A song I made with my kids in Garage Band
“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” (Colossians 3:23)
Over the last couple months, I’ve acquired a few new hobbies:
For Christmas, I bought my family a couple of betta fish. Although we loved our new fish tanks (btw, single betta tanks with dividers don’t work for two fish when one of your bettas knows how to jump!), the artificial plants just weren’t doing it for us. One thing led to another (I looked on one-too-many websites) and I soon found myself with a bag of soil, some live aquatic plants and a day long project of setting up two naturally planted aquariums, with the continuing task of trying to keep both fish AND plants alive.
The bag of dirt we had to buy for our fish tanks was HUGE and way more dirt than we needed for our little fish tanks. But that’s okay because we are planning to plant a balcony herb garden in the next couple weeks. We’ve never gardened before and we figured an herb garden was a good place to start, especially since we live in a fourth floor condo. But now this project has grown as we have a home-made composter on our balcony and have also been given a small plot in a friends yard as part of a community gardening project!
Not one to always be getting my hands dirty, I felt I needed a project that that was a little more digital. So I’ve been taking time learning to code webpages using HTML/CSS. The theme for this blog is my first finished project! And as if all of that wasn’t enough, I’ve decided to take up fly fishing! I haven’t fished in probably 10 years and I’ve never fly fished. But I’ve always wanted to try, so I purchased a rod and reel and hope to get out on the water in the next week or so.
Why is all of this significant? I’m on a journey with God learning to dream and play with Him. I used to struggle with not knowing how to take leisure time. In the past I have struggled with wasting time. In my pursuit of intimacy with God, I stopped doing anything that didn’t look intentionally “spiritual”, becoming almost one-dimensional. And in my desire to be perfect (fyi, perfectionism is the demonic counterfeit of excellence!) I refused to try anything that I might fail at. I really had a fear of failure.
And one day all of this changed. I won’t go into details here, but God delivered me from something spiritual that held me in bondage. But after that moment of deliverance came the real challenge: walking it out. I felt free to pursue my God-inspired desires, but I was still afraid that God wouldn’t meet me there. I feared that if I spent a few hours learning HTML, my spiritual life would suffer because of it. But God surprised me!!! He met me in my pursuits. He began speaking to me though the things I was learning. I found that my intimacy with God increased as I spent time with Him doing…whatever! I still spend a lot of time reading the Word, praying, soaking, etc. Those things are non-negotiable in my life. But I’ve been delighted to discover God out in His world, waiting to meet me in a place of rest and recreation. I’ve been able to see Him in a new way and read His Word with a fresh perpective.
Ultimately, I’ve taken one step closer to completely breaking down the distinction between the Sacred and Secular. To quote Wendell Berry,
“There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places.”
I’d encourage you to take some time to read Colossians 3:18-23. I’m starting to believe that this is one of the most “Spiritual” portions of Scripture.
As found @ http://www.charismanews.com/world/38825-radical-islam-tortures-beats-american-pastor-beyond-recognition
Hello to my dear love and wife,
When I saw my family for the first time behind the glass walls, I could see my mom four meters away. As she approached me and saw my face, she broke down and could not get closer. She was crying. I understood what she felt because after weeks of being in solitary confinement in Evin Prison, I also got to see my face in the mirror of an elevator that was taking me to the prison hospital. I said hi to the person staring back at me because I did not recognize myself. My hair was shaven, under my eyes were swollen three times what they should have been, my face was swollen, and my beard had grown.
It was a few days ago when one of my family members, with weary eyes and after running around for 15 weeks in trying to get me out of prison, said that my dad says every single day that “this week I will get my son out of prison.” But this does not happen and he is not able to get me out of prison. In that instant I looked into the wrinkled and tired eyes of my dad. I could clearly see that he had ran around for months and he had no more strength left in him. It was very hard seeing my family in such a situation.
You, my wife, on the other side of the world, alone with the kids. Alone and worried. My family here in Iran, being interrogated, tired and under so much pressure.
With the loud voice of the prison guard, our visitation had ended and they put covers over our eyes and we returned to the dark room void of any natural sunlight.
I started praying for my family. My dear Naghmeh. You are the love of my life. I am always in love with you.
Dear Naghmeh, I have been stung so many times that I have become full of poison. This is an Iranian saying. A lot of people say that they have been stung by so many people that their whole being is full of poison like a poisonous snake. It means that we have been bitten by the snakes of this world so many times that, that all of the poison has collected in us and that we are like the poisonous snake. But if we sting anyone, we will die. This Iranian saying is full of spirit of revenge and unforgiveness and every time I would hear this in Iran, I would get very sick hearing it.
A few days ago they brought a young war veteran who was disabled in 80% of his body in my cell. He had been put in solitary confinement with his horrific condition. And this had made him very mad and he kept saying “why did they do this to me? I gave my whole life for their sake. See what they have done to me!!!” And when he would get very mad he would say “I will take my revenge!”
I spoke to this young man until 4 in the morning. I spent time with him and spoke to him to forgive. When we don’t forgive, we drink the poison ourselves and then wait for the other person to die. And we take the knife that has hurt us and we stab ourselves with it again! And this is the will of the evil one who wants to destroy us.
But when we forgive, we pour out the poison of the enemy and of the devil and we don’t let the poison stay in us and we don’t let the poison make us into poisonous snakes! So that we don’t become like the person we despised and who persecuted and tortured us.
Maybe you ask, what is the secret of being so happy in such a hard situation?
Forgiveness and a change of attitude. When we forgive, we become free and we become messengers of peace and reconciliation and goodness. And whoever stings us, we can take into our embrace and love them. And in this dark and evil time, we can live full of love and full of peace and full of joy and shine like the stars! Glory be to His Name.
I forgave the prison doctor who did not listen to me and did not give me the medication that I needed. I forgave the interrogator who beat me. Every day when I would see the interrogator and for the last time when I saw him, I forgave him. I smiled at him and with respect shook his hand and I said my goodbye. The minute I forgave them and loved them, that second I was filled with unspeakable joy. I saw in the eyes of the interrogator that he had come to respect me and as he was leaving, he could not look behind him. Love is as strong as death.
We have to get rid of the poison in our body because if we don’t, we will die. We have to get rid of both poisons; first the poison of the snake that bit us and also the poison in us that was created by that bite. We can get rid of the first poison by forgiveness and we can get rid of the second poison by humility, by dying to ourselves, and allowing the band-aid of love and goodness to replace the empty place of the wound. So that we are not a tool of darkness and revenge, but that we can be light and love and a vessel of forgiveness and we can be transformed in the process.
Surely you have someone in your family, city, work or environment that have become like poisonous snake who have bitten you and tried to make you poisonous. So, forgive them and use the antidote of love and be Victorious!
One of the chances of forgiveness came when I was blindfolded and a guard was holding my hand guiding me. He asked “what are you here for? What is your crime?” I said “I am Christian Pastor.” All of the sudden he let go of my hand and said “so you are unclean! I will tell others not to defile themselves by touching you!” He would tell others not to get close to me. It really broke my heart. The nurse would also come to take care of us and provide us with treatment, but she said in front of others “in our religion we are not suppose to touch you, you are unclean. Baha’i (religion) and Christians are unclean!” She did not treat me and that night I could not sleep from the intense pain I had. According to the doctor’s instructions, they would not give me the pain medication that they would give other prisoners because I was unclean.
I could not fall sleep one night due to the pain when all of a sudden I could hear the sound of dirty sewer rats with their loud noises and screeches. It was around 4 in the morning. It sounded like laughter in a way.
Even though many would call me unclean and filthy and would not even want to pass by me and they had abandoned me and they were disgusted to touch me because they were afraid that they would also become unclean, but I knew that in the eyes of Jesus Christ, and in the eyes of my brothers and sisters, I am like the sewer rat, beautiful and loveable – not disgusting and unclean – and like the rats I can scream with joy within those prison walls and worship my Lord in joy and strength.
The Joy of the Lord is my strength. Amen.
Most of us are at least vaguely familiar with the story of Gideon and how he laid out a fleece for God to give him a sign. When we read his story in Judges 6-8, we see a man who is extremely aware of his inability to do what God has called him to do. Yet we also see a God who is EXTREMELY patient and is willing to do everything imaginable to convince Gideon that he can do all things though the One who strengthens him!
Gideon’s story begins with a face-to-face encounter with God Himself. And although God refers to Gideon as a “mighty man of valor”, Gideon’s circumstances tell him something completely different. Not only is he the least in his father’s house AND his clan the weakest in Manasseh, but all of Israel seems to have been forsaken by God and given over into the hands of the Midianites. Obviously, by referring to Gideon as a mighty man of valor, God has no idea what He’s talking about! (sarcasm)
Many of us would say that a personal visit from the Angel of the Lord would give us enough courage to do just about anything He commanded us. Yet the reality is that many of us are like Gideon in that we have a ton of faith in our circumstance that far outweighs our faith in God’s ability to work through us. And yet God is patient. Not only does He appear to Gideon (vs 11), He also consumes the offering Gideon brings Him with the tip of His staff (vs 21) and continues to SPEAK with Gideon (vs 23). This gives Gideon enough courage to fulfill God’s first assignment (sort of). First, Gideon needed to learn to be a mighty man of valor at home! Gideon is obedient, but is so scared that he does it under the cover of night (vs 27). It’s important to realize that obedience doesn’t require us to be fearless. Courage is doing something in-spite of our fears.
This incident prepared Gideon for his second assignment, which was learning to let go of control. Verse 34 says that “the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon; then he blew the trumpet, and the Abiezrites gathered behind him.” I wonder if Gideon would have blown the trumpet on his own accord? Things can get a little crazy when the Holy Spirit comes upon us. Sometimes He does things through us that we would have never done ourselves. And now that he is completely outside of his comfort zone, Gideon decides to ask God for a few more signs (ie. the fleece incident). But God is faithfully patient and gives Gideon all that he asks for. You can read Judges 7 for yourself, but just know that after all of this, Gideon is still afraid to go into battle, so God confirms His command to him once more. Eventually Gideon obeys God’s initial command (6:14-16) and lives up to what God had said about him.
Gideon didn’t need all of those signs to fulfill God’s command. Gideon was equipped to succeed at the moment God called him! It’s God’s call that both equips and enables us.
“Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?”
Gideon’s story is a breath of fresh air for those of us who are new to listening to God’s voice and walking out His commands in complete obedience. BUT not all of us are Gideon!!!
Take some time to read Luke 1:8-20. It’s the part of the story where Gabriel announces to Zacharias that his wife Elizabeth is going to conceive and give birth to John the Baptist. Zacharias’ encounter with the Angel seems to be the EXACT opposite of Gideon’s. Zacharias asks one small question and BOOM!!! he’s muted for 9-10 months. What’s the difference between Gideon and Zacharias? How can God respond to each of these men with such extremes? What happened to God’s patience?
God expects us to act our age. It’s really a question of spiritual maturity. Gideon truly was the least and God knew that He needed to hold his hand along the way. Zacharias, on the other hand, was a Spiritual Leader among the people, chosen to serve in the Temple. God expected much more of him.
“For even though by this time you ought to be teaching others, you actually need someone to teach you over again the very first principles of God’s Word. You have come to need milk, not solid food. For everyone who continues to feed on milk is obviously inexperienced and unskilled in the doctrine of righteousness (of conformity to the divine will in purpose, thought, and action), for he is a mere infant [not able to talk yet]!” (Hebrews 5:12-13 AMP)
How do infants act? How do we expect older children or adults to act? If we look at how Jesus treated different groups of people, it is very obvious that He expected different things from them. Notice how Jesus spoke to the tax collectors and sinners. He spoke to them in parables about lost sheep, lost coins and a lost son (Luke 15). Compare this with how He spoke to the Pharisees and other religious leaders (Matthew 21:31-60; ch. 23). Lastly, how did He treat His disciples (Matthew 8).
The tax collectors knew they were broken and Jesus knew they were lost. The Pharisees thought they could see but Jesus knew they were blind. The disciples thought they were weak, yet Jesus knew the authority He had given them. How does Jesus expect you to act? It’s okay to act like an infant if you are. But if you’re a mature believer, its probably best to act like one! What all of us really need is what Gideon had: a greater amount of self-awareness!
“Leadership is not about living separately from the people. Platforms, titles, all that kind of stuff, positions - they’re irrelevant in many ways. When it all comes down to it, we’re all children of God learning how to walk with Him. I like getting involved in people’s lives. It’s thrilling. Everyone has a story and a journey. Good leadership is about stepping off a platform into someone’s story!”
“When my God comes to visit I will sing to Him.”
My 2.5 year old daughter’s response to me when I asked if she was a worshiper (via jacquelynmaas)