Friday, July 20, 2012

Coffee with The Lord

I am always refreshed by my time alone with God.  It's often difficult for me to clear my mind and not feel pressed to work on something else- but I am always refreshed by my time with him.
Reading today: Acts 13-16

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Miraculous Mission, by way of the Dungeon

Acts 12:1-11 shares the account of what Peter believed would be his final day. Peter must have been certain of His death. He may have had a certain confidence about it... but even though he was convinced of God's faithfulness, he had to have been anxious too.  Who'd blame him?! Herod had just executed James - one of Peter's closest friends and the reaction of the Jews was so great that Herod decided to capitalize on another popularity boost. Knowing something of Peter's personality, he probably prayed and shared The Gospel with his guards, believing that this time would be his last opportunity to preach the Word.

1 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them.2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.3 When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread.4 After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover. 5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. 6 The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance.7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. "Quick, get up!" he said, and the chains fell off Peter's wrists. 8 Then the angel said to him, "Put on your clothes and sandals." And Peter did so. "Wrap your cloak around you and follow me," the angel told him.9 Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision.10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him. 11 Then Peter came to himself and said, "Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod's clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen." 

The rest of the story shares how Peter found himself alone on the city street after the Angel left him.  (Almost as if to say, "Ok you're free, don't just stand there... you've got more work to do!")  So Peter strolls over to a friends house and knocks on the door. (this next part is a riot....)  Peter knocks on the door of the home where all his friends are praying for his release.  When the servant girl answers the door and sees him, then she runs back -leaving Peter still outside the gate - and interrupts the prayer time to tell everyone that their friend is standing at the door - but they don't believe her!  Incensed, they all probably return to their knees to continue with their prayer.  However, they had a very different reaction when moments later, Peter is standing next to the servant girl in their living room.

All his friends were "astonished".  Peter quieted them, and "described how the Lord had brought him out of prison".  When he was done, he asked them to pass his words on to James (1/2 brother of Jesus) and he left... "for another place" and continued another 25 years of incredible ministry!

We have to trust that while we're in the Dungeon, God still has a Miraculous Mission ahead.

Friday, July 13, 2012

A funeral for a 2yr old friend

The last several days my heart has been heavy... Some close friends of mine have a little boy that just lost a long hard battle to Neuroblastoma Brain cancer.

He was diagnosed at 9months old and endured 9 arduous months of the most aggressive chemotherapy treatments available.  My initial contact with them was through my work with a local mentoring program supported through our community YMCA.  So the 12yr old brother and I have been able to spend some time together talking about life and how to navigate through it well.  The Mom has also become a dear friend and Amy and all my kids have grown to love this family too.  

The last week and a half has been the most difficult... I can't imagine the anguish that 'Mom' is feeling right now, but this little one was wrapped around my heart too.  In fact he reminded me a lot of TK when he was about 2yrs old too.  Crazy... 

It has been a blessing to be a part of this family's life and was honored to attend his memorial service as well.  It was held at a Mosque about 30mins from me.  I have never attended a Muslim funeral before but it was a powerful service, even as brief as it was.  The leader stood on a stage next to my 2year old little friend, who was carefully wrapped in brilliant white.  He laid on a metal framed stretcher placed next to his Daddy, who was standing - praying beside him.  

The gentleman leading the prayer service conducted what seemed to be a type of 'call and response' prayer. He faced an audience consisting of about 40 men and older boys standing shoulder to shoulder in 3 evenly distributed lines.  I sat in back and prayed on my own.  

The mother and her lady friends were with the children and girls in an adjacent room. When the prayer service was over there were 6 men who gently picked up the stretcher with this precious little boy and carried him gently out to a waiting van to take him to the burial site about 20 minutes north of where we were.

I have wrestled with this ordeal for a long time... it doesn't seem fair.
However, I know that God is in control of this entire situation and I am certain that He will continue to work powerfully through it.  

I am honored to be a part of this family's life and I look forward to the ensuing journey together with them.

Earlier today I listened to a podcast while I was running... it could not have been more specifically directed to my heart from The Lord.  This teaching on God's Miraculous Mercy given on 5/12/12  by Dr David Platt shares the heart of God for little children.  It was incredibly moving especially in this time of grief... but was immensely refreshing as well.

Later I'll write some of the insights that resonated with me most.  Meanwhile, I'd strongly encourage you to listen to it.  It will help you understand not only God's heart for young children, but for all of us.  It is one of the finest and clearest examples of the most foundational teaching of Jesus and why we need him so desperately.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Messy life

There's a lot going on these days.  Honestly, it's not that we've intentionally taken on too much or said "Yes" too often.  In fact, we've had to really make some tough decisions about where and with whom we spend our time.

I am well aware that if I spend too much time investing in others, then my studies suffer and ultimately my family suffers because I lose time and money and momentum if I don't focus on my studies.  So, I must say "NO" to many "good things".  I'm ok with that most of the time because I recognize that my family is no one else's responsibility.  No one else will be held accountable for them.  I will.

I'm certainly not perfect and when I find myself with an unhealthy attitude or doing something selfish, I snap out of it and get back in the game.

Amy is working hard.  She is a great nurse and loves her job.  She is challenged and loves the environment "most" of the time.  ;)  There is no one I would rather be on this adventure with, leading our four beautiful kids on this ridiculous route.  She works long shifts and needs to sleep so the weekends get hectic sometimes because it's hard for her to sleep if we're all home.  Maybe if our bedroom was further from the kitchen it might help, but... arghh...

Normally, my weekdays begin with breakfast, devotions with the kids, taking the kids to school, do my daily workout, then study, then pick up the kids after school, have dinner and either hang out with Amy before she leaves for work or I study some more.

Amy just began her 3days/week schedule so we're really excited about that.  She'll work about 4hrs less a week but it will make a huge difference in being able to be together as a family and the two of us since she'll now work 3 nights instead of 4.  We cherish that time together and that time is such a commodity these days.

So our frustration sets in when we're trying to "do life like Jesus" in the experiences and relationship interactions we have.  We're ok with interruptions and see them as Divinely Orchestrated teachable moments to process.  However, those interactions are messy.  They just are... life is messy.  Those messy things add to the schedule and shift our plan around.  We're trying hard to help our kids see the moments where God shows up and how we steward them well.  We don't do it right all the time, but frankly... as much as we value those moments and know that Jesus would respond to them too... we are having a hard time.  We have scaled back alot to focus on the most important things, but when push comes to shove in trying to work through the messy things extra support is needed.  We're beginning to think that we may need some extra support.  We don't know what that looks like yet... we just know that our families are not nearby and this time for us is difficult without them.

We feel called to this area of the country and don't feel called away, but we're wondering if what we're trying to accomplish is not doable without additional family support.  Praying for Wisdom and direction.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Friday, July 6, 2012

Running into oncoming traffic

It’s a long time runners’ protocol but while out exercising today I thought about the significance of running -on the shoulder - toward oncoming traffic.  While in college I met and began training regularly with pals Shannon Campbell, Troy Champney and Will Dorsett.  Our committed gaggle of friends comprised of those guys and other ragamuffins learning and practicing various martial art disciplines such as Filipino Kali, Muay Thai kickboxing, and Jujitsu to name a few.  I miss those times, but mostly miss the guys that made those experiences so rich. It wasn't all that well organized (like it is today) but we learned a lot from each other in the process.

Getting back to oncoming traffic…one of the most important lessons I learned in our training together is to move just slightly aside but toward the punch. The truth is, it doesn’t matter how close the oncoming right-cross comes to your head, if you bob, weave and “pass the strike” right past your nose you don’t get hit.  The problem arises when you panic and attempt to just back away because as you do so you remain in the direct path of the strike – thus you still end up with a broken nose.

While running today, I was not thinking about how close I could get to the oncoming cars (I don’t have a death-wish). However, if I run on the other side of the road I don’t have the same awareness if the cars are coming from behind me.  If a distracted driver came toward me from behind, it would be impossible to react quickly enough to avoid being hit.  The same is true in the ring – if a punch comes toward my head and I’m not fully engaged with what’s in front of me, I’m in trouble.  I have to know what dangers lie ahead–so I can respond accordingly.

In Acts 2 the followers of Jesus were gathered together from all over the region for Pentecost.   Suddenly the Holy Spirit rushed through their presence and they were miraculously able to communicate clearly with each other and they experienced a sense of community that they had not experienced before then.

As it happens still today, there were many who scoffed at them questioning their message and integrity.

However, the Apostles kept looking ahead, paying attention, and they engaged effectively.
Acts 2:14-40 records Peter’s response to the “oncoming traffic” and that message gives us the following things to remember when we encounter a situation like this.

1.       Keep your eyes and heart focused ahead – Be aware of where you need to engage. Don’t pass off your responsibility 

2.       Pay attention – Even though you may be looking in the right direction, doesn't always mean you’re paying close enough attention. We must be proactive. Many don’t realize that God has our best interest in mind and that passionately following Him puts us in the best place possible but it requires being proactive.  It’s hardly ever easy, but it’s best.  

3.       Engage – Peter communicates directly communicates the message and love and freedom through the exclusive work of Jesus Christ… and he communicates it even to those who pose a threat.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Heroes, My boys and Character.

I just saw The Amazing Spider Man with my boys tonight.  I was hoping for a good film and it exceeded my expectations.  Ash made it through about 2/3 of the film before he crawled up in my lap for a better view - then subsequently fell asleep.  However, TK was captivated by the entire experience.  If he had a real web-slinger, everyone sitting around us would have been tripping over lines of web all over the theater as they attempted to exit.  

I enjoyed the previous Spider Man series, but this one added another dimension of character (and dare I say a tad bit more credibility)... ok... I know... but for a superhero movie - they did a good job (even though there are no such things as giant lizards ripping apart NY Taxi Cabs).   

What's more, I appreciated the level of integrity that was portrayed in this film.  It's rare to have heroes that take seriously the attitude that goes with the line, "... with great power comes great responsibility."  

So, I guess it was ok that the boys hit their pillows tonight still loosely curling their ring and middle fingers against their palms, ready to fire off a line of web to rescue someone in need.