29 December 2009

Make Love Not Porn

"Who do you love?"
- Bo Diddley

Although I enjoy folk-rock duos like the Indigo Girls, I saw them on a hot summer day at Nashville River Stages back in 1998, there are about twelve good reasons why I would make a poor feminist.

One feminist campaign I do agree with is the Make Love Not Porn effort that exists to draw attention to some of the unintended consequences of pornography.

Apparently Christians are not the only group concerned with the unreasonable expectations pornography puts on intimate relationships.

Therapists are usually desensitized to talking about sex. If anyone here decides to google Make Love Not Porn, know that campaign material is explicit, even vulgar by some standards, so foretold is forewarned. It is the message I agree with, not always the delivery.

+++

There is abundant literature on the subject, but it boils down to this: The regular use of pornography often erodes a persons enjoyment of real sex, it also erodes a persons ability to be emotionally intimate with their spouse during lovemaking, and not surprisingly porn use can progress to full-blown addiction.

Why is emotional intimacy so important?

One Christian writer, Philip Yancey I think, speculated that emotional intimacy is sacred because it is a peek into what all relationships will be like in the next life.

In Heaven we will be secure enough to make ourselves emotionally vulnerable to each other and, “pass through each others souls.” We will utterly and completely know each other.

+++

Is that why sexual intimacy is sacred? Because the emotional intimacy that can be experienced during lovemaking foreshadows the emotional intimacy we will experience with each other in our second lives?

Something to think about.

Porn is the theft of intimacy. Lovemaking, in the way God intended, is real.

Love is real. Porn is fake.

24 December 2009

Emmanuel



Father... How much You love us. Guide our spirits, our hearts, our minds this Christmas. You are our God and we praise You. Thank You for the gift of Your son. In Jesus name we pray...

21 December 2009

Alt-Mariendorf

Albert Einstein is reported to have said that in the form of a mathematical equation all the human brainpower combined is insufficient to comprehend the universe.

Because we cannot disprove what we cannot fully comprehend, we have to leave open the possibility of God’s existence.

The post-modern, perhaps post Christian, society we live in today, argues that truth is relative. But in reality, a believer cannot decide God into existence any more than a non-believer can decide God out of existence.

God exists, or does not exist, despite what we choose to believe. Relativism when it comes to God is . . . unscientific.

+++

On a late weekday morning several years ago, I was walking down the street in Berlin on my way to the city center. Just a few hundred feet from the subway entrance Alt-Mariendorf the Holy Spirit descended on me.

I was not following God at the time, but it felt like my soul was wrapped in love. It was pure, beautiful, and absolute knowledge of God’s existence.

My life was not in crisis, and I was otherwise physically healthy.

I did not then and do not now belong to a Pentecostal or charismatic church where things like this are reported to happen.

The entire experience lasted no longer than a few minutes and ended as quickly as it had begun.

During those moments the Holy Spirit conveyed to me two things.

He said that in the future I would return to God and He had something He wanted me to do.

He also said that someday my faith would be severley tested and that the current experience was a gift, something I could look back on during moments of profound doubt . . . and know God exists.

+++

Two-thousand-and-nine years ago, plus or minus six years, depending on whose calendar you use, God clothed himself in flesh and entered our world. We celebrate that event today as Christmas.

He did it because He loves you and me more dearly than any parent could love his or her own child.

Every emotion you have ever experienced . . . love, rejection, joy, loneliness . . . He experienced as a human, too.

If the purpose of what I experienced fifteen years ago on the street in Berlin is to tell you one thing, it is this: God loves you. The world will not always exist in its current form. Call out to God. He wants to be in a relationship with you.

We are all in need of salvation.

God is real. His love for you is real...

14 December 2009

Pretend Perfection

I want them if they want me.
- Jane's Addiction

No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.
- Don Swartz


If you go to church long enough you'll get your heart stomped on. With people involved, it's a given.

There is an adolescent boy I know who was asked to leave church after his father left his family to go live with another man. The boy did not even live with his father, but during his greatest time of need, he was viewed as too much of a danger to the other kids . . . Do you want to guess what his view of church might be?

So many times I hear people tell me how isolated they feel, because they cannot live up to the real or perceived expectations of people in their church. - "I'm expected to be perfect, and I have so many hurts and secrets I need to share with someone . . . but can't at my church."

Many churches today load parishioners down with the burden of pretend perfection, and beyond throwing rules and Bible verses at them, refuse to lift a finger to help them.

+++

God's love is sufficient to get us through a lot, but Scripture is crystal clear about God wanting us to help and depend on each other.

We are relational beings . . . made to love each other . . . made to be patient with each other . . . made to sit with and not judge each other during times of sorrow or personal defeat. We were created to need each other.

God says that our relationship with Him is incomplete if we are not in a loving relationship with each other.

+++

There are loving and kind people at church, too. The most amazing acts of sacrifice and compassion I have witnessed have come from people within the church.

There are church members and leaders who are transparent about their imperfections, and because of that, others in their faith community feel less isolated and consequently . . . loved.

If you have been hurt by members of a church, please do not let that become an excuse to ignore the healing love of Jesus Christ.

Jesus loves you. He knows you are way less than perfect. In fact He doesn't ask you or anyone else attending a church to be perfect.

He asks us to believe in Him. He asks us to be in the process of surrendering to His love. He asks us to love one another.

When 'all three' are present in our lives, we find peace.

07 December 2009

Boogie Woogie Santa Claus

How is it we celebrate Christmas – decorate trees, go power shopping, write letters to a fat man in a red suit, drink eggnog, smooze at company cocktail parties, etc. – and celebrate the birth of Jesus on the same day? Talk about poor planning. Who has time to celebrate both?

One of my favorite bloggers, nAncy, brought this up in a recent blog post and it got me thinking.

Every year we hear some variant of the campaign: Keep the Christ in Christmas. And, although the original intent of Christmas was to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and some traditionalists still do, Christmas has kind of . . . evolved, to put it nicely.

To be honest, I love the secular side of Christmas, too. That song about grandma getting ran over by a reindeer, still makes me laugh. And, I dance to Boogie-Woogie Santa Claus, sometimes with a glass of Eggnog in my hand . . . when my more pious Christian brothers and sisters are not watching. The Bible says we shouldn’t antagonize them.

Still, the reason I celebrate Christmas is to celebrate the birth of our Savior. It is not that I shouldn’t work to put Christ back into Christmas, which is so important. But, even more important, I need to put Christ back into my everyday life the other eleven months of the year.

If I am really good all year long, Santa will bring me a gift . . . cool. But with Jesus, when I believe, even if I mess up here and there, I get the gift of eternal life . . . better.

I’d trade out Santa for Jesus any day.

30 November 2009

Monday Morning

It is Monday morning. I’m sitting at my desk, recovering from Thanksgiving week, which ended last night at 9pm when my family and I returned from Germany. Living in Florida, I secretly love cold vacations. Twisted, I know.

In Germany I finished Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell. One thing he wrote keeps coming back to my mind: “Success cannot heal a wounded soul.”

Wow. Is that why we seek recognition, fame, or fortune? Is that what fuels our need to feel love from people we hardly know? Is that what drives our pretentions? . . . Because, we have wounded souls?

Rob Bell might be on to something. But, the statement begs another question. What does heal a wounded soul?

All political ideologies, religions and most philosophies presuppose that truth heals whatever it is that mars the human condition.

Next question… What is truth?

Jesus said on more than one occasion that He is Truth . . . not a cold, hard, or condemning Truth, but a loving, even redemptive, Truth.

My therapeutic supervisor, Dr. Lex Baer, reminded me this morning that Jesus loves us not as we should be, but as we are.

Jesus loves you as you are, right now. Jesus wants you to grow, but He already loves you.

Nice.

26 November 2009

Thanksgiving 2009


Father, thank You for all we have. We are so amazingly blessed in countless ways, in work, in family, in health, in friends. Thank You Father in Jesus name...

15 November 2009

If I Listen

About a month ago my two boys were in the backyard playing. Still warm outside, they were running around the pool, laughing, being boys.

My six-years-old, Lucas, stopped and told his four-year-old brother, Tristan, “I have a loose tooth. Punch it out.”

It might seem improbable that a four-year-old could knock his brother’s tooth out. But Tristan has an orange belt in karate and he knows how to throw a reasonable punch.

Lucas stood still like a soldier, smiling, offering an easy target to his brother. Tristan took aim, let out a little laugh full of excitement, and with his left fist started pounding his brother in the teeth ... They were both laughing.

***

Raising children is hard.

Just when I figure my boys out, they change. They are always getting smarter and learning new tricks. – At the same time, I make a lot of mistakes. I get impatient. I jump to conclusions. I don’t always listen to them when I should. I yell...

One time I yelled at Tristan so loud he looked up at me with tears in his eyes and said, “Daddy you’re making my heart shake.” Talk about feeling like a parent in need of remedial training.

I need God’s help in many areas of my life, but none more than in the area of raising my children. It is an awesome responsibility. I’m not perfect, but I know if I ask, and if I listen, my Father in heaven will guide me.

***

In his bathing suit Lucas walked up to me with a big smile on his face, blood dripping down his chin. “Look Dad!” He stretched out his hand. “I lost another tooth!” Tristan was standing proud by his side.

“You sure did. Let me see it.”

I love those boys so much. As they ran back and did cannonballs into the pool, I shook my head with a grin on my face and thanked God again for being a God of second chances.

11 November 2009

Veterans Day 2009 - Scouts Out...

To my Cav Brothers. Happy Veterans Day. Especially to Abercrombie and Spoon. We are praying and waiting for you... One Shot, One Kill...



09 November 2009

Give Peace A Chance

The weight of scripture points to the fact we are not meant to go through life alone. We are relational beings. We need each other to live, to survive, to make sense of life . . . to understand our Creator.

It is in the context of relationships that the human experience unfolds. Without people, without relationships, life has no texture.

Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” – John 14:27

Humans have the power to precipitate nearly all emotions, but peace, emotional peace, comes to us as a gift from a Father who loves us. Only God can give us peace.

Jesus came into the world to complete the most important relationship of all.

Jesus is the bridge to the Father. He knows the world is full of empty promises. He knows you struggle. He knows life is unfair and unjust. He cares for you deeply.

If you trust Him, if you surrender, you will find the peace you are looking for.

02 November 2009

Faith Through Adversity


Posted by Jessica Squires...

This week I was personally touched by the faith of a friend. On October 11, 2009, she shared with many others, as well as myself, that during her 23rd week of pregnancy she and her husband found out that their baby had developed bilateral renal agenesis, or Potter’s Syndrome. This technical term means the kidneys of the baby have not developed as they should have, causing a lack of amniotic fluid in the womb, leading to the underdevelopment of the lungs. These organs should have begun their development in the early weeks, and there is no chance of transplants even if their little one reaches full term.

Then, on October 21, 2009, she posted the following entry on her blog. I was so personally touched that I asked her if I could share her entry with the Port Orange Counseling Center Prayer Circle. I hope that this entry about God’s miracles inspires you as much as me. My husband and I are continually praying for this family as I hope all of you will, too! Thank you
Amanda and Nick.

Jessica Squires

---
Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Not my will!!!

I can remember a week ago telling my mother that we ARE praying for a miracle, but we are also praying that God's will be done.

Mark 14:36 "Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."

It is often hard to grasp that sometimes the miracle that will and is taking place might not be the one that is EXPECTED.

We often put God into a box and chose what miracle we want and think we need, but He often has other plans. And let me tell you those plans may be the hardest thing to grasp.

After going and visiting with the DR today, I was just so encouraged by her words, "you should expect to hold your baby for a few hours!" WOW, can you imagine, at first thinking I would never be able to look into our baby’s eyes and have them looking back at me!! Now it is very hopeful that even our family will be able to hold our little one, if only for a short time!!

That in my mind is a miracle, although we know God is capable of anything...we would just love the opportunity to hold our little one if only for a moment!!

We are so blessed to serve such an amazing GOD!!

25 October 2009

The Hand of Life

This week a really cool lady from California is writing the Prayer Circle post. Bonnie Gray has a blog called Faith Barista. Check it out when you need a double shot of faith!


I love watching movies. They are a fun, easy way to decompress and be entertained.

Some might view sitting in front of a screen, whether it's a gigantic wall in a theatre or a modest sized glass pane in the living room, as passive activity.

One movie experience with me will quickly change your mind.

I am a very active participant.

I talk back at the TV, scream in the scary parts, and laugh with a snort a few seconds after each joke.

Yep, that's me behind you -- popping in crunches of crispy, buttered popcorn in between every scene.

I've found that drama doesn't only flicker through light passing through celluloid.

No, it turned up one morning when Light shot through the pages of Scripture.

I was struggling through a season of feeling isolated with some baggage I had been carrying. It was a tough week, as I seemed to trip over the same old insecurities that lingered from bad experiences in the past.

It was one of those weeks where you feel like things just never seem to change. I can never change.

You know the feeling?

When you talk yourself into thinking everything is just rotten?

My life is heading nowhere... I'm a horrible parent... No one wants to be my friend...

It was in this deflated mode that I found myself sitting in a room full of coffee-woken attendees of a workshop, Meditate on Scripture, led by Christian author Jan Johnson.

We were asked to practice, right then and there, one of the primary methods of meditating on Scripture: the Movie Method.

The Movie Method

The Movie Method involves reading a passage several times, by putting ourselves in the scene of the story, and taking on different characters' perspectives, absorbing all the sights, sounds and textures.

The purpose was to zero in "our" character, the one that speaks to us.

Okay, I get this, I thought. I looove movies!

We were given a very familiar passage to ruminate on.

It was the story of the father who brings his son, possessed by an evil spirit, to Jesus and cries out, "I do believe; help my unbelief!"

My Character

As I disappeared inside myself to meditate on the text, I thought that I had already found my character.

It was obvious. I was like the father who didn't have enough faith, right?"

"No." God answers.

Fifteen minutes into our quiet time, Jan interrupts us and says, "Now that you've read the passage for yourself, I want you ask God what He wants you to get from the story."

Closing my eyes, I dive back into the Word, whispering, What do you want to say to me, God?

As I read again, one word caught my heart: corpse.

The Bible says that when Jesus commanded the spirit out of the boy who was deaf and mute, the exorcism was so violent, "the boy looked like a corpse to many."

My lips trembled as I was cut to the core: I was the corpse.

I've tried to drive out my demons. They've thrown me to the ground, terrified me, gnashing it's teeth, taking away my words.

I've been rendered mute and deaf.

I did not feel like the life-giving person God says I'm purposed to be. I wasn't the beautiful, fruit bearing, flower budding spirit I felt I should be.

But, Jesus knew better.

Others, including myself, may have been fooled by my corpse-like features.

The world thinks that inactivity and unseen beauty are only good for backdrop, a side story, while others take center stage.

Just One Touch

Jesus knows we're not dead.

One touch from Him, freedom and beauty pours out of us, bringing us back to life.

As we hear our Shepherd speak gently, we won't be able to stop the words. We'll hear His whispers, singing, and conversation, spilling out in everyday life.

Stories will arise out of our moments and memories. We will be strengthened and fed, to our heart's delight.

We will have our fill and more, to love once again, to share and laugh.

Those who thought us dead once before will be amazed.

They will see us stand and smile, with the hand of Christ, clasped in ours.

"Many said, "He's dead." But, Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up." Mark 9:26-27

I was once deaf and mute. Now, I hear and speak.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

20 October 2009

Move Toward Trust


Check out Bridget Chumbley's blog carnival on Trust.

Sitting on the green couch in my office a client told me, “It might seem harsh that I don’t trust you, but you know what? I don’t trust myself either. It’s prudent to distrust people.” I sat silent for several seconds. Reflecting on what he said.

The man on the green couch had a point. As a counselor I get the feeling that the world is far more messed up than many people suspect. There is beauty in our world for sure, but these are islands and occasional subcontinents in a vast ocean of human pain. Humanity drives a hard bargain.

LIFE RAFT

Near the beginning of this summer I was coming back from lunch, driving across the Intracostal Waterway with my friend and colleague, Leigh de Armas. An afternoon shower was drenching the vehicle we were in. It was a cleansing rain.

I told Leigh that I am a follower of Jesus Christ by default. I don’t have anything left to believe in, certainly not humanity. When I was broken I turned to Jesus Christ and His story of redemption. The healing I received when I put my faith in Jesus is real. Jesus is the only thing that has ever worked.

NEW DAY RISING

Like the man on the green couch, I struggle with mistrust. The last time I put my full trust in a system designed by men, I participated in events that still wake me up at night. If I were brutally honest I would have to say that I often feel ashamed to be human.

However, now I have Jesus in my life. He loves me. I am certain of that. He forgives me. I am certain of that, too.

The most beautiful gift Jesus has given me here on earth is to reconcile me with humanity.

He tells me, “These are my children, too. I want you to care for them. I want you to show them that there is a better way. If you cannot completely trust them, if you cannot completely trust yourself, then trust me. I want you to have faith in me and to love them.”

That is where I am. I see amazing beauty, compassion, even mercy in the lives of many people I know.

People are capable of breath taking acts of self-sacrifice and love. I believe this is God using us, moving through us, healing us.

God has shown me that although I am moving toward trust, in reality I do not have to trust you or any other person, but for my own sanity I need to allow myself to love you. He knows my heart yearns to love you.

And, from the bottom of my heart, I do.

Thank you, Jesus...


12 October 2009

Obedience Revisited





If you do not love your enemies then you do not know God. - St. Silouan


As Christians, how do we understand obedience in the context of forgiveness? Our world can be a cruel place.

If we are honest, we know we have all been victims and perpetrators of self-interest. People have wounded us, but we have also been the authors of hurt.

The line from one Smashing Pumpkins’ song says it well, “The world is a vampire sent to drain.” But humans, that is to say you and I, are the world.

If Solzhenitsyn is correct, if the line that divides good and evil cuts through the heart of every man, what is the solution? Better asked, who is the solution?


For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. – John 3:16-17

But what about our enemies, what about forgiveness?

Jesus teaches us to not only forgive our enemies but to pray for them, too. Do we? Has your Church ever prayed for our enemies?


You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. - Matthew 5:43-44

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. - Luke 6:37

One day I was sitting in a local coffee shop, The Daily Grind, the smell of coffee lifting up to my nose, and I had a thought. – What if the body of Christ, the Church, made 9/11 a national day of prayer? A day we gather to pray for the well being and to bless those who make us their enemies? Would that be obedient to our Lord’s command?

Forgiveness is an act of the will, it is also an act of obedience. It unchains us from past wounds, but it costs us something.

However, it does not cost us as much as our forgiveness cost our Father in heaven.

That act of forgiveness cost Him, His son.

06 October 2009

Doggy School Dropout


Check out Peter's Blog Carnival on Obedience.

Families have secrets. Transactions and embarrassments they only whisper to each other, humiliations they shutter at the thought of telling non-family members.

My family definitely has secrets.

If we can believe scripture, and I do, all our secrets, events hidden from peers, will be brought out into the light one day.

Why wait.

Brothers and sisters, today I am shining a light on one of my family’s humiliations. Please do not judge us too harshly.

Our dogs, Max and Nina, the dogs we love and call family, flunked
obedience training. They are to our shame. . . doggy school dropouts.

There I said it… The tension is leaving my body as I confess… I feel soooo much better already…

Max and Nina wanted to be
obedient, they tried, but the pleasures of the world proved too tempting.


DOS PERROS

In the cool of a subtropical Saturday morning, a salty breeze coming off the ocean, Max
Sits. He stays in the ready position for nearly three minutes. “Look at me master!” his eyes say, seeking approval.

Max is the first to see a family riding down the beach on their bicycles. He strains at the temptation, body tense, eyes watering like an addict needing a drink.

“Stay Max, stay boy. You can do it.” But the sirens’ call is too strong. Max springs down the coastline chasing the bicycles, barking, tail waging, tongue hanging out of his mouth like a pork-chop. “Come back Max! Come BACK!” too late…

Nina’s habits are more . . . invasive.

A neighbor walks to the mailbox, or the FedEx driver asks us to sign for a package, perhaps a man bends over in his driveway to pick up his newspaper. – And our sweet Nina, with no malicious intent, trots over to say hello and sniffs aggressively parts of his or her anatomy we normally do not discuss in polite company. The shame.

She knows she is doing wrong, she wants to be
obedient. But, she cannot stop herself.

We still love both dogs, despite their
disobedience.


MORE SECRETS

I am a doggy school dropout, too.

How many times have I wanted to do the right thing, wanted to be
obedient to my Master but failed. …Daily?

With our Father’s guidance, I have improved over the years, but I am a work in progress. Like Max and Nina, I want to
obey, but I simply cannot, not to His standards anyway.

And despite my shortcomings, and despite my lack of ability, and despite my open rebellion when I take off running down the beach, chasing empty promises like Max . . . He still loves me dearly. My God still loves me.

Here is another family secret for those who do not already know. – All I can offer God, all He requires, is Faith, faith in His son Jesus Christ. In return He gives me everything.

I am not His pet, I am His child.

28 September 2009

WHATEVER


This week a guest is writing the Prayer Circle post. Anne Lang Bundy is transparent in her love for Jesus. Her writing is a heartfelt act of worship that has taught me and provoked thought. You can learn more about Anne at her blog Building His Body. Please visit her there sometime.



WHATEVER

Parents are provoked to make stupid rules.

"Nobody's allowed to breathe on anybody" comes to mind.

"Do not violate the airspace in their room" was instituted after "stay out of their room" proved insufficient.

"The word 'whatever' is not allowed in this house" has proven to be my favorite.

We have five darling children in our home, ages 4, 8, 10, 13 and 16. They've been brought up with the rich vocabulary of their mother the writer, yet fell back on 'whatever' one time too many for their father's liking. Thus he declared the anti-whatever rule, in an effort to stomp out the kids' disgusted resignation.

The problem with rules is that children have minds which immediately grasp the letter of the law and plot a way around it. It comes less easily for them to understand the spirit of the law and a benefit for the household intended by it.

It was only a matter of time before the word 'whatever' escaped my lips. My husband and I were discussing a decision on which I didn't have a strong opinion. I shrugged and offered a pleasant "okay, whatever" to indicate that I was fine with his preference. I was promptly reminded by one of my darlings that the word was forbidden, for they had listened only to the letter of the law and had entirely missed its spirit.

I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.
~ Philippians 4:11 (NKJV)

Whatever is not from faith is sin.
~ Romans 14:23 (NKJV)

"You are My friends if you do whatever I command you."
~ John 15:14 (NKJV)

A person's relationship with God can be entirely summarized in how we say 'whatever.'

If a person denies that God exists, the word is said with Ridicule. "Whatever" comes out with a scoff, for who can take seriously what one argues is make-believe?

If a person acknowledges that an almighty God indeed exists, but suspiciously eyes Him as cruel to allow suffering, "Whatever" is spit out with sneering Resentment.

If a person knows of the sovereign God's commandments, but bristles at the idea of obeying them, "What-EV-er!" is snorted in Rebellion, throwing off the Creator's right of ownership.

If a person has acknowledged Christ as Savior, but sees grace as a licence to live as one pleases, "Whatever" is declared with Revelry in a life of continued sin—which dishonors the Savior's blood and undermines a claim of salvation.

If a person has asked for God's forgiveness through the atoning death of Jesus Christ and turned from sin, but does not yet appreciate that God's ways are for our benefit and not to spoil a good time, one will say "Whatever" with a sad sigh, in Resignation to God's will.

But if one finds the place of Rest offered by Jesus, one says "Whatever" in pleasant peace.

Whosoever believes in Jesus for eternal life may also believe in Him for His perfect will. It is possible, even amid hardship, to look heavenward with faith that God is orchestrating for our blessing whatever is beyond our control.

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me,
for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."
~ Matthew 11:28-29 (NKJV)

20 September 2009

Never Learned To Dance


God created us to be relational beings. When we are at our best we are conduits of God’s love.

Three years ago I walked into the Port Orange YMCA and saw a man sitting in the lobby by himself, sipping coffee out of a Styrofoam cup, who at first glance reminded me of Liberachi and Mr. T’s love child.

Harvey had all kinds of rings on his fingers and jewelry hanging from his ears. He seemed a little sad, but Harvey told stories, one after the other, in his loud and aggressive New York City accent. When he made an important point he waved his fingers in the air like a piano player hitting a keyboard. Interesting guy. Because we both like to tell stories, we became instant friends.

Most of the last year Harvey has been up in Queens taking care of his 94-year-old mother. We sat in the backyard this afternoon with our other friend, Mike Ellis, and talked about musicians like, Johnny Hartman, Keely Smith, and Louis Prima. Later we got on the computer and listened to them sing, amazing. Harvey produced two Grammy winning albums for Eddie Palmarie back in the day. He knows more than most on the subject of music.


When we were alone Harvey looked me in the eye and told me that the people in Port Orange saved his life three years ago. Fame for Harvey had come and gone . . . it was love and kindness . . . God’s love, moving through the people Harvey met, that changed his life.


You have the power to change someone’s life, even if with nothing more than a smile.

Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27).


Jesus was talking about these things in the context of the Holy Spirit working in us and through us. Harvey’s life has been changed because a group of strangers reached out to him, unconditionally, in love . . . in our Savior’s name.


. . . Father, thank You for Harvey and thank You for being a God who loves us. Father command our spirits to be open to opportunities to change people's lives just by using kindness. When Your love flows through us it is an amazing thing. We praise You and pray to You in Jesus name . . .

13 September 2009

Battlefield

The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic. - Joseph Stalin

Daytona Beach is a battleground. Some other places, not so much.

Over Labor Day weekend I spoke with a former Amish woman and her husband at a home church in the North Country of Upstate, New York. As we sang hymns and prayed on a back porch, the men wore jackets and some of the women hung blankets over their shoulders to stay warm. The leaves there are just starting to turn. Near the end of the gathering some of us took communion.

The couple I spoke with told me that not many people in that part of the country are interested in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Even with persistent economic troubles, their lives seem comfortable in a Norman Rockwell kind of way. It is almost like, ‘Who needs Jesus in such a quiet and peaceful place.’


East Central Florida is different things to different people, but few would describe it as quiet or peaceful. – Although, street signs, bumper stickers and t-shirts announce Jesus almost everywhere you go, out of the schools each year we produce a robust cohort of drug addicts and young people willing to trade their bodies for drugs. There is at least one story of a person being snatched from a public place and raped every twelve months. We even had our very own serial killer just a few years ago. – When people on the street in Daytona Beach talk about needing Jesus, they are not kidding.

We have a lot of Jesus here, because we need a lot of Jesus.

Saturday we laid-to-rest my friend’s son Garrett. He probably died from a drug overdose or at least medical complications brought on by his struggle with addiction. Tuesday, between sessions with clients, I sat in my office and wept. I hear a good share of difficult stories, but Garrett’s death hit me hard, it became personal, maybe because I have two boys and I’m afraid for them.


Jesus spent a lot of his time on earth with ‘sinners’ like addicts and prostitutes. He came to them with a heart full of love, understanding, and compassion.

Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick . . . For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Matthew 9:12-13

There is no doubt in my mind that people in the North Country experience heartache and have their own brand of troubles. I know Jesus is there, too. But, His presence is more overt down here in Daytona, where the battlefield is active . . . where Evil and Good both stare you in the face . . . where broken spirits are mended by a Savior who refuses to forget us.


. . . Father, we praise You for being a God who loves us. In our pain we felt Your love so acutely this last week. Thank you for the gift of Garrett, we remember worshiping You with him by our side. His love for You was so transparent and obvious. Be with us Father as we move forward, as we close ranks where Garrett once stood and continue to march forward in love and compassion for those around us. You are our God and we praise you. In Jesus name . . .

10 September 2009

Broken Hearts


Father, thank You for friends during times of need. All love originates from You, but it often arrives through the actions of Your sons and daughters. Father, there is a lot of pain in Port Orange this week. Your love gives us peace, but our hearts are breaking for the loss of Garrett and for the suffering of his family. We cry out to You, Father, give us peace, but stir our spirits to never forget. We ask Your forgiveness, we could have done more. We lean on and cry out to You in Jesus name.

07 September 2009

Confession

One of my primary concerns hiking up Cascade Mountain in the Adirondacks this weekend was to figure out a way to have my picture taken so that I didn't look too fat

Yes. I admit it. I confess to you brothers and sisters, I’m incredibly vain, painfully so at times.

When I’m not snatching a second look at my waistline in a hallway mirror, a preoccupation of mine, I'm looking for food. – I see it. I eat it. I mourn. I eat again. It’s a worn out familiar cycle.

After a long ascent to the top of Cascade Mountain, looking out toward the breathtaking countryside surrounding Lake Placid, I was so happy it was cold. ‘Now I can put on a jacket,’ I told myself. Jackets cover offending waistlines! A person can look slim in the right jacket!

I ripped my red North Face rain-jacket out of my backpack. Whipped it on over my head. “Hey McCrory, can you take my picture,” I yelled to my hiking partner. Click! Picture taken. Mission accomplished.

On the flight home, just a few hours ago, I asked myself, where does this vanity come from? What am I trying to accomplish? – And, ultimately, when I trace it back, step-by-step, I’d have to admit that it's a lack of faith that drives my vanity. A lack of faith in the knowledge that God loves me. A lack of faith in the belief that our Father’s affirmation is all I ultimately need.

We are relational beings. We were not created to walk with God or experience life on earth alone. However, at times I still make the mistake and believe human admiration can somehow replace love that emanates from our God. It is disordered love in one of its saddest forms.

God loves you and me, despite what we look like, despite the crazy things we did in the past ... and, despite what other people might think about us.

He is an amazing Father who cares about you so much and longs for a relationship with you …

If you see me at the YMCA, I’ll just be trying to lose a few pounds, exercise is still a good thing. But, if you catch me standing in front of a mirror, kind of puffing out my chest and flexing my biceps, you have permission to slap me on the back of the head and remind me that God really does love me.