Thursday, August 31, 2006

Surprise! It's Your Party!

I got a call from my wife yesterday morning inviting me to her school. She told me that Lisa was ordering pizza and that she wanted to talk to me about something. I'm never one to refuse pizza, and I've known Lisa forever, so of course I would come. But, deep down, I really wondered what she needed. I arrived a little before noon and Marci took me to the cafeteria along with a super-humungo pizza that just arrived from Giovanni's. Before I sat down with Marci at the teacher's table I had a little project to do. Being the techno nerd that I am, I brought the dosimeter with me to measure the noise level of the HVAC blower in the lunch room because it is sooooo loud (but that's another story).

So there I was, in the lunch room, surrounded on all sides by precious kids that were either eating their lunch, or just being the rambunctious creations that God made them. For a moment, I was actually transported right back to grade school.

In a few minutes, Lisa joined us, along with Prudy, Cindy, and Kelly. We sat and ate pizza and talked. I even got to eat some of the spaghetti from the cafeteria and have to say that my wife's cafeteria staff can really cook! As I stuffed myself, all of the teachers wanted to know more about my book, how long it took to write, how I went about being published, etc... As you can imagine, I loved talking to them about it because it is a way that I can let God shine through in my life. We talked for a while and then it was time for cake. Cake???? I asked Marci, "What's the cake for?". She wouldn't answer me, so I knew something was up.

Cindy was holding a large sheet cake and announced to the entire 4th and 5th grades, "Attention everyone! I want to tell all of you that we have an author that has recently published a book and he is here with us today. It's Mrs. Prater's husband Donny, and his book is available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and all over the world. It's called A Warrior Culture and we wanted to recognize him for his achievement and all of you are going to get cake!" As you can imagine, the place erupted in screams and clapping (for the cake of course, not me) and it registered 114 dB on the dosimeter (the equivalent of a loud rock music concert).

After everyone had quieted down, Cindy asked me to speak to the kids. I had no clue what to say so I started off by thanking everyone, then I told them how much fun it is to write, and ended with a big "You Can Too" pep talk. I spent a few minutes answering questions from the kids and then we ate cake together.

What a fun way to spend lunch! My wife really surprised me on this one and it made my week. But, the great thing was that one of the kids asked me what the book was about. It started to tell him that it is a book designed for Men's Ministries that need direction. I soon realized that my answer to him was a bit much for him to understand so I just told him that it is a book about Jesus.

I hope I planted a seed yesterday that will one day grow into a tree. A really smart guy once said, "Wise people plant trees under whose branches they may never sit". That is what all teachers do every day in the classroom. It's also what all Christians should be about: Planting seeds everywhere we go by letting our light shine. That's my prayer today.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Imaginary Friends Need Discipline Too!

Will has a friend named Jacob Smith. We first heard of him six months ago when Will told us how Jacob had gotten into trouble at Nana's house. Puzzled, we asked Nana who Jacob was and she answered us with an, "I have no idea". Throughout the past few months, Will has been talking more and more of Jacob and the adventures they get into together. Will even told us that Jacob lives above a bait and tackle shop on US23. He told us that one as we passed it one day enroute to the mall.

Here's the problem: Whenever something, or I should say anything, bad occurs at the hand of my child, Jacob did it! If a lamp gets knocked over, a spill happens, or something gets broken, Will is quick to point out that Jacob did it. And now, the story of Jacob has evolved to the point that Jacob now has two brothers named Hay (?) and Sue (?). But as far as I can tell, Jacob's brothers are pretty good and rarely get into trouble.

So what do I do? My first instinct was to blow it off and laugh whenever Jacob did something bad. Then I realized that I am teaching my son to blame others for his own problems and to shirk responsibility. Bad lesson to teach him. Here's what we did: We set Will down and told him that whenever Jacob disobeyed us and did something really bad, Will would get the spanking. Of course, Will quickly objected, citing the fact that he didn't do it and Jacob needed the spanking. I responded to him with, "It doesn't matter, you are always there to see Jacob do it, and you should stop him". Will was a bit puzzled and you could see his little mind working, but he replied, "Ok dad."

I hope I'm going about this the right way. This fathering stuff is a tough game to figure out sometimes. As for now, I'll lean on Proverbs 29:15 that says-

"The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother"

Monday, August 28, 2006

Leave Your Phone On, God Might Call.....

It was Sunday morning around 4:30 AM when a strange buzzing sound awakened my him from his slumber. In a half asleep / half awake cloud he stumbled across the room toward where the noise was coming. As he approached, the buzzing stopped. He stood there puzzled, but then he got his wits about him and realized that it was only his cell phone so he turned to go back to bed. Then it hit him: Someone was calling at 4:30 in the morning! Who could it be? Frantically, he flipped the cover open and looked at the screen that read, "5 Missed calls from phone number 932-xxxx". Now he was really puzzled because he didn't recognize the phone number. But, they had infact left him a voice mail.

The voice mail was from a woman that said, "You don't know me and I guess I've dialed the wrong number, but I love your greeting on your voicemail and I really needed to hear it. I'm having a hard time right now and need prayer." You see, his voicemail greeting is simply his voice sharing the gospel of Jesus, and how to become a Christian. Whomever this lady was, she was in trouble.

For a minute or two, he played it off and went back to bed. After laying down, he prayed, "God, if you want me to call her, keep me up." After praying this simple little prayer, his eyes popped wide open and he was energized and fired up. (I guess he got his answer).

Out of the bed he went, retrieved his phone, and dialed the number in his missed call box. When she answered, he told her who he was and asked what he could do to help her. She told him that she was trying to dial a friend's number that is 932-xxxx but she reached him instead (Obviously she had miss-dialed, because his number starts with 923 instead of 932). She went on to tell him that a week ago, she was saved and baptized along with her boyfriend. She had lived hard before her conversion and the condemnation (obviously from the enemy) was coming back on her. She was too the point where she was think about taking her life and her boyfriends too. He started counseling her, praying with her, and just being the Christian messenger that God intended him to be that night. After two hours of talking, nerves were calmed and this lady told him she felt like new life had been breathed into her. She also promised him that she would be in Church that morning, prepared to give her testimony to the congregation. Prayers were said, tears fell, and they said "Goodbye".

Guy Reynolds is his name, and he shared this story with me at Church Sunday morning. He was used in a mighty way and helped out a new Christian that was under intense spiritual attack. Satan was trying to take her and her boyfriend out through a series of condemning fiery darts, but God sent a messenger to fix things, through a wrong number. And as for Guy, he was there to answer the call.

Today, I'm lifting up this lady and others around her that are under spiritual attack. It seems the most dangerous time for a new believer is just after their conversion. Satan loves to come at them with sins of their past and try to convince them they are not worthy of God's grace. However, the good news is this: When you are forgiven, God doesn't remember the sins that Satan brings up. I pray today that I can have my phone on at all times waiting to answer when He calls.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Book Is OUT!!!

I was shocked today when I pulled up Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, and Target.com and found my book! As you can imagine, this is an exciting day for me! I never dreamed I would be published and I never dreamed it would be available so quick. God has really blessed me in this venture and my prayer is that it helps others build strong Men's Ministries to build up the body of Christ. Here's the Link:

A Warrior Culture on Amazon.com

Thank you God for allowing me to do this and for equipping me. It's all about you!

Friday, August 25, 2006

"A Warrior Culture" - The Marketing Campaign Begins

This has been an exciting week for me and my ministry. I received the standard 10 copies of my book this week and have to say, I am still in shock that I am now a published Christian Author! God is good! Also, it was a real honor to present my wife with the very first copy last night. That made it all worth it!

Over the past few days, I have been working with the publisher on the marketing push that will begin in a few weeks. This campaign is centered around developing a database of email addresses of Men's Ministry Leaders across the US, Canada, and Europe that will receive an email on the day of the official press release. Also, I have been compiling a second list of Christian Bookstores to target in my area and surrounding states. We plan to send out all of the information when the book goes live (is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Target, etc....) so that they will know that a local author is in their midst and ask/beg them to carry it.

So, here is the question to all of my readers and anyone else that happens to stop by. What is the state of your Men's Ministry? Or better yet, what is the state of the men in your church? I want everyone to think about what they envision their men to be in the future..... Is it Bible studies and pancake breakfasts? Or, do you envision/wish for your men to lock arms and fight for what the enemy has laid claim to? I hope it's the latter one, because that is what "A Warrior Culture" is all about. The book is coming out soon and I hope everyone involved in Men's Ministry gets a chance to read it. The process of publishing a book is long and tiresome, but I really feel that God has lead me to produce a good thing for His glory.

I leave you with this: If you have anyone in mind that has a heart for Men's Ministry, please send me their email address. I promise not to spam them, or sell the addresses to anyone else. They will receive only one email from me and it will be solely about my book and how it can help them. I feel weird about asking for this, but remember, Elisha asked for a double portion so why shouldn't I? Thanks to everyone for your support!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Boy is a Warrior, the Boy is His Name!

As required by the Commonwealth of Kentucky: "A home visit must take place prior to the first day of preschool by the child's future teacher". I'm not sure if this is the correct verbiage but I'm sure it is something to this effect. This law is in effect for all prospective students, and must be performed even if the child's mother happens to be his Principal. That's right, no one gets a break in this state or any special favors, and I am all for it! So, last night after Church, we rushed home and awaited the arrival of the lady that will be our son's teacher.

She arrived with her assistant and Will was excited. He actually ran out onto the porch and jumped up and down waving and welcoming them into our home. During the visit, she went over the various paperwork we had to fill out and went over the program and the schedule. About 10 minutes into our meeting, Will started dragging things out of his room to show her. First came a bat and ball that he wanted to demonstrate his hitting ability. I told him no and he got a bit upset and returned to his room. Minutes later, he came out dragging shoulder pads, a helmet, and a dinosaur. I told him to stop bringing things out but that didn't deter him so he dragged out even more. Before too long, stuff was piling up everywhere and with every objection that Marci and I threw his way, the more upset he got. And that's when it happened. The teacher is required to take a photo of Will and as you can imagine, he wasn't going for it. No matter what we tried, he just crossed his arms and looked down, mad. For me, this is the hardest part of parenting because you know what you want them to do but they don't do it on purpose. His only interest was to show off for our guests and prove that he's got what it takes.

To get Will to cooperate, we all went outside to the soccer goal. Out there, he demonstrated his soccer skills by scoring a goal and doing the airplane celebration. The airplane is when you put the bottom of your shirt in your mouth and run around the yard with outstretched arms (airplane wings). I think it's pretty cool. After this, the pictures went well and Will was upset when they had to leave.

When I sit here and reflect on the visit, I can't help but be reminded of Exodus 15:3 that says:

"The Lord is a warrior, the Lord is his name"

Our God is a warrior and as Eldredge put it 'Wild at Heart'. Since we are created in the image of this warrior God, we have that quality written on our hearts. Never is this wild nature so evident than in young boys. Us old guys just become numb to it as we age and replace it with other things. But we can never deny the fact that it is always there longing to get out. Praise the Lord for making boys into little aggressive machines that are afterall created in His image. At the time, it was a little embarrassing for Will to act like he did, but now I thank God for making him the little show off that he is.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Happy Belated Birthday Mother-In-Law

All of my life I have heard "Mother-in-Law" jokes on TV shows and in movies. I remember one day when I was about 10, I asked my Dad why people talked so bad about Mother in Laws and asked him if they were as evil as portrayed. He told me, "Nannys my mother in law and she is great. How would I have anything bad to say about her?" That talk stuck with me to this day and just like my Dad was, I am also blessed with an amazing Mother in Law.

Yesterday was here birthday and to be honest with you, we all thought she wanted it to go under the radar because it was the big Six-Oh. We all did the usual "Happy Birthday" phone calls but we found out later that she was upset that no one had made a big deal out of it. So, since we live in a fallen state, the flesh crept in and we decided to get even with her because if a big deal was what she wanted, then that's what she would get!

The first thing we did was order black carnations to be delivered. She received them and her mood lightened up a little and she was ok with everything. But we still had work to do. So, next came the enormous black "Over the Hill" balloon. She laughed for a minute or two but was a bit perturbed. However, the crown jewel came this morning when she awoke to a flock of pink flamingos on her lawn wishing her a happy 60th with a large sign that stated something to the effect of "sorry we missed it but happy birthday anyway". In fact this is a picture of my son Will and my neice Chloe this morning with the sign.

So, today I praise the Lord for giving me a Mother in Law that I love dearly. She is warm and always smiling. Also, she puts up with me and the hard time that I give her when she's around. When I lost my job, she took us in. When we need her she comes running. She is a true servant and I love her. Happy Birthday Phyllis, thanks for blessing my life and being the strong woman of God that you are!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Farewell Old Friend

Something happened to me on Friday night that hurt me deeply. We went to a charity dinner and auction that is sponsored and funded by my previous employer. At the auction, I had the honor of sitting with my old boss. He is an awesome guy that I really admire and he is truly a "Man's Man". He hired me in 1998 and taught me a lot about being a Geologist in the coal fields and how to deal with people. In our conversation, I asked him how Carl was doing. That's when it happened: He told me: " Carl passed away back in April due to pancreatic cancer". Those words hit me like a ton of bricks because I didn't know that a person I held dear to my heart had died. I was hurt, mad, heart broken, and sorry all at the same time.

Carl was my bulldozer man when I first started working as an Exploration Geologist for the coal company. He was in his 60's and could run any piece of equipment. He was also wise due to his years and could always give you good advice in any real life situation you may have fallen into. My favorite thing about Carl was that he was a notorious jokester and you could never get the upper hand on him when it came to pranks. I spent more time with Carl than I did anyone else and looked up to him as a father figure. I can truly say that I loved the man and appreciate everything he taught me. He was generous, friendly, and tough and he had the scars to prove it. He was also rough in the ways of this world (I was to at the time) and would cuss like a sailor and tell stories that could make you blush.

Before I was laid off due to downsizing, I came back to the Lord. The first person I began praying for was Carl and praying specifically that he would turn from his ways and seek Jesus. About three months later, we were driving out a mountain road and he told me, "Don, I've decided that it's time for me to give it all to the Lord." I was so shocked that I almost wrecked and turned to him and told him of all the prayers and hope that I had for him and how I was overjoyed that he had come to Jesus. About a year after that, I lost my job and didn't see him again (That was in June of 2003). In fact, the last time I saw him, he was riding over a ridge top on a bulldozer, just like a cowboy would ride off into the sunset.

So today, I'm sad that a dear friend has departed. Much of this pain comes from the fact that I didn't get to pay my respects to the widow, sons, daughter, and grandchildren he left behind. I sat down today to write each of them a letter and tell them what he meant to me but had a hard time penning the words due to my rush of emotions. I'll get through it and mail it to them but it is a tough thing to pen. If you haven't experienced it, writing a one page tribute to a friend is one hundred times harder than writing a 180 page book.

But as for now, one day we will meet again in heaven but until then, I miss you my friend.

Friday, August 18, 2006

A Salty Story of Boys Being Boys

Since it is Friday, I decided to tell a funny story from my life. Actually, it is a portion of one of the chapters in the new book I am in the process of writing. This is a story of how boys will be boys:

My friend Troy and I sat in the Mess Hall at Fort Knox, eating our supper and patiently waiting for an unsuspecting victim to take the bait. The trap we had set was simple yet effective and was perfect for a laugh that we really needed to break up the stress of yet another long day of Army Basic Training. Tonight, we had taken the salt shaker from the table, unscrewed the lid to the point it was barely hanging on, and then we returned it to it’s proper, military location. Now, we played the waiting game. Who would our victim be? The suspense was killing us! We had set the trap and waited like vultures for it to be sprung. We were about to give up hope (and run out of time) when a platoon of new recruits filed in one by one like the little army ants they were. In a matter of minutes, they began filling up the table around us and started eating the items of the day which just happened to be hamburgers and oily french fries without salt I might add. By now, we couldn’t eat, we just stared at the shaker and waited with our mouths open in anticipation. Then it happened. A private from Charlie Company reached for the shaker, turned it toward his plate of fries, and dumped a mountain of salt onto them. Troy and I exploded in a fit of laughter that was soon quelled by the tap on our shoulders from a friendly Drill Sergeant that was very schooled at making pranksters do push ups in the rain.

Aside from all of the pushups we did in the rain, it was worth it. We've all heard that what comes around, goes around and I saw Troy get another payback later that week when he took what he though was sugar and used it liberally on his corn flakes only to find out that someone had replaced the sugar with salt. It was a nice surprise and a big eye opener at six o’clock in the morning.

So what does this story mean you might ask? Remember, things are not as they seem. There is an enemy stalking you, setting traps, and waiting to devour you. Armor up!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

My Conviction and Conversion

Yesterday, the 911 emergency calls from September 11th were released. Out of curiosity, I decided to listen to some of them. Within 30 seconds of hearing the first one, I was crying and couldn't listen to anymore. I heard with my own ears, a terrified woman that was afraid to die and out of options. That recording touched me deeply and I still can't get those sounds of desperation out of my head. When we were attacked in 2001, I was working for a coal company and spending alot of time in the hills of eastern Kentucky as an exploration geologist. Spiritually, I had no relationship with God but being raised Baptist, I thought I was a Christian because at 11 years old, I "Got Saved" so to speak. After 9/11, I started feeling something in my soul that was stirring me and making me miserable. I couldn't put my finger on it but I knew there was something that I was missing and I had to have it, whatever "it" is.

In November 2001, I was standing on a hill in Breathitt County talking to a bull dozer operator (Rickey) about where I wanted a road and a site built for a drilling rig. Somehow, we got around to talking about the tragedy in New York. I remember telling him that, "Those terrorists thought they would be ushered into heaven for what they did in the name of Allah, but they thought wrong and ended up in the hottest hell that has ever burned." It was at that moment when Rickey looked me dead in the eye and told me, "Your hell will be no different than theirs." What? I told him that I was saved when I was 11 years old. He quickly responded with, "You've said and done some things that tell me you're not saved." By this time, I couldn't wait to get away from him, so I told him to get to work, jumped in my truck, and headed off the hill.

I had to work with Rickey for the next month so I avoided him like he had the plague and only talked to him, very shortly I might add, one more time. But, that's when the conviction kicked in! Now I was miserable and I thought about what he said to me all of the time. I was mad but also felt guilty. All in all, I was a total wreck. I had been going to church with my wife (a Christian) for a few months and there was some turmoil going on betwen the new Pastor and the congregation, so I decided to go talk him and let him know that I liked what he was doing and I supported him.

At our meeting, he asked me how long I had been a Christian. I told him how I was saved young but had not lived like it through the college years and especially lately. To make a long story short, I gave myself to the Lord that night and have been in his service ever since. Did it make everything perfect? Spiritually yes because he made me a new creation and gave me a new and pure heart. But, now the Enemy was upset to lose what he had claimed so the battle insued. Actually, the battle is still going on today but I can fight it with Jesus, my wife, and a warrior culture of brothers around me. Praise God for being patient, forgiving, and extending his hand of grace and forgiveness to yet another child that had gone along on his own merits.

And as for Rickey: I went months without talking to him because he worked for a different company and I didn't even know his last name. However, when an opening popped up, I made sure to locate him and I hired him to work for me!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

How Many Teachers Does It Take to Milk a Goat?

This is a good question to ponder. If you look at the photo, you may say that it obviously takes four - three to hold the goat and one to milk it. Or, if you know my wife and I, you would maybe think it is a trick question and answer three - three teachers and one principal. So, how many does it take? The answer is......... I don't know.

Last night at the county fair there was a friendly set of competitions between the faculties of the county schools. There was a stick horse race, a water balloon toss, a spitwad throw, and the ever popular goat milking contest. My wife and her teachers held this poor goat and one of the teachers worked and worked trying to squeeze precious drops of milk into a cup for thirty seconds. When all was said and done, there was no milk, not even a drop in their cup! All that tugging, squeezing, and pulling was for naught.

I'm still searching for the answer to the original question. I don't know how many it takes to milk a goat. Obviously three, four, and one is not the answer. Any thoughts?

Now, since my goal is to relate every post in my blog to my spiritual walk with God, I will try in this instance also. I will refer to Hebrews 5:13:

"Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness."

Paul was telling the Hebrews that milk is for the immature and those young in the faith. He was trying to clue them in on the fact that they were ready for solid food, ready to be out teaching others. Actually, he was ripping their butts for staying in their comfort zones and keeping Jesus all to themselves and not sharing. Well, there you have it! Your mission to day is to step out of your comfort zone. Stop trying to milk a goat to get some easy food. You that are mature in the word don't need the milk, you need solid food and you need to be nursing the young in the faith. Get to squeezing!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Caught Red Handed

Last night, my three year old and I went to a local bookstore. He looked in the kids section while I grabbed a new copy of "Mere Christianity", Charles Stanley's "When the Enemy Strikes", and the newest version of Walt Disney World with Kids for Marci. At check out time I told him to come on and he did but instead of stopping at the counter with me, he kept walking. I didn't pay much attention because I was filling out a frequent customer card so I can get yet another plastic thingy to hang on my keychain. When I looked up, he walked out of the store and took a seat on the park bench outside. I called for him to come to me but he just sat there and looked the other way. Strange......

When I came out of the store, the next stop was at the quarter rides that all kids love. Will climbed onto a train and sat down. He goofed around for a little while then climbed down. That's when I noticed a piece of wrapped up candy on the seat where he had been sitting. He went to pick it up and I took it from him saying, "You don't know where that's been, let's throw it away." (Of course, I was flashing back to all of those Halloween Horror stories about poisoned candy). That's when he looked at me and said, "But it's mine!" I then asked him, "Where did you get it?" He told me, "In the bookstore." Now I was mad because I didn't pay for it and obviously he had taken it! Then I reasoned in my mind how maybe someone had given it to him......I don't think so. I told him what he had done was wrong and that I was very disappointed with him. He cried.

So, I took him to the store held him up to the counter and told him to tell the worker he was sorry. He said, "No" because he was now embarrassed. I apologized and the lady said not to worry about it. As we walked through the mall I repeatedly told him of my disappointment, anger, and how he had really let me down by stealing. He cried more and said he was sorry. Next, I made him tell my wife what he had done, and as you can imagine, he heard it again, this time from Mommy.

What he did next, pleasantly surprised me. He told us he wanted to go back to the store and apologize. I told him he had his chance and blew it, because by this time I was mad. Then Marci suggested taking him. So, I did, he said sorry, and that's that. However, I reminded him of my disappointment two more times last night. I hope it has sank in and I prayed that God would give me wisdom to do the right thing. I'm still learning this Daddy Stuff and have a long way to go but I have Him leading me. Thanks God!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Campfire Fellowship with God

Saturday was the youth leadership retreat for my church at a local state park. We spent the day making camp, swimming, and I took my son Will and two of the youth four-wheeling in my jeep. Saturday evening we had dinner and moved to a conference room for training from our Youth Pastor. As counselors, we were there to help the kids and chaperone, but the goal of this session was for the kids to tell us what they wanted their ministry to be. Our group of 12 had some brilliant ideas and we plan to build the group stronger this year and reach new heights.

All through the evening session, Will (my son) and the Youth Pastor's little boy played in the floor. They had a ball, but got a little loud as the 9pm hour rolled around. I decided that Will and I would head to camp, get the fire started, and just wait on everyone to arrive. I left my wife at the lodge to help, and off we went.

When we arrived at our primitive campsite it was pitch dark so I told him, "First the bug spray, then the fire." We got lathered up in "Off" and set out to get the fire pit ready. I gathered up a pile of sticks with the aid of my reading light, piled them up, inserted several wadded up pieces of paper, struck a match, and voila.....Campfire! One of the "Manly Gifts" that I do possess is the ability to quickly make a raging fire whenever needed.

So, the stage is set.....it's 9:40pm and Will and I are sitting about 8' from a raging campfire in a nylon folding chair staring at the fire. He asked me to tell him stories so I did. One hour later, I had told him every Disney movie that I could think of and was starting on the Bible stories when I noticed him dosing off. I started singing hymns and he went to sleep. This was a beautiful moment: stary clear night, 75 degrees, campfire, the only sound is the crickets singing, and I'm holding my son that is sound asleep. That's when I started praying. I prayed as I held my son that God would first help me to raise him to be a Godly man by giving me wisdom. Second, I prayed that God would use Will in a mighty way. And Last, I prayed for my wife and her callings and her big calling as his mother.

At about 10:30, I took Will to the tent and tucked him into his sports sleeping bag. I returned to the fire and continued praying while looking up at the stars. I prayed for the youth and the other counselors (that still hadn't returned). My back started hurting so I layed on the nearby pick-nic table as I prayed. I felt God's presence in a big way. He was all around me. I prayed and asked him to continue directing me and guide/push me down the paths he has planned for me. I prayed for the new ministry I have started with one of my brothers (unchained men's ministries) and asked his hand to be on it. I got emotional at one point and that is when it happened. I lay there still, staring at the night sky when a brilliant flash from a shooting star appeared overhead! It was as if God was giving me a confirmation that he had heard me. It was a powerful time of prayer and thanksgiving with the Father.

About 11:15, the whole gang showed up. I transferred the "Fire Tending Stick" to one of my fellow counselors, kissed my wife, and off to bed I went. Of course I didn't fall asleep for a while because I was so wound up from praying. I thanked God for all he had shown me and started to come down from the spiritual high I was on. However, I didn't fall asleep until somewhere around 2am. But, that was due to a group of 6 teenage boys around the campfire just being boys, created in the image of our wild God.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Wolves Come in Sheeps Clothing

Did you ever wonder why other Christians sometimes say things to you that hurt your feelings? Did you ever step back and think about where those "things" come from? Or better yet, did you ever try to get to the root cause of why the person said it in the first place?

Everyone on earth has a motive and no one does anything without thinking about how it would be a gain for them or better them in some way. Of course, sometimes we jump in and make a rash decision from time to time, but that is not what I am talking about. I am talking about the well thought out, premeditated, calculated actions of others. We all do it and are wired by God to be thinking and planning organisms. For instance, when was the last time you refinanced your house because it would help you out financially? I'm sure before you did it, you went through a process of weighing the options, checking different rates, and checking your budgetary needs. Then, you crunched the numbers and made a decision either yea or nay.

This is how we do a business transaction but what about decisions on the personal and/or spiritual playing field, namely in our relationships with others? First things first, we have to realize that as Christians we are in a daily struggle between the Spirit that lives within us and the flesh nature that we inherited from Adam and Eve. Our flesh wants us to be first in everything including ahead of God, while the Spirit desires God to be first so that you do everything to glorify him. The flesh and the Spirit are polar opposites and fight it out daily. This is why Paul wrote about how we must crucify the flesh daily and ask to be filled with the Spirit. But, then comes the Enemy, you know, Satan. Satan is out to do three things: Steal, Kill, and Destroy. There is nothing good or holy about him and he seeks to divide all people and keep them in a constant state of turmoil. He is always there whispering in ears and giving people thoughts of condemnation against others.

So, What do we do when another Christian says something that hurts are feelings? My first instinct is to get mad and maybe not speak to them ever again. Well, thats my flesh at it's best! So what should we do? Here's what I prayerfully advise: The next time a Christian comes to you and says something that hurts your feelings, first we have to love them and next we have to pray for them. ......I know it sounds like I am saying that if someone hurts you, you must simply roll over and take it and start praying for them????? I never said roll over and take it, by all means stand up for yourself. Now, don't punch them in the nose or spit in there face, but it's fine to rebuke their argument if you disagree with them. That's how Jesus operated when faced with an agument. But how do we pray for them? Obviously they are under attack and are having some spiritual problems. So, first we should pray that they realize they are in a war, second we should ask the Spirit to convict them, then ask God to strengthen our compassion for them, and last pray for the completion of these things.

I struggle with this alot and I am the first to admit that I need more help in this area. But by writing it down, now I have a Standard Operating Procedure to follow. Because I know that wolves come in sheeps clothing.......and.......the Enemy prowls like a roaring lion. Armor up!

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

How Do I Pray For My Enemy?

I've always struggled with how to pray for my enemies. You know, the people that continually kick sand in your face, like in the picture at the left. What do you pray? Do you ask God to kill them? Or maybe you pray that they will be stricken with some horrible disease? I would bet that if you could peek inside people's heads you would see those types of thoughts that originate in the pits of hell. Sadly, the Enemy of our souls often wins out in thoughts like these.

So, how do we pray for those that persecute us? And, how do we pray for people that do evil things like strap explosives to themselves and blow up the innocent around them in the name of their god? Sunday morning, I heard a sermon that answered these questions and more. It's called the four C's:

Conviction- That your enemies will feel conviction for what they are doing and have done.
Conversion- That your enemies will come to know Jesus as their savior.
Compassion- "Oh God, help me love them beyond their sin".
Completion- That God will do all of these things for your enemy OR that He will bring judgment.

All of us have an enemy that we can pray for today. If you can't think of any, pick someone that is in the public eye. Also, read Matthew chapter 5 in an attitude prayer and ask God to speak to your heart. This is your homework.

Monday, August 7, 2006

God's Path Before Me

During our weekend shopping/baseball game expedition, we came across this dancing fountain. It was in a beautiful little park at the shopping center and at 10 o'clock in the morning, we had it all to ourselves. My son does not like to get his face wet so he cautiously approached the fountain and laughed while he watched the water shoot up from the ground. I stood there with him and began memorizing the pattern of water blasts. After I was sure that I had it down, I told Will, "Hey, let's run through it." He replied, "Ok, but what if we get wet?" I responded with, "Don't worry about it, just run between the water drops." He nodded and took me at my words, such innocence..... I went first and ran down the center aisle of the fountain and although there was water shooting up around me, I reached the other side high and dry. I told Will to run down the same path I had followed that I knew would be safe, he did, and also arrived dry. We repeated this a couple of times and were still dry, both from the knowledge of where the water would appear and by knowing that very little water seemed to land on the center aisle.

Now, it was Will's turn to "Go it alone." I told him to run down the center aisle but all to no avail. He took off through the middle of the fountain just as the water kicked on drenching him. At one point he looked as though he was being attacked by millions of little Water Bees by the way he swatted at the water drops. By the time he made it to me, he was drenched and none too happy. His disgust lasted for a short time because he soon laughed at the water dripping from his nose. And, he and I weren't the only ones laughing. I hadn't noticed but there was a family of three on a nearby parkbench and several other spectators that had been watching us that were, by this time, laughing loudly.

So, I'm reminded today of Isaiah 42:16 that says:

"I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them."

Just as I advised Will of where to run and when, God does for us. But like larger versions of a three year old kid, we choose to do it on our own and end up all wet. I pray today that I will listen to God and walk in the paths he has laid out before me that are safe and prosperous. So long self......


Friday, August 4, 2006

TGIF......Again!



This photo speaks for itself!

Thursday, August 3, 2006

Jesus and the Beach

I can't believe that it's been a month since my family sojourn to the ocean. I've been rehashing old memories of the sand and salt therapy I received this year and I'm missing the ocean..... However, I found this photo and it makes me smile.

I love the simplicity of this pic and the fact that it captures the boundless love of God for us through a cross, and my own personal love of the beach. I love how this cross is made out of what looks like driftwood and placed in a sand dune, while ominous clouds hover over it. Makes me think of the songs "Old Rugged Cross" and "Oh How I love Jesus". But, the big thing it makes me think of is that whatever earthly things we happen to love are simply that: earthly things with no eternal value. No matter how much you love insert item here (the beach, the mountains, Disney World, reading, etc....). What matters is that we know God in our hearts and allow him to direct us. One of my favorite scriptures says:

"This is what the Lord says: "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the Lord." (Jer 9:23-24)

It would be neat to start a "Beach Ministry" wouldn't it? Any takers?

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Taking A Dip in the Enemy's Ocean of the Busy

I was nine years old when I saw Jaws for the first time and I must say that it left a lasting impression on me. I love the ocean and everything about it, but whenever my toes first touch salt water, you better believe I am thinking about being ripped apart by a shark. However, this thought only lasts for a few seconds and before long, I am in water up to my neck jumping the waves without a care in the world. Although I was afraid at first, I grow numb to the fear and am oblivious to any sharks or other dangerous creatures lurking about simply because of all the fun I am having. Fun tends to distract us from what is really going on doesn't it?

What about real life distractions that turn our eyes away from the spiritual realm? Does real life and/or fun ever cause you to forget that you have a very real and powerful enemy that is stalking you like a shark and seeking ONLY to steal, kill, and destroy you? Oh sure, I am reminded of the enemy during some Sunday services and ever so often in the books I read about the Enemy and his legion of demons. I even go so far as to be on guard ready for an attack, ready to fight tooth and nail. But, then it happens. You know, your life happens. The simple distractions you may take for granted often keep you focusing on the seen rather than the unseen. Think about what you do all day. If you are like me, you get up, help get the kid/s ready, kiss your wife goodbye, go to work, work, come home, pay bills, watch tv, etc......life stuff. Think about this, all the while you are doing this, the Enemy is watching you and taking down notes. He is a patient enemy that waits for the opportune time to hit you in hopes of distancing you from God. The enemy loves that we are so busy because the busier we are with life, the less time for God.

So today, let's spend some time in God's presence and use it to let him re-prioritize our lives. I know that I am too busy and have been feeling it lately with a recent round of attacks from the Enemy. Remember, he is out there prowling around the perimeter of your soul, looking for a week spot to pounce on. Take some time to sit on the beach like the folks in this photo and with God's help, view the very real enemy waiting for you to take a dip in his ocean.