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Friday, November 28, 2008

All That I Can Say

I was poking around some of the several blogs I like to read, and I came upon one which had a song playing on it. At first, it freaked me out (maybe like it's doing for you right now as you're reading this.) I don't recall ever hearing music on this particular blog, so I spent a couple minutes just trying to figure out where it was coming from. I wasn't really paying attention to the lyrics...yet.

I closed out my browser, and the music stopped. Then I opened it up again and went back to that blog page. The song once again started playing. I then started to listen to the lyrics.

Uhhhh...God?

I want to share the lyrics with you. I swear I could have written this song myself. I've also added a playlist feature on my blog so you can hear it for yourself. You know music is a big part of my life, so I'll try to start sharing some songs which are important to me so you can hear them, too. Plus, just as this...ahem...accidental run-in with a song did for me, maybe a song I feature here will do the same for you someday. If you're not able to listen to it right now, the player is over in the right column. You can simply stop or pause the song anytime. When I add songs, you can even click on other ones you may want to hear instead.

Thank you Lord for taking a moment and causing me to stumble upon a song in a place I wouldn't have expected. In doing so, you've done something you didn't have to do. You've reminded me that you're here with me. You cry when I cry. You hurt when I hurt. Thank you for placing this reminder in my path despite my stumbling around...seemingly aimlessly. Even when I feel aimless, you are there at every turn.

All I Can Say - David Crowder Band
Lord I'm tired
So tired from walking
And Lord I'm so alone
And Lord the dark
Is creeping in
Creeping up
To swallow me
I think I'll stop
Rest here a while

And this is all that I can say right now
And this is all that I can give (2x)

That's my everything

And didn't You see me cry'n?
And didn't You hear me call Your name?
Wasn't it You I gave my heart to?
I wish You'd remember where you sat it down

And this is all that I can say right now
I know it's not much
And this is all that I can give
That's my everything (2x)

I didn't notice You were standing here
I didn't know that
That was You holding me
I didn't notice You were cry'n too
I didn't know that
That was You washing my feet

And this is all that I can say right now
I know it's not much
And this is all that I can give
That's my everything (2x)

Disappointment Doesn't Always Mean Failure

I remember when this thought first came to my mind. I was really wanting to go on a missions trip to China several years ago, and for a number of reasons, it didn't happen. Well, it didn't happen then. I was very disappointed. I felt defeated. I felt as if I must not have done all I could have done.

But then this thought was spoken to my heart. The thought, though simple in concept, certainly didn't fit the frame of mind I was in at the time, so I know it was a God thing.

I was reminded of this same thought late one night recently as I ended a pretty full day of feeling intense disappointment, and feeling like a failure. There are times in our lives, even as small children, when we are denied things we want. I was walking through the grocery store recently and overheard (how could you NOT) a young child pleading with her mom how she needed a certain toy or she would surely die. There is a difference between what we want and what we need.

God is keenly aware of our wants and needs. He, however, has a God's-eye-view of our lives and our situations which means He knows what we truly need, long before we do.

As I write this, I have to admit that I'm not feeling it. I am still struggling with human fears, human emotions. I know very well that they don't bring out my best. But I also know what I'm writing is the truth. I'm writing this because I need to. I need my body to make some kind of outward response to what I know is true. My brain and my faith say one thing, my heart is saying another.

I have had times where I was able to plow through obstacles by simply singing praise and worship songs in my home, my office or in my car. Or just walking around a store. I have to admit, I'm just not able to right now. Now before you lose complete respect for me, know that I know this is temporary. I know the truth about feelings. I know that in our human relationships, times come when we just don't feel the love we have with one another.

Right now, I'm not feeling it. But that's OK. I'm not turning my back. I'm dealing with my feelings, but doing my best not to let my feelings auger me into the ground. God knows I'm just not able to sing praise right now. But He also knows I love Him and am still committed to Him. He will be right there waiting to hear me sing to Him when I'm ready, just as He's right here with me now feeding my heart as I write this.

My heart is hungry. This feeding may take some time.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Power of Remembering

On this Thanksgiving eve, I'm finding it unnatural in my flesh to be thankful. The message at my church this past Sunday was about remembering our blessings and God's victories in our lives. It was a very powerful message for me, particularly in this season I'm in.

There is power in remembrance. The literal meaning of remembering is different than we're conditioned to think. It is not so much the opposite of forgetting, but the opposite of dismembering. In other words, when we remember something, it's actually reattaching something which was once part of us. We're re-membering.

With this in mind, I want to think upon those things which are part of my history. They're part of me which simply need to be reattached to make me whole and grateful.

I am thankful for my parents. I cannot imagine who I would be right now were they not the people they are. I'm so thankful that I can spend another Thanksgiving with both of them. I don't know how many we have left together, so I don't want to take it for granted.

I'm thankful to have been born in this wonderful country. We shamefully complain so much, and yet we have it so much better than people in, for instance, Darfur. People today, today, are enslaved and murdered for reasons we cannot even imagine from our ivory towers. I just got Schindler's List on Netflix and started watching it recently. Talk about a reminder of the blessings we have today to live in freedom, free from persecution. No, things aren't perfect. Yes, we're seeing some frightening changes in some of our freedoms. But we don't have to fear being pulled out of homes and put in prisons, or put to death because of our faith.

I'm thankful for the roof over my head and the car I drive. I know there are so many who have neither. So many hooked on drugs and living on the streets.

Ultimately, I'm thankful for God. I am so unworthy of all I've been given. I have so much which has absolutely nothing to do with my own merit. I have been spoiled throughout my life with all the comforts I take for granted. The fact that I'm able to sit at a computer and type this is the result of innumerable blessings.

I'm not yet where I want to be. But I believe that I'm one step closer today than I was yesterday. And as I re-member the path I've traveled to be who and where I am today, I truly believe that on Thanksgiving eve 2009, I'll be that much closer.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I Believe In You

For some time, I've had a potential blog post ruminating in my head about the phrase, "I believe in you." I've heard people summarize their Christianity by saying, "I believe in God." The use of the word believe is passive and requires no relationship. It's simply acknowledging someone's existence. I believe Barack Obama exists, but we have no relationship. He doesn't even know I exist. If you were to ask him if I existed, he'd have no reason to believe I didn't. We have no relationship, so whether he believes I do or not means nothing to either of us.

But the active use of the word, believing in someone, is very powerful. It derives from having a relationship with someone. Knowing their character. Knowing their potential. As I'm currently unemployed, passively believing in God does nothing for my attitude or faith. But actively believing in God's sovereignty and power does. It compels me to press in. It motivates me to dig in to His promises.

Yesterday, my friend Lisa commented on my post with these four simple words, "I believe in you." That served to propel me beyond simply thinking of these words, to sharing with you what they mean to me. Then, doing what I can to live up to them. These words are empowering.

There is almost nothing more tragic than unfulfilled potential. This is why we react so strongly when we hear of the death or disability of a young child. We think of all the things in life they should have experienced, but they never will. I look back on my life and see many things which were left undone. That doesn't mean they must remain undone. When someone says they believe in you, you can almost feel yourself lean forward, set your jaw, and plow onward.

My life and my future are defined by this statement: Not only do I believe in God, but more importantly, God believes in me.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Where To Begin?


Well, here it is...the Monday of Thanksgiving week. I have begun my second job search in the short 4 months I have been in Rocklin. It is not a fun experience, particularly when you're desperately needing some degree of tangible security in a new area. I have spent the entire morning scouring job sites and posting my resume wherever I can think.

As I was reaching mental and emotional critical mass, I thought of the exhortations I've received from more than a few friends recently. I've been encouraged to pursue my writing. I haven't yet figured out how to parlay that into a career as of yet. It seems a bit late in the game as a 43 year old to consider such a venture, but it's been done before. My resume just doesn't identify me as a prolific writer. And really, honestly, I'm just another voice out here in the ever-expanding blogosphere.

What I seem to have is the ability to put into words, pictures, videos and any other form of communication, the thoughts and feelings of the so-called common man (or woman). When I sit down at my computer, I don't have a particular person or demographic in mind. I have friends who do not share my faith, so I know that they may not be as inspired by my posts about my faith as those who share this particular passion of mine. I sometimes write sports themed posts, or ones related to music. Hopefully there is some overlap in my writing which includes everyone at some point, but I also know that from time to time, I'm going to write about something which doesn't interest you.

What I hope to do, however, is use whatever theme I'm writing about on that particular day to relate to everyone in some way, even despite our differences in interests.

I do write about my relationship with God quite a bit. After all, that is the foundation upon which my life is built. I don't walk around with a 25 pound bible under my arm, standing on a crate at the street corner preaching the end of the world. Instead, I just share certain things in my life and observations which serve to inspire and change me. Every now and then, I'll post something just to be silly. If you know me at all, you know I have a real appreciation for goof off-ery.

I am in the process of taking my writing more seriously. That doesn't mean that I'm taking myself more seriously. Have you met me? Helllllooooo! What it means is that I recognize that I have been given a certain measure of talent. I have shared with you my observations on how we are given different abilities and capabilities. I do not want to be guilty of burying mine. We all have gifts. Some have talents they haven't even discovered. Others have great talent, but don't use them. Others have very little that the world sees or appreciates, but they use what they have to change their world.

I want to be someone who uses what God has given me to change my world. I just want my world to grow, so the change will, as well.

First things first. Before I can expect to affect change in my world, it must first begin in me.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Ever Get The Feeling...?

As I think and look back over the past several months that I've been in Rocklin, and looking over many of my posts here which have in some way related to the testing of my faith and trust...I'm finding myself staring down yet another considerable test.

During the past week, I have really immersed myself in thanking God for all my blessings. Even though things are anything but simple, or the way I had envisioned, I know I am blessed. In my office all week at work, I have been listening to the music we're doing in church tomorrow, and just singing myself hoarse in praise. It really served to focus my heart on God, and not the crashing waves around me.

Then came yesterday afternoon. I got laid off from my job of two months. So here I am, out on the water doing my very best to keep my focus.

I subscribe to a "verse of the day" service which emails me a bible verse each day. A couple I received and held on to, without knowing what was ahead of me, were the following verses:

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
~Philippians 4:12-13

give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
~I Thessalonians 5:18

Ever get the feeling God was trying to tell you something? Yeah, me too. I also think of the encouraging words I've received just within the past week from friends. Some of which I have shared with you in this week's posts. All these things combine to show me that God knows my situation. You can take away my job. You can take away my possessions. You can't take away God's love for me.

As a single man, I often wonder if I'm still single due to my flaws. Maybe, maybe not. What I know for certain is that despite my imperfections, God loves me and is willing to let me go through hardships in order to perfect me and draw me into closer relationship with Him. I look around me at "successful" people who hate God and all I hold dear. I sometimes wonder why they can go on without a care in the world, while I struggle doing what I know is right. I can understand if I make some mistake which causes consequences, but when I'm minding my own business, then out of nowhere, BAM, I'm unemployed. Happy Thanksgiving!

But I'm not letting it defeat me. Well, I'm wrestling with negativity, but I'm putting my trust where it belongs. I'm going back and reading about Job. I won't elevate myself or my sufferings by comparing them to Job's, but despite everything he endured, he trusted God. I'm reminded that God is willing to let those who don't love Him or His statutes to go about their own ways. Their consequences await them unless they give God lordship over their lives. It's those of us who have died to ourselves and merged our identities with His who He goes out of His way to perfect.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
~James 1:2-4

Friday, November 21, 2008

Great Faithfulness

Before I start, it's hard to believe, but this is my 100th post on Crossing Paths. It all started on July 8 when I announced I was moving from San Jose to Rocklin. Wow, a lot has happened in 4 months, hasn't it?

In less than a week, we celebrate Thanksgiving. Like most holidays with any kind of Christian origins, it has been reduced by our culture to a time of feasting on great food, taking naps and watching football.

You can't read or watch the news these days without being bombarded with the uneasy truths of the economy and international turmoil. We keep hearing how things haven't been this bad in X number of years. We hear comparisons to the Great Depression. Depression. Such a fitting term. You know, if you focus on how depressing everyone's talk and focus is, yeah...you're going to get depressed.

I read a quote yesterday by Aldous Huxley. He said, "experience is not what happens to you; it is what you do with what happens to you."

How profound. How simple.

Yesterday, my friend Keri wrote the following on my Facebook page:

Jesus is the same Yesterday Today and Always, He is faithful. He is glorious, victorious, Timeless, Alpha Omega, He is God. Be encouraged by Him today in your Life.

Times are tough. But these powerful words from my friend are where I choose to put my focus. Life is cyclical. Whether we're talking about the weather, fashions or economic trends. In a world where the only constant is change, I'm leaning on the everlasting arms of the One who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Sunday evening is a special Thanksgiving service at my church. I am blessed to be part of the worship team. One of the songs I will be leading is one of my very favorites. The lyrics are below. Many of you know the song, and I would encourage you to read these words and think about them. Then through the course of your day, recite these words. If you know the song, sing it. Listen to it. In these times, the song is especially meaningful to me.

Be someone like my friend Keri. Be someone who is an encourager in times when we're having negativity crammed down our collective throats. We have so much more for which to be thankful.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Better Blessed Than Lucky!

When I lived in San Jose, I was very blessed to have some great friends. Thank God they're still very much part of my life today. Among those friends is a good man who holds a rather prestigious role with the San Jose Sharks hockey team. On many occasions, he invited me as his guest to watch games in his suite, which were the best seats in the house.

Tuesday night I was the beneficiary of another blessing similar to my fortune with hockey games. A friend of mine told me he might have an extra ticket to the Gaither Homecoming concert at the Arco Arena in Sacramento. I admit, I love that stuff. There were a lot of cars in the lot which were parked a little helter skelter, and the handicapped spots filled up fast. I was among the younger folks in attendance. But I was actually blessed with not only one ticket, but FOUR...in a luxury suite, no less! So I was able to bless three other people! The suite was center stage, looking
straight at it without obstruction.

I'd much rather be blessed than lucky!


It was a pretty fun night. There are so many wonderful singers on
the Gaither circuit. Among them is the man whose voice was my first major vocal influence when I started singing. His name is Russ Taff (right). He has such passion in his voice. He has a sound and a style that is all his own. I was so excited to see him sing. It had been about 22 years since I last saw him sing in person. But on this night, Russ was just one of many great singers. One standout who sang is named Jason Crabb. Keep an eye out for his music. He's phenomenal.

The show is unique. Fortunately, I had received a tip from a friend that these concerts are L-O-N-G. And were they right. I left at 10 PM...during the intermission! Yes, it was practically 3 hours into the show until they got to the intermission. Other friends of mine who went said it finished about 11:30 or so.

It was a great night. I had to fight back tears on more than one occasion as my spirit was stirred, but on the final song of my night, the Gaither Vocal Band sang one of the their all time classics, It Is Finished. That song did me in. I couldn't fight it back any longer. I will end this post with a link to some pictures I took, and a video of It Is Finished as performed by the Gaither Vocal Band in a previous performance (in it, Russ Taff sings the second verse, after Bill sings).

Click here for the pictures.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sporadic Alzheimer's

Just 2 days ago, during sound check before church, my friend Keri was trying to remember something she wanted to talk about. You know that nagging feeling of when you had a thought a moment ago, but when the opportunity comes...your mind goes blank? So, in a moment of solidarity with my friend, I thought I'd confess my occasional absentmindedness. I told her that my neighbors must think I'm an idiot. Probably 3 days a week, I walk out my front door only to remember something I left behind within seconds of the door closing. I then have to unlock the door, go back inside and retrieve the forgotten item.

Fast forward 24 hours to Monday morning. I'm gathering my stuff before I head out the door for work. I go through the checklist:
  • Backpack - check
  • bottle of water - check
  • protein bars - check
  • garage door opener - check
  • bill I need to pay today - check
  • wallet - check
  • checks - check
I'm good to go. So, I open the door, make sure it's locked, and close it behind me. No sooner does the door close that it dawns on me that I left my KEYS inside. I mean, it was almost instantly as the door closed.

Fortunately, (for me, anyway), my good friend Lisa had the foresight when I moved to town to suggest that we each have a copy of keys to each other's houses for just such an occasion. Until Monday, I had never locked myself out. EVER. So I thought her suggestion was silly, but the reason she thought of it was because she's probably sufficiently knuckleheaded to do it.

So, after nearly 4 months, the scoreboard reads:

Dork - 1
Knucklehead - 0


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Monday, November 17, 2008

Getting Out of the Boat

I have been doing a bit of thinking lately on the biblical account of Peter's little stroll across the water. If you're not familiar with the story, it's not long. You can read it here.

The reason I've been thinking of it is that there are 13 people involved in this story, so there are lots of different angles to look at. Each probably had their own thoughts before, during and after it was all said and done. For the sake of simplicity, I just want to focus on a few keys that have been playing over and over in my head.

First, the boat load of disciples is tooling out in the water as Jesus commanded. Here is a bunch of guys who have seen some pretty amazing things. So when Jesus says, "get in the boat and I'll meet you out there", I have to wonder what they expected. This was well before the invention of the jet ski. After some time, suddenly they see a figure out walking across the water toward them. I find their response to be somewhat amusing. They were quicker to believe it was a ghost than the Son of God. Of course, when reading this, we probably think "what a bunch of dorks!" But I have to wonder what I would have thought if I was out there. I'm not so sure I would have reacted any better.

Then Jesus uttered the greatest words any one of us could ever hope to hear in times of confusion and commotion; "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."

Again, I'd like to think I would be one who would have reacted, "Hey Lord! Great to see you! How's the water?" But Peter reacted by questioning the truth of Jesus' words.

"Lord, if it's you..."

IF?
Maybe you were expecting...???

But Jesus showed more restraint than I would have. He simply told Peter to come.

Now I try to imagine what the other 11 disciples were thinking and saying to Peter at this point.

"Hey, better you than me!"
"Don't forget your water wings!"
"I hope Jesus doesn't call me! I can't swim!"
"I just ate less than a half our ago."

Peter then obeyed, got out of the boat, and began shuffling across the water toward Jesus. But then he noticed the wind, began to doubt, then glug, glug, glug.

Again, I wonder what the disciples were doing at this point. Were they laughing at Peter for failing? Were they envious? Did they admire him? I figure there was probably a lot of each going on.

The reason I have been thinking of this story is because I feel much like Peter must have. No, my situation isn't as impossible, scientifically. But getting out of the relative safety of the boat is scary, whether it's a literal boat on the water, or your comfort zone of what is safe and familiar to you.

But then those words. Those wonderful, empowering, comforting words...

Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid.

In the three and a half months that I have been out of my boat, there have been many, many moments when I took my focus off of God and put it on the wind and the waves. I take it as a real compliment, as Peter must have, that God called me to get out of my boat to test and reward my faith as I look squarely at Him and step into a great unknown. I am so thankful I didn't respond as the other 11 who were left to watch someone else trust and obey. I am not one who can just watch. I need to be the one out there doing it.

I am so grateful God is alive and well in my life, and each day is another day in "boot camp" where I go through challenges which only serve to make me stronger, better, and to have a greater faith and trust. Each day, my water walking brings me another step further from what I've been conditioned to think as being safe and comfortable, and one step closer to Him and His reward.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you are involved in various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But you must let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.
Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to everyone generously without a rebuke, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith, without any doubts, for the one who has doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. Such a person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. He is a double-minded man, unstable in all he undertakes.

James 1:2-8

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Friday, November 14, 2008

You Write the Caption

I saw this picture, and thought of several captions I would write. But I already know what I'd put. I want to know what YOU would put. So...have at it!




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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Slippery Slope

"The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist."

-Charles Baudelaire

We are now entering the "Holiday" season, which also means we're entering the season in which "Christmas" comes under attack.

Today I read an article about a humanist group which has purchased an ad campa
ign on local buses in Washington DC stating, "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness' sake." This campaign will run from mid November through December.

Why now? Why during this time which is so sacred to the estimated 2.1 billion Christians (and their variations) around the world? A spokesman for the humanist group gave an explanation about the timing, saying, "We are trying to reach our audience, and sometimes in order to reach an audience, everybody has to hear you." He went on to say, "Our reason for doing it during the holidays is there are an awful lot of agnostics, atheists and other types of non-theists who feel a little alone during the holidays because of its association with traditional religion."

Am I supposed to feel sorry for them? They feel alone?

Christmas has become so secularized, there is no resemblance to its Christian meaning. This argument is so incredibly misleading, it would be comical if it weren't so evil. This isn't about making atheists and agnostic feel less alone. It's about eliminating the sacred meani
ng of Christmas. I could almost respect them if they were at least honest about it.

When the United States was fighting for independence during the Revolutionary War, our enemy was easy to recognize and fight because they wore bright red coats and marched in straight lines. Today, terrorists disguise themselves as civilians, and even using women and children as suicide bombers. In the war against Christmas, and Christianity, our enemies disguise themselves as victims, as disenfranchised, as compassionate, seeking love, peace and harmony.

If someone truly believes there is no God, they also must believe there is no devil, which is why I began this post with the quote from Charles Baudelaire. A British humanist group recently put the following slogan on buses in the UK,
"There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

During the Presidential campaign, it was evident that there were at least 40-45% of people who were resolute about who they supported. The "battleground" was for the 10-20% of "undecideds". The people these humanist groups are after are not those who are solid in their faith. They are after the spiritual "undecideds". By compelling their emotions with words like "worry" juxtaposed with "enjoy", they hope to take the attention from the very troublesome concept of their opening sentence, "there's probably no God."

Probably? You're not sure? Hmmmm.

If you are someone who believes in the real meaning of Christmas, it's time to stand up. There is a real and present danger threatening to eliminate something which is sacred to you. No, not Christmas. That is simply an easy target. They're trying to eliminate Christianity.

If you don't believe there is a God, let me say something. If you're right and I'm wrong, what's the worst thing that came of it? So many have overcome addictions, restored their marriages and families, found peace in their lives, found freedom in prisons and found meaning in their lives in a world which otherwise overwhelms them. So many have found deliverance from the "worry" you think we walk in, and instead live with pure joy.

But what if you're wrong?

You better be right. You're betting your eternity on it.





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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

It's Getting Ugly

This video seems to sum up the hate. While I think it was rather inflammatory for her to be waving the cross around, she had a right to do so. The violent and intimidating manner in which she was confronted is inexcusable.You disagree with her? Fine. But here's the deal, this is a democracy. The majority has spoken. You're not happy? Fine. But that doesn't give you the right to manhandle and oppress those with whom you disagree. You are becoming that which you say you hate.



Folks, it's happening. Here is another article about a protest which took place in a church during a service. The battle is now being waged in places which are literally sanctuaries. How will you handle things when you're confronted with it?

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Ban Divorce?

The latest "argument" against the passage of Proposition 8 has come out this week in the form of sarcasm. They're hoping that you would think their argument is absurd, outlawing divorce due to the "sanctity of marriage" and to protect children and the sacred institution of marriage. The "gotcha" comes when they reveal they are using the words used in the Yes on 8 campaign against gay marriage.

For the anti Prop. 8 crowd who are trumpeting this call against what they would like to call hypocrisy, I would ask why the majority of that very same crowd can justify so cavalierly the ending of an innocent life, yet they picket outside San Quentin when mass murderers are put to death for their crimes, or live in trees for months on end so they won't be cut down for the sake of development. A tree!

You see? The "hypocrisy" thing goes both ways.

But let me say this. We have to admit that our culture has asked for this. The divorce rate is astronomical. I could write a book on why, and how to avoid the pitfalls. As a single guy who has never married, I'm not sure that book would sell. But it is beyond debate that marriages are under assault. Not only from the outside, but from within.

Many people I know have endured divorce. In most cases, I have to say they made the right decisions in getting out of their abusive and damaging relationships. However, I have heard many of those very same people admit that they saw signs before the wedding day of the very things which eventually destroyed the relationships.

Believe me, I hate being alone. And I'm scared to live the rest of my life alone, and to die alone. My parents are each approaching their mid 70s, and both have health issues which are in varying degrees of seriousness. I can't imagine either one of them without the other. I don't want to be in my 70s and alone. Heck, I'm not enjoying be in my 40s and being alone. But despite my fear of that, I fear more the concept of being in a marriage which was practically doomed before it began.

I originally had a much different ending to this post, but I've chosen to go a different direction after reviewing my Veteran's Day post. It changed my mood about things, and thus, changed the tone in which I want to end this post. Whether or not you're married is not the point I want to make. I would simply like to issue you the same challenge I'm giving myself. That we would live our lives consistently, not giving anyone room to make claims of inconsistencies in us. It's wonderful to be politically active, particularly on issues which have a direct affect on the moral culture of our state and country. But let's also declare war against the battle within. It's one thing to stand on a street corner waving signs at passing cars. It's another thing to take time and spend it with hurting people and loving them...when no one is looking. It's another thing to do the right thing...when no one is looking.

Let's hold each other accountable.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day, 2008

In observance Veteran's Day today, I want to simply post a letter by our President, George W. Bush, in honor of the men and women who have served this great country on the fields of battle. If you wish to view the letter on the White House website, you may do so here.

Veterans Day, 2008
A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America

On Veterans Day, we pay tribute to the service and sacrifice of the men and women who in defense of our freedom have bravely worn the uniform of the United States.

From the fields and forests of war-torn Europe to the jungles of Southeast Asia, from the deserts of Iraq to the mountains of Afghanistan, brave patriots have protected our Nation's ideals, rescued millions from tyranny, and helped spread freedom around the globe. America's veterans answered the call when asked to protect our Nation from some of the most brutal and ruthless tyrants, terrorists, and militaries the world has ever known. They stood tall in the face of grave danger and enabled our Nation to become the greatest force for freedom in human history. Members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard have answered a high calling to serve and have helped secure America at every turn.

Our country is forever indebted to our veterans for their quiet courage and exemplary service. We also remember and honor those who laid down their lives in freedom's defense. These brave men and women made the ultimate sacrifice for our benefit. On Veterans Day, we remember these heroes for their valor, their loyalty, and their dedication. Their selfless sacrifices continue to inspire us today as we work to advance peace and extend freedom around the world.

With respect for and in recognition of the contributions our service members have made to the cause of peace and freedom around the world, the Congress has provided (5 U.S.C. 6103(a)) that November 11 of each year shall be set aside as a legal public holiday to honor America's veterans.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim November 11, 2008, as Veterans Day and urge all Americans to observe November 9 through November 15, 2008, as National Veterans Awareness Week. I encourage all Americans to recognize the bravery and sacrifice of our veterans through ceremonies and prayers. I call upon Federal, State, and local officials to display the flag of the United States and to support and participate in patriotic activities in their communities. I invite civic and fraternal organizations, places of worship, schools, businesses, unions, and the media to support this national observance with commemorative expressions and programs.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand eight, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.

GEORGE W. BUSH




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Monday, November 10, 2008

Life Lessons

Life happens. And when it does, I really do my best to learn life lessons from even the smallest details. One such example of that, for me, would be the recent elections. There are probably 20 posts I could write on topics which share that commonality, but don't necessarily have anything to do with the results of the election, itself.

Today, I want to focus on conversations I had with friends, and friends of friends, regarding Proposition 8. Now, before you think this is about Prop 8 or the controversial topic, it's not. Well, not exactly anyway. If you're like me, you're a little burned out with deep discussions and debate on the election issues. Instead, I want to talk about a truth I find that relates to faith in Christ.

I would like to point out a couple arguments made by those who disagreed with me on the topic of gay marriage, followed by my thoughts.

  • God wants us to be happy. If that's what makes us happy, who are you to tell me I can't?
This is a compelling argument. But it typically comes from people who do not know the bible or have a relationship with God, Himself. This "logic" is humanistic. God is not most concerned with our happiness. At least, not the happiness of our flesh (nature). I am not a parent, but I happen to have parents. Believe me, they wanted me to be happy growing up. However, that was not their prime motivation in the decisions I forced them to make when I was a child growing up in a world which isn't centered on me.

People who do not go to church like to humanize God. With an accusing tone, they will say that if God were a loving and fair God, there would be no evil in the world. Innocent children wouldn't die or go hungry. What these folks don't understand that is God isn't human. He is not limited by the restraints and fleeting nature of emotion. God is limited only by His desire to have His creation love Him voluntarily. So many choose not to love Him, yet, He allows them this choice. He wants us to love Him not so we'll be happy and have an easy life. He loves you and me more than we can ever imagine. We should love Him because He is THE Creator, and worthy of our lives and devotion. When we live in that place, we can have peace and joy, which transcends our happiness. Sure, I will have happy times, and difficult times. But I can have peace and joy despite my circumstances.

  • God made us the way we are, so obviously, He wants us to be this way
We are all born with a sinful nature thanks to the original sin by Adam and Eve. We all have tendencies we have to overcome. Whether that's the impulse to gamble, drink, do drugs, sexual promiscuity, work too much, violence, depression, arrogance...you name it. It's no excuse to simply cave in and say "God made me this way". We all have tendencies which battle with our soul's need and desire to do right; to please God. You've no doubt heard, or maybe even used the phrase, "the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." This is a very true statement. But we all must die to ourselves. We all must learn to resist those things which compel us to go against the very nature of God, and not in our best interests.

I know very well that the greatest obstacle which keeps people from going to church is Christians, themselves. People see us as hypocrites because we take stances which defy the social and political standards of the day, yet the divorce rate in Christian marriages is astonishingly high. Ministers cheating on their wives, living extravagant lifestyles while helping themselves to money people give expecting it will be used to spread the Gospel around the world.

Friend, none of us are perfect. However, that is no excuse to do wrong. It simply supports what I said to open this piece. We all have a sinful nature with which we must struggle daily. Some people find the path of least resistance to be the best choice. Why fight it? Some do their very best to fight those urges on their own strength, yet find despair at the end when they can't completely conquer it. I am one who finds strength and peace in my faith. I am not now, nor will I ever be perfect. But I find I am at my very best when I focus not on my own happiness, but when I'm serving Someone bigger than myself.

To close, I want to offer you a link to an article I read in the days leading up to the election. The article was written by Greg Laurie, called Honest to God. It's a little more reading, so maybe you can bookmark it and read it later, or you can print it and take it with you. Or, if you've got a few more minutes, read it now. In any case, please read it. I think it's a very honest look at hypocrisy and where responsibility truly lies.

I understand that not everyone holds God and the bible as the standard to live by. As such, they're left to define their own moral code. But whether they believe it or not does not diminish the truth, and the fact that many of our laws, and many other religions share this same standard of virtue.

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Friday, November 7, 2008

Dickens Faire Memories

The first full weekend in November always means the annual Dickens Faire at Bethel Church in San Jose. This yearly tradition typically kicks off the Holiday season. Rather than go into a lot of detail about it, I'll just include the link to the information page. If you're in the San Jose area, and you're not familiar with the Dickens Faire, click here.

For a few years, I served in the kitchen. It was a chaotic place to be, but we always had a lot of fun. Grandma Bev running around in her "Hail To The Chef" apron and goofy socks, Aunt Jane and her famous Italian Chigole bread (oh, how I miss that! Oh, and Aunt Jane, too!)

And of course...Sticky Buns. (and no, that is not a reference to accidentally sitting down in spilled caramel.)

One of my favorite memories, and one which took on legs and still is present in my life today, is the day I decided to prank a friend. My good friend Tina was a senior in high school at the time. It was Saturday evening, and she stopped by the kitchen because just about everyone in her large, Italian family was there working. Tina was about to go out and do something fun, so she was dressed very nicely and ready to go. While she was in the kitchen, she left her purse unattended. Let this be a lesson to you. We were in a church, so there wasn't much danger of it being stolen. But never leave your purse unattended when I'm around.

I decided I'd hide her nice Burberry purse somewhere in not-so-plain sight. When Tina came back to retrieve her purse, it wasn't there. Of course, she ran around asking who took it and where it was. After letting her sweat it out for a few minutes, I returned her purse to her to many laughs and a playful punch to my arm.

Lesson learned, right?

Wrong.

Within minutes, Tina once again left her purse sitting there all by its lonesome. Now she leaves me no choice but to drive the lesson home.

This time, no mercy. I hid that thing so well, bloodhounds would have had trouble locating it.

Now, let me back up a second and give you a little background. I've never really had a nickname in my life. But the music director at Bethel has a little niche of taking names like mine, that end with an "ey" sound, and replace the ending with an "ence" sound. So Corey becomes "Corrence". Barrie is "Barrence". Terry = "Terrence". This caught on to some degree, but particularly with this family. They love calling me Corrence.

Now, back to our story. When Tina returned to get her purse...and again found it missing, she knew there could only be one culprit.

"CORRENCE MICHAEL!"

What is hilarious about this is that my middle name is David. But Tina didn't know this, and the moment didn't provide her the luxury of asking before shouting her rebuke in what must be an instinctive "motherly" tone that women of any age possess. In her mind, Michael was the first name that popped up, and it just fit.

And thus, Corrence Michael was born. And to this day, I hear that name when I'm at my most fiendish of antics.

I sure miss my "family"! Have fun this weekend!


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Sunday with The Katinas

OK, now that the election is behind us, I feel it's time for me to lighten things up a bit and tell you a little bit about last Sunday. The church I've been attending since I moved to Rocklin, Sunset Christian Center, has hosted The Katinas about every 6 weeks. The Katinas are a contemporary Christian music group made up of 5 brothers. My first in person experience with them came several years ago while I was at Bethel Church in San Jose. They were great then, and even better now.

Through my experience in Christian music and when I was in radio, I've been around many Christian musicians of varying degrees of fame and success. I have to tell you, there is something very genuine and deep about these guys. They love to make music, and even more, they love making music which glorifies God.

Backstage in the green room, between sound check and the actual service, we spent about 30 minutes just hanging out. I got into the room a few minutes before the Katinas came in, and I chose a nice comfortable chair near one of the corners of the room. A few of us from the church were there and having a nice chat. When the guys came in, John, Jesse and James all sat in the corner by where I was. We spent some time just talking about stuff. Nothing big. Then Jesse pulled out his iPod and was listening to a recording they had done just a couple weeks earlier. John and James hadn't heard it yet, so they were very interested in it. John took a few minutes to tell me of the project they were part of where that new song would be featured. After telling me that and listening to the song himself, he passed the headphones to me and offered to let me listen to it. After I did, they were very interested in my thoughts.

To me, that kind of sums up what these guys are like. They're very successful musicians and ministers, very well known around the world, and yet they are just a group of guys when in the midst of laypeople in a local church. When they worship, it's sincere. When we prayed backstage, John took a couple minutes and prayed for me. And when it was over, I felt prayed for. It was cool.

They've launched an updated website which shows a bit more of who they are behind the scenes, as well as what they're all about. Check it out at http://thekatinas.com

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Post Election Observation

Well, Election '08 is now history...literally. As with all elections, there are winners and losers. There are those who exult in victory, and others who weep in defeat.

Emotions can really get wrapped up in our political
interests. We tend to cling very closely with our ideological roots. California has a well-earned reputation for being liberal and "progressive". What I found interesting were these maps from the LA Times. The map to the left is a county-by-county map of how the people of California voted on Proposition 8. You'll notice that while the total vote was only a 5% spread, an overwhelming majority of counties in California voted to retain the traditional definition of marriage (colored green). 42 of California's 58 counties were in favor of Proposition 8, preserving the definition of marriage to be between one man and one woman.








Meanwhile, in the presidential race, you see a vast difference in how
California voted. For instance, in Los Angeles County, Obama, (blue), got nearly 70% of the votes. However, Prop 8 won in LA County by a 50.4% to 49.6% margin.

I haven't been able to put my finger on how California can be so liberal in one area, yet pretty conservative in another.

So I guess I have a couple questions I'd like to open up for your theories.

First, why do you think the counties tend to be grouped together geographically and ideologically? What is the connection between where we live and how we live and think?

Second, what do you think about California virtually always voting for the Democrat in the presidential race, but maintaining a very conservative attitude about the hot topic of gay marriage?



Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day

Wow, what a wild ride the past 18 months have been, huh? When we consider all that has happened over that time, it's easy to look at today, Election Day, and feel relief that it's over. Ironically, the title of the song we're singing this weekend best describes where we are in this process.

The End of the Beginning

No matter how things turn out tonight, I believe we need to remain at a constant state of readiness. I was having a discussion last week with some of the other singers and musicians from my church, and the topic of Joe Biden's comments about Obama being "tested" by some kind of world crisis if he wins. Then I stated that it seems that every 8 years, shortly after a new President has taken office, our country has been victimized by terrorism. In 1993, only 5 weeks into Bill Clinton's tenure in the White House, the World Trade Center was the target of a terrorist attack. 8 years later, 8 months into George W. Bush's run, the world changed forever on the day simply known as September 11.

No matter who wins today, we need to be on guard. If things don't turn out the way you hope and pray they would, we're still Americans, and we must work together. We need each other. I still believe that there is more we have in common than that which separates us. We just focus on our differences.

When the towers fell on that day, I remember thinking that those fleeing the debris were no longer black, white or brown, but all were gray...covered in ash. Before the dust had settled, we were all red, white and blue.

I'll close this post with this video. Listen to the words of this timeless and familiar song, and let them echo in your heart. Listen to the words of the prayer at the end. I know there are some partisan photos at the end of the video, which actually seem to contradict the theme of this post. But I have no control over that. But if you can put that aside and simply receive these words, I think your heart will be moved.



Monday, November 3, 2008

Divided States of America

The election process is as exciting as it is demoralizing. In one sense, I will be glad when it's all over, but in another sense, it has awakened something within me which should never lie dormant.

I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on U.S. history, so I won't even try to address how our country came to be, and how it has evolved (devolved?) over the past 232 years.

For the record, I believe and support the right of Americans to believe whatever they believe, as long as those beliefs do not infringe upon the rights of others. If you do not believe the way I do, that is your right. Thank God we don't live in a country which could land us in prison, or worse, for our beliefs.

It is so difficult when I see our country so polarized during election season. Passion is a wonderful thing, but I just hate to see that passion turn from what we believe, to attacking those with whom we disagree.

While I hate to see what this does to our American brothers and sisters, there is an issue on the California ballot which is placing a significant wedge even in the Christian community. Of course, I'm speaking of Proposition 8.

I'm choosing my next words very carefully.

I speak only for myself here. I am voting for Prop. 8. But let me tell you that in doing so, I am not against homosexuals. I do not hate, though I am accused of doing so because of my beliefs. I do not wish ill upon anyone. My position is solely based on my biblical convictions of how marriage was intended. God created marriage, and when doing so, it was designed to be shared between man and woman. Now if you don't believe in the bible and God, then you can easily call me some kind of ignorant religious kook. That would show a great lack of respect for what I believe, and that is where our passion turns into a personal attack. But if you examine my reason, it is not personal. If you can respect that my reason is sincere and based upon something bigger than myself, hopefully we can walk away from this with our friendship in tact no matter how the election turns out.

I have homosexual friends. I have even recently reached out to one of them by email to try and express that while he believes he has been abandoned by his family and friends over this issue, I believe that those who love him and know him are not using this matter as some kind of battering ram of judgment or hate. Unfortunately, there are some who are horribly judgmental and have cast people like me under a very dark shadow. What is unique about this one particular friend of mine is that he is a Christian. In the truest sense, the life he leads makes himself something of a house divided. But then again, aren't we all? We all have things in our lives which cause an inner conflict. But for him, whether it's dealing with his very conservative family, or the friends he came to know through his many years of Christian education and service, he finds himself right in the middle of a spiritual, emotional and political firestorm.

I read a quote over the weekend which I found simple, yet profound:

Christian conservatives = their Biblical views shape their political views
Christian liberals = their political views shape their Biblical views


I hesitate to use the labels of conservative and liberal, and I don't believe this quote is absolute. But I guess these are terms we can find easy to recognize and understand. I have found in many of my "liberal" Christian friends that they consider themselves as being highly enlightened and intellectual. Those who disagree with them are less intelligent, unsympathetic, and ignorant. I was watching Mike Huckabee on television last night when he was having a debate with Bill Maher regarding the subject of faith. Huckabee's response about faith was as in depth, honest and simple to understand as anything I've ever heard. So with that, I will end this post by sharing this conversation with you. If you don't have the time to watch the entire video, I encourage you to skip ahead to about the 7:49 mark of the video and watch the last 3 minutes of it. To me, this is how two people on opposite, WAY opposite sides can debate, disagree, yet respect and like one another when it's all said and done.