Fast and the Furious (Stomach)

Fast and the Furious (Stomach)

I believe firmly in the power of prayer. I’ve seen miracles happen and have personally been impacted by prayer. But one thing I’ve never done as part of my prayer life is fast.

…until now.

In preparation for Easter, CrossPointe Church invited its congregation to take part in a fast from 6:00 PM Thursday to 6:00 PM Friday. Having been in the service last Sunday when this was announced, Lee and I decided to join the members of CrossPointe and fast. We have much about which to pray, specifically our house for sale in Tampa, and we know this period of sacrifice will allow us to focus on our conversations with God.

I am sure many people are like me, not too familiar with fasting or the how’s and why’s of fasting with regards to our prayer life. What I do know is that it’s a conscious effort on my part to be intentional with prayer. When I would normally stop to eat, I will fill that time with prayer. When I am feeling hungry, I will ignore what my stomach is telling me and spend time with God. Jesus sacrificed Himself for me. Surely I can sacrifice food for 24 hours.

Fasting.jpg

Still, if you’re wanting to more information about how fasting improves your prayer life, visit the post below from Crosswalk.com.

5 Ways Fasting Can Change Your Life

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Birthday Girl

Birthday Girl

Today is an extra special day here in Hahira, Georgia, as we celebrate the birthday of our friend (and current house-host) Lindsey Smith.

I’ve known Lindsey for over a decade, and to say we’ve done life together is an incredible understatement. When I think about some of the best, most fun, and amazing moments in my life, Lindsey is a part of them. In most recent years, the friendship and fellowship Lee and I have shared with her and her husband Jeff have been life-changing.

I could go on for pages and pages about how wonderful and special Lindsey is, but instead, I want to focus on a specific attribute of Lindsey’s: her faith. Lindsey is a spiritual leader who is moved and driven by the Holy Spirit. I greatly admire the relationship she shares with Christ, and not only has Lindsey made me a better person throughout the years, she’s also helped make me a better Christian.

So I think it fitting to share this picture of us from 2007 when we both jumped out of a plane for a good cause. There was a lot of excitement and frivolity leading up to the jump, but when it came time to suit up and get on the plane, Lindsey huddled us together and lead us in prayer. At that time in my life, I was still far away from God, and having her boldly pray out loud for us without hesitation or reservation really left an imprint in my heart.

OSD

I know her friendship will continue to leave an imprint on my heart for decades to come.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LINDSEY!

My Brother From Another Mother

My Brother From Another Mother

Have you ever met someone who is almost identical to you in personality, hobbies, and other characteristics? That’s how it is with me and my friend Kevin Von Maxey. We’re both diehard University of Miami fans. We’re also both longtime suffering Dolfans as well. We both share the same Mount Rushmore-esque affinity for Dan Marino, and we’re both sports geeks in general. Add to that our quirky sense of humor, love of movies, and overall desire to be witty and smart in just about every situation, and you’ve got yourself personality twins separated at birth.

I met up with Kevin and his family this evening. As part of our downsizing experience, it was obvious to me Kevin needed to be the recipient of all my Dolphins and Hurricanes memorabilia and collectibles. With all apologies to his wife April (part of me felt I was just dumping my junk into their lap), I handed over to Kevin items that helped shape and define my childhood growing up.

To say Kevin was appreciative is an understatement, and I know he’ll be like a kid on Christmas morning once he starts going through all the items in the bags and boxes (yes, plural) that I gave him. I also know Kevin will be geeking out with his sons Taylor and Alex as he explains the details of every item in that collection.

I’ve known Kevin and April for over a decade, great friends that, like so many others, I met through the music of Sister Hazel. Although our interactions have been limited given the geographic distance between our families, Lee and I share many great memories with K&A, mostly post-concert shenanigans involving diner food and storytelling. And with Kevin, I could always pivot to anything Dolphins or Canes related and he wouldn’t miss a beat.

VM1

VM2

But I want to pivot this blog post to something not involving football or music. I want to write about the power of prayer and how, I believe, an army of prayer warriors helped save April’s life last year. I will let the video below tell the details of the story, but I will add my recollection to April’s life-threatening experience. So many people from so many walks of life, many of whom would not call themselves spiritual, came together to rally for April.

I remember praying diligently and intentionally for her recovery, and the fact I was able to give her a big hug this evening is a reminder that God honors our big prayers. I believe He specifically honors the prayers of a collection of people coming together with laser focus to plead for His healing abilities. At the end of the day, that is the church. And no one will ever convince me otherwise the reason April is alive today is that so many people came together to pray for her. It was those prayers that gave her body strength. It was those prayers that guided the medical team treating April’s illness. It was those prayers that allowed Kevin to navigate the terrorizing uncertainty of that experience.

Social media is a great platform through which people can request spiritual support. Whatever the reason, whatever the season, someone always needs our prayerful help. April’s story is a testament to the power of prayer.

Project Gratitude – My Army

Project Gratitude – My Army

Prayer is a powerful thing, and I am a firm believer in prayer. Today I am thankful for this avenue God gave us that provides direct communication with Him.

In the book of Genesis is the story of Enoch, a man who walked, “faithfully with God.” I believe prayer, in conjunction with other instruments of faith such as fasting and devotion, allow us to experience this same ‘walk’ with God.

Prayer

And although we should pray always, praising His name and in a spirit of thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6), prayer tends to be most common in a time of need.

Much has been said about the negative effects of social media in society, and several aspects of this criticism are valid. I instead want to focus on the positive value of social media, primarily, the ability to rally prayer warriors.

I love the passage in the Book of Ephesians that describes the Armor of God. I think of it as a way to prepare daily against the weapons the enemy uses to distract us from God.

armor

So today, when I went to Facebook and asked for the support of my tribe of prayer warriors, each armed with the knowledge of Christ who lives in their hearts, they responded in full force.

My request was for Lee’s Aunt Mary who recently suffered a stroke. At almost seventy-four years old, the ability to overcome a stroke is made more challenging. Still, nothing is impossible with God.

When over fifty individuals raise their intentions to the Lord, I believe He honors that collective faithfulness. And what a blessing it is to see the response from friends and family as the pray for Aunt Mary. Not only is it tangible, it’s also inspiring and uplifting.

Today I am thankful for Facebook. I am also thankful for the amazing community of family and friends that support me in all I do. It’s a beautiful blessing.

I ask you keep Mary in your prayers. May God’s healing spirit guide her to a full recovery.

Retreat and Surrender

As part of National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), I am taking part in a daily blog post challenge through the BlogHer website. Today’s prompt:

When you’re having a bad day with your mental health, what do you do to help yourself?


Where do I even begin?

I guess, since this is November, I have to start with Thanksgiving. Not the holiday, but rather the ever-present need to be thankful for all God has given me.

I am thankful for not being afflicted with a clinically diagnosed mental health issue (although I have members in my family who have). I am thankful for not be saddled with a medical condition that requires a daily regiment of medications (although I have members in my family who have). I am eternally grateful for the health and well being of my two teenage children (although I have members in my family who can’t say the same).

Yes, life sucks sometimes. It’s cruel and unfair and it can be consistently inconsistent. Yet for every crappy day, my experience has taught me it can always be worse. I know that sounds quaint or trite, and yes, I know I’m perhaps oversimplifying the big picture; but there is truth in the anecdotal, albeit cliché saying, “this, too, shall pass.”

There is no one right answer for handling adversity or managing those ‘mental health’ days. The prescription for getting through the storm is as unique as our fingerprints. Still, as a person of faith, I believe there is one common denominator.

I used to surrender my crap to really, really loud music. Pop in the Van Halen, turn the volume up to eleven, and just let Eddie’s shredding on his guitar take me far away from where it is I was. When that didn’t work, I’d hand my problems over to alcohol. My happy place was inevitably found at the bottom of a bottle of booze. But ear drum and liver damage aside, what I was truly wrecking was my soul.

booze

Over the last decade, I’ve learned that everything in my life begins and ends with God. To put it in a mathematical analogy, He provides the parenthesis of my minutes, hours, days, years, and life.

(me), where ( = God and ) = God

Not only is this perspective highly effective when it comes to pressing through the tough times, it is absolutely liberating as well. Being able to surrender my problems to the Lord has helped me elevate above the worldly problems that arise and overcome them while minimizing the mental and emotional impact on my life. Please don’t get me wrong, just because I believe in God and have a relationship with Christ does not mean my life is easy and nothing bad ever happens. That’s not what I am saying. Rather, when the *bleep* hits the fan, dealing with it all becomes a less stressful situation because of my faith in Him.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

– John 16:33 NIV

For me, it all begins and ends with prayer. Effective, focused, and intentional prayer is how I get through the ‘mental health’ days. Sometimes God is immediate with His blessings and opens my eyes to the solution I am seeking. Sometimes He’s not, and the blessing is in the growth that results from the pressing through the tough time. Either way, I’ve found that when I make my time with God a PTA meeting (Praise, Thank, then Ask), there is no problem too great for Him to resolve.

PTA

When tough times arise, I now turn down the volume of the world and inebriate myself with the Holy Spirit. It’s not always easy, but that’s the thing with faith; it’s not supposed to be.


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Wounded

Writing has always been therapeutic for me. Although my blog has evolved over the past decade when I started writing, it still remains where I go to deal with the lemons life throws my way.

Tonight is no exception.

There is an irony in writing, one that parallels the experiences of my faith journey.  I have found that God is always able and willing to turn our broken into something beautiful. Similarly, the most productive muse I’ve ever encountered is one called pain. Pain has fueled some of my favorite posts, and she continues to move me to write. Thankfully, however, she’s stayed away from me for some time. But she did pop her head into my life this week, and this is what that visit produced.

Wounded 

Wounded

Changing of the Guard (?)

Uncertainty can be so uncomfortable. What’s next? Will we do this? What about that? I love having a plan, and like John “Hannibal” Smith of the A-Team, I love it when a plan comes together.

When things don’t happen according to plan, however, it can be easy to get lost in the chaos.

Right now, we’re in the middle of a transition period with my daughter and her path as a young, competitive soccer player. There are decisions to be made. There are adjustments to be considered. There is a valley of uncertainty we need to cross.

Normally, I’d be wallowing in my own anxiety. I don’t really care for uncertainty. I’m reminded of a time when my wife suggested we spontaneously get in the car and drive to South Florida. She thought it would be ‘fun’ to just drive until we get tired and then find a hotel along the way. My furrowed brow must’ve said all that needed to be said, because she could immediately tell I was not understanding the words coming out of her mouth.

“So you’re saying we don’t need a reservation first?” I asked incredulously.

“No. We just pull into a hotel and tell them we need a room.”

“People do that?”

With the situation with my daughter, I WANT to know what will come next. What will be the changes with for next season? What will be my daughter’s decision with regards to school versus club sports? Is she going to re-dedicate herself to what’s she’s been working on for the last four to five years?

But all this is like going to the movies and wanting to fast forward to the end just as the movie starts. What fun would that be? What makes a movie great is the story it tells throughout. There are ups and downs. There are plot twists. There are moments that will scare you, anger you, and relieve you.

Life is the same way.

In my faith journey, I’ve learned to replace anxiety with the perspective of anticipation; anticipation in finding out how God – the master screenwriter – will reveal the story’s eventual ending to me. It’s a reminder that just because things are not going great now, they won’t be great again later. It’s in these moments of anxiety that I’ve learned I’m in the middle of a story that still needs to play out.

That’s not to say there are no decisions to make. God calls us to work so that we arrive at where it is He wants us to be. I need to be patient and supportive with my daughter as she weighs her options going forward. I need to find the healthful balance between pushing her too hard and being blasé as a dad. I need to provide counsel, yet ensure the decisions she makes are indeed hers. 

I need to remember the end of the chapter is still off in the distance.

So we will press forward in prayer and in the knowledge that anxiety is useless, especially when we have faith in the story He’s written for us.

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