The cup…. and the power

If you’ve never witnessed the power of God, it’s easy to fall into a pit of despair when things are rough, but when you have witnessed, with your own eyes, a true miracle, you KNOW that God is capable of anything.

Late last night, my friend Dennis posted this on his Facebook page. This friend and I worked years ago with a program at our church called Life Hurts God Heals… a twelve step recovery program for teens facing all sorts of addictions (drugs, alcohol, cutting, etc). Dennis now uses his time to share his story and bring other lost sheep home.

Fourteen years of sobriety for my friend… amen!

Today, I’d like to share a snippet of a miracle that I witnessed earlier this year. If you’ve been following my blog, you know that my best friend and business partner was very ill earlier this year. He was in the hospital for six weeks, starting on December 28.

The ammonia levels in his brain were out of whack and they couldn’t seem to get them under control. The affect of ammonia in the brain is that you, essentially, lose your mind. He could communicate, and he always knew who I was, but much of what he communicated was nonsensical… he made up stories, told tales, acted out mischievously (he may have pulled the fire alarm in the hospital!)

The doctors called for a meeting with his family and essentially told them that he would be a vegetable for the rest of his life… and told them to find a nursing home for him.

We had been through a pretty rough patch nearly six months prior, and everyone felt this was the best it would ever be.

I remember going to the Lord in intercession prayer on Rob’s behalf. It was the Saturday after they told his family to find a nursing home for him. As yet, there were no nursing homes willing to take him because he was sometimes combative. I knelt by his bed, next to the “sitter”, hospital staff who was assigned to watch him because he could not be left alone. I asked her if she believed in the power of prayer and if she minded if I prayed. She said she did and it was fine.

I knelt beside Rob, held his hand, and begged God to spare his life and bring him back. I can’t say that I heard God say it would be ok… and I had literally prayed the same prayer for six weeks prior to that, so there was nothing particularly special about that particular day.

I returned the next day and did the same. That day, before I left, he asked me for his phone, which I had been keeping because he couldn’t operate it and I didn’t want it to get lost. He wanted to look something up on the internet. Surprised by his persistence, I handed him my phone and told him that if he could figure out how to get to the internet in it, I would bring his phone back to him the next time I visited. He found the internet. He tried to log into his bank account but could not remember the password. The sitter was amazed. So was I. He hadn’t been coherent enough to even get that far in over six weeks.

The next day I took his phone with me. I noticed that they had also given him back a desk phone… they had previously removed it because he abused his right to have one by making calls in the middle of the night to random places. Instead of giving him his phone, though, I wanted to really be certain he was able to function and that this wasn’t some game he had been playing, so I gave him mine again. He went to his account and logged in this time…

On Tuesday, I called his room and he answered the desk phone. He said the nurse was there and asked me for my number so he could call me back. I thought to myself, “there’s no way he’s going to be able to do this…”. But sure enough, a few minutes later my phone range. He told me they were talking about sending him home. “No way,” I thought. I figured it was another one of his tales. I called the nurses station to confirm and, sure enough, they said they were having him evaluated by the Psych department and if it went well they’d release him. I hung up just as my cell rang again.. it was him wanting to know why I had called the nurses station to confirm his story! Lol.

As I reflected that night, I could so clearly see the hand of God upon him, bringing more and more mental clarity to him each day. I began to praise God for the healing that I witnessed in just a few day period. It was not instantaneous but there was steady improvement day by day.

He was released from the hospital the next day. What I have witnessed in the months since that day in February has been Gods power… drawing Rob close and closer to Him… by Gods Grace alone, Robs been given a new life.

In another interesting turn of events, Rob has gotten connected with a childhood neighborhood acquaintance… and, watching that friends posts in Facebook shared that he thought he might be alcoholic. Sensitive to his plight, Rob has begin sharing his views on God with this friend… and trying to help him get into detox.

We are praying hard for Richard… and I am praising God every single day for His grace… and healing… and power. I am excited to see Rob being used by God to affect another persons life. This is the family of God at work… doing exactly what we are called to do… He uses broken people to reach broken people… amen and amen and amen.

As I saw my other friends post last night, I am reminded of just how big the problem of alcoholism is… last week Rob posted for the first time publicly that he struggled with alcohol. He had previously never wanted anyone to know… (and, quite frankly, had hid it himself for years)…. but he had the courage to admit it…. the workers are few but the harvest is plentiful.

Through Gods power and Gods power alone, Dennis.. and Rob (and maybe Richard someday!) will allow their stories to touch other lives and bring other lost sheep home… all glory to God our King! Time is short and we want to bring as many lost sheep home to the Shepherd as possible!

Robs is a life transformation I’ve had the pleasure of seeing up close and personal. I pray Gods angels continue to protect Dennis and Rob and not let Satan or his demons near them to try to knock them off course. I pray, in advanced for the lives they are able to reach because of his story… and I pray God will use his story to bring others home.

I will never tire seeing God transform lives. I’m so happy to be part of this amazing miracle of transformation. Thank you, Lord Jesus!

Be blessed today, my friends! God is still on the throne. Hallelujah!

SB

Hold on loosely

In early 2020, my son had his next year all planned out… as a youth ministry student with just one year of his undergraduate work to go, plans were coming together for his fall internship. In addition, he had a wonderful once-in-a lifetime opportunity to work in our denominations’ national office with the national director of youth ministry for the summer, on a brand new ministry group. He was excited about all of it. He brought his two best friends and his girlfriend home for spring break, just as the nation began to erupt in this pandemic we call Covid… and his world stopped. Suddenly his plans weren’t so sure… they weren’t sure if they’d return to campus after spring break. Then they weren’t sure if the summer program would happen… and then it was cancelled… and then he wasn’t sure he’d have housing for his fall internship….

Sensing some of his anxiety as he has navigated these uncertain waters along with the rest of us… we’ve had several discussions about the uncertainty of life…. the faith that it requires to know that God has a plan. I have shared with him various lessons I’ve learned along my journey of life and the way In which the tough lessons were the ones that strengthened my faith.

Last week, during another discussion about uncertainty, I said to him, “Hold on loosely… to your plans, to your belongings… hold on loosely”

As I said, “Hold on loosely”, my mom teared up. For any who know my mom, it’s very unusual to see her tear up… she just doesn’t. She shared with us that when she and my dad built their home, they invited their pastor over to bless the home. Their pastor came over and picked my brother, who was then a toddler, up in his arms and said to my mother, “Hold on loosely to this little boy.”

David, my brother, died when he was three…. couldn’t have been you much after that conversation.

Who could have known that, over 50 years later I would use the exact same words to tell my son to hold loosely to the things of this world.

Our home is not this world. Our home is our Heavenly Palace. We are truly just passing through on our way to eternity. We sometimes get wrapped up in how things need to be on earth… in our country, in our states, in our municipalities, and in our homes… it’s not that we shouldn’t care about it, but we should hold loosely… to our belongings, to our friends, to those we care deeply about… hold loosely..: you never know when they will be gone…

It’s easier said than done, I realize… I don’t say it from the perspective of having mastered how to do it… but I do try to remind myself, when my anger, or sadness, or anxiety begins to rise that a lot of what we get ourselves worked up about will not matter on the other side of eternity.

Hold on loosely, my friends… but don’t let go.

SB

Journeys…

As I look around, I see people going places… some far, some near, all at different points along their journey…

Some will start strong, only to realize the journey was harder than they imagined… and they will quit their travel, giving up hopes and dreams and sinking back into a rut of complacency.

Some will start slow, gaining momentum as they navigate their paths, intrigued by every step along the way.

Some will keep an even pace, building wisdom and stamina as they go, leaning from past experiences how to apply their newfound wisdom to new experiences.

Some will experience all three, in various ways, for different rules of life’s journeys.

I recognize that I journey best by using the Bible and prayer to help me navigate the tough things.. the more I read it the more I feel like I know God the Father and His Son…and the more I pray, the more I feel my friendship with Jesus as a real force in my life.

No matter which applies to you, my friend, I wish you well as you journey through life. May you find all you are looking for and become who God intended you to be.

Be blessed today, my friends.

SB

The journey of 1000 miles

Over the past few weeks, in various discussions with various people, I have been asked how I’ve known then God has spoken to me.  Over the past ten years, I can point to about half a dozen or so times when I very clearly heard the inaudible yet unmistakable voice of God give me a specific command.  Very clearly… very articulate, “Do X” kind of things..   Other times, it’s been more of a “thought” that came into my head that I can’t say I immediately thought, “oh, this is God speaking” but in hindsight realized His guiding hand on that process.

September 15, 2015 was one of those “thought” times…   and the thought was this..  “today is the day you’re going to start to get back in shape… and, in order to success, you will need support.  Gather that support around you”. …   and that day, I reached out to a small group of people… people who I knew loved me for me… and/or people who were either already great in this area or headed in that direction – I knew I needed mentors, and I knew I needed people who would be honest with me and encourage me when I felt like giving up…     I knew all of this because I have failed so many times at so many things.. and, in life, we learn by those failures (hopefully).

As it happened, we were planning to take our youth group kids to a conference the following summer and had just begun fundraising for it.. .so I dubbed my journey the “biggest loser” contest, and actually asked people to sponsor me, either with a monetary pledge for the weight I intended to lose or with prayer.  In return, I promised to keep them updated on my progress, and so I started a weekly “newsletter” wherein I documented my mileage of exercise and weight lost, and then eventually began adding some quick little anecdotes of my experiences along my journey.   I got such positive reviews that I used a similar approach when going through the publishing process for the book, Masquerade.    I enjoyed writing and my friends seemed to enjoy reading about my journey… and… the publisher encouraged me to “build an audience”,  so thus, this blog was born. 

The journey of my fitness in 2015-16 was successful, and I not only lost the weight I intended to (and felt great!)  but I helped to fund the trip for my kids… and, I think, inspired people along the way.   I know how to do this journey… lol..  the problem with it is that, if you’re not careful and consistent, it can creep away from you.. lol     

In late 2018, one of my dear friends was told by her doctor that she needed to lose weight..  Immediately, I jumped in to offer my support… after all, I’ve done this.. I told her I’d work right along side her, and began, once again, to don my running shoes and head to the gym…    and then some crazy things happened in my life, most notably, an opportunity to open a studio (a lifelong dream), and I failed my friend.. Truly..   and she and I talked about all of the things going on in my life a year ago, and her advice to me was this… “don’t change everything at once… focus on succeeding at a few… and then add things”..     and so I focused, quite frankly, on making the studio a success..  and I’m still doing that..   but I’ve learned a great deal over the past year and am ready to add some other things…. 

As it happens, I’ve been thinking about it for a few weeks, and got just the right bit of loving motivation from one of my very closest friends yesterday…   and so..  this morning, I, once again donned my Brookes… and dusted off my treadmill!

 

There was a lot going on in my mind this morning as I walked a quick pace (walk before you run…  I learned this long ago)…   music very loud in my ears, and my thoughts, racing, just as loud… 

I would like to ask my dear friend who I failed last year to forgive me for not being as good a support as I should have been to her…   

…and I would ask you, my precious readers, to do two things for me..   1).  Pray for me as I start this…. again…   that it truly become a lifestyle once and for all..   2) encourage me when I’m sucking wind…

Encourage-One-Another

 Be blessed today, my friends!

SB

Trusting God

Psalm 37: 7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!

8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
9 For the evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.

10 In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
11 But the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant peace.

Who could have ever envisioned the way in which 2020 has played out? Here in my part of the world, we are re entering yellow phase due to uptick in Coronavirus cases. Restaurants are closing left and right, some temporarily and some permanently. Our local economy has been devastated by the decisions that have been made. Lives are literally being turned upside down. Drug and Alcohol abuse is up, suicide is up, physical abuse is up… society is crumbling before our eyes, and people are watching it happen because they have bought into the fear that the media wants us to feel.

Our media local government has lied about statistics, and created division among citizens in bot racial issues and health (to wear a mask or not). Evil prevails across our entire nation. My heart is broken I’ve the ugliness I see in people…

… and in my daily devotion today, I read Psalm 37. it is David’s acknowledgement that Gods got this under control. “In just a little while the wicked will be no more”

God will take care of His people. I am His People and trusting that He’s got me covered. I doing my best to refrain from anger and forsake wrath because I know it leads to bitterness… the same bitterness that makes me sad.

I don’t know how long “a little while” is in Gods timetable, but I continue to Pray and Trust in my Heavenly Father and will keep doing what I believe He’s called me to do until he returns.

Be blessed today, my friends,

SB

Beast of Burden to Pray

As you know, I’ve chosen my word of the year 2020 to be PRAY, which somehow seems oddly appropriate for all that has happened in the first half!

A few weeks ago, I told my friend Rob that I had been given a burden to pray for him. He was taken aback and told me he didn’t want to be a burden to anyone. I thought about my choice of words, and said that maybe I had chosen them poorly… that a “burden to pray” for someone was more of a privilege or special assignment from God.

I thought about the phrase I had used, somewhat cavalierly, and wondered where it originated, so I googled it…. because, of course, google would know…

What I came across was this blog post by Stephan Neilson, an excerpt from the book, Principles of Prayer.

Burden of Prayer

The blog articulated what I could not… I am blessed by the burden to pray for Rob that it’s hard to describe. When he faced uncertain medical issues last summer, I literally became prostrate and cried out to God because I had absolutely no control over anything that was happening and the ONLY thing I could do was pray.

Turns out it really was the only thing I could do… and the most powerful. God heard my prayers, my pleas with Him to show the doctors what was happening, to remove roadblocks, to heal Rob… and then I watched it happen. Rob began to heal… it wasn’t instantaneous it occurred over several months, with some relapses along the way. And then again in December and January, I found myself prostrate once again, begging God for healing as Rob once again faced uncertainty…. and I knew my word had to be PRAY.

Over those months, God would tell me my job was to keep moving Rob and praying for him, allowing him room to continue to grow… and God reminder me that it was His desire to use Rob. At times, I felt my “control” creep in and I would begin interjecting my opinion, God would remind me that’s not my job… my job is to love and encourage growth, even if I feel it’s not fast enough… not my gig… God’s gig.

Because I am a very take charge type of person, I have a hard time relinquishing control of things I can affect. I learned a very valuable lesson in that experience, where I literally had no control… it is in those times that we can be most open to seeing God work.. for me, it was spiritual growth… for Rob too, as he began to see that God had truly answered my prayers.

As I look back over the past year, I see all the things that have happened, I remain convinced that my prayer life is a privilege… my time communing with my Heavenly Father… asking does guidance, for healing, for salvation, and more.

I absolutely love the God of the universe… and am so very blessed to be able to talk to Him as my best friend every day. My mind is blown all the time at the things I see happening, where His hand is so clearly evident.

“Are you going to trust Me when things get ‘really bad’”? I heard my Lord say…. yes, Lord, I will trust You… because I’ve seen what You do… am I know I’m Yours.

We are all called to be used by God, and we learn to do it by learning to trust Him… for me, the way that happened was first by me being obedient to step out of my comfort zone to do something for Him… then by continuing to seek Him by reading His Word and listening to sermons and praying… then, as I began to see answers to prayers, I grew deeper and deeper… I don’t know where God is taking me… all I know is wherever it is, I am going. 100% committed. 100% vested. 100% trusting that He will guide and provide. 100% praying.

Be blessed today my friends, and rest assured in the promise that God hears your prayers.

SB

Salvation and Sobriety

God uses broken people like you and me to reach broken people. I’ve seen it throughout my lifetime… and, in fact, it’s the reason I wrote Masquerade I want the world to know what He did for me… and that He can do it for them, too!

What a privilege for me to witness this come to fruition! God is using my friend, Rob, to reach lost sheep and lead them home. Rob, my friend and business partner, who, himself, was lost not that long ago…. who is growing closer and closer to God, listening and obeying the Holy Spirit directing him to help another lost sheep.

I pray God’s protection on both as I was reminded by our Sunday sermon our battle is not against flesh and blood but against evil. I ask you to join me in prayer for “Sam” who is in need of salvation and sobriety. I ask you to pray for Rob as God uses him and his experiences to reach a lost soul… that this experience would continue to strengthen Robs resolve; prayer for protection from relapse himself.

I am absolutely convinced that our time is short. I believe we are seeing the book of Revelation unfold before our eyes. It is our responsibility as Christians to reach a lost world while we can.

I recall earlier discussions with Rob where he asked me why I work so hard to share Jesus with people. “After all,” he said, “you can’t save them all.” It reminded me of the starfish analogy where the boy is throwing starfish back into the ocean after the tide left them. A man asks what he’s doing and when the boy says he’s saving them, the man chides him with, “you can’t save them all”… the wise boy replied, as he tossed another into the water, “yes, but I can save THAT one”

If we all just allowed ourselves to let God use us so that ONE soul would be saved, and that soul would do the same, and those souls would do the same, imagine the impact we could have on a fallen world.

I am far, far from perfect… not even good sometimes… and I am a sinner in constant need of Gods Grace; but I will continue to allow God to use me however He will to make whatever impact I can for His kingdom.

Be blessed today, my friends.

Father, I thank you today for picking me up out of the depths of despair and putting my feet on solid ground. Forgive me when I go astray and bring me back to the path You have for me. Help me to love your people and bring Your light to a dark world. Be with those in need of salvation and sobriety today, Lord, that through Your Holy Spirit they would be awakened. Give Your Children courage to be used to lead others home, and protect them while they reach into dark places to pull others to the Light. In Your Holy Name I pray.

SB

Heal our land

Three different verses… 3 different writers (same Author)… both Old and New Testament. …same message… think it’s important?

Isaiah 6:10
“Render the hearts of this people insensitive,
Their ears dull,
And their eyes dim,
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
Understand with their hearts,
And return and be healed.”

Matthew 13:15
For the heart of this people has become dull,
With their ears they scarcely hear,
And they have closed their eyes,
Otherwise they would see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
And understand with their heart and return,
And I would heal them.’

Acts 28:27
For the heart of this people has become dull, And with their ears they scarcely hear,
And they have closed their eyes;
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
And hear with their ears,
And understand with their heart and return,
And I would heal them.”’

Yesterday, in our studio, we held a prayer meeting.. we’ve called it Grace Notes because we owe everything we have to God’s Grace…. only my business partner and I were there, but we spent time in prayer for our country, our city (both Greensburg where the studio is and Pittsburgh). When we opened the studio, we promised God to do our best to honor Him and give back to Him…. our prayer meeting was one way to do that… and, despite the fact that no one else showed up, we will continue to hold prayer meetings for God ha said that where two or more are gathered, He is in our midst.

As a nation, we have fallen far, far away from God. As a citizen, I pray for our return… I pray that people will open their eyes and return to God.

Time is short. God will be using all of His people to reach other people and share Gods Grace with them. My prayer is that, as individuals, people will turn to Him, even is the nation, as a whole, does not.

Be blessed today, my friends!

SB

Reveal

Lord, reveal Yourself in us today, and show us what You’d have for us to do. We pray for the people You’ve put in our lives, that You’d use us with them and them with us to bring lost people home to You…. that the whole world would know Your glory, Your peace, Your mercy.

Forgive us for the sins we commit, the filth that we are. Restore us and make us whole for Your names sake.

May we bless others by sharing our experiences to mentor and guide those who need it, may we look to those who can mentor us. Give us words to speak when we don’t know what to say. Open our eyes to see Your vision and use us for Your glory.

In Your Holy name I pray, amen

SB

Dreams and Journeys

Dreams have long been a love of mine… the stranger, the better. Last nights’ dream told of a journey to a place far away. In preparing for the trip, I turned to my iPad and used an ap to pinpoint the location of my trip. This ap not only showed the physical location, but the population of my destination. As I zoomed in to check it out, I realized I was being sent to the far corners of the earth, where there were hardly any inhabitants….

Mmmmmm

In my dream, I was excited but apprehensive to go. What will I find there? Will they accept me? Will they accept the news I am to bring them?Would I be alone? Would I find what I need to survive?

Have you been given a destination and a mission? Will you go?

Life is not a destination. It is a journey.

Be blessed today, my friends

SB