Monday, May 31, 2010

Day 141 - Marriage Encounter Weekend

If I remember it was fall of 19…well it was a long time ago. Julia and I had been married about eight or nine years and we had been going to the Open Door Sunday school class at First UMC of Marietta. It was the class I didn’t want to go too and the church I agreed to go to so I could stay in the background. To my memory we had been hounded all summer to go to “Marriage Encounter”. Everyone said that it would “change our lives”. Well I didn’t really want my life changed. I was doing pretty good. I was finally in my dream job. My marriage was OK and I loved my daughters. What more did I need? Nothing as far as I was concerned. So why should I agree to go to some “spiritual weekend” where they were going to dissect my marriage. NO THANK YOU! Well, the pressure kept coming, and Julia kept saying that she thought we should do it. She said it would “help us”. I didn’t really believe ti, but finally I agreed so that all the noise would stop. I figured that I had seen all the religious stuff anyway. I couldn’t think of anything that would break down my walls.

Boy was I wrong! We went into the weekend and the first thing we had to do was remove our watch. This was before cell phones, and there was to be no communication with the outside world for the rest of the weekend. This was Friday Night and the weekend didn’t end until Sunday afternoon. There were probably at least 30 couples there at the hotel. We all met in a conference room and were all handed bound notebooks. Then we began to hear four couples talking, no reading talks, about the most intimate details of their lives. The subjects were sex; finances; fear; and God. The talks were unbelievable. I couldn’t imagine ever sharing at that gut retching level. The reason they read them was because they wouldn’t be able to tell them in the detail that they had written them. We would hear a talk, then go back to our rooms and write what our feelings were about the talks. It was all about our feelings. They said, “feelings are neither right nor wrong, they just are”. Then we would have to let our spouse read what we had written. The we had to dialogue on each others feelings. The hard part was not judging, but accepting their feelings, even when they were so different from yours and they didn’t make sense. For a guy who likes to “fix” things, this was very hard. We pressed on, sometimes having breakthroughs, sometimes winding up in arguments. This was definitely not what I had expected, and I could see it was having some impact on our marriage.

Then came Saturday night and the last subject of the night was God. There were four couples, three lay couples and one clergy couple. The clergy couple read the talk on God. For some reason it hit home with me. I saw God as a rule maker. One who makes us do things we really don’t want to do. I was turned off to religion from what I had seen in my teenage years at Ben Hill. I didn’t want to have anything to do with God. I wrote these feelings out for the first time in my life. Julia read them and we cried. Just like I am crying now as I write this. She accepted these feelings, feelings that I had been unable to accept. It was her love; her acceptance of feelings that I didn’t even like that opened the door to my healing. After we had talked, she had a suggestion. Why don’t we call the clergy couple to come to the room and talk me through this. I agreed, and we called the couple. They cane and we talked for a while. I told him my background and that for years I was always at the church for everything. I finally focused “the question” to him. I said that I can go to church, and I can love God but I son’t want to go to Sunday night service or wed night service. Do I have to go? He gave ne the one answer that set me free. I don’t think any other answer would have allowed me the freedom to be where I am today. I can hear his words tonight. “Tom, if you don’t want to go, don’t go. Just do what you want to do. God knows you and he will show you.” FREEDOM! I had never seen it or really experienced it. You see, as I was growing up, it was my dad’s salvation and religion that I had accepted. I had never come to the point of really accepting my own.

That night and weekend changed my life and our marriage. Julia’s love is what allowed me to share my deepest darkest fears. Things were never the same after that. That was really the beginning of our spiritual jopurney together. We were asked to be a presenting couple for marriage encounter. We had to write talks and then we were the ones reading our deepest darkest feelings. That was our first ministry together. It started a pattern that lasted for our entire time together. We were always pressing on together. Well, almost always. That’s another story for another time. But this marriage encounter weekend set us ablaze. The funny thing is, we still didn’t know about Holy Spirit yet. There was so much more to come.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Day 140 - Living in the Present - Future

I had to work today. It was day number 18 of work this month, one more to go tomorrow. I really hate working on Sundays. I didn’t mind it and didn’t worry about being of since we were having night services at church. I figured if I worked in the morning, I would make church at night. If I worked at night, I would go in the morning. But we stopped night services for the summer a couple of weeks ago. It messed me up because I was already scheduled to work these last two Sunday mornings. So I missed church again today. Well I really wanted to hear a good message and a friend had given me a CD of Graham Cooke’s titled “Legacy”. She said that I would enjoy it and I did. But it’s one of those messages that you have to hear a couple of times to get more out of it. I did get a couple of points that were very applicable to me right now. There are many more points, but I will have to go back and dig them up later.

Ever since Julia’s death I have been fighting with the desire to stay in the past and live there and the knowing that I have to press into the future. I have written about it an many occasions. I must live for today with my eye on the future rather than my eye on the past. Really, that is how we all should be living. But the problem is learning how to do it. How does it work? I’m still learning and my struggles and successes are well documented. What Graham says is that living in the “present future” is living in your present identity but calling your future destiny into the present to help you. I know that sounds strange, but don’t aren’t we told to speak to things that aren’t as though they were? If we know what God Has called us to be. We know who we are to become then we need to begin to step into that identity even before it has manifested. Our focus needs to be on how to become who God has called us to be. Bu focusing on how to become, we begin to be. In other words, we have to cooperate with Holy Spirit.

Abraham was 100 years old, Sara was in her 90’s. The promise of a son still had not happened. Abraham and Sara had to look past what they saw as reality and call fort what they knew to be their destiny. Part of that looking toward their destiny was to cooperate with Holy Spirit. They had to have intimate relations with each other even in their advanced age. It’s more than just believing. It’s taking action on your belief. This is giving me definition on some things that I have been dealing with in the outskirts of my thoughts. I have to learn to be more proactive about my destiny. Ever since Julia died, I have known that in order to get Divine Justice, I had to fight. But fight what? I know we have to fight the enemy, but we have to fight much more. I have to fight my own compliancy sometimes. I have to fight my own self-doubts and the lack of significance from the past. I heard a phrase on TV tonight surgeon said that surgeons could often be wrong, but never have doubt. That goes for us in the Kingdom as well. Sometimes we will miss it, but we must never doubt that we have the authority to go after it. I still have the passion, but time is critical. I want to make an impact on the world. Yes I said the world, not just Marietta or Atlanta. No not even just the US, but the whole world.

We all will leave footprints, how big they are I believe consist of two things. First the destiny and race that God has called us to, and second, what we do to fulfill that destiny. It’s not about how many people, or how big a ministry you have. The real question is when I am gone, did I do everything to fill the footprint that God had designed for me to fulfill. If I have done that, then I will have done well. So that’s my goal. First, to understand what that footprint is; second to see how big it is; and third to cooperate with Holy Spirit to fill it in the remaining time I have.

So I am choosing to live in the present future. I live in the present. I live today but I live today looking at the future. In that way, the future begins to shape how I live today. The focus of my life becomes today and not yesterday. The past is part of my inheritance that will help me, but the past is still the past. I must, and will focus on the future in living my life. The future is what will shape the present. I know I am saying the same thing in different ways, but as I write this, I’m trying to get it. I think that I am getting it, but it is an ongoing process and I will continue to come back to this theme as the year progresses. If we can get this, we will be propelled into our destiny. So I need to spend more time looking over all the prophetic words I have and seeking to know more about my destiny. I will have to make time tomorrow after work to spend some quality time with Holy Spirit. It should be a good day.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Day 139 - First Summer Planting

I slept in this morning. After getting up at 3AM and going to bed around 11PM for the last three days, I had a day off today. I slept until 9:30. I really couldn’t believe it was that late when I woke up. Over the years I have learned to listen to my body. I can go on little sleep for a few days, but I need to know when to take a nap, or when to sleep in. Listening to our body is much like listening to the Holy Spirit. Sometimes it’s the little quiet things we need to pay attention to. So I don’t really mind sleeping in when I need to, just as I don’t mind getting up when I need to. It’s that learning to enjoy the moment, living for today that lets you begin to understand what is right for today, for now. Anyway, after I got up I went for an hour run. The weather was nice. It was partly cloudy with a little breeze so it didn’t seem too hot. After I ran I came back and made a great breakfast. Yes I know it was lunchtime, but I really enjoy breakfast. I had cantaloupe, tomatoes and eggs. Along with the espresso it was great. Definitely a good way to start off the day!

I know that I have probably written that yard work is not my idea of fun. I’ve done enough for a lifetime, but life isn’t always about having fun. I had all the plants to plant that I bought yesterday. I could have put it off, the ground was pretty wet, but I wanted to get it done. So, I planted the Lantana in the back yard. As I was doing it I couldn’t help but think about Julia and how many times I had helped her plant. She loved to plant things. She had a long list of things she wanted to plant this summer. I don’t remember what they were, but as I remember them I will try to do it. I remember late last fall we spent an afternoon on the swing as she was laying out all that needed to be done. I wish that I had paid more attention but at the time I was just enjoying the day listening and talking about different plants, but I’m not sure where she wanted them.

As I was planting the Lantana a thought persisted. Why am I even planting these? That thought was even more present when I was planting the tomatoes and the peppers. I’m out of town a lot, how will all this grow? It was sometime during the planting I realized that I was planting these plants for at least two reasons. First, it was to honor Julia. She would want me to plant them and to keep the yard looking nice. The second was that I also wanted to keep the yard looking nice. So much of her has become a part of me that I find myself doing things and enjoying them because she did them. I actually enjoyed planting the plants today. In fact, I went back to Wal-Mart to try a grand experiment. The grand experiment is this. Do the upside down tomato planter’s work? I planted or should I san hung one of those and I also planted a tomato plant in a container on the deck. We will see if I can keep either one alive.

John and Biddie came back from a month at the beach. It was really good to spend time with them tonight. I really did miss their company. Today has been a good day; a day to settle back and recharge. I have felt a strong presence of Papa’s love all day. I did have sometime for prayer and reflection this morning during breakfast. I have been making declarations over my day for about a month now. I don’t always get to, but when I do, it seems to make a difference. His love abounds, all we have to do is to learn to move into it’s presence and then allow the flow of His love to be with us. If everything we do is from rest, we will stay in the flow. If we start striving, we can begin to feel the peace rest. That is a warning sigh to get back into a place of rest. We have to learn to listen not only to our body, but to our spirit. The problem with most of us is that we have never gotten to the rest to begin with. So we don’t know the difference between His peace and our striving. I have to learn to continually operate in His rest, no matter what I am doing. If I can do that, then I can maintain His presence wherever I go. This is key; remain in His rest. Believe His word, both the Logos and the Rheama. He so wants to use us, we need to learn to let Him.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Day 138 - Shopping for Plants

Julia and I both like tomatoes. In the past we had gardens, but not lately. For the past four or five years we have planted about three tomato plants and two or three Jalapeno pepper plants. We normally get our tomatoes from “farmer John” Steed. John normally has a big garden with lots of tomatoes and peppers, so we could get most of what we need from him. But Julia loved to plant the plants, so I would usually help her plant them and watch after them. I have been debating about whether I was going to plant any this year or not. I was really leaning toward not planting any, but the thought continued to bug me. This afternoon I went “plant shopping”. You would think that you could find everything you needed at the first place you went. Well we usually had good luck at Home Depot, s that was my first stop. As I got there and stated looking around I saw so many things that I needed to buy. I needed some more plants in the back and I definitely need to change out the pansies in the front for some summer plants. Memories flooded back about the numerous times Julia and I went looking together for just the right annual to give the right color to the yard. I looked at some that I thought would work, about I couldn’t decide. I also wanted a couple of Boston Ferns, but the ones at Hme Depot were either too dead or too expensive. The vegetables at Home Depot were just as bad so I didn’t get any. I left empty handed.

I then went to Lowes. I figured they would be at least as good as home depot. Their tomatoes and peppers were worse than Home Depot. The other plants looked good, and I almost bought some, but I couldn’t bring myself to make a decision. I kept thinking about what Julia would want here or there and I couldn’t come to any decision. I did over hear someone say that Wal Mart had a good selection of tomatoes and cheaper too. I decided to leave and try Pikes Nursery and finally go to Wal Mart. Pikes was terrible. They didn’t have as much as Home Depot or Lowes. Walking into that store gave me the impression that they were about to go out of business. It was very bare considering what it was like the last time I was in there. I usually like Pikes, but I can see that they will have a hard time making it in this economy when they have to compete with Wal Mart, Home Depot, and Lowes; all within 3 miles of each other. As I was walking around Pikes I realized that a pattern of thinking had set in and had to be broken.

All of the time in each of the stores I was constantly thinking of the past. Of when Julia and I were in the same stores doing the same things. Thinking that over and over had been to get me into a depressed state. It wasn’t about buying plants any more, it was about feeling sorry for myself. Once again I had a choice. I could continue to keep the same thought pattern; reliving old memories or I could shake these thoughts off and press into the needs of today. I needed to find the plants if anything were to get done this weekend, I chose to stop thinking about the past and trying to relive old times with Julia. Instead I focused on Papa and his goodness. I praised Him and asked Holy Spirit to help me find what I needed.

When I pulled into the Wal Mart parking lot, (after stopping at Starbucks for and iced coffee), things were totally different. I felt lighter and more focused. Wal Mart had everything I was looking for today. I got the tomato plants, pepper plants, the Boston ferns and even some Lantana for the back yard. It all looked very healthy and was less expensive than anywhere else. I don’t really think the plants were that much better than the other places, it’s just that I was seeing them through different lenses. That made all the difference. I got home and was going to plant them when a thunderstorm came up, so I took a nap instead. I’ll plant them tomorrow, weather permitting.

So what did I learn today? I learn something every day if I seek it out. Well, I realized that I have to continually check out what lenses I am looking at life through. If I allow myself to look at things for too long as they used to be, I will never find what I am looking for. Everything will be colored with memories from the past. This is so easy to do, because the memories were good memories that I really don’t want to forget. But I can’t let them color the present because they will stifle life. No, I have to focus on today and what Papa has for me right now. I can occasionally glance at the memories but I have to focus on now. This is very important for all of us. If we find ourselves focusing on what was or what might have been we will miss what God has for us now. So don’t be afraid to check yourself, especially when you hav had loss. Where is your focus? This is and ongoing process, sometimes minute by minute.

I’m glad I got the plants and I look forward to the fresh tomatoes and hot jalapenos. The homemade salsa should be real good!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Day 137 Breakthroughs

Tonight at our monthly Thursday night Healing Ministry we had a breakthrough. Yes, we had a new model that opened up things more for the Holy Spirit to move. Yes, we had more people to pray for than we have ever had, probably over 50 went through in about 2 hours. Yes, we had probably 5o people or more on the team. Yes, we had a worship team that did an incredible job. All of these factors made it possible, but they weren’t the breakthrough. I believe the breakthrough came with the intense, heavy Presence of the Father that was here tonight. It was probably the most anointed night that I have had praying, and I believe the reason was because of His strong love and presence. It was hard not to rest in the anointing tonight.
So why did we have this breakthrough. I believe that Holy Spirit was honored because we did everything in our power to make Him feel welcome. That began in the office when we were worshiping Him and continued in everything we did tonight. Terry, Lynn and the whole healing leadership team has been working very hard to create an atmosphere that is conducive to the release of the Presence of God. A lot of thought and prayer went into this model, and it took many ministries of the church working together to make it happen. This is just one example of what I believe God is doing and about to do in RiverStone. I see RiverStone like a ripe watermelon that is almost ready to explode (in a good way). When it does, ministries are going to be birthed. I believe He is about to birth at least 2 different outreach ministries into the community. I believe that healing and the prophetic are going to increase and be taken into the community to help bring transformation. These are exciting times and all we can do is hang on and be ready.

So it that is how it is done corporately, how do we do this individually? What do you and I as individuals have to do to receive a personal breakthrough? First, I think that it is not about the breakthrough itself. It is really about making Holy Spirit more welcome in our lives (houses). It is really about welcoming His Presence, and then doing whatever it takes to keep His presence with in us. That includes worship, creating a proper atmosphere for Him to flourish. He loves me and wants to hang out, but we have a say so in what we do to honor Hip. His presence should be the main focus of our lives.

When we carry His presence, other people notice and the atmosphere in the room changes. We can do that. We can change the atmosphere if we are bold enough and willing enough to be seen like a fool. I guess one of the main things I learned through impartation and modeling at school last year was how to change the atmosphere of the room. I watched Scott, Tracy and all of the team on different occasions come into the room and cause a shift in the Spirit. This is not bragging, but just facts. Holy Spirit allowed me to come into a room and shift the Spirit tonight. When I walked into the church office, there were many of the team just sitting down. Some were just talking, but there seemed a heavy spirit. There really wasn’t much joy in the room and although certain individuals carried His presence, overall the Presence of God was absent. I walked in knowing it was up to me to “fan the flame” of His presence until the presence of God was so strong that it took over the room. I knew that I couldn’t do it alone, but I knew that He wanted it, so if He wanted it, all I had to do was risk looking like a fool and He was bound to show up. It was a great time of joy and release of His love. I truly believe it set the stage for tonight’s breakthrough. It was fun and exciting to see Him move like He did. I love His presence. It’s what keeps me going when times are hard and blesses me to no end when times are good. Life in the Spirit really is all about hosting His presence.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Day 136 - Markers and Monuments

I think that I need to read “The Shack” again. I’ve read it at least three times and have gotten more out of it each time. But now I feel that I understand so much more. Today has been an OK day; nothing bad, and nothing great. Maybe it’s because I went to the cemetery to talk with them about a marker for Julia’s grave. I did go see her grave and we looked at various markers. I could have made a decision then, but I wanted to talk it over with the girls. Also I realize now, I just wanted to get away from there. After the meeting I got some lunch and I went to see Iron Man 2. It was a fun movie and a diversion. I didn’t realize I neede the diversion but Papa must have. Then I cam home and cut the grass. I also took about a thirty minute “powernap”. I do this often when I get up so early. I had a good dinner and we had rain. These are all good things, and I feel OK. It’s just that I can sense that fog of sadness hovering just above me. I wonder if this is what “the great sadness” was like in the book. When I am really strong in the Lord, or really busy, it seems to be gone. But it’s not, it’s right there waiting to come back. If I chose to give into it, I could let it just swallow me up. If I did this, I know that eventually I would crash and burn. No, I have to acknowledge it, ask Holy Spirit what area I need to deal with. Then I have to look at a small area, deal with it emotionally and then glory in God’s goodness. His love is sufficient, but we have to choose to move out of the sadness and into His love.

I wish that you could feel what I feel as I am feeling it. Just as I was writing that last paragraph, the minute I wrote that we have to choose to move out of the sadness and into His love, it’s like the fog moved out and the sadness lifted. It’s like I am participating in a grand experiment of learning how to walk in a deep level of God’s goodness and grace. It is so amazing to see how He works, and how quick He can be to react. But whether He works or reacts or not, His goodness and grace are still so real. He is truly worthy of all praise. Now I feel I can write more about my feelings on graves and markers.

Personally, I don’t care whether I am in a grave or have a marker. However I think it might be important for family and friends to give them some focal point for closure and memories. So really for the family and friends, I want to get the marker right. I’m not one to go to gravesides on a regular basis, so I don’t necessarily understand people who do. But I want to honor their feelings. I think I have found one and the girls agree. That means one more trip out there to finalize the deal. Of course this brings up other issues. What am I going to do when I die? Am I going to be buried next to Julia? I have a plot. I always said that I wanted to be cremated and my ashes scattered in some of my favorite places. Can I bury a box with some of me there? Economically it makes sense to go ahead and have a double marker placed. If I do that, do I put my name on it with everything but the date of my death? That seems a little morbid. I could right an Edgar Allen Poe poem about something like that. These are issues I really don’t want to deal with, but the time has come to deal with them. Decisions have to be made, and I don’t need to procrastinate any longer. I’ll meditate, pray, sleep and decide. I know that once the decision is made, I cam move on. So I don’t want to make this into a long process.

I was looking at the markers and there was room for either a phrase or verse on them. I was thinking that mine would read “God is Good” or “Unlock my Roar”. But I need to either get a verse or a phrase for Julia. If any of you who new her well have any ideas, email them to me. Well it’s time to see who won American Idol and then to bed. Three AM comes early tomorrow. The fog is gone. It is a good night!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Day 135 - Dreams

Dreams are a funny thing. Sometimes they make sense, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they are long and involved and sometimes they are short. Sometimes they make sense and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they are from God and sometimes they are not. At any rate, I don’t dream a lot, and I try to remember when I do dream. I do dream in color most of the time. I know that our Spirit never sleeps. I used to dream of flying, not in a plane, but just folding my arms and flying. I think I wrote about that in on of my other blogs. At any rate, I did dream last night. For the first time since Julia dies, she was in the dream. She looked just like she did, smiling and happy. We were happy and sitting in a field with children. I couldn’t tell who the children were, only that they were young. She looked at me, and put her finger on my neck. There was a some sort of necklace around it. She smiled and said to me, “Oh, you’re wearing a necklace again, I like it.” Then it was over, that was it. Now in our married life I have worn a necklace twice. Once in Hawaii I had a puka shell necklace that I wore when I was off duty. Then in the late 70’s thru the late 80’s I had a gold chain that I wore. That’s the only time that I have worn one. However I have been thinking about getting another gold chain. NO! I’m not going through a midlife crisis. I think I’ve already done that. I have been thinking about when the time comes to take off my wedding ring that I would put it on a chain around my neck. That way it would always be close to my heart. It’s just a passing thought right now, but the dream brought it to my memory.

I hate filling out forms right now. I hate the forms that have you give your marital status. I can’t really say I’m married, but I don’t feel single. I refuse to check the term widowed or widower. So I normally just leave it blank if I can. You see I feel married and I don’t care if I always feel that way. I still have my wedding ring on, and I am comfortable with it like that. But every now and then someone, usually at work ask about my family and my wife. Then the conversation either gets complicated or quiet. I know that someday I will take the ring off, probably for the reasons I just stated. It will be to complicated to explain. But I will have to be told by Holy Spirit or Jesus or Papa to do it. It might take all three. Who knows? But for right now I’m comfortable. I might get the chain or I might not. I have no idea.

Anyway, back to the dream. It was good to have it, and good to see her smiling at me. I don’t know of any other significance. I do want more dreams. I’m praying for them. Not about Julia, but dreams from God. Dreams that help define destiny and calling. I want dreams that confirm prophetic words. So I’m asking Papa to increase my dream life and give me the gift of interpretation.

Today was a good day. I was off, and after watching 24 last night, I slept until 8. I got up and went for an hour run. Then I came home, had breakfast on the deck. I was able to read some and have a quiet time out there. I went out for a while and then came home. I have been here since around 2. In my office I had numerous piles of paperwork waiting for my attention, so that’s where I spent the afternoon. Not very exciting, but I got a lot accomplished. All day, I have just been resting in the awesome love of God. I know that most people haven’t experienced His love to the depths that I have this year. I know that I can’t persuade them to change their minds with fine words. All I can do is be a living example of someone who knows the Father’s love so deeply. Then I can help lead them into an experience. I want to give it away, but so many people just don’t want to take it. It really makes me sad. It also makes me want to be able to relate to them so much more. If they could only really see what He is like. Well, I’m learning, and if I continue, I am sure I will be able to share more with them. So I wonder if Julia really does want me to get the necklace, or if it was just a dream? I’ll have to think, meditate and pray in that one.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Day 134 - 24 Ends

Sometimes writing is really a discipline. Tonight is one of those times. Here it is 10:34 PM and I am just starting writing my blog. That’s not unusual, but tonight, the last 2 hours of 24 were on TV. The problem was I haven’t seen them yet. I have the final 2 hours ever of 24 recorded on my DVR and I can’t watch them. If I start now, I will probably never get this writing done. So here I am in my rocking chair typing on my Mac, listening to Love Came Down.

The reason I haven’t watched 24 yet is because I have been at a cell group. This was not my cell; group we meet on Thursday nights. No this is the group of some friends. They asked if I would come and teach a little about prophecy and prophecy over their group. How could I turn that down? I even chose the Monday night I wanted. I just forgot that this was the final episode of 24 tonight. I took Brad and Mallory with me and we had a ball. To be honest, about 5PM I really didn’t want to go. I didn’t have a clue as to what we would do, and I really didn’t feel like it. But I knew that we were supposed to go, and that if we went, Holy Spirit would be there with us. The one main thing I learned in school last year was to be willing to sep out into areas where if He doesn’t show up, I will look like a fool. Well tonight was one of those nights, and He showed up in power. We were able to teach, answer questions and then prophecy over everyone in the cell (well we missed one person because she left early). The words seemed to be well received and pretty accurate. It is so much fun to do the Kingdom stuff. In fact I didn’t even miss 24 until I got home. I was about to make some popcorn and settle in to watch it when I remembered that I needed to write.

I remember when Julia and I first started watching 24. The first season on TV we didn’t watch it at all. About halfway through the season, we began to hear about it and were kicking ourselves for not starting it. When the DVD’s came out, I bought the whole season. We really didn’t know what it would be like or whether we would like it. I was concerned about whether she would like it or not. After all we had 24 episodes to watch. If she didn’t like it I didn’t know when I would ever get to see it. I knew we had to see the first season to move on to the next. We both started watching the first hour and we were both hooked. We had never seen a TV show so intense and fast moving. The content was relevant, sometimes almost prophetic, to what was going on in the world. The good thing about the DVD’s was there were no commercials. The bad thing was that the show was so intense you almost needed the commercials for some relief. Also, you could watch more than one episode at a time. We found ourselves in a 24 marathon. We would watch them until late into the night. We didn’t want to stop to go to bed or work or do anything. When the weekend came, that’s all we did until we had finished the season. At times we both thought we would have a heart attack things were so intense. The next year we couldn’t wait for the season to start. Then the next year and the next. I believe that this is the only show that Julia and I saw every show that was produced. We were talking earlier in December before she died about this season and how much we were looking forward to it. As the years progressed, we started to tape it so we could fast forward through the commercials. Plus by recording it, we were free to do what we wanted on Monday Night and catch up sometime that week. We would never watch it alone. We always waited to watch it together. It was just our thing. We would discuss the plot and what had happened. We always had different ideas about who the bad guys were or what was going to happen to Jack.

So here it is tonight the final show. It is going off the air after eight seasons. It’s been nine years since it started. One year they didn’t have the show because of the writer’s strike. We both were extremely disappointed that year, but the next year it was back and better than ever. This year has been good. I’ve missed my discussions with Julia as I watched it, but just watching it kept some semblance of order in my life. I knew that this was something we would be doing. Because of school I usually watched it later in the week, but that was OK too. I could almost feel her presence with me as I watched Jack save the world from the bad guys. So tonight another constant in my life changes; there will be no more 24 to watch. Another thing that I always did with Julia ends. I guess this is as it should be; old things do pass away. Her presence is still here even if the things we did together begin to disappear.

So, it’s 11:10 PM. The question is do I do the sensible thing and go to bed? I am off tomorrow. No, I think I will go ahead and make the popcorn, watch 24 and remember how much Julia and I enjoyed it together. I’m not sure if Jack will make it back. I think he might have gone to far this time. Well I will know by 1AM!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Day 133 - I Get Set Up for Change

“Come to Sunday School! No way. I just want to sit in the back of the church. I didn’t want to come anyway. No, I will not do the Sunday School!” It has been over thirty years, and I’m certainly not sure the words are correct, but I do know that the sentiment is. I did not want to go to Sunday school. I agreed to go to a big Methodist church so I could get lost, not be found. I knew from experience that small groups like Sunday school led to other things. They led to involvement, something I desperately wanted to avoid. We had been to church just once, and already I could see where this was going. I tried to sit in the back and not even make eye contact with anyone, but Julia was more outgoing than I had ever seen her, and she was talking to almost everybody. I just wanted to quickly get to the nursery and get the kids, get out of there and go home. Too late, we were caught. A couple was talking to Julia smiling and making nice. I just wanted out, but I was trapped. The woman and Julia hit it off right away. They were about the same height, which was strange since Julia said she was 5’0’, but she was really shorter. Anyway I had to smile and make small talk, which I hated. Then the invitation happened. “We would love to have you visit our Sunday School class next Sunday.” Instead of being nom committal like I was, Julia said, “We would love to”. I was furiously seething under my breath but I calmed down when I remembered was on call and would probably be flying anyway. So that was our first encounter with John and Biddie Steed. I’m sure that they never had any idea about how mad I was that day until I told them later.

Well I lost the battle, and eventually we started attending the “Open Door” Sunday school class. It really was a good class with lots of great couples. John was the teacher, and he was pretty good. If I had to go to Sunday school, it could have been worse. Church was interesting too. I was hoping for a large dead church. What we walked into was a strong evangelical church where the preacher preached salvation. This church was more like a Baptist church than a Methodist. I had been totally set up by the Holy Spirit and didn’t even know it. We even had a visit form te pastor right after we first visited. I was impressed and amazed. It seems that my heart was melting a little bit. But there was still a long way to go. The church was different than the Baptist church in one way. The emphasis was more on the Good News of Jesus Christ rather than the punishment of Hell. Things were starting to have an impact in different ways.

I thought that Julia and I had a good marriage. We didn’t throw things at each other, and no one ever got violet when we fought. But we did fight, a lot. Most of it was on unmet expectations that each of us had for the other. Most of the times they ended quickly, but sometimes they could last for days. Many times I would love to go on a trip, just to get out of the house. I’m sure if Julia were to tell you, she was glad for me to go to. If you looked form the outside in, you might have thought everything was OK. According to the world, we were doing great. We had been married almost ten years and for the most part things were OK. But we were seeing marriages in our Sunday school that were radically different from ours. Sometimes it really made me nervous. These husbands were actually paying attention to their wives, and holding hands when they walked. They brought them flowers foe no reason. The wives were even worse. It was like they were making “goo-goo” eyes to them in public. In some ways it was almost disgusting. But in other ways it was intriguing. What did they have that we didn’t? Were we missing out on something? Well it didn’t take long to find out that all of them had been to a weekend called “Marriage Encounter”. It was a weekend away that had been started by the Catholic church and adopted by the Methodist and other denominations. Almost every couple in our Sunday school except us had been to this weekend, so the pressure for us to attend was being put on. Once again I wanted no part of this or any other “marriage” training. I wasn’t going to go. But as the habit had become, I lost this battle as well. Why was I losing all these battles? Looking back, I can certainly see the work of Holy Spirit in my life then. I really think He would work to soften my heart just a little so there would be a crack in my armor and then I would give in. It seems like I, no we were being sit up. Papa wanted what we had promised. He wanted our lives. So anyway, Julia and I agreed to go on an encounter weekend. We were both nervous and ready to walk out at the drop of a hat. But we went and I am so glad that we did. That weekend changed my life, and changed our marriage both for the good. In fact, for me it was one of the most “life changing” events I ever attended. But that story will have to wait for another night.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Day 132 - Choices

Sometimes around the house is seems like nothing has changed. I might be outside, or in the other room, and I almost expect to hear Julia call, or to run into her. It’s almost like a shock back to reality when I realize that that was the “old normal” The “new normal” is that I am by myself here. That is not bad, and I don’t want people to think, “Oh he’s so alone”, because I’m not. I’m just by myself. There is a difference in being alone and being by yourself. You can be alone in a crowd; you don’t have to be by yourself. I’ve felt alone surrounded by friends. I guess I could clarify what I mean by “being alone”. I should probably say lonely. Yesterday morning I was lonely. Today I’m not. The circumstances haven’t changed, but I have. Really it’s just that I have been focused on other things and people more than myself today. Also I have constantly been seeking His presence throughout the day. That doesn’t mean I’ve listened to worship music, read the bible and prayed all day. In fact, today it’s been quite the opposite. I did worship going to work early this morning, and then on the way home from work. But I ran, cut grass, read fixed dinner and watched a movie. All in all it was a pretty busy day. I listened to 60’s music when I ran and cut grass. So what did I do differently than yesterday?

First, I didn’t spend any time continually thinking about the past. Sure, thoughts pass in and out of my mind all day about Julia and the past. I just was thankful for the memory, and pressed into today. Memories are good. I want to always have them. I never want to loose them, but they are not a place to camp for very long. So today I enjoyed the memory and moved on. Second and probably more important, I was stand with Papa and resting in His goodness all day long. Last night at sozo I was able to take the time to draw some prophetic pictures for the individual we were working with. One of the first pictures that Papa gave me was a page divided in half. On the left side was a grey sky with rain coming down. It looked dreary. But there was a purple umbrella closed, not being used in an umbrella stand. The right side of the picture was the same grey sky, sane dreary place. But there was an open umbrella. The umbrella was purple and all the area that was covered by the umbrella was yellow, orange. It was very bright and I thought represented God’s glory. What He told me while drawing that picture was this: The circumstances can be exactly the same, but we have a choice in every situation to rest under His covering, or leave the umbrella closed and not use it.. If we do use it we get so much more than just the protection from the “rain”. We also get to walk in His rest and goodness. That’s because His Glory is His Goodness. It is there for us each time we chose to walk into it. So, today my circumstances were exactly the same as yesterday, but the way I approached the day, and the evidence of His presence was so much different. Choices, it’s the choices we make that make a difference in the day that we have.

I remember the scene from “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” where Indy is in the tomb trying to choose the proper “cup of Christ”. The old knight has two words for him; “choose wisely”. These are the words I have to hear daily, no much more than daily. The choices that I make determine the outcome of my day. That’s true for all of us. You don’t have to be grieving. The choices we make really wind up determining our destiny. God has given us free choice. Why? I think it is because He wants us to have the choice not to choose Him. That makes those who do choose Him so much more special to Him. So as we walk through our day, these words echo among the halls of our lives; Choose Wisely”!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Day 131 - It's all about Focus

First let me say that today was a good day. As I sit here tonight in my rocking chair listening to music I can rest in His peace. The presence of Papa, Jesus and Holy Spirit is very strong. I am so thankful for all that He has done today. I am especially thankful for His grace. I also promised to be real and share my ups and downs, so here goes.

When I woke up this morning I felt heaviness that I don’t remember feeling. I probably did, but it has been a long time. I felt OK, but it was like when you go outside and you can see the fog but it hasn’t quite settled yet. You know it’s settling, you just don’t know when. The stillness of the air and the heaviness of the fog make everything seem different. That’s how I felt this morning. I couldn’t put my finger in it, but I knew it was different. I had an early trip to Alpharetta. My Chiropractor/ Nutritionist has his office there. I have been going to him for almost 3 years now. Julia found him and went for almost a year before I went. I like him a lot and really respect his knowledge in both areas. Why do I go that far? Well, his adjustments are over 15 minutes long and consist of massage and muscle manipulation as well as the normal adjustment. A year ago I had some bad foot problems. No other chiropractor around here would really deal with it. He works with it every time I go. I have been running since. When I fell and dislocated my ACL joint I my shoulder He was the only one who would with me. I see him about every 3 weeks instead of twice or once a week. He is expensive, but I think he is worth it. As a nutritionist, he has me taking a lot of different supplements to keep me strong and healthy. Up until Julia died, I had been pretty faithful to take them. Since she has been gone, I haven’t been as good. In fact I haven’t taken any for the past 3 weeks. Today’s visit was just for Chiropractic, so I know that he wouldn’t ask me about the other. Still as I drove over I was pondering why I had been so lax. Why hadn’t I taken things that I knew were good for me and would help. As I was thinking about that all of a sudden tears started coming out of my eyes and down my cheeks. I kept thinking about Julia and her taking all the supplements. Then it hit me. She had taken all this stuff, but it didn’t help her. I just didn’t care anymore. Right at this time, it didn’t matter to me whether it kept me healthy or not.

I have really done pretty good in almost every area. I haven’t had a bad day, I love life and I love my family, but here I was, in this area not caring. At that moment, all I really wanted was to be with Julia. Taking care of myself really didn’t matter. I realized that this area is an area I really need healing in. I do care about life. I care about my destiny, and about my family. But my actions in this one area say otherwise. As the tears were flowing one of the Jesus Culture songs about God is Good came on. His love overtook my thoughts and I was moved into a better place. But the fog was still there, still thick and not settled yet. I got to my appointment and went in for my adjustment. I started to talk about the supplement issue, but decided against it. I really felt that Papa was going to work with me on this if I would let Him.

Lisa is getting ready to move to Norfolk Virginia. She has a house in Mobile that hasn’t sold in this market and we found her a place to live in Norfolk. We have been praying for a month for the right person to rent her house, but so far there hadn’t been any takers. I prayed with Bud last night at cell group about the situation and I have been trusting in God’s provision for her. I had been praying for this situation as I drove for my morning appointment. After I left the chiropractor’s I was on my way home when I started thing about Julia again. The heaviness was still there, and tears once again began to flow. Both times this morning were not like anything in the past. It’s like the pain was not strong, but just under the surface. At the drop of a hat, with no warning the tears started flowing. I was wondering how much linger this fog would last when I got a text from Lisa. (I stopped at a red light and I read it). She had just received word that her house was going to be rented. Great news! Awesome news! So here is the situation. I’m in my car with silent tears running down my face, thinking about wanting to be with Julia. The text comes and the overwhelming goodness and favor of God flood my car. I am driving down the road crying, laughing, in pain, agony and joy all at the same time. I can hardly see the road because of the tears of pain mixed with the tears of joy. Then all of a sudden, it was over. There was nothing left but joy and I was laughing. The fog lifted, washed away by the knowledge of His goodness. All the rest of the day, I have been resting in His joy. There have been some other difficult circumstances, but I would not allow my focus to remain on anything but His goodness. So, I have to learn to continue to keep my focus on His goodness. It’s not about my experience, but the fact that He is good in all situations. I’ve also learned that times of this fog will move in and to get them to move out I have to intentionally focus on His goodness and what He is doing in my life NOW. It seems today I am living what we talked about right now. As much as I love Julia, that time is in the past. My memories and love will always honor her, but my life lived well will honor her more. I have to focus on TODAY. I have to trust Him and His promises for tomorrow. I have to maintain proper focus.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day 130 - It's about the Flow

We talked about God’s Goodness tonight in cell group. It was a good discussion and it’s interesting to see how much our experience colors how we see God. I know that from Sozo training and my own experience. Some day, somehow we will believe God for who He says He is, and what his word says about him and not what our life experience tells us. I really don’t think that I did a god job tonight. There is so much more I could have said. I’m so glad that I had two strong teachers there to help bail me out. I truly believe you could put 15 people in a room and you would have twenty ideas about God’s goodness. I think they are beginning to get it, but I’m not sure. This is as important as identity. This is really a key core value if we are going to establish a Kingdom culture. We have come a long way, but we surely are not there yet. Over all though, it went well and worship was awesome. Kathy did a great job leading us into His presence, searching for His Glory and Goodness. While we were there, the Holy Spirit took over and released a prophetic song from the Father’s heart to us. That seemed to break the dam and you could feel the love and goodness of God rush in and begin to permeate our hearts. We then divided up into three groups for ministry time and that was awesome. There were prophetic words, baptisms in the Holy Spirit, healings and prayers for healings. So it was a “normal” night for our cell group. It is so much fun when He shows up.

Today was really a busy day. I didn’t get home from work until after four and I had to be at the church at six forty. So I ate some left over chili and did a couple of things around the house and it was time to go. I’m glad that I have a day off tomorrow. I have to go to a meeting in the morning, but most of the day is mine. We have sozo tomorrow night, so I will be busy then. I know that will be good. I just want to see Him move. I love to see His face. You know that He is the God of the now. His name is I am, not I was. So many times we get so caught up in our past that we can’t see the present. He wants to meet us here, in the now. He doesn’t care about our past. He has promises for our future, but He wants to deal with us now, in the present. Our problem is we think too much of our past. Then we look to the future and we don’t want to deal with the present. The only way to get to our promises of the future is to deal with the present. He is here, now to deal with my issues. The question is this: Am I ready to deal with my issues? I think I am, so I have to be open to allow Holy Spirit to search my heart and show me what we need to deal with. I don’t have to “naval gaze”. He will find what we need to deal with. The only question, the only thing that could hold me back is my willingness. Am I willing? Will I allow Him to search and then deal with what He finds? This is not a one-time thing; it is a lifelong process. We have to do this probably daily. At least I do. There are always issues coming up that I need to deal with. Well, I am willing. This is a process that I go through often. Not every day, but when I feel like there might be something blocking His presence in my life. This is like the idea of keeping short accounts and forgiving others quickly. It allows me to experience more of His presence and goodness in my life.

As I sit here tonight, I can truly feel his presence. I hope that if you are reading this you can find time to do this yourself. You see, it’s not about performance. It’s really about love. It’s about giving love, but even more it’s about learning to receive love. We need to learn to be receivers. We need to be people who easily receive His love at any time or any place. My goal is to be a “fire starter”. I can’t be a “Fire starter” unless I have fire within me. I can’t have fire within me unless I learn how to receive His love. So, I all boils down to being open to receive His love so we can then give it away. It’s about flow. We can’t let the flow be dammed up in any area.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day 129 - View from the Swing

Today was the kind of day you live in Atlanta for. It’s too bad we don’t have more of them. The weather was Chamber of Commerce perfect. We had clear, sunny skies, low humidity and temperatures around 75 for the high. The good news is I got off from work early and had all afternoon to enjoy the weather. It seems like for the past month when the weather was awesome here, I was either at work or out of town. I was able to get a 5-mile run in early this afternoon. It was great, hot but not too hot and I was able to really enjoy it. Then my plan was to do some yard work, spray weeds or something. But I got caught up lying out on the screened porch resting after my run. The next thing I knew almost an hour had past. Sleeping on the porch is one of my favorite pastimes when the weather is nice. I’ve been tempted to sleep out on the porch during the night. I haven’t done it yet, but the summer is still young. Anyway when I woke up I only had time to do what I had promised myself that I would do on the next good weather day I had.

So I grabbed something to drink and a book that I wanted to start reading and I went down to the swing. I was down there about an hour, mainly reading and thinking. I also spent a great deal of time just looking around the yard. The swing is really a pretty picture when you look at it from the deck. You are high above it, and it looks so isolated and far away. When I sat sown on it and looked out, I remembered how much Julia and I lived it and why. The view from the swing gives a totally different perspective of our yard. When you look at the yard and house from the swing, you are looking up, not down. Everything seems different. The terraced yard is in such better perspective. You can see the stone walls that define the terraces. All the plants are seen in a different perspective. I was amazed at how much bigger they had all grown. Well most all, we had a couple of casualties over the winter. But they are really filling in and the yard is taking the shape and form we envisioned when we planted the small plants. I can imagine Papa and Holy Spirit looking at us and saying the same thing. They can see how much we have filled out spiritually and can see where the hard winter has had an effect on us. They are the master gardeners and know how to bring restoration and healing to areas that have been damaged or wounded by the storms of life.

I also saw a lot of weeds, especially around the swing area. You see, we claimed that area from the woods. We cleared all the brush and put pine straw down and last year it looked great. But nature is about reclaiming what was taken, and she is trying to take that area back. I’m sure she was trying last year, but last year Julia was there, always on top of the situation. If I came home from work and it was a pretty day, I could usually find her out in the back yard pulling weeds or planting something. As I looked up I could see tangibly another effect of her absence. The weeds are growing. I have two choices. I can spray them, or pull them up. I will probably spray them; it’s easier and quicker. She wouldn’t let me, she wanted them pulled up, but I really don’t have the time and energy or passion for that, so I will probably spray them. But as I looked at the weeds I thought about how much her presence affected others and me. God used her in my life to “weed” the garden of my heart until He taught me how to do it. I know that her impact on our girls was tremendous. I see so much of her in both of them. Her impact on so many was like weeding a garden. You don’t realize what was done until it is not being done anymore. You don’t realize the garden had weeds when someone was constantly pulling them up. Then when no one is there you realize that something has to be done, and that something important was being done while you had no clue about it. There are so many areas in my life like that. Things that she did for me that I took for granted, not realizing that she was doing them. As these months pass I am beginning to respect her in her absence even more than I did in her presence. That thought really makes me sad. I realize that I really didn’t honor her enough, even though I thought I did. I really consider myself to be a good husband. If I missed it, how much more do those “not so good” husbands miss it with their wives? For all you husbands out there, you really ought to ask the Holy Spirit to show you if you giving honor to your wife like you should. To all you wives, bless you. You need to know that Papa sees your love and sacrifice even when no one else does.

So I’m sitting down on the swing, thinking about my life and where it is going. I just started reading a book called “the Flip Side”. It’s about being all you can be and reaching your potential. He basically says that we all have areas that hinder our growth and destiny. He calls then personal constraints. Anyway, so far it is really good. I know that I have personal constraints; I just need to identify them and deal with them. Julia could see them and make me deal with them. Now I have to work with Holy Spirit, but I have to be ruthless in my ability to deal with them, and I don’t think I am there yet. It is really a process you know. It took me a long time to trust Julia’s discernment. Now it’s gone, and I have to ask Holy Spirit for a quick download. We were so much a team we could use each other’s strengths and hide each other’s weaknesses. It’s like I’m in a battle and all of a sudden, my left flank is exposed to the enemy. Right now I know that prayers and angelic protection are protecting me. That is great, and I am so grateful to Papa and all the saints who are praying. However, I have to gird myself up in the Holy Spirit. I have to learn to lean into Holy Spirit just as I learned to lean into Julia. He is my protector and teacher. I have to learn quickly. So I need to learn to weed my own garden. I really think I have the tools, I just have to be intentional in using them.

So, that’s what I learned sitting on the swing today. We all need a different view, a different perspective, sometimes. Today was a good day. Holy Spirit showed me some things. That is good.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Day 128 - Transitions

I had a pretty good day. I was tired this morning and didn’t want to get up, but once I got moving things were good. I’m in the middle of the work marathon. I’ll be off on Friday, and I am looking forward to that day. Tonight is beautiful. It’s dry with very low humidity. It’s gong to be a good night to sleep with the windows opened. When I got home this afternoon I began to do some of the “chores” I have been putting off. Our sofa has slipcovers. We have two sets, one for spring and summer and one for fall and winter. The fall and winter covers have still been on. I know that Julia would have probably changed them out in late April. I didn’t even know where they were or if I could figure out how to change them. I was able to find them in the basement, and I had no problem changing them. I remembered helping her once before and it wasn’t that hard. I also took the down comforter off my bed. It was beginning to get a little hot at night. So the house is “summerized”. My other chores consisted of cutting the grass and then doing laundry, folding sheets and then fixing dinner. So I have had a pretty busy afternoon. The only thing that I didn’t get to do was to take a run. Boy it was a beautiful day to miss running, but hopefully tomorrow I will have more time to get a run in. I do work tomorrow again at 9:20. Hopefully I will be home a little earlier in the afternoon. Having tonight off is still weird. I feel like I should be in school. Well, I am going to enjoy the break because school will start soon enough.

I looked at the swing today from a distance. I really wanted to go swing in it, but I was just too busy. Maybe tomorrow I will get to swing. I am still wondering what the new normal is looking like. I have thought I have found it a number of times, only to realize it’s not here yet. But as I work around the house and change things around a little, things are becoming a little different. I don’t mean the house looks different, because it doesn’t. But more and more things are not where Julia left them, or I have changed out what she had in the house in January. But there is so much left to do. Everything in the bathroom under her sink is still pretty much as it was when she was here. The same is true for where she kept her jewelry. Really the only thing I have cleaned out has been my closet. I’ve got stuff in the kitchen that I will never use. After Jennifer and Lisa come up in July, I’ll probably just give it away, otherwise it will go bad. The basement is crammed full. All of Julia’s clothes are down there. I don’t know what or when I will attack that. All of her sewing equipment is down there too. I’ll probably keep it for the girls if they want it. So It looks like it will be a long time before I come to a new normal.

Well, it’s like I told one of my girls the other night. Enjoy the journey. Once you get to the destination you have nothing to look forward to. So I am going to enjoy the journey. This journey that I never expected to make alone. I have old friends and new friends. I have old ministries and some new ones on the horizon. This truly is a time of transition. Transition is hard, especially one like this, but necessary. If I tried to stay as I was before Julia died I would be of no use to anyone. Now there are new horizons, and new places to go. I will still go after the old, but my guess is that some of the old will pass away. This is the deal, you can only do so much and go after so much. When you begin to add things, some things begin to fall away. This is a natural progression in life. It’s not something you do intentionally. It’s something that is almost done for you.

The hard part is letting go. Letting go of Julia’s presence in my life. Her impact will always be there. She is truly a part of me. You don’t live and love for over 38 years and not be changed into part of the other person. But it’s like a plane and a rocket ship. Both fly, but in order to get into orbit, a plane would have to change. In order to fly around the country and land at different airports a rocket ship would have to change. Neither is good or bad, they just serve different purposes. Right now I am seeking my purpose. Julia and I had a purpose, but she is gone. What is my purpose? Another way to say it is what is my destiny? These are a few of the questions that I am wrestling with. These are the questions that I am asking Papa to show me. As Yoda (in star wars) would say, there has been a shift in the force, and nothing is as it was. That is nothing except Papa, Jesus and Holy Spirit. They are my constants. They are my rock and my fire. Everything else around me is subject to change. Some things will, and some things will remain the same. My job is to enjoy the ride, but be proactive to make sure I am ready to do what is needed on my part to ensure my destiny is fulfilled. I’m glad that I have always liked change. Bring it on!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Day 127 - The Empty Swing

Yesterday was a very busy day. I worked an “A” period; which means a 3AM wake up. Then I went straight over to Bethel Atlanta for church from the airport. Then I got home around 2PM and put the finishing touches on my sermon. We had church at 6 and after I preached I got home around 8:30. I went to bed at 10:30 to start it all again today with a 3AM wakeup. It’s no wonder I was just sitting in my chair watching the news in a light sleep for the last hour and a half. The good news is I don’t have to get up until 6:30 tomorrow. Work doesn’t start until 9:20. I was able to get a run in this afternoon. It was a beautiful day, hot but the humidity seemed lower than in the past few days. This afternoon I spent a little time out back pulling a few weeds and fixing my “squirrel proof “ bird feeder that the squirrels were eating all the food from. Yes, I am still having a running battle with the squirrels, and I think that they are winning. No, I haven’t bought a gun yet, but it is more tempting every day. Less than a month ago I gave up on my baffle that was supposed to keep them from the feeders. I also gave up on my feeders that weren’t “squirrel proof”. I went and bought another feeder. This one was “guaranteed for life”. Well last week I came out and found parts of it chewed up and strewn along the back yard. I know the little devils are mean and vindictive, but this is ridiculous. So I took it back with my receipt. Well, they won’t take it back (the squirrels have chewed on the metal, marking it all up.) But they did give me new parts. Evidently they keep a supply for just things like this. The owner is very nice, and I certainly am not mad at her. She said she would order a metal part for the plastic one that was eaten up. So I took my new parts and put the feeders back together. That was Saturday. Today, one of the feeders was messed up and the squirrel was hanging off it getting fat. It really would have been a good shot. Well, if I ever do get a gun, I will never tell. Otherwise I might get arrested when I post on this blog that I had target practice today. Well I wanted to have target practice, but I didn’t have anything to throw at them.

I like our back yard. Julia and I have worked hard on it. About a year and a half ago, we went all natural in the back. We had it terraced, and plants and pine straw put in. I like three things about it. First it is small but backs up to the woods so it looks big. Second there is no grass to cut. Third, there is no grass to cut. Did I tell you that there is no grass to cut in the back? When we downsized about 6 years ago, I really wanted to move into a condo. I was tired of doing yard work, and I didn’t want any more. Our previous house had 3 acres of land and the one before that had 13 acres. I have done my share of yard work and I was tired of it. But Julia wasn’t ready for a condo. She loved to work in the yard. We have blueberry plants (I like them). We would also have two to three tomato plants and some Jalapeno pepper plants. She would tend to these and all of the other herbs and plants. I would cut and edge the front and the side yard. It really doesn’t take too long to cut, especially now that the back has no grass. But I really got mad at Julia for a minute. I am seeing weeds come up in different areas and she’s not here to pull them out. She is the one that wanted the yard. It’s really not fair that she left me to have to deal with it. I’m halfway joking, I really wasn’t mad; although the thought she would have to do her share did cross my mind. It’s just another thing that I have to find time to do. There are so many things to do that I don’t really care about doing. But they have to be done, so I will get to them. I have watched much less TV since she has been gone. Part of that is being in school and a lot of it is that I am usually writing and thinking about this blog for a t least an hour a night. This started out as a discipline, then it became a habit. Now it is life. I couldn’t go to bed not having spent this time. Some nights are more inspired than others. Some like tonight are sort of rambling. But each night serves it’s purpose. Each night’s purpose is different and it’s hard to figure it out until I start writing.

The back yard is pretty right now. There are purple flowers, some yellow flowers and others about to bloom. The terraced layers each have its own feel. There is a birdbath on the second level. Then farther down are the bird (squirrel) feeders and finally in the very back of the yard sits a beautiful Cypress swing. It is natural wood that has been stained. It hangs from it’s own wood stand. There is a metal table in front and two metal chairs on one side with another table. The swing is empty. It was Julia’s mother’s day present last year. I had a heck of a time putting it together and staining it, but I was really proud when we got it up. We spent a lot of our summer and early fall afternoons sitting in that swing talking. Even on the hottest days, it was fairly cool in the shade back there. But the swing is empty now. I haven’t been able to go down there yet. It still hurts too bad. Last summer it seemed that most of deep conversations were held there. We both loved just swing next to each other and enjoying the back yard and each other. To day would have been the perfect day to swing, but not yet, not by myself. I’ll wait until I have company or when the kids are here. It will be fun to have the granddaughters out there. They will love it and so will I. Or there just might be a night when I want to go out there. I don’t know. I do know that the swing will draw me out eventually. I pray that when I do go, I will be able to sit and just bask in Papas love. I know that He will let me grieve for Julia for a while, and then He will gently begin to show me His love, and His desires for me. Just like now, the pain will be intense, but will be immediately washed over by such a peaceful restful feeling.

I am beginning to discover a secret. This is a secret of how His love is working through me. He is allowing me to see things, not all at once, but separately, like the empty swing. Then He allows me to process my thoughts and feelings. I have been thinking about that swing for around three days, if not longer. I know the joy and pain that is associated with it. The He has me write about it and the joy and pain become so strong and so real that it is hard to bear, but then His love and peace flood over me like a fire hose or a car wash and just as quick, the pain is gone replaced by His peace and overwhelming love. Right now, I feel that if the sun was out I could go right down and sit in the swing with His love and Julia’s love surrounding me. This is what the writing is doing. It is sometimes creating a quick cathartic moment in which I can see the pain, and He comes and helps me release it. Wow, as I look back over the last few months I see how He has used it to enable me to deal with so much. I don’t know if it will always be like this. Like I said, every night is different, but the Holy Spirit is sooo creative and so good.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Day 126 - God's Love

When I think of how much God loves me, I am almost overwhelmed. Today in so many ways He has revealed His great love for me. Tonight when I was in worship at RiverStone, His presence over me was so thick, I didn’t want worship to stop. Then especially once during my message I could sense His presence and His favor. I knew that He loved me so much. It didn’t matter if I was preaching or not. It wasn’t about what I was doing. The thing is, He has always loved me that much, it’s just I haven’t always realized it. I’m not special He loves us all. We just don’t normally take the time or the energy to begin to tap into His live. For the most part, we spend time asking Him for things. He’s a good Papa, and He loves to give gifts, but more than that, He loves hanging out with us. He wants us to spend time with Him, just hanging out.
I don’t really think I am spending much more time in the word, or in intercessory prayer than I was before Julia died. But I am intentionally spending time in His presence. As I do that I have come to feel His presence and know His heart in a much deeper way. How does this work? I’m not sure. I just lean into His presence so many times of the day. I try to be in intentional rest and I work hard at not allowing fear of anything to grip me. I normally, but not always listen to worship music when I’m driving. I talk to him constantly. I sometimes fond myself talking with Julia or myself, but most of the time I am talking with Him.
I know that I am special to Him and I know that I have destiny to fulfill that’s pretty big. But I also know that we are all special and all of our destinies are important. So why, why is He so good to me. Why does He continue to create this “bubble of Grace” that I am living in. I really am blessed and I don’t want anything to change, but I think I can ask a question looking for an answer without changing the dynamics of my life and situation. He has allowed me to have so many good days and good times. As much as I miss Julia, I am not lonely. I don’t really feel alone. Tonight during worship, I thought I saw her out of the corner of my eye. I was so blessed, and thanked God for giving me a glimse of her. I know that she was there as I preached tonight. So I really do live in a bubble of peace and grace. Why me?
I think I am living like this because of a couple of reasons. First God is looking for people who will test Him in His goodness. He wants His goodness spread abroad at this time. People need to know that God loves them, and He can walk them through anything. By making a public declaration of His goodness at Julia’s celebration service and by stating out loud that I was going to do a blog this year about my walk and healing I made myself a target. I made myself a target for the enemy but I also made myself a target for God. He in His wisdom and glory has chosen to use me to show that He is good, and we can walk through tragedy reflecting His love. He allows me to experience a great measure of His presence and grace. I believe this is what He wants to release on all believers, but somebody has to walk it out proving that it can be done. Does this make me “super spiritual”? Of course not! What it does is make others more aware of His love as they see me walking through the valley of the shadow of death. As others watch me walk through this and hear my heart as they read my blog they will come to know God in ways that they thought were unimaginable. So I believe God is showing His strength through our weakness.
Someone had a word for me today. It was about the divine protection that I have been getting. I am so blessed for His presence. I am so thankful for His annoing as I spoke tonight. He is an awesome God, and He loves me very much. But he loves you a lot too!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Day 125 - Maximum Impact

Have you ever thought, “What is Life really about”? I’ve thought about it before, but probably not as much of with such real questioning as I have since Julia died. For so many people the good life consist of a good job, good food and a nice family. They wind up spending much of their life just trying to keep up. They want the best schools for their kids, and good health. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with any of that. But is that Kingdom? Is that bringing the Kingdom of God into our neighborhoods? Is that what life is all about? To use the title of an old song,:“Is that all there is?” I’m really sad to say that for probably the majority of Americans, even Christians, the answer is yes.

I really wish that everyone that I know could have been with us this afternoon. We went to an area down in the southwest metro area of Atlanta. We had about 45 of us from RiverStone. We joined with ministries from many other churches for an event called Maximum Impact. There were probably hundreds of people involved, and we ministered to hundreds. The people who came were the homeless, prostitutes, single parents with addiction problems. There were grandmothers with their grandchildren that they were raising. There were people who were already high on alcohol, drugs or both. They were there to get food, clothes, and groceries. They came to get haircuts, medical screening. They were there to get help finding jobs. All these services were there for them today. I’m sure that the services were helpful but what really stood out to me as I talked and prayed with many of them was this. They really just wanted to know someone cared. They wanted to know that someone else cared enough to spend the day listening, talking, praying, hugging or whatever else. They needed Jesus with skin on. Isn’t that what we all need? Most of us are fortunate enough to have community to be there in the hard times. But what if you don’t have a loving community?

I know that I am pretty strong in my relationship with God, and this past four months that bond has strengthened. But could I have done it alone? Without loving friends, where would I be right now? You see, we take so much for granted. God has used all of my friends and family to reach out and be “Jesus with skin on”. I love the children’s book “The Velveteen Rabbit”. It shows the necessity to be real. Most of the people that I talked with and prayed with today just need someone to love on them. That doesn’t solve all of their problems, but if they had a loving caring community, if the Kingdom of God invaded that space, they would have a much better chance to walk out their healing.

I prayed for a big guy today. His name was “Big O”. Big O had an addiction problem that was ruining his relationship, probably with his wife. He is a believer, but couldn’t shake the addiction. But the addiction isn’t the root issue. Through the Holy Spirit, one of the root issues was revealed to be unforgiveness. I explained how that kept him in prison. You could see the light bulb come on in his spirit. He got it and we readily walked him through the many issues that he needed to release forgiveness in. You could see his exterior manner break down as he began to weep. As we prayed for his relationship to be restored and for addiction to be broken off, you could just feel him getting lighter. It was as if a heavy burden was being lifted off him. This is jus one of many people we prayed for. Jesus spent most of his time with sinners. Tax collectors and prostitutes, the two most despised groups in His day were always around Him. I need to allow myself to be stretched more. We all need to spend more time in the areas where there is no hope without Him. We are the ambassadors of hope. We bring His presence into the room when we walk in. We have to begin to believe that. We still have no clue as to who we are or the authority that we carry. Identity is a BIG DEAL. But just as big of a deal is our knowing the goodness of God.

I’m preaching at the 6PM service at RiverStone tomorrow night. It’s the last evening service for the summer. Their won’t be many people there, but that doesn’t matter. The words have to go out into the atmosphere. We have to understand who we are, we have to know the goodness of God. If the Kingdom is going to be released in our midst, these have to be so strong in us that there is no doubt. I don’t know what my focus will be. I’m sure Holy Spirit will show that to me later tonight or tomorrow. It’s inside me, so I know it will come out. You see, I am His Son, and He wants to use me. All I have to do is prepare the best I can and trust in His goodness. Today was a good day. Today was a Kingdom day. We need more days like today. Show us Papa; teach us how to do your stuff.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Day 124 - The Heart of a Father

It’s really hard to get started tonight. First, I worked late and it’s hard to unwind. Second, as I listen to the music, all I want to do is just rest in his presence. That is so good, and although I had most of the day off, and did have a pretty good quiet time this morning, I have so come to love this time every night, when I just rest in His presence and spend time writing this blog. You see, every night I get to ask Holy Spirit what He wants to dhow me tonight. As He shows it to me, I write it down. Sometimes it is really a new revelation, other times it’s a reflection of times past. Many times it’s just a reflection of the day. The neat thing is He never fails to show up. I get His presence plus some direction in my writing. But tonight, His presence is just so calming I really don’t want to write. But He wants me to, so I will continue.
I used to think that my job as a parent would end when my kids were grown, married and on their own. I just couldn’t understand why my mother worried so much about my sisters. I would see her, and she would tell me how much she worried about one of my sisters in particular. I would tell her not to worry, my sister was grown and was making her own choices. There was nothing she could do about it, so why worry. My mother was a believer, and she prayed, but she only knew what she learned in the Baptist church. She prayed, but knew nothing about intercession or healing or spiritual warfare. She only knew how to worry. So that’s what she did. I thought that when our kids were grown it would get easier. I was wrong. When you love someone so much, you just want so much for them. I don’t worry like my mom did, but I sure pray and declare over them. I think that’s where I miss Julia’s presence the most. She was a great intercessor. She knew how to pray and what to pray for. I know that every morning she had long times with the Lord. I just don’t have that. For one thing, I don’t have the time available, but I also will admit that I am not as called to intercession as she was. That doesn’t mean I don’t pray of have time with Papa. I do, but not like her. So even though I know that she is praying in heaven, I miss her prayers down here. I miss praying with her, and talking about what we wanted to see God do not only in our kids lives, but in ours as well. My heart and her heart for our kids was nothing but love and wanting to see good things happen to them in every area.
If our hearts for our kids are like that, think how God’s heart is for us. He is never angry at us. He knows what we are going to do before we do it. He is never surprised, even when we blow it big time. He doesn’t punish us for our mistakes. Quite the opposite, He tries to draw us back into His love and rest. His grace is sufficient for all of our needs. He is so good, and we really still have no idea of how good He really is. If I would do anything for my kids, think how much more Papa wants to do for us. His heart is big, full of love and grace. He is quick to forgive and to restore. Look at Simon Peter. When he fell at the crucifixion, Jesus was quick to forgive and restore. I even think He would have restored and forgiven Judas if Judas would have let Him.
How we perceive God determines how we react to Him. If we know He is good, and His goodness is for us, we can repent quickly and receive forgiveness and restoration. But if we believe He is angry with us, we stay away until we think we are better. This causes us to lean on our works and that is a sin in itself. We have to lean into His goodness and allow His love and grace to restore and renew us.
So, our job is to learn to accept His goodness. Our responsibility is to act like we believe it, and let our love be manifested to others. We are responsible to bring the Kingdom into our sphere of influence. We can’t do this without believing in and resting in His goodness.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Day 123 - Cell Group; a Way of Life

Tonight was our cell group. I missed last week because I was in Norfolk with Lisa. I have missed a few in the past month because of work. I had forgotten how much I love cell groups. I love it when Holy Spirit shows up and does His thing. It’s fun to just get out of His way and let Him move. It’s like putting up your sail, and turning it until you catch the wind and then ride all out with it. It’s the wind of the Spirit, and it goes where it wills. The best thing to do is just try and hang on. Tonight was awesome. During worship He gave pictures and words to confirm the direction that I had thought He wanted me to go. Then as we talked about the core values of building a Kingdom culture, He released wisdom on how to answer questions and deal with normally troubling areas. The discussion was very good and very open. I really believe that most of the people in the group are getting it.

I think that if there was one area that Julia and I loved to minister together, it was in cell, or small groups. We had different names for the groups over the years, but they really were all the same. It is a place to teach and impart Kingdom values. It is a place that is safe to experiment with the things of the Spirit and learn to minister in the gifts of the Spirit. It is a place to be real, and be accountable with a few friends. We both were passionate about leading and being in a small group. Life without cell groups didn’t exist. It would be totally boring. I really miss here touch during the group meetings now. I was so used to being able to glance at her for confirmation and reassurance. I could watch her worship, she loved to worship. I could follow after her in prayer and try to keep up with her in the things of the Spirit. I was always the one out front, but she was the true powerhouse.

We first heard about the concept of small groups in 1982. We had a Methodist pastor from Bedford Texas come to FUMC and he told us of their experience with cell groups. After he shared I felt the Holy Spirit tell me this. “Small groups will change the face of the church in your lifetime”. And they have! We were on fire. We wanted to start them in the church right away. We got permission from our pastor to start one so we went out to Bedford Texas to visit a couple and see how they were doing them. They told us that they had done away with Sunday School, and everything they were doing involved small groups. We were so excited. We came back and started our first small group in our house. It was 1982. We have been leading small groups ever since. It’s hard to believe. We learned more about them in 1985, when a Vineyard Conference was held in Atlanta. They were tanking about their “kinship groups” and how they prayed for each other and the Holy Spirit came. We learned even more when we left the Methodist Church and went to the Vineyard. As we helped plant churches, we always led small groups. Some were good, some not so good. But all were interesting and life giving. The funny thing is that no matter where we were doing them, Holy Spirit showed up. He seemed to like to hang out with us. I guess that’s because we always invited Him in, and valued His presence. I cold tell a lot of stories about different people and situations we have encountered, some would be funny, and some would almost be tragic. Sometimes the problem with people is that they have free will. They can choose to believe things that are right, of things that are wrong. The hardest people to deal with though are the ones that believe they know it all and are right. They are not open to learn. These are the ones that are frozen in time, and Holy Spirit can’t do anything with them. We learned a long time ago that we couldn’t change anyone. They had to be willing to change and embrace truth as it was revealed to them.

I hope that you can imagine with me the joy of seeing someone being ministered to in a cell or small group. We have them sit in the middle, in the “hot seat”. Then we all get around and pray for what ever need they have. We lay hands on them, prophecy over them, do whatever the Holy Spirit says. Their need is what got them in the “hot seat”, once they are there, they are fair game for what ever the Spirit is doing. The key is doing all things in love. 1 Cor 13 is between chapter 12 and 14 for a reason. Everything in the group must flow out of love. If it doesn’t, the group will eventually explode. Love is the glue that holds all things together.

Anyway, tonight was a usual night. Holy Spirit showed up. People were healed and encouraged. I missed Julia’s touch and glance. I missed watching her worship. But I didn’t miss her presence. She was there enjoying it as much as I was.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Day 122 - God's Peace

As I sit here tonight I just have to thank God for His love, and for all the blessings that He has given me, and continues to give me. I am learning that I have to stay desperate for Him and all that He brings to me. The past two days have not been special in that anything unusual happened. But they have been special because I have pressed into His presence more. What does that look like? Well, it doesn’t mean that I have spent hours in quiet time. I wish that I had time to do that, but I don’t. To be honest if I did, I’m not sure how it would work out. But what I have done is press into him intentionally in the moments I have. I’ve worshiped Him as I have driven to work. I have chosen to praise Him even when things haven’t gone well. But most of all, I have sought and found His abiding peace.

How do you do that? How do you find God’s peace in the middle of the storm? All of life is a storm if you let it become one. As Bill Johnson says, we are all only five minutes away from depression if we focus on the wrong thing. If we focus on the national events, or world events or even family events and don’t see them through the eyes of a loving and redeeming God we are destined for despair and even depression. You know the disciples were in the boat with Jesus. He was asleep when the storm came up. They had a choice, what do we focus on? Do we focus on the waves coming over the bow and the boat being tossed about? Do we focus on our Lord, asleep peacefully in the boat? They chose to focus on their circumstances rather than on their deliverer. Jesus was at peace. If they had focused on Him, that peace would have rubbed off on them, and then they would have been able to speak to the storm from a position of peace rather than fear.

So, when I feel fear rise up in my spirit, I have to choose to focus on Jesus and His peace. I have to remember who my Father is, and who I am. When I do this, I can walk in peace through the storm no matter what happens. I had a couple of storms blow in over the past two days. Just stuff I have been dealing with family and other things. I had to make the choice a number of times, but by pressing in to Him during what time I have, and by keeping my focus on His love, no matter what I am doing, I have been able to focus on Jesus and His peace. That has allowed me to tap into the supernatural peace that is available to all believers. Why do you think martyrs are able to give up their lives for the gospel? I think it’s because they learned to press into and appropriate that supernatural peace so that no matter what was going on, they could be at rest in their spirit.
So, I thank God that I saw the numbness that was creeping into my days. I am so glad that He drew me back into His presence and His supernatural peace. I know that as I walk in that peace nothing in the world can harm me. That is where Paul was when he said that he could be happy in all situations. That is where we, no I, need to learn to abide on a continual basis. I have been there for the past two days, but that is not enough. I want to live there all the time. You know what? I think He wants me to live there too.

I know that I will sleep well tonight. His peace is surrounding me right now. The water of His love is just washing over me. I can feel His pleasure because I know I am His son, and He loves me.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Day 121 - Moving to Atlanta

When Julia and I got engaged we didn’t realize that we had been going to the same church for years. She lived in the city of Atlanta and went to Therrell High School. I probably lived less than 10 miles away from her, but I was in the county, so I went to Headland High School in East Point. I dated some girls from her school. They were even her friends, but we had never met. It was totally amazing when we found out. I think it was after we were married. We both went to Ben Hill Baptist Church. Ben Hill was a little unincorporated town southwest of East Point and Atlanta. She graduated from High School two years later than I did, and I never met her the whole time we went to church. I used to tease her and say that it was because she never came. I don’t think that was true, but in high school, I was very active in church. I was president of the youth group, and was there all the time. Even though my dad was not the pastor, it was expected of me, I thought, to be active. I did enjoy it until some things started to happen. It was the mid 60’s in Atlanta. Integration was just starting in the city schools. It didn’t happen in the county schools until I had graduated. More and more Afro-Americans were moving to our neighborhoods. Real Estate people were causing a panic, trying to get people to sell their houses and move. The church had a decision to make. There had been a couple of Black people try to come to our service and they had been turned away. The board of deacons took a vote to keep them out. They actually voted not to let Afro-Americans come to our service. I was devastated! I couldn’t believe it. Since I was president of the Youth, I was asked to teach a Sunday School class of the older adults. These were the people who had voted to exclude people from God’s house. I took the opportunity, with all my youthful zeal, to try and change their hearts. I was doomed to fail from the start, but I gave it my best effort. It was a passionate plea that God loved everyone, that we were all God’s children. I could see by their expressionless faces as I poured out my heart that I was having no impact. The all thanked me, and said that when I grew up, I would understand. Well, I’ve grown up, and I still don’t understand! Anyway, that was the end of my youth involvement. I graduated, went to Tech and into total rebellion away from God. The thing I didn’t know then that I know now is this: Father God was weeping along with me. His heart was broken just like mine was. All I could see then were hypocrites. Now I know better. I can feel, touch, and hear the heart of the Father. I haven’t thought about this time in years, but it brings back tears and sorrow.

When I got a bid to come back to Atlanta from Miami both Julia and I were ecstatic. We couldn’t believe that we were going to get out of South Florida so fast. Three months had seemed like three years, but at least we were moving. But where were we going to go. We were both from the south side, and when we came back from the Air Force, we moved to Jonesboro because Julia could teach there. But we never really connected, and we both wanted some change. We thought of two different areas. It was either somewhere in North Atlanta or Peachtree City. I really was interested in Peachtree City. It was where most of the Delta Pilots that I knew lived. It had trails and gold courses and lakes, but it still didn’t have many restaurants or shopping areas. Julia was more interested in the North because of the shopping and restaurants. She also thought that the schools were better there. Jennifer was almost 5 and Lisa was 1. Schools won out and we wound up looking mainly in Cobb County. The problem was that houses were more expensive on the north side, and with my probationary wages we couldn’t afford much. We loved West Cobb, and looked extensively there, but we couldn’t find anything we could afford. So we eventually settled in East Cobb. We bought the most ugly house I have ever seen. It was a “cotemporary” split foyer . It was grey stained Cedar on the outside and it was very ugly. It did have a fenced in yard, and it had the room we needed. I wondered how we would ever sell it when we bought it.

As I look back, I can see the hand of God directing every thing we did. We had no clue. He loved us so much, even when we didn’t even think of Him. Isn’t that so much like a good daddy? He arranged for us to be in a perfect place to become reacquainted with Him. He had plans for us. All He needed was a little cooperation from us. That came sooner rather than later. I’m sure He knew that. It was the winter of 1979 and Julia was after me again about going to church. I still didn’t want to have anything to do with church. Never!! But, she had a point. Jennifer had just turned five, and she really needed have a “proper Christian upbringing”. So I finally relented. I figured that I was flying most weekends anyway. If she wanted to go to church that was fine with me. I would probably be out of town. But I gave her these rules; First, no Baptist Churches. I had heard all the Hellfire and Brimstone sermons I ever wanted to here. Second, go to the largest Methodist Church she could find. Id didn’t care if we drove all the way to Marietta or to Roswell. I knew that Methodist Churches were safe. I also knew that in a big church we could sit at the back and never get involved. That’s what I wanted and she agreed. I think that’s what she really wanted too. So that’s what she did. I was out of town, and she tried to find First Methodist of Marietta. It was the biggest church around. Well she wound up at Maple Ave Methodist, a much smaller church only a few blocks away from First Methodist. I was off the next Sunday, and I told her I would help her find it, but we had to sit in the back. She agreed, and we went. Little did I know that Papa had set a trap for us both. That choice of churches would literally change our lives and save our marriage. But it’s getting late, and I have a 3AM wake up. I’ll continue this story another time, but let me leave with this. God is gooder that you think!