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


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!

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!