------------------------------------------------
More quotes from Chapter 1 for the curious: 
Simple Prayer involves ordinary people bringing ordinary concerns to a loving and compassionate Father.  -Foster

We never outgrow this kind of prayer, because we never outgrow the needs which give rise to it. -John Dalrymple

To believe that God can reach us and bless us in the ordinary junctures of daily life is the stuff of prayer. -Foster

We should feel perfectly free to complain to God, or argue with God or yell at God...God is perfectly capable of handling our anger and frustration and disappointment. - Foster

Lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us. - C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Rest

Life got so busy.  Even in the moments where I don't have to be doing something, like now, I feel the tension and the pull to do what I should.  Like blog, or read, or have a devoted time of prayer.  I want to do all those things, but with one eye on the clock (almost 10pm) knowing that I probably could use the sleep, there is little peace in feeling like those good healthy things are a part of a checklist.  "Hurry up and read and pray then blog about that and go to sleep" That's just stressful and not the point. 

It makes me think of one of Jason Gray's Christmas songs called Rest (The Song of the Innkeeper).  One of my favorites, if that's possible, on that album.  The Innkeeper tells of his encounter with a poor couple in need of lodging, he doesn't have time to help them but at least they won't be wandering about if they stay in his stable, he needs to get back to work and wishes for rest.  He goes on to tell of the songs he heard as a boy about a coming King, but keeping books and changing beds became a louder melody, a deafening melody and again he cries out for rest.  My favorite line and the one that makes me fight back the tears because I realize this could be me is this:


Tonight I can’t get any sleep
With those shepherds shouting in the streets
A star is shining much too bright
Somewhere I hear a baby cry
And all I want is a little peace

He missed it.  He completely missed it.  He's the Innkeeper for crying out loud.  He has a character in the Fisher Price Little People Nativity Set.  But he completely missed it in the busyness.  In the busyness of providing lodging (poor lodging) for the Savior, he missed God's coming to his very own home.  

God, in my singing to You, in my telling others of Your love, in my leading Your children in worshiping You, in my studying of Your Word, in my journaling and praying and interceding and my tweeting and sharing and advocating...may I not miss You.  

In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest."

Monday, January 14, 2013

Michael's First Birthday!

Michael and Daniel making Pizza at The Oven in Wexford
Had a fantastic time celebrating Michael's life so far last night.  We pulled out all the stops we could and if the fire code would have allowed we would have loved to have so many more people squeeze into that place.  So many of you have been praying for us and praying for Michael as he's fought his way through his life with grace.  So many have cared for Daniel and Nicky.  So many have brought us meals.  So many have brought us milk and eggs and weird stuff that we like when we didn't even ask!  

One year ago today I wrote a blog explaining the fear and trepidation regarding how to proceed in raising a child with DS.  I can now say that by the grace of God, we know how to raise a child with DS for his first year of life.  And we'd have to admit we have no clue how to raise him from here on out! :)  But by the grace of God we will.  And he is so easy to love. ;) 

Wish you all could have joined us as we killed the fatted calf last night!  
Thank you for your support!
a

Friday, January 11, 2013

Reveal the Father

Today is the end of my one-week Social Media fast.  I abstained from Twitter, Facebook, Instragram and this blog because every once in a while it's good for me to step away from some things that I do, to remind myself why I do them.  My last tweet was "I need Jesus more than Social Media. (and more than anything) But [I'm] taking a break from Social Media this week..." So this decision was not so much my replacing the time that I would have spent on Social Media with time at the feet of Jesus, because I don't have a set hour, for example, that I tweet.  Those times are too sporadic.  I needed to reevaluate my approach.  But oh the time that was freed up! :)  

I realized that the moments I wanted to tweet the most were not when I felt a silly obligation to let people know what I happened to be looking at but when a Spiritual truth would floor me, inspire me and change me and I wanted to share it.  I don't think that everything I say will be full of Spiritual revelations, I'm sure I'll still post pictures of my kids, sunsets and clouds from airplanes, but I know what is important to me.  

I also learned that I need to stop wondering how many Likes or Retweets I'd get!  If I feel prompted to share a thought or a picture, that should be enough.  I like that. 

So yesterday morning I was reading in Luke 10 where Jesus says, "No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”  My spirit felt like a grade school kid raising his hand saying "Oo! Oo! Pick me! Pick me!" I want to know the Father, like really know the Father.  So I simply asked Jesus to reveal the Father to me, and I feel like that's a pretty bankable prayer to pray.  Not a safe prayer necessarily, but bankable.  

I want that more than I want safety: that's so easy to pray for, isn't it?  "God give us a good day, a good night's sleep, keep us safe..."  Honestly, I'm never going to pray for danger, I'm not going to pray for trial, I not going to stop praying for the health of my family.  But if those things that I wish for aren't part of what God wants us to experience, I pray that the Father would be revealed to us.  Because that is life altering.  And Life giving!

What would you be willing to set aside for a time, if you knew there were a possibility the Father would be more clearly revealed? 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Drain the Bathwater

It's a sunny day in Pittsburgh which means that even though it's 27ºF (it was 6ºF this morning!) with a snow covered landscape, I can sit in our unheated sunroom where it's actually warmer than in the rest of the well-heated house.  On a cloudy day, it would be 27ºF in this room.  It's rocking about 80º right now. Love it. #myofficeisasauna 


The New Year brings an insatiable thirst for me to be inspired.  I watch a lot of concert footage of my favorite artists, behind the scenes stuff too, but more than anything it's the 4 days of Passion that feeds me.  To be led in worship by friends, acquaintances and strangers; and taught Truth by the same is food for my soul. 


There is this fascinating Twitter feed on the sidebar of the Live Link page which I often have to ignore because, like subtitles, I find myself forced to read them because they're there.  I was initially shocked and angry when I read the first comment from someone who was not in agreement with what was going on at Passion.  Calling it names, demeaning its purpose and demeaning the people (the people?!) who are involved.  Incriminating the organization because of certain people or organizations with which it associates.  I was saddened as I read those words and dealt with the emotions in my gut, especially because while I was reading those words, I'm hearing in my headphones the name of Jesus being appropriately glorified in a theologically accurate manner by the people accused of being anti-Christ!  I was incredulous.   

Granted, my opinion and my bias as to what is "appropriate" or "theologically accurate" must be considered and I am irrevocably on record that I know "I am not skilled to understand" all things about God.  

The truth is: none of us are.  

Since it's so easy for me to identify the specks that are in my brothers' and sisters' eyes as they bash people who love Jesus and preach and sing His praise, I want to make sure that the next time I'm prone to throw rocks at (or simply dismiss) a person or group of people because they don't believe, preach or live the way I think they should...that I look for the Truth.  Jesus is the Truth.  I will make decisions that you do not agree with, and I very well may be wrong in what I do.  But when I speak the Truth about God, you can still say "Amen" with me!  

And please, drain the bathwater. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Passion and Persevering in 2013

Matt Redman leading Atlanta & the world in worshiping Jesus
I'm in my basement in Pittsburgh watching the live link of Passion 2013 from Atlanta, GA for the second year in a row.  I had plans to go last year and be a part of such a great event but the impending birth of my 3rd boy just two weeks later put a damper on travel plans.  This year with that same little boy having spent most of December in the hospital and the potential of needing to go back in soon for corrective surgery has me believing that traveling away from my family right now is not beneficial, even if it were permissible.  Our plans for a family drive South to visit family in Georgia and Florida and experience Passion were set aside. 

So I'm very thankful for the Passion Team for providing an absolutely quality live feed to worship along with, be inspired by and be led to the Cross through insightful teaching.  It's a great way to start the year!

To be reminded that there is something much larger than what our small little stories seem to be telling is an invaluable lesson.  And I don't mean Passion when I say "something much larger".  Passion's message itself has always been that there is something so much larger going on: the fame and the renown of Jesus Christ, God Himself.

Despite your situation today, God is bigger.  Big enough to let us walk through our trials because He knows He can lead us through the other end of it and we'll be the better because of it.  We'll look more like Jesus because of it.

James tells us at the beginning of his letter, 

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

May we persevere this year.  
It's actually in our best interest!  "Mature and complete, not lacking anything." ?!?  
Sign me up!