Perspectives on Spiritual, Intellectual and Pastoral Issues: Host – Lowell Qualls

Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Warfare and Building

Spiritual building and spiritual warfare go hand-in-hand.  Jesus is the Master Builder.  He is building a spiritual Kingdom … the Church, and we are “co-laborors” with Him in the building process.

Simultaneously, we are under attack.  While we are working with Jesus we are being constantly attacked by His enemy and ours.

The juggling act – of building and warring – are beautifully described in the Old Testament book written by Nehemiah.  Take a look at the first three chapters of his book to get some context and then dive into this:

You must understand that you have an enemy!   You didn’t pick the fight.  You don’t deserve to be attacked.  BUT YOU HAVE AN ENEMY, NONETHELESS!  His name … or names … are many!    (Abaddon [Hebrew name for Satan meaning “Destruction”], the Accuser of the brothers, the Adversary, an Angel of light, the Antichrist, the Beast, Beelzebub, the Deceiver, the Devil, the Dragon, the Enemy, the Evil one, the Father of lies, the God of this age [or this world], the Lawless one, Liar, Lucifer, the Man of sin, Murderer, the Prince of the power of the air, a Roaring lion. Satan, the Serpent of old, the Tempter, the Thief, and the Wicked one.)

Jesus told His disciples in Luke 10:18 that He saw Satan “… fall from heaven like lightening” when God banished him from the throne room.

Your enemy, Satan, hates you because God loves you.  Satan’s a liar and a killer.  He loves to murder the innocent, slaughter the weak, poison the hungry, sicken the healthy, and lay waste to children and ruin futures.  He inspires all evil and all wickedness, and he’s so deceptive … he will make everything he does appear to be the work of God.  Peter said of him:  (1 Peter 5:8) Stay alert!  Watch out for your great enemy, the devil.  He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

AND don’t let anyone tell you he is a toothless lion.  He is not!  Peter called him a “great enemy.”   And making fun of him is not going to weaken him in the least.  If you want some biblical advice about how to think of Satan, the devil, look at Jude.  8 In the same way, these people — who claim authority from their dreams — live immoral lives, defy authority, and scoff at supernatural beings.  9 But even Michael, one of the mightiest of the angels, did not dare accuse the devil of blasphemy, but simply said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (This took place when Michael was arguing with the devil about Moses’ body.)  10 But these people scoff at things they do not understand.  Like unthinking animals, they do whatever their instincts tell them, and so they bring about their own destruction.  11 What sorrow awaits them!

I personally know people who once made light of Satan, called him things like “old slewfoot,” and shrugged him off.  They are now broken people, still healing from wounds brought about because they didn’t understand just who they were dealing with!

You are Satan’s prize … or rather, the prize is your eternal soul.  God wants to save it.  Satan wants to destroy it.  It’s as simple and as complex as that!  And he will never fight fair.  In case you were wondering, that’s why life is unfair.  He’s prideful and arrogant.  He steals and destroys.  He’s angry at God and takes it out on you!  You are in a war, and in this war – with the biggest stakes imaginable, there will be casualties!  DON’T BE ONE!

Matthew 24:9-12 –  9“Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers.  10 And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other11 And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people.  12 Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold.

Those of the words of Jesus!

I want to take you to the book of Nehemiah, because it’s a story of God’s people at war while at the same time, building.  Isn’t that a good and appropriate picture of the Church of Jesus Christ around the world?  We are all warring and building, building and warring.  We’ll take a look at Nehemiah 4:11-23.

First, you need to KNOW YOUR ENEMY!  In Nehemiah 4:11-12 – 11 Meanwhile, our enemies were saying, “Before they know what’s happening, we will swoop down on them and kill them and end their work.”  12 The Jews who lived near the enemy came and told us again and again, “They will come from all directions and attack us!”  

Our enemy, Satan and his minions, are described this way in Ephesians 6.   Ephesians 6:1212 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

And in 2 Corinthians 7:5-65 When we arrived in Macedonia, there was no rest for us.  We faced conflict from every direction, with battles on the outside and fear on the inside.  6 But God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus.

Second, look at how Nehemiah defends the work of God and the people of God!  The principle is that YOU MUST BE EQUIPPED FOR BATTLE!

 Nehemiah 4:13 – 13 So I placed armed guards behind the lowest parts of the wall in the exposed areas.  I stationed the people to stand guard by families, armed with swords, spears, and bows.

Ephesians 6:10-1311 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.  12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.   13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil.  Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 

Next, (Third) you should UNDERSTAND … THE BATTLE IS THE LORD’S!   Nehemiah 4:14 – 14 Then as I looked over the situation, I called together the nobles and the rest of the people and said to them, “Don’t be afraid of the enemy!  Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!”

Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:10 – 10 Be strong in the Lord and in HIS mighty power.   The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 24:8 – Who is the King of glory?  The LORD, strong and mighty; the LORD, invincible in battle.

Fourth, DON’T BE CAUGHT OFF GUARD!    Don’t go into battle unequipped!  And don’t be caught unaware by the enemy!  In Nehemiah 4:17b – 18a it reads:  17B   The laborers carried on their work with one hand supporting their load and one hand holding a weapon.  18A All the builders had a sword belted to their side … 23B …We carried our weapons with us at all times, even when we went for water.

Paul give a warning and then informs us in 2 Corinthians 2:11 – 11 so that Satan will not outsmart us.   For we are familiar with his evil schemes.

If and when you become familiar with the way Satan attacks, you’ll understand how important it is to be “armored” (7 components) in the battles.  Paul describes God’s means of protecting us and arming us in Ephesians 6:14-17 – 14 Stand your ground, putting on (1) the belt of truth and (2) the body armor of God’s righteousness.  15 For (3) shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.  16 In addition to all of these, (4) hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.  17 (5) Put on salvation as your helmet, and take (6) the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Here’s a key verse … one to memorize for the days you find yourself under attack:  Psalm 144:1 – Praise the LORD, who is my Rock.  He trains my hands for war and gives my fingers skill for battle.

And remember this:  VIGILANCE IS THE KEY TO VICTORY!  Look at Nehemiah 4:23 – 23 During this time, none of us — not I, nor my relatives, nor my servants, nor the guards who were with me — ever took off our clothes.  We carried our weapons with us at all times, even when we went for water.

You see this principle of vigilance described in Ephesians 6:18 – 18 (6) Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion.   (7)Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

Think about this.  There are two major factors involved in living the life of a follower of Jesus:

  • Building – Your primary purpose is to advance the Kingdom of God.  Your enemy wants to stop the building!  Jesus said He would build His Church, and you are (1) part of that building, you are (2) a co-builder with Christ.  Nothing is built unless someone is willing to count the cost of the building and for the building.  If we build wisely, things last and are very fulfilling.
  • Battling – No battles are won unless you armor up, organize your troops, and make sure you’re ready for battle.  There is no neutrality in spiritual warfare.

We are MORE than conquerors in Christ because He give us the means to victory!

The Bridge

The Bridge

The Bridge - to Christ, Spiritual Maturity, and Hope to the World

The Bridge.  A new name, a new vision, a new pastor, a new approach to ministry, a new congregation.  By the way … I’m that new pastor.  I took the position in October, and it’s been great!  I love the people – “the survivors” is what I call the folks who made it through the turbulence of transition from former pastor/former church to new pastor/new vision.

Maybe you noticed the logo caption.  We, the people at The Bridge, want to be a bridge to Jesus.  We will never change the message!  It’s Jesus Christ, the Lord, Son of God, born of a virgin, lived in Palestine, taught disciples, was crucified, dead, buried and RISEN!  And coming King!

While we’re orthodox in our beliefs we will tend to be unorthodox in our approach to reaching out to the “dechurched” and the “unchurched.”

Matt Chandler (Google Matt, and look for him on You Tube as well) describes the dechurched as people who attended church when they were younger (pre- and even post-adolescence) but, for a ton of reasons, decided church wasn’t their thing.

I’ve come to the conclusion, after years of observation myself, that the dechurched may have thought attending church was pointless, irrelevant, dead/lifeless, populated by hypocrites, and constantly wanting more and more money.  The dechurched may have been hurt in a plethora of ways while attending church, and they’ve decided, “Who needs this!?”  Unfortunately, they may have seen hypocrisy in their own home and decided, “Why go to the trouble of going to church on Sunday morning when there are better things to do?”

The dechurched, after years of wandering the planet, wondering if there is a personal God that’s as sick of “church” as they are, believing that Jesus Christ is who He said He was, and investigating every spiritual nook and cranny there is have finally decided, “If I can find a group of REAL Christ-followers – authentic, transparent, loving, kind, other-centric, missional and more – I’ll check it out.  If I can find a group of Christ-followers who are honest about their imperfections and don’t make excuses for their misbehavior (they actually ask for forgiveness and want to make things right), I might check it out.  If I can find a diverse congregation that does not try to be politically correct but (instead)  tries to love each other the way Martin Luther King dreamed, I might check it out.”

It is my hope that The Bridge will be all those things!  I want to hang out with people like those I described above.  I want to build relationships with honest-to-God and authentic people who get the Gospel, believe it, and want to live in a community that looks and sounds a lot like Jesus if He were living here, and now.

Sounds idealistic?  Sounds impossible?  I don’t care what it sounds like – this is the vision I have for The Bridge.  Before my life is over I want to be with a group of people who want to do “Church” the way Jesus intended it to be.

Give me some feedback!  What did I leave out of my vision.  That’s an honest question.  I want to know.

Check Out Glorious Christmas Nights

homepage-new1Go online – to www.gloriouschristmasnights.com – and discover for yourself the fascinating annual Christmas productions put on by a church in Richmond, Virginia.  Every year West End Assembly of God sells 25,000 tickets for “Glorious Christmas Nights.”  Each year is a different story.  This year’s production is an exception; it is a repeat of a previous work done in 2003, brought back by popular demand.

Four-hundred actors, stage hands, musicians and dancers combine their talents to pull off a holiday show that gets you “in the mood” for Christmas.  Take a look at the clip below (from 2005 – this happens to be my favorite show) to get a feel for the quality and scope of the production.

Bob Laughlin is the producer (the Music & Fine Arts pastor), Ron Klipp is the show’s musical composer, and Kathy Craddock is the director and primary writer.  When you combine Laughlin’s genius, Craddock’s imagination and Klipp’s original scores … well, let me put it to you this way:  if you’re lucky enough to get tickets … you will have a blast, and your heart will be touched.  It’s a Broadway quality show with a message that will stir you.  Taking children just adds to the experience.

This year’s story is about two bumbling angels – Ted and Randall – who are given an assignment:  to make sure the Wise Men make it to the stable so they can bring their gifts to Jesus.  They’re told by their boss – the archangel Michael – that they can locate the Wise Men at Herod’s palace during the reign of Caesar Augustus.  When they type the coordinates and data into their heavenly GPS (“HALO”) they get it all wrong.  Instead of Herod’s palace they wind up at Harrod’s Department Store in 1903 London.  There they pick up two kids – Patch and Runt – and the screwy angels take them to Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas before finally winding up in Bethlehem.

While the script isn’t biblically accurate (the Wise Men didn’t show up at the stable on the night Jesus was born, but about two years later), it reflects what has become “the Christmas story” told in most churches at this time of year.

Like I mentioned before, the clip below comes from another great Craddock/Laughlin story.  Santa decides to forego delivering packages on Christmas Eve one year because he’s had it with selfish, demanding kids and their materialistic parents.  That all changes when he receives a letter from a young boy who “gets it.”  (Complicating matters … Mrs. Claus believes Santa’s in a funk because she’s not as young and beautiful as she once was.)  There are villains and drama and comedy galore … and the awesome Youth choir brings the house down during their number at every show.

Tickets for the shows (there’s 16 of them over two weeks) are usually hard to come by not long after the box office opens on-line and at the church.  However … if you try really hard, and you don’t mind if your entire family can’t sit together, tickets can be had.  (All proceeds go to the Mission Fund at WEAG … www.weag.org.)

Some of The Keys to UNITY

It’s been a while since I’ve written.  Vacations, unplanned and planned weekend trips, business complications, and book and magazine writing deadline challenges have all contributed to the lack of attention I’ve paid to this blog site.  But I’m back!

I’ve been thinking about UNITY a lot recently.  It’s going to take something extraordinary to bring a sense of unity to our nation, considering the political climate that’s been created in this election season.  That’s challenging enough.  But I’m also aware of churches that are going through leadership crises, and the missing component in many of those church settings is unity.  I’m also aware of many families in crisis – many because parents aren’t unified … and children are alienated from their parents.

Let me talk to you about some keys to unity.

In Amos 3:3 (New Living Translation) you can read it yourself:  “Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?”

Practically speaking, no … it’s impossible for two or MORE people to walk together without agreeing on a direction.

Agreement is a wonderful thing, presuming, of course, that the group isn’t made up of lemmings.  (I remember seeing a television documentary on the lemming … a sub-arctic rodent … and was amazed.  Lemmings play follow the leader, even if the leader is leading them off a cliff.  I looked up the word “lemming,” and found that it has come to mean, “doomed conformist.”)

When you’ve got LEADERS in a room, the last thing you have to worry about is conformity.  When LEADERS are in a room, the potential for chaos can ratchet up exponentially and precipitously the longer there is silence.  True LEADERS are always ready to fill the silence with an idea, or fill the void if someone doesn’t step forward to point out a direction to go in.

So … when you call together an organization’s leadership council, board of directors, or deaconate … and you say, “In order to be the most effective company, or business or church we can possibly be, we need to take time to talk out ideas, exchange information, or work through solutions to challenges,” that is a good idea!  Board retreats are a good idea.  They hold tremendous potential for forward movement; they can be great morale-boosters.  Board retreats can be occasions to foment strategies, increase effectiveness, and provoke excitement.

But … board retreats can also expose an organization’s weaknesses.  You might find out not only who’s NOT “on board” (pun intended) with the program, but who has an agenda of their own!

I was watching the replay of the US-Spain gold medal basketball game, and I heard this from one of the commentators:  “The United States has always had the best players but, we’ve seen in recent competitions and world championships and Olympics, they didn’t always have the best team.”

Friends … been there, seen that … and it’s painful – to watch a group of people with awesome gifts, be they a men or women sports team, leave an audience scratching their heads in wonder, asking, “How did they lose?  What went wrong??”

I’ve seen companies go bust because they couldn’t decide what to name a widget.  I’ve seen churches in turmoil because they couldn’t agree on what color to paint the nursery.  I’ve seen families torn apart over a few dollars in a last will and testament.  Sad.

On the flip side, I’ve seen companies, organizations, sports teams, families and churches succeed, surpass expectations, thrive, and exceed growth projections.  The DIFFERENCE?  UNITY.  I’m going to share a portion of the Bible with you, and make some applications, on the subject of UNITY.  The Bible has a lot to say about UNITY, but I’m only going to speak from Ephesians 4.

Ephesians 4:1-6 New Living Translation says, Therefore I (Paul), a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.  Always be humble and gentle.  Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.  Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.  For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.  There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.

Paul starts this passage by observing:  “You have been called by God.”

Have you ever seen a person in sales that couldn’t sell?  I have.  I’ve seen pastors in the ministry who didn’t like people!!   You don’t stay on the baseball team long if you can’t hit or field the ball … and it has nothing to do with desire.  You can desire all you want.  You won’t succeed.  The kind of success I’m talking about has everything to do with innate talents and giftings that go hand-in-hand with a heart that contains a calling.

If the question of calling is not an issue, then Paul writes, “Always be …”  Those two words are huge.  They imply that you and I have a choice.  “Always be …”

Always be humble.  No false humility allowed.  If you’re good at something, say so … and if you’re not, say so.  Humility involves having an accurate appreciation of who you are … who you really are.  And if you don’t know something about yourself, ask your children.  They’ll tell you more than you want to know.

Always be gentle.  I heard someone say, “Meekness is not weakness.”  Gentleness is “power under control.”  Moses was described as the most gentle man who ever lived – and yet he was able to lead, some estimate, 1,000,000+ Jews out of Egypt.  And Jesus described Himself as “gentle and humble in heart.”  Jesus was anything but weak!

Always be patient.  It takes a strong person to put up with people, and to endure discomfort.  Fighting back is engrained into us.  Personal survival is part of our DNA.  Patience is not only a virtue – it’s a rarity.  But truly patient people tend to be the wisest among us.  They wait for all the facts before making a judgment.  Patient people built the pyramids.

Always make allowances for other people’s faults.  I’ve got a great book – “The Spirituality of Imperfection.”   If you not only know that nobody’s perfect, but you can live with it, you can impact a city.

Always be loving.  “Love is a decision.”  Arranged marriages work because the couple decides to love each other.  And you never wait until you feel like forgiving someone – you’ll never do it!  Love is probably the biggest key to UNITY.

Let me conclude this part of my talk by saying, YOU DON’T EVER WANT TO PRAY:  “Lord, make me humble.  Lord, make me gentle.  Lord, make me patient.  Lord, make me loving.”  You don’t want God to “make you” ANYTHING.  The way He tenderizes people is the same way I tenderize a good steak.  First, from my experience, He’ll say, “Are you SURE you want Me to do the ‘making?’  Why don’t you just go ahead and do the right thing!”  God is the most loving Person in the Universe, and He’s totally trustworthy and kind … but He’s also strong.

Paul concludes with:  Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.  For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.  There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.

There’s that CHOICE thing again.  Paul didn’t suggest praying about UNITY.  He said, “Make every effort …”  Don’t you wish UNITY didn’t require effort??  (For you leaders/pastors:  The reason unity is so hard is because LEADERS always think they’re right.  You won’t lead long if you think you’re wrong most of the time.  Leaders are strongly opinionated.  I know that’s true … and I don’t want to hear any more discussion about it!!)

Warren Wiersbe wrote, “Unity … is the responsibility of each person involved … and is a job never done.”

If you’d like to see unity break out in your church, family, business, or board room I’d like to suggest you pray this way:  “Lord, create in ME a clean heart, and renew a right spirit in ME.  Don’t let ME try to get away with waiting for everyone else to get their act together while I choose not to get my act together.  And today, Lord, as I make the effort to keep unified with my compatriots, please add Your blessing to those efforts.  Please make up for my shortcomings with Your grace.  Let Your grace be like humidity.  Even though we can’t see it, we want to feel it.”

My second suggestion is this:  try to be a better listener.

Third, don’t take ownership of an idea.  You’ll just be setting yourself up for disappointment and frustration … and both tear away a UNITY.  Be patient.  Communicate your idea.  Let the group own it.  Don’t be so anxious to get the credit, which is a big part of the ownership issue.  You’ve heard it said, “There is no “I” in TEAM.”  Well, don’t just preach TEAM, live it.  Take “I” out of “I”dea.

Fourth, be HONEST … and be gentle when being honest.  In a group like this it’s probably not a good idea to be “ruthlessly honest,” or “lovingly brutal.”  Be kind.  Be considerate.

Finally … if you need to, FORGIVE the person who offended you at the last meeting.  If they haven’t thought to ask you to forgive them for the offense, do a Jesus-Thing.  He prayed, “Father, forgive them.  They don’t even know what they’re doing.”  And if the offender does come to you and ask for forgiveness, DO IT.  Let the offense go.  Don’t be concerned that your gracious forgiveness will leave you vulnerable to those who would take advantage of you.  I’m not suggesting that you throw caution to the wind when it comes to a habitual offender.  That would not be wise.  All I’m saying is, trust God to cover your back.

Why So Complicated?

I’m just back from a phenomenal trip to the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe.  For three weeks my family absorbed as much as we could of eight cultures (in Spain, Monaco, Italy, Vatican City, Sicily, Greece, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Germany).  We visited sites that were meaningful – not only to the local population, but to Mankind in general; sites such as Monserrat, the Casino in Monte Carlo, the Duomo of Florence, the leaning bell tower in Pisa, the Vatican, ancient Corinth and Olympia, the walls of Dobrovnik, the canals of Venice, the museums of Vienna, Prague’s palaces and parks, and Germany’s rural beauty.

And, in every city – from Barcelona to Rome to Messina to Navpalon to Venice to Vienna to Prague to Wiesbaden – we toured Cathedrals.  Cathedrals are ginormous Christian houses of worship where a bishop has his “seat” of authority, and where he exercises the duties of his office.

While in Austria my eldest asked me, “So, what do you think about when you enter one of these huge Cathedrals?”

Whenever a person enters one of these Christian monuments the sheer size is the first thing one notices.  Then, you might begin to pick up on the opulence – there’s gold, silver and precious works of art everywhere.  You’ll see depictions of Christ being crucified.  You’ll see a lot more of Mary – she seems to be the beloved hostess of the place.  Finally you can’t help but notice the statuary – there are many, many, many statues … I dare to say all of them priceless examples of medieval sculptors’ skill.

Back to the question my son asked me.  What I think about most is complicated, made more complex by the environment created in these European churches.  So, that’s what I told him.  “I think religion makes simple things too complicated.  The word that comes to my mind when I enter one of these beautiful buildings is ‘complicated.'”

COMPLICATED.  If you didn’t have a clue what “Church” was all about, and you walked into one of these massive buildings, it would be very hard to figure out who was “the star.”  You’d have a hard time, if you knew that the building was erected for worship, just who was being worshipped (or celebrated, or recognized).  Is it the woman holding the baby?  (Again, Mary’s everywhere – and there are more candles flickering in front of her altars than any other.)  It must be her, right?  Or maybe it is one of the many men or women cut out of or into stone?  I bet a Christianity-ignorant person would never pick the man with the crown of thorns, the nail-pierced hands and feet, and the sour look of one resigned to an undeserved death.

I don’t think “Church” becomes less complicated in American store-front churches or suburban church campuses.  The star is the one in the spotlight, right?  The man or woman who is singing and leading the band – they seem to be the object of adoration, right?  Or the man (usually this is the case) whose picture is on the church sign and who stands behind the podium – he’s the focus, right?

Religious people of the Christian persuasion have – since the original eleven disciples of Jesus died – made finding God really hard.  Jesus has been marginalized.  Mortals who sit on thrones in the Vatican have been elevated.  Charismatic preachers and teachers, be they male or female, have been lionized.  

Is Christianity meant to be so complicated?  Is understanding “the Gospel” intended to be complicated?  Are the truths of the Bible meant to be discovered only after an eight year undergrad/seminary/M-Div or D-Min education?

If Jesus, the cornerstone of The Church, said a child could get what IT is all about, was He talking about the church I attend or did He have something else in mind – something much simpler?

So no one reading this gets the wrong idea, I love Cathedrals because I can wade through the mess Man has created and find Him.  Jesus comes to Cathedrals.

The building is not the problem!  WE are.  Religious Man.  We love complicated.  We love secret handshakes and secret codes and complex doctrine.

I wonder … is my life like one of those Cathedrals?  When someone comes into my oikos – my sphere of influence – can they figure out that I worship God, and why?  Do they see Him anywhere in me?  And what about His Son, Jesus?  Is He so present in my life that it is crystal clear to whoever that He is the One I worship?

I’m pretty concerned about me.  What about you?  Are you simple or too complicated when it comes to God?

Think about it.

I “CAN” Do All Things

Recently a friend sent a video to me with this note:  

 ”A son asked his father, ‘Dad, will you take part in a marathon with me?’  The father who, despite having a heart condition, says ‘Yes.’  They went on to complete the marathon together.  Father and son went on to join other marathons, the father always saying ‘Yes’ to his son’s request of going through the race together.  One day, the son asked his father, ‘Dad, let’s join the Ironman together.’  To which, his father said ‘Yes,’ too.  (For those who don’t know, The Ironman is the toughest triathlon ever.  The race encompasses three endurance events:  a 2.4 mile (3.86 kilometer) ocean swim, followed by a 112 mile (180.2 kilometer) bike ride, and ending with a 26.2 mile (42.195 kilometer) marathon along the coast of the Big Island of Hawaii.)  Father and son completed the race together.  Before you view a video of their race better grabfew tissues first!    

I was so fascinated with the video of Dick and Ricky Hoyt that I am making the “story” video available for viewing below, along with the Spanish version of the video.  

Pass it on … AND THINK ABOUT IT!

Lowell’s World!

I’ve been working on “Lowell’s World” – a web site that tells more of my story.  It has photos of trips and events, a brief bio, a link to the Vicki-Dancing With the Healer site, and some fun stuff.  I hope you’ll visit it.

This weekend I’m speaking at a church … actually preaching … for the first time in a long while.  Last November my pastor asked Becky and me to share our story at a special Thanksgiving day service.  That was fun!  But the last time I preached was last June – so it’s been almost a year.  Please pray for me tomorrow – April 20th.  All I want to do is “deliver the mail,” not pursue my own agenda or satisfy my ego but deliver the message God wishes to communicate to the congregation I’m visiting.

As far as my future as a pastor … that’s on indefinite hold.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be the lead pastor of a congregation again.  Most likely I’ll be an associate, serving alongside a lead pastor.  I’d love to be someone’s go-to guy, or “man Friday” (see Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe), but I’m waiting.  Who knows what I’ll be doing a month or a year from now.  Hopefully I’ll be finished with the creative side of Dancing With The Healer!!

Love to all!

Teachers, by Mary Eady

Earlier today I revisited a fantastic blog site – “Merlot Mudpies.” (http://merlotmudpies.wordpress.com), hosted by Mary Eady.  She’s quite the writer.  What drew me to her site initially was her blog about the cancer-death of her mom.  It’s a great article, one I highly recommend if you want “an eternal perspective.”

Today I’ve posted the article quoted here, along with one of her pictures (with her permission, by the way).  I’m copying her to this site to expose her insights to a larger audience … well, at least one that’s growing.Picture by Mary Eady

Read, and think about it.

Barry, one of my fellow gardeners, reminds me a lot of one of my old teachers, Mr. O’Hagan.  Mr. O’Hagan wouldn’t give you answers.  But he asked you questions that led you to them.  He would not tell you how to do things, but he’d guide you through your own thought process until you got there.  He didn’t gush at his students, but with a well placed word he made you feel 10 feet tall.

This whole experience of getting my plots at Ivey Ranch has been intimidating from the get-go in its way.  As I’ve said before, I’m a renown black thumb in my family.  My mother-in-law and I used to giggle about my “dried herb garden” — my attempt at growing an herb garden in a strawberry pot that I’d seen on TV.  It was dead within the month.  Not just one of the plants I planted.  All of them. I don’t buy houseplants for this very reason.  No matter how sweet they look in the store, they turn into a brown, depressing mess the second they enter my domain.

But this seems to have changed somehow in the past few months.  Maybe it’s just that I finally get the wonder of it all.  I finally understand those people who stop and smell the roses, pet the alyssum, and admire the inside of an iris for minutes on end.  It really is, in a word, glorious.  Creation is happening all around us still — no longer perfect but still stupendous, brave, and amazing when you stop to consider it all.

My husband, Ryan, is a tolerant man.  He helps me cart my 20 tomato seedlings back and forth from the apartment courtyard every day and doesn’t complain about them all sitting on our laundry hamper in the evenings where it’s warm next to a little lamp.  He smiles about my avocado seed which I couldn’t bring myself to throw away and is now sprouting in a glass of water in the kitchen on the sill next to a six-pack of okra seedlings and a six-pack of cranberry bush bean seedlings I’m hoping will start soon.  He doesn’t say a word about the strawberries I have sprouting on one side of the kitchen sink.  Maybe he understands how the newness and awe is so important to me now.  I think he does.  He’s that sweet kind of man.

However, all of this does not mean I know what I’m doing at all.  When I find bugs I rack my brain trying to decide if they are good or the kind I should consider killing.  When I see things sprouting in my garden I didn’t plant I let them go for a few days until I’m positive they are weed-like and not veggie-like.  This sometimes takes a few weeks for me to figure out. I even grabbed a handful of nettle one day and stung myself with it to a ridiculous degree because I thought it was mint.  You get my drift?

But Barry just stands there and smiles at me while he pounds in rebar and trims his beautiful beet greens.  He asks me things when I come to him with questions instead of answering me.  He says things like, “Well now — where did you think you’d go with it?” or “So tell me then…what did you have in mind?”  Then he listens and encourages and leaves me to my own devices.

Today we talked as I walked Eamonn (Mary’s young son) through the plots looking at plants, lizards and flowers.  “Look at what your neighbors did, Barry!” I cried, staring at a freshly tilled and composted plot that had been overgrown with weeds last week.  “Yeah…people are gettin’ the bug to work hard around here.  Maybe they feel like trying to garden like you, figured a little hard work wasn’t going to hurt anybody.  You’re inspiring people girl.”  I sputtered and blushed and didn’t know what to say.

Later on he told me, “I’ve been coming and checking on this plot of yours and I’d say you figured out you know what you’re doing!”  I beamed from my tomatoes and peppers and squash.

How do people learn this trait of building up instead of tearing down?  Of guiding instead of directing?  I’m sure I don’t know but I love it when I see it in action and feel blessed when I’m the recipient of it.  I hope to model the way I interact with Eamonn, Ella and others who come across my path with that gentleness and insight.

Today I left Ivey Ranch feeling 10 feet tall.

April 2008 Update – Dancing With The Healer

Vicki QuallsFor all those who have been following the progress of my writing “The Vicki Book,” I have some news.  I’m really close to finishing the “creative stage” of the process.  Soon I’ll be entering the dreaded “editing stage,” where everything I’ve written is on the block.

I’d like to ask my blog readers for some input.  Please comment on the process I’m going to outline below – one that I believe I’ll follow in order to bring the book-writing to its proper conclusion.

Before I share that process I want to thank Caroline Eitzen-Cocciardi AGAIN for her encouragement to “stay in your creative mind, Lowell,” and not give in to the temptation to constantly go back to what I had already written and edit it (which I had done, time and again until she gave me her wise counsel).

I shared last month that my goal was to have the manuscript done before I went on vacation to Maui.  I didn’t make it.  Plain and simple.  But the goal helped push me like never before.  Now, I’ve set another goal – one that I think I will make.  I’m working on the last 75 pages of Vicki’s journal.  I’ve been able to do about 10 a day (on a good day).  Given that, I’m inside two weeks of coming to the end of the creative stage.  Then, I’ll read the manuscript from start to finish, trying to find any grammar/spelling mistakes, typos, and breakdowns in the flow of the story.  That’s probably another week or two.  Then, the gutsy part.

My intention is to share the manuscript with several close friends who have a writer’s background.  Some are published authors.  Others are journalism majors and masters.  One or two of my pastor-buddies will be asked to look over the theological content, and a few readers will be people who lived through much of what Vicki wrote about – family and friends.  I’ll be asking all these folks if they would evaluate my style, the flow of the story/book, and its content.

Whew!

Like I said at the start, anyone out there in the internet world is welcome to comment on the process I’ve outlined above.

And for those who have been praying for me and the book … please continue to do so.  I’ve seen that when I’VE been in prayer and close communion with the Lord, the process of writing the book becomes mystical and supernatural, and in turn, I’m able to produce much more than normally possible.

I could use some encouragement right now.  I’m tired.  I feel emotionally spent at the end of every day.  Thank God for Becky!  She’s been such a supporter and helper.  I can’t think of a day when she hasn’t been there for me.  But most of the time she’s been a single (lone) voice.  Is there anyone out there who could join her?

Well, back to writing the book.

By the way, the blogging has rarely (I can’t say never) interrupted my writing the book.  Actually, blogging has served to break tension, relieve emotions, and strangely – rest my mind.  Blogging has been like having a conversation with a friend who’s only purpose has been to listen as I vent or wade through issues that distract me.

Love to all.

Aloha From the Three Amigos!

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Some friends have been asking about an update on the whereabouts and activities of my sons, Brandon and Chris.

Brandon is continuing to live on Maui, Hawaii – working for a roofing company five-plus days a week, and a restaurant two nights a week.  He’s never had a problem with work, always willing to do whatever it takes to put bread on the table and keep the rent current.  He’s got a ton of friends (as you can see from the photo at right),img_0152.jpg and when he’s not camping around the islands he’s surfing.  One of my favorite things to do is meet up with him at one of the awesome surf breaks on the island (Honolua Bay, Ironwood, S-Turns, etc.), and while I’m watching the sun set I’m also watching him catch wave after wave.  I try to photo and video every time he’s up.  I’m making a short DVD for him – I’m taking it to him on March 18th.  He’s a blast to watch, and the smile on his face after an hour or two of surfing can light up a room.

Chris is still living in China – Beijing actually.  He’s continuing his studies in Mandarin.  His loves include camping and riding his motorcycle off-road (it doubles as his daily mode of transportation).  He’s super active in the “ex-pat” community (ex-patriots – people from other nations – living in and around Beijing).  Beijing continues to prepare for this summer’s Olympics, so it’s bustling with construction and modernization projects.  When the Chinese government encouraged the nation to become the next economic super-power (surplanting the US and the EC), the people took to the challenge in amazing ways, and with amazing results.  It’s incredible, watching this country of 1.5 billion people change from crippling communism to energized Chinese-style capitalism.   Chris is right in the middle of all this growth and change, and he loves it.

img_0296.jpgOne cool thing that Chris told me and Brandon about recently was one of his off-road adventures in north-central China.  Two of his buddies were traveling with him; the three were traveling pretty close to the Great Wall, taking in the sights.  Suddenly they stopped dead in their tracks!  They had inadvertently trespassed onto a military base.  They were surrounded by soldiers with AK’s, being asked what their business was.  Since they were foreigners, the soldiers weren’t kidding around.  They were let go, a little shaken but with an awesome adventure story.

I’ll be seeing Brandon and Chris again soon, and I’m really excited about it.  The boys are meeting me in Barcelona, Spain – and we’ll be together for about three weeks, exploring the Mediterranean, and ending up in Prague (the Czech Republic)!  We’re planning the last part of the trip now, going from Venice, Italy, through Austria, to Prague.  Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?