6/20/15

Proud Papa

We are blessed to have two wonderful kids.

Our daughter, our blessing, came to us at just the right time and has been just that. She has an aweesome voice, is a talented writer and has a such a heart of compassion that even her dear old dad looks up to her! She has been an encouragement and blessing to her parents and we are so thankful God gifted us with her presence seventeen years ago.

Our son, our miracle, was just that.  We did not think we could have kids anymore after my wife had complications during her first pregnancy.  Yet one day, many years after disposing of our baby items, this miraculous bundle of energy came along. He loves to play soccer, wrestle with dad and create worlds of adventure with his Lego.

A Blessing and a Miracle.

I am a proud to be a papa.  Not everyone is so lucky. 


In addition to my two awesome kids, we have had the privelage and honor of sponsoring three wonderful kids via Compassion.  Our first, Tsehay, was from Ethiopia and we decided to sponsor her after seeing her precious photo at a Rebecca St. James concert.  We decided to sponor another child after Tsehay grew up and graduated the program.  Our second child, Luiz from Brazil, left the program after a few months when he moved away.  We then found little Wycaro, also from Brazil.  His letters are so cute and he shares many interests with our own son.

All three of our Compassion Kids photos are on our fridge and we have written many a letter back and forth over the years.  These kids are part of our family.  We have all read the letters, looked at the photos and sent pictures, drawings and other things to our kids over the years.

This Father's Day, why not become a Proud Papa to a child in need?

Why not go to www.compassion.com/fatherless today to sponsor your own bundle of joy! 

6/12/15

The Faith of a 5 Year Old

Five is a fun age.

When I was that age I remember playing tons, reading some and watching a bit of TV.  I could tell you how to get to Sesame Street, visited Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, played with friends, colored, and did all those typical five year old things.

One thing I did not do was write songs.

CJ, my 5-year old, is that kid.  He plays lots, reads way more than I did at that age, watches TV...and write's worship songs.

He has written a few in the last year.

Typical was what happened this past week.

He goes into his bedroom and comes out a couple minutes later and says, "Dad I wrote a worship song."

I asked him to sing it to me but he said I had to come to his room.  He then got down on the floor to show me the actions needed to go with the song.  Crouching low he slowly rises up to his tippy toes with his arms lifted up high.

He then asked me to get a pen and write down these words:

You may start out small like a seed
But God makes you grow bigger
You can rise up
And He crushes the enemy
and you can rise up

It may not mean much to you but when my son starts randomly singing about God, growth and overcoming the enemy I get a bit excited.  There was no prelude, no conversations leading up to this moment...just a kid wanting to sing about God.  He asked my wife to put it to music and for us to sing it on Sunday.

Kids are awesome and the Lord has taught me a lot about His character and the faith of a child through the years.  This little song spoke to me because I was just coming out of a difficult season in my own faith walk and felt like I was entering a period of new beginnings. 

The Lord allowed my 5 year old to encourage me in my faith.

May He do the same for you!

6/1/15

From Shakespeare to Salvation

"And one man in his time plays many parts" - William Shakespeare's As You Like It, spoken by the melancholy Jaques in Act II Scene VII

This line is part of the All The World's A Stage monologue from within Shakespeare's play, As You Like It. I admit to being a Shakespeare fan.  During high school I read his works for fun, not just as a school assignment.  In fact I have his complete works on my shelf today.

This speech compares the world to a stage and life to a play, and lists the seven stages of a man's life: infant, schoolboy, lover, soldier, justice, old age and facing imminent death. It is also one of Shakespeare's most frequently quoted passages.

I have been an infant, schoolboy, lover and soldier...in the Salvation Army.  Truth be told, my kids tell me I am old as well! In all seriousness though, over my lifetime I have played many roles.  Son, father, husband, pastor, author, baker, student, teacher and friend just to name a few.  Yet it is being a child of God that I find my utmost satisfaction. 

The apostle Paul also talks about the stages of life in 1 Corinthians 13:11, "When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things."

Like Paul, when I was a child I spoke, thought and reasoned like a child.  As I have aged, my speech, thoughts and reasoning have matured as well.  Don't get me wrong, I am still a child at heart.  However, when it comes to my faith...I have matured.  I have run the gamut throughout my faith walk, ups and downs, highs and lows...and I have realized that the Gospel, for all it's richness and depth...is actually quite simple.  At the end of the day...it's all about Jesus and what He did on the cross.  By accepting His gift of salvation, i entered into the greatest role of my lifetime...child of the King!  

5/16/15

Dignity!

My daughter was asked to write a speech for school about something they believe.  This is what she wrote:

        I believe in dignity for the homeless, which is something that I have been passionate about for a very long time.  When I was seven years old, we were in the middle of supper, and I had decided I did not like the meal.  My parents told me I needed to eat because there were children starving in Africa.  Of course my logical response was that if there were children starving in Africa that they could send my food to them.  Needless to say, this didn’t go over well, and my dad decided I needed to learn a lesson.  So the next week, he took me down to the Salvation Army to volunteer, and help serve the people who would appreciate any meal they could receive.  It was an eye-opener to say the least, and I loved volunteering there.  From then on, my family became very involved in street ministry, and running the street church.  I have grown up ministering to and hanging out with those struggling with addictions and people who are homeless.  I have seen the deep prejudice and disgust that many people hold or feel for the people on the streets.  I have heard a lot of people say “Why can’t they just get over it?” or “Why don’t they just get a job?” It’s not that simple.  People don’t normally choose to be homeless. They don’t choose to lose their job.  Obviously, their choices can lead to this happening, but sometimes life just throws a punch.  And once they get into that poverty cycle, it is very, very difficult to get out.

        I believe in dignity for the homeless because those living on the streets still deserve respect. The thing that bugs me when I hear people talking about the “homelessness problem” is that they don’t seem to see them as humans.  They are grossed out, or afraid, or annoyed, passing by them on the streets in a hurry.  Some people see the homeless as charity cases, and donate to big organizations, never actually going out and talking to those in need.  Now, I understand that sometimes it can be a little scary to be around the street people.  They can be smelly, unkempt, and violent.  I have been cursed at, seen fights break out, and shook hands with people who carry numerous diseases.  I have also seen them smile as they tell us their favorite food or their favorite memory as a child.  I have been given gifts from people who have nothing to give.  I have been encouraged and blessed by the same people who are cursed and avoided on a daily basis.  A few weeks ago, I shared a sermon with my dad at our church.  I was feeling extremely nervous, and wasn’t sure if I could do it.  A homeless lady that I had never met came in and handed me a flower, telling me I was beautiful.  Just that little gesture of kindness gave me the courage to carry on.

            I believe in dignity for the homeless because I am constantly seeing things like this.  There is one man in our church who has been attending for years, but generally was very angry and rude.  My younger brother began going over to him, sharing his snacks and trying to chat.  Eventually they formed a friendship, and now he has become very friendly and respectful.  All because someone took the time to reach out to him.

            I believe in dignity for the homeless because they all have a story.  Some of them are sad and tragic.  But if we take the time to listen, amazing things can happen.  Dignity is a powerful, and can transform people from feeling worthless, to treasured.  When we take time to pause a minute and say hello, we are acknowledging that they deserve respect.  Jesus never hesitated to spread himself among the people.  He reached out to the unloved.  We are called to do the same.  In the same way that he treated the poor with honor and respect, we should treat them with honor and respect.

She was also aslked to put together a multimedia presentation and this is what she came up with:

5/9/15

Confessions of a Concussed Christian

As I wrestled with my son on the floor, he came close to my head with his hands and I immediately froze, a nervous sweat breaking out across my forehead. 

Another time, I bumped my head and immediately became anxious, concerned that this blow may result in yet another concussion.

The fact of the matter is that bumping our heads is just a part of life.  It happens...to everyone.  We bump into things as we walk through life...and it's not the end of the world.

I know that.

Yet it hasn't stopped the panicked feelings and anxiety that seem to pop up unexpectedly.  You can't predict a panic attack.  Anxiety can pop up unawares.  When it happens, it can momentarily cripple you. Reason and logic seem to vanish.

The reality is that I don't need another head trauma.  Living with an acquired brain injury is a challenge.  Yet, I have seen significant improvement over the last 2+ years as well.  There was a point where I could only read about 5 minutes before the headaches started and I would lose focus.  Now I can read a whole lot longer and the headaches are gone.  My concentration and focus has improved.  Yes I have to put things into manageable chunks and I need deadlines but I can get things done easier than I could even a year ago.  At one point, immediately after my 6th concussion, I could not even recognize the letters on a keyboard.  Trying to write a blog post...or anything...was a challenge.  Now I can write sermons and blog posts again...though I do write a lot less than I used to. 

I no longer stumble over my words as much as I used to...unless I get really tired.  I do have to nap more than I used to.  There was a point where I struggled to do any public speaking and my sermons had shrunk to around 5 minutes. Things began to improve but I could not speak without notes and would lose my place frequently.  Now I can talk for an hour with few notes. 

I have found comfort recently in Philippians 4:6, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."

I have been praying for a healing and I have found improvement, though not as quickly as I would like.  I have petitioned God.  Not just praying, but praying with the passion and desperation of a broken man.  I have also began to thank God for the vast and significant improvements I am seeing. 

All is not lost, I have a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)  I know that I truly can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13) It has been a long journey, one I never envisioned...yet I also see how God has moved in the situation and changed me for His glory through the process.

For that I thank God.

4/26/15

A Glorious Dark


A Glorious Dark is a new book by author A.J. Swoboda.  With Good Friday, the silent Saturday and Easter Sunday as the backdrop, Swoboda tackles tough questions about faith, doubt, suffering and pain.

I found this book intriguing because we hear so many sermons on Good Friday and Easter Sunday but rarely will one talk about the silence that was Saturday.  What must the early believers have gone through that day Jesus was in the grave.  What would they have been thinking?  I don't know what was on their mind but I sure know what goes through mine when it seems God is silent.

As I read through A Glorious Dark, I found myself curling back page corners so I could go back to certain points again and again.  I started reading those snippets to my wife and really found them encouraging. I think the author did a great job of bringing light into some dark corners of life.

Confusion, fear, it all gets addressed here.

A great book for those who struggle with doubt and fear, an encouragement to those who need hope, and a blessing to those who believe God still changes lives today.

"This book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Baker Publishing in exchange for an honest review."

4/12/15

A Call for Nonviolent Action


Nonviolent Action is the latest offering by author Ronald J. Sider.

Having had losts of discussions over the years about "just war" vs. pacifism, I thought I would give this new book a perusal.  I had read some of Sider's earlier works and never really connected with them.  Despite that, this topic intrigued me enough to give the author another chance.

Let me just say it, this is an excellent book.  Sider looks at nonviolent action throughout the 20th century.  Brief and compelling chapters about Gahndi, King, the Arab Spring, Liberia and many more examples, keep the reader engaged throughout the book.

I was very impressed by how Sider handled the topic overall.  While not ignoring other factors (economic, political, etc) the author shows that nonviolent action does work and should be considered a viable option. Though I really enjoyed this book, two things would have made it much, much better.  The book is addressed to Christians but there is no supporting Biblical examples cited by the author.  Even the occasional verse would have been helpful.  I thibnk this is where the book suffers the most.  The other thing that would have made the book better would have been a more practical application in the concluding chapter. 

Despite these two issues, this is a book that is much needed in the ongoing debate about war and pacifism.  No matter where you stand on the issue, I challenge you to read this book with an open mind. 

"This book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Baker Publishing in exchange for an honest review."