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Cool story, bro!

So today at work I had an amazing experience:

A man named William came in and was a little

off.

He was loud, dressed poorly, smelled of smoke, and spoke to anyone in the vicinity. He walked to the copy counter and made a weird comment-question to another customer causing me to look over at him. He said, “Sir, I’m asking for real. I know I’m loud, but it’s cool, bro. I’m not crazy or trying to start something. Its a genuine question. I know I look weird, I’m half deaf and cross-eyed….its a cool story for another time on how that happened.”

I looked away.

He began speaking to another customer.

He was in his late twenties or early thirties. His mother walked up and asked him something and they then went to our self serve area to make copies. I heard him ask aloud, to no one in particular, where to put the money in the machine. Without actually addressing him I spoke in his general direction: “You have to get a card from the kiosk, or use a credit card.” He said he would prefer if I did it, and so I did.

I’d be lying if I did not tell you that he made me uneasy…like how you feel when you know a situation is about to go badly in a movie. Or how you feel when see someone in the shadows across the street

at night

and you’re lost.

I have no idea why I felt that way, but I did. Maybe it was because he did look and act a little differently than what we consider

normal.

Maybe it was because he was in his late twenties or so and hanging out with his mom. Maybe because he kept apologizing to everyone for his behavior, or because he kept saying “God bless you” to everyone. I don’t know.

A woman was shopping nearby with her kids, and I saw her kind of shield them. William saw it, too. He said, “Ma’am. I’m sorry. I don’t mean nothing. I didn’t mean to scare you or your kids. God bless you.” I guess she looked at him confusedly, as he immediately followed up with, “I mean it. Really. God bless you. Blessings on you and your kids. God bless your family and friends. All of them. For real.”

That hit me hard.

He was apologizing for all his actions except his faith. As a matter of fact, he was louder and more sincere when he was wishing those blessings than anyone I heard all day talking about

anything else.

That’s Biblical faith. The faith we learn about in church and read about in studies. You know that story about how any stranger could be Jesus?

Yeah, that hit me, too.

A few more minutes passed, and he needed to fax something. Him and his mom had a small tiff, for which he quickly apologized.

To her.

Not to anyone else. And then he tried to fax something. Or rather, he asked me to do it.

He looked up and said, “Robert, I need your help. I can’t do this myself. I know it’s easy, but I just

can’t.”

I walked over to him, and said, “It would be my pleasure.” As I took his papers, he looked at me, his eyes welled up, and he said, “I need to talk to you right now.

I need a friend.”

My first thought was “what the heck”….? Seriously, despite just thinking he might be Jesus, I was seriously wondering how fast I could get out of this situation!

I started trying to ignore what he was saying by counting his pages (22 of them) to be faxed. Smoothing them, separating them, doing whatever I could to not make eye contact. But at some point I started to

actively listen.

He had been dating a woman for about 6-8 months and helping to raise her two kids. She cheated on him. She stole $50,000 from his bank account. She took the kids and she filed a restraining order on him! I listened more, and this guy

FORGAVE

her! He wasn’t angry. He wasn’t mad. He was heartbroken. After she left him she had run into some legal issues and ended up in jail, so he was working with his lawyer to have her represented and get the charges dropped. I listened some more and he was a former Special Forces Operator and FBI agent, decommissioned after the accident that messed up his vision, hearing and the social centers of his brain.

Did I mention he forgave Kenna, the woman who broke his heart, stole his money and took the kids he was helping to raise?

All of a sudden I was overcome with both peace and an

urge

to pray with and for William. I asked him if he believed in God for real, he said “yes, and Jesus Christ. He is my Lord and personal savior. So I appreciate your prayers for us if you remember tonight.” Before I knew it, God had taken ahold of my mouth and tongue, “Would you like to pray now? Together? Can I pray for you?” “Yes, man, yes! Please! I knew I came to you for a reason. I really needed a friend, and God gave me an angel.”

So there we were, hands clasped beside a fax machine. Me praying, him with his head on our clasped hands saying “Yes, God. Please, God. Thank you, God.”

And I am not ashamed for one second of what William showed me and taught me tonight. Or having taken a few minutes to pray with a desperate soul, who gave me one heck of a

cool story,

because he just needed a friend.

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A Great Race

This is a story of friendship, of fellowship, of family and of

faith.

A few days ago I posted to Facebook:

Tonight had the pleasure of holding the hand of one of my dearest friends. He is a shell of who he was a few days ago, and that man is far different from the one he used to be. I am proud of the mustard seed faith he brought to Jesus that did not just move a mountain, it literally became a mountain. When people say that people cannot change, they’re right. Jesus changes them. And my amazing friend Laurence Troha leaves a legacy behind that proves this fact.

The next day he went home.

To Jesus.

I was there when he left this world for a more perfect one, and I can honestly say that I know for a fact that he’s there, greeting every newcomer to heaven. He’s shaking their hands, and hugging them and smiling his smile, and for those that were like me he’s offering a good hearted joke or some light banter.

Larry is an amazing man.

One day about three years ago he stepped into epic church with the goal of only attending once, on Easter, to appease his son-in-law and his daughter who had begun attending quite some time earlier. Before he knew it, he was there early every Sunday to encourage the setup teams, and later he became one of the primary

PRAYER WARRIORS

that prayed fervently before each service for God’s will to be accomplished. He became the primary greeter. He became a

fixture

at epic that felt as natural as daybreak.

It is strange in many ways that Larry and I became friends, in fact, we had every reason not to: we were several generations apart, I was arrogant and prideful, he was warm, but still had all the menace and gruffness of a beat cop (he was a retired police officer), but despite it all we struck a bond.

I remember once we were talking and a perfect stranger to both of us mentioned how strongly we were tied to one another; that we had a bond people yearned for, and looking back, he was right.

Larry was more than a friend. Much more. I recently referred to him as my grandfather, and the words were out of my mouth before I had a chance to take them back.

And they could not be more accurate.

He was always there
, whether face to face or on Facebook, whether by phone or text. Whether a hug or a kick in the butt, or a word of encouragement or one of accountability, a thoughtful look or a practical joke.

He taught me what a Rain Tree is.

He was the only one that believed I would hit my lofty goals in running when I first posted them on Facebook.

He was the one that reached out first when my grandmother passed.

He was the guy that yelled at me just to yell at me, and could just as easily take it when I did it to him.

He was the one that would call me out when I was in a bad mood–and would not allow me to ignore him if I tried.

He is the only one that has ever snuck up on me with a bullhorn and completely caught me off guard and scared the living snot out of me.

He always encouraged (and equally poked fun at) me for my eccentric dress and hairstyles. He loved it–he always said, “Spike that hair up high, boy, and show ’em who you are.” He laughed at my picture and told my wife she’d be better off not claiming me. And he loved us more than we ever knew.

He asked me to breakfast and lunch more than anyone else I knew, and could not believe it when I turned the tables and asked him to lunch–he thought I certainly had something up my sleeve.

He took me to a Jags game.

He would call to chat or ask a favor or a question, and he would stop in to see me at work–just because.

He told me stories about how he was a horrible father and how he’d managed to climb into a Jack Daniel’s bottle and could not get out for years. He harped on the man he was,

not the man he became.

Not the man that walked into an Easter Sunday service dead set on not liking it but finding he could no more leave than he could stop loving his family. Jesus held him, and here’s the truth:

That is not who Larry is.
That is not his legacy.
It was simply what made him the man that God needed him to be.

Larry never talked about how he was the primary greeter at epic.

Or how he went to every Habitat for Humanity build we participated in and prayed for and encouraged the builders, the family and the leaders.

Or how he was asked to be a prayer warrior praying for every service.

He never talked about how the kids in his neighborhood loved him and looked to him when their lives were falling apart in front of them, and NO ONE else cared.

He did not brag about the 1,000s who knew him by name and looked to him for a smile and a warm hug or firm handshake every Sunday.

He did not talk about how he came to epic empty and it sparked a love for Jesus that many long for. Or how that love spread to others and how it encouraged his kids and grand kids to do the same.

He did not talk about how he volunteered at every youth event.

Larry could certainly be gruff and overbearing when the mood struck or the need presented itself (remember, he was a cop), but man, no one could hug like that big guy either. I never once doubted his sincerity. I never doubted his faith.

His family adores him, and rightly so. They are wonderful, each and every one of them, and I am honored to be their friend.

Charles Spurgeon said that if he saw a man’s Bible he could accurately gauge that man’s character and heart: Larry’s was completely falling apart and bookmarked after only three and a half years.

Acts 2:21 says: And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Larry is certainly saved, and I know he is home.

Eternally home.

Waiting for each of us with
a hug,
a handshake,
a word of encouragement
and a smile.

I miss you grandpa. I am a better man because of you.

I can think of no better way to end, than Hebrews 12:1 and Matthew 25:23:
You ran with perseverance the race marked out for you, well done, good and faithful servant.

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Life is the PR

The dangerous end of Van 2--the backside!

The dangerous end of Van 2–the backside!


I originally began this post immediately after Ragnar relay, Florida Keys 2013. It was maybe a bit too fast and needed some fermentation, or perhaps now is a bit late, and I bet for some of my teammates another mention of a “PR” (I had like 15, including a Cooperstein during Ragnar) will always be

too soon.

But what if the greatest PR I had at Ragnar had nothing to do with running? I can’t stop thinking about the fact that I love Ragnar Relay races:

the team
The struggle to find and maintain 12 people for the team
the team building
the smell of the VAN
the lack of sleep
the incredible scenery
the fellowship
the struggle
the endurance
the overcoming
the relationships you forge
the encouragement
the global motivation
the community of support
the inner strength that it reveals.

Reread that list. Over half of it does not correspond to what you might have ever thought of in relation to running. But I do, or
now I do.

See, I am a very outgoing person. I work better in a group than I do alone, and as such, I love to be around people. When I took up running there were a lot of reasons, but the single most important one was that a friend asked me to run with him.

Oh, crap. I balked at that. I hid from him. I had every reason excuse down pat:
I haven’t run since high school.
Bad knees.
No time.
Asthma.
Smoker. (Yup both of the last two)
No one with which to go.
Don’t know how to start.
Don’t know where to run.
It’s too hot (Florida…).
Too humid.
Wrong shoes.
blah
blah
blah

But Luke asked me to run, and I finally said “yes”.

IT WAS HARD.

Oh, wow, was it hard. I hated it. Every second, every step. I could barely go .2 miles without wanting to puke or die or both. But Luke was right there.
Walking when I needed to walk.
Offering encouragement when I needed to hear it.
Pushing me when there was something left in the tank that I could not have found without him.

I equate it to how many people end up in church, and what keeps them there:
They are extended a personal invitation, and encouraged (hopefully) by that friend as they take those first leaps of faith.

So back to Ragnar, I think the greatest accomplishment wasn’t the fact that I ran faster than I have ever run before, it is the relationships that were either created or strengthened as a result of this thing called
RUNNING.
And now, I can’t stop.

My running has taken several large leaps forward: I have made it a more prevalent part of my life, my actual running has progressed immensely, and it is definitely now my stress relief. Beyond that it has helped to strengthen many of the relationships that I have in my every day life, and especially those that have been forged as a result of and through running.

Some of the runners from our home town.

Some of the runners from our home town.


This year, despite all of the commitments Terri and I have made to live a more healthy lifestyle, to run more often, and to become more active in the already amazing running community in Flagler County, Florida, we struggled with whether or not we should do our fourth Ragnar Relay. We committed to an out of country mission trip first–God called us, and He has been amazingly faithful in fulfilling His promises to us, so we knew, without a single doubt, that He would receive our utmost when He asked for it from us. We told our team this last year, and their response was unanimous.

Go.
And we will help you do both.

Wow. It literally left us speechless. (and if you know me, that’s tough to pull off.)

On February 21 VIP registration for Florida Keys 2014 was announced. By Thursday March 7th we had a full team and so we registered to run again.

God has done amazing things in the past on each of our journeys, and I know in my heart that He will guide us to yet another ethereal experience.

The team that finished Ragnar Relay Florida Keys 2013 as Ragnarrhea

The team that finished Ragnar Relay Florida Keys 2013 as Ragnarrhea

What I needed, not what I wanted

ragnar-truck-at-lehigh-trail.jpg

At epic we are in the midst of our Christmas series entitled Gifts From God, and it reminded me today that I have received a TON from God. I have a renewed appreciation, or at least
had
a renewed appreciation for a while, but then I kind of lost focus until recently. So now I have a
renewal of the renewal…
I do not attribute my renewal of the renewal (henceforth I will call it “ROTR”) to the series, especially as I started to pay closer attention to some of these gifts a few weeks ago, but this morning I WAS reminded of the fact that I had a blog and that I had started this post some time back, and it gave me some clarity that I needed to finish it.

God speaks. I have written about that before. I think we just do not realize we are hearing it, and likewise, we fail to recognize many of His gifts. Maybe they are unexpected, underwhelming, overwhelming, or just something so out of the
ordinary or
catastrophic
that we cannot believe it or recognize the Godliness of the gift or moment or event. If we are listening actively, we can pick out some of these words or moments that God is delivering, and if we act on them,
in faith
then there is absolutely no telling what God will actually deliver to us or through us.

A few years ago Terri and I were struggling in our marriage. Many would have never known this to be the case, but we were having a lot of issues. I cannot say that we were about to leave each other, but we were on a fast track to destruction. We probably both had ideas about what we needed or wanted to make this better and to reinvent our marriage, but what we received was a huge shock:

Unemployment.

Yup, God gifted us with the loss of a car and approximately 60% of our income. At the time we did not see it as a gift, as you might imagine. We were devastated. We had thought my job was the more secure of the two and then it was gone.

It was the perfect gift.

We had been married for over 10 years and our lives were spent in different worlds. I traveled and worked 5-6 days per week, and Terri is a teacher and works 10-12 hours per day 6-7 days per week. That left us little, if any, time for one another. Oddly, neither of us really recognized that we were lonely and living with a stranger. We attended church and worked on the programming team there, but God was not first in my life, and possibly not in Terri’s.

Losing a job and a car and a bunch of money changed that pretty quickly. We poured into each other, and we poured out to God a lot. We rekindled our romance and respect of one another, and we did it through God, not around Him or with Him on the
side.
hands
We learned to pray together. We learned our love languages. We learned to
TRUST
God with what little money we had left and He delivered in ways we still cannot comprehend.

What we wanted was each other, what we needed was a complete restructuring of our lives to make it happen.

Another piece of this was the car I mentioned. I had had a company car for nearly 8 years. I got a new one roughly every three years. I was spoiled.
I wanted a great replacement, I was thinking a year or two old. What I got? A 97 VW Jetta without A/C, 3 windows that do not work, gauges that come on when they want to and more quirks than Detective Monk.

It’s perfect.

Jesus walked or rode a donkey, and I have a car. I think He’s still better at being humble than I will ever be, but the car helped me with the pride issues I have, too. I will never be past all of them, and it is weird to write about humility because it seems counter intuitive to
humility,
but I think it’s important to recognize the issue and the reward that comes through faith and prayer and support and community. And believe me, I was a prideful, arrogant jerk. I still have my moments. I struggle with it constantly, but I honestly think I am getting better, and I hope I can share my experiences and offer the same support, encouragement and honesty that has helped and
is helping
me. It was not just the car, there were friends and pastors and mentors and running. Oh, and
running
is a gift, too.

As recently as 2010, the same year I started running and all of this happened, I would have said that I was not a runner, could not run and would give you a million reasons excuses why not. Running is definitely of God, and I am ever so thankful for it.

Isaiah 40:27-31 (paraphrased and emphasis added of my accord)

Why would you ever complain,…saying, “God has lost track of me. He doesn’t care what happens to me”? Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening? God doesn’t come and go. God lasts. He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine. He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall.

But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.

I weighed 30 pounds more than I do now, was a smoker for about 17 years, had (and still have) osteoarthritis in BOTH knees and had had more sinus infections, pneumonia and respiratory infections than you could imagine including a bout with pleurisy in 2008, I think. I had quit smoking prior to losing my job, but I had not contemplated running at all. My friend Luke had started asking me about it right after the initial processing and reactionary phase of the job loss, and I was barely even giving it thought. Then one night it kind of just happened. We were sitting in a programming meeting and I just blurted out, “I am running Ragnar this year.”

Oh crap.

I had no idea what that actually entailed, and I have no idea how I actually managed it, and now I am addicted. It inspired my wife to run for the first time in her life. Several friends did it who were not runners either, and I established some of the best and most supportive relationships in my entire life through this grueling 200 mile relay race. (you might see our haggard looking team from that year at the top of this page)

I would not trade a moment of it. Hebrews 12:1 says “Let us run with endurance the race that is marked out for us.” and that is truly a Ragnarian quote direct from God. I would never have considered the race, let alone the run if it were not for that special gift from God.
That gift that changed my world,
that drew me closer to Him,
that saved a marriage,
that delivered me from me.
A gift I needed, but not necessarily the one I
wanted.

And so I am reminded that all of these gifts are from a God that speaks, and if we listen actively, we can receive a life that was never dreamed possible except by Him.

Starlight Robert.Josh.Terri

Making room, too

So, last night I had decided to get up and run this morning before work, and that did not happen. Of course when I did wake up it was pouring. Not that light drizzle that we sometimes use as an EXCUSE:

seriously, it’s water, it will not hurt or kill any of us,

but rather a torrential downpour. While not capable of detrimental damage to me, it is much more dangerous to run in due to lack of visibility, unsure footing, and traffic (we all know how people drive in the rain, especially in Florida), so I opted to stay in bed.

The dogs came back and curled up with me when Terri, the determined person that she is, braved what was only a slight drizzle to go for her run. Couple their warmth and love with the sound of rain, and

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

I heard Terri come home, mostly because the dogs heard her and ran to greet her at the door, so I got up. I grabbed a towel to help her dry off. It dawns on me now that this was my way of proving to myself that I made the right decision by not running.

Then I got into my routine:
made coffee
went online
read the latest EPL news, mostly related to Manchester United
checked Facebook
then I got bored
wondered what to do
decided video games
then realized it was a waste of time and I really wasn’t interested
and

went back to Facebook.

Wow. Talk about a case of morning doldrums. I cannot believe that this is more or less how I conduct many of my days off. I often complain that I do not have time to make a schedule that includes the important things in my life, and yet, I, in fact,

do.

The weird thing is that I went back to Facebook for a particular reason after running through the rest of the boredom of my morning. I had noticed on my first round that Terri had a new blog post. I decided I should go read it.

I found the post, realized she did that this morning despite already having an early morning and leaving to run at about 730am. Around taking the dogs out, feeding them and then changing, stretching, running….she somehow

made time and made room

to blog because it is important to her.

So, I decided I should shamelessly plug my wife who is infinitely more talented as a wordsmith than I (she even wrote a book), and also that if I did want to actually improve on my writing abilities that I should practice, too. I normally complain that I don’t have time or

room

in my schedule to write, or read, or run or (insert other things I put off here), so I decided to make a minor change today: I opted for one of the things that I find important, and not one of the things I do to

mindlessly fill time.

I hope I can continue to find the motivation to continue to make better decisions, and will pray for that motivation daily.

The Call, The Revelation

A little background before I get started:

It may seem weird that I have never gone on a mission trip. I simply have not ever felt called to GO. I pray about it, have prayed about it, and have wondered why I have not heard, but despite actively listening with my entire body
I just have not heard that whisper from God that it was my time to GO do what He wanted me to do.

It’s sometimes weird for my friends that I have never gone. I remember many times in small group where it would come up in conversation or study to go serve somewhere. On occasion, especially while I was unemployed and had ample time, it took an almost accusatory tone:
Why aren’t you going to Guatemala? You have the time!

My simple answer: I don’t feel called.

It really is that easy sometimes. God was doing something else with me. I still do not think I know what it is, but I think I am growing ever closer to finding out what it is.

And then……

Terri had never gone either. She is a lifelong believer and follower of Jesus. Sure she strayed as all of us do or doubted as all of us do at times, but she has still always known the truth. Then, all of a sudden, she wanted to go.
With every fiber in her body she wanted to
GO.
She felt called like you would not believe. Our Church, was sending two mission trips out this year. One was to Guatemala which had been done before, and one was to Costa Rica. Guatemala seemed like a “safe” choice since there was already established rapport with the church and those being served, and because a great many of our friends were going there.
Not for Terri, though.

She felt called hardcore to Costa Rica. She knew no one other than the pastor, Tim, that was going. You can read more about her feeling called there at here.

There were highs and lows for her throughout the preparation process, but she remained ever
faithful
to God’s will for her to GO there. She never lost sight of his will. Even at the darkest moment of the preparation, she prayed and cried and screamed out to Him and He answered Her:

GO. I have marvelous plans for you that only I know.

Simple and powerful.

Throughout the process I was never jealous. I never felt called to GO.

I only remained committed to making sure she went, and that she lived His plan for her. I felt that my role was to
LOVE
her and her commitment to His plan. It shocked me how much I wanted her to GO and DO whatever He planned.

When she came back she was drained and excited and energetic all at once. She could not figure out how to tell me what she felt and learned. She has struggled with the emotion and calling that she has felt.

A common experience upon returning from a mission trip is that
everyone
wants to know what you experienced:

What did God show you?
Do you feel closer to Him?
Did He break you down?
What is your overwhelming revelation of His will for your path?
Did you gain clarity in your walk?

Terri says she has no idea on any of this…that her only response is to
LOVE
like she never loved before.

And so we come to why I feel the need to write this.

To preface it, two verses of extreme relevance in this instance:

Jeremiah 29:11: “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.”

1Timothy 4:12b: Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.

I am struggling with how to put down on paper what I feel. I don’t know if I have the ability to do it justice. This is one of those moments where I understand why some words in other languages cannot translate to English–the ones you are told are more of a “feeling” than a word. They cannot translate because you
feel
them, you do not
say
them. Especially not lightly.

Her “take home” from this trip was perhaps not for her at all.

That’s right, I think she was called there, and followed blindly with full faith for

me.

I am absolutely wrecked over her love and faith. (I’m actually crying right now.)

I have written before that there is something that God wants for us, and Terri has also written this extensively. I know he has great plans for good for us. I believe it more now than ever before.

My overwhelming emotional response is testament to this, and I feel God all around us. I believe with my very core, in my soul, even, that there is a major change coming to what we know. I cannot stop seeing visions of us in another place. Today, I have cried more in a few hours than I have in perhaps my entire life.
And it’s good.

Looking at pictures from the trip I couldn’t help but imagine what it would be like to live in Costa Rica and do God’s work.
Sunday I looked for jobs there.
I researched gaining TESL/TEOFL certification.
I looked at real estate there.
Today I felt that giving everything we own and earn so that those kids have a fighting chance at life was a reality I could
embrace
with open arms and heart.

And I am not alone. I have my best friend and other half to thank for being so faithful. I think that our friend, Michelle Demers, summed it up pretty well:

Terri, I love your heart! It’s bigger than Texas! Your overwhelming desire to make a difference in this broken world and live with God’s purpose for you first, makes you shine with His love…

And I am happy to bask in that glow, and seek His will for us.

Together.

The message

It’s interesting that even as I sit in church that sometimes I am so filled with dislike and ego that I get stuck focusing in the wrong place.

Our pastor spoke about this this morning, or rather, about how sometimes church has the miraculous way of changing us for an hour and half, but the rest of the time, we are, well,

US.

He said that sometimes you are absolutely unbearable to be around, you wake up with a chip on your shoulder, argue with your wife and kids, are just generally
horrible to everyone,
and then you pull into the parking lot, open your car door, and all of a sudden you have a halo.
And a glow.
And a smile.
Weird, huh? It’s like you change in that moment. But it doesn’t change who you are, or what you did, or what you’re going to do. You are wearing a false skin, like a wolf in a sheep’s pasture. Jesus speaks extensively about this in front of the pharisees, and you can read the account in Matthew 23, specifically verses 25-28. To paraphrase, Jesus is talking about not changing who you
are
just changing how you look or act. Its all about “putting on airs” to be regarded as a wonderful person, or as something that you are not. And this is dangerous for a plethora of reasons.

The one that was focused on this morning is probably the best: Jesus could not care less how you act on Sunday morning if your heart is in the wrong place. I am not going to go on about this, since Trent did an amazing job with it. I would link to the audio, but it’s not up yet, so visit the church’s site in order to download it (normally up within 24-36 hours after the service).

This reminded me of a post I had begun centered on Numbers 22. One morning as I was sitting in church, I got stuck focusing on a person, not on the message that God was delivering through them. I have a rough time with some speakers. I know I am not the only one, and I pray that we can all learn to focus on
the message.

That particular moring I was in a more or less rough spot, probably went to bed too late the night before, made some questionable decisions on idle time, likely did not pray when I awoke, and certainly did not read my bible before church. I mean, I was on my way to church, so God already knew I cared about Him in my life, right?

Yeeeeeaaahhhhh. (The most sarcasm I muster should be read into that “yeah”)

That can likely be a blog post in it’s own, so I will leave it alone for now. Back to church. I think worship was off that morning.
It happens.
The band just was not gelling.
That did not help my state of mind, and so I focused on that.

Then Trent was not speaking. It was someone else. Greeeeeeeeeeat (again, sarcasm).

And the person speaking? A horrible orator. Among the top 10 worst you may ever hear (up to that point). And that is superbly unfortunate for a church that is focused on bringing in people that have no relationship with God, and are likely scared of church and of what goes on there on any given Sunday morning. Some of the previous messages from this person made me ashamed to be a part of the church. Cliches, awkward pauses, circumlocution, “um”, “uh”, bad phrases, bad jokes, and thoughts that never made it to fruition. And the worst part: often adding a phrase to the end of a sentence that completely changes it’s meaning making it impossible to discern what is actually meant. These were all characteristics of several of their messages. So when I realized this speaker was up on this day?

I SHUT DOWN.

I was like Balaam in Numbers 22. I could not see what was right in front of me or hear what was being said. I was so absorbed with the past that the present had escaped. Mind you, I was sitting with my best friends in our normal spot right up front. I simply could not connect.

I didn’t want to connect.

OUCH. As I look back the latter was true. I realized it, so I prayed quietly to myself:

Father God, help me listen. Help me hear the words and meaning that You are delivering this morning. I cannot do it without You. I need You to help me die to myself in order to focus on You. Lord, I desperately want to be filled with your Spirit, to forgive myself, and to focus on You, not on my petty reasons not to listen actively. Amen.

And you know what?

I got pulled into the message–God reached down and tugged open my little, human brain, and caressed my heart to softness.

I started hearing and seeing again.

The message that day was awesome. But I had to swallow my disdain to see it. God had to open me up. I missed a good 10 minutes while I was busy being focused on me, my ego and the orator of the past, but the last 20 minutes of it were amazing.

In a spectacular way, God spoke to me through a person that I had absolutely no interest in hearing. Impossible? Absolutely not. After all, Balaam heard from God through a

donkey.

Amazing

It is simply amazing that this blog is still here. I honestly cannot believe it, yet I found myself longing to be here today.

I missed being able to express something on these pages.

It’s weird: I do not feel that what I write is spectacularly moving or anything remotely resembling genius, but nonetheless,
it is mine.
It is me.

I think what I like so much is that it gives me a record of my faith.
FAITH.
A few years ago all I had faith in was nothing, and now I am able to look back on just a few short entries and see how much different I am. I like that.
A lot.

So, I think that I am to take a bit of advice from myself and actively listen to what God is telling me to do. I promised a month or so ago that I was going to post here, and so I am finally doing it. In addition, there are many more ideas that I have for where I need to go with this, and what I want to say and what
HE
wants me to say. Or at least I hope that is Him, and not just me (that’s sort of what faith is sometimes).

I will not make any vague promises of what or when, but I will be here sooner rather than later, and hopefully more often than ever before.

Thanks for sticking around and trusting I’d be back. I desire to honor God, and not disappoint you.

Robert

Don’t Forget

Don’t forget that today is not about big breakfasts, or wish lists, or toys.Nor is it about football, hams and turkeys, or arguing with family. Today

is about

the greatest love ever known. Today

is about

a Father reconciling his children by fulfilling a promise told generations prior. Today is about love incarnate: a baby born to the humblest parents and beginnings that would have the most amazing and extraordinary life.
If you need a reminder, or if you never knew what was so awesome about today, I have posted the miraculous account of Jesus’ birth below:

Luke 1:
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee,27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David.

28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!t”
29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God!31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.

33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month.

37 For nothing is impossible with God.t”

38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.

Luke 2

The Birth of Jesus

1 At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire.2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.)3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census.4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee.

5 He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.
6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born.

7 She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

The Shepherds and Angels

8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified,10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!

12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger.17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished,19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.

20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

 

 

As today progresses, reflect back here. Think about it when you are overcome with joy, when you open gifts, when you realize that you don’t need all the stuff you gained today, when you feel slighted by not receiving what you asked for or when you feel anger and disappointment towards someone. You have the opportunity to

LIVE FOREVER

because the Prince of Peace, the Lord of Lords, The Son of God

was born this day to us and

FOR US.

I urge you to remember this. I urge you to focus on this. I urge you to accept this, the greatest gift ever and it was

delivered

to us all.

All we have to do is accept it.

 

Merry Christmas!!!

May peace, love and happiness surround you today and always.

He ignored it, will you?

I am absolutely appalled by what happened at Penn State University over a 15 year period. A former senior coaching staff member was arrested on charges of child molestation spanning that time period. In the wake of his arrest, the Head Coach was fired.

Joe Paterno.

If you know anything about college football, his name is probably known to you, and its likely his face is also recognizable.
Those glasses.
That nose.
The scowl.

This guy was at the top of his profession for 46 years.
Forty-six.

That’s a long time to do anything, let alone do it in superior fashion. This year he was leading the team to what was likely going to be another Big Ten title and a bowl game.

But he knew about the illicit affairs of his former assistant coach, and took the low road. He kept it quiet for the most part. He once mentioned something to a supervisor, but he skewed the report and made it seem harmless. “Paterno recalls McQueary “vaguely” referencing “fondling” or “touching” or “horsing around” by Sandusky and a youth. But Paterno never had the understanding that McQueary had witnessed a “sodomy” or “rape.””

Because as long as you don’t
‘rape’ or ‘sodomize’ children,
its no big deal to ‘fondle’ or ‘touch’ them.
Right?

This hits close to home for me, as a very close friend of mine was molested as a child, but was never believed. Even this person’s own sister, who was also molested, would not believe it was happening. Everyone thought it was the figment of an overactive imagination, that perhaps TV had planted ideas that were being brought to life, or that it was a cry for attention.
But it wasn’t.
All these people were worse than the sex offender. They stood by. They knew and neglected to act. Hate is not the opposite of love, neglect is.

In leadership there is a lot of talk about accountability and standards. A key thought is that not addressing an issue or wrong doing is the exact same thing as offering your approval. If you don’t correct the action, it will be repeated.

Will you help us address this, or are you one of the many that is more upset with Paterno being released and its possible affect on his football legacy rather than being righteously angry about the atrocity that led to it? Yep, hundreds, if not thousands, of students rallied behind Paterno, saying he was a scapegoat and it was unfair. That’s like saying that its okay if your brother or sister uses your house with your knowledge to manufacture drugs and sell them. With their logic, you are not liable for his/her actions.

Yeah, that makes sense.

Or not. Definitely not.

We are carrying the flag for every child that needs protecting, and specifically for those that are exploited, molested, trafficked, enslaved or traded as sexual objects.

It makes us angry enough to act, and we invite you to join us.

In an earlier post there is info on donating direct to the team if you would like to do so.