The new house!

The new house!
This is our spring and summer view from the kitchen of our new home in Oklahoma!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Stirring Up the Flame!

I finally took some time yesterday to begin to read from some journals that my neighbor had loaned me.  These time worn, hand written notes contain the stories her grandfather wrote of his activities and insights during his time overseas as a Methodist Missionary to Russia and then Manchuria in the late 19-teens through the 1920’s.  When financial aid began to falter due to the great depression in the United States, he was called back to the USA and ministered first in the South Georgia Conference of the Methodist Church and then transferred back home to the North Georgia Conference so that he could be close to his beloved mountains!

So, like I said, I’ve just begun to read his notes but I’ve already found myself excitedly traveling along with him as he ministered to the lost, started churches and also attended various conferences in Europe.  In the first book I opened up written on November 20, 1927, he was attending services in various Methodist Missions in Belgium.  During his time there he also reported going to multiple services of the Salvation Army.  I found my anticipation growing as he began to write of a meeting that he attended that was presided over by General Bramble Booth, the eldest son and appointed successor of General William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army.  (William Booth, April 10, 1829 – August 20, 1912, is considered by many to be one of “God’s Generals” of the modern Christian Church.)

He described Bramble, who was in his seventies at the time, as being “an old man, very grey and a very fine looking man”* (General Booth died two years later in 1929).  And while he did not go into much detail about the contents of the message that the General gave, he did detail some of the testimonies given by men whose lives were changed by the intervention of the Salvation Army.  I was impressed with the way the “Army” reached out to the sick, hurting and very needy of their time with respect and honor to those being ministered to. 

I have read in other historical accounts of the organization of how most other denominations shunned the “Army” because of the class of people they associated with in their ministry in the slums with those living in prostitution, drunkenness and poverty, many times forced into that lifestyle due to the laws and regulations of the day.

What I immediately noticed as I read the notes written on the yellowed pages, was the excitement for ministry and the life of God that was stirring up inside me!  As I pushed back from the table and began to prepare dinner I thought about how different Piper’s and my lifestyle had been from many others we knew in our neighborhood, at work and in the other associations in our lives.  Life to us was… and still is to a degree, centered on ministering the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

It dawned on me that as an Associate Pastor leading children, youth, and young adult and music ministries for over 35 years, that I spent the majority of my ministry seeking new and innovative ways to make the Gospel come alive with understanding, zeal and excitement in the lives of the young people we had the honor to teach!  Over the years I had been constantly on the look out to see what in the mainstream media as well as other Christian ministries was capturing the attention of kids and youth.  Then I would attempt to integrate acceptable portions of what was working for them into our ministry.

Piper and I, and then our kids as well, ate, drank and slept ministry!  It was our world.  When I had to step down from my last assignment in 2012 in order to better assist my wife’s needs I felt an immediate sense of loss.  The writing of this blog has been a Godsend to me as it has given me an outlet to minister the Word by sharing many of the lessons I’ve learned through our walk down the road we are now taking with my wife’s health needs.  I am always appreciative and blessed when I hear that my experiences are helpful to those reading the blog!

But what’s next?  At times I wonder if there WILL be a next!  But as I just barely began to read from those journals yesterday, I felt an old friendly fire sparking up inside me once again!  I turned to Piper, got down on my knees next to her as she sat in her chair and looked deeply into her beautiful brown eyes and declared: “You do know that Papa God still has plans for you and me, don’t you?”  And while she may not have given me any physical recognition to what I was saying, I felt something jump inside me and believe I could feel something inside her as well!

I saw a picture the other day of a gal who reminded me soooo much of Piper.  It wasn’t even that she looked anything like my wife except that she was petite and slender as is my girl, but it was the look on her face as she was reaching out and doing something with her hands.  The look of confident concentration, the way she pressed her lips together and the gleam in her eyes said: “Piper!”  Within a moment of time I remembered that look of bold, happy, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” confidence that was always present in her. (See Philippians 4:13)

It reminded me of how she always stood with me in ministry with the look that said “Let’s do it!” no matter how weird, different, outlandish, ridiculous or impossible my idea was!  Now that’s the gal I married… and it is the gal I expect to continue to minister hand in hand with in this chapter of our lives.

How about you?  What excites you concerning the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  What is it that ignites the fires that burn inside you for the things of God?  What plans and directions do you think that Papa God might still have for you to accomplish in this chapter of your life?  Isn’t it about time that you found out and began to pursue them?  I don’t believe that it is ever too late to do what He has called you to do… no matter how outlandish or ridicules it may seem to you… After all… our God specializes in the impossible, doesn’t He? (Check out: Matthew 19:26, Luke 1:37, Luke 18:27)

Have a great rest of the week, and as you go out to explore the possibilities that Papa God has for you, keep asking yourself… “What exciting things am I expecting to do for God today?”

*Personal journals written by The Rev. George Erwin, book date beginning with entry November 20, 1927

Monday, May 29, 2017

Fords and Mills...

I’ve been enjoying learning about the many special nuances that our new home state has to offer.  Last night we watched a program on the local PBS channel called “Exploring North Carolina.”  The particular subjects of this week’s show were “Fords and Mills.”  During the program they first described the importance that fords, in the multitude of North Carolina rivers streams and creeks played in the early history of our state.

Going hand in glove with the fords was the use of the water to power the mills that used to dot the countryside.  They described how at one point in the early 1800’s that there were over 70 mills in Wake County alone.  Wake County is the large county 2 miles north of us and is the home of the State Capital in Raleigh and the Research Triangle which is anchored by 3 major Universities and the cities of Chapel Hill, Raleigh and Durham.

I particularly enjoyed learning how strategic the knowledge and use of the fords in the creeks and rivers of the state were to the early settlers as well as to the military leaders who led American armies throughout the countryside during the wars fought on US soil.  A ford or crossing through a body of water is simply described as “a shallow place with good footing where a river or creek may be crossed by wading…” (

The historical experts the program interviewed talked of the multitude of creeks, streams and rivers within North Carolina.  It was stated that you could hardly travel a few miles without having to cross one!  I also thought it interesting when it was described how different modes of transportation required different kinds of fords in order to successfully cross the stream.  From foot traffic, to horses, to wagons, to moving heavy loads such as military armaments, the depth of the water, type of soil and many other factors had to be considered in order not to lose the load!  Documents of the time detail how entire mule teams were swept down the river and lost in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s because the flow was too strong and the footing inadequate for the animals and their heavy loads.

Therefore you can see the importance of knowing where the right fords for their needs were located when locals traveled the area.  They told the story of how a American Revolutionary War General used his knowledge of the creeks and their fords in our area of the State, to keep the water ways between his force of 300 men and a pursuing force of over 1000 British Regulars plus Hessian volunteers.

With all that interesting information concerning the importance of fords, I got me to thinking this morning about all the rivers, streams and creeks that we have to ford in our daily lives!  As Christians we already have a knowledgeable expert who travels with us wherever we go.  His name is the Holy Spirit and He is closer to us than our next breath!  He is that little voice inside of us that sends out that little “feeling” that there may be trouble ahead.  He is the One that intricately leads us through the road map of God’s Word when direction in life is required.  He is the One who brings us to the correct ford in the stream that is hindering our progress and gives us safe passage through the potential hazard.

The Dean of the Bible College I attended made three striking comments during a recent sermon that really made me think of the pattern that Piper and I have chosen to follow throughout our life together… and then elicited a shout of “Hallelujah” from my lips!  First of all he declared that “Faith is a lifestyle and not an event.”  Romans 1:17 tells us that “the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, "The just shall live by faith." (MKJV)

For the Believer, faith should just be something we do!  It should be our natural default.  When we were faced with the results of Piper’s first tests back in 2007, we didn’t think twice but automatically grabbed each other’s hand and prayed for God’s directions… no matter what the circumstances, people or any other thing tried to present to us that might be different than Him and His Word of promise to us!

Secondly he stated that “There is something about faith that won’t take ‘NO’ for an answer.”  That truth rang a loud bell in our experience as I have vivid memories of discussions with other folks who felt it their place to give us strong “advice” of which I could NOT follow as Piper and I had our focus on another source… God’s!  To this day I can see the consternation on their faces and in their voices when I stood my ground.  I am sure that they thought I was being naïve and/or just plain idiotic to not to follow their intellectual argument.

Then the final comment that brought it all home for me was the simple truth from Hebrews 11:6 where the writer of the letter states without reservation that “Faith pleases God!”  What more can I say?  I want to be pleasing to my Papa God… don’t you?

Today here in the USA we are celebrating Memorial Day.  It is a time that we remember and give tribute to those brave men and women who have given their lives in the service of our country… in order that we might be able to enjoy the freedoms that this country stands for.  Well, there is another that gave His life in order for us to live free from sin, sickness and the lies of the enemy of our souls.  And you know… I want to honor Him and His selfless actions by living my life according to that which pleases Him.  Once again I ask… “Don’t you as well?”

Piper and I plan to continue to live our lives in faith, in dependence on Him and the promises of His Word, agreeing with the Apostle Paul “that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” I Corinthians 2:5 KJV)  So you see… it is actually kind of simple to find the right ford to cross the rivers, streams and creeks that rise up to block our paths in life… by staying in tune to the greatest Guide of all times!

Have a great holiday today, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “Whose advice am I expecting to follow when I come across a river, stream or creek rising up in my life today?”

Friday, May 26, 2017

Releasing Your Faith!

Before I quit my secular job back in 2010, I went through weeks of prayer, preparation and yes… even a bunch of anxious thought!  It was a tough decision but my wife’s growing needs and dependence on me was paramount to the decision that had to be made.  It seemed like everything in my life was turning upside down.  Piper desperately needed me, my job was needing my attention, which to be honest was not getting anywhere near my full attention to which my boss had duly noted through a not too positive written report for my personnel file, and I felt like my insides were going through a blender!

As we got more and more serious with our prayers, Piper and I felt a growing confidence that it was nearing the time for me to quit the outside job and return to my lawn and garden care business that I had on the side for many years before (and actually during) our stay in Oklahoma.  But we knew that in the natural it could prove to be a risky proposition!  We also knew that there would be some in our extended family who would be quite upset if I quit.  So… we continued to pray and kept our thoughts and planning to ourselves.  We wanted to make sure that we definitely heard from the Lord without any outside influences… either way!

There finally came a time when we needed to make a move.  Following the pattern taught by Paul in Romans 10:17 we continued to build up our faith through dedicated time in the Word and then began to call some of my old clients to see if they had need of my yard care services.  The outcome of those inquires was very positive and it began to look like we could make the transaction happen.  But… What if?  What about those who most likely would not be too happy with our decision and what would happen if the business did not grow fast enough and the finances we had been diligently saving ran out?  What? What? What?

Well… we finally got to the point when we knew that we had to RELEASE our faith and do what we felt the Lord was calling us to do in and for our situational needs.  It was time to put feet to our faith!  James 2:14 tells us “My brothers, what profit is it if a man says he has faith and does not have works.” (MKJV)  We had been praying about it, building our faith through the Word about it, preparing for it and confessing the Word over the plan… And NOW was the time to transition from the talk of the plan into works or action!  The Message Bible is a bit more succinct about this as it bluntly declares: “Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything…”

So… we did it!  We committed the plan and all its needs and possibilities, both positive and negative, along with the flack we knew would follow, to the Lord.  The next day I turned in my two weeks’ notice and the pressure at work deflated almost instantly!  Piper and I were able to go out on the job with our renewed business the day after I left Home Depot and we started getting jobs from many different sources!  I can’t say that it was always smooth and easy and that we didn’t have some times where we had to pray more and do some creative things with our finances along the way, but we stayed the course and the Lord was faithful to His directives and of course, to His Word… and here we are some seven years later and we’re still going strong.  In fact I would have to say beyond strong… and quite blessed!

But none of this would have happened if we had not released our faith by putting actions to all our prayers, hopes and plans.  Through the years I have known strong Christian men and women who were mature in the faith, knew the Word inside and out but yet were too cautious (or maybe better said afraid) about taking steps to RELEASE their faith when it came to decisions concerning finances, healing and other areas of life that affect us every day.

James 2:17-18 tells us that “faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.  Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works” (KJV) There will always come a time in our Christian walk when each of us will have to put our money where our mouth is… to sink or swim.  To choose whether we are going to trust the Lord enough to step out in faith based on the Word we have been studying and allowing to abide in us, or not!

That’s what RELEASING our faith is all about!  Mark 11:22 talks about having the faith of God.  Then in the next two verses Jesus explains what that looks like.  He tells us to speak to whatever mountain might be in our way WITHOUT doubting in our hearts but believing that what we are saying is going to happen.  And then we release our faith.  Verse 24 tells us “Therefore I say unto you, what things soever ye desire – WHEN YE PRAY – believe that ye receive them and ye shall have them.” (KJV)  So… believing you have received the answer to your prayer WHEN YOU PRAYED – you go out and act and talk like it has happened… even before you may see it!  Just as I put in my 2 week notice and then began to work the plan we were believing would succeed.

Our plan and subsequent actions may not have always looked successful during that first year (and believe me, we had folks pointing that out to us the whole time!) but we stuck with it, kept our confession positive and a smile on our faces and by year number two we were back to building up our savings account again!

Are there areas that you may need to release your faith in?  Maybe now is the time to begin by building up your faith through the particular scriptures in the Word that cover those needs and then when the time is right… and you’ll know that time on the inside of you… step out and put feet to your faith!  (Just make sure that it is your faith that you’re stepping out on and not someone else’s… Make sure it your voice of confident understanding and revelation from God and not just an echo of something someone else said or did.)

Sound interesting?  Well, give it some thought and prayer this weekend.  Check out Jesus’ and Paul’s thoughts on faith in the New Testament and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime!

Have a great weekend, and as you do keep asking yourself… “How am I expecting to put feet to my faith today?”

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Right Tool for the Job!

As time has allowed, I have been spending the past few weeks working on my raised bed garden project.  With Piper’s health situation I find that I cannot always follow my usual pre-planned daily schedule, so I work on the various projects around our home and property as I am able.  Lately though, I have been free to put in some dedicated time and effort into my garden plans.  After multiple trips to our local Home Depot and with the aid of our oldest daughter, I was finally able to procure all the materials I needed to build and/or attached the right screens and guards to safeguard the planter box from critters coming both on top of the ground and below!

Over the last weekend I set out to build the frames for the screens that will fence in the vegetable garden and quickly got annoyed as I couldn’t find some of the tools I needed for the job… that I knew I had somewhere, in some box… most likely still packed since our move to Oklahoma in 2006!  Well… I finally found my hand saws and began to cut the 2’X8’ boards down to their needed dimensions.  Since I couldn’t find either of my two miter boxes, the cuts were close, but not as straight or accurate as I really would have liked.

Then, as I began to assemble the frames I discovered that I had measured incorrectly and needed to cut some of the boards down an inch or so.  But by then I was getting pretty frustrated and turned to Piper and said “Enough is enough!  I’m going to purchase the compound miter saw that we have talked about for years!”  So, we put everything away and went back into the house where I ordered the miter saw that I had been looking at online.

That action then opened up the need to clear out a spot in garage where I could place the saw and tool table with room to operate it near my workbench and other tools.  Therefore, on Monday I spent the afternoon going through more boxes and then moving many of the items up into the attic.  Yesterday we pulled the car out and did a thorough cleaning and a greater organization of the space.  And since the saw is to be delivered today… we are ready to go… and I can’t wait!  Piper and I talked about getting a table saw in the very early days of our marriage in order to create, produce and then market simple wooden children’s toys.  Now the toys may not come forth, but I am sure that many other projects will see their life through this new tool… the right tool for the job!

Don’t ask me why, but I began to ponder the importance of having the right tool for the job as I was brushing Piper’s hair this morning!  I was remembering how my Dad always seemed to use whatever tools he had at his work bench to do whatever task needed to be accomplished.  He just sort of made the tools he had work for everything.  Therefore the thought of going out and purchasing a special tool to accomplish a particular task was not something that I normally considered in most of my adult years as well… That is until I worked for Home Depot. 

Since I was attending school during the day at the time, I normally worked the late afternoon/evening shifts.  That meant that there were times in the evening, on certain days, when the customer traffic was low and I could check out some of the other departments like Hardware.  I can recall walking down the aisles looking at all the tools and thinking “Oh wow!  I didn’t know they had something like that… that would have made that job a whole lot easier!”  Then I also learned the difference between cheap and inexpensive tools compared to the more expensive but better made ones!  That difference being less frustration when tools either break or don’t quite do all that they are supposed to do, and bruised hands and fingers or sore muscles from having to over-torque things!  It was after these nirvana moments that I began to purchase the better tools that I needed to accomplish specific tasks and learned the significance of having the right tool for the job!

So, after that all flashed across my mind this morning I immediately said to Piper that “As Christians we always have the availability of the right took for the job within the Word of God!”  And I thought about Hebrews 4:12 where the writer of the letter penned: “God’s Word is living and active.  It is sharper than any two-edged sword…” (God’s Word ©)  And the thought of the Word of God being “ACTIVE” just sort of jumped out at me!  You ever have that happen?

It was one of those personal revelations that I’ve mentioned in the last couple of posts.  You see, you may have the Word living in you… but have you put it to work in the situations of your life… Is the Word of God “ACTIVE” in you and your life?  Other translations interpret that word as “powerful, all-efficient or operative.”  But you can see that they all point to the same need for us to actively put the Word to work in our lives!

I recently read somewhere that many people may be full of the Word and faith but are not experiencing the supernatural interventions of God in their lives because they have not yet RELEASHED their faith!  To me, that’s just another way of saying that the Word needs to be ACTIVE in our lives in order to receive the benefits and/or blessings of His promises that God says are ours to participate in. (See 2 Corinthians 1:20)

We’ll talk a little bit about the releasing of our faith in our next blog post… But until then I encourage you to give it some thought.  Is the Word of God both alive and ACTIVE in your life?  Do you have the right tool to do the specific task that confronts you?  You could think of your Bible as being the tool cabinet that hold all the tools you may ever need, but it doesn’t do you any good until you open the drawers, find the right tool and then put it to use!

Have a good rest of the week, and as you do keep asking yourself… “Am I expecting to have the right tool to do the right job in my life today?”

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Power of Doubt

I have enjoyed watching the various species of birds that land on our lawns throughout the day looking for delicacies to munch on or items that they can use to insulate their nests.  Late yesterday afternoon we had two little brown birds with spotted breasts picking through a pile of dirt I had made when I dug the hole for our new Plum tree. 

As I observed them through my binoculars from the dining room, I was delighted to see them picking up various sticks and other organic material in the beaks.  Then there are the large black birds, the Cardinal’s, and the one’s with fluorescent blue wings or others strutting yellow markings, humming birds that taste of the nectar from the flowers in the weeds that blossom in the spring and many others that swoop down from the trees that surround the yard.

It has been interesting for me to note how these little creations seem to know who they can trust in the yard and whom they cannot.  While I watched the little brown spotted birds yesterday, it caught my attention that there were other birds in the yard at the same time as well as two little bunnies happily chewing on some delectable salad like weeds in the grass.  I assume that it is within their instincts to know who they can be secure with as whenever the dog goes out into the yard everybody scatters!

Those daily interactions in our yard makes me think about how Jesus likened seed to the Word of God and of the farmer who goes out to sow seed in his fields.  In Mark 4:14-20 He explained:

“The sower sows the Word. And these are those by the wayside, where the Word is sown. And when they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the Word that was sown in their hearts. And these are those likewise being sown on stony places; who, when they hear the Word, immediately receive it with gladness.  But they have no root in themselves, but are temporary. Afterward when affliction or persecution arises for the Word's sake, they are immediately offended.  And these are those being sown among thorns; such as hear the Word, and the cares of this world, and the deceit of riches, and the lust about other things entering in, choke the Word, and it becomes unfruitful. And these are those sown on good ground, who hear the Word and welcome it, and bear fruit, one thirty, one sixty, and one a hundredfold. (MKJV) 

That is like the birds who frequent our yard.  They are constantly looking for morsels to snatch up!  When I reseeded parts of our lawn back in California, I had to continually guard against the birds coming to steal the seed that I had covered with a thin layer of soil.  And you know… according to Jesus, that is the same thing that the enemy of our souls attempts to do whenever we receive the Word into our hearts!

With this thought in mind, Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17:14-16 declaring “I gave them your word and the godless world hated them because of it, all because they didn’t join the world’s ways, just as I didn’t join the world’s ways.  I’m not asking that you take them out of the world but that you guard them from the Evil One.” Then He continued with the zinger: “(for) They are no more defined by the world than I am defined by the world.” (The Message)

You see, when we receive the Word and then have the boldness to step out in faith based on the revelation or ‘rhema’ personal insight based on that Word, the devil will immediately take steps to steal the Word and foil our stand!  And he will use whatever means that is available to him to come against us… including close friends, family and/or other situations and circumstances.  I have personally experienced this over the last ten years and believe me… it is quite eye opening!

I just wish that I understood this principle when it first happened so I wouldn’t have taken it so personal!  For according to these scriptures, the people that tried so hard to discourage us in our stand weren’t really upset with us… they were upset with the Word!  And what were they trying to do?  Every word and action they took against us was actually a tool to put doubt into our hearts concerning the Word that we were depending on in order for the corresponding actions of our faith to work on our behalf.

And you know… I am pretty sure that they never even knew it!  In the steps of faith we were taking, we were moving beyond the boundaries of our intellect, based on our intimate knowledge of God’s love which was bringing us into the realm of the unknown frontiers of faith where God is able to do “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that worketh in us.” (Ephesians 3:19-20 KJV)

It is interesting to note that the word “doubt” in Mark 11:23 infers “to separate one’s self in a hostile spirit, to oppose, to strive with dispute.”  In other words, it takes a definite and determined decision to not allow dis-belief to get between you and the Word you are standing on. (Thayer’s)  Likewise to: “believe” demands that we “entrust a thing (ie; our stand of faith in the Word) to one’s fidelity.”  Which means our “faithfulness to a person, cause or belief” as per our unfaltering trust in God and His Word. (Online dictionary powered by Oxford Dictionaries)

So you see… The enemy of our souls is out to steal the Word!  He knows and is very much afraid of the power it can wield in the heart, mouth and life of a Believer who stands on It’s truths!  And like I said, he’ll use whoever or whatever opens themselves (knowingly or not) to his deceptions.

So what do we do?  We “stand not in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God” (I Corinthians 2:5 KJV) by taking “up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” (Ephesians 6:13 ESV)

Simple right?  Well… maybe not!  But don’t worry for we have been given all the tools we need to successfully “stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:11 ESV)

So… Know the Truth, Know the tactics of the enemy, Stand on the Word and Expect God’s best!

Have a great week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting to do when doubt tries to come against my faith today?”

Friday, May 19, 2017

Intimate and Organic

I know that I have shared parts of this before, but my prayer is that you might hear the lessons l continue to learn from current revelations of the Word concerning these past events and be able to use it for an such associations in your own life!  When we returned from Bible College and three years in Oklahoma to our home town in California, I was drastically surprised to see how much people, places and things that had been a major part of our lives in California had changed! 

Looking back on it now, I tend to believe that it was actually Piper and I who had dramatically changed due to our three years of total submersion in the Word of God through my Bible College training and the teaching and fellowship we experienced in the home church we attended there.  Simply put, some of the major influences in our family’s lives that we expected to give us a lot of encouragement, emotional support and physical assistance… did not!

One of my biggest (and best!) surprises has been the extended family members, friends, acquaintances and complete strangers who seemed to come out of the woodwork to undergird us in our deepest time of need.  And it’s happened over and over again in California and here in North Carolina!  Through it all I have personally come to rejoice and depend in the fact that GOD IS Sooooo GOOD for “he hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” (Hebrews 13:5 KJV)

Now, I’m not implying that God had anything to do with the changes that we experienced, but I firmly believe that He used the situations in order to point us completely and unrestrictedly to Him!  I can honestly say without any hesitation that I have NEVER been closer in my relationship to God and His Word than I have been over the last ten years.  In reality… I had no other choice!  As my old support system collapsed under me, I HAD to grab on to the Father’s hand that He extended to me or I would have sunk in the midst of the storm that was blowing all around me! (and believe me with the hurricane that blew through here last year… I have seen what can happen to something that is not firmly grounded as the winds blew and the rain came down in torrents!)

John 15:5 in The Message Bible shares Jesus’ words to us by saying in modern language, “I am the Vine and you are the branches.  When you’ve joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant.  Separated, you can’t produce a thing.”  The idea of being in a relationship with someone that is both intimate and organic perfectly describes the connection that Piper and I have had to develop with Papa God throughout the events of this attack on my wife’s health.

Intimate infers “an association, knowledge, understanding, etc, arising from close personal connection or familiar experience,” while organic “denotes a relation between elements of something such that they fit together harmoniously as necessary parts of a whole.” (both definitions come from the online dictionary, powered by Oxford Dictionaries.)

One of the first things that totally confused, frustrated and to be truthful… angered me the most… was the way some individuals made angry accusations, gave (unwanted nor needed) advice and passed on incorrect information to others about us, was the hard-felt revelation that after many years of interactions with them, that they really had no idea of who we were, what made us tick, our personality styles and many other important characteristics that have sculptured us into who we are today.  Our relationship was and is definitely NOT what this scripture calls intimate and organic… In fact… far from it... although I think it is getting better!

With all this confusion going on, it was almost as if I was forced to turn every part of us over to Papa God and His Word.  And it has been… as proven over and over again… the best decision we’ve ever made!  In John 15:7 Jesus also said: “If ye abide in me and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” (KJV)  If you were to look up the original Greek for “words” you would find out that it is not the word for “logos” or the written word of God but instead “rhema”  which implies “a word that is actually alive in your inner man – your spirit – and is beyond your ‘head’ or intellect.  It is a word from God that is beyond your memorization.  In other words, a rhema word is an abiding word, and there’s power in the abiding Word of God.” (How to Speak the Word of God with the Voice of Jesus, by Dr. Leroy Thompson Sr. pg 2)

A rhema word is a personal revelation from Papa God for you that is “a live word from Heaven, a quickened word, that you can use as a sword (See Ephesians 6:17) to cut (negative or needful) situations down.” (ibid, pg 7)  So we are talking about particular scriptures or inputs from God through our spirits that line up with the Word that are very personal to you!  It is like those “words” from Papa God have become intimately associated with who you are!  You and that word have become “fit together harmoniously as necessary parts of a whole!”

That’s exactly what Jesus is referring to when He talks about us “abiding” in Him and His Word “abiding” in us.  It is very intimate, organic and personal!  And like with my experience… sometimes that type of relationship is almost forced upon us… if we are to survive some of the valleys that we walk through in this life!  But, it is a kind of forced arrangement in which we have a choice in.  For me there was NO other way to go!  How about you… what would you do?

Have a great weekend, have fun, stay safe and as you do, keep asking yourself… “How personal am I expecting my relationship with Papa God and His Word to be today?”

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Keeping it Fresh...

I think one of the hardest things that I have had to deal with as the effects of Alzheimer’s continues to encroach upon my lovely wife, is the lack of interaction that we are able to have with each other.  We have always been very close.  I don’t think that either of us was ever at a lack for words when we’ve been together.  It seemed that there was always something to share, a word of encouragement, a scripture, a dream, a laugh or a simple smile.  In many ways we have almost always been in one accord… of a single mind!  So when I needed to start making decisions for her care in the early stages of the life situation we now find ourselves in, it wasn’t difficult for me to ‘know’ what she would want, what would bless her the most, and what would work best for the two of us as we ventured down this never-before exploration in our lives.

It used to irk me a bit when a few people close to us would question my decisions asking “Well, what does Piper say or think about this?”  I guess I figured that after all the years that they had known us, that they would have understood the closeness of our relationship.  These folks though, were the exception rather than the rule as most of our friends were cognizant of our special relationship and totally backed and encouraged us in the directions we were taking.

I think that you could probably say that Piper and I have sort of ‘abided’ in and with each other for the majority of the 47 years we’ve been together.  It is like the other day when I was thinking of some of the encouragements that Piper would send my way when I was having a tough time or maybe getting a little crabby (Yep… even I have been known to get out-of-sorts sometimes!), and I laughed out loud and mentioned to her that “You know me like a book, young lady!  You probably know me better than I know myself!”  She always knew how I think, how I would respond to different stimuli and what worked best to calm me down and lift me up!

Jesus prayed along a similar line of thought concerning his followers (ie; you and me!) in the garden of Gethsemane as the events of His crucifixion, death and resurrection began to unfold.   After asking His Father to protect them while they existed in this world, He made an interesting request saying: “Sanctify or set them apart THROUGH thy truth: thy word is truth.” (John 17:17 KJV)

When I continued to study from this portion of scripture yesterday and today I was captivated by the phrase through thy truth.”  As I began to muse on this I looked up the word ‘through” in the original Greek and discovered that it implies “being in a fixed position or instrumentality.”  (Strong’s)  Once I saw this I thought about Jesus’ words in John 15:7 when He taught “If you abide in me and my words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done to you.” (MKJV)  As it turns out, the word “abide” has similar characteristics as “through” in the previous verse we looked at meaning “to stay in a given place, state, or relation or expectation.  To continue to be present or kept continually” (Strong’s and Thayer’s)

To me it seems that both of those words constitute a continuous action on our behalf.  We are not just set apart and empowered ‘by’ the Word of God, but THROUGH our present, fresh or current abiding in it!  Just like in my relationship with Piper.  Through our constant, present tense, and fresh abiding with each other, we have become one in knowing and understanding each other.  I believe that is one reason we have always been an excellent team!  Whether it was running the yearly VBS at church, ministering to the youth at church or up in the Redwoods on a special retreat weekend or even opening up our house for the extended family gatherings during the holidays, we always tended to operate very smoothly, without contention and usually with wide smiles on our faces.

I believe that this is also the type of relationship that Jesus is instructing us to have with Him through an active, present tense and always fresh abiding in His Word.  This type of teamwork produces a unity or oneness that is never wondering what the other might be thinking or doing, whether they are judging us or not and whether our actions are pleasing to the other.

I was telling Piper last night how much it meant to me in the past whenever I would see her come into a room where I was, or into the store I was working in or sitting in the congregation as I preached to the youth or adults at church.  It was always like a breath of fresh air, a shot of adrenaline, and a personal encouragement to me that goes beyond my ability to explain!

Over these past ten years as we have walked this road through the valleys of Piper’s physical needs, I have also experienced those same feelings as I have repeatedly seen answers to our prayers, miracles and moments of loving-kindness and undeserved grace that only Jesus can give to those of us who endeavor to stay in a current and fresh relationship with Him THROUGH His Word.

What about you?  Do you have similar experiences?  We’ll explore this subject a little deeper in our next blog post… But if you feel some lack in this department, it only takes a commitment to regular time in the Word and prayer with an attitude of expectation, to start or re-stroke the fires of oneness with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!  Have a great mid-week, and as you do keep asking yourself… “Am I living in a fresh, abiding expectancy with God?”

Monday, May 15, 2017

What Defines You?

Faith is an interesting concept.  The Bible tells us that it has substance and is the only evidence needed by a Christian when facing situations that tell a different story than what they are believing for. (See Hebrews 11:1 KJV)  The God’s Word © translation tells us that faith gives us the blessed assurance that what we are actually expecting to happen – due to our belief and subsequent stand on the promises in God’s Word – do indeed exist in the as-yet unseen stage of their development. 

It continues by declaring that strong, continuing faith convinces us as to its existence… in spite of what we keep seeing around us… and that in some point in time, what we are believing for will move from the unseen realm into the visible realm, effectively changing the situation in favor of what we have been standing for.

But let’s face it… there are some around you and me who will think that we’ve lost a marble or two when we begin to talk and act like this!  That’s when we find ourselves standing apart from the world and declare the words Jesus did in His prayer to the Father in John chapter seventeen saying: “They (today’s Christians) are no more defined by the world than I am defined by the world.” (John 17:16 The Message)

My wife and I knew that when we began to stand in faith for her healing and take the subsequent actions that our stand demanded in order for our faith to work, that we would hit some flack along the way.  And you know… some of the strong “suggestions” that we were given sounded real good in the natural… but when push came to shove… they were contrary to where we continue to believe that the Lord has been directing us. 

Now, I may have just recently discovered the particular translation of John 17:16 listed above, but it is exactly what we have been doing since our return to California in 2009 with a growing idea of what we were having to stand against concerning Piper’s health.  When we stood in that crummy little kitchen in the duplex we were renting in Oklahoma and declared our unfaltering faith in God and His Word for whatever we might face along the unknown path ahead, we settled right then and there that we would not allow ourselves to be “defined by the world” and its way of thinking and acting.

And boy  Have we had A LOT of opportunities to give in to the world’s defeatist way of thinking… Like this morning when Piper kept refusing to swallow her breakfast!  I found myself emotionally spent as I drifted into the kitchen after using every technique and trick I could muster in order to get her to swallow (with a little bit of success – I’ll take whatever I can get!).  But as hard as my flesh wanted to… I could not get myself to utter a discouraging word!

For you see, the truth of not allowing the world to define us and our situation, has been branded upon my heart and head!  After taking the pooch out and giving him his breakfast, I plopped down into my chair at the dining room table next to my wife and after a few moments realized that we had to face the facts of our stand in faith and boldly declare that “we will not be defeated and we will not quit!”*  I also understood that we cannot go by what we see that is contrary to God’s Word and immediately began to declare over Piper, God’s will in the form of Matthew 8:17, Psalm 91:16, Psalm 107:20, 3 John 1:2, and every other healing verse that came to mind. (After confessing these over Piper at least twice a day for many years now, it is easy to repeat them verbatim!)

So yes!  I am a little beat this morning, but no matter how I feel, or what things may look like, I continue to stand alongside my wonderful wife and loudly confess that we will not be defined by the world’s way of thinking.  “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!” (Joshua 24:15 KJV) – END OF STORY!

Have a great week ahead, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “Who or What am I expecting to define who I am today?”

*Well known quote, sermon and book title by Revered Kenneth W. Hagin, Pastor of Rhema Bible Church in Broken Arrow, OK

Friday, May 12, 2017

You Must be Kidding... I can't live that way...

For the past few years my wife and I have lived our daily lives by following a pretty strict schedule.  To be honest, our daily activities are planned around my wife’s medication and meal times!  I have learned that she does much better when we follow this process each day.  Therefore we have specific times to accomplish the different things we do throughout each and every day.  That means that I only have certain windows of opportunities to work on inside or outside house projects, shop, clean, and so on… or even spend time on the phone or computer.

My life is centered on Piper’s care and needs and it usually takes precedence over everything else.  Most folks who we interact with on a regular basis understand my wife’s needs and flow with us in our seemingly unusual schedule.  But then for whatever reason, there are a few individuals who still call at inopportune times or suggest activities that they should know are not possible for my wife and I to engage in due to her physical limitations. 

But you know… I have come to the place where I tend to shrug it off and focus my attention on making my wife’s life to be and go as easy as possible.  This is the schedule or lifestyle that works best for her needs and I do all that I can to not allow outside interruptions to dictate how we should be living our lives at this time, under these unique circumstances.

I realized yesterday when I read the scriptures before I Thessalonians 5:18 that Papa God also has a schedule or lifestyle that He desires us to live or follow in our daily lives.  In His lovingkindness and care for our well-being He instructs us to Rejoice evermore.  Pray without ceasing. (And) In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18 KJV)

Now does that mean that we walk around 24/7 verbally giving thanks to the Lord, stay on our knees in prayer or continually thank God for everything that happens to and around us?  NO!  What it does mean though, is that we make these three activities to be a personal lifestyle that we choose to live no matter what happens around us, to us or even through us. 

First of all we have an attitude of PRAISE to God throughout each and every day.  Next we stay in an attitude of PRAYER, never really losing our daily connection with Him, and then we joyously THANK GOD in the midst of everything that happens to us, because our whole-hearted trust is in Him and the truth of His Word – not because He may have caused the incident, but because He is THE ONE who can turn it around for us!

Just like I work diligently to stay on our daily schedule because I know it to be best for my wife, Paul tells us that we should work diligently to live God’s lifestyle of continual PRAISE, PRAYER, and THANKSGIVING because Papa God has told us that it is the best way for us to live!

My earliest recollections of my wife date back to our junior year in High School, a year before we started dating when she and I were part of a group of friends that hung out together.  What caught my attention was her radiant smile, easy going personality and her constant encouraging and happy disposition.  As I look back now at those early days as well as the last 47 years of our relationship, I understand that she has always lived her life with an attitude of PRAISE, PRAYER, and THANKSGIVING.

I haven’t necessarily seen this unique and constant quality in the rest of her family.  I am sure that part of it is because of her individual personality style, but more importantly, I believe that at some point in her life (possibly when she received Jesus as her personal Savior and Lord at eight years old) she made the irreversible decision to live the lifestyle that Jesus has instructed us to live through the words of the Apostle Paul in I Thessalonians.

When we first began to deal in earnest with the attack of Alzheimer’s in Piper, I received many “warnings” from people who honestly thought they were doing the right thing by telling me of relatives and/or friends of theirs who had become angry with violent tendencies when strickened with this form of dementia.  But I always told them the same thing, that I know what is inside Piper’s spirit, and she will never react in that fearful manner.  And you know what… as her cognizant abilities began to diminish, she did not become angry, but even more joyful than she was before!  Her response to other people’s fears and insensitivity was to laugh and encourage them!

Now you may be thinking “Why is this?”  Well, I believe it is because she was always a consistent student of the Word of God.  In John 17:17 Jesus prayed to His Father just before Calvary, “Sanctify them (Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ) through thy truth; they word is truth.”  As I’ve noted before, the word “sanctify” means “to separate from profane things and dedicate to God.” (Thayer’s)  You see, from an early age, Piper has separated herself from the dictates of the world through the truth of God’s Word.  Then when the attacks came, she was set apart and is responding according to God’s ways and not the world.  I love the way that The Message paraphrase of the Bible states the previous verse by recalling Jesus’ prayer to His Father “They are no more defined by the world than I am defined by the world!” (John 17:16)

So think about that this weekend… God not only calls us to a lifestyle of PRAISE, PRAYER, and THANKSGIVING but also gives us the tools in and by His Word to accomplish this feat!  Pretty cool wouldn’t you agree!  So then… why don’t we do it?  I believe that it all starts with that irreversible decision to trust Him and His Word… no matter what!

Have a great weekend!  We are supposed to get some thunder showers, but I am okay with it as we planted some flowers in our front yard and the cooler weather and rain should help the young plants to establish themselves!  But however your weather is and whatever you do, I encourage you to make the decision to live His lifestyle… A lifestyle and/or schedule of PRAISE, PRAYER and THANKSGIVING… and as you do, keep asking yourself… “What attitude am I expecting to live my day with today?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks!

So, who says that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?  I’ve been seeing the opposite of that “saying” for the last couple of weeks in my home.  And you know… it hasn’t been with our dog either.  Fiver is less than two years old, so he wouldn’t even qualify.  But on the other hand… there is me!  Yep!  In this case the “old dog” is none other than yours truly!

I guess if you wanted to get technical about it, it really isn’t teaching me something brand new, but rather giving me a refresher course on something that for many years was second nature to me.  And that something is all about I Thessalonians 5:18 where the Apostle Paul wrote to the church encouraging them: “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (KJV)

For most of my married life, you could squeeze me and I would automatically reply “Thank you Jesus, Praise the Lord!”  Like I said, it had become second nature to me.  Whenever something traumatic happened at home, at church or on the job, anyone standing near me would hear me uttering those words.  On more than just a few occasions I’ve had people near me (especially at my secular job) look at me a little weird and ask: “What did you say?” 

That’s where my focus and trust was and I would say it without even thinking… and if my wife was near me, you would have heard the same thing come from her lips as well… like the time our oldest son Josh (whose birthday is today!) fell off a neighbors patio table and put a gash in his head.  I can still clearly remember standing near the table in ER while the doctors where attempting to sew up the wound on a squirming little boy who kept calling out “Daddy, don’t let them do it!”  But the whole time as I stood there comforting my son and attempting to help my sweet wife who was turning white as a sheet, I kept thanking God that everything was going to turn out okay… and it did!  I don’t even think you can see the scar on his forehead anymore… some 30+ years later!

But you know… with all the turmoil, painful turn of events with my wife’s health, and the shocking reality of how different people have reacted to her needs, I seem to have gotten away from my first line of defense… “Whatever happens, give thanks, because it is God’s will in Christ Jesus that you do this.” (I Thessalonians 5:18 God’s Word©) 

Now that’s not to say that I am not trusting God with my whole heart, soul and mind, but thanksgiving hasn’t always been the first thing out of my mouth!  In the midst of emotions tearing at my heart, I’ve actually uttered a few things that while not horrendous according to the world’s point of view… are quite shocking for my Christian standards to hear coming out of MY mouth!

So… I have set about to change that and teach this old dog a new trick!  And I have had no better opportunity than when I am helping my wife to swallow her medicines and protein drinks.  We are at a point that if she stops swallowing… well… the results won’t be too positive.  So when she refuses to swallow at times, it has been getting increasingly more difficult for me to fight off the fear and hopelessness that continually knocks on the door of my heart and mind.

Lately though, that’s all be changing as I am re-teaching myself to continually THANK GOD for every swallow, every attempt at swallowing and even when the liquid comes right back out and all over my hands and her shirt!  And you know what?  It works!  Every time I begin to THANK GOD and praise Him for how Piper is doing…be it positive or maybe not so positively… things begin to turn around and progress is made with her meal intake!

Now that may seem like a silly little thing to some of you, but to me IT IS A MAJOR VICTORY!  At these times I simply want to slide back my chair and shout “NOW, thanks be to God, which ALWAYS causes us TO TRIUPMH in Christ and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.” (2 Corinthians 2:14 KLV)

So yea… This old dog is learning and/or re-learning some new tricks!  Tricks from the Word of God that cause my life to be a more expedient, blessed and successful place to inhabit!  What do you think about that?  I mean something as seemingly insignificant as thanking God in the midst of any situation – be it good or bad – rough going or smooth sailing – can make a HUGE difference in one’s attitude, one’s hope and one’s joyful countenance. 

2 Corinthians 2:15 says that our giving thanks to God causes us to pick up the flavor of Christ from which “we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation – an aroma redolent with life!” (The Message)  I mean think about that… not only do we get blessed with peace and joy, but others as well as they come into contact with us!

I can remember my days at Home Depot when some female customers would come in wearing a perfume that literally turned my stomach!  But then there were others that carried a sweet scent that lingered behind in the aisles long after they left the store.  What kind of fragrance do you leave lingering behind your presence?  I know that I want people around me to “breathe in the exquisite fragrance” of Christ that is redolent with His Zoë life. (2 Corinthians 2:15 The Message)  And I am re-learning that one of the best ways to do that is by giving thanks to Him in everything… starting with my wife’s breakfast in the morning!

Have a great rest of the week, and as you do, keep asking yourself… “Am I expecting to have opportunities today to give thanks to the Lord… whether I really want to or not?”