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Helping A Friend

August 1, 2012 Leave a comment
Baby laughing

Be a part of 1 Million Laughs for Charity!

This isn’t one of my normal blog posts. It’s going to be short and sweet. My friend Dave Pileggi at Pretty Funny Stuff has a video he has created that benefits charity. We are trying to help the video go viral, so if you could post it to your social media sites: Facebook, Twitter (mark with the hashtag #1MillionLaughsForCharity), Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, etc. The video is hysterical and the song is available for download via Dave’s website, iTunes, and Amazon.com (search for “1 Million Laughs For Charity” on iTunes and Amazon.com to find the song). It’s only $.99 per download and 1/2 of that goes to Lazarus Ministries in Atlanta – helping meet the basic needs of the homeless.

Dave’s video is below. You should be able to click on it to open it up in YouTube.

Photo Credit: By Jim Champion

God Isn’t A Part-Time Lover

Lego hearts

Godly love isn’t part-time.

In preparing for my day, I read today’s entry from 40 Days Living The Jesus Creed by Scot McKnight. Day 4 talks about seeking the face of God. We build relationships with others when we spend face-to-face time with them. God doesn’t have a physical face like ours, but this is how we as people with a finite mind can get a better grasp on developing our relationship with our Creator.

One quote from today’s reading just really hit home with me:

“Love isn’t God’s part-time vocation, as if God is sometimes holy and other times loving. God is love, always and forever. And, the face of God’s love is His unconditional regard for who we are and sacred concern for everything we do.”

We think of love in earthly terms, but to quote dc Talk (yes, I’m kickin’ it old school this morning) – “Not love like we know it, like ya love your girl. It’s a love from above not of this world.” God can show us love through many ways (not in a “new age…God is in everything” kind of way). He reveals Himself to us through people, circumstances, and His Word. For me, I feel like He reminds me of His love through music.

In 2001, Michelle Branch released the song “Everywhere” and it filled the Top 40 radio stations. Several in my circle of friends were convinced that she was a Christian and that the song was about her relationship with God. The lyrics had that kind of cryptic “I am singing about another person but I could be singing about God” vibe to them so who really knows her intent when she wrote the song. (The video shows her obsessing over a guy, but the visual of a video doesn’t always correspond with what the singer intended with the lyrics.) Here is the chorus, so you can judge for yourself –

“Cause you’re everywhere to me. And when I close my eyes it’s you I see. You’re everything I know that makes me believe. I’m not alone. I’m not alone.”

I was listening to the song the other night on my iPod and it just made me reflect on how, regardless of our circumstances, we’re not alone…for God is with us and His love surrounds us. Enjoy Michelle Branch’s video for “Everywhere” below.

Photo Credit: By Bill Ward

Catching Fire Definitely Sparked My Attention

Catching Fire

Katniss Everdeen is the “girl on fire.”

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, picks up right where The Hunger Games left off with Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark as they take part in the Victor Tour of the Districts. While on the tour, Katniss discovers what appears to be an uprising in some of the districts and unbeknownst to her she is the cause of this rebellion. When she and Peeta eventually make it back home to District 12 they find that the Peacekeepers have taken over and have basically stripped everyone of their freedom and have threatened or even killed numerous citizens. Katniss feels horrible that all of this was caused by her actions so she makes a plan to escape while she is in the woods one day.

Through her trip in the woods, Katniss meets two runaway girls from District 8 who tell her of a secret District 13 that is a peaceful place where they hope their troubles will end. When she gets back from the woods, she discovers that the “Quarter Quell” (a special event that occurs every 25 years) takes place for the Hunger Games this year. Each “Quarter Quell” has a unique twist to it (ex. the year Haymitch Abernathy won they had twice as many participants) and this year is no different – the participants are selected from the surviving victors of past Hunger Games. Since Katniss is the only female surviving victor from District 12 she is forced to participate and Haymitch is selected as the male tribute, but Peeta volunteers in his place.

Peeta throws additional plot twists in the mix at the interview process with television host Caesar Flickerman (I won’t spoil the surprises). During the games Katniss and Peeta form an alliance with several previous victors including pretty boy, Finnick Odair and sarcastic cynic, Johanna Mason. Wiress, an older former victor helps the group discover something about the playing field they are able to use to their advantage. Another major plot twists happens at the end so their is never a dull moment from the first page to the end.

I really enjoyed Catching Fire as much as The Hunger Games. The movie version of the first book was a little disappointing, but here’s hoping that the sequel will be worth the wait – November 22, 2013 can’t get here soon enough!

Photo Credit: By Wikipedia.org

T Minus 39 Days Until Brazil!

Brazil friends

Friends from one of my previous Brazil trips.

The “official” countdown has begun! The past few days have made me all the more ready to leave for Brazil – my e-mail account was hacked and I’ve been sick all weekend (had a fever of 101.4 on Saturday) but I’m finally starting to feel better. My SUV has also decided that now is the time to start acting up again. Happy happy joy joy!

As of July 21, I am only $610 away from having all of my funds raised for my portion of the trip. If you are interested in contributing, it’s not too late (and it’s tax deductible). We have also added another person to our team – Elisabeth! If you want to pray for our team members specifically they are: Scott (me), Adam, Krista, Courtney, Valerie, and Elisabeth. We would greatly appreciate your prayers as we prepare for this exciting trip. Our next team meeting is this Sunday.

We as a team have decided to read 40 Days Living The Jesus Creed by Scot McKnight as a way to prepare for the trip. The book focuses on the scripture passage Mark 12:29-31:

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

When your primary focus is to love God and love others, then everything else falls into its proper place. The book is broken down into 40 chapters (a chapter a day) and one of the things it encourages you to do is to quote Mark 12:29-31 in the morning when you wake up, before you go to bed, and throughout your day. I’m really excited about going on this 40 day journey with my Brazil team to help us prepare for what God has in store for us in Londrina.

The Next American Idol (Judge) Is…

July 14, 2012 1 comment
American Idol logo

Who will replace the AI judges?

American Idol is one of my guilty pleasures. I’ve watched it every season since it started. I saw two of the American Idol tours (the year Taylor Hicks won and the year David Cook won). I even voted for Phillip Phillips this year and have his song Home on my iPod. If you keep up with pop culture at all, you have probably heard recently that both Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler will not be returning as judges for season 12 of the show. At this point it is not known if Randy Jackson will stay or follow suit. Ryan Seacrest has signed a 2 year deal to remain, so he will be hosting through at least season 13 but who knows are that.

With at least two of the three judges leaving the show, it’s time to make some changes to bring American Idol back to the juggernaut that it was when it first started back in 2002. First off, they need an “anchor” female judge who is known and loved by many (the X Factor has Britney Spears and The Voice has Christina Aguilera). Someone like Mariah Carey, Beyoncé, Janet Jackson, Mary J. Blige, or even a music veteran like Carole King or Chrissie Hynde could potentially be a good fit. Next they need someone who is up and coming or really current right now – someone like Carly Rae Jepsen, Gwen Stefani, Pink,  Ellie Goulding, or even Katy Perry. A music producer or someone in the industry is a must for the panel – like Jimmy Iovine, Will.i.am, or even someone like Diddy. Finally, I think they should bring back a fourth judge and have it as a “rotating” judge homecoming for AI alumni (winners and those who have had a significant impact on the show) – Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughtry, Jennifer Hudson, Kris Allen, David Cook, or Jordin Sparks. This would be nice because they would only be there for a week, so it wouldn’t greatly impact their touring or appearance schedules. It would also be a great way for the audience to see “where are they now” regarding their favorite former AI contestants.

As we discovered in season 9, finding the right judges can be a hit or miss process (Ellen DeGeneres?!?! Really?!?!). If you could pick, who would you like to see as the new judges for American Idol season 12?

Photo Credit: By Darren Wittko

52 Days And Counting…

frustration

This is how I feel right about now!

It’s hard to believe all that has happened in the past few weeks. As of today, it is only 52 days and counting until I leave for my Brazil mission trip. Currently I have raised $1540 of my $3000 in support for the trip (thanks to some AMAZING contributors). I have to raise the remaining $1460 by August 17. If you are interested in contributing, there is still time.

I ran (more like walked) the Peachtree Road Race on Wednesday, July 4. This was my fourth time participating in the race. I was not really pleased with my time this year (1:52:52), but I finished it and got my t-shirt (and the t-shirts keep getting uglier and uglier every year – geez who creates these things?!). I keep telling myself that I’m going to start training earlier and earlier each year, but I always end up waiting until the absolute last minute. Hopefully I will change this in 2013.

My job search continues to be a daily source of frustration and stress right now. I recently found out that a job I interviewed for (that would have been my “dream job”) ended up going to someone else with absolutely no explanation of why. At the end of this month it will be 13 months since I lost my job and looking doesn’t get any easier. They keep saying that the economy is getting better and the unemployment rate is getting lower – I will believe all of this when I finally get a job! I started this blog as a means to help me keep up with my writing skills and to have something to show potential employers as an example of my work, but lately it has become a place to vent my frustration.

Something has GOT to happen on the job front soon! I honestly don’t know how much more of this I can take.

Have you been through a “longer than expected” job hunt? If so, what kept you encouraged during the difficult time?

Photo Credit: By Shelby H.

Janet’s in Control While Jesus Takes the Wheel

control

Why do we have to be in control?

A great philosopher once said “I’ve got my own mind, I want to make my own decisions. When it has to do with my life, I’m gonna be the one who’s in control!” Okay, calling Janet Jackson a great philosopher is more than a little messed up, but she shares the same mindset as a good portion of the American people. We have the ability to make our own decisions, so therefore we should be the one in control. We’re constantly saying “Jesus take the wheel” but it’s like we’re the passenger in one of those driver’s education cars that has a steering wheel and brake pedal on the passenger side. We immediately grab the wheel and start turning the other way when we are taken in a direction we don’t want to go.

Why do we feel the need to be in control? Is it the fear of the unknown? Do we really think we know what’s best? We can’t make time go any faster and forcing the hand of others (including God) to do what we want just isn’t going to happen. More often than not, when I try to take control one of two things happens – I either stress myself out over the situation because I can’t actually control anything or things fall apart due to my feeble attempt to do things my way.

The Bible has some great advice regarding control.

1) God is the one who is in control, not us.

Jeremiah 29:11 states –

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

2) Worrying over something of which you have no control doesn’t benefit anyone.

Matthew 6:25-34 tells us –

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

I know it’s much easier said then done, but sometimes we just have to learn to let go. We’re not in charge and pretending we are is only going to get us no where fast.

Enjoy Janet Jackson’s “Control” video below and ask yourself, “How can I relinquish control of my life today?”

Photo Credit: By Emilian Robert Vicol

Prayer and Bruce Almighty

man praying

Why do you pray?

The subject of prayer has been on my mind today. We don’t truly understand the concept of prayer in today’s society. How can talking with someone we don’t see be of benefit to us? One of the biggest misconceptions about prayer is that we do it for God’s benefit. If I pray “Lord, I need a job. Please provide me with a job as soon as possible. Amen.” God’s reaction isn’t going to be “Wait…you need a job? I had no clue – thank you for letting Me know this!” Prayer isn’t for God’s benefit, it’s really for our benefit. One of my favorite quotes about prayer is by C.S. Lewis – “I don’t pray to change God’s mind. I pray for God to change my mind!”

Through prayer, we realize how much we really need to depend on God. Praying makes us aware of our limitations and reminds us of God’s greatness. Prayer does not obligate God to give us what we want – He is not a supernatural vending machine dispensing our desires at the push of a button. When you are in a relationship with someone you spend time communicating with that individual, otherwise the relationship will suffer. Prayer is about communicating with our Creator and developing our relationship with Him. Sometimes even the church struggles with the concept of prayer (Andy Stanley did a great sermon on this very topic – Big Church (Part 2): Big Prayers (NOTE – The video will automatically start on Part 1, so you will need to select Part 2 for this particular sermon)).

A great illustration of our misconception regarding prayer can be found in the 2003 Jim Carrey movie Bruce Almighty. It’s the tale of Bruce Nolan (Jim Carrey), a down on his luck news reporter who gets frustrated with God. Bruce accuses God of being cruel and not doing His job, so God (Morgan Freeman) gives Bruce His powers for one week to show him that he can’t do it any better. In one particular scene Bruce tries to figure out how to answer the prayers of the world (see the video below) and decides to create a computerized system. He realizes that the more prayers he answers, the more prayers come in. Frustrated, he decides to answer “yes” to all prayers. The results of Bruce’s action cause extreme chaos in the world (you’ll have to watch the movie to see what happens).

What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about prayer?

Photo Credit: By Leland Francisco

Discipline Equals Love

June 21, 2012 2 comments
Time Out Chair

The dreaded “time out” chair!

Yesterday I was able to spend some time with my younger brother and his kids. He has three kids that are under the age of seven, so things can get very interesting at times. One thing I noticed was if my brother told one of them to do something (or not to do something), depending on their mood, the response often would be something negative like “No!” or “I don’t want to do that!” At times they may even think their father is mean because he won’t let them do whatever they want. What they don’t understand is my brother has a reason behind why he is telling them these things – he loves them and is looking out for their best interest.

As believers we often find ourselves questioning why God wants us to do something or why he hasn’t allowed something to happen for us. We get mad at Him, stomp our foot, and say “No God, I don’t want to do that!” or “Why did this person get to do that and I don’t?!” Sometimes we go to the extreme of being so mad at God that we try to run from Him. Quite frequently God will just let us have our temper tantrum and then look at us and say “Are you finished yet? I know what I’m doing.” Other times God will just let us have what we think we want at that time and when we realize we were wrong He asks “When will you learn? I know what’s best for you!”

Now days it’s the norm to see parents out in public telling their kids “I’m going to count to three and if you don’t do (or stop doing) <insert whatever random act here>, then you are going to be in trouble!” A couple of weeks ago, our pastor started a series called Age of Kings. One of the main points he mentioned in the first week was “God doesn’t count to three.” He doesn’t say to us “If you don’t do this (or stop doing this) I’m going to count to three and there will be consequences!” He just lets us do our thing and suffer the results. He doesn’t do this to be cruel, on the contrary as Proverbs 3:11-12 tells us

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.

Discipline is what helps us grow and what teaches us right from wrong. Dictionary.com has three different definitions for discipline:

  • To train by instruction and exercise
  • To bring a state of order and obedience by training and control
  • To punish or penalize in order to train and control; correct or chastise

Which of these three definitions do you think of when you view how God disciplines you as His child?

Photo Credit: By Stephen Nakatani

Sinner – A Great Ending to Paradise

Sinner by Ted Dekker

Sinner concludes the Paradise novels.

Ted Dekker’s Sinner is the third and final book in the Paradise novel series. This story picks up 13 years after Showdown with Darcy and Billy (two of the children who lived in the monastery during the first book). Billy is now a lawyer and Darcy works at an assembly plant. The two are brought back together by the government as someone has discovered their special abilities (Darcy can persuade people to do things with her words and Billy can read a person’s mind) and wants them dead. They are brought to Washington, DC for “safe keeping” but numerous lynchings begin to happen and Darcy and Billy are asked to help solve the mystery behind the occurrences.

The duo convinces the government that the lynchings are racially driven and that it is the work of religious fanatics. Darcy motivates congress to create “The Tolerance Act” which deems anything spoken against another person based on race or religion a federal offense. They begin to hear rumblings from Paradise and discover that Johnny is back in the city preaching the truth of Jesus Christ and how he is the only way to heaven. Under the new act, Johnny’s actions are considered intolerant as by saying Jesus it the only way he is by default saying that other ways are wrong. Darcy and Billy agree to meet with Johnny in hopes of making him see things their way. Three thousand people end up coming to Paradise as a result of Johnny’s message and the government is faced with decision of how to punish Johnny and the others for breaking the new law.

Unlike Saint, Sinner was an enjoyable and intriguing read from start to finish. The book deals with topics like power (asking “When you have the ultimate power, will you let it go to your head and use it for personal gain?”) and being able to forgive yourself for sins of the past. Dekker has done a great job with the Paradise novels and I look forward to reading more of his books in the future.

Photo Credit: By http://www.teddekker.com

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