Blessings and Bikes

Blessings and Bikes – 2016

This post was originally from 2016, but tomorrow morning is the 2018 Blessing of the Bikes  – and my son just called to say he and a friend are driving all night from Minnesota to be present for the blessing – so say a prayer for their safety, will ya?


Last Sunday, our church hosted the 20th annual Blessing of the Bikes.  It’s an event that started when 4 bikers from the church approached the pastor with an idea to bring their friends to church. The first year, there were 162 bikes, and the town of Murrysville wondered what in the world was going on as they all rolled through.  Over the years, that event has blossomed, and is very well-known in the area.  The town of Murrysville actually sends the Mayor and emergency workers now, and even shuts down traffic for a while, to allow the event to be held.  It’s a completely free event, because, in the words of Pastor Dan, “so is gift of salvation”.   This year, on the 20th anniversary, we estimated approximately 15,000 bikes piled in – to our parking lot, and the adjacent blessing_bikes.jpgstreets, and the parking lots along Rt 22.  Figuring many bikes had 2 riders, we’d say there were A LOT of people who turned out for the event.  For the past 13 years, I have had the privilege of participating in the music for the service.   This year, our good friend Dave Smith, sang a song called “Jack Daniels & Jesus”.   I’m pretty sure there wasn’t another church in the country that sang that song on Sunday.

(By the way, I think there’s a message in here somewhere about starting a “movement” – it doesn’t take something BIG to make something BIG – it just requires someone to dream it and make it reality).

“Jack Daniels & Jesus”

Lately I’ve been trading
A good sermon and some praying
For a stranger in my bed
And a night that needs explaining
I’ve opened more bottles than I ever have my bible
This dirt road communion sure won’t lead me to revival

Between the black label and the letters in red
I felt what livin’ is
And what it’s like to live dead

I’ve taken a ride in the devil’s Cadillac
I’ve been so high I thought I wasn’t coming back
And just when I think I’m too far gone
Ringin’ in my head’s the 23rd psalm
I’ve seen the light
I’ve seen the darkness
Only God knows where my heart is
I’ve got my strength
And Lord knows, I’ve got my weakness
Oh, I’m lost somewhere between
Jack Daniels and Jesus

It’s my fault that I ain’t called
My momma in a month of Sundays
She’ll smell the whiskey through that phone
I can’t stand to hear her heartbreak
Next week, I see my brother Casey for the first time
Since it all went down
And I blacked his eye the night after our daddy died

I ain’t afraid to admit I’ve hit rock bottom
You wanna see a lifetime full of sins
Just look at me
I’ve got ’em

I’ve taken a ride in the devil’s Cadillac
I’ve been so high I thought I wasn’t coming back
And just when I think I’m too far gone
Ringin’ in my head’s the 23rd psalm
I’ve seen the light
I’ve seen the darkness
Only God knows where my heart is
I’ve got my strength
And Lord knows, I’ve got my weakness
Oh, I’m lost somewhere between
Jack Daniels and Jesus

blessing_people.jpgblessing_bikes_2.jpg

This is what 25,000 bikes looks like from the Medic One Helicopter.

Wall to wall people

blessing_people

blessing_shirt.jpg

(can’t see the killer boots from here, but they were awesome.. lol)

I am watching life unfold for several young adults – some of them are making some very good life decisions, and some of them are making some incredibly bad life decisions, some of them very, very public, and some of them very private.   And my heart breaks.   In almost all of the cases, I say to myself, (and I’ve heard their parents say), “but they were raised differently than that”   and then I remember the words, “somewhere between Jack Daniels and Jesus” and remember that we’re really ALL somewhere on that journey.   I haven’t had Jack Daniels in over 30 years  – one REALLY BAD experience with it all those years ago, and I can’t even smell the stuff to this day…. And I was raised differently than that…. And still, I made some poor life choices along the way – hopefully ones that I have learned from, and that have made me stronger.  By the grace of God alone, He brought me through those poor choices and gave me a second chance, or maybe a third and fourth.   And, by the grace of God, He will bring those folks through their choices as well, allowing U-turns to correct their course.   Pray for them, will ya?

 

Copyright 2018 Journey For Life – all rights reserved

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Seeing miracles

When you watch for miracles, you see miracles. Friends, God is still in the miracle business! He has a sense of humor, and it is fun to watch miracles unfold before our eyes.

I’ve been praying for someone close to me for a very, very long time. You all know I’ve been praying for some rather large miracles. On Easter weekend, I confided in several friends that I was “letting go” of the dream because it was more important to me that this person meet Jesus. In my heart, I let go of what I was praying for and began praying for this person instead.

In that one weeks’ time, I have seen ridiculous things happening in hay persons life, things that I know are because of God. Last night this persons said to me, “well He’s got my attention”

Thank you, Jesus.

Copyright 2018 Journey For Life. All rights reserved.

No category for a castle

In his book, If, Mark Batterson recounts a blessing God gave him for which he didn’t have a category.

He ends the chapter that recounts this blessing with these words,” what if everything in your past is preparing you for the future God has for you?’

“God wants us to get where He wants us to go more than we want to get there and He’s awfully good at getting us there”. Even when we make a wrong turn, He has ways of getting us there, and He’s using everything in our past to prepare us for the blessings He has for our future.

He’s got blessings for us for which we don’t even have categories!

I am still praying Jericho prayers and trusting God for His blessings. I believe He has a castle waiting to be used for His glory.

Blessings,

SB

copyright 2018. Journey For Life. All rights reserved

Impact

We never know the full impact we have…

Hello there, beautiful readers! Thank you for praying for our friends’ wedding. For those new to this blog, I asked for prayer last week for a family, whose only son was getting married just months after his father died suddenly of a heart attack.

The wedding was beautiful! True, there were moments that were hard, but the love that filled the place, not only from the couple, but all of the family and friends who were there to support, did it’s best to try to compensate.

Thank you all for your prayers!

At the reception, the groom’s oldest sister shared that as she was coming down the aisle, thinking, “I can’t do this”, she reminded herself that I was up there in front of her playing the piano, and if she could keep taking steps towards me, she’d make it. Awww. And make it she did!

I remember my own wedding, and the heartache I felt that my dad wasn’t there to walk me down the aisle. Instead, my mom did, and what an honor to me!

In addition to the flowers, one of my favorite parts about this wedding was their guest book. They had a Bible and some highlighters and asked guests to sign their name and highlight their favorite scripture.

Sorrow can be trampled by love!

Blessings!

SB

Please follow my journey! It promises to never be dull!

The Blood That was spilled

From Masquerade: “Wow. Over the past decade, our country had seen a rise in shootings. Events that were so uncommon when I was a child had become almost commonplace. The term “going postal”, coined in the late 80’s after several shooting incidents involving disgruntled postal workers, seemingly paved the way for lunatic behavior from sick people who had felt like society had wronged them. Victim mentality. The victims wanted other victims because “hurting people hurt people”. Ever since the Columbine shootings in 1999, school administrators all over the country had participated in anti-bullying training and programs in the futile attempt to prevent such tragedies from occurring. What they failed to realize, however, is that unless and until they put God back into the public school systems, all of their attempts would be fruitless. Over the past several years, it administrators recognized that the socioeconomic makeup of the Northridge school district was almost identical to that of Columbine High School, and the school officials were acutely aware of the potential danger. They had mandated training for the teachers and administrators on how to handle these situations. They had begun anti-bullying programs and had anti-bullying slogans posted all throughout the school. I had always been somewhat prepared for the day in which we would experience a tragedy of that sort in our own schools. I prayed with my children every day before school, asking God to keep watch over them until they returned safely home. I prayed that if ever a shooting event took place, that my children would stand strong in Christ.”

(the post below was first published as a Facebook note on April 17, 2014, just a week after a school violence event at our high school – within a few days, the note had been shared over 25,000 times – my prayer is those it reached were impacted in a way to seek God in their life)

stay strong

At 7:16 on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, merely minutes after I dropped my fifteen-year-old son off at school, my cell-phone buzzed on the kitchen table as I cracked an egg into a frying pan.  At the same time, my sixteen-year-old daughter, who stayed home sick that morning, came into the kitchen.  As I turned to ask her what she was doing up so early, she announced that she had received a text from her friend that “J*** had been stabbed”. Instinctively, I picked up my cell phone to read the text that caused the phone to vibrate only seconds before. The text from my son read simply, “People were stabbed.  I’m ok.  Be praying”.

We learned quickly that one of the students, armed with two 8″ kitchen knives, launched a violent attack in the hallway of his school before classes started, stabbing 20 of his fellow classmates and a security guard before being wrestled to the ground and taken into custody.

Over the past 12 years since my kids entered pre-school, not a day has gone by that I did not blanket them with prayer before they exited the car, or boarded the school bus, or entered the school.   Undoubtedly because of previous school-violence incidents, these prayers have ranged from general prayers about their day to specific prayers to “keep them safe in the hallways”, prayers for specific teachers, administrators, and other students.  I was not a parent who thought something like this could never occur in our school – I knew the possibility existed – simply because evil exists in the world.  There had been times that I prayed (with them) that if something terrible occurs in their school that God would equip my children with courage, and to always stand strong in Him.

Over the next several hours and days, as details of the event unfolded, there were many thoughts that struck chords in me, ranging from the “What if” and “If only” ’s that are so common and natural to ask, to the “what now” ‘s and “how can we turn this mess into a message”.   When I later learned that my son and his friend gathered people for prayer outside of the school amid the chaos, I was thankful that God has filled their hearts with compassion for others and a deep love for their Savior.  I am thankful that, by His grace, my children know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

prayer

Over the next few days, as my children and their friends and I visited their friends in the hospital, I was struck by another chord.  Not one of the victims that we talked with had anything bad to say about their attacker.  Most of them expressed surprise about the attack and sadness or compassion for their attacker.

Just the Sunday before the incident, our youth pastor shared that my son and his friend had talked with him a few weeks prior, asking why it was sometimes hard to share their faith with their friends – those with whom they had done “macaroni crafts” in kindergarten.  He said, “I look at some of them and wonder what in the world happened since we did macaroni crafts together”.  In the hours as the news was unfolding, my daughter said, “Mom, I did macaroni crafts with A*****– he was a nice kid – he dropped his macaroni and it went everywhere and I shared mine with him.”  We have been praying for A**** and his family, along with the victims and their families.

I believe that God was in that school that morning – in the hallways, with His loving hand over the situation.  His hedge of protection shielded many of the kids from injury.  Even among the injured, I believe that God prevented the wounds from being worse.  We are very thankful that, despite major life threatening injuries, not a single life was lost as a direct result of this attack.   When the security guard was tackling the suspect, he yelled, “No, my work is not finished yet!”  I can just about hear God’s voice saying, “No, MY work is not finished yet, son” as he blanketed the hallway with His protection.

I share this with you not to re-live a horrible ordeal, but to point to the Cross.  The “blood that was spilled” has a whole new meaning as we approach this Easter Sunday and the remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice for us. You see, Grace hung on the cross, not only for those who loved Him but for Judas and Pilate and the soldiers who nailed Him there.

I’ve heard hundreds of people ask what would drive a student to carry out such horrific act.  Was he bullied? Sad? Depressed? Hopeless? The truth is we don’t know.  What we DO know is this:   that God sent His Son to earth to pay for our sins – He does not want anyone to perish but wants all to come to repentance.

Romans 3:23 tells us that “ALL have sinned and fall short of His glory, and are justified freely by His Grace through the redemption that came through Christ Jesus.”   Whether big or small, all of our sin keeps us from the presence of the Almighty, and it is only through Jesus, Our Lord, and Savior, that we can be reunited with the Father.

My dear friends, hear this cry this night – if you have not asked Jesus to forgive your sins, and do not have a friendship with Him as Lord and Savior of your life, I invite you to do that tonight.   There is nothing more important on this earth.

This week was a stark reminder of all that can change in a week.  Similar to the week that began with people shouting, “Hosanna” and laying Palms at His feet, ending a few days later with people shouting, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him!”  You never know what a week will bring.   You may say to yourself, “I’ll have time to make things right with God later”.   I urge you to resist that thought – you may not have time later.

Now, in the quietness of your heart, while you have time to reflect on the gift that God gave through His Son Jesus, allow Him to draw you close to Him – to ask Him to become Lord of your life.

If you want to pray the prayer of salvation,

“Dear Lord Jesus,

I know I am a sinner, and I ask for your forgiveness. I believe you died for my sins and rose from the dead.  I trust and follow you as my Lord and Savior. Guide my life and help me to do your will.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

For those of you who have read my book, you will notice a tie to an event in the book.  In all honesty, the book, Masquerade, was written in 2009, long before the event above took place.   As I penned the fiction story, my intent was to write about a school violence event where one of he main characters’ children were killed.  I found, however, that, as a parent, I couldn’t actually put this into the book, even though it was fiction.  The book sat dormant on my hard drive for many years, until last summer when I began the process of publishing it.  When I read the section about the shooting incident, I was taken aback by the eerie similarity to the actual incident.

If you haven’t read the book yet, you can get it here!  If you have read it, thank you, thank you, thank you – please feel free to leave a review!  My sincerest prayer is that, through this book, and through my life, people will be drawn into a relationship with a loving Father, who wants desperately to bring you peace.

Blessings,

SB

Copyright 2018  Journey For Life   All rights reserved.

Satan cannot win!

There are times in life where we feel as though we are losing the battle. Beaten and defeated, we sink into depression, deeper and deeper, feeling more hopeless than ever. The devil thrives on seeing our self-defeat, but the reality is that Satan cannot win!

In my book, Masquerade, Charissa is fighting this battle, and she knows in her head that God wins over Satan, but she cannot seem to pull herself out of the pit. Her good friend, Dwayne reaches down to extend a life preserving reminder that Satan cannot win! They were just the words that she needed to hear to be reminded that we have the power of God to call upon when life seems hopeless.

Everybody needs a Dwayne in their lives; someone who is sensitive to the needs of others and knows how to encourage them when they need it.

Charissa is forever grateful for her friend, Dwayne, and his faithfulness to encourage others. Do you have someone in your life who needs encouragement that Satan cannot win the war? Be a Dwayne today! Remind someone that God has not given us a spirit of weakness and fear, but of power through Him. With that power, we can fight the battles of depression and despair!

Be a blessing!

To those who have ordered my book, thank you! If you’d like, you can leave a review here

For those who haven’t, you can get your copy here!   Order Masquerade Here!

 

SB

Will you share your story?

those questions popped into my head last summer, as I drove 3 hours to set up and play for my cousin’s wedding.

What story?

I don’t have a story – I’m really just an ordinary person, with some good qualities and many bad ones. I love Jesus and want to be faithful to him.  I prayed silently as I drove by myself with music blaring and thoughts racing.  Of course I’m willing to share my story if it will help someone.  I just wasn’t sure which story.

Through my prayer life over the next few weeks, I jotted down some ideas of experiences that I’d want to share with others to help them see God in the face of adversity.   Turns out, when I put my “God” lens on, I had plenty of stories – and it turns out that I am excited to share what God has done in my life.

That single step of obedience to His question has led to a wild roller coaster ride over the past six – nine months that I can hardly keep the blessings contained – surely, my cup runneth over!

I believe I’ve only scratched the surface of the scripture in Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.  It’s less about getting what you want, and more about aligning your desires with God’s desires.  We are all work-in-progress, and God uses each lesson to teach us how much He loves each and every one of us.  He will not let go, and will keep pursuing us  until we find Him.

I would like to challenge each of you today – are you willing to share YOUR story?   are you willing to share how God has answered prayer in your life?  If you’ve never thought about it before, take out a piece of paper, or, better yet, a prayer journal, and start writing down the blessings He’s given you as if you intended to share them with someone – and then share them!  The result will be an amazing step of obedience in a way that will allow God to bless you even more!

Read more about my story here

Order Masquerade Here!

May you truly be blessed by God today and every day!

Blessings,

SB

copyright 2018 Journey For Life – all rights reserved.