Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Retrospective of Change.

Facebook''s "what book of the Bible are you" said it best. "Life with you is never boring". As "Revelation"; statements regarding my eccentricity and unusual pursuit of things that don't always make sense in the natural were also made, but this "never boring" thing has long been my life's mantra.

As a 37 year old married father of 3, my existence has definitely had its fair share of the roller coaster called "life". Born under unusual circumstances, purportedly removed by the state and later adopted, an endless string of episodes of "self discovery", tumultuous relationships both romantic and otherwise, unusual family situations brought on by less than wise decisions, and an endless array occupations searching for the right "career", all while trying so desperately to find my niche in this world...The movie "Parenthood" has nothing on me, whether I like the roller coaster or not, this is where I have lived, essentially all my life.

Lately has been no exception, and in fact makes a perfect example of the many chapters in my life which have been so similarly drawn out. I was fired from one of the few truly "career" positions I have had, for trying to take care of my responsibilities with due diligence in the face of a co-workers apathy-fueled failure to fulfill theirs. It took several months to find work again, and that was at a most likely dead-end job with low pay and hours that would have taken me from my family and my church, for years to come. As in the past, "open doors" don't happen for me unless there are 2 or more to choose from. Just like Abraham and Isaac, my "ram in the thicket" appeared. My first day on this job, I ran into a former manager who is in need of someone to quickly train in and begin managing a small business for him. The pay should be better but isn't guaranteed, but the hours would let me see my kids and remain involved in my church. Obviously, I'm there. I tell my wife, as there is another possibility on the horizon; "Look, this other place is going to call before I'm at this new job a full week". Wednesday, I get that call.

This other opportunity, we'll call it...Well, even the company it would be coming from isn't sure exactly what it is yet. They're in the process of leveraging a large expansion of the company, so the future of the location in which I'm interested is unknown. They don't plan on closing, but they know they have to move next year anyway, so this would be an opportunity to somewhat painlessly "scale back" their operation there. I'll know a lot more in a week, maybe two. Then they'll be calling to schedule an interview where I'll drive 5-6hrs to go meet them, see the current operation, etc. In the meantime, this leaves us a lot of time to prayerfully consider what we see as possible offers this company could be making. Any offer would involve my moving out there to see if it will work, and my eldest daughter is a Senior in High School. We would want her to finish school with her friends, so the rest of the family would stay here while I go "try it out". We'd be looking at roughly 6 months of this arrangement, with a few opportunities to visit home in the meantime.

There is a story of a man who found a pearl in a field...Yeah, you know the one. He sold all of his belongings in order to buy the field and own the pearl, making him more wealthy than before. Today this would be like buying barren land that you happen to know has oil for which you could sell the drilling rights. It is possible this other opportunity could be something like that. Heck, if they scale back enough, or their existing staff wish to relocate to the new expansion, I suppose I could be considered to come in and run the place. The fact is we just don't know right now.

So, here I am, smack-dab in the middle of a potentially tumultuous decision that would most likely hold lifelong ramifications, for the positive or the negative. It is something that has been on my heart for many years, and could lead to one of my life's ultimate goals. Or it could be one of the most difficult and destructive things we've ever attempted.

We are seeking wisdom and direction, and have many people praying with us on this right now. In the end, it's all going to come down to what the offer is, whether it looks like that "pearl" opportunity, worth selling all we own in order to go after it. After watching Eric Bana's "Love the Beast" documentary, I can hear Dr. Phil telling me "you have to chase that dream, it's a part of who you are", while at the same time cautioning; "you have no right to endanger your family's stability or livelihood if it isn't a legitimate opportunity".

It would take major stretching and possibly outside help to be able to attempt this move, but if it is worth pursuing, it is worth going all the way. Keep us in your prayers, hearts and minds. I'll update as we know more...



Friday, May 8, 2009

Mightily used, mightily abused?

Mightily used, mightily abused?

Every now and again, we have the opportunity to step out of our comfort zone and do something really useful. Maybe it’s something at church; helping out in the nursery or food pantry, playing or singing on a worship team, ministering to someone who today just really needs to hear how much God loves them. Maybe it’s something in our every day lives; helping rake leaves or mow the yard of an elderly widow, offering our personal gifts for free to someone who needs help but can’t afford the services otherwise, being brutally honest with a friend when they may not want to hear it – but really need it.

I’ve found that it’s in these times; when we are most effectively being used of God to the advancement of the Kingdom and for the betterment of others, when we are most challenged, tested and attacked by the enemy. Maybe the kids are being particularly trying, maybe it’s your relationship with your spouse or a close friend, maybe finances are in question or your car breaks down. Somehow, something dreadful happens to really remove you from that place of being useful.

Don’t believe for one second that these are coincidences. I believe that when there is a calling on our lives, and we step out and try to do some good in this world, that’s when the enemy notices us and desires to challenge us and render us ineffective for the Kingdom. I’ve especially noticed this in the lives of people who I suspect have what we would consider “big” callings on their lives; the future pastors, worship leaders, missionaries, etc.. It’s as if the enemy also notices the calling on their lives and determines to take them out before they can walk in their calling.

This has been true in my own life as well. Those of you who know me on a personal level know the series of valleys and deeper valleys my life has been over the years, and I believe that there is a purpose in it. The enemy has long seemed to see a large bull’s-eye on my chest, and in the midst of the times that should be my greatest joy have been when my greatest challenges have presented themselves.

So what are we to do with this information? Should we just lay low and keep our heads down so as to not become another victim of these attacks? I don’t believe so. I believe that we are to continue to persevere in the midst of challenges and strife, and that our response to these problems in our lives is part of our testimony. What is easier, to worship God when we’re making six figure salaries and have what the world would call a “great life”, or worship Him when we’re living in a homeless shelter, nothing but an uncertain future ahead of us?

If we truly believe, we have the answers the world is seeking and we know the truth and should not despair in times of trouble. God is still God and He is still on the throne and in control. It is in how we respond to trouble that the world sees what we are truly made of. It is when we do not falter or stumble through we walk through darkness that the world takes notice and begins to desire whatever it is that gives us this hope.

So, the next time you feel like sticking your neck out and doing something that could be really effective, don’t hesitate in fear of some kind of retribution…If it comes, your response to it could be a testimony that will be more effective that what it was you were doing when the trouble came. But also remember that God loves you and is in control, no matter what. Yeah, no matter what. So let’s live our lives like we believe that!



Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Awesome discovery!!

I've been writing and recording since the early-mid '80s, and although I have the first recording I ever made (with a portable tape player, on my mom's organ), I have lost many recordings over the years. The majority of these were due to the switch to digital in the mid '90s...Every time I'd lose a hard drive, I'd lost 2-3 years worth of work. These days I use an external hard drive, upload to my website, SoundClick, here, etc and try to have 2-3 copies in different places "just in case", but there have been some huge losses in the past.

Feeling like a freaking musical archeologist digging up my own life today, I stumbled across a CD I made in 1994 (very early in my switch to digital) that chronicles 13 pieces (in 12 tracks, 1 track is a combo piece) that span nearly a decade of work. The earliest works are from when I was in High School, probably the summer of '88, and the latest pieces are likely from 1994 when the CD was made.

Now, I've always been shy about my work, and only in recent years have I started publicly sharing any of it, though I've in the midst of what I consider a "drought" where it concerns talent or quality. However, even with the limited technology, OLD recordings, some from tape, etc, I find that these are some of my best work, ever. I just may re-record the entire CD and make it a current project!

Anyways, I am in utter AWE of the amazing gift the Lord has granted me this night, and I can't wait to share some of it (keeping in mind, limited in technology, experience and bad recordings, lol!).

Be blessed!


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Isaiah 65:24 (The hot water bottle).

Isaiah 65:24 (The hot water bottle).

It continues to be a reminder that God knows our needs before we do!! Isaiah 65:24

This beautiful incident was told by a doctor who worked in Central Africa .

One night I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in spite of all we could do, she died, leaving us with a tiny, premature baby and a crying two-year-old daughter. We would have difficulty keeping the baby alive; as we had no incubator (we had no electricity to run an incubator). We also had no special feeding facilities.

Although we lived on the equator, nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts. One student midwife went for the box we had for such babies and the cotton wool that the baby would be wrapped in. Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back shortly in distress to tell me that in filling the bottle, it had burst (rubber perishes easily in tropical climates).

'And it is our last hot water bottle!' she exclaimed. As in the West, it is no good crying over spilled milk , so in Central Africa it might be considered no goo d crying over burst water bottles. They do not grow on trees, and there are no drugstores down forest pathways.

'All right,' I said, 'put the baby as near the fire as you safely can, and sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts. Your job is to keep the baby warm.'

The following noon, as I did most days, I went to have prayers with any of the orphanage children who chose to gather with me. I gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. I explained our problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle, and that the baby could so easily die if it got chills.. I also told them of the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died.

During prayer time, one ten-year-old girl, Ruth, prayed with the usual blunt conciseness of our African children. 'Please, God' she prayed, 'Send us a hot water bottle today. It'll be no good tomorrow, God, as the baby will be dead, so please send it this afternoon.'

While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added, 'And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl so she'll know You really love her?'

As often with children's prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly say 'Amen'? I just did not believe that God could do this. Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything; the Bible says so. But there are limits, aren't there? The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending me a parcel from the homeland. I had been in Africa for almost four years at that time, and I had never, ever, received a parcel from home Anyway, if anyone did send me a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle? I lived on the equator!

Halfway through the afternoon, while I was teaching in the nurses' training school, a message was sent that there was a car at my front door. By the time I reached home, the car had gone, but there on the porch was a large 22-pound parcel. I felt tears pricking my eyes. I could not open the parcel alone, so I sent for the orphanage children. Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot. We folded the paper, taking care not to tear it unduly... Excitement was mounting. Some thirty or forty pairs of eyes were focused on the large cardboard box.

From the top, I lifted out brightly-colored, knitted jerseys. Eyes sparkled as I gave them out. Then there were the knitted bandages for the leprosy patients, and the children looked a little bored. Then came a box of mixed raisins and sultanas - that would make a batch of buns for the weekend.

Then, as I put my hand in again, I felt the... could it really be?

I grasped it and pulled it out. Yes, a brand new, rubber hot water bottle. I cried. I had not asked God to send it; I had not truly believed that He could.

Ruth was in the front row of the children. She rushed forward, crying out, 'If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly, too!

'Rummaging down to the bottom of the box, she pulled out the small, beautifully-dressed dolly. Her eyes shone! She had never doubted! Looking up at me, she asked, 'Can I go over with you and give this dolly to that little girl, so she'll know that Jesus really loves her?'

'Of course,' I replied!

That parcel had been on the way for five whole months, packed up by my former Sunday school class , whose leader had heard and obeyed God's prompting to send a hot water bottle, even to the equator. And one of the girls had put in a dolly for an African child - five months before, in answer to the believing prayer of a ten-year-old to bring it 'that afternoon'.

'Before they call, I will answer.' Isaiah 65:24

When you receive this, say the prayer. That's all you have to do. No strings attached. Just send it on to whomever you want - but do send it on. Prayer is one of the best free gifts we receive. There is no cost, but a lot of rewards. Let's continue praying for one another.

Heavenly Father, I ask you to bless my friends reading this. I ask You to minister to their spirit. Where there is pain, give them Your peace and mercy. Where there is self doubting, release a renewed confidence to work through them. Where there is tiredness or exhaustion, I ask You to give them understanding, guidance, and strength. Where there is fear, reveal Your love and release to them Your courage. Bless their finances, give them greater vision, and raise up leaders and friends to support and encourage them. Give each of them discernment to recognize the evil forces around them and reveal to them the power they have in You to defeat it. I ask You to do these things in Jesus' name. Amen.

Passing this along, as it was sent to me.



Monday, March 9, 2009

Winds of Change...

The weather last few days here in Central Illinois have been much like the economic and political atmosphere last several months throughout the world. Sunday in particular was one of the more interesting weather days here in several years. All night it had been raining with occasional thunderstorms, and Sunday morning was much the same. Even the visiting Pastor that spoke at our church used a close lightning strike and the imminent thunderous "boom" as an opportunity to make a point from the pulpit! When the service was over I was preparing to drive our car up so my wife and three children wouldn't have to run through the torrential downpour that awaited us outside. However, as I was caught up talking with someone for a moment before we left, something amazing happened. The sky simply opened and let the sun shine down, like any bright, sunny day in the middle of summer, just as if the terrible storms that had been beating down only moments before had never happened at all! It was simply amazing! And if that wasn't enough, as the day wore on, we got exactly the same demonstration once again; with great, tumultuous thunderstorms sweeping in out of nowhere, lingering for a few hours, then just as quickly as they had arrived, disappearing and allowing the sun to regain control of his sky.

I submit to you this, that what we were witness to here on Sunday was a harbinger of what we can expect of the world's economy and political powers in the coming months and possibly years. As the church, we will need to be ready to provide support and love for more than we have seen coming to receive it in the past, as there will be great need sending many people through our doors who would otherwise be unfamiliar with them. We will be allowed to show God's love, mercy and grace to people who would otherwise have never had opportunity to see it. But as hard as things seem like they could become; there will be an end to the storm, and suddenly the sky will open and overwhelming calm will prevail. This is an opportunity, and since we operate on God's economy and not the world's, let us not miss it worrying about petty things that God has control over anyway. Let's use the patience and reserve God has given us to provide a visible demonstration to the world that we believe God is yet on the throne and in control. While we provide food, clothing and shelter to the needy, let us also provide an example of how to live in tough times; in total trust and peace, because we are under the provision of the shadow of God's hand.



Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Just getting started

Hi there! If you've found this blog in its current (messy) state, rest assured, I am working on getting this up and running. I suppose this is one of those "excuse our dust" messages, lol!

I'm working on getting a different template, but I'm not good at this stuff, so it may be a couple days. Once that's fixed, I'll get the fist couple blog posts up and running and we'll be good to go.

Thanks for stopping by, and check back often!