Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pray for Pakistan

Most of us have watched on the news the floods in Pakistan and the terrible devastation. I have family there. My husband talked to them a few days ago and they were all find. But their city was expecting the waters to come through - I thought to put a more personal picture of the Pakistani people and perhaps cause you to pray for them, I am reposting this post from Sounds of Hope.

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, August 30, 2010

It's No Secret, Some Days I Hate Christianity

I've had trouble coming up with a topic and the Heavens have been silent. I thought I would fall back to some lame attempts to blog "random thoughts" but they were too vulgar. I pondered posting videos of me playing guitar, but I have it on good authority that some of you hate country - it makes Dave T. sick. I have written about health care, but Washington isn't listening to me - Mitt says it's broken. I was going to post some twisted conversation that I had with one of my kids, but I've been so busy, that nothing seems entertaining enough to post in public.

Today I was thinking about being a Christian, and how grateful I am that I have joined the club of faith, but on occasion I have my doubts.

You know, it seems like yesterday that I was rescued from the midst of alcoholism and all that goes with it. There I was at the New England Ala-teen Conference during the summer of 1978 and God surprised me as I let go of the fact that I didn't believe in God at all. For me, the Spirit of God rushed in like a flood. I was thinking that going from darkness to light, getting saved, or coming to faith - whatever you call it - is like sex, you'll know if it happens. Maybe that's not the best analogy, but what other experience is intimate and as life changing? Especially when you think about the fact that the context under which it happens can change the entire meaning - not the experience.

What I have experienced since I became a Christian is another story. Some of it has been so mind blowing that words cannot describe the encounters: Angles, demons, the voice of God, healing, miracles, worship in which I touched heaven, the sense of relief for my guilt and shame over some ugly stuff, the supernatural flowing day-in-and-day-out in Brazil and Norway, feeding the poor, consoling the broken, and watching God at work in my life and the lives for those around me - WOW!!!!!!!!

In spite of that, there are still some parts of Christianity I hate on occassion - really, I think being a Christian could just be easier:

Jesus the Way - It's hard to be part of a religion that has a God who says, "I am the truth, the Way and the Light, no one comes to the Father but by me." It makes folks from other religions pretty widgy. And if Jesus was not a living God of power, it would be pretty damn foolish to say stuff like that and then have us try to believe it. Of course, if you fail the "confess Jesus with your lips" test, there is always the "what is written in your heart" test. It would be easier if everyone was getting on the ark.

Jesus the Man - I don't like the part where Jesus came as a man, because it makes folks think that is all He was. Because He was a man, people get all weird about the part where he never sinned. Like, what did He say when He hit His thumb with a hammer? "Tiger Woods!" How did He go a lifetime without doing - umm - you know? Amazingly history shows that He lived and the He was alive after his resurrection as prescribed by Jewish law. Crazy - and not a point that is easy to debate with the heathen.

Bible Rules - I don't like the rules. To be honest, they are hard to keep and often go against everything that I think and feel. If it was up to me, life would be a dizzying array of money, sex, being lazy, and leaving all my responsibilities up to some else. (My wife might think that describes our marriage - but it's not an accurate picture - well except for the responsibilities part.) I would be going through life like a Toyota with a stuck gas pedal on the Massachusetts Turnpike. Duh - I already tried that. And why is it that Christians think they are the only ones that can be moral? Lots of non-Christians live moral lives - not Tiger Woods, but some people -they just don't always know where they came from.

3-In-1 God - This is the most stupidest concept. Most Christians can't understand it, so forget trying to proselytize using it. But without it, there is no Christianity. Jesus was God, and after He left earth, He sent His Holy Spirit. The ice-water-steam concept. It could be easier, I'm just saying.

Tithing - Why should I give 10%; or any of my hard earned money to the church? Interestingly, this is one place where we can test God - He said it was OK. (Mal 3:10) If we give 10% he said that He would return to us blessing. Try it some time. Take 10% of your gross, and give it to some church or ministry you think might spend it on something worthwhile, and see how your week goes. Let me know if you want to make a love offering to Fire and Grace. ;o)

The Faith Part - I mean, God just show yourself! Oh, that's right you did. Then just do a miracle - oh right, you did a whole book of them. John said we give testimony to what we've seen. Why can't we just believe John? 1 John 1:2

Evangelizing - Why do we have to tell others, debate others, knock on doors and give testimonies? Why can't we just be someones friend and see how it goes? I mean, WWJD?

Communion - I know it is supposed to be a time when we identify with the work of the cross. But juice and bread? A cup of wine that has a thousand million germs on it? I am thinking Coke and Pringles might be more attractive. Well, maybe not.

Love - Some days I just want to run people down and feel good about it. And shouldn't I be able to hate people who have wronged me? I mean, there are some people that I DO NOT want to love.

Sin - I hate sin. All those rules tell us don't do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign. I love people who do some of those sins, and I can't seem to debate them into the faith club - or club them with the faith - I think that is what makes it so tough. When folks choose to do what they "feel" is right, and really it's wrong. I mean most moral folks think that killing is wrong, yet some hate war, and find abortion a simple medical procedure no worse than teeth cleaning. It's all too confusing. Why can't we just have one set of rules we all agree on? I mean besides the Bible.

How about you, are there parts of Christianity that make your life difficult? I'd like to hear about it.

Friday, August 27, 2010

But this is America...and I speak American!

Only one other post on Tony C Today has drawn more visitors than this one. Again, not a lot of theology...but at least it shows a God-fearing, Jesus lover can make fun of his many shortcomings in this life. God bless, and I look forward to getting back to topic writing next month!

The one with the cute little umbrella straw please...

I'm not a coffee drinker...

Wait, let me start by saying that I've laid off political and religious subjects this week in respect to Easter. It seemed like the WWJD thing to do. So...

I'm not a coffee drinker. Never have been. But, I live with two females that love the stuff. We could debate if a 13 (soon to be 14) year old should be drinking coffee...but I won't go there. I accept the argument that a cup of coffee can't be any worse than a bottle of soda. Moving on...

So from time to time, I find myself at the local Starbucks, which might as well be eastern Slovenia for me. It's like a completely different world...a make-believe world where people speak a pseudo-foreign language and pretend to be high society...or hip...or something I'm apparently not. Now, I understand the Italian connection with the origin of many coffee drinks coming from Italy, and the implied chicness of the whole fiasco called Starbucks, but what I don't get is the absolutely ridiculous sounding process for ordering.

I'm not Italian illiterate either. Aside for the Learn A Language While You Drive cassette series I played for months before an Italy trip that fell apart the day prior to departure, the Sopranos were a weekly ritual at my house. I know Italian...well...some Italian. I know latte is Italian for milk, I know grande means large. What I don't understand is why a grande iced vanilla latte at Starbucks isn't a large cup of milk with vanilla flavor. What gives?

So, this morning I find myself alone in the drive-thru at Starbucks filled with anxiety. Since I love my wife more than any earthly thing, I'm doing this for her. For me... it's virgin territory. I refuse to order when we all go together, making my wife or the teenager do the honors...and..always making fun of the process. I want a frappa mocha latte ventior some other ridiculously sounding fictitious concoction. But here I am...ready to order.

Speaker: Welcome to Starbucks. Would you like to try one of our fancy-smancy new sandwiches?

I'm frozen. What did she say she wanted?

Just a minute please.

Speaker: Take your time and order when you're ready.

I'm sure the seven hundred and twenty cars behind me want just that...me to take my time. I glance over the menu board looking for some type of trigger word...but it's all so...foreign.

Uh, uh mocha, latte, venti,frappachino,cappachino...before I even realized, I say...out loud...

Frappa mocha latte...uh

Speaker: Excuse me sir?

Nothing would do my heart more good than to break into a speaker rant over why Starbucks had to stop selling the black and white cookie...it's all I ever liked there! But I have loved ones waiting in the balance on me performing this simple task.

Text message! Thank you Jesus! She sent what she wanted in a text message! A few quick clicks...

I'll take a iced vanilla latte venti please.
Not a perfect delivery...wrong indefinite article grammatically...but hey...I'm a rookie.

Speaker: That will be $4.33. Thank you pull forward.

$4.33! For a cup of coffee! I'm I picking this up IN Italy? That's an entire #1 Value Breakfast Meal WITH a large iced tea at Mickie D's.

As I'm pulling forward, I notice the 'Coexist' bumper sticker on the BMW in front of me...nice...this is now the company I keep...very nice.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

How do I follow

The truth that my life only works when I remain connected to God and let Him do the work thought me, is one that I have to come back to periodically. That's what makes this post of mine as relevant today as it was when I posted it back in May 2008:

How do I follow?

This morning my heart was pierced anew as I read God's word. These specific words of Jesus that are recorded in the gospel always get to me:

"Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat; I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?"

Mark 8:34B-37 (The Message)

These words get to me because I so miserably fail. I have this push inside of me to be in charge, I tend to follow my culture and want to get into all kinds of self-help ventures and think I can control my world. But the truth is that I have no real control; it's God who is in control of the universe. If I take the time and examine my life and my motives I spend entirely too much time pursuing things and lifestyles that bring me comfort and ease; that easier and softer way. I most definitely run from suffering or at least go out of my way to avoid it. I fill up my time with activities to help me avoid that natural anguish of the human condition.

But God shows me a different way. To be candid, when I read these words a part of me feel so lost - how can I do this? I guess the point is that I can't do it. I'm encouraged as I re read the passage and see that Jesus is coaxing me to follow Him and He'll show me how. So how do I follow Him? This is the question I bring to God in prayer this morning.

I'm so grateful that it's not my ability that I have to depend on, but it's God and His character. So I can have faith that He will show me how to follow Him and live my life His way.

What are some ways that God's shown you to follow Him?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Are You the Next Sam Holton; How About the Next Ed KImball

I don't know much about Samuel Holton. I don't know when he was born, when he died, what kind of life he lived or if he was a Christian. I do know that he was D.L. Moody's uncle and Holton reluctantly hired Moody to work for him at his Boston shoe store. Additionally Holton required Moody to attend Mt. Vernon Congregational Church in order keep his job. I know some about Moody, basically because of what I have read today. I know he was born in 1837, raised by his parents as a Unitarian, he has a college and publishing company named after him and he died in 1899. Previously I have read a little bit about him, nothing too in depth though. I have read more about Smith Wigglesworth, John G. Lake and other 'heavy hitters' of the Faith.

Another man I know very little bit about is Sunday school teacher Edward Kimball. Kimball taught Sunday School at the Mt. Vernon church that Moody attended, as required by his uncle. One day, Kimball visited Moody at work and shared with him the Love of Jesus and Moody was a changed man after that. After awhile, Moody left Boston for Chicago and immersed himself in sharing the Love of Jesus with others.

Moody was a pioneer of the Faith. He ministered to and equipped women and children in the late 1800's, not a common practice at that time. He saw beyond denominational limitations and preached Jesus wherever he was invited. His burden for the poor, minorities and uneducated children led him to start schools. Eventually Moody's vision of a school to equip people with the Gifts and train them to minister. He also started Bible Institute Colportage Association (BICA) in 1894 in his desire to provide Christian literature to average American.

So why the brief history lesson on the life of Dwight Lyman Moody? I want to show the importance of one man's ministry. No, I am not writing about Moody's ministry, I am writing about Holton's ministry to his nephew and Kimball's ministry to another church member.

What if Holton would not have had compassion upon his nephew? What if he would not have cared about his nephew's Spiritual development? Where could have Moody have wound up?

Kimball said the following about Moody before his Salvation, "I have seen few persons whose minds were spiritually darker than was his when he came into my Sunday School class."
Imagine if Kimball would have been too timid to visit Moody at his job and share Jesus with him? What if Kimball would have written off Moody as a waste of time?

Think of the millions that have been reached in the name of Jesus because of the efforts of D.L. Moody. Think of the millions that have been reached because of the efforts of Sam Holton and Ed Kimball.

Now take a look around yourself. Is there someone Holy Spirit has laid upon your heart? Is there someone who needs you to be the compassion of Jesus? How are you going to reach millions? Will it be with your words or your works? Or will it be from reaching the one who reaches millions?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


You know how it goes with the best laid plans, don't you? Well, I'm in Tennessee and flying out this morning. I thought this blog raised some pretty interesting thoughts and discussions, so...the retreat idea will be laid to rest another week. 

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot about forgiveness. I’ve had people tell me I should be more forgiving. They will tell me that I should let go of things that happened many years ago. They are right. I should let go of them. And I have, until these same people decide to open up wounds that have long before been healed.

I have given a lot of thought about forgiveness. Yesterday, I saw a church reader board that said, Forgive Everyone Everything. I thought wow. Is this God speaking to me? I really gave it some thought. I asked myself, and I asked God, is this for me? Are you telling me that I am not forgiving?

I got an answer. I want to share it with you because I think I’ve understood something that we all struggle with – we have these feelings, feelings of pain, of hurt, people have violated us, others continue to hurt us and then we think, because I have these feelings, am I unforgiving?

I used to work in a mental health facility. When I was there, I learned that your emotions, your feelings are important. You need to pay attention to them. You need to listen to them. They can be a warning to you. They can give you direction in a way that your rational brain can’t.  Of course, you can’t live your life by your emotions, but you shouldn’t ignore them either. If you don’t balance them, you do get in trouble.

My emotions have been rather raw of late. As I said, old wounds are being ripped open. My heart is being ripped out of me by the pain of some things going on right now. And yet, I am told by those hurting me that it is because I haven’t forgiven.

Okay, finally, here is the answer I got. I thought about someone else that I was supposed to forgive and have – it was the man who molested me when I was 8. I thought okay, I’ve forgiven him because I have to, it’s in the Bible and it is also best for me to do so as well. I get that… then it was like that voice inside, the one that helps you figure things out…I call it God, I believe it is God.  That voice asked me, if he were here today, would you have a relationship with him? Would you let him watch children? Would you just smile and have a cup of coffee with him?

I thought no, I wouldn’t – it would be a very stupid thing to do, wouldn’t it? I thought that through for a while and realized that forgiveness can exist with other strong emotions. Those emotions tell us that there is danger. The danger isn’t over.

See sometimes we forgive for ourselves regardless of whether the person repents or has remorse or not… we do it because we just believe that way, or we are a Christian and know we have to – we pray “forgive us our sins (trespasses, debts) as we forgive those that sin (trespass, debtors) against us.”  So we forgive but forgiveness doesn’t mean we allow other people to hurt us again, or abuse us.

So maybe you’ve wondered this too – you thought, okay, I’ve forgiven, I think I have, but I just don’t want to be hurt anymore. I think that’s okay. It’s sort of like this – when a snake has bit you, you can forgive it, but it would not be wise to make a pet out of it.

So what are your thoughts about forgiveness?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Making Them True Disciples

Over the many years I have spent in and around church, I have heard the word disciple used many times. Its meaning is as varied as the denominations is was spoken in. "Those that follow Jesus," "Born Again believers," "the crew that became the 12 apostles," and people that had passed a basic class in Christian doctrine or Catechism. I have heard it preached about using the Greek definitions from "learner" (not expert), "follower," and even "witness," to pull out the meaning and depth of the word. But no one has left me with a distinct impression of what a true disciple is, and how we make one.

Sometimes it is easier to define a word by what it is not. Discipleship is not about having a spiritual bellhop in the heavenlies at our beckoned call. It is not following a pastor, teacher, denomination, church doctrine or program. If these things are in sync with God, then great.

For the better part of 30 years, I have listened to a bajillion "How crappy was your week?" sermons. How does the church expect people to get out there and cast out demons, heal the sick, preach the Gospel, and set the captives free-- all without any substantive training or teaching? I am not saying that a sermon that brings insight or encouragement to your particular brand of suffering (which is relative), is a bad thing. It is, however; self serving and not Kingdom serving.

Some folks think that if they just try harder to fix their multitude of character defects (which are never as many, or as bad as so and so's!), press in and keep moving, that they will become solid, effective disciples. I agree and disagree with these facets of traditional Christian thinking. I thought those very things for a long time; as evidenced by my own failures. What I finally discovered, was that the church is practically void of fathering individuals who could make a difference in a converts life (at any age). My life! Wasn't there someone that wanted to know my story? Wasn't there someone that could be more than an acquaintance? Oh sure there were pastors that wanted my gifting, but not me. Only one man ever said, "I am proud of you." outside the context of my ministry.

Discipling is not how many "spiritual" sons or daughters we have. It is not about praise for teaching Sunday school or leading a rockin' worship set. It is not about nickles and noses in our offering baskets and pews. It is much more. True discipleship is adopting and fathering the (spiritual) fatherless. It is about following a living God, as sheep that know the voice of the Shepard, they follow Him. It is doing what the Father is doing! It is about a relationship with Jesus that causes us to invest without expecting anything in return. (Oh yeah, that is love.)

Fathering is finding the unlovable, the outcast and providing encouragement, vision and discipline; while showing a great amount of love. It can be done by woman, but generally they are the nurturing type. (I am not against woman in ministry, not one bit.) But when it comes to fathering, it is more natural for men-- if you get him be committed.

The fruit of effective fathering is children that do not depart from what they have been taught. The fruit of the disciple is the fullness of Christ.

I don't like to use the word mentor, because that is really training someone to do something that we are good at. Mentoring is growing someone up to be like us. Discipleship is growing someone up to be like Jesus. It is allowing them to reach their destiny with your help.

Once we have disciples that are fathered well, then we can train them to do something of value in the Kingdom based on the gifting that they receive from on High. True mentoring is training someone to do our job better than we can do it ourselves. Like Elijah and Elisha, for example. The fruit of mentoring is a double portion protogé.

True disciplers are committed, serving, loving, sacrificing men and woman who are passionate about Jesus. They go the extra mile and they are the ones that calm the storm, and they are calm in a storm. They may not exude any other particular gifting, but they are always there regardless.

True disciples walk in the power and grace of God, always grateful for those that have invested in them in a personal and meaningful way.

Without a discipler, there will not be any disciples. Won't you adopt one today?

Friday, August 20, 2010

She's got a way about her...(September 2009)

From September 2009- not a lot of theology...but it exposes a few things about me. Hope you enjoy:

As many of you already know, I'm a very fortunate man. A blessed man with a beautiful family held together by the family nucleus...Mrs. Tony C. It's no secret. I don't deny it. The two girls and I are just electrons spinning wildly around that solid center. I accept and embrace her role in our...nuclear family (sorry, that was too easy).

Although we share a very strong set of core beliefs, there's just enough variations in our individual way of thinking to keep life interesting in our marriage...without causing major strife. For example, I'm an ice cream fanatic while her food fix is bread. She likes the sheets all tucked in tight before we sleep, and I find the constriction a sure recipe for insomnia. I detest reality TV, and she...okay...I'm lying. I love reality TV too...but not the Kardashians!

However, never were our differences more apparent than the day this commercial aired while we were watching the Discovery Channel:

Tony C: That was the creepiest thing I believe I've ever watched...on a number of levels.

Mrs. Tony C: Really? I liked it.

Tony C: No way! Was it a car commercial or a promotion for a socialist society that embraces synchronized child labor?

Mrs. Tony C: Don't be so sarcastic. It's a representation of humans as nature to suggest we are one with our environment.

Tony C: Okay! Here we go...the tree hugger makes an appearance! It was freaky. They're little kids...or midgets...little people...whatever...

Mrs. Tony C: It was probably done digitally.

Tony C: ... or in China. After that Olympic opening ceremony in Beijing, we got good insight into how 'extra' people fit into a socialist society. Poor Chinese kids were probably beat for missing the cues.

Mrs. Tony C: The whole point of the commercial was to get you to buy an environmentally friendly car. Why is that so bad?

Tony C: I believe either your parents ran around butt-naked at Woodstock with the rest of the hippies or you have a Gore gene somewhere in the family tree.

Mrs. Tony C: Woodstock? Weren't you there?

Tony C: I was five!

Mrs. Tony C: Hey, you watched an Inconvenient Truth...

Tony C: Stop! We promised never to discuss that...ever!

Mrs. Tony C (chuckling): Yeah...we did...

Yes, my wife's a tree hugger, at least a part-time tree hugger. An environmentalist. She reads and believes National Geographic. In a way, I admire her commitment to recycling, conservation, and protecting the planet God entrusted to us. But, the conservative in me won't let it show. Her motives, on the other hand, are genuine and sincere. Just don't tell her I said so...

Tony C (having a nightmare): The kids! Midgets! Waves and waves...falling, falling! Toto! Where's my dog! My dog!

Mrs. Tony C:(awake from the commotion): Tony!

Tony C (groggy): Whoa! That was weird. Really weird. I was in that creepy Prius commercial...

Mrs. Tony C: It's okay. You can tell me about it in the morning. I love you...good night.

Tony C: Oh...okay. In the morning...(sigh)...stinking Prius. (Kicking wildly) Why... are... these... stupid sheets tucked in at the bottom so tight!

Mrs. Tony C (under her breath): ...idiot...

Tony C: What?

Mrs. Tony C: I love you.

Tony C: Oh...love you too. Hold me?

Mrs. Tony C: Don't I always...

Disclaimer: I have never watched or read An Inconvenient Truth. If anyone says otherwise, you should consider the source to be a pathological liar, unless I happen to be married to that person...which would still mean she lied...well...at least to me.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What I like about being Older

I find this post just as true today as when I posted it last December:

What I like about being about being older

My two younger sons think I'm ancient.

Just last night at the dinner table they were talking about people who are "as old as forty" as if these people were beyond the age of life enjoyment. Then they suddenly looked at me and started laughing, one of them said "sucks for you mom". Since we live in a culture that seems to practically worship youth, it's easy for the boys to think this way. Plus there's that invincible feeling that comes with youth, coupled with that experiencing things for the first time rush.

Today I find myself thinking about the fact that I'm happier than I've ever been in my life. So I decided to take a few moments and list out some of what I like about being older:

I'm more secure in who I am
I've noticed that from about age forty on, I've become more content with who I am. There's this feeling of self acceptance that I didn't experience when I was in my 20s and 30s. I was still trying to prove myself during those times of my life. Of course this can't be totally chalked up to age since there are many factors that account for this, but I do think years and experience play a major role.

Material things have less allure than ever
It's not like I've ever been a particularly materialistic person, but I find that the older I get the less and less I care about stuff.

It's easier for me to not be so hard on people
This is most likely because I've had so many years of messing up myself that I hardly feel qualified to be pointing any fingers at anyone else. Jesus once said that one who has been forgiven much loves much .

Making decisions and taking care of things is easier
Simply because I have a larger experience base, and more knowledge to draw from, when making decisions and dealing with people.

I'm more relaxed in my approach to life
I've seen good times come and go. I've been through the crisis in relationships and out the other side; so I have more confidence that I can do that again. I've had opportunity upon opportunity upon opportunity to see God come through for me, so it's easier to rest in the fact that I can always count on Him.

What about you? If you're over age 40 - what do you like about it? If you're younger, how do you feel about getting older?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Fight for Peace

I had the thought of holding onto a $100 bill on a windy day. How tight I would clutch, maybe even peeking into my fist, 'checking' to see if it was still there. I thought about what would happen if a gust of wind ripped it outta my hands and sent it flying across the parking lot. I saw myself running after it, following its every twist and turn in the air. I imagined other people staring at me in curiosity or outta fear depending upon my facial expressions, actions and cries of "God stop that money!" or yelling at complete strangers "HEY! Help me out here, please!?!" I wondered what would happen if it blew underneath a car, if I would drop to the ground and crawl on my belly over oil stains and discarded gum, stabbing at it with an outstretched hand. I wondered if I would run into traffic and halt cars as I stomped at the ground trying to pin Ben Franklin to the pavement.
I wondered what if someone else would have gotten to it first. An rough looking dude, an elderly lady or a small child? How would I respond if they tried to keep my money? Would I be rude, would I just grab what belonged to me irregardless of the consequences. In a way, I thought, it would be easier for me to confront the scary looking dude because if things got ugly, it wouldn't be bad if I brawled with him, even if I lost a couple of teeth. Whereas, if I picked a fight with the little old lady, it would be a lose/lose situation for me, let alone if she put me down and out how I would have to explain to my wife how I lost $100 and got beat down by a grandma.

All of this went through my mind as I walked from my car into the grocery store. (No wonder I forgot to get the diapers I was originally sent to the store to get, huh?) What had me thinking about this is how I could without hesitation or regard, fight and track down something of value that belonged to me. How it is possible for me to work so hard for something that is not permanent and that is fleeting, but I don't chase after Peace with the same frenzied passion.

As a believer, His Peace is promised to me! As a believer His Peace is mine to take a hold of and hang onto when times are rough and out of my control. But so many times I throw away His Peace because of my fears, my words or because of my laziness. I don't chase after a Peace that would be so much more helpful to me and especially those around me. I give up on pursuing it after a couple of half hearted attempts of seeking Him. I don't ask for any one's help in seeking what is mine to have. I don't make a 'public spectacle' of myself trying to claim what is mine.
Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
Psalm 34:14

Check out the definition of pursue: Radaf-raw-daf'a primitive root; to run after (usually with hostile intent; figuratively (of time) gone by):--chase, put to flight, follow after, hunt, to be under persecution, pursue.

Now check out the definition of peace: Shalom {shaw-lome'}; safe, i.e. (figuratively) well, happy, friendly; also (abstractly) welfare, i.e. health, prosperity, peace: favour, (good) health, peace prosperous, rest,

Peace is definitely worth pursuing. It would definitely be worth me making a public spectacle of myself or calling upon others to help me when it is out of my reach. Peace is actually worth more to me than the things in life I am lacking. Money, relationships and circumstances have no guarantees. Hey, the world promises us nothing but trouble. Great friends, fat bank accounts and an easy life is not promised. But as believers, Peace is ours to have when we don't have enough money, ideal relationships and pleasant circumstances.

I can hunt and fight the things which are temporary and that can actually be a great source of my headaches or I can fight for that which will be with me when I have it all or have nothing at all.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

It's OUR Turn

I am going to skip the retreat this week because I have been thinking about other things this week. Yesterday, a 95 year old woman passed away early near the break of dawn. There will be no coverage on CNN or Fox of this death. She will have a small obituary in a newspaper that no one heard unless you live in Waynesboro PA. 

She was the lifelong friend of my mother who I am sure was there to greet her when she entered heaven's gates. She was a very small woman but with the grit and determination of women and men much larger than she. I met her several times as a child. I knew she had been the maid-of-honor at my parents wedding, causing the wedding to be late. She'd come to visit it us occasionally in Brooklyn. In retrospect, I wonder why it was so seldom. An hour on the subway separated these two girls from Waynesboro living in Brooklyn. 

I also knew she was the one who invited my mother to church when they were girls, living on Wayne Hill. I would hear of the three large families living there, the Potts', the Calimer's, and the Bumbaugh's. The Calimer's and Potts' were pentecostal in a town that still wasn't sure what to do with these holy rollers. Soon my mother became a holy roller too and she would long the steep hill up and down to go to church. 

Some day, I need to tell the story of the spite fence and my mother's trip to NYC to work for Jewish people in Flatbush. But not today.

Today, I want to share what I shared yesterday on my own blog, Sounds of Hope. A saint of God has gone home. Heaven noticed. I noticed. Saints of God are leaving us every day, every hours. They need us to fill their places. 

When I was a child I used to hear sermons of hell
      Someone would say they saw it
         The vision of people falling into a fiery pit imprinted on my soul
             I’d wonder and fear, cry and repent…
                    Now I only think of another line, the line of saints going home

I see them in line, in robes of white with sparkling crowns
      As they near the throne, they stop and bow
            They bow as they have always bowed, before the Lord of Lords

I see my godly mother and father, flawed and imperfect made whole by the blood of the Lamb.
      I see them together again, worshipping their Lord
             They gave there best, they gave me life, they gave me LIFE – they gave me

I see my Sunday School teachers and Pastors of my childhood
     I see so clearly their imprint on my life – a heritage of holiness and faith
              I see those I only saw in photographs, my grandparents and my mother’s childhood pastor

I see the saints from Waynesboro that formed my mother’s faith
     I see especially the one at the end of the line who entered heaven’s portal this morning
        So many are there to thank her for her life, witness and faithfulness.
            I see her family gather round her, what a heritage
               Her friends join in the joyful reunion, 
                     the Pott's
                     the Bumbaugh's
                     the Calimer's
                     the girls of Wayne Hill.

Just like the late night reunions by the street light
            They join together under the light of the Lord

They giggle, hug, and laugh, they are home. Home at last.

I see them; I see hundreds of them –

I wonder who is teaching the Sunday School now.
              I wonder who is sharing God’s love through a smile, a touch, a card, a song…
                   Do you see them? 

I see them
I see them as they briefly leave the worship of the throne and look at us

They are looking to see if we are coming behind them.

I wonder will we hear well done, good and faithful?


Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Do We Really Believe the Bible?

As a Christian, most of us want to grow in faith, or do we? Have we received a series of teachings or done Bible studies that put God in a box? Over the years I have had pastors tell me that certain Bible passages were difficult. Here are a couple of examples:

Matthew 27:51-53 (NKJ) 51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, 52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

This text in Matthew is authentic, and as much as I have researched, I have never found it contested. For what reason has it simply been avoided? Honestly, I have heard more preaching about Lazarus' grave clothes. Why? Because the verse about Lazarus gives us a wonderful illustration of the work that Jesus does in salvation. All while avoiding the obvious message. Lazarus came to life after he died and started to decompose! He was raised form the dead. Jesus said "Lazarus come out!" and he did. If He had just said, "come out", the entire cemetery would have been awakened!

What is difficult, is that this verse does not appear to be difficult in Greek or English-- just supernatural.
Here is another verse that pertains to you and I.

Mark 16:17 "These signs will accompany those who have believed : in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues ; 18 they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover ." 19 So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed.] [And they promptly reported all these instructions to Peter and his companions. And after that, Jesus Himself sent out through them from east to west the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. ]

This particular verse, if you read your NIV study notes, "does not appear in all reliable manuscripts." It is contested as an authentic scripture. Therefore; it shouldn't be in the Bible? Or it should? Or we can't determine if it is really God?

Let's take a closer look to see if there more authoritative scriptures than this. We'll look at each portion of the preceding passage and see if we can verify it, or dismiss it.

Regarding Signs and Wonders (Miracles):
Acts 2:43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.

Acts 4:16 16 saying, “What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.

Acts 5:12 And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch.

Acts 14:3 Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.

Romans 15:19 in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.

2 Corinthians 12:12 Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.

Regarding Casting Out Demons:
Luke 10:17 ESV The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!"

Luke 8:2 ESV And also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,

Mark 3:11 ESV And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, "You are the Son of God."

Matthew 17:14-20 ESV And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, "Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him." And Jesus answered, "O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me." And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. ...

Matthew 12:22 ESV Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw.

Regarding Healing:
Luke 8:47 NKJ Now when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before Him, she declared to Him in the presence of all the people the reason she had touched Him and how she was healed immediately.

Luke 8:48 NKJ And He said to her, "Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace."

Luke 5:17 NKJ Now it happened on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was present to heal them.

Regrading Snakes:
Mark 16:18 They will pick up serpents; and [even] if they drink anything deadly, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will get well.

Luke 10:19 Behold! I have given you authority and power to trample upon serpents and scorpions, and [physical and mental strength and ability] over all the power that the enemy [possesses]; and nothing shall in any way harm you.

Acts 28:3-6 Now Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and he was laying them on the fire when a viper crawled out because of the heat and fastened itself on his hand. 4When the natives saw the little animal hanging from his hand, they said to one another, Doubtless this man is a murderer, for though he has been saved from the sea, Justice [the goddess of avenging] has not permitted that he should live. 5Then [Paul simply] shook off the small creature into the fire and suffered no evil effects. 6However, they were waiting, expecting him to swell up or suddenly drop dead; but when they had watched him a long time and saw nothing fatal or harmful come to him, they changed their minds and kept saying over and over that he was a god.

Regarding Poisonous Food:
2 Kings 4:38 Elisha came back to Gilgal during a famine in the land. The sons of the prophets were sitting before him, and he said to his servant, Set on the big pot and cook pottage for the sons of the prophets. 39 Then one went into the field to gather herbs and gathered from a wild vine his lap full of wild gourds, and returned and cut them up into the pot of pottage, for they were unknown to them. 40 So they poured it out for the men to eat. But as they ate of the pottage, they cried out, O man of God, there is death in the pot! And they could not eat it. 41 But he said, Bring meal [as a symbol of God's healing power]. And he cast it into the pot and said, Pour it out for the people that they may eat. Then there was no harm in the pot.

You, see, the Bible is an amazing book, the human owners manual. With a little effort, faith is not really that difficult. It is accepting the supernatural as a way of life that can be beyond the average believer.

Friday, August 13, 2010

God's love can be found in Grandma's wisdom...

One of my favorite childhood story post from February 2009. That month I was doing song titles for each post all month...

By the way, my grandmother is still with us today thank the Lord!

For What It's Worth- Buffalo Springfield 1967

"You're carrying high, so your baby will be born on a Tuesday and have freckles..."
Mamaw C to a pregnant Mrs. Tony C in 2007

I love my grandmother. She will be 95 glorious years old this June...'Lord willin.' Being from the South, she is affectionately referred to as Mamaw. Now that's a funny name to people not from here, but no more peculiar than 'Meme' or 'Nene' is to most Southerners. She's part of the greatest generation in modern history. Lived through wars, a global depression and a standard of living people today would declare third world.

Many of the things I've learned in my life can be directly attributed to my grandmother, however, she has also been the source of much misinformation. Allow me to explain...

From an early age, I listened to her counsel and took it in without contentions.

'Don't eat those watermelon seeds, you'll grow one in your stomach.'

'Don't cross your eyes! They'll get stuck like that.'

'You get back inside with that wet hair! You'll catch your death!'

How could anyone argue with such sound advise. Better yet...how could anyone argue with her... about anything! My grandmother, even to this day, has the innate aptitude for hearing what she wants, when she wants...and only when it agrees with her opinion on the matter.

I love my grandmother. I have many fond memories of growing up in the house right next to her. As a matter of fact, here's one:

While working in the little garden behind our house one teen-aged summer day, my focus was interrupted by the sound of my grandmother shouting scripture or at least pieces and blurbs of scripture...in a rather angered fashion. Naturally, I was perplexed and investigated. What I witnessed was a scene torn directly from the comic strip BC, as my grandmother repeatedly whacked a helpless, misguided black snake with a baseball bat us grandkids had left in her yard from a Sunday's game.

'Get thee'...whack...'behind me'...whack... 'Satan! I will'...whack...'bruise'...whack...'thy head'...whack!!

Rushing down to her, I somehow managed to get the bat away and avoid the receiving end of her wrathful swing. What I saw next was a sight that will never leave me...ever. That poor black snake of about 4 feet had been beaten so maliciously that the upper third of its body, including the head, look like a custom designed dinner plate you would find at the home of someone like Ozzie Osbourne or Marilyn Manson.

Tony C: 'You okay?'
Mamaw C: 'Take that snake and hang it on the fence over yonder...'
Tony C: 'Why would I do that?'
Mamaw C: 'Just do it! It will keep the other snakes away!'
Tony C: 'Mamaw...where'd you hear that?'
Mamaw C: 'It's in the Bible! Now do it!'

I bent over to pick up the poor flattened snake...'Don't touch that snake!' She yelled.

Tony C: 'But you just told me...'
Mamaw C: 'That snake can still bite you until after sunrise tomorrow...'
Tony C: 'Mamaw, that snake ain't ever biting anything again.'
Mamaw C: 'Don't tell me...it's in the Bible.'

Now, we all know there isn't a passage in the Bible about makeshift snake wards or afterlife snake biting, and through the years, I've mentally filed those along with her other Bible misquotes like 'Cleanliness is next to godliness' and 'To thine own self be true' (which I believe actually comes from an episode of Gilligan's Island). I would never call my beloved grandmother out on any of these...it would serve no useful purpose.

I believe (or hope) God overlooks such trivially random matters too. In fact, we really don't give Him enough of the credit He deserves...and He deserves it all. Penicillin isn't mentioned in the Bible, yet God gave Alexander Fleming the talent to develop the wonder drug. Now, I'm by no means advocating or even suggesting that matters of a vial, vulgar origin should be attributed to God Almighty, but proverbs or axioms that promote stronger moral value do have purpose. We just have to be cautious and never cross an authoritative line that conflicts with God's actual Word.

Okay, snake related issues don't really fall in the 'stronger moral values' or 'changing mankind for the better' categories...but I do love my grandmother.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Is mental illness ever related to demon possession?

The reason this post was one of my favorites over on my blog is simply because the topic interests me. I don't necessarily think that I've said anything so brilliant, or that you couldn't think of for yourself, but I am interested in your response to my ending question:

Is mental illness ever related to demon possession?

If you've read this blog much you know that I have a heart for mentally ill adults. Since I have a sister who is a paranoid schizophrenic, and I'm a CA licensed nursing home administrator who has ran secured psychiatric facilities serving the chronically mentally ill for the past 9 yrs, I've had lots of experience with mentally ill folks.

I've seen up close how much mentally ill people can suffer.

There are some groups of extreme belief type Christians who think that all mental illness is caused by demon possession. On the other hand you get folks like Michael Spencer over at the Internet Monk who wrote a post entitled Is mental illness demonic that cautions us as to how we should read the gospel accounts where Jesus cast out demons. Spencer states:

"The Bible was written in the narrative world of ancient, prescientific cultures that often interpreted reality and events through a grid quite different from our own way of looking at the same reality. When the Bible speaks to us from its ancient setting, it does not “update” its cultural interpretations of causation for commonly observed phenomenon. Instead, it speaks in the cultural norms of the time. Those cultures tended to see most of what we call mental illness as the result of demonic influence or as a punishment for sin. Now, Christians have been entirely free, in their own settings and cultures, to appropriate, interpret or re-interpret these Biblical explanations. "

I see Spencer's point and agree with the principle. Just as the Bible parables relate to a different culture, so do the accounts. So it may be that some of the people we read about in the Bible who acted in ways we see Schizophrenics behave today, may have been healed of Schizophrenia and it was explained in terms of demons because that was the understanding of the day.

But I do not think it's an either or situation. It's very difficult for me to separate out the physical and spiritual so completely. I think it may be that we have both physical and spiritual phenomena occurring simultaneously. The fact that the voices that many Schizophrenics hear talking to them in their heads (I've met at least 300 individuals on whom I'm basing this statement) are always negative, leads me to seriously question the origins of these voices.

My guess is that in some instances, mental illness is almost exclusively a physiological phenomenon. In these cases the person has a physical anomaly that is causing the mental illness, and the enemy tries to use against the person , as well as his loved ones, just as in any other serious physical illness such as cancer. I would also guess that this is the most frequent case for mental illness.

But I'm also quite certain, from many situations I've observed through the years, that there are cases where what is manifesting as mental illness is almost exclusively spiritual.

But, if I'm being totally candid here, I would never let some religious group come into my facility and start casting out demons.

I really don't have any great insights or answers to this issue, just thoughts and questions.

What do you think, is mental illness ever related to demonic possession?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Victory to Victory

The third chapter of Joshua tells of how Israel crossed over the Jordan on dry land. In the sixth chapter of Joshua, Israel conquers Jerhico. From one miraculous victory to another.

Imagine living that sort of life!

I believe what Israel did in chapters 4 and 5 are examples of what we can do after achieving breakthrough or victories in our own lives. In the fourth chapter of Joshua, immediately after the victory, Israel gave tribute to what God had done by building a memorial using rocks from the Jordan River. But sometimes it isn't enough to just give God our praise and thanks, sometimes we need to give him more. We need to give Him our everything.
In the fifth chapter of Joshua, they rededicated themselves to God. Now as a grown male I can imagine how quickly the celebrating ended after Joshua told of God's plans.

At that time the LORD said to Joshua, “Make flint knives for yourself, and circumcise the sons of Israel again the second time.”
Joshua 5:2

Thankfully Dr. Thede did that for me when I was a couple of days old, so I can only dreadfully imagine the pain those men endured . However, what God will ask of us is that we circumcise our hearts. As you may know, when Jesus focuses His attention upon a part of our lives that has not been surrendered to Him, it can be very painful. No matter what it may be in our lives, if we continue to hang onto something Jesus has asked us to surrender, we are being proud and stubborn.

God wants little to do with the proud. If we don't turn to His ways, He will give us over to our own selfish ways. It is up to us to yield our hearts to Him. By saying Yes to Him and no to our own ways we are actually allowing Him to circumcise our hearts. Our walk is continually like our Salvation. At His leading, we have to acknowledge that He is God and we are not. His way is the only way and our ways lead us away from Him.
So after a any Victory or a any breakthrough, no matter how great or seemingly insignificant, we need to acknowledge Him who is the giver of all good things. Then, we need to open up our hearts to His correction, His love and allow Him to circumcise our hearts and just like in Joshua 5:8, we must allow time for healing.

Instead of using flint knives to go from victory to victory
we can simply begin by praying:

How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?
Cleanse me from these hidden faults.
Keep your servant from deliberate sins!
Don’t let them control me.
Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin.
May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Psalm 19:12-14

Remember it is God who does the work!
We merely have to be willing to yield to His correction, His way.

The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.
Deuteronomy 30:6