Getting (Re)started

OK, it’s been a while.  No, that’s not accurate… it’s been an eternity, a blog-ternity, since I last posted anything here!  (Sigh)  I have to get in the practice of keeping up with this thing, and I promise two things:  I will do it, and I will still let the blogging community down from time to time.  OK, I said it… hand has been slapped.  Now for a short devotional thought on doing some Bible reading.

Last year (you know, the one in which I didn’t even blog?), I endeavored to read through the Bible.  I’d never done this before, and thought it was a worthwhile thing to do.  I found out some things about “read thru the Bible in a year” plans… they mean well in trying to get us to read Scripture, but the focus for many people, myself included, becomes “check the box” rather than spiritual growth.  One instance was a day in which I had to read something like 6 or 7 chapters of Isaiah.  I got to Isaiah 58, and went back and re-read it.  Then I read it a third time.  The next day, I started, not with chapter 59, but with 58 again.  It was hitting me squarely between the eyes, which is the effect God intends for us to have- not just reading to say we’ve read it.

I can read any number of works of fiction, poetry, biographies, political essays, or whatever to just say I’ve read them.  The Bible, which God has given to us as His holy Word to grow our walk with Him, shouldn’t be the same as a Harry Potter book, or a book on Abraham Lincoln.  Even books by our favorite Christian authors shouldn’t replace reading the Bible!

I’m trying different approaches on reading now.  One thing I’ve done is to take one chapter or Psalm and read that one several times a day.  It’s helped it sink in a bit.  Another thing I’ve done, to sharpen up the Spanish also, has been, starting in Genesis, to read a chapter of the NLT and then read the corresponding Spanish NTV.  There’s been a day or two, where reading the Spanish (which takes more time and makes me more deliberate) has produced an “Aha!” moment.

So, what are some of your approaches?

Until next time… (which won’t be a year!)

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Going to the Shed

In my life as a musician, which I suppose was at least 100 years ago, I had to “shed” a lot.  Shedding (more so for jazz musicians than our classical counterparts) is a term that means practicing.  Jazz is, in my opinion, a pretty hip music, hence the hip terminology to describe an otherwise bland thing like practicing.  I’ve started playing again- just a bit here and there.  With the playing will definitely come some shedding… if I don’t then I won’t sound that good!

How, you may ask, does this have anything to do with the Christian life?  I’m glad you asked.  I… well, I’ll just go ahead and say it.  I am NOT perfect. Shocking, I know. So, even though I am a follower of Jesus Christ I still mess up sometimes.  Sometimes is a broad term.  Maybe to narrow it down, I could say I mess up anywhere from daily on down to every 5 minutes!  In our lives we will have to face the obvious fact that we are human beings and that we do still sin.  I think this idea of getting into a practice routine, “shedding”, working out the kinks in our lives is what Jesus was trying to say.  In Luke 9:23 we read, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily, and follow me.” (NLT)

This whole concept of intentionally taking up/shouldering our cross, making a concerted effort to deny ourselves and push our desires back while pushing Christ’s to the forefront is tough.  But it is necessary.  If, like I have done for a few years now, I were to lay off the trumpet then I’d sound like… well, like it had been several years since I’d really played my horn!  What about in our lives as followers of Christ?  If it appears that it’s been a while since we’ve done anything that resembles a Christ-led life, maybe we need to “shed” a little.

Until next time!

Serving For A Conviction

This is going to be a controversial post.  (Ooh, I can just feel the traffic coming to my blog- Bwaa Haa Haaaaa!)  No, I’m going to unveil the spiritual content now, give my little illustration, then get back into the application.  It’s different than most of my posts, so my readership will have to get out of the routine.  This won’t be too earth-shattering, since it’s like, one person!  I’m going to talk about how the Holy Spirit has the power to convict us of things and how we respond- even when it’s an unpopular thing to do or when it’s one of those, “Well, I guess it’s not ALL bad, but not ALL good,” kinds of things.  You know, the percieved gray areas?

OK, burning a CD without paying for it is against the law.  I’m not talking about you bought an album on iTunes so you make a CD copy for yourself.  I’m talking about, “Hey, so-and-so has the new Flibberty Giblets CD… I’m so going to burn that.”  It seems like no one, youth or adult agrees with me that this is stealing.  I didn’t think so either for a long time.  I had literally hundreds of burned jazz, classical, blues, rock, bluegrass and other CDs in my collection.  It wasn’t until I came across a forum for youth pastors where I first felt a little tug from the Holy Spirit telling me that burning CDs that I didn’t own and then calling them mine was… wrong.  If you don’t like it, then imagine what I was feeling at the time!  I, the youth pastor, had even burned a few Christian artists’ CDs.  I got rid of them, either through the trash or by deleting them from my iTunes.  It stunk at first, but then I realized I had done the right thing.  That was about three years ago.  I just did the same thing this week when I realized I’d let myself get complacent with it again.

So, it begs some of the following questions:  What is conviction?  What about things that are commonly accepted in the world around us?  How do I respond to conviction?  It is a tough thing to deal with.

I’m reminded of 1 Corinthians 8, where Paul was addressing the food sacrificed to idols.  It, since the idols weren’t real, was just food.  But there were some people that could get spiritually tripped up by this and sin.  So, he tells us, that if we partake of it, we could cause them to sin.  I think of my conviction by the Holy Spirit (whom Jesus calls “Counselor” in John 14:26) as a way of letting me see that there are things that I need to avoid.  Maybe it’s to abstain from an appearance of wrongdoing.  Maybe it’s to let me see that I can trust in Him through trials- and dumping a lot of great music is a trial for me!  I don’t totally understand this topic, but have to be willing to let the Counselor counsel.

What are some ways that you have been under conviction and had to respond?

Until next time!

John Deere and the Power of Prayer

This actually sounds like a movie or something.  Like an archaeologist with a cool hat who goes looking for stuff only to get into trouble.  Too bad it’s not quite on that level.  On the other hand, it’s on a much higher level.  And there are no Nazis that I know of related to my blog post, which, if I made 3 original posts undoubtedly the best would be the 3rd and I’d have to go and ruin the legacy with a fourth post years later.  OK…enough of the silliness.

Last week, I had an interesting experience that showed (a teeny bit) my lawn-mowing machinery prowess and (much more so) the fact that prayers are answered…even the ones we sort of just throw out there.  Behold, my John Deere miracle:

After last year’s grass cutting season my riding lawnmower was shot.  I parked it in its spot a little weird, tried to restart it to get it in correctly, and it was dead.  I left it.  My initial thoughts were, “Oh well, I guess this gets me off the hook for the rest of 2011,” and “I’ll have plenty of time to look at it!”  Yeah, before I knew it this year, the grass was calf high.  I mean, upper calf, too… not just right above the ankle!

I tried to start my late 80s, Hydrostatic 185 green and yellow fellow (with rust!) and I got zip.  Nothing happened when I turned the key.  Dead.  I remember talking to the benefactor who gave me the mower about a loose battery connection possibility.  I knew where the battery was, since I’d replaced it in April of 2011.  No joke!  I lifted the hood and saw that nothing was loose as far as my trained eye could tell.  I’m trained in plenty of things- lawnmower repair not being one of them.  I slammed the hood down.  I tried it again and got a little click!

I then did what just about anyone with no knowledge of what they are doing would do… I did the exact same thing!  I got two clicks.  I then sent up a prayer that went something like this, “Lord, you know I don’t have any more time this week to get this done, and I don’t have the money to go replacing batteries on this thing.  Please, let this start for me so I can get this done and not be the failure living in between two retired guys that have nothing better to do than cut their grass and have manicured lawns.”  OK, I added the last bit just now.  The first part was true, because I literally had no time other than right then.  By the time I could get to it again it would be calf-high as in a baby cow would get lost in it!!  Also our funds were low- AAA batteries would be an expense for us, so a lawnmower battery was out of the question.

I then did what I can only assume was God leading me to lawnmower repair.  I lifted the hood and gave the battery a little shake.  No clicks this time, but whirring as if it was getting ready to start.  I then proceeded to shake the battery like a dirty dog, or like it owed me money… maybe like a dirty dog that owed me money!  After a few seconds of holding the ignition it was the sweet smell of success.  And of old gas and combustion, smoke, exhaust, and all that stuff.

I’m certainly not advocating the “get out of jail free card” approach to prayer.  I also don’t want to excuse my laziness in not looking at the problem earlier.  As is the case with God, there are things we just don’t understand about Him.  On the one hand, He certainly is not a Santa/Easter Bunny/Tooth Fairy who just gives us stuff on a whim.  On the other hand, if we are to be in constant communication with Him like 1 Thessalonians 5:17 advocates, then we should be ashamed if we don’t take something like that to Him.  James 5:16 tells us that “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”  Prayer isn’t a means of only getting what we want.  Imagine if you had a friend that only called you when he needed something.  By the same token, I think that there are times when we are upholding a constant and daily prayer life , that this kind of scenario happens.  One this is for sure:  I feel quite certain that I had absolutely nothing to do with this incident other than deciding to cut the grass and not be a slacker, and more importantly pray- even a short one in desperation.

Until next time!

Accepting Corn Chowder By Faith

I’m not usually one to be tied down by food squeamishness.  I’m just at 6 feet tall, and I reside in the upper 230s to lower 240s.  I like me some food.  When Jenn and I were getting to know each other, it didn’t take her long to figure out that I would pretty much eat a food–granted it was not still moving.  That being said, I raised my eyebrows to a recent food purchase she made: corn chowder.   Now, I’m a big supporter of the clam chowder hailing from the place where they paahhk the caahh by the haahbaah.  Corn chowder?  Well, it may be an area of expertise to some but I’d never ventured into that “field”… until today.

My hesitation was rooted in some pre-conceived notions I had regarding some less-than-stellar corn puddings I’ve partaken of in the past.  It was an unfair comparison, but one that had me thinking that I was taking a big step of faith.  Then I saw it.  It was like a beacon to me.  A lighthouse shining its light, showing me the way to safety.  “Flavored with bacon”.  I abandoned any faith-stepping, and went out on sight there.  If it’s flavored with bacon, then I’ve just been armed with all the info I need pertaining to its eligibility for edibility.

In our daily walks with the Lord, isn’t that what we do a lot of the time?  Don’t we abandon our faith and trust in God and give in to making sure we “see” what we’re doing?  It requires a great deal of faith to accept Christ as your Savior.  The world at large doesn’t understand this commitment we make to Him, which is unfortunate, but true.  We have to go out on a limb, spiritually speaking, when we ask Him to save us from our sins.  That’s just where the faith journey begins, though!

Go back to the eating analogy (which I’m entitled to do as a Baptist!)  we don’t just eat once in our lives, and then abandon it do we?  I hope not!  We keep on eating… and eating… and- you get the point.  In our Christian lives, we don’t just accept Him in a bold move of faith and leave it at that.  We keep on practicing (or should) that same boldness and that same faith day in and day out.  If we have to test out our spiritual faith food by giving it the visual OK first, we’re missing the point.  2 Corinthians 5:7 tell us that we are to “live by faith, not by sight.”  In those things that God is trying to get us to do, we shouldn’t wait to see the label and see that it’s “flavored in bacon”.  It could be, and it could not be– but if it’s God’s will for us, then we’re a lot better off accepting it!

Oh, by the way- the corn chowder was delicious (and I could hardly taste the bacon–see where that got me?!)

Until next time.

Shedding Light

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about what I should attempt to do with this blog.  Hopefully you’ve noticed some things have changed as you entered the site just now.  Yeah, that’s the whole “attempting to do” aspect!  I’ve called it “Dave’s Blog” for a while now.  While it may be true that it is my blog, I wanted to do something to make it something a little better than that.  I know, it was a lame title– I’m sensing that you are relieved because I came to this realization and you didn’t have to tell me!

When I started thinking about what I’ve been using the blog to do over the last several months, it became apparent to me that I needed to make it some tie in to the devotional quality I’ve aimed for.  The “light” of course is the light of Christ, who is the light of the world. (John 8:12)  But it’s also a play on words in that, hopefully, the posts are shedding some light.  See what I did there?  I also thought the graphic at the top of the page with the sunshine was snazzy as it was juxtaposed with the darkness below.  This is symbolic of our world walking around in the dark without Jesus.  I take no credit for the theme of the blog– I just found it and applied it.  But it’s cool, though.  Tell me it’s cool.  Or at least it’s better than the awe-inspiring “Dave’s Blog”!

I’m 100% on the devotionals being the focus of the blog.  They may or may not remain titled “Dave-otionals” as they have been.  I like the name because it’s pretty slick, but I want to make very sure that 0% of the glory is for me so I’m in prayer over that at the moment with that name.  I’m open to some suggestions, all of you loyal readers.  As far as other posts, I’m going to limit the content to that which points towards Christ.  My personal life is boring.  It definitely doesn’t merit entire blog posts.  I think Facebook and Twitter might be the better mediums for personal stuff.  I’ve still retained the links to those places, and the Twitter feed is still up on the blog.

Hope you enjoy the new look!  (And let me hear some feedback!)

We’ve Got It Good, And That Ain’t Bad… Or Is It?

If nothing else,it seems like my aim is just to confound people with my off-center blog post titles.  This is going to be a tough one to write, though.  I don’t think that much of my topic fits into my humorous nature.  I’m talking about the subject of the global persecution of Christians.  Some of you probably started guffawing as you read that.  That’s fine.  As 1 Corinthians 1:18 states, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those that are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (NIV)  So, as opposers of the one, true God tend to do- let me have what you think are the “facts”.  Here’s what I know…

As I started doing some research, finding some videos, etc. for our youth group lesson I was more astonished than I had ever been.  The physical, brutal torture of professing Christians in much of the world today is of epic proportions.  I saw one video that showed three Christians being beaten, kicked, spat upon, and otherwise left for dead in India by Hindus.  In another, Iraqi Christians had to meet in an armed compound for fear of open violence against them.  In another account, a boy was forced by Muslims to gather the firewood that would fuel the fire he was to be thrown into.  I knew things were bad, I just didn’t realize how bad it was.  The one verse that got me was in 1 Corinthians 12:26 where it says, “If one part [of the body of Christ] suffers, every part suffers with it…” (NIV)  This was a huge reality check for me in that I never have truly been aware of the atrocities which are being perpetrated on Christians.  I had, I suppose, a “head” knowledge of them, but they sank down to my heart this time.

Ladies and gentlemen, America is not like these places.  In many parts of the world, there is no religious freedom.  You are either a Muslim, Hindu, or whatever the case may be- or you are, at best, ostracized.  That’s the best case scenario.  In the United States, and other countries with religious freedom, it is different.  There are no, or very few, physical atrocities such as these.  We have it good in that sense.  All we have to encounter may be some snickering and jeering now and then.  We may have to endure the occasional belligerent non- Christian attitude once in a while.  Someone may even talk about us behind our backs!  The bad thing, and I want to be careful here, is that we have no clue what true faith under fire is.  Of course, we all have trials and problems- each person’s are unique to them.  They need to be seen in light of James 1 and Romans 5:3-4.  These things need to be undergone so that perseverance and spiritual maturity can abound.  My only concern is: are we in danger of losing sight of what’s really going on in our world?  Has American Christianity become too lax in its approach to understanding the suffering of the global body of Christ?

Again, not my normal blog post… and at 520+ words, not the normal length for me either.  I hope this has given us some things to think about.  I hope, more importantly, this has given us some things to pray about.

Until next time!

Had It All Figured Out(?)

Just when I thought it was safe to assume that I knew some of my future plans, God throws a change-up.  He’s a good pitcher, and, looking back at my Little League career with a .047 batting average, well…  I guess that speaks for itself.  The line from the song that goes: “If you want to make God laugh, make a plan” seems appropriate!

What am I talking about?  Well, I had it all figured out in regards to my seminary degree and time left, etc.  I was going to go the easy road and finish in the Spring with a Master of Arts in Theological Studies.  Whoo-Hoo!  This is my second Masters degree, by the way, so I had talked myself into changing from the 90 hour Master of Divinity-industry standard-most people go for an M.Div, to this.  Well, I started looking at (since I had to go into Spring 2012 anyway) another degree just three teeny classes longer.  Hey, Spring 2012/Fall 2012- what’s the difference?

This is the point where I called Liberty University to make it official, wasn’t caller #45 for a change, and was told that if I was 100% sure that changing to my “new” plan with a Master of Arts in Religion was going to be it (as in final/kaput/finito/done) then they could do that.  If there’s any chance I might want to go further- do the M.Div.  Ohhhhhh, the agony!  The horror!  I started to realize that maybe I shouldn’t put God in a box… maybe I should leave this thing open.  Hmm.

I started thinking of some things at this point.  No, persecution of the saints wasn’t where I was going… I thought of the many biblical characters that tried to get out of doing things that God had commanded.  Moses tried to second guess, and talk God out of the idea of leading the Israelites out of Egypt.  Elijah went on the run- even after the victory at Mt. Carmel!  Thomas, well, he was a doubter.  Ananias got squeamish at the thought of going to anoint Saul, who had killed Christians to that point.  Now, I know that my going to seminary isn’t some kind of Scriptural mandate from God.  What I’ve had to realize as it hit me squarely in the face, is that we are supposed to keep God first and honor Him, even in the little things we do.

So I blog before you today, a student enrolled in the M.Div. program.  Instead of being 1 class or even 4 classes away from a seminary degree, now it’s 21.  (whimper)  But I can really feel God saying that I’ve been a little bit childish on this one.  Now, I have no clue if my future will have me putting a “Dr.” in front of my name.  I know for right now that all I’m supposed to do is be obedient and go through the next several years of classes.  I’ll let God throw the pitches, and will practice trying to hit a little better from now on!

Until next time.

NeedMoWriMo…Yo!

I’ve already seen some things on Al Gore’s invention (aka the Internet) that are hyping up NaNoWriMo.  Some of you know what this is, some of you don’t.  At the same time, there is another group that started sweating, even as they read it!  NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month.  In this process, a person has to make a 50,000 word novel appear in the 30 days that make up November.  I’ve thought before that this would be pretty neat to try, then I realized that this is a sick, psychotic, twisted thing to do to yourself!  Therefore, I am going to be the champion of the everyman (or lady) and fight the government or whoever is in charge of this “National” thing.  Maybe Al Gore invented this, too…

I propose that there should be more WriMo’s from which people can choose.  I don’t know about you, friend, but coming up with 1700ish words per day and being a slave to a tyrannical (and self-imposed) deadline don’t sound like the best ways to spend November.  As a runner, I liken this to the craziness of an ultramarathon.  I’ve done a half (13.1 miles).  It wasn’t exactly a roll out of bed on the day of thing, but I was capable of completing it.  I can at least fathom what a marathon would be like (13.1 times 2, for the mathematically-challenged).  What I can’t understand is why you’d want to go further than 26.20001 miles!

Since I feel like I know so much and have Internet access, here are my suggestions:

NaShoStoWriMo (National Short Story Writing Month)  The entrant will write a short story every day for that month.  This is more do-able.

NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month)  A poem every day for a month.  And there needs to be a haiku limit… that’s kind of cheating.

NaHaNoWriMo (National Half-Novel Writing Month)  Write half of a novel in a month.  Seriously, this seems like a better way to do it.

NaTweeStoWriMo (National Tweet-Story Writing Month)  I’m dead serious about this one!  Write a story using one tweet per day… 140 characters.  I think this one would be every bit as challenging as the real deal!

Now, some of these sound like Indian names, while others sound like drinks to order from Starbucks.  My point is that these offer some alternatives to the current choice.  Maybe you’ll consider doing one of “my” WriMo’s.

Until next time!

Blind as a Bat

I had a dream.  (No, not that one…)  I had a dream that for some reason I went blind.  Some clarification is needed here.  If you’ve ever seen my glasses I wear at night once the contacts go out, you’ll know this isn’t a far reaching idea.  These things are old school- the last frames I had before switching to contacts… in 1994.  I don’t think the technology (or my parents’ budget) was where it needed to be to make my glasses not look like things to see far away… like to planets.  Or the future.

But in the dream I had, I was really blind.  I don’t remember much about most of my dreams, but in this one I remember the blindness being totally new to me.  I was trying to figure the whole thing out.  There were several things I had to learn, or re-learn, to do.  Driving was one… no, just kidding.  Things like walking around the house were tough.  With a baby and a two year old, clear paths aren’t the norm.  Making coffee was a different endeavor.  Getting dressed was tough, too.  What if Jenn had already left for work?  It would take a whole new system of organization to ensure I wasn’t totally mismatched!  Sadly, my sense of fashion is also not too far of a stretch from this dream-reality.

One thing that I realized would change was pretty scary, too.  I wouldn’t be able to read the Bible!  Now, I know there are audio and Braille versions out there.  The thing I realized is from the aspect of having God’s word hidden in my heart.  I’m talking about laziness here… being blind to the gift that God has given us!  What good does a concordance do to a blind person?  That whole scenario of, “Oh, I remember a verse that says something like ______.  Let me look that up.” would be gone.  It hit me that I’ve really neglected the memorization aspect that Psalm 119:11 talks about:  “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

In countries that face no persecution for owning, reading, publicly using, and talking about the Bible we don’t see any application for this.  There are countless believers in countries where none of these things are allowed.  For them, to obtain even a page of Scripture is a great occasion.  I’m sure they don’t waste the moment by just reading it and then giving it little or no thought.  I’m sure they pore over it, and literally hide it in their hearts so that it can’t be taken away- even if the physical printed version is.  The next few verses of Ps. 119 talk about God teaching us and of recounting, meditating and considering, delighting, and not neglecting the word.  I wonder how much of that we are really doing today.

If, like in my dream, you suddenly became blind… how would you feel about what you have already hidden of God’s word?

Until next time!