Thursday, March 26, 2009

Miraculous Healing

I know it's been over a week since a post...I have things to share, I've just been busy/distracted. But I just HAD to share this. I feel it is so important that everyone I know hear this...I'm sending it out via every channel I can think of. It brought me to faith is so inspired by this.

I don't know the full story (if someone else does, please share!), but this is a pastor or Bible teacher who apparently had some health condition that affected his voice for a few years. Please, I beg you to listen to this. This is such a dramatic example....especially in the context of what he is teaching. Be patient and listen to the whole thing. IT IS WORTH IT!!!

1993 Sermon - Healing

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Paradigm Shift

I have experienced times in my life when I thought things in my life were humming along nicely and I thought I had things figured out. During these times, I've been much more resistant to change and new ideas. Then there have been (a very few) times in which I was genuinely humble, realizing how little I "know", how wrong and sinful I am, how much more I want to grow and learn. Then there have been times Ok, not "times"....this season I am in is absolutely unique. I've dubbed 2008 the "worship" story, and have already dubbed 2009 as the "prayer" story.

I really like this new attitude I've been developing...a mind and heart open to God's voice and hand. Feeling not only willing, but eager, to be radically changed by Him, to accept 180's in my thinking about life, theology, etc. Like with anything else that we learn to trust God with, it helps when you start to see a pattern of Him answering prayers and seeing His hand on your life. I think I'm building on that now. I've seen how He's opened my awareness of worship and fellowship, I'm excited to see how God is working in my marriage and Wendy and I grow closer as we start dog-paddling out into the turbulent waters of vulnerability. And now - YHWH strikes again!
( much for cutting down on preamble...sorry)

Of course I wanted to go to church this morning, but I'll admit that I stayed up till 1:30 Saturday night, and wasn't crazy about trying to get the kids going by myself. But I not only woke up on time, I even had time for a shower and breakfast! So off to church, and again...being honest...I didn't feel like singing or "getting into worship". But as the 2nd song started, I once again submitted to discipline and raised my hands, sang out loud, and asked God to meet me....BAM! That was quick!

We're singing "Mighty To Save", and as the chorus hits, the synapses start firing, fueled by the Holy Spirit:

He can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Author of salvation
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave

I started thinking about how mighty God is...focusing on how powerful He is. And how I've never actually seen a mountain move. Is His power hypothetical? What does He do with His power? He saves. Somehow (and by "somehow", I mean by the leading of the Holy Spirit)...this leads me down the thought path I have traversed a gajillion times. The routine is so familiar and well-known to me, it's a stale, eye-rolling bother: I call it the roller-coaster effect. I've often chafed at the feeling of futility and spinning in circles that I've associated with my Christian walk. I have a "high" spiritual moment...close to God...promise to do better...this time it's different.......and then the next day my life feels like a hum-drum routine of sin, oops, sin, oops, sin, oops...etc. (Please note: I'm exaggerating a tad to highlight the point I'm making....not quite as bleak as I'm painting it)

Anyways, this often has led to feelings of angst, despondency, failure (as a man, Christian, husband, leader, etc.) "Why do I keep failing?" "What's the point?" ad nauseum...
Then during the chorus of "Mighty to Save" the 180 hit: It's not that I keep's that He keeps saving me. I felt a surge of power as I realized (something that I've always known): I'm on the winning team! Not the going-to-win-someday-in-the-future. The winning-right-now team. The world is full of sin, and Satan has a grip on many people...but those who are hid with Christ are slippery. He can't hold on to us. He knows that as soon as we leave this life, we are spending eternity in God's presence. All he can do is try to slow down our effectiveness in influencing others to accept Christ. Those "failures" I keep feeling the futility are merely the Enemy convincing me that his grip on me is tighter than God's.

But God is "mighty to save"...He is waaaaay more powerful than ol' snaggletooth. I start feeling victory. God is victorious, because Satan will never get the upper-hand. How frustrating for him, huh? The paradigm shift for me is the change in my thinking. Taking the focus off of my continuous "failures" and focus my gratitude and love toward God for being the "Author of my salvation." Forever.

Oops! Late Post

Sometimes when I get an idea for a blog post, I start writing things down in my Google docs, to post later. I found one from last Thursday that I guess I forgot to post. I know there was going to be more to it than this (esp. #3), but of course I can't remember now....oh well.

Fun Stuff

Ok, instead of a long post on one thought, here's a short group of random fun things...

(And yes, fun things in boring, structured list format)
1. This morning I tested myself out to see if I'm getting better yet: I jogged up the steps leading up to my work building. It's just two flights of 15-20 steps each, but for the last 3 weeks, just walking up them would often set me to coughing. I DID IT! No coughing. That made me happy and I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I'm really looking forward to getting back into running again.

2. Connor randomly wrote the following phrase on a piece of paper: luv me ugl sev [Translation: Love me, Uncle Steve (my brother)] =)

3. Right now I'm listening to, and really digging, Fike & Dana's CD. Love the words of the chorus:

Ascend to heaven my soul
Breathe in the love of the Lord
Let go of all of the shame and the fear of this world
Be known the glory of God
Behold Him seated above
And in the light of His face
Begin to worship!

Work Blessings

When I worked at a Christian high school, I was constantly among brothers and sisters in Christ; teachers, staff, students, administration. Every class and meeting started with was awesome. Moving back into the "secular" world, I did feel a little loss my faith was something being put in the box of "personal life" and I would have to don the "work life" hat to go to work. Part of this has been the slow process of growth and learning and maturing in my knowledge of what integrating my walk with Christ into all aspects of my life means. Obviously, the more I learn, the more I realize I've had a limited view of what that should look like.

But there has been a surprising, un-looked-for blessing during the past 6 months or so. I will couch this in a little ambiguity in the interest of speaking about someone without their permission, but suffice to say that there is an exec in the leadership at my company who has been an amazing inspiration to me. Soon after meeting him, I learned he was a Christian also. What a thrill! Then, he found out about my blog...said he liked it, and gave me the address of his blog. So we've been reading each others' blogs and, I think mutually, have been greatly blessed and inspired by each other.

Aside from the "warm fuzzy" kind of inspiration, the attitude he takes toward work issues and relationships, and how he seeks (and finds) Christ and Joy in all aspects of life (not just church and family, as I had relegated them) has been a challenge for me to attempt the same. I feel like my faith is maturing, and my knowledge of God is deepening. This is what the Word means by "iron sharpening iron"...but in a "secular" context, it is a blessing I didn't expect to find...making it all the more delightful!

I know there's a good chance he will see this post. My apologies sir, if this feels a tad over-done or awkward, but I have a feeling you won't take it that way. And as I've stated for everyone here, I've made the conscious decision to engage in this process as authentically and humbly as I can. My own journey is a joy to share, as it is a declaration of God's love for me (and all of us!) and glorifies him; as well as hopefully inspiring/edifying my readers.

I leave you with a sample of his latest post. C'mon...really, how awesome is it to have a boss that thinks like this?*:

We had a wonderful service at church today which started with the hymn, “How Great Thou Art”. I started smiling as we finished the first verse and chorus and moved into the second verse, because that says in a nutshell what I truly feel when I’m staring into or up on the mountains:

When through the woods and forest glades I wander,

And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.

When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,

And see the brook and feel the gentle breeze.

Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee,

How great thou art, how great thou art.

Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee,

How great thou art, how great thou art.

As I listen to the song, look back over the pictures, and remember the incredible serenity I felt on the top of those hills, I can’t help but praise our Creator and thank Him for giving me that peace this weekend.

*Note: this is a very small sample; there is much more of depth and beauty and inspiration, but I feel I should get his permission before sharing more of his heart. =)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Great Distances

I felt it tonight. You know that feeling? When you are experiencing worship, and lyrics you've heard before take on new meaning. You get it. You decide to seek God in worship, and when He meets!

A couple posts ago I talked about prayer. As I think about concepts related to my faith and walk with God (prayer, worship, faith, etc.) sometimes I feel a Great Distance. A distance between me and a God so Holy, so beyond my capacity to understand that it feels like a separation. There's the distance I feel between us, and there's the distance between where I am now in my walk/knowledge and where I want to be.

As I said before, 2008 was huge for me in my knowledge and experience of worship. The distance grew smaller. Now, as I feel myself honing in on prayer and faith, I sense a great opportunity to make great strides again to close the gap I feel.

And I keep describing this sense of distance as something I am feeling, not something that exists. I'm not accepting it as fact. I was thinking tonight about how the concept we have of Jesus returning one implies that he left. That he's not here now. That builds up this sense of a gap/distance between us. But we know that he is here, now, living in us. Present with us when we sleep and when we rise. The sense of distance is created by me ignoring him. By my lack of faith in not believing that if I speak to him he will answer. By not spending time with him.

My best friend, Brian, was my closest mate in college. My best man in my wedding. There's a connection at the heart-level that will never go away, regardless of time or distance. And yet, I don't feel very close to him right now because I'm in CO and he's in CA, and we have busy lives and only speak on the phone about once a month.

Tonight, during the mid-week service, my prayer went something like this:
"God, I want to know you. I want to worship and serve you. I want to feel connected to you. But I'm aware of a lack of motivation or desire or something to act on these desires. Help me to want to seek you. Help me to remember to pray. Help me to know what to pray. Help me to believe that my prayer actually matters to you and can affect my life and others."

In closing, I was really struck by the words in "At the Cross":

O Lord, you've searched me
You know my ways
Even when I fail you
I know you love me

Your Holy presence
Surrounding me
In every season
I know you love me

Lord, give me the faith to really believe that you love me, even as a filthy sinner who forgets to (or chooses not to) seek you.

Off & On

I meant to blog this last night....oops.

Monday was "Off"...Tuesday was "On". Do you get what I mean, or should I elaborate? Ok, I'll elucidate.

I've thought of different reasons, explanations, excuses to describe what happened Monday. I felt really "off". It started out great, because I had a fantastic breakfast: eggs fried just right over toast with a couple crispy strips of bacon...perfect. After that, things weren't "bad"...just..."off". I left work at 3:00 to go to the doctor, so that means I was in the office for 8 hours (one of which was lunch), but I feel like I accomplished so little, my energy level was dragging, and I didn't feel collaborative, cooperative, or productive. (Sorry, I can't help but give three examples/descriptions/annotations to everything.)

The externals: my 3-week-long cold; not enough sleep; bad drive in; the co-worker I share an office with was absent.
The internals: didn't spend the morning with God - felt the annoying, scraping, mood-souring fingers of old sins/temptations trying to take little nips out of me; lack of focus and passion for what I was doing; "life" frustrations, stress and distractions at the front of my mind instead of pushed back out of the way so I could focus on work.

I'm not trying to "explain away" anything that was my responsibility (or lack thereof). I know that some things I bring on myself. I could get more sleep to help my energy and focus. I could make a greater effort to have my morning devotions - so often I think to myself that I can "do them later". Even if "later" does eventually happen (which it often doesn't when I postpone it), that's no help to me during the day.

Tuesday: I was feeling/expecting more of the Monday-type stuff. The day started off worse: I woke up late, rushed out the door, intending to grab a bite on the way in. When I went to pay the cashier at the drive-thru window, that's when I realized I had left my wallet at home. So breakfast was a bust; and lunch would be too, since I had really brought one.

However, my souring mood hit a brick wall of positivity. (Hmmm...perhaps an improper analogy...uh, my souring mood was suddenly lifted into the clouds by dozens of happy sparrows) At 9:00, our HR dept. was going to have a 3-hour team/leadership-development session. I was worried my mood would obstruct any progress for me personally, and hurt the team...but I did my best to squash that (with a little help from my homey, JC) and we had a GREAT session. Lots of laughs. Lots of good ideas. Lots of inspiration.

The switch had been flipped to "On".

Even though half my day was gone, when I got to work after lunch, I accomplished 10x more in the next 4 hours than I had all day on Monday. I'm starting to feel like this post is long enough to guarantee skimming/skipping from my readers, so I'll not go into the lengthy reaction I could share about what happened in that 3-hour session and where my thoughts are taking me now. Maybe later. Besides, I've got another post to write tonight.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Prayer & Encouragement

The two big topics for me this week...and (what feels like) my two greatest areas of struggle at the moment.

I've met with a couple different prayer warrior types over the last few months. Much like Worship was a focus for me in 2008, I see Prayer as being a major focus for me in 2009. And I'm quite excited about that.


Around 8th/9th grade, our youth pastor at church went through a series on prayer, and what being a prayer warrior is all about. We were given little binders that were meant to be a tool to use over several weeks to help us grow in knowledge and practice in prayer. I remember thinking very convincingly, that I am not, and never will be a prayer warrior.

I just didn't get does my talking/thinking to God change or affect things in life? Why does it feel "silly"? Why do I not care? Those thoughts when I was 12-13 solidified as I went through high school, even during the 6 years at a Christian university, even during the 4 years as a teacher at a Christian school.

I think I've come to a point where I'm saying, "Enough is enough." I know (cognitively) that prayer is a real discipline, it is required/commanded of us, it really does affect change...and I want to figure it out. It's humbling to be a Christian your whole life, even a leader of other Christians and organizations, and yet feel very "green" in such an important aspect of Christian life. But I guess I feel enough grace and encouragement right now to feel safe to explore this.

I think about how God became angry with Israel and was ready to destroy them. But Moses spoke to God and plead for mercy...and the Bible actually says this phrase: "But Moses implored the Lord his God....And the Lord changed his mind about the harm he said he would do to his people." (Exodus 32) That's a crazy concept that our prayers can change God's mind about something.

Another example of prayer's effectiveness:
Numbers 11:1-2
"11:1 And the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, and when the Lord heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp. 2 Then the people cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord, and the fire died down."

Well, that's the discussion on prayer for now....I included "Encouragement" in the title, but this is already going long, so I'll save that for another post.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Fun Times

I ran across this free, online animated .gif creator. Here's a little something I whipped up to try it out: Create custom animated gifs at!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Sweeney Todd

So....Sweeney Todd.
The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

The subtitle immediately gives one an idea of what to expect. I've never seen Sweeney Todd before, or heard the music, though I've known many who speak well of it. So I finally gave it a whirl. I was surprised to learn (via the special feature documentary) that this was supposedly Johnny Depp's and Helena Bonham Carter's first foray into singing...and musical theater.

My first thought was of the little snippets of "Yo ho, yo ho" from Pirates that we've heard Johnny do. But still, quite a risk for the director/producers to sign them on as unknown variables...yet it seems that happens often and gold is struck. (cast of LOTR? hello?)

Oh, and I didn't realize that Alan Rickman and Sacha Baren Cohen were onboard...nice surprises, performed their roles extremely well. I recognized Timothy Spall from Last Samurai and Hamlet.

Now, I suppose it's no surprise that I like the music, seeing as how big a fan I am of Into the Woods. The fact that Depp and Carter aren't the most skilled or experienced voices actually helps I think, lending the rawness/realness to their characters. The acting was perfect...Depp was uber-creepy. I think my favorite part is the opening scene as the boat sails into London Harbor. There is such a poignant mixture of pain, sorrow, and rage on Todd's face.

As for the weaknesses...I've seen many a violent action flick, yet there was something about the assembly-line throat-slitting and brain-splatting (esp. the last 15 minutes or so) that prevented me from enjoying the story. The story itself loses its pace during the last act and the characters seem a bit bereft of purpose and progression.

I know that in a traditional "tragedy" sense, that you can't expect a happy ending (and I wasn't), but perhaps I was expecting one that had a point at the end aside from "never forget, never forgive" and uhh...I guess madness ends in ruin for all? There's truth in the angst felt by all of the characters, but there's little redeeming value in the audience's ability to glean any wisdom or warning.

This is all still mostly gut-reaction, I'm sure if I studied the show and read up on it and knew something about psychology, etc. I'd be able to make a more intelligent analysis.

So I like Sweeney Todd for the music, acting, style...but I wonder if it would be possible to tell the story, and communicate the angst, rage, sorrow, etc. without the gore? At the least, I'm desiring to at least get the soundtrack.