Posted by: Michael | August 21, 2012

The Journey (an allegory)

 

There once was an idyllic village nestled  in the most beautiful land.  Everyday the sun rose with a brilliant sunrise and the flowers and trees were always in bloom.  There was no death, sorrow, or blight  and winter had not touched the land for years on end.   Within the village was to be found only peace and contentment.  Everyone greeted each other with a smile and a wave.  Each villager  was content that their neighbor was proper and neat.  There were no surprises and life was most pleasant.

In this village there lived a most pleasant young man.  He was happy and settled and loved his neat life.  Each day was greeted the same as before and there was never a surprise to shatter that pace.  His friends were many and his enemies were few.  He was well-respected within the town and his ways were acceptable and safe.

One day this young man felt a call to do more.  He proudly announced to his family and friends that he was ready to explore.  He wanted to go on a quest to impact the world.  To do more than to just stand in his safe little world.  Some of the village arose in alarm. They proclaimed “Why would you leave such a prefect little place?”.   Some he had called friends would speak with him no more.  However, there were many who proclaimed that this was a wonderful thing.  That they would be there for him along the way.  They patted him on the back and wished him good luck and waved from their windows has he started to walk.  There were some who came with.  Those friends that he held dear.  They promised to walk and help carry the pack.

At first the journey was swift.  The time passed quick and their fellowship was great.  However, as the road wondered on the way became dark.   There were things on the trail that made the heart faint.  Many who came longed for their old ways.  The comfort and safety and predictable life.  His companions became scarce and his heart became weak.   He at last looked beside him and his friends, they were few.  Their clothes were all tattered and their pace it had slowed.  However, the spark in their eyes gave him the power to push on.  To dig in his heels and hike the next mile.

As the road became steeper there were others who joined him on his quest.   Those who shared in this journey and would walk on the trail beside him.  There were times that were dark and times that were bright.  There were visions that made the heart quake from sheer fright.   Things that the young man prayed that he would never have to speak.  After several long weeks, they saw in the distance a mighty mountain.   This mountain was steeper and taller than any they had seen.  They knew that if they made the climb they would see the end of the trail.   Therefore, the young man pushed on and at last gained the peak.

When he stood at the top and looked out over the land, he saw nothing but road and miles of dust.  The man dropped to his knees, tired at last.  His face  streaked with blood, strain, and sweat.  At last his limbs were exhausted and could go on no more.   The toil had been terrible and he longed for his home, the safety and the comfort that was so far behind.  When he was ready to give in he felt a light touch and then several more, those who were with him lifted him up.  They wiped down his face and picked up his pack.  Then they pointed out beyond the mist and the dust.  He shielded his eyes and squinted a bit.  There on the horizon was a wonderful light.  He knew at that point that the path did have an end.  The journey was long but the  reward was indeed great.  He hugged all his friends and grabbed all their hands.   Together they set out to find the journey’s end.

Posted by: Michael | July 28, 2012

Good Eats!

Steaks on a grill

Hey everyone, I am sorry for being off her for so long.  However, we have been finalizing the adoption of our three little ones.  This has truly been the focus of our family for the past several weeks (there is a blog post in there somewhere).   Recently I had a good friend ask me to post a couple of my new favorite recipes.  The following two are ones that have moved to the top of our favorite list.  I hope you enjoy as much as we do.  Please let me know what you think!

Bacon Wrapped Sirloin

This one is pretty simple but we really love it.

2 sirloin steaks

2 Fresh Garlic Cloves

4 Slices of Hickory Smoked bacon

Cut your sirloin steaks into 8 square pieces.  Slice Garlic cloves into 4 pieces each (lengthwise).  Make a 1/2 inch incision in each piece of steak completely through each section.  Insert a slice of garlic into each incision.  Cut Bacon in half lengthwise (You will have 8 pieces). Wrap a piece of bacon around each steak piece (covering the incision) and secure with a toothpick.  Grill over low heat until desired temperature.  Serve and enjoy!

Fish Tacos

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 package taco seasoning

1 lb (total 4 pieces) cod or white fish fillets – cut into 1-inch pieces

1 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp lemon juice

2 cups shredded red and green cabbage

2 cups diced tomatoes

12 – 6 inch warmed corn tortillas

Lime wedges for serving

In a small bowl combine sour cream, mayonnaise, cilantro, and 2 Tbsp seasoning. In medium bowl, combine cod, lemon juice, olive oil, and remaining seasoning mix.  Pour into large skillet.  Cook stirring constantly, over medium high heat for 4-5 minutes our until cod flakes easily with a fork.  Fill tortilla shells with fish mixture.  Top with cabbage, tomatoes, sour cream mixture, lime wedges, and taco sauce.

Posted by: Michael | July 24, 2012

So well said and so true. I had to reblog

Posted by: Michael | July 6, 2012

Hard Places

I have often been asked why we made the decision to foster and adopt.  When we started the journey our oldest was sixteen and our youngest was seven.   As a result people will often ask why would you want to start over with three little’s under the age of three?  For our family it has always been a calling that God laid on our hearts some time ago.  The longer we stay in this world the more we see the need and the pain the world is inflicting on the innocent.  The need just keeps on getting bigger and bigger.

Is the foster/adoption world for everyone?  I would say no.  However there are a large number of children out their hurting and lost.  The shelters sit at capacity with children waiting for a safe place to sleep and start to call home. I think the following lines from Dorothy Nolte paint a good picture of the impact we can have on the innocent. 

Children Learn What They Live

If Children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.

If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.

If children live with ridicule, they learn to be shy.

If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.

If children live with tolerance, they learn to be patient.

If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.

If children live with praise, they learn to appreciate.

If children live with fairness, they learn justice.

If children live with security, they learn to  have faith.

If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.

If children live with acceptance and friendship, they learn to find love in the world.

                -Dorothy Law Nolte

These are children that have had their innocence stolen from them for only the simple reason that they were born into hard places.  Often our lives are impacted (for better or worse) by the choices we make.  However, the key lines are “the choices WE make”.  These children out there did not ask to be abandoned, abused, or neglected.  They only ask for the opportunity to love and be loved.  To live a life free from fear and shame.   I hope it shows that my family and I have a passion for these children.  I believe it is a passion that God calls us to do in obedience to Him as well:

“Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  (Matthew 19:14)

“Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”  (Mark 9:37)

We as believers are also orphans that were abused, neglected, and abandoned by the world.    Yet, our heavenly Father opened His heart to us when we were at our worst.  He gave us a future filled with love and hope when we had nothing but darkness.    He adopted us into His heavenly family apart from the “hard places” we once called home.  What better model of the Fathers love than to welcome these little ones into our families.  There was a time when the chruch was bore the responsibility of caring for the orphans.  During the great depression the number of orphans became more than they could carry and the goverment became involved.  The problem is that the chruch left that role and never came back.  Now is the time for God’s people to get back involved and fulfill the plan that God has laid out.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. ” (James 1:27)

There may be some who feel the call.  There are those who want to choose to be radical for Christ and step out of their comfort zone into the unknown.    I say to you “go for it”.  It is not an easy journey.   It is one filled with stories of pain and tragedy.  It will truly take you out of your safe and sterile places.  Just as a good friend once said “If they can survive it, I can hear it”.  

 Some of you may not yet be called to leave the comfort of where you are.  Can you spare some of your heart and time to rock a lonely infant at the shelter?  You may not be yet called to open your home to the least of these, but can you walk alongside those who do?  Offer support and respite to those who stand and face down the evil and darkness that threatens to engulf these innocent souls. 

The wonderful people at Faithlinks in Oklahoma put together this great list: 

Top 10 Things You Can Do For A Foster Child

10. Pray for the children in foster care and their families.

9. Collect birthday gifts for the foster children in your community.

8. Have a baby shower to collect baby essentials.

7. Donate luggage for foster children in transition.  (Many are forced to use plastic bags for the few things they hold dear and treasure.)

6. Collect school supplies

5. Volunteer for a foster care organization.

4. Contact your local OKDHS foster care specialist about specific needs in your community.

3. Provide occasional respite for foster children.

2. Mentor a foster child.

1. Become a foster parent.

If you want to be involved or just have questions, please feel free to message me.   For those in my area I have included some links as well. 

111project.org

Faithlinksok.org

Annashousefoundation.org

casaforchildren.org

Posted by: Michael | June 25, 2012

Brothers in Christ

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.  Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.  Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.  For is anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast  will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.  For each will have to bear his own load. ” (Galatians 6:1-5)

There is a wonderful blessing that comes from having a brother in Christ who is willing to keep you on track and gently tell you when you have gone astray.  It can also be one of the most difficult conversations that you can have…on both the giving and receiving side.   The reality is that if you do not receive these re-directions from your Brothers and Sisters in Christ who else will have the courage and fortitude to speak such truths?  You can be certain that those in the world will have little care that you are on the wrong path.  Take these opportunities to rejoice that someone loves you enough to be obedient to Christ and put you back on the path.

The other side of this scripture is less obvious and often forgotten.  We all know the scripture to watch and assist our brothers, that we draw strength from one another:

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)

We often take this to heart and are oh so eager to watch out for others and keep an eye on the world.  Do we think on the rest of this piece of scripture?

“Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1)

Be wary that as you pursue this task that you are not drawn into the world as well, that you do not allow yourself to be drawn into that which is pulling others off the path.  It rings back to that old buzz word “peer pressure”.  How easy it is to be tempted when everyone around you is doing these things.  The world will be quick to tell you to step off to the side lines and give it a try.  Everyone is doing it.  Your brother may even speak the same words.  “It’s ok to try only once.  Everyone is doing it and it’s such a small thing”.  Be on your guard.  Keep your eyes not only tuned on your brothers but on your self as well.

“But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast  will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.  For each will have to bear his own load.”

Galatians 6:4-5

It is so easy to look at the world (and our brothers/sisters) and find fault.  Scripture is clear that we are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God.  You can spend all day looking at the world and you will find something wrong, take a moment and realize this applies to us as well.  If you look at yourself you will find sin as well.  Don’t forget to find some time to test your own fruit of the spirit.  To look inwardly, as well as outwardly, for that which needs refining.

There is power in the final line.  “For each will have to bear his own load.”  When it is all said and done we are accountable for our own actions and how we live our lives.  When we stand before the judgement seat of Christ we will not get a pass because others did not steer us from sin.  We will be accountable for our own lives and actions.  God gave us the incredible gift of free will.  He could have created us to worship Him in without choice or question.  However, He created us with the ability to choose our path.  To walk with Him or away from Him.  What will you choose?

I am so thankful for the brothers in Christ that God has placed in my path.  There are those that walked with me for a time and are now on a different path, those that walk with me now and support me through all the difficult times, and those that are still out there along the way.  I am truly grateful for you all and your willingness to speak and share with me in love.

Thank you brothers!

Posted by: Michael | June 20, 2012

Top 10 for fathers!

Father & Son

Everyone these days seems to like the Top 10 lists.  Therefore, I decided to put together my Top 10 ways to become an engaged homeschool dad.   

Top 10 ways for a homeschool dad to engage

10. Be committed to the lifestyle that is homeschooling

9. Be willing to share your life experiences with your children:  Successes and failures

8. Self Assessment: Are you living and exhibiting a God honoring life – Your children are watching!

7.  Get off the bench:  Teach a few lessons in the afternoons

6. Be a champion and supporter to your wife

5. Be involved with planning the school year (do you know what curriculum you use?)

4. Spend some time each day talking with your kids about what they learned

3. Get your priorities in line:  God, Family, Job

2. Accept and embrace your role as the spiritual leader of your home

And the number one thing you can do to be an engaged homeschool dad:

1. Pray daily for your wife and family

Come on guys… hang up the principle hat and join the team.    The time we have with our children is so short and goes so fast.  Homeschool is such a blessing in that it gives us the chance to be involved with our children every step of the way.  To help them grow and develop into wonderful ladies and gentlemen.  Embrace this time….Remember this time……Treasure this time. 

Posted by: Michael | June 19, 2012

You are the light of the world

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  (Matthew: 14-16)

The past couple of days I have been following the news.  I am shocked at the nature of the stories that dominate the headlines: child abuse, murder, adultery, war, famine.  If you turn on the primetime television you see much of the same, in the guise of entertainment.  It is evident that the culture around us is becoming darker.  It is obvious that the moral compass of our planet has taken a turn for the worse.  If you are a believer, this should not be a surprise for you. 

When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.(Mark 13: 7-8)

We know that the world is getting darker and will become even more so before Christ’s return.  However, it is during these times that our light should shine all the brighter.  The darkness hastens people to look for the light.  Let your actions and your lives be lights for Christ. 

Be aware that the darkness hates the light.  The brighter you shine the more the darkness will work to snuff out your light.  It will press in upon you and attempt to force you to extinguish your light. 

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5::11-12)

The darkness may press in against you.  However, we know that the battle is ours.  We know that the battle against death and sin has already been fought.  Let the darkness and the world challenge you.  You know that If you go out into the night and strike a match the darkness will flee.  It will lurk and hover beyond the light.  However, it is powerless to extinguish your light.  So it is with the power of darkness in the world.  The powers of darkness in the world are powerless to extinguish the truth of Christ.  Stand strong in the face of the world.  Let your difference be a testimony to Christ.  Stand in the face of the darkness and shine forth the light of our risen King.

On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. (Mark 13:10)

Posted by: Michael | June 8, 2012

Blackened Talipia

This one is a request for Brother Allen.  This is a wonderful receipe for a Blackened Rub that I found somewhere out on the internet.  It is really good on any whitefish.  We have really enjoyed it on talipia.  If you reduce/eliminate the Cayene even the littles will enjoy.  I hope that everyone will give it a shot and let me know if your family enjoys as well.

Blackened Talipia

3 Tbs Paprika

1  tsp salt

1 Tbs Onion Powder

1 tsp Ground black pepper

1 tsp Cayenne pepper

1 tsp Ground thyme

1 tsp Oregano

1/2 Tsp Garlic Powder

4-6 Talipia fillets (or another white fish)

Combine spices in bowl.  Put heaping amount on each fillet.  Rub into fillet until both sides are coated.  Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.  Heat oil in skillet and cook 2-3 minutes each side.

Note:  I prefer to grill fillets over charcoal or gas grill.  Either way they are wonderful

Posted by: Michael | June 8, 2012

Meaningless!

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.  “Utterly Meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)

The first time I actually put much time into Ecclesiastes was a couple of years ago.  One of my boys youth pastors came up to me and said this verse and asked if I knew where it was in the bible.  I did not and so we launched into an hour-long discussion on this wonderful book of the bible.  I know that many of you may not make it to far into Ecclesiastes.  I can fully understand.  A lot of the time we turn to our scriptures to be uplifted and encouraged.  I have to say at first pass this may not appear to meet the bill.  Many choose to believe that this is a book of skepticism.  However, there is so much more to this book.

It was written by King Solomon towards the latter part of his life.  It was most like written as a way to answer some of the lifes most challenging questions.   We see detailed out in it the painful journey of his life.  For all of Solomons wisdom we see him squander God’s blessing on the pursuit of personal pleasure and not on God’s glory.  This book is his attempt to warn later generations not to make the same mistakes that even in his wisdom he made.

Throughtout this book we see the earthly pleasures detailed out in his attempt to find this personal fulfilment.  On his life’s journey we can see some of the same things that we wrongly seek in our lives.  The things that we try to use to replace the one true God.  The reality is that we are part of the future generation that he so sought to warn in his wisdom.

Solomon was known for his great wisdom.  To the point that the kings of the earth were drawn to his courts to share and learn from him.  As he reflected back he summed up his lifelong pursuit of wisdom.

I said to myself, “Look, I have increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.”  Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this , too, is chasing after the wind.  (Ecclesiastes 1: 16-17)

He came to understand that even all of his great wisdom was in the end – pointless.  Something that had not true heavenly value.  Do we at times behave in the same way?  Do we put the pursuit of knowledge and education of worldly things above those of the kingdom?  Do we value our degrees more than the study of God’s word?  Do we know the date of our graduation from college but struggle with the date of our acceptance of Christ?

Solomon was also known for the pleasures of his palace and his incredible riches.  There are few that would not be able to describe the incredible wealth that he was said to have accumulated in his life.  The pleasures that he was able to obtain are detailed out within this book as well.  Once again at the end he reflected back on all of these things.

Yet I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I have toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.  (Ecclesiastes 2:11)

Whoever loves money never has enough;  whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.  This too is meaningless. (Ecclesiastes 5: 10)

Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb, and as everyone  comes, so they depart.  They take nothing from their toil that they can carry in their hands.  (Ecclesiastes 5:15)

Do we find ourselves chasing the riches of this world.  Do we focus our lives on the acquisition of things and power and position?  How tempting is it to put our hearts on impressing those around us and not on serving our Father.  To toil and build the treasures of the earth that are so fleeting in the measure of eternity.

I reflect back on what Solomon wanted to impart in his writings.  A warning to future generations not to make the same mistakes that he made.  To not go down the same road that he did.  We spend a lot of time reading and applying his wisdom in Proverbs.  Why not spend a little time in this other book of wisdom.  In the last chapter Solomon sums it all up.

Not only was the Teacher wise, but he also imparted knowledge to the people.  He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs.  the teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true.  The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails – given by one shepherd.  Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them.  Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.  Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.  for God will bring judgement, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.  (Ecclesiastes 12: 9-14)

I encourage you to spend a little time in this book.  To read and heed the words of Solomon and see if they ring true in your life.  If you hear the ring of truth then heed the warning of Solomon.  Take the time to assess where your priorities lie.  Are you chasing after the wind or are you chasing after God!  We can heed the warning of Solomon and not find ourselves at the end of our lives wondering why we put the efforts of our lives into things that are “Meaningless! Meaningless!, Utterly meaningless!”

Posted by: Michael | May 30, 2012

The Fruit of Man

Fruits and vegetables

Whats in your fruit basket?

 I have blogged on the Fruit of the Sprit in the past.  However, I was recently discussing this with my wonderful wife about the other side of the coin.  We as Christians often speak about the “Fruit Of The Spirit”.  Sometimes we seek these qualities in our own lives and often in the lives of others.  We have read that it is an outward expression of a changed heart for Christ.  As Christians we need to be aware of the need not to judge others as we seek these fruits.  It is not our place to question their faith and commitment to Christ.  Scripture is very clear that none of us are perfect:

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)

There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy.  But who are you to judge your neighbor?  (James 4: 12)

Therefore, you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges.  For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. (Romans 2: 1)

At the same time we are advised to use discernment in our dealings with the world. 

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1: 9-11)

But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:14)

We are to observe the actions of others to be aware of their hearts.  There is one piece of scripture that is often memorized and taught in our churches.  It is highlighted as a measure of the heart of another. 

But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;  against such things there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  (Galatians 5: 22-24)

These are listed as guideposts for us as we learn to build discernment of the world around us.  We attempt to see them in those around us and hopefully within ourselves.  We are encouraged to be as I have said before “Fruit Inspectors”.  However, how can you judge a piece of fruit to be desireable unless you know what a rotten piece of fruit looks like. 

There are several places in scripture where God makes this knowledge known to us.  I believe that it is repeated for a purpose.  We need to be aware of the “Fruit of Man”.  What is the product of someone who has not whole heartedly accepted the grace and mercy of Christ.  Someone who still knowingly lives under the law. 

But if you are led by the spirit, you are not under the law.  Now, the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.   I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5: 18-21)

Paul’s list is not all encompassing.   It does touch on three main areas of the human condition: sex, religion, and human nature.  Three areas that drive the predominate areas of our lives.  We also see these guideposts repeated in the book of Romans. 

They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice,.  They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness.  They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.  Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.  (Romans 1: 29-32)

I am not sure about the rest of you but this last verse really hits home.  There are some powerful words that many of us struggle with on a daily basis.  We will hopefully never commit murder – but do you have angry thoughts towards your brother.  How often do we have those moments of faithlessness?  Do we ever have times of envy or covetousness? 

There is a tendency to look at the fruit on our shelves and only see the fresh and shiny ones.  Too often we don’t want to see the slightly moldy one or the one at the back that is all dried up and wrinkled.  These “Fruits of Man” can sit quietly within us while we focus our energy on the others.  Take the time to clean out your fruit stand.  Do a little self assessment on what you have and at the same time do not be distracted by the one piece of shiny fruit in the midst of a rotten bushel. 

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.  (Galatians 5: 16-17)

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