Friday, December 5, 2014

God's Plans ~ Not Ours



      I am writing this on the bus as we head to Budapest, Hungary having spent a week in Romania with an amazing team. This was my second trip back there for the Christmas season. Our church partners with Remember the Children to bring hope to those that have none. Our specific purpose is to give out shoe boxes (Boxes of Hope) to orphans that are packed with essentials and fun items. It is their Christmas gift. Last year was so encouraging that I had to do it again but this time with my wife.

     In my previous post I had mentioned how there were some issues with the container and getting it over to Romania. This has never happened before with RTC to this extent. As of the end of our week it had not yet shown up at the drop point. It has made it to port but has not yet been delivered. So we had no boxes. Our team was perhaps a little disappointed but regardless we had the opportunity to do something even more incredible.  We had the chance to experience what God had planned from the very beginning without any reservations. If we had any covenant as a team it was to be flexible and to do what God wanted us to do. Our work would be for Him and His glory.

     The most amazing thing we did was to serve in the community of Ciumeghiu with Pastor David and his wife Geta.  I will devote a specific post to that outreach story within the next few days. However for now it is enough to say that God showed up big time and what David had prayed for was exceeded. We truly were the hands and feet of Christ. I think we were more blessed than the church there.

     The second part of the week we moved to Satu Mare. There we worked and visited with orphans. To just be able to give a hug and play with them was more than enough. A Box of Hope would have been nice but I believe we poured more into the children by not having those boxes. I will again post more to that story in another post.

     As we head back home we do so with hearts filled to the brim. I am sure our hearts would have been filled either way but without those boxes we were blessed beyond our expectations. We got to experience more than originally planned and we got to do God’s work more than we thought we would. We certainly learned that when God is allowed to work His plan through us then we can make an awesome difference.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Impact Romania 2014 (GO-BE-LOVE)


     Today is the day! The day that I have been looking forward to most of this year. Actually since I returned from the trip last year. Today I begin the journey back to Romania to serve the "least of these". I am blessed to be able to go back. I had my trip fully funded by some amazing sponsors. I get to have my wife along this year and I am going with an awesome team of twelve others. We are going over to bring hope to children without hope, to encourage pastors and to be the hands and feet of Jesus. One of my Facebook friends had the bracelet above and I found it so appropriate to what we have been called to do.

     Last year we delivered Christmas shoe boxes to children and told the Christmas story. This year is turning out to be something different. I know that Satan has tried to derail us but at the same time I think God has an amazing plan that is just beginning to unfold. Let me give you some back story. Several months ago little hitches began to appear. Remember the Children ( the group our team is going with) was getting conflicting stories about what could be packed in the container ( and boxes) that would be shipped over to Romania. First no food in the shoe-boxes, then food was OK but no school supplies. Say what? Then Customs wanted every shoe-box inventoried. The red tape was ridiculous and clearly the work of the enemy. Next the container somehow missed the ship. Never has this happened before. Finally the container was on its way! It would get there later than usual but in time for our mission trip. This week we found out the container may not be there yet. No boxes or supplies. Again the work of the enemy. There are a total of three teams going over the next three weeks so eventually the children will get the boxes that have been made for them but they may not be delivered by us.

    However as I said God has something in mind. The Pastor that the next team would be visiting on Week 2 will be away. We have been asked to be flexible and head North to serve there for our week. This will be an emotional time as we will be seeing children in State run orphanages, children that truly have no hope. We will be stretching ourselves in order to be the "hands and feet". Truly I think this is something that we really were hoping to do and I think God has answered prayers. Perhaps the biggest think I am looking forward to is building a relationship in a community that we will be having a future partnership with. Last year we visited a church where there were over a hundred children cheering for us. Three years ago it was a dead church and now it is thriving and ministering to the gypsies. We will be worshiping there and doing ministry on both Sunday and Monday. We are going to be undertaking a major outreach to the village there.

     So things have changed. We are not sure how everything will unfold but I know it will be amazing. I encourage you to follow along on Facebook and check back here for updates. In the meantime I ask you to pray. Pray big time for our adventure as we "GO-BE-LOVE'! 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Puzzle Pieces (Impact Romania 2013~ Devotional 2)

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 This is the other devotional that I shared in Romania last year- just some food for thought!



1 Corinthians 12: 12-27
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[a] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
       I have heard many versions of this devotional and just wanted to share several thoughts with you here in Romania. Life in many ways is like a puzzle. We only look at the pieces individually and really cannot see the big picture. However, when everything is put together- each piece one at a time, interconnecting with others then at the end we have this magnificent picture created by an artist. Our lives are often like that- we have great moments, bad moments, God moments, moments of despair where we ask why, moments where we are overjoyed- we do not understand how they all fit together but they do and at the end God has created something wonderful out of our lives. I can think of specific times in my life that I have wondered what was going on. Case in point my divorce> it was not a great time but God took that period and made me a better father and in the long run I am now married to a wonderful Christian woman.  What looked like an ugly puzzle piece fit into another and made a great part of the picture. Of course the puzzle is not finished until that last piece is placed but then we can step back and look at the picture and then understand how it all came together. The completed picture is exactly what God intended.
     Going back to our bible verse we can see that just as the writer described us as being parts of the body we can also be compared to being pieces of a puzzle. Each puzzle piece has protrusions or indentations. The protrusions can represent our strengths (things like our gifts, talents and abilities). They stand out.  The indentations can represent our weaknesses (faults, limitations, shortcomings). The beautiful thing is that the pieces complement each other. Where my weaknesses are then another’s strengths will fit in. My talent may fit is where someone else has a limitation. Just as each piece of a puzzle is important then so is each one of us as members of the body of Christ. We can minister and aid other members when need be. They can lift us up when needed. In a nutshell when a piece of the puzzle is missing it is obvious that the picture is incomplete and broken. The same goes for us- each of us are part of the picture. We need to plug in, fit in – whatever as part of the body. We were created to be part of God’s picture/his plan.
   In closing let’s look at this team. We are 11 unique individuals that God called together for this time. It is no mistake who is on this team- each of us was called for a specific reason; each of us has special gifts that we are bringing to the team. Individually we could come here but our effectiveness would not be as great. Together we were sent to make an impact and to make a difference. Back home,  our church family is looking at a big picture of the Romania Team but it took eleven individual pieces to bring that picture together. We have the privilege of being a part of God’s big picture on this trip. A beautiful picture that he has put together. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

DCP (Part One)

Here it is Thursday August 7th- in just two days Courtney will be on her way to begin her new adventure at Walt Disney World. She checks in on Monday for the Disney College Program. Even though she has graduated from the University of Maryland she is enrolled in the fall program for DCP. She is living the dream. Actually she is living my dream and I am blessed to be able to watch her do this. Everyone who knows me and my family knows our love for Disney. It is not just the parks but the entire culture that we love. I don't always agree with their decisions or politics but in the long run I truly believe that they know how to do things the right way. They create the magic and embrace customer service. It has (and still is) been my dream to one day work for the Disney company. We had planned on being down there in 2011 when our girls were in college but then the economy tanked and we had to put that dream on hold for now. However now my daughter has the chance to work for the company and live her dream. I am thrilled beyond belief. I can't wait to see what happens and where she works. All we know at this point is she is working "attractions" which is what she wanted. She would love to "skipper" the Jungle Cruise but will be happy doing whatever. Interestingly enough I know about 3-4 others that are going to be part of this program during the same time. It will be great to follow each and everyone of them.
On Facebook there is a thing called "Throwback Thursday" where everyone posts pictures from long ago. It seems only fitting that I include that in this blog for today. A long time ago we introduced Courtney to Disney and her love grew. Considering she went to Disney almost twice a year ( having divorced parents that both love Disney made for great vacations), been to both WDW and Disneyland, and several Disney Cruises gave her a great background for this opportunity. I know she hopes this translates into something more permanent. I am sure I will blog about some of her journey but if you are interested she will be blogging at Court's Kingdom. Follow along with the magic!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Gift (Impact Romania 2013- Devotional 1)


( These are my notes for a Devotional I gave on my mission trip to Romania last December-Figured it was worth sharing!


 Corinthians 9:6-9

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:
“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
 their righteousness endures forever.”[
a]

GIFTS ARE SPECIAL! THEY ARE FREELY GIVEN OUT OF LOVE OR CELEBRATION. THEY MAY BE GIVEN TO MARK AN OCCASION, THEY MAY BE GIVEN AS A THANK YOU OR THEY MAY EVEN BE GIVEN “JUST BECAUSE”. USUALLY WHEN A GIFT HAS BEEN GIVEN BOTH THE GIVER AND RECEIVER ARE EACH BLESSED IN SOME WAY. TAKE THIS TRIP FOR INSTANCE. WE ALL HAD SUPPORTERS WHO FINANCIALLY PARTNERED WITH US. THEY FEEL BLESSED TO BE ABLE TO BE PART OF OUR TRIP IN SOME WAY. WE FEEL BLESSED BECAUSE OF THAT SUPPORT- KNOWING PEOPLE CARED AND MAKING OUR FINANCIAL BURDEN A LITTLE LESS. EACH OF US HAS BEEN GIVEN A GIFT BY GOD AS WE JOURNEY ON THIS MISSION TRIP TOGETHER. I CANNOT TELL YOU WHAT THAT GIFT IS BUT IT IS SPECIAL AND UNIQUE TO EACH PERSON HERE. AT SOME POINT DURING THIS TRIP I PRAY THAT YOU TRULY DISCOVER WHAT IT MIGHT BE. IT MAY NOT BE OBVIOUS AT FIRST- IN FACT IN MAY TAKE SOME TIME TO DISCOVER IT- YOU MAY BE AT HOME REFLECTING ON THE TRIP WHEN IT WILL APPEAR TO YOU. I CANNOT PROMISE THE WHEN BUT I CAN PROMISE YOU THE GIFT. IT WILL BE SOMETHING THAT YOU WILL HOLD DEAR TO YOUR HEART. AS AN EXAMPLE I WANT TO SHARE TWO OF MY MOST PRECIOUS MISSION TRIP GIFTS. THE FIRST WAS IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC. AT NIGHT WE ACTUALLY SLEPT OUTDOORS ON THE ROOF OF THE HOME WE WERE STAYING AT. I CAN REMEMBER LAYING THERE IN A RURAL AREA BY THE OCEAN AND JUST LOOKING UP AT THE AMAZING CANVAS OF STARS AND WATCHING HEAT LIGHTENING STREAK ACROSS THE SKY EVERY ONCE IN AWHILE. AT THAT MOMENT I HAD NEVER FELT CLOSER TO GOD. I HAD MY I-POD ON LISTENING TO MERCY ME’S SONG “HERE WITH ME” AND I FELT BROKEN, EMPOWERED AND BLESSED ALL AT THE SAME TIME.  THAT WAS MY GIFT ON THAT TRIP. THE OPPORTUNITY TO GROW CLOSER TO GOD. EACH NIGHT I LAID THERE FEELING FULLY CONNECTED WITH MY LORD. THE SECOND GIFT HAPPENED IN HONDURAS ON MY FIRST SPONSOR TOUR WITH COMPASSION. THOSE THAT KNOW MY TESTIMONY KNOW AND KNOW UNDERSTAND WHY COMPASSION AND MY WORK WITH CHILDREN IS MY CALLING. IN A NUTSHELL I HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO MEET MY FIRST SPONSORED CHILD LINDA. OUR GROUP MET OUR SPONSORED CHILDREN AT A WATERPARK. WHEN THEY CALLED HER NAME I DID NOT KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT. SHE STEPPED OUT (REMEMBER THIS IS A CHILD IN POVERTY) DRESSED IN A WHITE DRESS SUCH AS YOU WOULD WEAR AT EASTER. SHE TOOK ONE LOOK AT KAREN AND I AND BURST INTO TEARS. I SAW THE LOVE THAT SHE HAD FOR US THROUGH THOSE TEARS. I ALSO SAW THE LOVE THAT JESUS MUST HAVE FOR EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US. MY HEART WAS BROKEN FOR THE LEAST OF THESE AND I HAD FOUND MY CALLING. THIS WAS THE BEST GIFT I HAVE EVER GIVEN. 
NOW AS I SAID YOU WILL FIND A SPECIAL GIFT ON THIS TRIP. IT WILL BE YOURS AND YOURS ALONE. BUT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS THAT YOU ARE GOING TO NEED TO UNWRAP IT. A GIFT GIVEN IS NICE BUT UNLESS YOU UNPACK IT OR OPEN IT THEN YOU ARE GOING TO MISS OUT. IT MAY TAKE SOME REFLECTION ON WHAT THE GIFT IS OR WHAT TO DO WITH IT BUT I GUARANTEE YOU IT WILL BE INCREDIBLE. IT MAY EMPOWER YOU, IT MAY BREAK YOU, IT MAY BLESS YOU BUT GOD GAVE IT TO YOU FOR A REASON. IT WAS PLANNED FOR THIS TRIP AND FOR YOU. DO NOT TAKE THE GIFT AND PUT IT AWAY. UNWRAP IT TO ITS FULLEST AND BE BLESSED BY WHAT GOD HAS GIVEN YOU. 
FINALLY IN REFERRING BACK TO OUR BIBLE VERSE I JUST WANT TO ENCOURAGE YOU TO GIVE GIFTS OF YOURSELF TO THOSE THAT WE MEET DURING THIS TRIP. EACH OF US WAS CALLED TO THIS TRIP WITH A PURPOSE. I PRAY THAT YOU GIVE FREELY OF YOUR HEARTS AND ACTIONS SO THAT WE CAN TRULY BE THE HANDS AND FEET OF JESUS.

Monday, June 30, 2014

A light in the Darkness

Let me start by saying I am a sinner. I know that! I also know that I have been saved by God's grace. I struggle daily with the thought that I often fall short. I work in Children's ministry, I have my ministry with Compassion. I have traveled on several mission trips and will be returning to Romania this Fall. However despite the many good things I have my failings. My thinking is not always in the right spot and my actions do not always reflect my values. As hard as I often try I sometimes seem to take that "backwards step". It is a struggle but I know that God holds me close. I just sometimes feel that the "me" everybody thinks I am has not reached that level. Casting Crowns has a song called The Altar and the Door which has spoken to me many times. In fact I wrote an earlier blog post on it back in 2009. My thoughts were expressed here. Amazingly not a lot has changed in five years.

     Which brings me to today's post. Casting Crowns is one of my favorite Christian artists. So many of their songs are relevant and speak to me. Their newest album Thrive is just another great album and I recently saw them on tour supporting the album. My only regret with them was that they are supporters of World Vision. I have nothing bad to say regarding World Vision~I just feel that their sponsorship program is more geared toward the community rather than the children which is my focus. The main reason I am a supporter of Compassion is their model is based on child development through the local church. It was always different seeing Casting Crowns in concert and seeing people sponsoring children with World Vision. I always felt a little out of place being the Compassion advocate I am. I guess I should mention that I am passive aggressive  so typically I wore my Compassion shirts to these events. (See what I mean about my actions above).

    Right after I went to their recent concert in Baltimore World Vision made a statement that rocked the Christian world. In a nutshell they basically stated that they were supporting same sex partnerships in their workplace. I will not debate the politics here but obviously to most Christians this stance was counter to Biblical principles. Many groups called for boycotts and I know many sponsors were considering cancelling their child sponsorships. Casting Crowns holds those values tightly as discussed in many of their songs. It would be interesting to see what the band did with their support. They announced that they would have a decision a few days later around 4pm in the afternoon. A few minutes before their decision World Vision retracted their statement. To me this smacked of being two faced. I would rather they stood their ground and principles rather than cave to pressure. I am still not sure what they are honestly thinking. I had not heard anything from Casting Crowns and I figured this gave them a way out to stay as World Vision supporters. The entire band sponsors children through World Vision so either way it would have been a hard decision.

     As of right now Casting Crowns has not released a public statement regarding World Vision but I have found out that have broken ties with them and will now be supporting Compassion. I am beyond thrilled to have a band of their stature and integrity now encouraging child sponsorships with a ministry I believe in. I will be interested to hear how they transition this with their advocacy but to me they are a light in the darkness. They could have remained with World Vision (with the retraction) and still been fine. However they have taken a stand and made a decision to stick with their principles. To me that is something I don't often see! To me it is an encouragement as I try to grow in my walk. In their new album they discuss how we must dig our roots deep in order to grow and thrive. They are a perfect example of this!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Silenced~Book 4 in the Alaskan Courage Series (by Dani Pettrey)

A relaxing day of rock climbing takes a disturbing turn when Kayden McKenna’s route leads her to a face-to-face encounter with a dead climber. Is it a terrible accident or something sinister? When the case is handed to the overburdened sheriff, he turns to Jake Westin. With Jake’s past now revealed, he’s ready to use his talent for investigation again-–but he could never prepare for where the case will take him.
Kayden and Jake soon realize that the death was no accident. And worse, it seems the killer is on to them. When strange things begin happening in Yancey, Jake is terrified that once again his world may put someone he loves in danger.
But the truth is far worse than either of them imagine.

So begins the little blurb on the back cover of the book "Silenced" by Dani Pettrey. It is the 4th and next to last book in the Alaskan Courage Series. It is a book that was anticipated eagerly by many of Dani's fans and it features the romance of Jake and Kayden amidst a backdrop of a mountain climbing mystery. Both Kayden, who is fiercely independent and Jake who was a man of mystery (at least until book 3) work together to solve the mystery. It will not spoil anything to say that starting in Book 1 (Submerged) there was mistrust by Kayden regarding the mystery of Jake. It has been fun to see how that has developed and changed into a deeper relationship. 

    If you read my prior post regarding this series I will reiterate that:
 1) I love to read (especially suspense and adventure).
 2) Romance stories are not a drawing card for me.
 3) I was given a copy of this book by the publisher in return for an honest review of the book. 

That being said I will say that I love this series. It has grown on me and I have looked forward to each book. I was not disappointed by "Silenced".  It starts strong and ends well. It has all the elements of suspense, adventure and (sigh) romance. As I mentioned though I did enjoy seeing the relationship change and grow between Kayden and Jake. The writing is paced well and it was the type of book that I did not want to put down. When I was finished I was sad that it had come to an end. In fact that would be my only negative critique of the book- the end wrapped up very quickly and then it was over. Other than that hiccup I was hooked from the beginning. I love the element of Faith that each of these novels contain. They are woven well into the fabric of the story and never seem forced. This one resounded deeply with me as it was about learning from your mistakes and being able to move on. I like that each book stands alone but it is also great to see the characters and relationships develop as the series continues. If I had to rate it out of 5 stars it would be 4.5! However I encourage you to pick up a copy and decide for yourself.