Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Spiritual Resolution for the Saints - Compassion through God's Eyes

Knowing a week ago that the topic of this blog would be on spiritual resolution made me a little nervous….Resolution huh?? Oh my goodness its one of those things I have to attempt to keep New years resolutions have more often been things I have broken then kept…. And of course its not any resolution its a “spiritual” resolution…The definition of resolution in the Webster’s Dictionary is…A decision to do something or behave in a certain manner…Well, that eases my mind a little, it doesn’t say to commit to something or make a covenant about something….I want to believe that resolutions are intended to be kept and the people that make them have intentions to keep them…What is it about The New Year that gets us excited for new beginnings, suddenly we are ready to get things in order, lose weight, adjust our finances, blah, blah, blah….Then as suddenly as the desire comes in for change it begins to fade away…..Sad, sad, sad but true!!!

Anyways…..Enough stalling Michelle……Talking to myself is a bad habit!!.. :)

2010…The Year of the Lord…This has been stirring in my spirit for several months. This is not only a holiday that will bring in the “sense” of new beginnings. I believe this is the beginning, the beginning of a spiritual shift, a spiritual awakening, an out pouring of Gods power it is the year of The Lord!! So where does my spiritual resolution fit in to this up and coming season??

My spiritual resolution is this….To prepare ye the way of the Lord!! I am committed to allow the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ to be expressed through my words, attitude and actions I am willing to pray without ceasing and seek after the kingdom and all of its righteousness….This seems to be a lot and a bit intimidating however, the driving force behind this resolution is every soul that is without the peace of God and the gift of salvation…With 2010 coming and the word of the Lord being ..”Prepare the way for my coming”, doesn’t that mean to get His people ready, “all” people….Luke 19:10 reads, “The son of Man came to seek and save what was lost.”…Are we not called to be like Christ? We are expected to have the same heart of compassion as Christ has for all humanity...To prefer others over ourselves...With that being my resolution I have a challenge for you… Where ever you are grocery store, mall, work, ask the Holy Spirit to give you the compassion of Christ for every person you can see. Ask Him for His heart and His eyes, then wait (patiently) you will begin to feel sorrow, fear and COMPASSION! Do not turn away keep pressing through, look into their souls. Maybe this years resolution will concern the change of others and not ourselves, maybe this year our resolutions will make a difference in the world…This year isn’t about us at all its going to be the year of the Lord! Happy New Year Saints of God!!!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Be ready to put you head where your heart is...

What were my resolutions last year? I know I blogged about resolutions on Tony C Today. That's the problem with has become cliche to laugh about breaking them.

Maybe the very concept of waiting until a new year begins to alter, add to or eliminate a facet of your life that's important enough to dwell upon paints a complete picture. If it's that important... shouldn't you start now? What will delaying until a specific date to start really accomplish?

So a few months ago, I agreed to accept a new responsibility at church that is in concert with a topic I'm consistently harping about while I'm on the soapbox. After a lot of prayer and self analysis, I agreed to teach a Sunday School class. But not just any Sunday School class... I would be taking the college-aged Sunday School class. An age group that weighs on my heart.

Statistics clearly show that nearly 70% of church youth will leave the church by age 23... 70%!! But, I remember I was in that 70% and the pilgrimage my spiritual life took as I wandered in the dark for a number of years. If I can help just one young adult avoid repeating that quest, keep just one from turning from God... the effort would be a small way to honor God for never forgetting me.

It just so happens that the start of my new role coincides with the new year. I'm a fairly organized individual and already juggle a number of hats, but adding one more shouldn't throw a wrench in the works too bad... that is, however, if the bar hadn't been set pretty high. My predecessor has been a remarkable teacher. He took the class through the book of Genesis this year that resulted in the discovery of layer upon layer of revelations for the class members. I sat in a number of classes and was amazed at the complexity of the first book and how all the stories I had heard and read through my entire life all point to God keeping His promise and the gift of salvation.

I have a challenge ahead. This might sound like a resolution, but I'm looking at it as more a vow... a vow to never take my new responsibility lightly or for granted. If there are a dozen or only one person in the class, I vow to give my very best effort... or better. Please hold me to it through your prayers.

Thank you Lord for giving me this opportunity. May anything and everything I present reflect your will, your desires for the souls of this class. Thank you for the Godly man I follow and all that he has done for this class. Please continue to touch and guide him as he moves to even more responsibilities in Your church. I will never fail to stop and give You all the credit and the glory for what You do. In the name of a perfect Savior, Amen.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What Time Is It?

I whole-heartedly agree with David. I don’t care for resolutions. I also agree that what we need is a Jesus revolution not just more resolutions. I am not sure I can follow yesterday’s Kingdom Blogger entry by David.

I was thinking of various Christianized New Year’s activities. I’ve probably seen them all. I well remember Watch Night Services. Interestingly their origin comes from the African American community and goes back to slave days. To read more about it's history click here.

Watch night was associated with Emancipation. Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation after a watch night.

I never went to one when I was a small child but I do remember my father going. I remember when I got old enough to go we would gather at the church at about 9:30 p.m. We’d worship for a while and then eat. Lots of good food, lots of fellowship, lots of coffee. Then at about 11:00 we’d go back to the sanctuary for more worship. Just before midnight, we’d have communion and at midnight we’d be on our knees.

I agree that many of these Christianize activities are hype; yet, I did rather like the idea of starting a new year on my knees. Now I think most churches offer a game night. Not really crazy about that idea. I am not against fun but it seems that the state of the church would be better served if we were on our knees.

That’s my New Year’s resolution, to spend more time in prayer. I think David’s prayer yesterday is a good one to cut, paste and save some place and repeat regularly. Last year I had a song for the year. I rather like old hymns (shhh-don’t tell anyone, makes me sound OLD). For me the song of the year was “Have Thine Own Way.” If you’ve never heard it you can hear it here and read a bit about the author. Elvis liked it, listen to him sing it here.

I would start my day with that song. I didn’t make it through the whole year singing that song. After all, most of us don’t really keep our resolutions. However, there is something about a commitment, a dedication, a resolution, and repetition. It seems to help it sink deep in our spirits.

If I hear the spirit of the Lord saying anything to us for the New Year it is

seek me and you will find me when you seek me with all of your heart.
Jeremiah 29:13

Is it time to watch and pray so that we can have emancipation? Freedom? I am ready to be set free in 2010.

Monday, December 28, 2009

New Year's Revolution - A "V" Can Change a Destiny

I hate New Year's resolutions, how about you? But December 31st is almost here.

In AA we always called New Years Eve "amateur night." In the early 80's I used to participate in the Alk-a-thons (24 hours of meetings) that were held at an old train station near New Haven. That is how "we" used to stay sober on the last of the holidays in something we referred to as the Bermuda Triangle - Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. It is a tough time to abstain - especially if you are addicted.

There were always a few guys there trying to make another 24 hours. Over the past 30 years, I attended them at various other places. One year I even did close-up magic, making lit cigarettes disappear, changing a $1 bill into a $100 bill, and doing card tricks.

I confess, the last few years my wife and I went to bed at the same time as usual; waking up to news reports of the celebrations around the world while we slept and the usual hang over cures.

I have long since given up on resolving to end or start a new routine in my life on December 31st. The Christian life for me is lived day-to-day. I pray, I meditate, read some Scripture, look for opportunities to be Christ to another, and go to sleep to wake up another day just to do it all over again. I am either pressing in, or sliding back - there are no other choices.

I know, it sounds boring. My kids tell me that all the time. My wife and I like happen to like boring. We go to work during the day, enjoy dinner each night as a family, and snuggle for an episode of Law & Order or CSI. Only an occasional vacation or holiday breaks the routine.

I have also lost my passion for sermons about the new and coming opportunities in the next year. I suppose the church will do the same thing next Sunday; expecting different results - again!

As I got more involved with church, I would attend overnight prayer meetings to ring in the New Year, and cast vision for our next year in ministry. God is always doing something "new" this week of the year - there is always a year of Jubilee, a year of triumph or a year of deliverance.... blah blah, blah. What if we knew we were going to have a year of persecution, hardship and trial? We probably would stone the person that said that!

Church, His mercies are NEW EVERY MORNING - grab yourself a handful!

I guess I would be pleasantly surprised if someone stood up next Sunday and said, this year we are not going to have children's church, nor Wednesday Bible study or home-group. Why? Ummm... because it isn't working, there is no fruit and honestly, it's boring. Or Sunday hasn't seen a salvation in a few months, maybe we should do something else, does anyone have any ideas?

Wouldn't it be cool if someone suggested that we have a fellowship night in which the Spirit of God was let loose in such a way that we didn't know what to expect - one in which there was no specified leader except the one reveled during the 30 minutes of prayer before hand? What if we hung out in prayer until someone heard from God? I know, it sounds kinda Quaker. What if someone came with a "word," a "hymn;" and not a Chris Tomlin song, or someone had a tongue and interpretation? What if we gave our gatherings to God, and didn't have an agenda, a book, or a bulletin? What if?

This year, I propose a New Year's Revolution and not a resolution. Instead of resolving to do what we should be doing anyway, why not resolve to go deeper; with greater abandon then we ever have before?

As Abraham brought Issac to the altar of sacrifice, why don't you (and me) put it all on the altar?

Are you with me? Do you want more of the same, or more of God? Ask yourself, is this all there is to Christianity, and is it enough?

If you are in, then let's pray together.

Lord, I am willing to give up whatever keeps me from you. It could be my job, my home, or just a few TV shows. Lord show me what I need to do to be closer to You.

Jesus, I want more of you, I want to be a part of what you are doing here on earth! I don't want to wear my salvation like a piece of jewelry, but like a power pack that enables me to serve others.

Lord let me experience true peace and true joy, not just calm and happiness which don't last.

Father God, shake what needs to be shaken, heal what needs to be healed, and Lord, let my works be hot for You! Lord let today be the first day that I promise not to look back, but to look up and hear your voice. And remind me to ask again tomorrow.

Lord stop me from being a hypocrite, but ignite me, fill me with your Spirit, set me on fire, unlock the spiritual gifts within me, and let me stop looking to others to supply that which you generously give to those that ask.

Protect my family, and bring my relationships into order; children honoring parents, parents instructing and loving their children, wives submitting to godly husbands and husbands laying down their lives for their Lord, their families and for the gospel.

Let me be filled with hope and faith; quick to forgive and quicker to love. Lord carve out a place for me to be like You with those that are like minded, and those that can lead me closer to your perfect will. And Lord deliver me from evil as I put behind me my selfishness, my faithlessness, and my fear.

Today, Lord God, I desire your spiritual gifts - not that you use my talents, but that you gift me in supernatural ways that I might proclaim Your Kingdom - let it come.

Lord forgive me of my sins, heal my soul, provide seed that I might sow, and bring me to the end of the race; my life spent for You, that I might worship you forever and ever. Amen.

I'm going to pray this everyday until God changes me. I am starting today. Will you join me in the revolution!

Friday, December 25, 2009

I'll see you in church on Sunday...

Wonderful Christmas memories are numerous for me. Maybe it's being right in the spirit of the season that almost prevents me from remembering a negative experience. Sure, I've been in a few places I would rather not have been during the holiday, but as far as a bad memory...I can't find one on my hard drive I call a brain.

I remember Christmas Day fell on Sunday back in 2005. That had been a particularly hard year for me and my family, but there was a feeling of turning a new leaf as the year end approached.

Like most families, mine has a very regimented schedule to adhere to starting with Christmas Eve each year to ensure we spread the holiday cheer evenly among our blended families. I recall one Christmas flying home from Hawaii for a few weeks. Upon returning to the island, I learned of angry family upset that I didn't come see them while I was home. I fly 8 hours home, but they can't drive 15 minutes to visit me at my parents house? Right.

Anyway, our plans where slightly modified in 2005 to include a morning worship service at church. My heart was telling me that attending church was the right thing to do despite the hectic visitation schedule we were facing, but my head was focused on everything but worship early that Christmas morning. Until I actually got to church...

There was surprisingly a large crowd attending the service. I sat with my family because I didn't have to play the drums during praise music. We sang traditional Christmas carols that told of the coming of the Savior. Without being facetious, the best way to describe my heart that morning is akin to what the Grinch went through in the famous Dr. Seuss story. It was as if my heart filled and expanded out of my chest that morning. The experience was absolutely unforgettable and a tremendous blessing. I wasn't there to receiving a blessing...I was there to worship and praise God for being God...but He blessed me that Christmas morning and reminded me it should always be about Him.

I remember walking out that day and telling my wife that I wish we had a church service every Christmas morning regardless of the day of the week. I still feel that way and so does she. Christians talk about the reason for the season and keeping Christ in Christmas...but how many church doors are closed and locked this morning on Christmas 2009? Too many.

Oh well, 2011 is only a few years away with another Sunday Christmas.

Please join me today in lifting up love and appreciation for the ultimate gift in the history of human kind. Merry Christmas everyone.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Baby Changed Everything...

On December 10th 2009, I had the awesome pleasure of watching my sons daughter come into the world. As he stood next to his fiance assisting her in her contractions, he peered over to see the delivery of his daughter take place...I will never forget the look on "my" 17 year old baby's face as he laid his eyes on his baby for the first time....It was something only understood if you had experienced it yourself, my words do not give justice to the expression on his youthful, frightened face. The hardest thing for me, I would say was revisiting my experience delivering my precious baby boy...I was in awe of his young fiance's courage and strength...I was overtaken by the emotions of gaining a granddaughter and watching my son before my eyes go from a boy to a man with the love of a father exhuming from his spirit...That day has left me pondering many things, I went from a mom to a grandmother I saw my son change from boy to a man, I watched a young girl transform into the very life source of another soul...The glory of God had flooded that hospital room in such force it became a tangible presence...My son who over the years has become very bitter toward the things of God declared with his mouth, "Look what God has done, how could any one deny God's existence, thank you Jesus for my daughter!!"..Well as you can imagine, as a mom, I lost it!!!.....This precious little child changed everything...My son saw the love of God through the birth of his daughter..My grand daughter Cadyn was 10 days earlier than expected, but not a minute to soon!!!!...That little baby changed everything!!!!In my quiet time I have reflected on my sons face and wept, completely overwhelmed with the unfailing love of the Father...And the love for my son...The love for this precious little girl..And the realization of the day that the baby Jesus took His first earthly breath...As God the Father watched Mary bring forth His beloved, what he must have felt watching her strain through each contraction...Mary was God's daughter, the chosen vessel in which The Messiah would grow and be brought into the world...God watched as a father of Jesus, as the father of Joseph, and as the father of Mary...He watched as His creation, created!!!! As Mary and Joseph wept and gave glory to God for His gift, I believe God also wept!!! That day, Christmas day a baby changed everything!!!!! This season, remember that every human being is a gift to God and that Jesus came into the world for the salvation of every person, that He was born to die..That the miracle of HIS birth is this... When Jesus took His first breath and let out his first cry...That was the beginning of the "gift" of your salvation!!! This season stop for just a moment and look into the faces of your gifts from God and share the story of that baby's cry..Before any packages get torn open or a single gift is unwrapped, take a moment and reflect!!! The cry of that infant child, was the same cry that came from that same child of God hanging on a cross on Calvary....Christmas: a time of celebration, vivid colors, joyful music and time spent with family and friends..The food is fabulous and the aromas of Christmas are nostalgic...Even better than all of these things wrapped up together in a beautiful package with a big fat bow is the meaning of this joyous holiday!!!!..That meaning is JESUS!!!.....MERRY CHRISTMAS SAINTS!!!! HE IS THE ONLY REASON FOR THIS SEASON!!!!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Boar's Head - Oh Come Let Us Adore Him!

One Christmas before mom passed away, we enjoyed an amazing time together. It was one of those events that was so special, it simply had to be God.

I drove my family from Cape Cod to Ft Wayne; about 900 miles, to spend Christmas vacation with my mother and step-father. I-80 was a bit treacherous, but we arrived safely a couple of days after Christmas. My middle daughter was about a year old at the time; she's 18 now. We enjoyed the week together as a family visiting museums, walking around the neighborhood, and having meals together.

Mom, knowing how much I like music - even classical, bought tickets to a performance of Boar's Head and Yule Log Festival at her church. The festival is an interesting mix of carols, candles and the Christmas story; a choir, full orchestra and soloists with a touch of Handle's Messiah. As the years have passed, I have probably forgotten something - but I do remember the ending. It was one of the most profound experiences I have ever had with Jesus, and it came at that performance. My mother wasn't much for Evangelical Christianity, but there we were standing together singing the following hymn. I had my right hand outstretched for the chorus, tears running down my checks; singing like I had never sang in 15 years of church - and I adored Him! I grasped her hand and the presence of God came as we sang together that night.

O Come All Ye Faithful
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

O Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing all that hear in heaven God's holy word.
Give to our Father glory in the Highest;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

All Hail! Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning,
O Jesus! for evermore be Thy name adored.
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Midnight Mass

My religious encounters with formal church - even after I got saved - we not very engaging. Honestly, I just couldn't understand how people could do all that stand-sit-kneel stuff and end up getting close to God? I just enjoyed my Jesus while I prayed and read the Bible. I especially liked books that were testimonies.

In the Fall of 1982 I had a radical encounter with the Holy Spirit while attending an Anglican church in Old Saybrook, CT. It was like my veins were infused with liquid God, the passion, the excitement, the presence of God - it was (and is) extraordinary. I have never been the same!

It was my first Christmas service since meeting the Holy Spirit of God in power. I was excited about church, about prayer - even the prayers in the prayer book were exciting. For the first time I felt like I understood them, the heart of the writer and the response of God. For the first time religion was not something that I was doing, not something that I belonged to, but something that consumed my spirit every moment of my life. I wanted to read the Bible, I wanted to sing my praises in the loudest voice, I wanted to raise my hand to His glory, I wanted Jesus - all of him.

I got to the church early for the service; about 10:30 pm. By 11 there was standing room only, and as the late arrival's car heads lights crossed the stained glass windows casting soft blobs of color on the white walls, the prelude began. The service progressed with hymns, then the bell choir; the sweet smell of fresh wreaths and burning candles in the air - it was Christmas. I could feel the faint cool blast of Jack Frost's fainting breath as parishioners opened the sanctuary doors. There I stood in my corduroy suit, squished in with my family in the crowded pew, We Three Kings pouring from the organ's trumpet enchamde - it was a glorious Christmas.

Unto us, a Savior was born!

I couldn't wait for the next verse, the next hymn and then there was the homily - the Christmas story and an altar call - it was all about Jesus! Finally there was joyous communion and then as we shared a hug or a handshake with our neighbor, we filed into the snow filled parking lot; the carolon clanging out silent night - the crisp snow beneath out feet.

I got home and lay awake just thinking about Jesus - what it must have been like . . .

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Kingdom of God is way much better than DisneyWorld...

What a week of posts on Kingdom Bloggers! It is a huge blessing and honor to be a part of God's work...even if it is just the smallest of parts. My heart is filled with joy and soul is warmed by His love.

There was a time in my life when the concept of our worldly home being destroyed caused anxiety in me. I didn't understand, either through ignorance or apathy, that this physical world was never intended to be an eternal place...much like my physical body was never intended to be eternal either. I questioned why God would create such a magnificent place, give us a taste, and then take it all away. My questions were lined, even padded, with arrogance and pride from being educated in important secular matters.
Today, the Kingdom of God is a much clearer picture for me. Obviously, I don't and can't fully understand the majesty of God's Kingdom, but my focus and priorities are much more focused on what role God wants me to matter how big or how small that role may be. God rules eternally sovereign over all things in Heaven and on Earth (Psalms 103:19). My praise and worship for Him will ring forever more yet will still never come close to measuring up to the honor He deserves from me for the opportunity to be a part of His Kingdom.

Christ teaches in John 3:5-7 that a man must be born again to enter the Kingdom of God. I've stood in the shoes of ignorance Nicodemus found himself that day in the presence of Jesus. But also like Nicodemus, my desire is to better understand and share the words of a Savior who made possible a rebirth through the Spirit. Hallelujah!

The songs we sing of a place where the streets are made of gold have little value to me personally. To finally bow in the presence of God who is sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient and the ruler over all holds vast more significance than all the gold and jewels that could ever be accumulated. His Kingdom always has been and always will be...but to have that single moment in His presence deserves my unceasing obedience until my last breath is drawn.

Please don't go another day not being an eternal part of God's Kingdom. If you need to know how a personal relationship with a living Savior can make that difference, contact any of the Kingdom Bloggers through our personal blogs listed on this page or email me at

As one of my favorite gospel songs proclaims...On this glory road I'm traveling, many times I stumble on my way. But praise the Lord I'll soon be leaving, to that land of perfect peace and endless day. Praise God!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Kingdom of God is here and now...

The Kingdom of God is here and now... I've said that to myself now about 5 times... Every time I say it the more excited I become...

My name is Michelle, my blog style is probably very different from the others written on this page... It is a bit intimidating being among such awesome inspiration and revelation... However, I'm up for the challenge... After all,The Kingdom of God is here and now!!!

What an awesome time in history this is for the sons and daughters of God. The spiritual realm and physical realm is under such distress and we as the body of believers have a front row seat... I come to you today with a word of encouragement !!! Remain faithful and do not become weary in well doing... Saints of God, this is the season for the harvest...This is the time for the body of believers to put into practice what Jesus spoke in Luke 4:18-19(nkjv)...

"The spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor;He has sent Me to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed;To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord."

All I can say is WOW!! We are placed strategically in our cities , towns, jobs, etc..for this very reason. Jesus has prepared the way and sent us to the people that need to hear the good news. At the time of our salvation saints, we received the awesome gift of eternal life and a life time partner and guide... "The Holy Spirit!". Because The Spirit of the Lord is upon every believer you are anointed!!! You/we were recruited into the service of the Lord. The Kingdom of God is here and now. So, my question is this: Saints what are we waiting for? There are people dying with out Christ, there are needs all around us. It's our responsibility to disarm the spirit of infliction, poverty and wickedness. Jesus never said it was going to be easy. You're going to be considered odd, different... So what!!Leave your reputation behind!!!Saints we need to call things as if they were!! People may ask you, "Who do you think you are??" Your response will be a son/ daughter of The Living God!!

With the kingdom ever present all that's done in the name of the Lord is for the building up of His kingdom. Our purposes are becoming greater in these days, I sense in my spirit the urgency of the Fathers cries for sincerity in His servants, for a fresh passion ignited by the realization of His cross and his inevitable return.There is much to accomplish in our short visit here on earth with not much time to waste. All this laboring we are doing over the Saints, and all of our own personal struggles are for God's purposes, and the purpose of the building up of His Kingdom.

So rise up!! All this "stuff" we are dealing with is for something!! Hooray!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Kingdom of God Is?

The word "kingdom" conjures up the image of a castle overlooking a sprawling landscape; distant peasant homes; smoke curling above the chimneys and horse drawn carts full of hay. The King, standing on his balcony surveying a pastoral scene unfolding with lush green forests, sculptured hills, and a courtyard of cheering subjects. These are the elements of a full-length Disney feature.

Until the oppressor of our soul is bound and then tossed into the lake of fire, our glorious kingdom suffers violent attacks. Like the medieval infantry using catapults and flaming arrows, the battlefield engulfs the peaceful citizens, engaging them in a fight against evil - Christians at war.

As you survey your personal hamlet in the King's eventual domain, maybe you see injustice and evil. It tugs at your heart because you have a "mission" in God's kingdom; one for which he gifts you, calls you and prepares you - that is if you are willing to count the cost and be molded on the potter's wheel.

As a short-term missionary, I have seen some very profane recesses of our earthly home. The most disturbing to date, were the slums of Londrina in Southern Brazil.

The last time two times I was there, my team visited churches that held meetings in these slums - or should I say, sprawls of lean-tos, cardboard boxes and tin shacks on the outskirts of town.

It was there that we met Joséanna, just 19-years-old. Her father had abandon her and her mother for a life in another city. She hadn't seen him in about seven years. Her mother had become accustom to the way of life in these difficult and dangerous surroundings - but longed to be with her family up north.

My friend Pastor Erinaldo invited "José" to come and stay at his home while her mother went to see if she could find work up north where it was warmer.

Joséanna (that's her in the blue dress on the right) quickly fell into family life in the little apartment over Poco de Agua Viva Igreja (Fountain of Living Water Church). She was polite and happy. She helped serve meals, walk the dogs and ate whenever there was food offered.

A few days after I had arrived, I felt like we should get her some clothes so that she could look for a job. The pastor and his ever present clan (pictured above) took us to the mall which took two trips in his Ford KA. There we bought her an outfit, perfume, and make up. She cried as the ladies brought different outfits to dressing room.

After we returned to the pastor's house, we sat around talking about Jesus, our families, life in America and I learning Portuguese. I excused myself to prepare for my evening sermon (HERE is that story). As I passed Joséanna's room, through the crack in a slightly opened door, she knelt there on the quarry tiles, sobbing and almost whispering, "gloria deus - obrigado senhor - obrigado pi." She was thanking her Father, and giving glory to her Lord and Savior.

Later that evening, I was standing on the platform during worship. There she was in the front row - her eyes closed and her hands extended towards heaven. At first she simply sang the words in Portuguese. Then an amazing thing happened. She began to praise God, but this time in English; a language she did not know. I will never forget her words that night.

She sang, "Lord Jesus, you are great and mighty, you have not for gotten your daughter and left her to die. Lord Jesus you are great and mighty - Lord Jesus you are great and mighty and your Kingdom has come."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

White Picket Fence

The kingdom of God is like…. So many parables come to mind if you are familiar with the scripture. Jesus says the kingdom is a farmer sowing seed, a man hunting treasure, a woman kneading dough, fishermen casting a net, a man forgiven a debt, a wedding guest who forgot his jacket, virgins waiting for a bridegroom, a landowner being generous. It is like seed, yeast, pearl, fish, banquet, vineyard; it all seems so random and unconnected. I used to sing a song about how the kingdom is not about food but righteousness, peace and joy. Perhaps this is why the disciples were always so confused.
I have a story about the kingdom of God. I think the kingdom is a bit like the story in Shriek where all the “unusual” come to Shriek. Or maybe it is like that old Christmas classic, about the misfit toys that save Christmas. There was a little church in Pegram TN that felt that it was a bit like the land of misfit toys. We all were hurt and wounded but we came together and advance the kingdom with love and care.
One of the ways we did this was to give free breakfasts. As Pastor, my theology said that we were supposed to feed the hungry. However, it didn’t say that we were supposed to only feed those that had no food – it just said feed the hungry. Every Sunday morning I made waffles. We fed some of the top songwriters in Nashville and we fed a man on a bicycle who had slept in the park all for free, just to show love.

But I see the kingdom of God as a white picket fence. No I am not thinking about a house in the country with a white picket fence where life is idyllic. I am thinking about a time I was given direction.
My daughter was working on a project for school and was at a friend’s house. I didn’t know where this girl lived. We were new to the area living on a farm on a narrow winding Tennessee road. The girl lived about 20 miles away. I got on the phone with the mother who was going to give me directions.
She said go to the school, and then drive past it. Okay, that was easy. I knew how to do that. Then she said go past the grocery store and turn left on Merrylog Lane. Up until this point, I sort of knew where she meant. She continued, at the end of Merrylog turn left. After that she didn’t know the names of the streets but told me to continue until I came to the white picket fence. After that, turn right. From there it was the third road, turn left, last house on the right and a description of the trim.
The white picket fence concerned me. I pictured a small house with a few feet of white picket fence. Maybe it was short as well. I was so afraid I’d miss it. I worried the whole way. I was so afraid I’d miss that fence. I was so afraid if I missed that fence I’d miss the turn and be hopelessly lost.
When I got to the fence it was so obvious. A beautiful four-foot high white picket fence; it went on for probably a quarter mile. It would be impossible to miss it. I turned right after the fence and found the house with no difficulty.
We live in the time of the kingdom has come and yet has not been fully realized. We travel along with directions that God has given us to reach our destination. We look for the full realization of the kingdom of God. In those directions are things like the white picket fence. Something we think we’ll miss. Something we think we may not see and yet when we get there it is as obvious as that fence was to me that day.
The kingdom of God is like a white picket fence. It seems like on the journey of the kingdom of God we will get lost. We may never find where we are supposed to go. But the white picket fences are obvious. We will reach our destination.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Kingdom of God is . . . The Best Fruit

"Brother, I see you reaching way up for the fruit at the top of the tree - but Jesus said the Kingdom of God is at hand!"

That was part of the word spoken over me by Brother Arrowwood in 1997. At the time I was diligently working to find acceptance in some sort of full-time ministry. Though he'd never met me, he knew what God was saying. I WAS overlooking the small opportunities to minister, and serve my local church and community; all in hopes of getting something big.

Both Jesus and John the Baptist said that the "Kingdom of God is at hand." (Matthew 3:1-3, Matthew 4:17) This week your faithful Kingdom Bloggers will talk about what the Kingdom of God is to them, and why you don't want to miss it!

So what is the Kingdom of God really? It is the spiritual reality that we can access all the power and glory of our heavenly home, right here, right now, and without any conditions other than faith in Jesus.

The kingdom, like our salvation, is "now" (at hand), still being "delivered on a daily basis" (new mercies, gifts, answered prayers), and "not yet;" as an eternal end point. How can it be now, continually on tap, and eternal? I don't exactly know - it's a little over my head.

The real questions are, what is the Kingdom in terms of you and me right now? How do we go about the daily business of work or school, and touch Heaven too?

For me, the Kingdom is an awareness of His presence at all times. It is usually an unseen world that is as alive and active as Times Square on New Year's Eve! It is a realm, not something with an earthly time and place; yet it is as tangible as the computer screen you are looking at right now. It is filled with power and healing and mercy and grace and love and light and His glory! (Sorry, I got a little excited)

Many years ago I read The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Laurence. He found the kingdom in his everyday chores as a monk. I later read Watchman Nee's Release of the Spirit where many of his followers would wait for meeting after meeting to experience God. Nee, however; found the presence of God; His Kingdom, was ever present. Nee was an amazing man. It was rumored that the Chinese cut out his tongue so that he could no longer speak of the Kingdom.

It was in reading those two books that I began to pray and actively look for the Kingdom of God. If the Kingdom of God is at hand, then I should be able to grasp it, right?

At first I suppose seeing the Kingdom was like a cat trying to catch a moving flashlight beam - he is never quite sure where it goes when he pounces on it. He is only certain when it is near. It was the same with me. I knew when the Kingdom was near, but I wasn't always sure when I had apprehended it.

Eventually, I would see it in my spirit during prayer, and I could eventually see the realm that surrounded believers - a prophetic sense. And one evening, angels. You don't forget something like that.

The Kingdom of God according to Jesus, is a place, is like a field where seed is scattered and it grows. The Kingdom is growing, alive and fertile. He said it was like a mustard seed, and the yeast that is used in bread, as well as a treasure. (MORE) According to Jesus, it even suffers violence. (Matthew 11:12)

Finally - I have decided that the Kingdom is the place; from this moment on, where everything that Jesus is, said, did, and will do, happens. As a child of the King, I get to see it, participate in it, and enjoy Him in it. HERE is a list to stir up the kingdom in your life.

Jesus said, "I do what I see the Father doing." That is the Kingdom of God Here here on earth. It is touching the spiritual realm, and like a turnbuckle, pulling the power of Heaven closer to our daily lives.

More on the theological Kingdom HERE.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

If at first we don't succeed...

First, I want to thank my Kingdom Blogger friends for their thoughts and prayers. H1N1 is nasty. Luckily, my wife and girls have been vaccinated, but I still have been isolated for over a week. I've been fever-free for almost 48 hours, so I seem to be out of the woods. As Three Dog Night said...One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do...

I'm about to start a study on what Jesus actually says and does in the Bible, and I'm really looking forward to it. The study may take me in a completely different direction once I start...or maybe even several...but I feel drawn to do this. As a Christian, I believe such knowledge is vital as framework for anything I say or write. Yes, I've heard and read the story of Jesus most all of my life. From Sunday School classes and Bible School through classes and sermons today, I've been saturated with most aspects of Christ's life. My goal is to get back to the very foundation of what I believe and wish to live from the very words of Jesus Himself.

Sharing Christ is an awesome responsibility and privilege. For some people, sharing the faith is as natural as breathing. Others have a more difficult time because sharing anything, even Jesus, just doesn't come natural. My process has evolved over time and now reflects both a little of me and a lot of refinement. By nature, I'm a debater and have become quite convincing with years of practice. I'm often accused under my own roof of twisting a position around until it is virtually impossible to polarize and only leaves my own point of view as an option...although I take issue with that accusation.
Of course, that's not the most effective way to share Christ...along with beating a person over the head with an actual Bible as we say here in the I've adopted a more WWJD demeanor. My most effective tools seem to be love and patience. Yes, it's still a work in progress.

A few years back, I was talking to a teenager who happened to be in a ton of trouble. I was trying to emphasis to him that what's done is done, and all that was left were the consequences. He was having a hard time wrapping around what I was trying to convey because he couldn't get past a feeling that he had ruined his life with his serious lapse of judgment...and dwelling on those consequences.

'I believe you will ultimately be looked at for where and how you go from here,' I told him. We finally got around to matters of faith, and he solidly stated he believed in God. 'Well, if you truly believe in God, then you have to follow Him also. He has a plan for each of us, and this may be your moment to shine for His glory,' I said with emphasis. He still didn't understand how his mistake would bring God glory, and I told him that he may never understand exactly how this side of Heaven. The most important part was being obedient from this point forward.

Explaining the number of mistakes I had made in my own life because my focus wasn't on God seemed to be the notes that finally resonated with my young friend. 'Had my focus been on God, most or all of those mistakes would never have occurred,' I explained. It was a great conversation, but I knew the seeds planted might take time to germinate.

When kids get in trouble these days, there is a new element Satan uses for his benefit...well, maybe not completely new but at least unknown to my generation or the one before me. Getting in trouble these days gives a kid 'street credit.' The bigger the foul up...the more credit you bank. What makes the crossroads even more confusing is the fact 'street credit' is somehow glamorized by the younger generation. It's as if you can't be good at being good...then being good at being bad is the next best thing. No, I don't understand it myself, but we definitely need to be aware of it.

I've been following up since with my young friend to make sure he doesn't try to use his thuggery as a jumping off point for bigger and badder things. We've talked about Saul/Paul and King David and how God used them despite their major faults for His purpose. Maybe his ongoing story will end as another awesome testimony on God's love and mercy. He deserves my persistence with this young man for His patience with me....well, and so much more.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sharing Faith Isn't Just for the Lost

I don't know about you, but since I first believed, I have NOT always had powerhouse faith. Actually, I might not ever have had powerhouse faith. Some days, the faith of a mustard seed has easily escaped me and I felt like Stewart Little. Other days, I feel like I could tell the mountain to jump in the sea, and it would.

We often hear about the tiny faith, faith like a mustard seed. If we have any faith, that is enough. (Luke 17) That is not actually true. In context, Jesus is talking about faith in forgiveness. IE: salvation. In verse 5 the apostles ask Him to increase their faith. He did - Jesus went to the cross.

As there are different needs, there are different types or levels of faith - even a gift of faith (1 Cor 12). When it comes to healing, Jesus asked those without faith for healing not to come in the room where Jairus's daughter lay dead (v40). (Mark 5:35-43) They actually laughed at Him - well, until he raised her from the dead.

Today, your Kingdom Bloggers have a host of needs. One is very sick with the flu; possibly H1N1 with two children in the house. Another has a loved one that has survived a cancer scare PTL, while another is in the midst of schedule changes at work and a blizzard. The other is just recovering from sickness. I don't mention this because we need any specific response - but because we are human, we are the body of Christ, and because faith and prayer changes things. Today I am covering my brother with a quick blog, and praying for the others - we'd love for you to join in.

Some days sharing our faith is not for the lost, but to encourage each other - to stir each up for the good works God has set before us (Eph 2:10), and to believe God for that unseen blessing, be it health, finances, relationships, doors to open or anything else.

HERE is a story of how God increased my faith.

I'd love it if you'd post an answered prayer, a miracle God did for you, or a testimony of His faithfulness, so that we can encourage each other.

And while your at it, would you send these guys an email or Facebook message to encourage them? Tony and pray for healing, Dave - tell him how much you appreciate him. And you can log onto Joyce's blog and leave her a comment, she'd love to hear from you too - it's a lonely walk out there in SD.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Eating Ladoos to the Beat of a Tabla: Lifting Up Jesus

Sharing my faith in the typical ways is not easy for me anymore. Once upon a long time ago I was involved in a “Summer of Witnessing” as a teen in NYC. Teens from mostly the Midwest came to Brooklyn to use the Roman Road and tell people about Jesus. I liked the silent prayer partner role the best. However, I would also take my turn, going through down the Roman Road and hope for a prayer. We reported every day of our numbers and have services every night. I don’t remember every seeing any one we witnessed to during the day show up at that meetings.

I remember street meetings in Brooklyn that I have already mentioned in this blog. In one of them, with a group from Nyack College, I remember leading someone to the Lord. I never knew what happened to him. I got involved with a group that had a plan for winning Brooklyn for Jesus. We took blocks and targeted them with prayer and door knocking, all very strategic.  All of this was before I finished the tenth grade. To say I was a bit zealous is an understatement.

However, over the years my personal experience is that I have rarely seen this method of evangelism have long-term results. I have found that simple living the life is probably the most effect. Just hanging out as David said in his blog yesterday.

The most unusual time I shared my faith was in Pakistan. No, I wasn’t on a mission trip to Pakistan, I was on a family trip. It was 22 years ago last week. My husband’s brother was getting married. My husband, four of our children and I flew from NYC to Kuwait and on to Pakistan.

When we landed in Kuwait, I knew everything was different. At that time, you never saw police armed with machine guns in the US. In Kuwait, they walked around the airport, scanning all of us. I had a headscarf ready and hid under it. It was not because of modesty or religious conviction. I wanted to hide my light skin and light hair. I also insisted on wearing my cross. I wanted it clear, no matter what, I am a Christian and not ashamed.

I used the public toilet only to find it didn’t have a toilet. There was a hole in the floor to squat over. I was not that coordinated. We boarded the next plane to Karachi, Pakistan.

We arrived in the wee hours of the morning. As we went through customs, my fear increased. There was an old high desk in the middle of the room. The man sitting on the stool was quite intimidating. When he approved someone to go further, the sound of his stamp on the paper reverberated throughout the room. 

As the days went on, I slept a lot trying to adjust to the time change. I had never met my husband’s family other than one of his brother. There were so many people, most spoke no English. I had no idea of Pakistani wedding customs.  The woman would gather for hours and hours with a tabla, a drum and sing traditional wedding songs. The most popular one was about a mother singing to her son about how he was as beautiful as a peacock.

There were days and days of singing.  Three preliminary ceremonies leading up to the actually wedding.  I put mehndi (henna) on the bride-to-be’s hands and fed her ladoos to help with her fertility. It evidently worked she has five children.

One day I was sitting with the woman, all related, only one spoke any English. They were singing and beating the tabla. I was attempting to clap my hands with them. However, I am Norwegian. Norwegian usually have a serious lack of rhythm. Usually I have to watch careful in order to clap hands to music. This beat was different; it was odd. I was lost.

The sister-in-law who knew English looked at me and said, “You sing?” Sing? Me? I don’t know any Pakistani songs.  They all got excited as she translated that she was asking me to sing a song. They said you sing English – you sing one of your songs.

I probably know 100’s of songs. Nevertheless, at that moment, I couldn’t think of one I knew. I looked at our daughters. I asked them if they wanted to sing. They were young and of course, they thought this was a great idea!  So I asked them, “what do you want to sing?”

They looked at me with a big smile and said, “How about Jesus Loves Me?”  We were in a Muslim country and the only Christians in the house. I thought, dare I? I sent the children into the room with the men to ask their dad what he thought.  They came back and said, “Dad said sure, why not? They won’t understand it anyway.”

We started to sing:
Jesus loves me this I know,
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong,
They are weak but He is strong
                Yes, Jesus loves me, Yes, Jesus loves me
                Yes, Jesus loves me, The Bible tells me so

They played the tabla and clapped to their beat. It wasn’t the beat of the song, it just have sounded terrible. We sang. They smiled. We smiled. 

Ok, now maybe this isn’t what you had in mind for sharing my faith. I’d love to tell you that all these woman received Christ. They didn’t. However, I believe the scripture:

But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." John 12:32

Monday, December 7, 2009

I'm not too good at it - but...

This week your Kingdom Bloggers are going to write a testimony about a time when we shared our faith in Jesus with someone else.

I love testimonies because they have so much power. Faith is contagious! I don't like testimonies because I have use the word "I" - which makes me uncomfortable. Paul said that if we're going to boast, then boast about the Lord. I still think it would be better if the person that received from God through us, would post how God touched them instead.

I have had the privilege to be a vessel for thousands of folks over the years; some here and some abroad. I have lots of stories on my Blog - some of salvation, others of miracles and tender moments with Jesus - and Tony twists my arm to write about politics. I am more amazed at God when something miraculous happens then most people - but that is what I love about Jesus.

Sharing faith - well the kind that gets others saved - I am just not good at it. I have to say, only on a few occasions have I closed the deal with the sinner' s prayer. There were a couple of other times when God closed the deal without a word; I just passed the Kleenex. I have had more success praying for the sick. One time I prayed for a woman with a lifetime of chronic migraines (HERE's that story), God healed her instantly. Shortly after she took her family to church and her entire family got saved except for one. It's been nearly 8 years. Isn't God amazing!

I used to think that sharing faith was reading the 4 Spiritual Laws out of a tract, and debating Jesus until some poor recipient was convinced that they needed salvation. I later found out that my faith is in Jesus, and I need to share Jesus. Jesus said that He did what he saw that Father doing and that is what I need to do.

I only want to do what I see the Father doing, nothing more, nothing less.

I have since discovered that salvation, although it may be the starting line of Christianity, can have a lengthy period before it, some times taking years to pass through.

I was at a church in Londrina, Brazil 10 years ago. There was woman at the meeting who looked to be about 60-years-old. She was born crippled and wore leg braces her entire life. Suddenly! God healed her that night. She ran around the sanctuary shouting, "Gloria Deus!" I have no idea how many prayers were said before that night, or how many hopes she had forgotten over her lifetime, but God, did.

A while back I took a job working for an old customer of mine. He knew me from the local business community. Russ had an opening for an unemployed software geek. After I started to work there he offered to host my personal and ministry websites as a perk. I copied the files over to his server and thought little of it.

One day he said, "You don't really believe all that Jesus stuff, do you?"

It depends on what you mean, I replied.

"That's just empty religion - besides you know what priests do to little boys," he said smirking.

I was fast looking for a reason to head back to my desk - "We'll talk some time," I said.

I got him quite a few church accounts and we had plenty of work. It was a great job, and in the course of working together, we chatted about religion on occasion. Each new customer was a reason to talk about faith.

He made fun of Christians - we hosted a web site "Touching Heaven" and always called it "Touching Kevin," and laughed to himself.

Russ did a lot of drinking too. He knew that I didn't drink any longer, and one day he asked me how I quit and I told him. (HERE is that story) "Well, if I get that bad, you can take me to a meeting," he said, snapping the top of another beer.

As time passed I kept talking with him about faith, my cars, fishing, boats and other "guy" stuff. We went out on his cabin cruiser, rollerbladed along the Cape Cod Canal, and ate lunch at the British Beer Company. I even house-sat for him every January.

Sometimes when others know about your faith, it is a real blessing to you - and it saves a lot of explaining. He didn't invite me out drinking or send me any "off color" links like some of the others got. He actually was a lot of fun to work with, and had a great sense of humor. My wife and I still chuckle about some of his jokes.

During my tenure, my mother became ill with pancreatic cancer. (HERE is that story) Each day I would walk into the office telling her that I loved her on the cell phone. He would wait for me to hang up, and ask me how she was doing - but the news got worse and worse.

One day I guess my sadness about my mother's condition showed. He said you know I have been watching you handle this, I don't know what I'd do if I were you. We had a talk about eternity.

"I don't know if I am ready to believe that," he said.

"Well, thanks for asking about my mom, I appreciate it," I said.

I continued my daily ritual of calling mom on the way to work. Even on 9/11, I called her. It was just a few days before she died.

He gave me time off to go to the funeral in Indiana and one in Connecticut too. We continued to talk about faith. Russ was still making off color comments about religion, but he seemed to respect my faith. He used to tell me that he wished he had the same peace that I did.

I went on to take a new job, but we kept in touch. One day the phone rang at 7 am, his mother had died of a heart attack. "I didn't have anyone else to call," he said.

"It's no problem, I am up," I replied. We talked about his mother on-and-off all week. I made suggestions for the funeral and the wake. I knew it was hard as he told me about going to hospital after her death, and kissing her on the forehead.

A few moths later He called me from the cemetery. "Do you think my mom is in heaven?" He asked?

"I don't know, Russ, I am not God."

"She was a good person you know. She was a nurse, she helped a lot of people," he said.

"I am sure she did." I replied.

"Well, I gotta go." And he hung up.

We've since lost touch, but I remember how much I enjoyed hanging out with him, talking, laughing - to the best of my knowledge, that is what the Father was doing.

This type of situation has happened before, you can read about it HERE. It would be easy to talk about the times that I felt that I succeeded. But God, sometimes He uses us to get people thinking about Jesus; about eternity, and someone else sees the fruit of the seeds we planted.

Hebrews 13:16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

Friday, December 4, 2009

'You really know how to make me laugh young man...'

The Rev. R. Rye Fleenor, age 91, of Kingsport, TN passed away peacefully surrounded by his loving family and entered into rest with the Lord at 9:08 p.m. Thursday (October 22, 2009) at his residence following a brief illness.

Born in Sullivan County, TN on July 23, 1918, a son of the late J. B. and Mary Netherland Fleenor, he has resided in this area his entire life. Rye married Mildred Unavee Barker on June 18, 1940.

Composing this installment stirs a tremendous amount of diverse emotions in me. Sadness, joy, regret, shame, and heart-felt warmth. Time for reflection...cause for celebration...genuine appreciation.

Rye Fleenor, or always Preacher Fleenor for me, was not only a tremendous influence on my early spiritual walk , he lived a life that set a shining example for me to pattern. A loving, humble man that seemed to physically tower over most, Preacher Fleenor died 6 weeks ago...and I hadn't seen or talked to him in over 20 years. For that I'm both sad and regretful.

Being a teenager is tough business. Probably more so today than in my teenage years of the late 70's and early 80's...but I think being a teenager has probably always been a hassle. During those conflicted years for me, Preacher Fleenor was always a steady, calming vessel. He had a way of correcting and encouraging simultaneously I wish I could duplicate today.

I vividly remember his and Mrs. Fleenor's infectious laughter. He would listen to my cornball jokes, many I'm sure he had heard a hundred times again but would always laugh as if it were a Tony C original. I also remember the exact day he said the words that title this post...I was wearing a dress and acting like an unseen version of the Church Lady from SNL which wouldn't come along for another dozen years.

The man absolutely loved competition. During a brief exploration for me into the sport of boxing, he would light up as he gave me pointers and coached outside the ring. I think he was somewhat disappointed when I gave it up because he loved the purity of the sport...not necessarily the violence. As I stated in a previous post, he was at most every football or baseball game I played from around 1976 until I graduated high school in 1982. He was my most loyal fan, and I loved him like he was my own grandfather...who actually never came to any of my sporting events.

It bothers me profoundly to think about the disappointment I might have caused him during my dark years. I say might because I lost contact with Preacher Fleenor after 1984 which is totally my fault because I think I avoided him out of shame. In 1988, I was awarded a state honor in Hawaii for services during a natural disaster, and the story made local papers back home. I received a glowing note from him in the mail...but that was the final time we had contact. I remember reading that note and finding a quite corner out of the way to break down and sob at the pride he conveyed...and how disappointed he would be at how I had let me spiritual life stumble.

I was never close to another pastor until today, when I'm glad to say my current pastor is also my dear friend. He would like to have met Preacher Fleenor...I'm sure of that. Men like Rye Fleenor are rare and true gifts from God. I'm not saying perfect...just rare. My fellow Kingdom Blogger, Joyce, shared a phrase on Tuesday that I absolutely adored. Preacher Fleenor has been promoted to glory...and for that I celebrate and thank God for the time He gave me with him.

As I strive to be as much like Christ as humanly possible, I have a Father who walks with me and guides me through His Spirit. When it comes to being the best man I can be, Preacher Fleenor will always be an important role model in my matter how old I am. I look forward to our reunion when my promotion finally comes.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Becoming a Dad

Growing up, my Dad's love was very conditional and constantly volatile. Insults and blows were more common than hugs and affirmation. The reason I mention that fact is because when I came to Jesus, I viewed God in the same light as my Dad. God had to be hard to please, quick to punish and constantly disappointed by all my shortcomings.

I mean, He is Father God, so of course He will have the same temperament, compassion and touch as my own dad, right? Somehow I was unable to completely shake this errant view of God many years into my Faith.

I became a Dad in 2005, when I met my son Logan. He was 14 months old on April 16, 2005 when I saw and held him for the first time. In the state of Iowa's eyes I was already a dad because they required that I pay back child support since January 14, 2004. However, at the advice of some family and friends, I did not become involved in Logan's life until DNA verified my fatherhood. Interesting, how Iowa could take months to confirm me as Logan's Dad but only took days to garnish my wages.

Anyways, after becoming a Dad, I began to see my Dad in heaven a lot differently. I began to understand how God could love me when I messed up, even when I messed up intentionally and no matter how big mess I could make. Sorta like the time I woke up to hundreds of post it notes all over the carpet.  I started to understand the concept of 'a thousand years from now, will this really matter?'. I accepted the fact that I could be patient and caring even when Logan did something stupid. Like the time he shoved a lego up his nose.  Initially I was baffled by the request and then annoyed by his anxiety when he pleaded for my help but I managed to be comforting as we worked together to dislodge the piece of plastic. If I can be that way in during an episode of stupidity, then how much more care and patience would a Holy Dad give me during one of my thoughtless episodes?

I have also realized how important my love and affection for God is to Him. When my young son could outta nowhere declare "I love you, Daddy!" and then flip his attention back onto the coloring book. I understood how my spontaneous praise or a wanting to just rest in His presence could bless Him. Similar to the time I was washing dishes and without any words Logan made me feel so loved by walking up to me and thrusting his arms up in the arm, 'begging' me to pick him up. I didn't hold him very long, 90 seconds at most, but it is still a memory that brings a smile to my face when I reflect upon it.

Most of all, how my son as been influential in my relationship with God has been learning that God is slow to anger and quick to forgive. Now, I aint gonna front, the only one with a quicker temper in my house than Logan, is me. But it is through some of my greatest weaknesses and the weaknesses of those around me that I see God at His strongest and most loving. One time in particular in which Logan was melting down, that I felt overwhelmed with love and compassion for him. My thoughts and feelings of anger and annoyance were washed away with peace and love. I felt the little guy's pain and frustration as he couldn't put words to his emotions and confusion. I understood how God could love me in spite of the nasty tantrums I had thrown and the horrible things I said to Him out of my own inability to put words to my emotions.

After becoming a Dad I can understand and appreciate why God persists in a relationship with me and it is after becoming a Dad that I can appreciate the Love and Mercy He gives me.

The Lord is like a father to His children,tender and compassionate to those who fear Him. For He knows how weak we are; He remembers we are only dust.
Psalm 103:13-14

Monday, November 30, 2009

Even Long Journeys Start Somewhere

This week your faithful Kingdom Bloggers are writing about a person who influenced them in their walk with Christ. As believers, we should be led by the Lord, but certainly He puts others in our path to accomplish His purposes.

A few years ago, at a evangelism home-group, we were asked to think about who might have been instrumental in getting us to the starting line in our walk with Jesus - then write them a letter. Here's mine:

David Johndrow
Cape Cod, MA
June 2006

Dear Duncan,

I hope this letter finds you well. I know it has been many years since we last saw each other - over 20 in fact.

The reason that I am writing, is this: today our pastor was talking about evangelism and he asked us to think about how we got saved. During his talk he reminded us how God had first pursued us; most likely using someone else, as opposed to a divine encounter such as the one which Paul had on the road to Damascus. I began think about how the road to my salvation unfolded, and continues to do so . . .

As the pastor spoke, he gave us an assignment, which was to write a letter to the one that made the most impact in our decision for Christ—in my life that was you. There were others involved in the process, most of them from Cursillo. But it was you who said the words that caused me to believe in Jesus. Possibly you remember the struggle I had with all of this Christianity.

I hope that you’ll indulge me for a moment while I recount the story. In 1978 I came to believe. Then there was the first Cursillo which was a disaster for me - you were there to pick up the pieces. Before the second Cursillo, you and I talked for hours—possibly days. You patiently told me about Jesus. At some point you said, “Just believe and He will meet you where you are.” Silently, quietly, as I lay in bed one night, He did. I suppose it would be fine if the story ended there, but it doesn’t.

You encouraged me to read 9 o’Clock in the Morning; giving me a copy! I wanted faith like that, faith that believed in the supernatural, faith to be intimate with God. With the help of Fr. Folsom, I became baptized in the Holy Spirit. You were there for my confirmation. You were the one that taught me the truth of Romans 8:28. You were there when I gave the "Study" rollo on my third Cursillo. I am not sure if you are aware, but that same day God called me to ministry. I didn’t really get it then, but I do today.

I moved to Cape Cod in 1985, and it seems that the Spirit of God led me to the wilderness. For five years I was on my own without a spirit-filled community; just dead religion. Satan literally tried to kill me on two occasions. Yet, in the midst of it all, I remembered the promise that God gave me in a sunset.

In 1990 God apprehended me from the desert and I was rekindled with a fire so great, I was actually asked to leave two churches - too much passion I guess. That rejection was what led me to the mission fields of southern New England, North Carolina, Brazil, Norway and the UK. In Brazil I preached to 12,000 people in 21 days. Thousands received prayer, got healed and came to know Jesus. There is so much more God has given me the privilege of being a “vessel to do.

So, thank you Duncan for being the most important messenger God has ever sent me.



PS - I still teach a little guitar, work as a software engineer and I treasure my Oxford Musical Dictionary. I have been sober for 27 years and smoke free for 13. Our God is good all the time.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Testing one, this thing on?

God blessed me with the gift of gab. No doubt. Speech classes, impromptu speaking, hosting, emceeing, and toasting have never been a problem for me. Need to fill some time at a wedding reception? Give me a mic and get out of the way...

Having now declared what a big mouth I am, you shouldn't be too surprised to learn that one of my hobbies for over sixteen years has been broadcasting high school sports for a local radio station. When I was invited to join the broadcast as the color commentator in 1992, the fit was very comfortable for me. Back in the day, I was a pretty decent athlete playing for the school we covered, I had an intimate knowledge of football and basketball, and I liked to was like the proverbial duck taking to water. After a few seasons, I made the switch to the play-by-play seat. Much more difficult and more like actual work...but by mid-season I had nailed that down too.

I call broadcasting a hobby because it has never been my primary job. Sure I get paid to do what I do...but truth be told...I'd probably do it for free. The one drawback is the time away from my family when I travel.

When you do a radio program, it's hard to gauge just how many people are listening...that is until you mess up and say something stupid. Oh yes...been down that road a number of times. There are many stories in that bag that I might share in future post over on Tony C Today. This just isn't the right venue.

From my very first signing-off as the lead broadcaster, my 'signature' was to end a show with Good night Mavis. Most local people knew Mavis was the long-time radio station office manager who had been with the station since the weaning of none other than the now nationally famous Charlie Chase. A charming lady who had a knack for making even the worst day somehow better.

Last year though, I felt a need to change. I thanked God in prayer for the talent He had given me and asked for His guidance on how to use said talent for His purpose. Having absolutely no idea what I would say as the year's first Friday night broadcast came to an end, the moment arrived...

...and that will do it for us. Fans, the weekend is here, and I invite you to take your family to a church of your choice for worship this Sunday. I guarantee it will be the best time you spend together all week. Good night and God bless.

My partner gave me a glance of approval... and rightfully so considering he's my pastor. But no words were spoken. It felt good, and God had given me the words without a single stutter or hesitation on delivery. So that became my standard Friday-night sign off. Nothing about the phrase was conveyed to me the entire year of football and basketball coverage. I was somewhat surprised given the state of absolute lunacy when it comes to high school events and religious references. Although I knew the radio station had no problem with my church referenced ending, the right/wrong person raising a ruckus could create pressure on sponsors...and money talks.

When we signed off following the second football game of this year, our Technical Director told me across my headset that several people had commented to him about my new ending plug for church, and one guy had actually conveyed it was such a blessing to hear that he kept listening until the very end of each broadcast. I wasn't sure people were still listening at the end of a show after a year of hearing nothing about it...but apparently that wasn't the case.

High school sports are huge where I live...but so is church for a lot of people. I hope that God gives me the privilege to use a talent and hobby in a way that touches and ministers...and He gets all the glory.