Monday, January 30, 2012

Changed to be Free!

May the Spirit grant us changed hearts rather than restrained hearts!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Five Messages 4 Your Heart!

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A friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair, who can face with us the reality of our powerlessness - that is the friend who cares!

Gratitude flows from the recognition that who we are and what we have are gifts to be received and shared!

My hope is that the description of God's love in my life will give you the freedom and the courage to discover God's love in yours!

Hospitality is not to change people but to offer them the space where change can take place!

We are not what we do. We are not what we have. We are not what others think of us. Coming home is claiming the truth - I am the beloved child of the loving Creator!

-- Henri J. M. Nouwen

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Are You a Person of the Book?

So Here's the Scoop!

Overlooking sin, covering it up and denial are very different: #1 is born of grace, #2 is born of pride, #3 is born of fear! --Scotty Smith

Only those who deeply understand their sin will deeply appreciate grace. Those who've been forgiven much, love much! -- Tullian Tchividjian

Friday, January 27, 2012

For Shame!

every-story-has-two-sides-but.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email" name="1">every story has two sides. but.
(Posted: 26 Jan 2012 09:01 PM PST Written by my friend Shannon Dingle)
Every story has two sides.But.I’ve heard enough first-hand stories from families with special needs about churches who have rejected them.I’m not talking about stories like “well, they just weren’t sure what to do with us.”No, I’m talking about conversations like the one I had with one of our moms after respite, when she, with tears in her eyes, told me, “We love the church. My dad is a pastor. But we don’t go to church anymore, because our last church asked us to leave.”
Please take a moment to process that before you move on. Take a moment to consider how you’d feel if you were asked to leave the church because of your eye color or skin tone or height
or IQ or some other attribute you can’t control. This child wasn't aggressive or dangerous; they were asked to leave because the children's ministry leaders said his autism was too distracting. If I were writing about a church that kicked out a family because their son was black, we’d be outraged. But sometimes when I share the stories I hear from the families we serve in Access, someone responds, “well, you can't really fault the church. They probably just didn’t know how to handle it.”

Maybe it’s because I’m dosed up on enough prednisone to work me into a bit more of a ranty state than usual (and to allow my asthmatic lungs to work), but let me tell you what I think of that sort of response: it’s baloney!
When church leaders kick out kids who aren’t up to the general education expectations they are used to, they don’t need our excuses. They do need grace. And repentance. And yes, training. And prayer. When I see tweets like this one (related to this story) three prayers come to mind: Jesus, help this family.
Jesus, let this church learn from this situation, even if the facts being reported aren’t completely accurate.
Jesus, please come soon. Amen.

Read this and weep!

Denum Ellarby Refused Communion Because He Has Down Syndrome, Parents sayEllarby Re

Denum Ellarby Refused Communion Because He Has Down Syndrome,
First Posted: 1/21/12 04:10 PM ET Updated: 1/21/12 05:34 PM ET
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Ellarby says her child wasn't allowed to take his first Holy Communion because he has Down Syndrome. In a letter from the Diocese of Leeds, Ellarby was told that her seven-year-old Denum Ellarby lacks the "concentration" necessary to prepare for Communion, according to the BBC. The Diocese also said children can "only proceed to the sacrament of First Communion when they take part in the Church's life and understand the Church's faith"."It's just disgusting," Ellarby told the BBC. "I feel really let down by the Catholic faith."A spokesperson for the diocese told the Catholic Herald "Denum's family has not participated in the regular life of the Church or in the preparation preceding First Communion. We hope that this will change as Denum grows and we are working with him and his family to help him achieve this."The Christian Post reports that Clare and Denum's father Darren have started a petition in support of their son. "They need to have more compassion," Clare Ellarby told the Post. "What they are doing is so cruel." CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Denum Ellarby has autism.

My response:
Thanks, Shannon! This is EXACTLY why there is A Restoration Church in Pittsburgh! This very issue is a huge travesty, great shame and blight on the name of Jesus (Who spent most of His time on earth hanging with sp needs individuals and Who came to restore brokenness in every form!)!
But we must not hide behind the church as an institution clicking our tongues and shaking our heads in Phariseeical disdain unless we personally are clear that this kind of rejection even secretly and silently is NOT
God's way and is hugely destructive of a person's heart - a person Jesus values, loves and died for!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Heart Trumps Head!

"I believe wisdom is when our hearts tell us the truth before our minds have time to argue with it." David Hampton

Saturday, January 21, 2012

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace. Comfort for family, protection while we sleep.
We pray for healing, prosperity. We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering.
All the while, You hear each spoken need.
Your love is too way too much to give us lesser things.
Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops?
What if your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near?
What if trials of this night, are Your mercies in disguise?
We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear.
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near.
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love.
As if every promise from Your word is not enough.
All, the while, You hear each desperate plea. And long that we'd have faith to believe.
Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops?
What if your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near?
What if trials of this night, are Your mercies in disguise?
When friends betray us, when darkness seems to win;
We know that pain reminds this heart, that this is not, this is not our home.
It's not our home.
Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops?
What if your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near?
What if my greatest disappointments, or the aching of this life;
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy?
And what if the trials of this life - the rain, the storms, the hardest nights are
Your mercies in disguise?
--"Blessings" by Laura Story

Thru the Darkness to Home!

When darkness seems to win we know that pain reminds this heart that this is not our home!
---Laura Story
Ok, I get it about being light in a dark world! I get it that Jesus is the Light of the world! That's NO problem!
BUT sometimes it seems like darkness is winning and that THE LIGHT and His light thru me are not bright enough to push back the darkness! O, I know that's not ultimately true! I know how the story ends and who wins! BUT in the now I'm painfully groping my way along in the darkness or so it seems! THAT'S EXACTLY when my heart needs to see through the pain of the darkness that "this world is NOT my home" and that a NEW day is coming when darkness and pain and struggle will be NO more! O, come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Being the Best!

I had never read this speech given by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. just six months prior to his death until I saw it posted on Katie Weatherbee's blog, Around Here. It pretty much sizes up what I think and live by as far as doing any job I am given to do. It expresses my paradigm for living my life along with the verse that follows.

Dr. King's words strike a strong cord in my heart! They are almost exactly what I would say if I were able to say it as eloquently:

And when you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. Don’t just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn’t do it any better. If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be the best little shrub on the side of the hill. Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star.For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.

Another great man wrote similar words long before Dr. King:

And whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Col. 3:17)

These are wise words to live by! This is a high bar for a standard of living whether others see, appreciate or understand! Ultimately I'm not doing what I do for the approval of others anyway!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Quote from a Man Who Changed History

I remember sitting in church in Decatur, Georgia the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was shot. Those were terrible times for him, his family and our country! Sad as that period in our history was - I do believe those VERY difficult days did bring us to a better place even if we have only come part of the way!
I have to work tomorrow - don't get to stay home for a holiday - but tomorrow is remembered as Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I ran across this great quote:
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. --Martin Luther King, Jr.
One thing for sure: Dr. King was not silent about things that mattered to him and our world history is forever changed because he didn't.

Flexible Heart

God wants our flexible heart not our rigid religion (Mt 12:7) --Joe Butler

Friday, January 13, 2012

Tim Tebow and Down Syndrome or CP or whatever!

NO! Tim Tebow doesn't have any of those things nor has he made specific pronouncements about them to my knowledge. How does his suggest fit into a general theology about how God figures in ALL of life's circumstances?

The following article is written by
Owen Strachan - Owen Strachan is a professor of theology and history at Boyce College in Louisville, Kentucky.

The Bible teaches that no believer is assured an easy road. In other words, contrary to what health-and-wealth teachers like Joel Osteen say (to the tune of massive earnings), God nowhere promises to unendingly bless his people in worldly terms. On the contrary, it seems from biblical texts like Hebrews 11:35-38 that Christians will know considerable suffering in this world. Speaking of the most faithful leaders of the historic church—not the bad boys and girls of the Bible who would seem to deserve pain—the author says of their earthly sojourn that Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. This is an incredible reality. It's why I have heard famed pastor and apologist Tim Keller of Manhattan's Redeemer Presbyterian Church say, to a wealthy evangelical audience, "Suffering will get you" (see pages 22-34 in his excellent book The Reason for God for more on this subject). There is no way to avoid it as a Christian. What does this mean in light of a possible Broncos loss on Saturday? It means that there is no reason to believe that God has failed Tebow, that the light of the divine in Tebow's life is extinguished. God's Spirit, directed by God's will, blows like the wind where it wishes (John 3:8). It may be that Tebow will succeed in spectacular fashion; it may be that he will have the worst game of his life. Either way, the Bible assures us that God loves his chosen, God is orchestrating every detail of their lives, and God will lead them through success or failure to the end of all things. Sometimes God grants believers great victories, and sometimes he asks them to walk through the fire. This is true whether it is experienced on the football field, in the office, or in a country that rewards outspoken Christianity with a sword to the throat. Perhaps this sounds like a cop-out, as weird as the mystical, linebacker-thwarting wood elves I introduced earlier. But if it does, remember the one whom Christians worship. Jesus Christ was the Son of God in human form. He did not come to earth to be lauded, though, but to serve and to suffer (Mark 10:45). It was the will of God to bruise him, and through his vicarious death and life-giving resurrection to make a way to heaven for fallen mankind. There is no greater reminder than this that God uses suffering in the lives of believers to accomplish his will. Whether, as with Joseph, he grants Christians incredible accomplishment and wealth, or whether, as with Job, he leads them steadily through the valley of the shadow of death, he loves them all the same. Sometimes, we remember, it is through tremendous hardship, suffering even to the point of death, that his people gain the greatest victories. That is the message of the cross, where an innocent man was crucified, naked and gasping, on behalf of the guilty. It is the lodestar of every Christian, the confession that no one can stymie, whether we make our way through life as a mailman, a child with Down's syndrome, or a football star.

My Heart's the Problem!

It's my heart that's the problem. People, locations and situations don't cause me to sin, they're where the sin of my heart gets revealed! --Paul Tripp

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Power of Relational Community

"Why do I have to join a church to be a Christian?" a man asked the famous evangelist, Dwight L. Moody. "Can't I be a Christian alone in my own heart?"
Dr. Moody didn't say a word in response. He simply walked over to the fireplace and pulled a coal from the open grate so that it was separated from the rest of the coals. He stood holding the one lump of coal in his tongs. At first the coal glowed brightly and then less and less. As they watched, the coal sputtered and died. Without a word, Dr. Moody delivered a powerful message:
God made us to be relational people - related intimately to Himself and to each other. When we separate ourselves from others of like faith, we too will sputter and die.
Recently pop icon Justin Bieber answered a question about faith saying he didn't need the church to be a Christian. At best Justin has an essential misunderstanding of what faith is and what it's all about. God gives the gift of faith so we can believe in His Son Jesus and also so that we will establish and maintain relational community with other believers.
Any Christian who ignores the power of relationship to both God AND other believers does so at his or her own peril. God never meant for us to go alone against the darkness! We shine most brightly or at all as we stick together in faith communities!
Justin Bieber, you're missing out on something very valuable and important if your faith is real and alive! Following Jesus is neither a spectator sport nor an individual journey! We shine most brightly when our fire lights the fire of others like us and when their fire connects with ours and when we all stay close to the source of power and light - Jesus!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Heart Empty???

If Christ is removed from your heart, a void is created that all the created universe cannot fill.
--John Piper

Forgiveness Is...OR NOT!

Forgiveness isn't saying, “What u did 2 me is ok.” It's saying, “I’m not going to let what u did 2 me ruin my happiness forever.” --Dr. Jerry Weichman

Sorry, Doc, but you stopped just a bit short of the mark. It IS true that forgiveness is not condoning the wrong that has been done to you! It is true that a part of forgiveness needs to be moving on and not getting stuck in the muck and mire of all the pain and loss! BUT the more part is that forgiveness - principally so that you can move on - is also promising and making the commitment to yourself and to that other person that you will NOT bring that particular offense up again against that person or rehearse it in your own mind and heart. THAT is how to be free, forgiving and forgiven!
What happens if and when the perpetrator does you wrong again? Is your forgiveness this time a "get out of jail free pass" for next time? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Then it's time to reassess and possibly renegotiate with the offender but that may or may not come to pass. For the now, moving on means leaving that pile of crap just where it needs to be left - at the feet of Jesus. He can give you the grace and strength to pick up, forgive from your heart and move on! He knows and understands ALL about what it takes to forgive! That's what He is ALL about!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Our Hearts Can and Should Influence the World!

A word for January 10 from Joni Eareckson Tade:

As we move deeper into the New Year, today's verse serves as a faithful guide. It seems the days are more dangerous than ever with "wars and rumors of wars" crowding the nightly news programs. It appears as though the entire world is spiraling toward Sodom for "the whole world lies in the power of the evil one" (I John 5:19).

But as Christians, we should not smirk at the misery or the merrymaking of our immoral culture. This is no time for smug self-righteousness. This is no time to get cranky that our country has been hi-jacked by the "radical left." This is a season, perhaps like none other, to truly influence the world, to showcase the love of Christ through ministries of mercy. Others may whine about the triumphs of evil, but not followers of Jesus Christ. We know better. We know that ultimately good will triumph. So we showcase what that will look like by rolling up our sleeves and feeding the poor, telling about Jesus, helping the elderly and disabled, bridging racial distances, and raising the bar of common civility. "For we are... created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10).

Dr. John Piper has said, "The greatness of Christian exiles is not success, but service. Whether we win or lose, we witness to the way of truth, beauty and joy. We don't own culture, and we don't rule it. We serve it with joy and mercy, for the good of man and the glory of Jesus Christ."

Take a quick attitude check. If you find you are pessimistic about our culture, then commit today to serve it in practical ways which showcase the love of Christ. Lord, make me an instrument of your peace today in my community.

Joni and Friends [and me]

[1] Dr. John Piper,"Brokenhearted Joy," World Magazine, December 13, 2003, p 51.

Taken from
Pearls of Great Price. Copyright © 2006 by Joni Eareckson Tada. Used by permission. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Safe Place

Jesus, there's no safer place to be than in Your heart and hand, even if everything else fuels fear and brings pain! --Scotty Smith

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Danger: Where a "Deep" Heart Gets You!

Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart."
--Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment

SO - if your heart is deep and your intelligence is large - watch out as pain and suffering are likely in the path ahead! That's why the companions we choose on life's journey are so very important! AND don't discount the Friend who sticks closer than a brother!!! Proverbs 18:24

Monday, January 2, 2012

Heart Hope and Help

Whatever commands your hope will control your heart and what controls your heart will direct your words and behavior. --Paul Tripp

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Disability Ministry from the Heart!

Why do disability ministry? For your joy!
I had lunch with a remarkable young man last week. He serves as the leader for a gathering of adults with cognitive disabilities at Bethlehem’s north campus.
He told me this story.
Parents of a 26-year-old woman with cognitive and physical disabilities heard about Bethlehem’s desire to serve adults who experience life like their daughter.
Their church experiences hadn’t been positive. In addition to not having services for their daughter in a church, she experienced physical pain when sitting for long stretches. Church, for her, was not a good place.
Her first weeks in the class at Bethlehem were hard. She was frightened and desperately wanted to stay with her mother.
But God was working. The young man leading the class is a natural leader, and several other college-aged young people joined him as volunteers. He also had the help of wise people who have walked this path of disability for many years. Most of all, God had gripped him with a desire to both communicate truths about Jesus AND love every person God brought to this class. It is the kind of love that doesn’t quit, because it is about a God who doesn’t quit.
After several weeks, the young woman had a breakthrough. She understood she could contribute to the class. She felt like she was welcome. She felt the real affections for her that were there. If she needed to move around or lay on the floor to ease her pain, she was encouraged to do so. Now, after several months, church is a delight to her.
Her parents felt it as well.
Think about that – after 26 years, God changed church from something that caused physical and emotional pain into a place she longed to be.
And as I heard this story, what I felt was the joy flowing out of this young man’s heart. He loves the adults God has brought into this class. He enjoys the hard work he must put in to prepare to teach those who have a hard time learning. He loves that his future wife is working alongside him, seeing the value in and joy around what he is doing for the sake of God’s church.
I’m very grateful God has given this young woman a good experience, a safe place, and the opportunity to learn more about Jesus.
But I’m equally grateful that God lets me see a talented young man experience more than just the satisfaction of doing something well, but increasing measures of joy and affections for those who are most likely to be marginalized and abused in our culture because of their cognitive disabilities.
I don’t know what God has for him; he’s still working on his schooling. But this I know: he is being changed by this experience; he is not the same man I first met about six months ago.
And that’s why we do disability ministry, not out of reluctant obligation or to earn favor from God, but for our own joy!

by John Knight, Bethlehem Baptist, Minneapolis, MN January 1, 2012

Happy New Year 2012! What's to be Happy About?

A friend posted on Facebook yesterday (basically), 2011 you haven't been very kind to me so get on out of here!
What was 2011 like for you? Did you have financial troubles? Were you deceived? Did you lose your job or your home? Did someone steal from you? Did your husband or wife walk away or die? Did someone you love die? Do you feel like a fool because you acted foolishly? Are you losing your hearing or your sight? When you look in the mirror today do you see a much older, more tired you than you remember seeing just a short while ago? Are you depressed and crushed in that battle? Did you learn you have a terminal or crippling disease in 2011?
That's a pretty horrible list, isn't it? Perhaps you fit more than one category on this list! I have a very dear friend who actually fits a number of these categories all in 2011. All the circumstances listed above are terrible, horrible, no-good and very bad! No one wants to meet up with any of these things in any dark alley!
Well, I have the best news! I am telling you confidently and truly that even tho' it may seem like THE END if you face even one of these horrendous life circumstances that ........ it is NOT the end!
You may wish it were the end but it is NOT the end! It is 2012 - a NEW year - and you came into 2012 with the same broken heart you had in 2011. How can I be so sure this is GOOD news? Because I know Who God is and I know for absolute certain that He shows up in any and all of these terrible, awful, no-good, very bad circumstances of life! AND God does more than just show up! He doesn't sit on His hands! He comes to participate in these terrible, awful, no-good, very bad circumstances that seem like the sentence of death! He NEVER comes to shake His finger in your face making you feel all the worse and more desperate. He comes to you with love and a hug. He whispers in your ear that He does indeed understand. He knows and cares and acted upon His love for you and me over 2,000 years ago when He brought His Son into our time and space - into our neighborhood - into skin just like ours. God demonstrated His love in the most graphic, radical, compelling way He possible could: He sent His Son to live the life you and I never can ( a perfect life) so that His Son Jesus could die the death that you and I could never die (the death of a perfect life willingly laid down). Jesus lived and died JUST for these desperate kinds of circumstances of life! Jesus lived and died for all the terrible, awful, no-good, very bad days in 2011 (or any other year!)! Jesus lived and died for all the terrible, awful, no-good, very bad days to come in 2012! AND that's GOOD news because Jesus conquered death when He walked out of His borrowed tomb on a mountainside outside Jerusalem, Israel on the first Easter Sunday morning over 2,000 years ago! He is alive!
The poet King David wrote thousands of years before Jesus came to earth, Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for YOU are with me! (Ps. 23:4) These words, this confident confession express healthy faith! This kind of faith acknowledges the dark, deadly, desperate places we have to walk through but also affirms that we do not walk alone! How do I know that? Because Jesus lived and died and came back to life to make it so! If you doubt, if it's ever so hard to believe it can possibly be true for you - remember that God always keeps His promises!
God says to you this New Year's Day 2012: I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future! (Jeremiah 29:11) AND HE WILL! You can take that to the bank!