Monday, September 27, 2010

More Inspirational Thoughts to Ponder

If you keep on doing what you've always done, you'll keep on getting what you've always got! WL Bateman

Sadness, disappointment, and despair have to flee in the presence of hope. Unknown Author

On the sharp end – a term from rock climbing. You are on the sharp end of the rope when you are the "lead", going first up the rockface and placing removable anchors as you go. The lead climber finds the route to follow and then brings the other climbers safely to the next ledge. Life, in leadership and followership, is a lot like rock climbing. – Francois and Joy Guilleux

God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12:2 in The Message

Life is hard, but even the hard parts are worth celebrating. God is always molding our story into an epic narrative that is designed to save many lives Donald Miller

There will always be resistance, and it may never get easy, but from here your life looks so sweet. Here at the beginning of the story, there's mostly paralyzing fear. Fear of failure, fear of hard work, fear of being alone in the hard work and also failing alone. Fear of the thing I've never been, however beautiful it might claim to be. What if I heard God wrong? Fear that when I get to heaven he'll shake his head and say something like "What were you thinking?"The smile on your face today says you fought through it. You're doing what you were born to do, and you know it. Lori Ventola

For all our disappointing dullness, our Lord is invincibly optimistic about us. McVeigh Harrison

Whether our prayer be for supplication for temporal or spiritual benefits, intercession, thanksgiving, or worship, it must always be in harmony with His teaching in the Holy Scriptures. McVeigh Harrison

Sometimes, even good things can fill up our lives to the point where we neglect our souls Jon W. Quinn

Where faith grows, anxiety lessens Jon W. Quinn

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Deep Cleansing

Matthew 6:6 encourages us to pray behind closed doors. This is something I do quite regularly. When I pray in private, it’s usually at the end of my day as I lay in bed ready for sleep. Sometimes I think about my day and share my thoughts and feelings or reactions with God. Lying awake at night, the Holy Spirit will put people on my heart. Without knowing a thing, I’ll pray for them during the night, and then hear about their struggles the morning after. Still, there are times I can’t sleep because the Lord has brought some unconfessed sin to my attention and don’t feel at ease until I deal with it through prayer. After I’ve spent the night confessing my sins to God, I usually wake up the next morning feeling guilty and beating myself up over the previous night’s prayer of forgiveness. King David reminds us that doing so isn’t necessary. In Psalm 103 he writes:

The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He will not constantly accuse us,
nor remain angry forever.
He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west.
Psalm 103:8-12 NLT

Here, we learn how God treats someone with a truly repentant heart. Verse 8 says He is compassionate and shows us mercy. Charles Finney describes mercy as an act that frees a guilty party. Its exercise consists in arresting and setting aside the penalty of law, when that penalty has been incurred by transgression. What this means is, when the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin and we bring it to God asking for His forgiveness, having compassion on us, He withholds the punishment we would have received for disappointing Him.

The psalm continues by reminding us when we confess our sins, the Lord doesn’t bring it up again. After we deal with our sin in prayer, He forgets about it. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 says that love is patient and kind. True love doesn’t annoy us by bringing up our past sins. It won’t because true love doesn’t keep a record of our mistakes. When we ask God to forgive us He wipes the slate clean. David knew this and reminds us by saying just how far God removes our sins. Verse 12 tells us that God removes our sin as far as the east is from the west. David uses this as a metaphor. An aspect of God’s forgiveness includes having our sin permanently gone. Cast away, never to be found again.

Suppose you wanted to find the exact point that east turns into west. So you begin by traveling east, hoping to pinpoint the very moment your compass tells you you’re now traveling west. You could continue in that direction forever. The truth is at no point in that journey would you be traveling west. The same thing would happen if you traveled east. You wouldn’t be able to pinpoint the moment you travel west. You won’t find it because no such point exists. God does the same thing with our sin. When we confess our sins to God, He takes our convictions and throws them away. From that point on they are impossible to find.

I’d like to say every time the Holy Spirit convicts me of my sins, I deal with it right away. Sadly, that’s not always true. Sometimes I ignore the Holy Spirit’s nudging. When I do, I wake up the next morning still prompted to spend time before God asking Him to cleanse me of the sin that separates us. This usually continues until I seek the Lord’s forgiveness.

1 John 1:8-9 says: “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” How have the last few days been for you? Do you have an overwhelming sense of guilt you can never escape? If so, please spend some time before God in prayer. It could be the Holy Spirit convicting you of an unforgiven sin.

Personal Challenge: Being A Bearer of Life

One of the gals I regularly have coffee with likes to tinker around doing odd jobs around the house. The tasks are minor things like cleaning and organizing stacks of paper, making grocery list or cleaning silverware. Whenever I visit her, she like to serve me coffee. Watching her grab the cup, lift the pot, and pour the drink, she squints. Arthritis grips her bones and makes simple movements like this a daily challenge. Seeing her struggle to serve me I offer to help and usually get shunned away and told to stay seated and relax.

Puttering around the house, inviting people over for coffee and tea allows her to keep busy and take her mind off the difficulty arthritis has made her daily life. Doing so lifts her spirits and keeps her mind from travelling down a dark road. No surrender is her attitude. No matter how bad things get, she’s got to keep a positive attitude. This is best accomplished by keeping busy and getting her mind off how bad things are.

I know a few people who are in the same situation. They end up facing some challenge but have given up and stopped fighting. Rather then embracing it, and attempting to cope with their newfound challenge they sit around sulking. Both their physical and mental health deteriorates. They eventually receive an intervention. If it’s not from family then the intervention is brought on by a medical professional.

One of the churches I’m currently attending has a value of invitational living. What this means is, as members we ought to invite people to become a part of our community and worship God together. Considering the story of the gal with arthritis and the depth of despair some of my neighbors have been facing, I am challenged. John 10:10 tells us that Jesus came to give people life. Being a Christian I bear the name and message of Christ, not only did Christ commission me to be vocal about my relationship to God, but it’s also ingrained into the DNA of one of the churches I attend.

Seeing people get so down on themselves they need an intervention has me wondering if there’s something I’m missing. If there’s something more I can do to bring the message of hope and life that Christ brings. Do I need to step up my game and be more vocal about the one who brings me life in moments of despair? Either way I am challenged to be more bold about my Savior (in every sense of the word), Jesus Christ

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Begin Again by Susan Coolidge

Every day is a fresh beginning,
Every day is the world made new;
You who are weary of sorrow and sinning,
Here is a beautiful hope for you-
A hope for me and a hope for you.

All the past things are past and over,
The tasks are done and the tears are shed;
Yesterday’s errors let yesterday cover;
Yesterday’s wounds, which smarted and bled,
Are healed with the healing which night has shed.

Yesterday now is a part of forever,
Bound up in a sheaf, which God holds tight;
With glad days, and sad days and bad days which never
Shall visit us more with their bloom and their blight,
Their fullness of sunshine or sorrowful night.
Let them go, since we cannot relieve them,
Cannot undo and cannot atone;
God in His mercy, receive, forgive them;
Only the new days are our own,
Today is ours, and today alone.

Here are the skies all burnished brightly,
Here is the spent earth all reborn,
Here are the tired limbs springing lightly
To face the sun and to share the morn,
In the chrism of dew and the cool of dawn.

Every day is a fresh beginning;
Listen, my soul, to the glad refrain,
And, spite of old sorrow and older sinning,
And puzzles forecasted and possible pain
Take heart with the day, and begin again.

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.  But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.
Galatians 5:19-25 NLT

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Courtney Burrell, A Truly Inspirational Man

I logged into my twitter account today and came across this story. I found it to be inspirational so I thought I would repost it on my blog to share with y'all! To see the orginal posting, click here.


Let’s begin with the smile because, well, everyone who knows 14-year-old Courtney Burrell at some point in the conversation gets around to gushing about that grin.

His mother, Joey Jenkins, points out that the smile is a facial fixture these days. The football coach at North Rockland High School, Joe Casarella, says the smile is better than winning. And then there’s Michelle Brown, the selfless spitfire whose nothing-is-impossible attitude is most responsible for creating the smile that she measures in megawatts.

“You can’t help but come away from him smiling,” Brown says.

All true. But there’s more. After hearing so much about concussions, steroids and, thanks to the New York Jets, adolescent and inappropriate behavior, Burrell’s story inspires a renewed belief in the positive power of team and togetherness.

We hear so often that sports offer kids life lessons in things like sacrifice and hard work. Being part of North Rockland’s Red Raiders has given the wheelchair-bound Burrell, a developmentally disabled kid born with cerebral palsy, something even more important.

“A sense of purpose, a life,” says Brown, a service coordinator for New City, New York-based Jawonio, whose mission is to advance the independence, well-being and equality of people with disabilities or special needs.

Burrell’s everyday life before football consisted of returning home after school and retreating to his bedroom, where he’d watch hours of ESPN. That’s it.

Jets Fan

Sports have always been Burrell’s passion, which explains why his bedroom wall is covered with posters of his favorite athlete, Kobe Bryant of the Lakers, and his favorite team, the not-such-a-great-example Jets. He wears what Bryant wears. Sneakers included.

Burrell attended football games at North Rockland, located about 35 miles north of New York City, for years, watching from afar, wondering what it must be like to be part of something bigger than oneself.

One day his mother mentioned his love of sports to Brown, lamenting that he couldn’t be part of the team. Any team, really. Little did mom know that the concept of “can’t” doesn’t exist to Brown.

“His mother said no one would let him play, so it was more like a challenge,” Brown said. “We’re always telling kids, whether handicapped or not, you can do whatever you want to do.”

Inspirational Image

It happens that Brown’s son, Lenny, now a running back at Ithaca College, played for Casarella, North Rockland’s coach the past 30 years. It also happens that a while back Casarella saw a kid in a motorized wheelchair serve as the water boy for Mamaroneck High School. It stuck.

“I marveled at that,” Casarella said.

Now it’s a grateful mom who marvels at the transformation of a son who serves as the football team’s jock-of-all-trades. Burrell wears a jersey and takes part in coaching meetings. He dishes out water -- always ice cold -- during practice breaks and on game days.

“The players say he has the best water,” mom says.

Burrell served as honorary captain this past weekend, taking part in the coin toss prior to North Rockland’s season- opening loss, 14-7, to New Rochelle. Despite the score, he smiled.

The cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that affects body movement and muscle coordination, makes it difficult to understand Burrell’s speech, and his head sometimes tilts to the side. Even so, Casarella has been around long enough to recognize a competitor when he sees one.

Leader’s View

That’s why, during practice, coach usually positions Burrell a safe distance behind the quarterback, where he can see the plays unfold from the vantage point of the team leader.

“His heart is as big as anybody on our team,” Casarella says. “You wake up every morning and, if you don’t give 100 percent, stop and think of Courtney.”

Wait, it gets better.

This is, after all, high school, where jocks are usually popular with the young ladies.

These days Burrell more often than not is surrounded by a steady stream of teenage girls stopping by to say hello. One day it’s the tennis team. Next day it’s the cross-country squad.

“He has to beat them off with a stick,” Brown says. “He’s in la-la land. What teenage boy wouldn’t be?”

Jenkins, 42, once believed that her son was destined for a life of solitude and that his disability precluded his ability to partake in his passion. Now, she says, anything is possible. She believes it and, more importantly, her son does, too.

“There’s a place for everybody,” Jenkins said.

She smiles, of course. Runs in the family.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Disaster Relief: Plans For A Hopeful Future

It shouldn’t be a secret that my time in college was like that of a marathon. It took me 9 years to get a 4 year bachelors degree. In order to get the degree, I needed to take a cultural anthropology class. Every Wednesday night for 4 months, I would gather with about 5 others to study the things that shape a persons culture. It was one of those classes I was less motivated to be in. But the teacher for the class was great. She understood we were busy students juggling jobs, living with roommates, and bearing the demands of term papers that carried the bulk of our final grade for many of our other classes. So she accommodated by making her class a light load. She gave us a list of movies for homework. Our assignment was to pick a few and watch them, then write a short paper on each movie before the semester ended.

Hotel Rwanda was among the few that I chose. The movie is sort of a bio-pic. It details the life of a hotel manager who housed Rwandan refugees during their 1994 civil war. The real hotel manager says retelling the genocide was tough but necessary. I personally found it eye opening, and it caused me to struggle with the age old question: If God is so good, then how can He stand by and let something like this happen?

The genocide became known worldwide, and people still associate the conflict with Rwanda. But that’s starting to change thanks to Richard Taylor. He first visited Rwanda in 2002, as part of a hiking expedition with friends. The young Executive Director of The Wellspring Foundation has been working with the locals to rebuild life after the tragedy. In a recent interview on 100 Huntley Street, he speaks of God’s involvement after the fact as transformational.

Recalling a conversation he had with a Rwandan native who lived through the genocide, Taylor says 40% of Rwandans are age 15 or younger. Making that 40% as their target audience is essential for Wellspring’s relationship to be a success. Focusing on “these young people who hadn’t actually personally experienced the genocide but still live with some of its scars; we can do something incredible in turning this place around.” The transformational work, from Richard’s perspective is happening by educating this young group so that their heart is changed in addition to their minds.

The bible speaks of transforming your mind. It also says we shouldn’t copy the behavior and customs of this world. Instead, we are to let God transform us into who He wants us to be. Jeremiah 29:11 says: For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” 16 years after the fact, young survivors of the Rwandan genocide are realizing their potential for a bright and hopeful future. For these young Rwandans, The Wellspring Foundation is the vehicle God uses to show them His plans for a hope and future. What about you? If God’s plans are about hope instead of disaster, what vehicle might He use to show His plans for your future?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Crouching Timbits, Hidden Potential

John 15:16 says that Jesus chose us to be his disciples. It also says that we ought to avoid the following lifestyle:

***If you watched the video your probably confused at the moment. Chances are you’re trying to figure out the connection between Green Day and of all things, the bible. Trust me its there! Just keep reading***

One of the encouraging things I find about this verse is it tells us Jesus CHOOSES the people he hangs with. In high school, our home room teacher was also a martial arts instructor. Twice a week he taught women’s self defense classes outside school. And once a week he would teach a handful of my fellow class mates martial arts over the lunch period. One year he personally asked me to join the class. He said he’s had martial arts students in the past with polio, and after taking them under his wing they’ve had nothing but positive results. Even though I was in a wheelchair, he could teach me how to defend myself if I ever met a creepy person with bad intentions.

I don’t know if he was ever aware, but I wanted to take his martial arts class and was hesitant to ask him… I thought the wheelchair would be a deterrent and he’d say no, so I never did. but then HE approached ME! This meant he saw something in me that I didn’t. There was a potential deep inside me that needed to be coaxed out. Boy did he ever hit the nail on the head that time. After that, I was hooked. I became a devoted follower.

Those lunch hours were priority number one. On nights off, I practiced my newfound skills at home. Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Steven Segal became my newest reasons to go to the movies. Whenever they threw a kick or punch, I announced which kick or punch it was. I even remember going to the library to sign out books on martial arts and tried to mimic the diagrams they had on the page. Once I tried watching an old Bruce Lee movie, but it was too cheesy and turned it off. For the rest of my high school days I ate slept breathed and bled anything to do with martial arts. I did this all with great enthusiasm because my master believed in me. Where I saw a bitter end, he saw a bright and hopeful future.

That same enthusiasm is demonstrated in Christ’s disciples. It’s the reason the apostle Peter did such crazy and outlandish things. Christ chose to spend three years of his life with Peter and 11 others because He saw something they didn’t. Where the disciples saw losers and drop outs, Jesus saw winners, and catalysts for a movement that would take the world by storm. Jesus saw that they had a purpose; all it would take is a little coaxing.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Deep Theological Truth Or Brain Fart?

Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side. The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. "Be careful," Jesus warned them. "Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod." They discussed this with one another and said, "It is because we have no bread." Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: "Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don't you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?" "Twelve," they replied. "And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?" They answered, "Seven." He said to them, "Do you still not understand?"
Mark 8:13-21 NIV

When a pastor gets up to preach a sermon, they’ll usually select a chuck of the bible, and spend hours upon hours dissecting each verse to find its original meaning. Sometimes they research the snot out of the passage, and come up with some great theological truth to share with the audience that week. (At this point I want to say that I understand the importance and fully support the discipline of doing these things in preparation for a time to be the mouthpiece of God. a great sermon takes time to prepare. If you do a poor job of preparation, then you run the risk harming the body of believers instead of enhancing it.) Still there are other times I think we fail to take scripture at face value. Use the above scripture passage as an example.

Try and picture this story playing out in real life. As though you actually witnessed this conversation between the disciples as they paddle across the lake. Then you see Jesus flip out at the disciples for being half wits for debating about not having any bread to snack on when they get the hankering…… now after picturing the scene, do you think Jesus was talking about some deep theological truth, or did Jesus lose it because the disciples just had a brain fart? I personally think it’s the latter. But if you think there is some theological statement people need to pick up on – please share I would love to dialogue with you over this. Maybe I’ll have a brain fart and you’ll stump the nine year bible college student … the nine year bible college student is me by the way ;)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

An Opportune Time

The clock on my computer just rolled on to 330AM. And while the rest of the world is asleep, at this time I’m wide awake struggling with impure thoughts and motives. I’d much rather be nestled under my covers resting after a long 18 hour day. instead my mind is teetering between thoughts of lust, wanting to covet what I don’t have, recalling a chunk of Luke chapter 4 and a few lines from the worship song “Love Lifted Me.”
The opening verses of Luke 4 tell of Jesus’ forty day retreat in the desert and three duels with the devil. After successfully thwarting the devils attempts to disable the messiah’s relationship with God, Verse 13 tells us the devil let Jesus alone until “an opportune time.”

I used to read those three words and wonder what they meant, when exactly was an opportune time? Well, Sitting here wide awake now at 402AM, I think I have a better understanding of when the perfect time came to bother people. Given my current situation, I can almost guarantee that Satan came back to torment Jesus at a time where temptations proved to be inconvenient for Jesus.

Ephesians 6:12 says the Christian’s battle isn’t so much against the people of this world as it is against evil spirits. What an opportune time to experience this opposition. When I’d be better off sleeping, I’m awake experiencing a battle to remain wholly pure before the one who determines my eternal destiny. In response to that I say:

Make me pure in your site Lord
I want to be pure in your eyes Lord,
Make me pure
I want to be