Beauty By Train

Train

Something New

I travel a lot… I mean a lot.  This month alone I’ve been to Haiti (for missions) and the Bahamas for work, and everywhere in between.  I travel by plane most of the time and I’ve done every mode of ground travel you can imagine from Haitian Tap-Taps to chauffeured limos (very rare).  However, I’ve never travelled by Train before and upon receiving a last minute request to attend a meeting in New Jersey, I elected to take the train for a five hour ride.  I’m very glad I did.

Chaos Diffused

My route took me from Fredericksburg (about an hour south of Washington DC) to Newark, New Jersey.  As I spread out along my seat, I was able to plug in some music and settle in so that I could get some work done on my long ride – but very little work got done.  Instead I was mesmerized by world flowing past my window and carried away by the music roaring in my ear-buds.  And for the longest time, I didn’t care about the stack of work to be done, the never ending texts, emails and voicemails that were endeavoring to overcome my peace.  I took the time to look in awe at the images that were streaming past me with the only thought being “Look what He created and that which we neglect”. Amazingly, as if orchestrated by a master conductor, the music that was randomly playing on my iPad was creating a story for all of the visual stimulus that I was taking in.  It was beautiful.

Taking The Time

This time, that was so refreshing, was given to me.  It was not sought, it was not preconceived, it was not planned.  That type of gift is the best gift of all.  The gifts that weren’t given by duty or anticipation.  The Creator is amazing.  The time was treasured.  The miracle realized.

I realized that it wasn’t the train ride – it was the moment.  It was actually a series of moments.  And that series of moments could have been realized anywhere, since creation is all around us.  I pray that I will find more of those moments in the years to come.  I’m enjoying the wisdom that is coming through the maturation process and have become eager to see more of Him in my advance through life.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  Ecclesiastes 3:11

The Most Powerful 9 Minutes You’ll Spend Online

I book-marked this awhile ago, and hadn’t listened to it until tonight.  This was one of the most spine-chilling; emotional nine minutes I’ve every spent online.  I’d love to see this be broadcast at a service and then just let people sit for awhile and dwell here.  Powerful.

Matt Chandler Explains Justification in 2 Minutes and How Jesus Wants The Rose

Anyone who has ever talked to me for any length of time about such things, has probably heard me reference Matt Chandler.  He is by far the most influential Pastor in my life and I’ve never met him.  I follow his podcasts, writings, video casts, etc… whenever I can find them.

When challenged by so many christians about the effectiveness of online ministry, I point to Matt Chandler.  …and then I remind them that Christ himself did not chose to use a pulpit on a Sunday morning to deliver his message.  He used whatever means he had to build relationships.

The following two videos are my favorite shorts from Matt Chandler.  The first deals with not only how badly Christ wants us, but how poorly the church conveys that love.  The second video explains justification in about two minutes.

Bonus: The Knowability of God

This video should come with a warning to all Christians.  It’s the most convicting sermonette I’ve ever heard.

His Passion Explained from God’s View

I’ve been on this streak lately… I’m looking for truly passionate christians.  It’s harder to find than you might think.

While doing some online discovery, I found this video.  It’s excellent and the message may not be new, but the delivery is refreshing.  I hope it spoke to you, as it did to me.

The Execration of Pathological Problem Solving

Sharks Patrol These Waters

A Dream

This morning I awoke from an abstract dream that was merely a fictitious apparition of a deep sleep, a dream that strayed from one random moment to another. There was no particular perplexity in the dream, yet when I surfaced from the fog that is produced in such deep sleep, I still lingered on how to resolve the issue. I was trying to resolve a conflict that wasn’t reality and didn’t need resolution.

There are these moments in time, where you feel that you have awaken from a dream into a cathartic construct of thought. I get them from time to time and always embrace them. They are generally revelations about myself and even when I may not like what the mirror of reality may hold, I still appreciate the opportunity to see what can be changed, what must be changed to develop into  one that Christ would have come to save.  I know that I can’t “earn” His gift, otherwise it wouldn’t be a gift, but I can life a life that is responsive to that gift.

Revelation

This morning I had one such moment of revelation. I like resolving issues. I’ve been given a gift to find particular weaknesses in organizations, tools, applications and sometimes even people. The problem with this gift is that I don’t often keep it in balance and sway toward the almost narcissistic need to “fix” things. I can become obsessed with problem-solving and work to fight on staying focused on what is important and what is not.

In the maturation process I’ve had to overcome a number of issues, as I’m sure we all do. The more prevailing amoung them is my need to see things fixed. Often times my interrpretation of “fixed” and the interpretation of others is vastly different. For each time that I’ve observed a problem there have been equal times I’ve been wrong and sacrificed personal relationships toward curing a issue, that no one else is interested in resolving.

Resolution

As I write this, I am beginning the first day after Christmas. I, like many, began to reflect on the previous year and start looking toward the next. I’ve been very blessed in the past ten years or so, since developing my faith and following Christ. It has brought a very real change in my life and in my outlook on others, but there is still room to grow.

In the past two days I have had moments of clarity on how I wish to evolve in the upcoming decade. I want very much to be more careful in the words I choose, the time I use them and the problems I need to prevail in resolving. I need to stop taking on the charge of Don Quixote and end the pugilism against windmills.

As we enter into the next year, my prayer for myself, my family and for you is that we’ll learn to focus on things of importance; our God, our family and our relationships. I pray that we all take a moment to pause before speaking, to listen to the soft but constant nudge of the Spirit to speak what is true, relevant, important and to avoid pious.

What are your prayers for the coming year?

Be Here Now

I’m not sure if it was just that I viewed this video when I needed to or if it’s that this video is really that powerful, but it’s well worth the time to watch!

BE HERE NOW from blaine hogan on Vimeo.

 

Visiting The Past

Insufficient Facades

Today I had the rare opportunity to visit my childhood home.  The home was built by my father and I recall it taking much much longer than a normal build.  A matter of fact, I don’t think it was ever totally finished.  There were a series of childhood snapshots that filtered through my mind, some good, many not-so-good.  After my parent’s divorce my young wife and I bought the home and with the exception of our first two daughters not much happiness was in that home.

Interestingly enough, I shared a dream I recently had with my wife a few days ago that my childhood home was being renovated and the cedar siding was being covered with a beige siding.  Oddly enough, my wife peaked in the MLS and found that it was now for sale and yes – had light colored vinyl siding on it.  I don’t believe in coincidences …

We sold the home because of the excessive repairs and upkeep that I couldn’t handle at the time, and …to start over.  We started our marriage anew about the same time that we moved from that home.

The home has had several new owners and is now in foreclosure.  The grass was grown up and had overcome the driveway, the wood rotten from seasons of neglect was only partially covered with vinyl siding.  The inside was haphazardly remodeled, but it seemed not one project had been completed – just as I remembered it.  The septic system now failed, the house vacant and no one to care for it, she sits silently.  The facade of new paint and partial vinyl was superficial at best.

The World Left Behind

As I stood first in the yard and then in the house, all I could think was ‘Wow, it’s smaller than I remember…”  Some walls had been moved, different paint and counter-tops stood out, but for the most part it was as I remember it.  It reminded me of a different period in my life, before I heeded the call of Christ and before I realized how truly precious my marriage was.  Whereas I have regrets of a past life, they are becoming distant and serve only as a reminder of how powerfully God has moved in our lives.

Foundations and Dirt

Standing there in the yard shaking my head at how cursed this home felt, I didn’t feel pity for myself or the home.  It registered in me that the land around the home and the foundation were solid and unchanging.  It was promising to know that the right person could put the work and effort into the location and make a wonderful home.  I stood there and put a prayer together – not about the home, but about people who have facades covering rotting wood and need the right person or “builder” to come and tear down the old and re-build anew.

I prayed for the church to be the builder on Christ’s behalf, but I prayed that I would be able to see the foundation and the soil in people and ignore the history of the “home”.

Fresh Start

I’m struggling….  I know I’m not alone, but I find no solace in that fact anymore.  I’ve again been brutally reminded that gauging your identified by man is temporal.  Friendships and popularity in the world is fleeting.  People by their very nature are in total depravity.  People, once your usefulness to them is negated, will move one. 

Thankfully, the Father is not of this world.  His love is not fleeting, His friendship is based on His desire to show mercy to us.  His love is not temporal.

I feel that I’ve been given a skill set…  I’m good (not great, but good) at communications and especially online communications.  I love to be creative and to engage people.  I love to explore new things, ideas and surroundings.  I’m tired of everything getting in the way of my Faith.  The demands of the day, the fear of man and the pressure of having the “right” answers has kept me from being more engaging online with fellow believers.  No more…

I’m going to be more expressive and engaging with people who share my faith.  I will often times be wrong, I will often times be blunt and I will often times care little about who reads or does not read this blog.

I want authentic, real people to engage one another about their beliefs.  I tire of reading countless religious sites and getting just that – religion. 

I’m a fallen guy, in a fallen world – will you join me?

If so, subscribe by email or RSS on the right of this blog post.  I want to hear what YOU think and what struggles and victories you have.

Dreaming of Death

Awake, Awake Oh Sleeper

I awoke at about 2am this morning after a series of very vivid and disturbing dreams.  In each of the four sequences of the dream, I was a different person at different times in modern history.  In each sequence I began having a conversation or engaging a person, only to find that I was dead and the other person was the spouse that I had left behind.  Each sequence was reliving the memory of how we met or a favorite date and the spouse was always lonely and also reliving the same situation.  It’s as if the spiritual self I was in and the widow were meeting to celebrate some profound mutual memory of a landmark time in our relationship.  It was so real and so painful, that I’m tearing up, even as I write this.

During my dream, after awaking and even now five hours later while writing this, I felt the vivid pain of being both the widowed spouse and the frustrated  lover that couldn’t comfort the person that had been left behind.  The pain was not for myself, but because in each sequence I couldn’t convey to the widow that I was in a better place and I was deeply sorry for their continued pain. 

The thing most interesting to me about the times of reflection in each sequence – the times that the four couples were recalling were not wedding days, expensive cruises or elaborately planned holidays.  The most impactful monuments being recognized in the sequences were holding hands and gazing upon one another at a quite restaurant, the first corny pickup line at a social event, holding each other during a benign movie and walking in the rain at a park.  These are the times when each couple felt the strongest connection and most peace in their relationships. 

I’m glancing around my living room now and wondering what random movie, conversation or trinket would stir such profound sorrow in me, should anything happen to my wife.  I have a blessed marriage – an incredible gift from God – that I daily take for granted.  I’m sure to tell her how much I love her and to spend as much time pursuing her as humanly possible – I would be loss without her.  It’s not always been this way, and that makes me even more grateful for what we’ve been given.

Referred Pain

I have no real understanding of what it feels like to lose a close love one.  I’ve faced the pain of others that have.  The closest I came was in 1986 when a favored grandmother passed away, but I was too young to truly appreciate the value of life and still was comforted by the thought of an angelic patriarch looking over me.  I’ve never faced the loss of an immediately family member.  Even my dog is 16 years old and seems to have no will to sleep eternally. 

My theology is such that I do not believe we’ll be floating around as ghosts after we’re dead, looking for ways to fix our loved one’s lives.  I feel that Bible is clear on this issue that you will end up in one place or another.  So, I feel the dream was symbolic or instructive.  Rarely do I have such full-color, vivid and emotional dreams.  This meant something more.

I assume that this is tied in to my upcoming missions trip to Haiti, where we’ll be running a medical clinic and taking time to counsel the survivors of the tragedy.  I’ve been studying the country, culture, history and time since January’s devastating earthquake.  These are a people who have suffered much since their existence.  They aren’t strangers to pain and suffering, but this magnitude is so pervasive.  All I can do is pray for our team to be able to provide some comfort.  I’ve never been to the country, but I know that in the practice of medical care that providers can sometimes forget about the non-physical pain that others are going through. 

Even outside of going to another country, there should be an ongoing effort in our daily lives to identify and be sympathetic to non-medial pain…

The Pain of a Savior

I can’t help but think of the unbearable pain of Christ as I write this.  I got just a glimpse of four lives torn apart by loss in my dreams last night and only that glimpse has given me profound sorrow.

I Peter 2:24 – 24 He took our sins on himself, giving his body to be nailed on the tree, so that we, being dead to sin, might have a new life in righteousness, and by his wounds we have been made well.

It reminded me that in my daily life, in my struggles and in my times of frustration that Christ is there.  He is present during my pain and wishes more than anything, that I would know that it’s going to be ok and His comfort is like no other. 

Resting Place

inthequite

 


My people will dwell in a peaceful habitation, In secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places,         ~Isiah 32:18    


In the past year I have been blessed in that I am just beginning to understand the pure value of time with just God and I.  It’s been a large paradigm shift for me.  In a world of constant communication and with my near addiction to social media; it’s difficult to remember to purposefully find quiet resting places.  However, I’ve begun to find great strength in the time which I am working out, listening to worship music, driving to the office and yes, even getting ready for work.    

There are a number of ways in which one can engage Christ in an effort to press into Him.  For me, its listening to sermons from some contemporary pastors from podcasts, listening to worship music and above all – simply quite time with nothing else to do but listen.

The promise in Isiah 32:18 is a  promise of spiritual rest and security in dwelling in Christ.  So many Christians get confused about this issue, thinking that if their physical life isn’t peaceful than they must be in wrong standing with Christ.  This simply isn’t the truth.

Life is difficult, we live in a fallen world that is full of challenges.  Our belief system doesn’t somehow alleviate the stress of the world from us, but it gives us the knowledge that Christ is Sovereign and that in all things He is King!

We keep striving for peace and know that God is always with us and will always love us.  There is great solace in knowing that He is always in control.  I pray that we all put our hope and trust in Him and not in our own strength or that of other people.  Resting in Him is the way to peace.

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