Saturday, October 05, 2013

Ministry

For anyone out there that still visits my blog on occasion ... though I haven't posted anything in 3 years ... I just wanted to post a link to my wife, Paula's, ministry website PaulaCross.com.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

This Amazing Gift

a parable

Imagine, if you will, receiving from your parents an unexpected gift. A gift that you, by no means, ever asked for, nor said that you wanted. Yet, your parents gave it to you anyway, and you accepted it with great joy.
You played, with great excitement, with this amazing gift, finding new and more delightful uses for it with each passing day. Perplexed by the magnificent qualities that this gift possessed. Such fragile form for so sturdy a substance, strangely simple and curiously complex. It was all such a wonder to you.
Everyday was a new adventure for you with this remarkable trinket. All the world lay open to you, the wild imaginings of one so enthralled by such a beautiful bauble. You awoke each day with a radiant smile, bright enough to eclipse the rising sun. When you slept, you dreamt of glorious escapades with your treasure, your prize. The key to all the wonders that the universe held was in your possession, even in your right hand.
As time went by, eventually, you began to lose interest in your present. The luster having faded, the glow it once held now a mere reflection of what light it was held in. Finding less surprise in it, only savoring the memories of when it was new. Seeing less shine to it than any of those memories could recall. Becoming discontent with it almost to the point of disgust. Looking at it now serving only to remind you that it was no longer the object of great joy that it once was. So you placed it on a shelf where it silently stayed, collecting dust. Seldom looking at it for the fear of the pain that may come to mind of strange innocence lost.
Then one day, as if by chance, you glance at it. A glimmer.
"What was that I just saw?".
So, turning to face it, for the first time in a great while, you discover something that might be of use. You realize that your gift has been broken. Strange that you never noticed it before. How long has it been this way? Could it be that this was why you lost that thrill of playing with your gift? Oh, let it be so.
So you take your present from the shelf and carefully dust it off, hoping to find some clue as to what happened to it. You set yourself to repair this once cherished and prized possession. But all of your clumsy fumbling and your impatience only frustrates you further. The pain returns.
Then, out of the clear blue sky, it occurs to you.
"Perhaps I can find someone who can repair it. Maybe the One who made it."
A spark of hopeful enthusiasm flashes across your heart. Hope springs... if only for a moment.
So you take your gift to the Shopkeeper where your parents found it and you walk into the shop, apprehensive at the thought that the Man behind the counter may not be able to fix it. Your fears are quieted by the display of wondrous gifts that the Shopkeeper has on His shelves.
“Maybe, just maybe, He will be able to fix it.”
You stand watching Him tinker with some item behind His counter, barely noticing you, yet completely aware of your every move.
You approach Him with caution, as if He were a beast of some renown, a legendary monster whose only lot in life was the destruction of those who came to annoy Him. You try to muster some semblance of strength by which to speak, your mouth so suddenly dry and sour. You shamble a half pace closer to His workbench, each step requiring every ounce of your concentration.
He stands abruptly. The sudden shock of this seemingly old Man and the quickness with which He moves, shakes you to your soul. You want to hide from Him, but you know that it's too late now.
"Dear, Child! I've been waiting for you!" His exclamation sends a shudder through you as if thunder itself had spoken your name.
"Waiting for me? He doesn't even know me." you think to yourself.
"Come, let me see what you've got there." He says with an outstretched hand.
You dread giving this once precious gift to this Stranger, but you really have no choice. Your hand trembles as you reach out to the Shopkeeper, His eyes gazing deeply into your soul. You begin to pull back, the pain of knowing just how broken your prize is. Then you notice a smile on the Shopkeepers face. A look of confidence that bolsters your weary heart. He knows that you will give it to Him. He is patient enough to wait another moment if needed. One more moment is nothing to Him.
You resign yourself to His expertise. He takes your gift and looks it over. There's no obvious determination to His expression. He turns it this way and that, holding it up to the light to see more than you could ever know of it. He notices your nervous pacing as you wait for His diagnosis.
"I don't remember giving it away like this." He says with a curious grin.
"It's broken. I don't know how it happened. Can you fix it?" Your voice a quivering whisper.
"Of course, I can fix it." He says. "When I've finished it will be like new... even better." there was no hint of boastful pride in His remark, just a simple statement of fact.
As He sets to working on your gift, He starts to ask you questions about it. The two of you converse, as if you were old friends getting reacquainted. In an odd way, you feel safe discussing it with Him, the glory days of your time with this amazing gift. He begins to show you the various dents and dings that you've managed to inflict on your prize, not to make accusations, only to inform you. Taking time to tell you how to avoid such problems in the future.
When He finally finishes with your gift, He polishes it up and hands it back to you. Startled by the restored shine and wonder, you ponder whether He didn't switch your beaten trinket with one of the others in the shop. It was beautiful once again.
"How much do I owe you?", you ask, afraid that it will cost you more than you have, or could afford.
He shakes His head and smiles at you. "Oh, There’s no charge for this. It‘s already been taken care of."
The weight of what He has just said stuns you.
"You can see my Son about the warranty." He says, pointing to an office on His right side. An office you hadn't noticed to this point.
You walk with a spring in your step that you haven't had in a long time. You approach the door only to be greeted by a younger version of the older Man behind the counter.
"All of the work is in order." He declares boldly. "I've taken care of everything."
"There are things about your gift that you've never discovered. We can show you how to use them all. So, come by, or call on Us occasionally for tips and pointers." He pauses for a brief moment before going on. "...And, about those things My Father showed you, try to avoid doing them again. They're still covered, and you can always bring it back if something happens, or even if something doesn't. But for all the love We put into these presents, it hurts Us when people don't take care of them, or use them properly."
You extend your hand to the younger Man, noticing a peculiar scar on His wrist as He shakes it.
"Curious.", you think to yourself. As you turn to leave, you look back over your shoulder.
"Be sure to tell all of your friends about Us. They may have some gift that needs repaired as well." They said together.
"That, I most certainly will do."

Michael +

May you all enjoy God's blessings on this Holiday. Merry Christmas.

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Redemption

Well, it's Christmas Eve (and, yes, I'm maintaining my tradition of re-posting my Christmas posts from earlier years) and I've been taking time this year to reflect even more deeply on just what Christmas is all about. Have you?
Yes, Christmas is about traditions and family and being together to celebrate the things which we hold dear. And it is especially about our celebration of faith in Christ. But lest we forget just why Jesus was born into this fallen world; it was for our Redemption.
As I said, I've been reflecting on Christmas lately and I've noticed something this year that I missed before. The redemption story is what really strikes a chord in all of us at this time of year. As I've sat and watched numerous Christmas specials and movies, I've seen it much more clearly this year than ever before.
Every Christmas show or movie that we know and love is all about the redemption of one of the main characters. Of course, A Christmas Carol is probably the most significant one. Consider how many times it's been done and re-done with a new twist, or adapted to reflect popular culture. The tale is always the same. The self-involved "scrooge" sees just how wretched they are and their life is turned around by the spirit(s) of Christmas. And I believe people respond to this because we all want to have that kind of hope. We all want that redemption, even if we're not sure if, or why, we need it.
And I've been seeing the redemption story in every Christmas special I've watched so far. Think about it...
Rudolph: Rudoplph is redeemed when he realizes he can't run from his problems forever. When he finds the courage to face his "uniqueness" he becomes a hero. As a result, everybody else is redeemed when they see how wrong they were about him.
And let's not forget about all of the misfit toys who end up with children who love them because of Rudolph!
Santa Claus is Coming To Town: The Winter Warlock, whose icey heart is melted by the kindness of Kris Kringle.
Year Without a Santa Claus: Santa himself is redeemed when every child in the world agrees that he deserves a day off.
Little Drummer Boy: He's an angry kid who hates the world for the way it's treated him. But when Aaron meets Jesus, he is changed forever.
The Grinch: Need I say anything about this one?
I could go on, but I hope you get the point by now.
I guess what I'm saying is this; when we consider the reason why Jesus was born, it becomes clear that even in celebrating His birth, we recognize just what it is about Him that draws us to love this time of year. Because it's at this time of year that our redemption truly draws near to us.
Have a Merry Christmas!

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The Gospel According to Jack Skellington

Originally posted on 12/24/08:

This is the sermon I gave at both services. I hope you all enjoy it.

Good morning. I want to start by thanking P.Dave, and all of you, for the confidence to trust me with today's message. I'll try not to disappoint you.

As P.Dave mentioned, the title of today's sermon is The Gospel According to Jack. So, allow me to introduce all of you to Jack.



I don't suppose I have to tell anyone that Jack Skellington isn't really an apostle. But I still think we can learn something from the story he tells.
As I'm sure you've all noticed, Jack lives in a rather dark and colorless world. it's a place of fright and gloom. But since this is normal for his world, nobody ever considers that something might be amiss. Yet, for some odd reason, Jack knows that there is.
It's kinda like our own world. We live in a world full of crime and injustice. We have poor and needy everywhere. And we have sickness and disease. So we're never really surprised to hear about these things happening in our world, whether it be to someone around the corner, or someone on the other side of the world. We've gotten used to hearing about these things. But still, we know that our world shouldn't be like this. And Jack knows that's true, too.
You see, Jack wonders about it since he sees something wrong in his own life. He tells us in his song that he knows that he's the very best at what it is that he does. And what he does is scare people. Well, in a dark and dismal world of perpetual Halloween, this is normal. But in spite of being the very best at what he does, Jack is not satisfied with his life. In spite of all of the fame and the praise of all his peers, Jack is unfulfilled. He is longing for something more. That's what he's searching for. And he's about to stumble upon something.



Jack has discovered Christmas!
In his wanderings Jack has stumbled upon Christmas. It's a world of bright lights and dazzling colors. And Jack suddenly feels something inside that he's been missing for more years than he can recall. It invigorates him, and excites him. So much so that he decides to take over. He kidnaps Santa Claus and tries to take his place for the year. But Jack isn't Santa, so the whole thing turns into a fiasco.
Sounds like a lot of us, doesn't it? We try our best to do everything we can, in our own power, only to watch things fall apart at the seams. And even when we let God have control of our situations, we can't resist trying to make things work out by ourselves.
We have this tendancy to forget that while God is always willing to use us, when we're willing to be used, He doesn't actually allow us to do anything. He will work in others who are near us, He will work in circumstances around us, and He will do things through us. But we have to remember that He is the one doing the work - we are simply the tool. And like most tools, we are meant for specific jobs, specific purposes. And when we don't pay attention to what God wants to use us for, and we try to go it alone, things go wrong. When we try to do the job on our own, it never works out.

You see, Jack was trying to be Santa Claus, trying to do Santa's job. But Jack is no Santa Claus, so he failed at it, and miserably so. He left Christmas in ruins for children everywhere. Then he finally comes to the realization that there's only one who can really fix the mess that he's made.



Jack has finally come to his senses that Christmas isn't his thing. Scaring people is what he does, and he's good at it. But Christmas belongs to Santa. And, since Santa - being a character based upon a real saint - is a representation of Christ, we see that only Santa can fix the mess that Jack has made. And that is us all over. Or, at least, that's me all over
I'm reminded of one of my favorite passages of scripture; Romans 7:21-25

"I have discovered this principle of life - that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God's law with all my heart. But there is another power within me at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is; In my mind I really want to obey God's law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin."

Sometimes we forget Who we serve, and we make mistakes. I know that there is a calling on my life. I know I serve some greater purpose in God's plan. But it certainly isn't to be a pastor. But I'm thankful that P.Dave recognizes my calling, and my ability to have something worth sharing every once in awhile. And as long as I'm walking in that purpose, and allowing God to work through me, God will watch out for me. It's when I try to take matters into my own hands that things get messy.
But it's OK to mess up once in awhile. We're all bound to do it. But thank God that when we do mess up, He's always there waiting to fix things for us.

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Sunday, December 05, 2010

Quote for 12/05/10

"My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?"
Bob Hope

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Coming back to life

Has it really been seven months?
I guess so. Especially since I can clearly see that my last post was from March 30th and today is November 30th. Where has the time gone?
It's hard for me to want to write anything at the moment. I've been away from it long enough that it seems foreign to me. I feel out of my element. Yet, I feel as if this is the direction God wants me to take.
I suppose filling everybody in on what has been happening with Paula and I would be a good place to start.
Life is good.
We've done so much together and things are just exploding for us, spiritually speaking. It's been a whirlwind of activities and changes that have taken us by surprise at times. We've left The Revolution Church, though not for anything negative. We still support the vision of P.Dave, but we felt that God was calling us to be elsewhere. That, and because there was something absent for Paula's kids there. We needed to find a youth group where we could get them involved, and growing in their own faith, instead of just showing up with us at church on Sundays. So that is what we've done by returning to the church I grew up in. And while doing that we believed we might find opportunities to serve in our new church, every urging of the Holy Spirit is to simply "wait". We seem to be in a time of restoring and rest instead of service.
In May, Paula and I visited Fort Recovery together when one of my uncles passed away. She fell as in love with the place as I have always loved it. And we do believe that we're called to be there someday, soon. But we're waiting to see what doors God opens for us with that.
We had an amazing summer as we attended Creation, Purple Door and Uprise together as volunteers for Compassion. And in doing so, we've found ourselves profoundly challenged to really solidify our commitment to Christ. Not to mention, we attended a few smaller concerts as volunteers and have found ourselves engaged in a somewhat unique ministry of praying with the bands or their representatives before we leave the event. It's just something the Spirit placed on our hearts. And the thing about it that strikes me as odd is that each time we've prayed with someone, they've said "Nobody's ever done that for us before.". Something is truly lacking when prayer is missing from a Christian event...
We've had some ups-n-downs with the kids. Bob has decided to leave us to live with his mother. But I get the feeling he's regretting it. Tim, Paula's youngest (13 yr old), had such issues with the atmosphere at Gateway that we enrolled him in cyber-school. Tad, Paula's 15 year old, actually did good as a part of Gateway's 9th grade football team. Otherwise, the blended family seems to be mashing itself together alright.
Paula hasn't been working very steadily, sporadic photo sessions here and there - which is the nature of being self-employed in economic times such as these. It's made things kinda tight for us, but God provides. As a result of some of her free-time, Paula has been writing a book. We've looked into all sorts of publishing possibilities and most of them would cost outrageous sums of money to get started. So we're looking into self-publishing of a different kind. But I'll share more on that as it developes.
I've also been inspired to write a book. Unfortunately I don't have the kind of free-time to just sit down and get started. So, I'm doing bits and pieces of research for it as I can. But more than anything I'm waiting for Paula to finish up with hers.
Paula joined Mom and I on our annual pilgrimage to Fort Recovery for Thankgiving. It was an awesome time there. Paula is so inspired by my aunts and uncles. She was absolutely enthralled by so many of the stories they tell. She's considering asking them if she could put them into a book so their kids would have them as keepsakes for years to come. What an amazing idea. My Baby is just wonderful...
Well, I guess that's all I have for now. I think I've covered all of the important stuff. I apologize for being away for so long. I'll try not to let it happen again. But I'm sure some of you remember what it's like to be a newlywed.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Coming up for air

I'd like to say that I have something rather significant to share, but I really don't. I know it's been a looooong time since I've posted anything - and I've neglected a few comments that I really must address - but I just haven't had any time to write.
I do want to say this; being married to Paula has brought such incredible joy to my life. Though it has been hectic. I wish I had time to share more about what's been going on, but I really need to get some stuff done before my Beloved comes home from work. I just wanted to let anyone who still visits know that I'm still alive and all is well.
I guess I'll have some time to post as things get more settled around here. Until then, take care.

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Quote for 2/27/10

"Certain thoughts are prayers. There are moments when, whatever be the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees."
Victor Hugo

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Quote for 2/25/10

"Pain is temporary, quitting is forever."
Lance Armstrong

My posts may be infrequent lately, but I haven't quit altogether...

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Monday, February 22, 2010

All is well

It's been a great week as newlyweds. I have a few pictures on my camera, but none that I would like to post. The lighting just wasn't good for my camera and my niece wasn't sure how to adjust for that. But you can go to my Facebook page and see some of the pics that have been posted by Paula and a few others who had cameras.
We've been getting Paula and the kids moved in through most of the last week, a little bit at a time. It's been strenuous, and there have been some conflicts, but God has used it to help us all grow.
CJ's first birthday party was yesterday. He's getting so big.
Paula and I did our first Compassion event together as husband and wife last night. We are meant for ministry together. A band named Leo was playing in Greensburg and they're a Compassion band. I got to give a 1 minute presentation between bands. Two kids were sponsored. I wish I had more time to share about it all, but I'm wiped out from everything we've done lately. And we still have so much to do yet.
Please, just keep us in your prayers as we continue to transition our families into one.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Quote for 2/14/10

"If there is such a thing as a good marriage, it is because it resembles friendship rather than love."
Michel de Montaigne

Today's the day, people. Thank you for all of your well wishes. God is truly in this! And that is the most important thing I can say about us.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Quote for 2/12/10

"A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person."
Mignon McLaughlin


Only two days away, folks. Paula and I have waited so long to find each other, it's hard to believe we're actually here.

I thank God for all that He has done to bring us together.

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Quotes from 1/2010

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Dear Soon-To-Be Mrs. Michael Cross

And anyone else who cares to read...

Thank you for taking a few minutes to fill everybody in on what's been going on with your recent comments.

I don't think that things will settled down after we're blissfully wed. I'm only hoping that I'll have a little bit of time each day - or during each week - to post something about our activities. Maybe together we'll be able to come up with some really good stuff to share.

Don't you downplay your acivities either. You've been busier than I have with all of the planning. You've just had more time than I do each day to do it in.

Yes, my poor broom is gone. Now I'll have to use the shovel...

I was going to post about Bob today, but now you've stolen my thunder. I haven't gotten all of the info yet, either. So we'll wait and see how things ended up later on.

I happen to love chinese! And it was only something quick and easy that I could work with. My other option would've been chicken alfredo - and I know you prefer red sauce over alfredo. So I went with chinese rather than italian.

OK, I'll post a couple of pics of us from the night I proposed. That way everyone will see my beard - and just how happy we are.







There. Is that better?
Now everyone gets to see me with a beard, and how truly beautiful you are.

The Youth Encounter event was a great day for me.
Compassion contacted me on kinda short notice about two weeks before this event. Compassion's HQ contacted me because my friend Randy couldn't cover the event himself, because of a previous engagement. So he recommended me. Needless to say I was grateful to be shown such confidence by someone that I truly respect and admire for his commitment to Compassion.
The event itself was agathering of local youth - mostly Middle and Jr High schoolers. So I wasn't expecting an overwhelming flood of new sponsors.
The high point fo the day, for me, was that I was allowed to give a 15 minute presentation to the crowd of about 300. I did good - from what I was told.
I used the following passages of scripture to emphasize what our callling as followers of Christ means.

Revelation 20:11-15
I focused on vs 13.
13) The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.

I reminded the kids that we're not really judge on what we do, but that our faith is dead without us doing something to show for it.

Matthew 7:21-23
21) "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22) Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23) Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!"

I explained that Jesus doesn't seem so concerned with the big stuff - the miracles, casting out demons or prophecying. So, what is it that Jesus wants us to be doing for Him? What deeds does Jesus think are worthy of allowing us into Heaven?

Matthew 25:31-46
I focused on vs 34-40.
34) "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35) For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36) I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
37) "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38) When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39) When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
40) "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

I told the kids that Jesus is concerned with the way we deal with one another, and with strangers. I told them that they have more opporunity to succeed than most kids in the world, and that I was offering them the chance to help a child to find greater opportunity to succedd in their life. I pressed them to consider what Jesus was telling them with the last passage. And I questioned whether or not they were going to walk away when they've been shown 21 children who are hungry and thirsty and in need of care. I asked if they were going to turn away from these needy children when they've been blessed with so much.

I realized that there's not a whole lot that a bunch of Middle and Jr. High schoolers can do as individuals. So I guess my appeal was more to the youth leaders and pastors among the group - that they might be moved to consider sponsoring a child as a youth group.
It worked for 2 youth groups. One of which is going to see how the youth group handles the responsibility and then they may ask me to give a presentation at their church. I have to admit, I'm pretty excited about that possibility.
But as a side note, during the day I was able to talk to several of the people who were involved with the whole event. My contact person was a young lady named Amanda. She was really excited to have the connection between Youth Encounter and Compassion. It was something that her and several other people in her office had been wanting to do for years and this years's theme of "Do. Love. Walk." (based on Micah 6:8) was the perfect opportunity.
One of the things that most impressed Amanda was the way I told the story of how Paula and I came together. And she loved the way I explained how it was all God's doing, that He had been working in our lives since we were young, in order to make us into who He wanted us to be for one another.

BTW, you can all check out our story at our Wedding Page. Ther's a lot to it, so take your time and read each section. But don't delay for too long because we'll be taking the page down after the Big Day!

Something else that had Amanda rather excited was my openess to talk about my spiritual gifts. Without being told, I deduced that this event was a Lutheran gathering. Most of the youth groups represented Lutheran congregations, and the order of worship was quite familiar. So I wasn't too sure how well received my expressions of my spiritual walk would be. But Amanda explained how she was a part of a charismatic Lutheran congregation, and she was so glad to see someone talk about such things with such boldness.
She asked me what direction I thought the charismatic movement was heading in because she sometimes felt stiffled in her church. I explained that I think the charismatic movement is turning into something that it was always meant to be. I told her that I believed that those individuals who believe that "speaking in tongues" is the most important evidence of the Spirit's work in someon's life are falling to the wayside. God is ready to use anyone who is willing to let Him have His way in them. Whether it be speaking in tongues, or prophecying, or speaking a word of knowledge or wisdom isn't as important as long as they're obedient to follow the the Holy Spirit's leading. And I told her that I expect to see miracles happening as aresult of this new move, and she should as well.
I was truly uplifted to have the conversations that I had with her. And I believe that even with the two sponsorships, my real purpose for having been at this event was to give Amanda the encouragement that she needed. I am convinced that the sponsorships were a side-blessing for me, because I was obedient to being used to exhort Amanda in her spiritual walk. And I love that as much as I love helping kids sponsored.

And one last thing...
As some of the people I work with have begun to countdown the days to my wedding with me, a conversation began at work yesterday that was another blessing for me.
As I explained mine and Paula's non-traditional wedding, one of the young ladies posed a question regarding my being "really religious". I got to talk about mine and Paula's distaste for things "religious" and how we're all about faith and following Christ. I explained that "religion" creates a list of do's and don'ts that will supposedly get us into Heaven. But what I believe is that if you have faith, then just believing that God will do what He's said He will do - which is let us into Heaven by His grace - then that's all we have to do; just believe. To which one of the other young ladies standing nearby replied that's what she's been trying live by for years.
She also expressed her desire to find a church that is non-traditional and isn't all about the religion, or the building or whatever it is that turns so many people away from church. So I invited her to The Revolution Church, since we're about as non-traditional as churches get these days. We also talked about the idea that the church is becoming more centered on Christ and following the New Testament model of small groups and home Bible studies than Sunday morning services. And she loved that idea. I even invited her to a small group that Paula and I will be starting in our home after the wedding. I hope she'll show up for one or the other.

Sometimes, God is just too cool!

So, that's what I haven't been sharing lately. But with the snowstorm dropping well over a foot of snow outside, and the subsequent State Of Emergency having been declared for Allegheny County - not to mention Monroeville - I have some free time on my hands. Now I can take a nap...

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Don't look !!!

This was what it looked like at about 6:00 PM last night...






And at about 8:00 PM...





And about 10:30 PM...





This is what I woke up to at 7:30 this morning...



Looks like I've got a lot of shoveling to do...

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Friday, February 05, 2010

Still alive

In case any of you were wondering; Yes! I am still alive. Paula and I have been busy planning the wedding, so I haven't had any time to post anything. Now, mind you, there has been a lot of good stuff going on for us, I just haven't been able to share any of it with all of you. Sorry.
But don't worry, when the dust has settled, and Paula and I are blissfully wed, I'll be able to return to a bit more regular posting schedule - I hope...
Who knows what God will do with us next?

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Youth Encounter

I wish I weren't so tired because I'd love to tell everyone about the day I had doing my Compassion thing for a youth event called Youth Encounter. It was amazing to be a part of, and even though there was only one sponsorship for the entire day, I got to meet and talk to some truly wonderful people.
I'm hoping I have time to share more about it all later on, but the reason why my blog has fallen into such sorry shape is because Paula and I have had so much to do with planning our wedding (which takes place in two weeks). And I'm not sure how much time I'm going to have available while we continue to work things out for the joyous occasion.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Quote for 1/25/10

"Between whom there is hearty truth, there is love."
Henry David Thoreau

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Quote for 1/24/10

"Friendship often ends in love; but love in friendship, never."
Charles Caleb Colton

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Quote for 1/19/10

"Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what clearly lies at hand."
Thomas Carlyle

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Friday, January 15, 2010

I think you all should know

Paula and I are getting married in a month.

Valentine's Day...

Now, I'm sure that many of you are wondering how it's possible that I only began talking about her at Thanksgiving, and we're already getting married. Let me just say, if I told you the entire story of how God brought us together, and demonstrated to us that we're meant to be together, you'd understand (probably). However, I'm not going to share that story here. At least, not yet...
Instead, Paula and I have decided that we're going to wait until our wedding to tell everybody at once. So, if you want to hear the story, you'll have to come to the wedding.

Yes. That means if you're reading this, you're invited.

Now, I doubt many of you will show. None of you have ever shown up at any other events which I've posted invitations to, why should this one be any differnt? But if you do feel inclined to come to our wedding, please send me an e-mail saying you'd like to come. Include your mailing address so we can send you an offical invitation.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sorry for the delay

I will begin this post with a profuse apology for taking so long to get it posted.
I'm sorry. This should've been posted on Saturday. I'll try not to let it happen again.

OK, now comes the hard part; remembering what happened on Friday night when JT, Paula, her youngest son, Tim, and myself headed to Butler to The Net Outreach for a concert.
I do remember that there was a lot of snow. and that it took us nearly two hours to get there - when it usually takes us just under an hour.

Of course, you all know that I went in my capacity as a Volunteer Advocate for Compassion. Little did I know that there was a surprise in store for me.
When we arrived the guys from Manic Drive seemed rather glad to see us. Cool enough that they remembered JT and I, but they remembered that we had something to do with Compassion, too. And I was not aware of it at the time, but they also had something to do with Compassion. But more on that later...

We took my materials in and set up the table. Paula and Tim stopped in the cafe to get coffees for us. Things were starting out kinda slow. But they got better.

The first band come on about 7:30 - a half hour later than things were supposed to start. But they were pretty good. They were a local band called Becoming Less.



I think all of the sets were abbreviated because of the weather and the late start.

Then came our friends, Third From First. I think this is the 5th or 6th time we've seen these guys.



Tim really liked their set. He came back to where Paula was sitting next to me and just kept going on about the guitar solo on one of their songs. And he couldn't wait till everything was over so he could talk to them.
This was a high point for me because I really wanted him to have fun with us. He did.

Next up was Burning Yesterday. A more hardcore band, but not a screaming metal band, though Paula thinks they were....









Tim really liked these guys too. And once again I was happy to hear it because I wanted to know he was really enjoying the show.

Finally came the main act, Manic Drive.













Now, I have to say this first. I made sure to get video of their intro, because last year's intro was so cool and funny. And this year's was even better. Unfortunately, the video won't load into a post, so I can't let anyone see it. But I'll tell everyone a little bit about it.
They basically made fun of the book/movie series, Twilight, by describing themselves as vampires and poking fun at the movies while doing it. It was pretty cool.
They did an excellent set. Tim loved the way the guitarist did the robot while he played.
They even added their funky wind-sock guys (see pics above) to the show. But they added something else that kinda took me by surprise - a Compassion presentation.
They had been told that there hadn't been enough notice to get any Compassion volunteers to the show, but this is already my monthly gig. So when I showed up, and they remembered me from last year and being their neighbor at the Moraine State Park Summer Festival, they were excited to know that Compassion actually did manage to get a couple of volunteers there on such short notice.
They did a packet pass. I handed out 6 child packets and got two sponsorships, two guys came up and admitted they couldn't afford it right now, but they wanted to now if they could go online when they could afford it.

After the shows were done Tim got posters and autographs from all of the bands. I talked to the guys from Becoming Less because they collectively sponsored a child. I told themI'd gladly bring a table to any of their shows if they'd like that. They seemed a bit interested. So I may have more gigs to set up at in the future.
Then the guys from Manic Drive came over to thank me for showing up with such short notice. That's when I told them I had already arranged to be there each month, so it worked out great for us both. It was good to just talk to them a little bit about their involvement with Compassion. And I told them I was glad they did the presentation because that helps me with my ministry too.
We wrapped things up around 12:00 and headed back out into the snow for a cautious 1 1/2 hour ride home. But I'd have to say it was well worth the trip, both ways. Tim and Paula both got to experience their first concert. Paula got to watch me do my thing for Compassion. JT realized that all of the local bands know us - and are fans of his podcast. And me, I got to do my ministry with people I love. What a way to kick off the new year...
Who could ask for more?

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Quote for 1/13/10

"There is never time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment; the time is always now."
James Baldwin

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Friday, January 08, 2010

Quote for 1/8/10

"The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, not to worry about the future, or not to anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly."
Buddha

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Out-n-about again

Despite the nasty weather - the cold and the snow overabounding - JT, Paula and I are braving the elements to see Manic Drive, Third From First, and a couple of other local bands at The Net Outreach tonight. It's gonna be a lot colder this time than the last time we saw these two bands together...

Our first concert of 2010. Paula's first concert, ever! Pretty cool! And I will be setting up a table for Compassion. I'll also make sure to get some pics to share with everyone later on.

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Testify

I had a really cool experience at work today that truly reflects my calling and demonstrates for me the direction that God has been leading me into for several months now.
The whole event actually began as I woke up early this morning from a rather disturbing dream. For some odd reason, in my dream, I was running late for work. Not only is this unusual for me, it's one of those things that really gets me agitated.
To briefly explain, there are two reasons why being late for work is so disturbing to me. First, because I am the kind of person who makes sure to have plenty of time to get somewhere - no matter where I may be going. I don't like being late. And I don't understand how some people can be habitually late for anything. I see it as a character flaw; an inability to properly manage one's time. It also demonstrates a lack of commitment to keep an appointed time. Which always leaves me wondering what else might such a person lack commitment to...
But enough on that.
The second reason why being late to work is so disturbing to me is because I'm a man. And as a man, there is a part of my identity that is wrapped up in my work. Men tend to identify more with what they do than who they actually are. When men meet for the first time in social settings one of the first questions most commonly discussed is "What do you do for a living?" (or something to that effect). So when I'm running late for work I feel as if I'm betraying some part of myself. Being less of a man. Which means I tend to see any man who tends to be habitually late as something less of a man.
But these are just my opinions and have little to do with the rest of the story. I just needed to explain that I woke up early this morning from a disturbing dream and why it was disturbing.
Anyways...
the thought of being late to work shook me awake much earlier than I needed to be. But it's not without good reason because once I was awake the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart about a co-worker. The Spirit politely asked me to get up and get on the computer so I could send an e-mail to my friend Shaun. He had been in a car accident a few weeks back and was injured, rather severely, but was up & about and working - though in some substantial pain. And all the Spirit asked me to type was this:

Shaun,
Come see me after you read this. God wants me to lay hands on you. He woke me up this morning to make sure I knew that.
M+


And that was it.
I tended to some other e-mails to my Beloved, Paula. And I went about getting ready for work as I normally do thinking this really only had to do with Shaun needing some prayer for his injuries.
Sure enough, I get to work and go about my normal business still not too concerned about why God woke me up earlier than I had to be. I was just waiting for Shaun to come and see me. He did that shortly after my first break.
I could see that he was somewhat excited to find me, since he's not always sure of where I'll be - because I'm not always too sure of it myself. But as soon as he stepped up to me I stood up and said "Ready?" and he just nodded. So I placed my right hand in his as if we were shaking hands and then I placed my left hand on his neck and shoulder and I began to pray.

Now, before anyone get's too excited about this, there was no miraculous healing that took place. At least not any that I'm aware of. I simply prayed with a friend who needed prayer. But this wasn't really about his healing.

After I finished praying he began to talk to me about some of the things that have been going on in his life over the last few weeks. Nothing horribly disheartening, but troublesome just the same. And he has been feeling worn down by it all lately because of the injuries and some other health issues that he and his wife are dealing with. And it all seemed to come to a peak last night so that he just cried out to God for a little help. Then he comes into work to find my e-mail saying God thought his situation important enough to wake me up to get me to pray with him today.

How awesome is God to do something like that?
How awesome is God to take notice of my friend and send help to him almost immediately?
How awesome is God to pick me to be used in this way?

And this is why I testify to God's glory: His love endures forever!

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

So much for global warming

It's been snowing here since New Years Day. That's 5 days of snow - non-stop. Every time I go outside my car is covered with at least 2 inches of snow. That includes when I leave work to come home. My driveway is buried under nearly 8 inches of the stuff since I was sick over the last day or so and haven't been able to get out to shovel. Now I think I'll just let it go until it stops snowing altogether.

Oh, and the temperatures have been dangling in the low 20's and upper teens over the last week or so. And this is happening all across the country.

Global Warming my a$$ !!! But this could be a sign of the Apocalypse...

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Quote for 1/5/10

"You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment."
Henry David Thoreau

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Quotes from 12/2009

Quotes from 2009

Saturday, January 02, 2010

New beginnings

So, how was your New Years celebration?

Ours was quite enjoyable.
I got home from work around 3:30 and decided to go ahead and start the kielbasa & hotdogs with saurkraut before heading off to JT's. So I arrived at JT's shortly before 5:00. We knew we had to stop at the State Store for some alcohol so that was our first stop since we didn't know how late they would remain open.
While we were on our way JT asked if I had my heart set on having the Captain join us. I asked what he might have in mind otherwise. To which he suggested picking up the things we would need for White Russians. It sounded like a great idea to me. So that's what we did.
The line was long and people were everywhere. But we still had a good time while we waited as we met a lady who was visiting from Georgia. Her and JT had a great conversation about different types of alcohol and brands of certain ones. I just kinda stood there and chuckled since I have such a limited knowledge of these things.
From there we made what was supposed to be a quick stop at Giant Eagle. JT wanted to grab some cranberry juice - just in case someone would prefer to have cranberry & vodka to a White Russian. I also wanted to spend the last of the money available on my Flex Spending Account card for some over the counter medications that are always useful (Tylenol, Benedryl, etc...). And as I once lamented that they don't accept the card at the liquor store - even if the whiskey is going to be for medicinal purposes - I had no choice but to use it all at Giant Eagle. However, once I tried to ring up the $26 worth of medications, my card was being denied for all but $8.59. Which was weird since I had checked my balance before leaving to get JT and I still had $72 available with a $30 prescription pending. So I have no idea what happened to the other $42 and the website hasn't updated that info yet.
Anyways, after trying to hash things out at the register for about 15 minutes I ended up with a big bottle of Tylenol...
So we were finally on our way back to my house where our festivities for the evening would begin. Once we arrived we set about to getting our various foods prepared and ready to serve. And JT immediately fixed us each a White Russian.
The kielbasa & hotdogs with saurkraut was already smelling good. So I popped in pizza rolls and cheese sticks while I heated up the nacho cheese in the microwave. I also pulled the shrimp ring out of the fridge to discover that the shrimp was still pretty well frozen, so we let it sit for awhile to thaw. Once the pizza rolls and cheese sticks were ready we brought them into the living room to watch our first movie, The Bourne Ultimatum.
My Beloved arrived sometime close to the end of the movie. She brought a veggie tray with her own dip and she also brought BBQ pulled pork for sandwiches - which was awesome!
The next DVD we decided to watch was Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog. I hadn't seen it in awhile and Paula had never seen it, so we opted for the humorous musical. It was fun.
This lead JT to want to watch Serenity next so that's waht we did. However, as we were watching Paula vocalized her thoughts that our idea of celebrating didn't feel much like celebrating to her. She thought we shold be interactng more - not just sitting around eating and watching movies. It's not something she's used to doing. So she asked if I would be offended if she were to call her daughter and see what she was doing and possibly join her for awhile. I didn't have a problem with itas long as we were still together at Midnight.
Unfortunately, her daughter was already in the Southside with one of her friends. Paula might have liked to join them, but had no idea where they were. So she asked if we'd be opposed to going with her. After some discussion we decided that heading down to the Southside wouldn't be a good idea, but going somewhere local for a few drinks and some human interaction woud be nice.
Our first stop was a place just at the opposite end of my street from where my house is. It's called the Rivertown Inn. It didn't look too crowded but full enough for some fun. But once we walked inside we discovered that they had a cover charge for their party. $50 per person but it was All-You-Can-Eat-&-Drink. A bit steep for us since we'd already spent some substantial cash for the food and drink we had at home. But we did keep this in mind for next year...
Instead we opted for Primanti Bros. We grabbed a booth by the bar and talked with each other. There weren't very many people there celebrating. It wasn't quite what Paula had in mind, but it was better than just sitting around watching movies. And we did get to talk more and interact with each other. So it was good.
We watched Dick Clark's Rockin' New Years Eve for the ball drop at midnight. I got to kiss someone very special to me at the beginning of the New Year. And that's something that I haven't been able to do for several years. We lingered for a little while before heading back to the house. We opted for one more movie before we headed to bed, The Matrix. Another one that Paula had never seen.
By the time it was over it was well after 3:30 and we were all ready for some sleep.

In the morning we still had plenty of food to choose from to start the day. JT kicked things off with LOTR: The Fellowship Of The Ring. That was about 11:30 AM, and when it was done it was time for me to take him to his sister's for his family's New Years Day dinner. While I was on my way home Paula texted me to stop and get Oreos. I obliged.
Once I got back we just stayed in and enjoyed each other's company, talking, praying and kissing (alot), until nearly 11:00 PM. When she left I felt her absence more strongly than ever before.

It was a wonderful celebration. Something a little different for us, but enjoyable. And I've started this year with someone very special. I am truly blessed! And I can't wait to see what else God has in store for us with this year...

Happy New Year, everybody!

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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Quote for 12/31/09

"Youth is when you're allowed to stay up late on New Years Eve. Middle age is when you're forced to."
Bill Vaughn

I hope none of you feel that way. I know I'm looking forward to tonight's celebration.

Have a safe one, everybody!

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The tradition continues

Many of you have been reading my blog for a few years now, so you're already familiar with the annual tradition that I'm speaking of; mine and JT's New Years Eve Movies-n-Munchies Marathon.

This is a tradition that began for us shortly after my EX decided that she didn't want to be married to me anymore. And it just seemed like such a great way for JT and I to get together to hang out and blow off some steam without having to worry about crashing the car or fighting through a crowd of people that we don't know.
Now, another part of this tradition is that anyone who wishes to attend is welcome to do so - though nobody else ever does. Except for this year. My Beloved will be joining us for the festivites. She'll be the one bringing the veggie tray. But she also promised to bring something else with her, some kind of pork. She must really love me...

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Now that it's over

I just want to share a little bit about how Christmas went for me and the family this year.
First off, I have to say this was quite possibly the best Christmas I've ever had. And I will say that the reason for it is because I finally have my Soul-Mate with me to celebrate the holidays.

That being said; our festivities actually began on Wednesday night as Paula and I with Bob and her two youngest kids, Tad and Tim, headed off to see the Rite-Aid Celebration of Lights at Hartwood Acres. A wonderful drive-thru light display that raises money for one of the Salvation Army's charity projects each year. Too bad I can never get pictures of any of the lights. I guess you'll just have to go see them for yourself...

Christmas Eve was a run-around day for us. Bob and I joined Paula in visiting her family at her sister's house. I got to meet her family for the fisrt time and they liked me. And since there were several younger children there, Bob had a blast throwing them around and wrestling with all of them.
After leaving there we headed over to my brother's house for my family's traditional Christmas Eve celebration.
There were 4 generations present.



Not to mention that my grand-nephew Conner was also there so it was 4 generations for my sister-in-law, Beth's family too.

Of course there was plenty of food to be had.



And after everyone had their fill it was time to open presents.



This is CJ's first Christmas and I enjoyed watching him opening his gifts. In fact, in this pic Both CJ and Conner are opening the presents I gave them.



Here are Paula's youngest sons opening the presents I had for them.



Tim is sitting on the loveseat beside Paula and Tad is standing up behind them.
A few weeks earlier we had all gone out to see A Christmas Carol - the 3D animated version starring Jim Carrey - and when we were done we had gone to Toys-R-Us to play with the Nerf swords. We had a blast - me, Bob, Tad & Tim - just running around the store beating on each other with the foam swords so I made sure to pick them up for Tad and Tim. They loved it!

Then mom opened her present from Paula.



It's a wooden carving made of olive wood from the Holy Land. Mom really appreciated it.

And of course I got to spend a little one-on-one time with CJ.



After we left my brother's house Aliesha and Bob headed over to their mother's. Paula and I returned to my house to watch A Christmas Story together. She'd never seen it before, but she enjoyed it. And she would have to in order to fit in with my family.
When the first showing of the 24 hour A Christmas Story marathon was over we went to her house so that we could celebrate Christmas with her kids in the morning.

This is Paula's Christmas tree.



We all woke up sometime after 7:30 and were soon opening presents.
Seated here are Tim, Fran - Paula's daughter who is her oldest - and Ted.



And here we have Tad and Paula.



I'm sure she wants to kill me for posting this pic, but I'll make up for it with the last picture I post.
Anyways, Paula made everyone breakfast and then we just kinda lounged around for the remainder of the day. Tad and Tim played with their Nerf swords and I played with them a little bit. And as the day progressed I took a little nap. Or maybe I should say that a nap took me, because I was wiped out.



Yeah, I posted that pic so Paula can't be too mad at me for posting the one of her having only recently woke up. I still think she's beautiful.

And that was about it for this year's Christmas celebrations. I trust all of yours were wonderful, too.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Quote for 12/23/09

"Christmas is a time when you get homesick - even when you're home."
Carol Nelson

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For the time being

I must apologize for neglecting my blog of late - save for the Quotes about Christmas - I've been far too busy to actually post anything significant. And my brain has been far too frazzled to come up with anything profound.
You see, I've been working a lot of Over-Time. Ten hour weekdays and eight hour Saturdays have wrecked my sleep cycle. Good for the bank account, but it takes it's toll on one's other aspirations - like posting something worthwhile on the blog. Not to mention that I have a very special someone that I've been able to share some time with and I'm doing my best to make the most of that time. Thus, the blog has been relegated to my "To Do" list.
All of that being said, I do promise to maintain my Christmas tradition of re-posting my parable on Christmas Day. But I've also decided to begin a new tradition by re-posting something else that is dear to me. And that post will come tomorrow; Christmas Eve.

I may even find some time over the next few days to come up with something original to post as well.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Quote for 12/22/09

"The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other."
Burton Hillis

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