Monday, December 22, 2008

The birth of Jesus as told by a toddler



Behold, I bring you great tidings of joy, for i saw on the Advent Calendar that a little baby was born and it seemed to turn the entire world on it's head.

It made sheep float, cats sit on shepherds' heads, guys float up to into the rafters and stare at stars...in short, chaos came into the chaotic world and this is order?

mmmm.....so let me unpack this one for y0u. My daughter is an avid fan of any kind of sticker she can get her hands on, so when I found an Advent devotional calender at a Christian bookstore I was thrilled! Each day we simply pray with her "thank you Jesus for coming" and give her a sticker to put on the manger scene that we have taped to our wall near our kitchen.

We decided to let her put them wherever she saw fit. The first couple were spot on, and I thought I had a theologian in the making...until we got further along and well, as you can see, the story changed a little. The characters are all there and in the right place, but was pretty much a mass (no pun intended) of people crowded into one little space. But the more I looked at it, the more like reality it seemed...

See, it kinda looks like church to me; we're all crowed into the house where Jesus is, some are stepping on each others heads, others are drifting off into space, some are stuck in corners where no one notices, and a few are even straining to stare at Jesus face to face!

...and in the midst of it all is God, never-changing, always-present God...

It really looks like the Old Testament reading from Isaiah chapter 9. See, these sticker-people didn't get to be in the house of God because of what they did...and we don't either. It's all because of the Lord's doing.

"Nevertheless...the people walking in darkness have seen a great light...for as in the day of Midian's defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor."

What was it like during the day of Midians defeat? It was a time when people were afraid (Judges 6) when all seemed hopeless and God raised up a young boy who was faithful to God by the name of Gideon. In the midst of a battle, God sounded trumpets and entered into the fray to free his people from their oppressors. It was not Gideon's might that saved his people, it was God's faithfulness (Judges 7:2).

That's what happened at Christmas, and what my daughter told in stickers. When the earth was still held in bondage to sin, and Satan's bar rested across man's back, the angels came anouncing God's favor with trumpets and a birth occurred in a manger in the midst of chaos to prove that God is faithful and mighty to save.

So where do you sit today this Christmas? Are you waiting, are you trying to get the best seat, are you stepping on people...are you trying to break the rod across your back yourself? Or are you trying to stare at Jesus face to face, to see the one who was sent to break the rod across your back for you?

Welcome to the chaos my friends, be of good cheer, for Christ has come, and the bar is broken. The old-sticker-story still holds true... A great light has come into the world,who is Christ the Lord. We are free. Now go and run down your street and tell everyone you see.

Merry Christmas

b

Monday, December 15, 2008

drenched in mercy

Psalm 126:1-6 When the LORD brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them." The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.

I've got a history with water and the ocean...for as long as i can remember I've always had a passion for being on, in, under and around water. I was a full-fledged surf-rat for years. People knew better than to ask me how the surf was when they pulled up to the local break and saw me getting out of the water...my reply was always the same..."it's better than being dry"...no matter what the waves were like, when i needed to get wet i paddled out...

I did spend a summer living in Colorado rock climbing...(if it weren't for rocks, everyone would be a surfer). I was really far from the beach, but I still managed to survive. While I was there I used to go for hikes in the middle of nowhere. I lived at the base of the Platte, so there were these dry river beds around that only filled up during the flash-floods. A single inch of rain could fill these harmless, parched trenches with enough water to cause devastation. Instantaneous, powerful, couldn't-see-it-coming-kind of floods.

That's what the "watercourses of the Negev are like...barrenness in the wilderness...and God's people are opening their mouths wide and asking the Master to cause a flash flood of mercy to rain down upon them...to restore their fortunes, to bring life to their dry beds, to bring green grass in the heat of drought

...and He answered in just that manner....when Mary birthed mercy, and the flood of grace came forth into the world...
are you sitting in a dry bed waiting? Are you bringing drops of water to the thirsty, or buckets? Is your well dry? Cry out for the flood, and be drenched in mercy
b

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

the notched mailbox


...so my daughter has this cardboard house we bought for her at "the world's largest dairy store"...and her favorite thing about it i think is the mail box. She's loves mail, it's awesome. She'll stand outside the house for as long as you put up with being inside of it passing mail back and forth through the slot...anything works...business cards, plastic toast, you name it...
...mailboxes stuck in my mind last week
... i visited friends, churches and church plants last week in PA sharing what we're up to. I heard many stories about fear and uncertainty in these "economically unstable times"...pastors are worried as giving is down, non-profits are worried that giving is down, jobs are being slashed, buses are going on strike...it can easily overwhelm you, and for good reason... i did a lot of praying on the spot as people told me their stories.
...each time i spoke with someone i was reminded of a visit i had last week with an 82 year old woman who attends New Hope (the Anglican church I'm pastoring)
...she grew up in Kansas in the early thirties...she's not a financial advisor and you'll never see her on CNN...she has a keen awareness of hardship, food and money...see she lived through the depression... she lived in the dust-bowl. She was hit by one of the uncontrollable causes of the depression and the economic fall-out as well.
...yet in the midst of it all her family still fed neighbors and strangers alike. Her father was a postman and had one of the few secure jobs. People knew that they had food, they knew others didn't and their hearts that had been molded by Jesus spilled out the overflow into the cramped stomachs of the hungry...
...in those days, hobos and the unemployed had a system of marking houses that would feed you, often notching mailbox posts. My daughters mailbox brings her joy, these mailboxes brought hope.
...so here's the challenge i was given by The Lord as i drove home last night about my mailbox and i pass it along to you;
is your mailbox notched, or is it marked with washable markers like my daughter has.
See, notches take an awful lot of work to cover up...sanding, filling, painting. Washable marker cleans up with only water, they don't even stain.... it doesn't take much to make it as if a mark was ever there
...the Lord asked me this question and i was grateful to reply, "Lord, my house is notched because you notched it". See, i could only use a marker, but in God's mercy He changed that...

Ezekiel 11:19 I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in
them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of
flesh.


...and i keep ever before me the One who did more than notch His mailbox to feed me Himself...
...so i pose the question to you...is your house notched, or not? Will mere water wash away your serving, or will you pour out your life like Jesus did for you? If you could answer yes, wipe the tears of gratitude away from you eyes and say thank you to Jesus, if you couldn't, ask the Lord to show you what He did for you...He really wants to.
...so this is how the church has grown and God has worked through ages...in times of famine His people gave, in times of plague they cared for the sick and went to houses of death, the ran into the fires, not away...because the Word did the same thing (John 1:1)
...as i walked around my house this morning putting things away i found; a stroller against my garage door that my neighbor gave me to give to the needy, a booster seat and a bag of clothes to pass along in our storage room that a parishioner had given my wife for us to distribute and a gift in the mail to help us pay our bills... by God's mercy my family has marks of their foreheads and we are know to have a notched mailbox...
...see, when we live lives that show our treasure is not of this earth others take notice, come along and do the same. It's "pay-it-foward" in response to salvation.
Blessings to you all, may all of your needs be supplied by Jesus...and may He give you His heart so that you may give as He gave so that all might be His children and be saved.
b

Isaiah 49:8-16 This is what the LORD says: "In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, to say to the captives, 'Come out,' and to those in darkness, 'Be free!' "They will feed beside the roads and find pasture on every barren hill. They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat upon them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water. I will turn all my mountains into roads, and my highways will be raised up. See, they will come from afar-- some from the north, some from the west, some from the region of Aswan." Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me." "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How can that happen in America?

God does things in my life that are so outrageously extraordinary that it leaves no doubt who is behind it...

This past weekend tragedy struck a family in Kaduna, Nigeria. The Anglican Bishops son died while living in the UK of a virulent strain of meningitis that took his life in a matter of two days and I found myself connected to this deep sadness in the front seat of a Honda CRV while in a parking lot in Amesbury, MA.

I checked my email on my Blackberry during a break at the Anglican Awakening conference this past weekend. Hundreds had gathered to worship The Father and witness an historic event as the Primate of the Anglican Church of Kenya ordained priests and deacons to serve as missionaries here in America. There were black faces, yellow faces, brown faces, white faces....all shapes and sizes and many languages gathered in that Holy Space. We had come to gather in unity as Jesus commanded us to, for He wishes the church to be one.

...and He brought unity to Joyce, Martin and myself on the sidelines of the whole event. Martin is an evangelist from the Diocese of Kaduna and I asked if he knew of this man and the boy who had died. Indeed he was priested by the Bishop and spent years working with the son, watching his children grow up in the church...."oh man, oh man" was all he could say...."there will be great mourning"...we began to pray, asking for the mercy of God to descend upon fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, wives, children, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, cousins, friends...

and when we had finished Martin lifted his head and looked at me..."how could this happen in England?"...."Martin" I said "nowhere is safe from the effects of the fall of man and the brokenness of the world" and I proceeded to tell him of my sons death....and he had that look that he understood for the first time...color, geographic location, nor money can build a wall to keep pain and death away...

he lost his vision of the Industrialized Nation as the Eden....

....it's time the church did too. I was hit by this article on Yahoo news this morning...

"Some 691,000 children went hungry in America sometime in 2007, while close to one in eight Americans struggled to feed themselves adequately even before this year's sharp economic downtown, the Agriculture Department reported Monday.

The department's annual report on food security showed that during 2007 the number of children who suffered a substantial disruption in the amount of food they typically eat was more than 50 percent above the 430,000 in 2006 and the largest figure since 716,000 in 1998.
Overall, the 36.2 million adults and children who struggled with hunger during the year was up slightly from 35.5 million in 2006.

That was 12.2 percent of Americans who didn't have the money or assistance to get enough food to maintain active, healthy lives.

The government says these people suffered a substantial disruption in their food supply at some point and classifies them as having "very low food security." Until the government rewrote its definitions two years ago, this group was described as having "food insecurity with hunger."

The church has forgotten what Providence means...oh, that doesn't happen in America.
It has, it does, it is....and God is asking what will you do? Now, I understand that God places these things in front of me in a powerful way, and he has asked me to step out like He has few others....I mean, here were two people who lived many miles from their homes in a parking lot connected by the sacrifice of Jesus...and tragedy

At New Hope we've started to work with Angel Food Ministries to help our neighbors not suffer...and we're easing the strain on our own food bills as well!

Yes, it happens in America...but even in the midst of all the "it's" that happen, thanks be to God that we have the grace of God to endure through the mercy and love of Jesus...
b

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I love my Master, I will not go free...

If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. ..... "But if the servant declares, 'I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,' then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.

Exodus 26:2-6

It was 1990 when I graduated from college on the East End of Long Island...that's out in Suffolk county, across the accent line for those of you who just read "longa Eyeland". It's was a magical place, and still is in most ways even though Route 27 has gotten wider and the traffic longer.



Back then it was a place where the multi-million dollar homes were just starting to spring up in the potato fields that were so productive because of the cool climate and sandy soil. East End wines were gaining favor and one of my college friends worked at Bridge Hampton Winery so we often sampled the wares. I fulfilled my childhood dream of surfing during those years. My first board was an old Hawaiin Design single-fin pin-tail (just think a yellow surfboard) that was pocked with patches of marine boat filler. In the last few years of the 90's God seemed to bless the East End with swell after swell. I learned to ride large surf and like it.



We never stopped surfing...spring, winter, summer fall. We would paddle out in snow storms and dance on waves with Harbour seals, coating our faces with Vaseline and our bodies with as thick a layer of neoprene as we could afford. We would surf out at the lighthouse on weekends. We'd change in the public bathrooms while standing under the hot-air hand dryers thawing out our fingers until they were flexible enough to pull off our booties.



Ah, those were the days, or so I thought.

I had declared to the sea and waves "pierce my ear, I love you and will not go free." It was years later while living in Colorado that I discovered the One who made the sea, and some time later declared "I love you Master, I will not go free."

I would like to say that after that I never turned back. Paul writes that our entire lives are struggles between the Old Adam and the New Adam (Romans 7:16ff) Just like I had many ear piercings in the 90's I had many spiritual ones as well. If we could look at our lives and see just how many spiritual piercings our ears actually have we would stare in disbelief and wouldn't hold our head up due to the weight of the earrings.

But the wondrous, scandalous thing is that Jesus has pierced himself for us, in effect saying I love my Master, I will not leave....them. It was not an awl and a doorpost, but a Roman spear and nails on a cross that formed the threshold of the doorway to everlasting life for those who would receive the gift of His love and mercy.

Have you ever entered His house? Do you want to leave His house? Has Satan deceived you into thinking that it is in ruins? Do you want to swap it for the one down the street? Has the hole in your ear you once asked for closed because you have taken the earring out one to many times?

Today friends, say Master, pierce my ear. Pierce it again if you need to too. Take the jewelry I have purchased in the bazaar and give me the one back, I know you have kept it safe (Matthew 18:21 ff, John 21:8ff).

I love you Master, I will not go free...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

my truck runneth over

.....so the weather here today was pretty wet and windy, perfect for Gortex and a hike. The first time i bought a Gortex jacket i put in on and stood in the shower...it was fun, i'm freak and it was a really new product back then. i mean i started using Nalgen bottles when my buddy would "borrow them" from the labs...anyway, so the weather was up today and those are the days i really love to get out and do something in. i like great days and bad days, the "kinda" days don't do much for me. So i'm out in the woods on this little ridge line sitting on the edge swinging my feet feeling really happy that i have a Kashi Bar (dang...for the days when i would live on Power bars) so anyway i'm sitting there in my Gortex watching sideways rain and the wind pull the mist up from this little gorge when i notice six or so nut hatchs (small birds) flitting about from tree to tree just living life.

The weather didn't bother them at all...no Gortex, no Kashi bar, no boots, nothing but the gift the Master Creator gave them...and i found myself asking forgiveness for my neediness last week...i forgot that Jesus knew all my needs...and i felt very naked and exposed flitting about life.

One of the churches i work with felt as if our "one for you" ministry had lost a bit of its' steam. It's true, it does take a bit of work to keep people focused on God's providential goodness and keeping a burden for the lost and broken...but that day kinda hit me in the stomach. After hearing the news i went to drop off a number of things that would be placed for free into the hands of people who had lost their job, or had a spouse die, are going through a divorce...unforeseen setbacks that are endemic to living on this side of Eden...and while i was there i mentioned to the director that i might not be able to bring her clients much for awhile until i found new sources.

Well, as i was driving home i got a call on my cell from a woman who lives down the road from me...each year she runs a children's tag sale which this year boasted 80 sellers. My wife and i go to get great deals...but my mouth kinda waters when i see all the cribs and highchairs, car seats and shoes that i know would be a source of hope for many people. i left my card and asked if the sellers wished to donate leftovers i promised i would get them into the hands of the desperate. I hadn't heard from her in a month and had kinda written it off, but the Lord chose that hour, that day to have her call me...so He could remind me that all good and perfect gifts come down from Him...and that He is the Provider.

...so i had to go out and buy industrial shelving and 14 industrial storage bins to hold all of the children's clothing...i figure each held around 20-30 pieces...or about $150 worth of clothing new. So, when my heart was the lowest the Master turned my basement into a storehouse on earth for the gifts of heaven in the order of a thousand dollars worth of donations...

...and my truck runneth over...God is so good, and for that i am so grateful...but our trucks don't always run over, and that's when Jesus is closest...in the hours of desperation.

i pray that your trucks are running over

blessings

b

Monday, October 13, 2008

Why I hate/(love) the Shack by William Young

So perhaps i am a bit late to pick this book up, but life's been rather crazy....
so i google the shack and some obscene number of hits comes up. Seems like everyone has something to say about it, which makes sense since everyone has something to say about what theology really is about
..but i wish i could narrow the search to reviews written by dad's who have buried a child...
i'm sure the tone of critiques would change, sometimes loudly echoing off canyon walls of stone hearts at altitude, other times gentle whispered questions rising with the morning mist off deep lakes of turbulent waters...
see, i've been there, and to me this book hit too close to home...my son wasn't murdered. he died during birth, but as my wife was rolled out for an emergency c-section i sat as alone and as helpless as Mack did, wondering why what began with such joy and excitement months ago could turn to such sorrow
...in the flash of a few clicks from a heart monitor wrapped around my wife's abdomen our world changed and has never been the same...
The Trinity was with us in it all, and i would love to tell you the entire tale, but here i would just like to talk about the broken little boxes we all stuff God into, and how it is in these boxes that we seem to see God fail us
see, it's been said that God made us in His own image, and we returned the favor. a god like that can't destroy the Great Sadness, it can only satisfy our selfish ambition and desire. a god that bears our image would indeed look like a broken down, crapppy old shack, wouldn't it?
but it's here, in the crappy old shacks that the Infinite God of mercy and love chooses to dwell...and it's here that the wonderful collision happens, in the place where we feel God failed us the most, that we can see His imprint on all the shards. if we dare go to these places, and say Lord show me where you were, often times we are graced by seeing it...
or, if you would prefer, you can just live your lives in a staged house that looks real nice, and you can inflate the price so people will think it's worth more than it is...and when the judgement comes and the sub-prime loans of pride and arrogance are called in...you won't be known by the bill collector...
see my wife and i have been forced to really look hard at God, and to see if He really is about love. i love God so much it makes my soul ache, and i have come to learn that he does the same for me.
so to all those who read this book and only saw problems with theology, i dare you to seek out a mom or dad who lost a son or daughter and ask them what they think. spend time with them, listen well and listen deep. too many Christians sing "here I am Lord, I will go Lord if you lead me"..and what they are really saying is "i'll give you everything (i want to give you) and i'll go where you send me (as long as it is in line with my plans..which i call discernment for my church friends)...see mom's and dads who adore Jesus and have buried a child have an sight into the pain that caused the sun to stop shining and the earth to quake one fateful and wonderful Friday afternoon...and if you really want to learn about theology, ask these people.
Deep peace to all those who are waiting to dance and play with their children...i look forward to the Resurrection Play date with the King and you all.
b

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

turtles, trail running and transformation



Hey, so i'm back from my Mid-West trip and i'll start to write about that tomorrow...so much happened. But check this out....

I've been cranking at a pretty hectic pace and my right knee has been really sore (old surfing injury...honest!) and i just haven't gotten to see a doctor about it yet so i've been really light on the miles i run and the intensity. i've even been riding my mountain bike a bit (gasp!) because i've just missed flying over trails so much.

So yesterday i really needed to hit the woods to clear my head and focus. I had only gotten two minutes into one of my favorite six mile hill routes when i notice this baby snapping turtle in the middle of the trail...so this thing is kinda outa place, and as you know i have a deep passion for lost things that need help, so i pick this critter up and run back to where my truck is parked...right next to a swampy area by some flood control dikes. I plopped the little bugger onto the weedy edge and headed back out.

Now i'm running and the Holy Spirit starts to remind me of the fact that i've personally been called and gifted to see the lost that others step over, and have been given eyes that scan the corners of places where others don't look to encounter the things the Lord wants me to. I thank the Master for the reminder and pick up the grind as I start a three mile uphill. I hit the section where i found the first turtle and look down a bit thinking "ok Lord, if you want me to change my agenda a bit for you, that's ok" of course this is half-hearted, i mean heck, what are the odds of finding another turtle from the same hatch in the middle of a trail with the closest water-source hundreds of yards away, right?

100%...those are the odds when God does something. So i stop and pick up the other turtle, annoyed that God actually listened to me and wouldn't let me run. I contemplated leaving this one on the trail and coming back to it, but thought better of that (Jonah kinda freaks me out...surfer, big fish, being eaten...you know) so back to the start i go again.

I took a picture of these two guys (i had a camera in the truck) and plunked them both in the drink, again thanking the Lord for having his way with me and when i turn around and begin my little climb up the dike there's this guy right at the top. You could tell he had been out running a real deal... he was wearing technical clothes, was drenched in sweat and filthy (fun, fun, fun) so I told him i just found these cool turtles running and he said all he had seen were a couple of White-tails (deer). I noticed he had a water bottle from Crested Butte, which is in CO so I asked him if that's where he was from..he said yeah, he was home for some family stuff and had gone out for a run...i mentioned that i spent a summer living in Fort Collins (CO) and dropped a few names of places where i climbed to let him know i wasn't a poser...

"How long did you run" he asked...and i told himI justed an hour when i found the turtles... "my knees been bad and i haven't had much time since i had just launched a non-profit helping folks out in Africa. what about you"

"I was out for three today (hours), I was out for 8 the other day. I run ultra's (minimum of 50 miles)... "dang" i said, "i've wanted to run an ultra for ever! That's been my dream!" "I'm living the dream" he said...and we parted ways...

so while i was sitting on my tailgate sucking down the last of my water i was struck by the fact that if that dude had my knee his dream would be over...

And i found myself thankful that i'm living out the Lord's dream for me and for His people through me. So I thanked God for the chance to plant some seeds in this guys head, for the reminder of the turtles. I asked him to keep me from feeling smug that i was able to see the little turtles in life while all he could see where the big deer...and when i awoke today my knee hurt again, and i got freaked out by the market, and was short with my wife as she left for work...and had to repent for being focused on the deer today already, and ask the Master to help me see the turtles.


Philippians 2:3-5 Don't be selfish; don't live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. 4 Don't think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing. 5 Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had.

Blessings

b

Monday, September 15, 2008

in the midst of the storm


...so this is where i seem to spend most of my life, and that's ok because this is where Jesus spends His time. The moments in the harbour are for gearing up to set sail again...
now, if you've ever spent time at the sea, you know that the ocean is "a fickle mistress".

i spent years as a surf-rat so I've seen the ocean in pretty much every conceivable mood it can have....and i've seen it during every season of the year as well. Honestly, there is little more "magical" than surfing during a snow storm with seals to keep you company.

Have you ever been to the beach in the winter? I mean the ocean beaches, ones that take the full brunt of the winter weather. The beach gets real steep then due to the heavy seas. The sand moves fast, rip tide are strong and the wind carries off what the water doesn't want to claim

and there is unstoppable change there, where water impacts the shore. i kinda think this is what it looks like to be formed into the image of Christ, at least if you're living where the front lines are. Parking lots don't change much, although they do get flooded and dirty....

so, are you being drastically carved, or is there no change in your life?
If not, why are you staying in the parking lot?
b

Friday, September 12, 2008

Please Join in Prayer

Friends,
I ask you all to please pray deeply for those who are under the shadow of Hurricane Ike.
Father, all things are under your control, for you are the Author and Sustainer of all life. We ask for Mercy, gracious Lord. Look down upon us Master, and rebuke the winds and replace the chaos with calm, the fear with Hope and the desperation with assurance.
In Jesus' Name.
Amen

Monday, September 8, 2008

church in the parking lot


Do you ever get the sense that you're living out your faith in Jesus in a vaccume, or maybe in a bag like my daughter? Well last Sunday i started a seven week series on the Images of Jesus, starting with the "The Reality and Necessity of Christ's Humanity" and with out even trying The Lord took me out of my bag.
As I was driving in (it takes me about half and hour as I'm helping a parish a good bit away) I found myself almost sad in that the week went by and I hadn't had any very public acts of ministry. I wasn't down or anything, it just seemed like my ministry has taken place on street corners as of late.

So while I was waiting for one of the congregation to show up with a key (we're borrowing space at another local church) i was enjoying the weather and praying for the service in the parking lot.

...so i look up and this guy is walking across the far end so i say "good morning" and comment on how nice the weather was. He agreed and we started talking a bit and i mentioned that he was up really early walking (or service starts at 8a).


"Yeah" he said "I wake up early every day and walk down the street to the store. I was in a comma for two months after I had a stroke almost 12 years ago. The doctors said I shouldn't have woken up, or if I did I'd be a vegetable and never walk again. So I walk each day down to the store to prove them all wrong!"


"wow, that's a story and a half" I said..."well someone was looking out for me Father" he said....

"sure sounds like it, but His name is Jesus.
..."Oh I know that, but I lost my faith 12 years ago when I had my stroke. How could God let this happen to me? I had moved down to North Carolina to live with my girlfriend and her kid, I had a good job from an old boss of mine. I had everything going great and then bam, I have a stroke. Besides I'm Catholic and I got fed up with the church, it seemed like it didn't care about people, just raising money". (big note, I am NOT against the Catholic Church)


"wow, what's your name?" "Andy" he said, "Andy, sounds like you got beaten for a few years, really sorry about that. I know what it's like to think all is going for you and then have the rug pulled out of ya." So I proceeded to tell him the story of losing my son two days after graduating from seminary...and that I didn't know what it was like for his situation, but I know for me it was rough.


"I still don't get it" he said. "Why?" Ya know Andy, we all wonder why bad things happen to folks that are living good lives. The deal is is that we're living in a really busted world...."


...so we talked about sin, the person of Jesus and how New Hope Anglican Church is about loving the man named Jesus who was God who came into this busted place and at the same tiem trying to love and take care of each other as well.


...so we said goodbye and I walked in and preached on the reality of Jesus and it seemed a bit odd to be preaching indoors to folks who already know Jesus...


Church in parking lots....i love them

blessings

b

Friday, September 5, 2008

restored to greatness...Hitchcock in the 'hood


When i was a little kid my uncle used to restore antique furniture. He'd find or buy old pieces of junk and then bring them up to his attic and bring them back to their original glory. He'd strip paint, sand,scrape and stain but his specialty was re-caning chairs...you know that reed-looking stuff on the seats of chairs that starts to sag with age (ours as well as the chairs)...




...so he taught me a bit of this trade and as a kid I was of course more fascinated by the process than the product. This stayed with me and i still marvel at seeing hidden beauty uncovered. We all see and feel this to some extent each day when we clean the house, shave, wash the car (or kids or dog). And we always seem to step back and look and that grin creeps onto our faces....




...but the hair grows back, bugs get splattered on the car and the kids chase the filthy dog across the floor. But we saw it, didn't we? The beauty under the scratches. It was there, right? We could of course cover our lives in vinyl, or set up a glass case, or put up red-velvet ropes, but that wouldn't last long. Never-ending perfection will come and we'll live lives where the lines in carpet from vacuuming will never end. But until then we have this different kind of restored perfection to live....




...so this begs the question, where does greatness lie, where does the beauty reside? In doing what we were created to do and being who we were created to be...




...here's a how it happened with a set of Hitchcock Chairs and a rent-subsidized apartment.
I was given a table and four chairs from a very kind person. As i was leaving i was told "those are Hitchcock Chairs, painted over, but Hitchcock". Now i know that each chair had was worth a few hundred dollars (with four, you do the math) and i was tickled by the irony as I unloaded this precious cargo in the parking lot of what many people might call "the projects".




....the "created value" of the chairs attributed to the name was hidden under the paint, their intrinsic value as a simple place to sit was restored. Could I have refinished these chairs, sold them and used the proceeds to purchase many more chairs for other people? Yes I could have.




...but to me that day it seemed as if God was restoring the greatness of those Hitchcock Chairs. Their purpose was restored, and they in turn brought joy.




The Westminster Shorter Catechises states that the "chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever." This simply means that we're covered in paint too, and the name of the Master Craftsman is covered. One day all of the junk will be totally stripped away, but until then we are still called to glorify God and we do this by living out our intended purpose...plain and simple. We're not called to put our label on display under glass, we're called to be useful in bringing many daughters and sons to glory in Jesus.




...That day as i brought those chairs into that woman's apartment i actually felt moved to tell her they were Hitchcock Chairs; "hey, these chairs are Hitchcock" I told her, "they're really nice". "Oh yeah?" she replied with no sense of comprehension beyond that fact that she now owned a table and a set of chairs and she and her two children could actually sit at a table to eat. I just wanted to let her know that we were bringing her nice things, not junk.




...kinda like what the Father did by giving us His best in the worst of places, Jesus in a broken land is far greater irony than Hitcock Chairs could ever be in the projects
...of course you can't restore others until you've been restored yourself...check out this out.


happy antiquing


b






Wednesday, September 3, 2008

illustration from an illustrator


...so i'm a huge fan of trail running. On my fridge i've got this picture of a guy from the calves down in running shoes splattered in mud.
The caption underneath it reads "some people take the straight and narrow, others chose the road less traveled, me, i prefer to cut through the woods!"
...but i tend to run a bit different that others, see i can be flying down a trail with really quick leg turn-over (feet moving fast, but cool term) and i'll see those orange newts that spawn in the humid summer days all over the trail and i'll stop and to say good morning to them, or i'll move the ones that are like an inch small.
i also have this habit of finding hawk feathers, so often in fact that when i come home with one i burst through the door beaming holding up my treasure to show my wife and yelling, "Lisa, guess what I found!"....she just looks up with a half-grin...
...so when i notice things i get really excited, and my mouth kinda goes ahead of my mind. well, that happened yesterday when i wrote about this wonderful book...see i kinda burst into your kitchens and said "hey, check this book out!" and in my excitement i said about the illustrator "i don't get his name"... simple it seems, but ya know, there's some real power in names.
...so i got a note from him telling me about it. The name is Cornish for James and pronounced Jay-go.
...know two things i gleaned from this...first, ya never know whose around when you speak (that shouldn't matter anyway) and second, learn before you open your mouth.
...i try really hard not to open my mouth about anyone or anything until i walk around in their shoes for awhile. ya never know how they got there or why. i think that most of the problems we have are from assumptions...and we can never truly enter into lives until we know what that life is about.
...so i was reminded of the grace Jesus gave me by a simple little comment from a man who's got a great name in a country across the pond from me who draws pictures that make my daughter giggle and me stop...
.."what's not to get" he told me, plain and simple and explainded it...and when you take the time to enter into the live of others, it gets just as plain...perhaps not easy, or acceptable, but at least you understand...and then when you open your mouth to make a comment, even if it meant no harm...you'll find a whole lot less feet in there.

Everyone who is victorious will eat of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it. Revelation 2:17
...blessings all....ask some folks about their names today
b

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

and God said "to be continued"

A good friend of ours gave us a copy of an incredible book "The Jesus Storybook Bible...every story whispers His Name" written by Sally LLoyd-Jones and illustrated by by Jago (still don't get that name). I've started to read bits and pieces to (or should i say at) my daughter...if she manages to stay still for long. The more i read, the more i was blown away by the depth and honesty of this book...so i read the acknowledgements to check this person out (i trust the friend who gave us the book, she is a brilliant theologian who is living out grace with her family).
This is what Sally writes in her acknowledgments...
"I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to...Dr. Timothy Keller (of Redeemer NYC) whose teaching informs every story and from whom I have liberally borrowed: for his wisdom; for giving me a vocabulary of faith; for opening my eyes to the wonder of Grace". No wonder this book is so powerful. It's like the Shack, but for kids, and from Keller through a Master Story teller....

...so how did it hit me today? Well i woke up today and ran for the paper to read about the hurricanes and on the front cover there was a picture of the Hands of God (interestingly enough they looked like a thin concrete levee) holding back the forces of broken nature as the Gulf once again wanted to prove how broken this world was...

and i was struck by the fact that the story is being continued, in concrete, in New Orleans and God gave me proof right there. See I often need reminders that God's story continues in, on and through me. Don't we all though? Like Peter, we get lost, but the Hand of Providence always pulls us back in...my soul was sick yesterday as my friend wrote me, a humble, loving, powerful man of God who said his soul was deeply troubled by what appeared to be the inevitable unthinkable...and the Hand said no...

Are you here today, looking for the "to be continued" in your life? Here the words of John's Gospel as told in my daughters Bible...

"....and he knew then that the ending of The Story was going to be so great, it would make all the sadness and tears and everything seem like just a shadow that is chased away by the morning sun.
"I'm on my way," said Jesus. "I'll be there soon!"
John came to the end of his book. But he didn't write "The End." Because, of course, that's how stories finish. (and this one's not over yet.)
So instead, he wrote: "Come quickly, Jesus!"
Which, perhaps, is really just another way of saying...
To be continued....

Monday, September 1, 2008

prayer and help for the broken

Hey Friends,
This letter was sent from my very dear friends James and Mary Giles who spent a a huge amount of time in the Gulf after Katrina helping thousands sort out some type of life. Please read, pray and respond....send this message along.
Dear Family,
You are probably aware Hurricane Gustav is predicted to wreak havoc on the Gulf Coast within a matter of days, as a category 4 hurricane.I'm hearing from several friends on the Coast. The mental and spiritual burden upon them right now while evacuating their homes is almost debilitating. I have so many mixed feelings myself, I can't begin to express my thoughts clearly.

For those who are not aware God's Kitchen has established a first response ministry, Cavalry for Christ (formerly God's Katrina Kitchen) and I would like to invite you to visit our new website as we prayerfully anticipate response to this potential disaster. Whether you are interested in volunteering as an individual or leading a volunteer team now is the time to provide us with your information, so we are able to keep you updated should we respond, and better inform you of the needs and opportunities for your volunteer services.We will be looking for local churches or city officials to partner with in the area where our services will be needed, when we make the decision to respond. Should you have personal contacts in these immediate areas which are affected by this tragedy, sharing our information with them, for services would be a valuable blessing to all concerned. Solid dedicated partnerships are already forming which is very heartening. The GK board will meet today to discuss our options. Please keep us in your prayers as well as those in the path of this storm. We hope and pray that our services will not be necessary. But if and when they are, we want to be ready and that is why we begin to prepare now.....Here are links for easy access during this time of preparation......Our website www.c4crelief.orgTo Sign Up As A Volunteer (then hit "click here to sign up to volunteer"): http://c4crelief.org/Volunteeering.html

Friday, August 29, 2008

diary of an at-home dad part. 1

So my wife is back to work in a school and once again i find myself among the ranks of an at-home dad two days a week. It's really a blessing, as i spend a couple of months in Tanzania and my travels around the states are picking up. I remember listening to an interview with Ann Graham-Lotts, a daughter of Billy Graham. She was asked what it was like being the daughter of THE Billy Graham, and her reply was quick and honest; "hard, I didn't have a daddy around to often, but we understood that he had work to do." I think about this alot when I get frustrated that I never seem to have enough time to "do" my "work" and then catch myself and remember that my daughter is my real work... and i am amazed at how God is using her to form me more and more into His image. Here's is where the rubber hits the road for me....sacrifice on both end; my family gives me up because the Lord gave Himself up...

Here's how i saw it during yesterday's nap-time (or lack of) My daughter is in a daycare two days a week and they just moved her up into the "toddler one" room. I have no idea where they came up with that idea, i mean she's just too little for that "big kid class" (if I keep telling this to myself, will it become true?) Well, she's at the stage of dropping her morning nap and having just one in the early afternoon. It seems to go well for everyone but me...did i miss a memo on this somewhere? Well as i put her down today, i had to do the "five minutes and go up, and then wait ten..." thing and she held out to 8 minutes and 47 seconds...


She's got a strong will (stupid apples, can't they fall farther from the tree!) and a great set of lungs (argh...ditto) and as her cries reached the ears of her father i found myself thinking "how long"...not because it bothered me (it did, but not in a aggravated way) but because my daughter was crying out becuase she didn't understand what was going on... plain and simple....and my heart broke.
...so i found myself really hurting, and Scripture began to fill my head, words that Jesus spoke like when he was pleading in the Garden about the sacrifice he had to make, and the cries of pain over the wayward people of Jerusalem, and the snort of rage over the death of his friend Lazarus and the pain of his sisters as they mourned. About the hidden things of the Lord...
...and it started to strike me afresh, this deep sense of pain that a father hears when his children cry out, afraid, uncertain, frustrated, mad at him because they didn't get their way. And I know that God doens't rejoice in our suffering...but my daughter gave me real-life testimony
Our father hears our cries in the same way. The gut-wrenching that I felt with because of my daughter is in some way a shadow of the anguish that our Mediator feels for us. When "all of creation groans with eager expectation..." the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are included in that...somehow.
What did that drive me to do? Say thank you Lord, I love you. Please help my daughter. It became very real, and I pray it does for you as well. It's not a sense of the deep theological debate concerning the emotions of God. Nope...a simple truth revealed to a simple man...God really is love
blessings
b



Thursday, August 28, 2008

chasin' hot pants...for Jesus

...my wife and i have been married for awhile and she really knows me well. When i joke around with her and its REALLY obvious she smiles at me with a crooked grin and says "fuego!"...a reference to the state of my pants...ie they're on fire! i hear fuego alot.

...it makes me crack up, so i run around the room when i think i'm really (that is actually) funny trying to snuff out the invisible flames coming off my butt...

...ya know, it would be alot easier if God made that a reality, wouldn't? I mean, when you met people lying, their pants would burst into flames! Oh man, what an ad campaign! (if you make money off that idea, hook me up)...so if it would happen, me and Jesus were chasing hot pants up and down my street today.

...the doorbell rang and there where two Jehovah's Witness there, wanting to "give me something". All i say when i hear this is "no thanks, but i'd like to give you something" and i start to pray that the false gospel they have been given will be forgotten. When i'm done praying they always ask "what was that about?" and i simply reply "i've prayed that you might hear the Truth"

....we'll these two today stood there in their fuego pants and i simply asked them if Jesus was God, to which they replied "no" (as i knew she would). "May I ask you a question?" i said. "Sure" was the reply.
I'd like to ask you a question about a verse that is not one of those marked in your book (she had her proof texts all marked...like many Christians do)...and i'd like to use my Bible and your book." "OK"
"Let's look at John 1:1, what do you read in your book"
"In the beginning was the Word, and the word was a god"
"May I ask why the word "Word is capitalized in your book"
"well, i don't know...(her friend pipes in) that's a name for God
"so you're telling me that it's reading "God was a god?"...He was one of many?"
"no, it's the name for Jesus"
"so, Jesus was a god, you agree?"
"no!"
We spoke for abit, and as they walked down my sidewalk, i put my daughter into her stroller and told them i'd follow behind, going to the doors they went to and put out their flaming pants..that is correcting their wrongs. I told one guy walking his dog that they denied Jesus was God, and a young kid who took their books in his doorway up the street....

....so this is what Jesus did to hot pants, he exposed the lies and pointed to his father....was it uncomfortable, yes it was, but i couldn't let their people lie to my neighbors and say that Jesus wasn't God. I wasn't angry at them, i felt sad so as i walked behind them i reminded them of the deep love Jesus had for them.
...so, what do you do when you see hot pants walking down the street? Look at them and say nothing, or expose the lie in love.
b

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

yer grandma wears army boots..and so does jesus



...so when i was a kid it used to be an insult to say "yer grandma wears army boots"...it's pretty stupid, and i have no idea where the saying came from, but it stuck in my head.

lot's of junk get stuck in my head, much to my wife's dismay. But i've come to realize that Jesus wears army boots as well...at least in the picture that smacked me between the eyes on the cover of the NYT on May 29, 2007.

Now i don't really care where you stand on war...i could blog for a really long time on the just war theory and spin both sides...i've come to understand that the answer is, when asked "whose side is Jesus on" is "yes"...see, the Word says that Christ died for sinners at just the right time, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring glory to God (Romans 5:8)... so Jesus didn't die for the "good guys"...that's a flawed question for their are no "good" guys (1 John 1:8)..so since we all fell short, than that's who Jesus is for...us fallen folks (Matthew 9:12-23)

...so that's what went through my mind when i saw this picture...Jesus in full camo...letting some random kid hide behind him as he walked into the path of death...look at his eyes, see how he's not distracted by anything...that's Jesus....in the garden, on the cross...letting us hide behind him while he walks into the battle against enemies that we could never face...grace

we're called to do the same thing friends, you and I...to walk into harms way, into the dirt and fear of life where others run, and to let the scared, helpless ones hide and attach themselves to us...simply because that's what Jesus did for us...grace and mercy

.... i heard many times today as i spoke to friends; "bryan, you've got the guts to walk into places where i can't....you are fearless to ride the storms of life. i don't have that courage!"

...well, tonight let me tell you i have that courage either...i've been in the midst of a battle that left in it's wake death and pain, fear and anger, and yet i can still say "Lord, Lord"...and that is and understanding of a deep, deep truth that let's me do this.

two days after i graduated seminary, my wife went into labor with our first child. It was the "perfect" pregnancy....that's what we heard all along...we were poised to head out and replant a church in an area we where sure was ripe for our gifts...and then one night, things went really bad, really fast... triumph turned to tragedy in the blink of an eye

my wife went into labor, and we went to the hospital. The attending nurse at one point had a very difficult time finding our child's heart beat, and when the attending physician came in and saw our child's heart rate, he rolled my wife off for an emergency c-section...the last thing he said to me was "i'll see you in a few minutes with a healthy baby"...so i sat there by myself in the loneliest place i think man has ever been....in what seemed like eternity, our Dr. returned with another Dr. and they both knelt by my side and said words that parents are not supposed to hear; "where sorry, but your son did not make it".

...and they both put their hands on me and prayed...the story unfolds for month after month as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit ministered to us and to thousands of others in ways that defy words...but we learned through it all the answer to the question "where was God when.....?"

...."closer than our own breath....." that's where He was and is and will always be. No, we never said "that you Jesus for doing this to us....we said "thank you Jesus in the midst of this"...

...so when you hear my stories of walking into places where others won't go...or you say "I don't have the courage that he has"....let me tell you that i don't either...i just know that there is no place, height nor depth, that i can ever go where my precious Jesus has not been before me...he took the hit of all the attacks on me so i would only have to bear the shadows...you see the word for Hope in Biblical Greek is a noun, not a verb...it's a real thing, not an idea

so please, step in line behind me friends, for if Christ is for us, who can be against us?

in sure Hope

b

Monday, August 25, 2008

a drip for jesus...


We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.
Mother Teresa
...so let me start by saying thank you to all of you who joined me in prayer for China as well as those who have been praying for me. Many times i have felt shrouded by the cloak of prayer as i stood in the midst of my town. It has been a journey that i shall never forget, and an action that i will continue to do in my life...
...well, i brought my sign with me on vacation as i said, but i didn't stand on any corners... instead i surfed, prayed, picked up garbage on the beach and enjoyed my family. Before i left i told myself "the Chinese Christians aren't on vacation, so i'll keep it up!" i have a habit of telling myself what to do. The Holy Spirit is trying to break of that so i'll be more attentive to him.... so i was reminded of Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever....
Silly me to forget.
...but i was out there this morning with my sign for the last time asking strangers on their way to somewhere to stop and pray for strangers. i'll miss my corner, the faces in the windshields, the cramps in my arms, the hour of prayer and the blessing to stand up for sisters and brothers proclaiming the truth of Jesus...but something has happened in me.
The Holy Spirit has built into my heart a corner on which He can stand....it took obedience on my part to follow his lead, but as i stood there like fool i actually became what i was doing...
..so what happened today? Well, i found myself weeping early on and had no problem letting my tears roll down my cheeks. If Jesus could weep over Jerusalem, it would be an honor to weep over China for Him
....just when i was feeling very alone (i found this always happened at some point, hey, Jesus did in the Garden) a female schoolbus driver rode by and blew me a huge kiss out her window.
...a man who was jogging came across the street to read my sign "Father, why should I pray for China? The Olympics didn't do much for the human rights abuses..."Well" i replied, " there are Christians in prison today in China, so i'm going to stand here on this corner and ask people to pray." He looked at me while he kept his feet moving...."all right Father, I'll pray for China" he said and turned and left.
...a policeman was stopped in traffic right in front of me and smiled (why do they all like me?) "looks like it might rain, good luck!" (mmm i'm not down with luck!) "that's ok, there are Christians in prison in China, i can handle rain"... a half hour later when the rain started i didn't grab my jacket, it felt too sweet
...on my way home i stopped for coffee (surprised?) and a man asked to sit next to me. He used to be a former customer of mine when i worked at the coffee shop we were both at...he asked what i was doing so we talked...turns out he's owns a software company that developed programs to track people and supplies during massive humanitarian relief efforts...he offered to help me out.
...as i was leaving i passed by a man who is high-functioning mentally challenged. He was mumbling something to me and when i got close enough to understand him he said he didn't have a rain jacket...so i gave him the one i had brought along...it didn't zip up (he's kinda big) but it was better than nothing...
...so i've come to understand that indeed a great work was done in my life and by God's grace in the lives of others as well...i'm not sure what kind of impact i had, but i was called to be faithful, not successful. Along the way I was both loved and abused (like Jesus had been). The TV crews never showed up, nor the newspapers..but joggers did, cult-members did, kids did, neighbors did and random people who needed prayer...
My sign is sitting rolled up in the corner of my office. I think i'll hang it up as a reminder of the time i spent being a drip for Jesus...come back, my work continues on!
how much can one drop do?
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Isaiah 53:5
b

Saturday, August 16, 2008

day 7...gone surfin'





....when i was in college at LIU Southampton on the East End of Long Island my friends would tease me that they never saw me dry...i surfed my brains out as often as i could


...well times have changed, but me and the fam' are heading off to Cape Cod for a week of surf and relaxation...but i will be bringing my sign and standing on the side of the road Monday-Friday 7:30-8:30 am...


...i won't be blogging, just paddling! We'd appreciate your prayers. I'll see ya'll when we get back..

Friday, August 15, 2008

...day 6 Jesus and Toyota...re:mix (take 2)

...so i've got a good friend who's in industrial management and i'm really intrigued by what he does. See, if God is omnipotent, they we should see brushes of Him everywhere, right? So i tend to ask people lots of questions and learn from the ground level. He loaned me a book the other day which i think never made the NYT best seller list, but it should! Check this out
...Toyoda Sakichi and Toyoda Kiichiro developed the Toyota model of production. ...."they had the foresight to go always to the heart of the matter. Both spent their lives mainly in the production fields, looking at things realistically, calmly, and objectively." They understood and chased the "actual-v-theoretical"... it's the "looks good on paper, but does it fly?" approach
...so why do so few Christians do the same i wondered today. They read the book, love the actions of Jesus, and applaud from the bleacher seats the guy who's out in the field doing the deal. Don't get me wrong, i'm right there with them compared to the heroes of faith that i've been reading about! You could say that i've got splinters in my bottom as apposed to a speck in my eye!
...so here's today's hero who got up off the bench and worked the factory floor...
Nguyen Van Thunan was imprisoned in Vietnam for his faith. He says that he spent years waiting for his release...until one day he got it..."No, i will not spend my time waiting. I will live the present moment and fill it with love" He chose to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit. The result? He gave up what he thought was God's agenda for his life and began to focus on God. He writes "I said to myself...why torment yourself? All of the work [you had done but cannot do now] is excellent work, the work of God, but it is not God!" So he changed his focus to God, not what he wasn't doing, and God brought the ministry to him. The power came from God, not his (Nguyen's) actions.
...this is life on the production line of salvation history...
...so today, i seemed to be more focused on God than my sign and plea....i still believe that i was called to do what i'm doing, but God had a very different agenda for me today.

here's what happened....

the "different guy" in town (whose appearance and actions make most uncomfortable) stopped, took off his head set and yelled across bus traffic I love your sign, I will pray for China today!" I laughed, because while i watched him make eye contact with me i started to pray, "Lord, please no".

A bit later a woman stopped, read my sign and said "we all need prayer", so i asked her what she needed prayer for and prayed for her(Carroll) on the street.

And then this guy walks up and i say "i like your tie" he stops and asks if he could give me a copy of the Watch Tower (the paper for the Jehovah's Witness) to which i said, no thank you, but can i give you a book and pray for you. I asked his name (Cletus) put my sign down, i laid hands on him and prayed for deliverance for him from the false gospel he had been taught. He walked away not really sure what happened.

Later as I left my corner i saw him across the street handing out literature to a mildly retarded young man whom i see working in town. i walked over to them and simply said the young guy "do you believe in Jesus" "yes" he said. "Do you believe he was God on earth?" "well...he replied. "Well" i said to him, "if you profess to be a Christian, the whole deal revolves on that. This man Cletus here, now Cletus, correct me if i'm wrong, will tell you that Jesus was not God, or even THE son of God, right. " "Right,"Cletus said, yes, you worship the created, i worship the Creator"... so the kid saw his lie and said he had to catch his bus. I told Cletus he forgot the book he said i could give him and put my Bible into his briefcase. "I don't want your book" he yelled at me and threw it back at me. "But Cletus" i said, "if you want to follow Jesus, you need to know the truth. i wasn't a jerk, or forceful, just convicted

...i began to walk home when i passed this guy sitting on a bench with his head down sitting next to a half a 2 liter bottle of soda. i felt i was supposed to stop and talk to this guy, hear his story and pray. But i kept walking, i had to get a coffee and get home so i could go rock climbing. The nagging continued so 25 yards past him i stopped and turned around. "Excuse me" i said " i get a sense that you could use some prayer. What's your name, are you ok?" Oh, I'm Peter and I'm fine, you could pray for my dad though, he died in '91..." and as his story rambled on i could tell he had some issues. "oh, well how are you today?" "Not so good" he said. "I'm chronic bipolar and schizophrenic and my meds are working to good." "Oh my, do you have a case worker" "Yes, I'm seeing him today" "That's great, let's pray for that". So i prayed for another person on the street asking for a peaceful day, meds that worked and comfort.....my head is still spinning

....so, what did i learn? that my heart is indeed being transformed by God's grace. Spending all this time in prayer for others and learning of their acts has moved me to act as i wait holding my sign, to be attentive to the Spirit of God, and to listen....
God's peace to you all
b

Thursday, August 14, 2008

day 5...playing in traffic for Jesus



This morning i went to the Voice of the Martyrs web site to read the stories of the persecuted today. VOM, along with China Aid launched the appeal from Chinese House Church leaders for prayer...this is what i found posted;
Pastor Zhang “Bike” Mingxuan, known for traveling across China on a bicycle to evangelize, was arrested by Chinese police just two days before the Olympics began. Pastor Bike was the inspiration for the recent partnership between The Voice of the Martyrs and China Aid Association to create the Olympic Prayer Band.

Pastor Bike pleaded with VOM staff to ask Christians to pray for persecuted Christians in China during the Olympics. The pastor voluntarily preaches the gospel openly in China despite being persecuted. He has asked for his identity to be revealed to bring continued attention to the persecution of Christians in Communist China.
Thanks to Pastor Bike’s inspiration and the commitment of concerned Christians across the United States, more than 800,000 prayer bands have been circulated. On Aug. 6, Pastor Bike was arrested while trying to deliver medicine to his ailing wife. His wife and another pastor were also arrested. We have also learned this week that Chinese officials are opening a full investigation of the Olympic Prayer Bands that were distributed to house church members within China. Despite this increased pressure from Chinese authorities, Chinese Christians continue to ask for prayer and to make their plight known.
...so that little rubber band that i wear that says "pray for China" would have had me investigated, and the sign that i've been holding would have had me arrested and sent to one of the official "re-education farms". i was so aware of this today that i found myself counting the police cars that drove by, thanking the Lord that they were not slamming on their breaks, beating me and throwing me in the back of their cars. i prayed for those in China for whom the cars did stop, asking The Lord to give them strength and to turn their captures hearts to him.
...so what happened today as i stood there? Oddly enough, almost EVERY police car that drove by today slowed down, and the officer waved....one even rolled down his window and shouted support
...the eyes behind the windshields of the other cars searched even deeper as i stood for the 6th day...and children in back seats could not stop staring at me as their parents drove by...
...but one man pulled his car over in the midst of traffic to stop and ask "why should i pray for China?" "Because there are Christians who are being beaten today for doing what I am doing, and the Holy Spirit has asked me to call people to pray" i responded. He smiled and said "can i make a suggestion? Most folks driving by don't know why you're asking them to pray, perhaps you should make a sign that reads "please pray for the persecuted church in China." "Well" i said, "this is the sign the Holy Spirit asked me to write. i'm asking for prayer, not protesting treatment. i trust that the Spirit will move in the hearts of those driving by and speak to them.Besides, i've been finding that people who are moved walk up to me and ask." With that, the man looked at me and said "i might get arrested for stopping here, but i gotta get out and shake your hand." Turns out this guy had spent time in China with missionaries in the underground church in China, and here in the middle of yuppie-ville rush hour traffic (literally) the Holy Spirit connected us...could i ever script this stuff?
...he took my card and said he'd connect, and apologized that he couldn't talk longer but he was on his way to NYC for business...he said "he's sorry" i had to laugh! He had turned around and stopped in traffic because God moved him....
...as i stopped by for a coffee afterward i bumped into an old friend who had supported me for years...we haven't spoken much since i've launched off in this new adventure with God...she said she had read part of my support letter, and apologized that she had to get to a meeting and she was very busy...no time to catch up...Now, this all may have been true and heartfelt, but still i felt very sad. i had met a man just 15 minutes before who stopped in traffic to ask a stranger why he was asking for prayer, and here was a friend in a very small line in a very safe coffee shop who did not have the time to look at the "burning bush"
....so today i am grateful for the brave pastors in China, and i was given the gift of Joy from the Lord today. i was beaming that i was asked by God to stand at my intersection, holding my sign...my arms did not hurt today, my feet were fine, only one person yelled, i didn't sweat...and in my head i kept sensing "you are the light of the world, and you are not under a basket...your work is glorifying me"
....so to paraphrase Joshua...chose this day what you will do....hurry through the coffee shop or stop in traffic for Jesus?
play in traffic friends, play in traffic

But others trusted God and were tortured, preferring to die rather than turn from God and be free. They placed their hope in the resurrection to a better life. Some were mocked, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in dungeons. Some died by stoning, and some were sawed in half; others were killed with the sword. Some went about in skins of sheep and goats, hungry and oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world.
Hebrews 11:35-38

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

day 4...the China-Americano Connection


Before I left this morning I read the story of a 16 year old boy named Yun who in Mainland China in the 1950's first heard that the Bible existed.
..."There is a book that tells how to get to heaven?' "Yes, Yun. I have seen it with my own eyes," answered the old man. "Where is this book?" asked Yun. "I must see it for myself!" "It is very far away-over 35 miles," the old man said sadly. "It is too far to walk and you have no bicycle." "I will go!" Replied Yun. This young man walked the 35 miles and met with the owner of the Bible...Yun then joined with another Christian, and together they went from village to village telling about Jesus...
...it was sunny today and a bit warm as i stood on my corner. i make it a point to make eye contact with people as they drive by, like Jesus had done with Peter. Since i've been at the same corner now for four days cars and faces are becoming familiar. i've noticed that expressions have changed. People seem to have a look of contemplation...that's the power of a consistent faith. As my arms became sore from holding my sign in one position for an hour and sweat trickled down my back (tell me again why most Anglican clergy wear black???) i thought of Yun walking 35 miles to just see a Bible. i was strengthened by his faith... again i had three neighbors smile and wave (thank you Jesus that they know what i am about), and i had a good laugh with the guys who were mowing the green that i was standing in front of...
so when i left i stopped by Starbucks for an Iced Americano...people are now getting curious about this priest walking in with a folded poster board. i put my sign down (doubled-over) on a table next to me as i added 1/2 & 1/2 to my coffee (yep, i mess with my coffee) and a woman asked if i was going to sit there. i told her no, and offered to move my sign if it was in her way. "No", she said, it was fine there. "It must be a good one though" she offered as she made a gesture to my collar. "Are you with the peace protests they have out there?" "No mam" i said, "but i am looking forward to the day when all violence is crushed". "i'm not protesting, i'm requesting". With that she opened up my sign that read "please pray for China"...she looked up at with eyes searching for an explanation. "In China, if Christians do not register their churches with the official church (Three-Self Patriotic Church) and adhere to their practices and beliefs, the government arrests or harasses the congregation, confiscating property and often beating the pastor and flock." Not many people know this, so i'm asking for prayer for them. Would you please pray for them today?" She had a look of bewilderment as i picked up my sign and walked out. Others who were around us had leaned in listening....like the old EF Hutton adds, honest.
...Yun was later beaten many times and eventually imprisoned for 10 years for his faith in Jesus. Yesterday a prominent house pastor was arrested for going to church in Beijing (see Voice of the Martyrs website)....
...tell the stories of the scandalous cross today, and of the faithful followers who understand the cost...
b

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

day 3..."me and Nee"

...there was no rain today, but i still grabbed my bag as i headed out the door this morning. Last night i had started reading from Cox's Book of Modern Saints and Martyrs written by Baroness Caroline Cox. Cox founded HART (Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust) which takes her to places that the Red Cross calls "red-zones"...areas where the violence is so active that relief agencies refuse to send workers. When others are evacuated, she goes in. She says of the Christians she finds who refuse to leave these zones, who are currently living the life found in 1 Peter 1:3-7...
"It is important for their stories to be told, for many reasons. The testimonies of modern martyrs should be recorded and celebrated-not consigned to the dustbin of history...Their witness may serve as a source of inspiration..."
So today as is stood holding my sign, i meditated on the the final words left by a Man of God named Watchman Nee who gave his life for the faith in China...Nee became a Christian at 17 and his zeal was fast and strong. In 1928 he established the Shanghai Gospel Backroom and before his arrest approximately 400 churches were started in China. Since his death on a labor farm in 1972, 2,300 churches trace their roots back to this man's ministry. During his detention, just before his death, his family was alerted to that he was gravely ill, but by the time his grandniece could get to him, he had died and been cremated. She writes..."before his departure, he left a piece of paper under his pillow which had several lines of big words written in a shaking hand...'Christ is the Son of God, who died for the redemption of sinners and resurrected after three days. This is the greatest truth in the universe. I die because of my belief in Christ. Watchman Nee"
...i stood repeating these words over and over, for nearly an hour this morning as i stood on my corner. i prayed "Christ, you are the Son of God, who died for the redemption of sinners and was resurrected after three days. i pray today for all who are persecuted in China today for proclaiming this, the greatest Truth in the universe." i was grateful when my feet got sore (i even wore sneakers) and when my arms got tired, because i was reminded of all those who gave their lives, not just an hour... just before i left, a young man walking by me stopped, took his ipod ear buds out and asked "so why should we pray for China?"....to which i replied "there are Christians who are persecuted because they proclaim that "Christ is the Son of God...."
so there you have it, day three...hundreds more called to prayer...and the words of a Saint of God from China passed on to a young kid in West Hartford....
peace,
b

Monday, August 11, 2008

day 2...diaper bags and downpours



...so i woke up today to the sound of hard rain. we've been having it on and off for days now. i rummaged around to find my gortex coat, hat and pants so that i would stay dry while i called the traffic to prayer. by the time i left the rain had let up, so i grabbed the nearest bag i could find (my BOB diaper bag), stuffed my hat and pants into it, tied my coat around my waist, picked up my sign and walked the three blocks to town. i laughed on route thinking "here i am calling my town to rattle the gates of heaven and change the course of history and all i've got is a diaper bag and a sign....but hey, God has used less in the hands of others...

before i head out each day i spend time in prayer and reading. Ephesians tells us to put on the whole armour of God and i know that the battle i enter into each morning on my little corner is against powers and principalities that i can't (nor want to) see. i finished a sermon i started reading yesterday preached by Charles Spurgeon on Gospel mission. i was deeply moved by his words referring to why his generation didn't see the powerful works of the Spirit as in days of the Apostolic Church

..."Again, we have not enough self-denial (emphasis his); that is one reason why we do not prosper. Far be it from me to say aught against the self-denial of those worthy brethren who have left their country to cross the story deep to preach the Word."

...and the Spirit led me to Job 19 this day..."I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth." and Romans 12:21 "do not overcome evil by evil, but overcome evil with good."

i it was flooded with a sense of affirmation. armed with the Spirit and Word (and gortex) i took my place with more assurance and power than i had felt before...i had no one yelling today(although i expected it) as i stood and prayed in the power of the Spirit...i had a few honks, thumbs-up, peace signs, hands clasped and raised in the form of prayer. Two school buses drove by and the children saw a man of God in the midst of town begging people to humble themselves in prayer...my neighbor across the street passed me as he walked to the bus and we had a great talk...an old youth group kid from 14 years ago waved out her window...a friend who i used to work for who owns one of the largest pet stores in the state rolled down his window and gave me a smile and look that affirmed the fact that yes, i looked like a follower of Jesus, i will stand and proclaim you wherever...it was something else

...i stand and pray there for an hour (give or take a few minutes) and this puts me in mind of the saints of old and acts of self-denial...so my arms got sore. i thanked God for the chance to suffer in a small way for Him and prayed for those whose arms were sore because they were tied and in prison for the Gospel...i was wearing my "church shoes" and as my feet began to get sore i laughed at myself; my shoes were made for show, not work! i prayed for those whose feet were sore because they walked for days to preach the Word.

...so day 2 was over and i left my very public place where i had proclaimed Jesus and went to Starbucks for an egg sandwich and Iced Americano....deeply touched by the Christians in China who hide behind doors and feast on the Bread of Life...

...of these the world is not worthy

b

Friday, August 8, 2008

day one...back in the day


"Back in the day" i might have been spotted walking around a parking lot or at an intersection near where the Dead might have been playing holding a sign that could have read "i need a miracle" (which in deadhead language means "i don't have a ticket do you have one you could sell me hopefully really cheap or better yet free!").... or I also might have been found walking toward the United Nations building, the Capital or the White House carrying pieces of poster board that may have had words on them relating to various current political actions...perhaps i had long hair (or any hair for that matter), a tye-dye shirt and some hippy-type necklaces...

Well.....things looked a little different this morning as i began a call to prayer at one of the busiest commuter intersections in the upper-middle class town where i live. I was at an intersection holding a sign like "back in the day" ... but my hair was thin, my shirt was black and my necklace was under a clerical collar....

... but my sign still asked for a miracle...but not for me, for someone else...and not for the Dead, but for Life

i stood there not in protest, but asking a request...asking for people to rattle the gates of heaven on behalf of people who are being oppressed....politically, spiritually, emotionally, economically, mentally....my sign simple ready "please pray for China"....

i had no agenda...only a burden that the Lord placed on me, one to call people to pray. i woke up freaked out over having to do what i said i was commented to doing.."what if the police come, what if people ask me why i'm there, what if the newspaper shows up, what if this is really not from the Lord and it's just my idea, what-if, what-if, what-if...so the first 15 minutes i was sweating and shaking...

so i stood their holding my sign. i sang in my head ...'i stand amazed" ...which kinda took my mind off of what i was doing...then i caught myself and started to pray for all the folks who went by and for all those in China...one car full of kids yelled at me, a city bus driver rolled down his window and mocked me, two cars honked and gave me a thumbs up...but most of the people drove by and looked, a few smiled...it seems like the masses didn't know what to do with a priest who stood in the center of town with a sign asking people to pray...

i was changed....i've asked kids over the years to gather at a flag pole and pray at their school in plain sight...i've told people to seek to please the Lord not man...i've preached about getting out of the boat and stepping onto the waves....i've done these things before, but never alone like this morning....i felt really exposed, yet wrapped in the blood of Jesus...i didn't have the anger of my youth, but the peace that surpasses all understanding...

so what happened? a bit of fear is gone from my life....and pretty much my whole town knows where i put my trust...and i'll be there each day for the next few weeks...asking people to join me in asking God for a miracle....and the only reason i'll be there doing this is because He has done one in my life

blessings....

stand with strong knees..

in the Master

b

Thursday, July 31, 2008

so what are you going to do now?


"so what are you going to do now?" I asked the man who just finished telling me his story of a former life of drugs and gang violence. "I left a party one night and asked the guy driving if he was ok..so i kinda fell asleep...next thing i know i'm waking up in the hospital two days later. God saved me for something i know...."

"so, what are you going to do about it? I mean, if you really feel like God saved you, kept you alive, you have to do something. If you think He is that powerful, what are you going to do?...do you know about this God?..." And I proceeded to unravel the scandal of the cross and you could have heard a pin drop in that tiny inner-city apartment. It was really hot that day and I had just finished hauling a bed, chair, dresser, vacuum cleaner and five boxes of assorted dishes and housewares up two flights of stairs. This guy and his girlfriend along with their two year-old son had just found an apartment after living in a shelter...the kid had no bed and they were all sharing an inflatable mattress...they're cheap at wal-mart and if folks on the margin can find a cheap bed you can't take it home on the bus...

So I was sweating like a pig because it was hot and I was wearing a clergy shirt...i kinda feel like it's a good witness to see a priest getting dirty...and when I was done I noticed that there weren't any fans so I went down the street and bought three for them. And in the midst of the sweat in that tiny little apartment the Creator of the Universe showed up and opened hearts...I have heard from sources that they have been attending a church now...they did something about it...

And that was why I was there that day as well. A song that gets a ton of airtime in my head sings "I want to make much of you Jesus, I want to make much of your cross." At just the right time Jesus crashed into my life so now I sweat, haul, store, preach, spend, laugh, pray, drive all over the place here and in Tanzania...i'm not saying that i'm anything special and i'm not trying to blow my own horn...but really....

What are you going to do in response? Sitting still is not an option...

make much of Jesus my friends, make much of the cross...

in Him

b

Thursday, July 24, 2008

gas, espresso and Jesus


I bumped into a friend I hadn't seen in years a couple of weeks ago. As we sat and talked over a bagel he launched into the price of gas....what really ticked him off was this feeling he gets when he's at the pump that the companies were trying to personally stick it to him...it sounded a bit like a "conspiracy theory" to me. I don't know how many people share this level of outrage, but I can say with a fair amount of confidence that most people do feel as if the companies have no idea how we're effected by their actions...do the CEO's of the gas companies personally feel the pinch like we do when they hammer out prices? I can't say, I just wish they understood how their actions affected others
With this conversation still fresh while I was on vacation in Maine last week I got really excited when I found a gas station that was "under" four bucks a gallon! So what if was only by $0.01, it still got me happy enough to take a picture of the sign! Little things get me really excited and this vacation was full of little things...little waves, little gas prices, little to worry about, and a little coffee shop in the middle of Kennebunkport Maine that made me very happy.
My wife and I were looking for a good espresso buzz so we asked a local behind a cash register where to find a tasty jolt. She pointed us to a espresso shop around the corner. I walked in and asked if they could make me a lot of espresso and pour it over some ice cubes. You can't imagine my joy when I got four shots over ice for only two bucks! I almost danced in the shop..so I quickly became best friends with the kid and we started talking while he made my wife's drink.
As I was leaving he passed a little comment "oh Jesus, help me, or god or someone"....and before I could think I turned around and replied "dude, Jesus can definitely help you"...to which he said to his co-worker "oh, that reminds me, i need to call my aunt...she's one of those crazy Christians that always cries in church and speaks in tongues. Every time we see them or go to church with them they feel so bad that we don't act the same way, it really makes them really ticked and it freaks me out."
You could tell by his voice and posture that he was turned off by these folks. Little comments they made had a great impact on him...i'm not saying that thier reaction to the reality of thier redemption of thier very souls by the atoning work of Jesus on the cross is a bad thing. In fact many is the day when this reality washes over me and I, like David before the Ark (although fully clothed) dance about in joyous praise.
I was nugded by the Holy Spirit and I walked back to the counter and said "dude, sorry to hear that. I get freaked out by people who come down on folks just because they don't react the same way as they do in church too. Next time you see them, tell them that different people reacted in different manners to Jesus in the Bible too when they encountered His power...there was a woman at a well who was sleeping around and Jesus confronted her on it and she kinda just broke down, some blind guys ran after him when they got their sight back, and a guy filled with demons just sat down after he was healed and they were cast out...We all react different because Jesus reaches us all differently. But there will be a reaction." I thanked him again for my drinks and skipped out.
Do you ever wonder how the little things you do effect others? I'm not saying we need to put artificial parameters on how we personally authentically worship the Trinity. What I'm saying is this...when you live life among people who you wouldn't normally see in church, you begin to understand why they aren't in church....and with frightening regularity I find that it's because of "Christians" that most keep away. Jesus said we will be known by our fruits, and that it's what comes out our mouths that makes us unclean. So what are the words you have pouring out of your mouth and what kind of reaction are they causing?
So....if the CEO's of the large gas companies understood, i mean really understood how their actions effected the average person at the pump i think they would think twice about their actions...i wonder what would happen if Christians did the same...