Friday, November 26, 2010

Plans . . .

Really liked and could connect with what John Ortberg had to say below . . . Believe what you read below and then live like you believe it!  Life has a lot of yield signs and red lights, but if we're traveling with Jesus there are no dead ends!!
A Better Plan from a Better Planner
By John Ortberg
It’s almost Thanksgiving, with Christmas right behind. Often on the holidays we become aware that life does not go the way we plan. We think to ourselves:
I was supposed to be married by now.
I was supposed to be promoted by now.
I was supposed to have retired, or to have children, or to have achieved this dream-
Or, I wasn’t supposed to go bankrupt.  I wasn’t supposed to lose my job, or get divorced, or get cancer.
What do you do when life doesn’t turn out the way you planned?
One of the great statements of the Bible reads: “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD. Plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope, and a future.’
Jeremiah 29:11
We all have plans. But God does not say:  “I know the plans YOU have for you…”
In the Bible, God is always interrupting somebody’s plan. 
Adam didn’t plan on getting created. 
Noah didn’t plan on building an ark. 
Abraham didn’t plan on becoming the father of a new nation in his 90’s.   
Esther didn’t plan on stopping genocide. 
Moses didn’t plan on defying Pharaoh.  
Mary didn’t plan on getting pregnant. 
Not a single story in the Bible begins:  “Then someone had a great plan…”
But God has a plan.
Better than our plan.
So even if we have many disappointments, we have something else, something to be grateful for.  We are part of somebody else's plan; a better plan, from a Better Planner. His plan is better than we could invent ourselves in a million years. 
Gratitude is one of the best parts of the plan.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Blog Break

Yes, for some obvious reasons, I've been taking a little blog break.  My family is doing great and we're spending a few thankful days with the girls :)

I do plan on continuing this blog journey . . . a little at a time . . .

One way I'm staying 'in the game' right now is by continuing to send my sporadic texts of encouragement and challenge.  If you're not getting those and want to then text me at 361.877.6461 and just say 'I'm In.'

Blessings on your family and your Thanksgiving!!

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Road Being Traveled . . .

The end of one journey is really just the beginning of another.

This past Sunday was difficult.  Very. When one journey ends, it's always difficult.  Especially when you have been doing something you love for 11 1/2 years and have been loved so much while doing it.  It was very difficult to stand up on Sunday morning - after being up there nearly 600 times - and tell you that I was no longer going to be the Pastor of Oso Creek.

Our family has been so very blessed during our years at Oso Creek . . . our kids have grown up in an incredible community . . . we have been loved and encouraged.

And yet . . . it's time.  Several weeks ago now, I sensed God whispering that it was time.  One season was ending and another beginning.

"For everything there is a season,

a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace."
(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

I wish I could say that I fully understood it all right now.  But I don't.

But I feel confident that it's time for another exciting season of the journey for Oso Creek.  One like Oso Creek has never known before.

And time for another adventure for Cindy, Luke and I.

I cannot explain the mystery of God.  I can only seek to follow Him as I best know how.
And in that posture we are all going to experience Him in the journey as we never have before!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Feast and the Fast

Recently a friend sent me the book excerpt below that was written by Jen Hatmaker.  Jen is a friend, an author and a speaker whom God speaks through powerfully. 

Below is an excerpt from her next Book Seven which is not even out yet.  If you want to know more check out Jen's website: www.jenhatmaker.com 

And if you want to be challenged in following Jesus, keep reading about Feasting and Fasting . . . .  



Day 25

I am a word girl. I’m English/Language Arts/creative writing/history. I am fully right-brained; the left half is just a dormant holding cell for the Pythagorean theorem and some business about isotopes I forgot twenty years ago, approximately three seconds after I learned it. I correct misspelled words when I text. When there is a grammatical error on the power point during worship, I have to close my eyes so I won’t be derailed by this language failure. If I lost access to a thesaurus, I would undoubtedly quit writing.

Consequently, it is words that move me. God and I do our best business in the Bible, and the power of story has changed my life. One well-crafted sentence can sustain me for weeks. Like this one we sang for the first time Sunday at ANC:

“God, may we be focused on the least; a people balancing the fasting and the feast.”

I almost came undone.

That single statement sums up all my tension, all my hopes for the American Christ-follower, the American church, the American me. With good intentions but misguided theology, the church spends most of our time and energy and resources and prayer words and programs and sermons and conferences and Bible studies and attention on the feast, our feast to be exact.

Now certainly, there is a feast in the economy of Jesus, and thank you God for it. Where brokenness and starvation once consumed us, God redeems our bankruptcy and sets us at a new table:

“Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep. O LORD, you preserve both man and beast. How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.” (Psalm 36: 5-9)

This is the feast of the redeemed; Jesus made it possible for the wretched to dine at the same table with the Most High, neither offending his holiness nor compromising his justice. When he looks at those adopted into the family by grace and faith, he no longer sees an ounce of our failures or omissions; he only sees the righteousness that Jesus covered us with. We stand safely in the shadow of Christ, made absolutely white-as-snow-perfect because of his substitution on the cross.

The currency of salvation includes blessings, redemption, fulfillment, peace, healing, sustenance, forgiveness, and hope. It’s a spiritual jackpot. For those of us salvaged from the gutter by Jesus, these are new mercies every morning. We are easily overwhelmed by the goodness of God, which evidently knows no bounds. The gospel is so beautiful and liberating, it is worthy of adoration every single second of every single hour of every single day forever. We will never be the same. This is indeed the feast, and to celebrate it is utterly Christian.

But the feast has a partner in the rhythm of the gospel: the fast.

Its practice is unmistakable in Scripture. Hundreds of times we see the reduction, the pouring out, the abstinence, the restraint. We find our heroes of the Bible fasting from food – David, Esther, Nehemiah, Jesus. We read about the Philippian church fasting from self-preservation, sending Paul money to sustain his mission in spite of their own poverty, a true sacrifice. John the Baptist tells us that if we have two coats, one of them belongs to the poor. We watch the early church sell all their possessions and live communally, caring for one another and the broken people in their cities. We see God explain his idea of a fast: justice, freedom, food for the hungry, clothes for the naked. This balance is a given in Scripture.

If we ignored the current framework of the church we see and instead just opened up the Bible for a new definition, we see the faith community adopt the fast mere moments after discovering the feast. What we don’t see is a church who hoards the feast for themselves, gorging, getting fatter and fatter and asking for still more; more Bible studies, more sermons, more programs, more classes, more training, more conferences, more information, more feasting for us.

I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point, the church stopped living the Bible and decided to just study it, culling the feast parts and whitewashing the fast parts. We are addicted to the buffet, skillfully discarding the radical simplicity and generosity and costly discipleship required after consuming. The feast is supposed to sustain the fast, but we go back for seconds and thirds and fourths, stuffed to the brim and fat with inactivity. All this is for me. All this is for me. My goodness, my blessings, my privileges, my happiness, my success. Just one more plate.

Not so with the early church who stunned their Roman neighbors and leaders with their generosity, constantly curbing their own appetites for the sake of the mission of Jesus. There was no end of their self-denial in order to alleviate human misery. In the Shepard of Hermas, a well-respected Christian literary work written in the early 100s, believers were instructed to fast one day a week:

“Having fulfilled what is written, in the day on which you fast you will taste nothing but bread and water; and having reckoned up the price of the dishes of that day which you intended to have eaten, you will give it to a widow, or an orphan, or to some person in want, and thus you will exhibit humility of mind, so that he who has received benefit from your humility may fill his own soul, and pray for you to the Lord.”

In the early 200s, Tertullian reports that Christians had a voluntary common fund they contributed to monthly. That fund was then used to support widows, the disabled, orphans, the sick, the elderly, shipwrecked sailors, prisoners, teachers, burials for the poor, and even for the release of slaves. [i]

The difference between Romans and Christians on the practice of charity was widely recognized by unbelievers of the time. The pagan satirist Lucian (130-200 c.e.) mocked Christians for their kindness: “The earnestness with which the people of this religion help one another in their needs is incredible. They spare themselves nothing for this end. Their first lawgiver put it into their heads that they were all brethren.”

These Christians did not limit their assistance to members of their own subculture either. The Emperor Julian, who attempted to lead the Roman Empire back to paganism, was frustrated by the superior compassion shown by the Christians, especially when it came to intervention for the suffering. He famously declared: “The impious Galileans relieve both their own poor and ours…It is shameful that ours should be so destitute of our assistance.”[ii]

I wonder what the early church would think if they walked into some of our buildings today, if they looked through our church websites, if they talked to the average attender? Would they be so confused? Would they wonder why we all had empty spare bedrooms and piles of uneaten food in our trash cans? Would they look upon our hoarded wealth with shock? Would they see the number of orphans in the world and wonder why we haven’t swiftly eradicated that crisis already? Would they be stunned to discover most of us don’t feed the hungry, visit the prisoner, care for the sick, or protect the widow? Would they look at the money we spend on our church buildings and on ourselves and grieve at the extravagant waste while 25,000 people die every day from starvation?

I think they’d barely recognize us as brothers and sisters. If we told them that church is on Sundays and we have an awesome band, this would be horribly perplexing. If we explained how we’re “church shopping” because enough people don’t say hello to us when we walk in the lobby one hour a week, I believe we’d receive dumbfounded stares. If they found out that one-sixth of the entire population on earth claimed to be Christians, I’m not sure they could reconcile the scope of suffering happening on our watch while we’re living in excess. They’d certainly wonder if we had ever read the Bible, or worry it had been tampered with since their time.

But listen Early Church, we put on a monthly event called Mocha Chicks. We have choir practice every Wednesday. We organize retreats and give each other pedicures. We’re raising three million dollars for an outdoor amphitheater. We have catchy t-shirts. We don’t smoke or say the F-word. We go to Bible study every semester. (“And then what, American Church?”) Well, we go to another one the next semester. We’re learning so much. We love Beth Moore.

I think the early church would put on sackcloth, cover their heads with ashes, and grieve and wail over the destruction of Jesus’ beautiful church vision. We’ve taken his Plan A for justice and love to an injured lost planet and neutered it down to clever sermon series and monthly Stitch-and-Chat sessions in the Fellowship Hall, serving the saved and blessing blessed people. If the modern church held to its biblical definition, we would become the answer to all that ails society. We would no longer have to baby-talk and cajole and coax people into our sanctuaries through witty mailers and strategic ads; they’d be running to us. The local church would be the heartbeat of the city, undeniable by even our staunchest critics.

Instead, the American church is dying. We are losing ground in epic proportions. Our country is a graveyard of dead and vanishing churches. We made it acceptable for people to do nothing and still call themselves Christians, and that anemic vision isn’t holding. Last year, 94% of evangelical churches reported loss or no growth in their communities. Almost 4000 churches are closing each year. The American church is losing almost three million people annually, flooding out the back door and never returning. The next generation is downright refusing to come.

Ironically, this is the result of a church that only feasts.

When the fast, the death, the sacrifice of the gospel is omitted from the Christian life, then it isn’t Christian at all. Not only that, it’s boring. If I just want to feel good or get some self-help, I’ll buy a $12 book from Borders and join a gym. The church the Bible described is exciting and adventurous and wrought with sacrifice. It cost believers everything, and they still came. It was good news to the poor and stumped its enemies. The church was patterned after a Savior who didn’t even have a place to lay his head and voluntarily died a brutal death, even knowing one day we would reduce the gospel to a self-serving personal improvement program where people were encouraged to make a truce with their Maker and stop sinning and join the church, when in fact the gospel does not call for a truce but a complete surrender.

Jesus said the kingdom was like a treasure hidden in a field, and once someone truly finds it, he will joyfully sell everything he owns to possess that field; a perfect description of the fasting and the feast. It is supposed to cost us everything, but it is a treasure and an unfathomable joy. This is the balance of the kingdom; to live we must die, to be lifted we must bow, to gain we must lose. There is no alternative definition, no path of least resistance, no treasure in the field without the sacrifice of everything else.

Oh Lord, may we be focused on the least; a people balancing the fasting and the feast.



[i]http://www.christiancadre.org/member_contrib/cp_charity.html
 [ii] Epistles of Julian, 49

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Peggy's Shawls

Check out this article in the Caller Times about First Friday and how Peggy Moore's shawls -- and her faith in Jesus -- are being spread to ladies all over South Texas!

Thanks Clarence for continuing to share her love and build the legacy that God blessed us with!

Caller Times Article with Peggy

Thursday, September 23, 2010

To Save A Life

Cindy & I watched a great movie last weekend . . .

To Save A Life is a movie with a spiritual purpose that confronts about a dozen issues that teens and families are facing in real life.

It starts a little slow and there's a couple of awkward places that made me feel like I was watching a cheesy Christian flick, but that was like 4% of the movie.

The other 96% forces you to think about real life. And what I really like, is that it makes you think about how the rest of the world sees the church. How awkward we look when we try to hard to be 'spiritual' and aren't real. Worth the watch just for that.

You probably need to watch it first and decide for yourself about your pre-teens watching it as it tackles real issues without flinching.

But I encourage you to go get it at Red Box and watch and listen . . .

Boys vs. Texans PRE-GAME

Yep, we're not having any sort of Sunday Funday anymore, it's Pre-Game.

Time to get nourished and focused for the afternoon.

Boys and the Texan at Noon.  No worries.  Immediately following worship on Sunday we'll have food & pregame discussion.

You can be done by 11:45.  Be in your chair by kickoff.

Pre-Game is only $5 a person - $20 max a family (& guests are always free).  

If you don't give a rip about the game then hangout with us longer at the building.

See you Sunday!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Empowered Disciples

Are you asking yourself and God these questions this week:

1) What makes me come alive? (Or, What am I doing when I feel God's pleasure?)

2) What do I do that blesses and encourages other people?

If you're not sure what I'm talking about then click here and listen to Sunday's message about the Oso Creek value of Empowered Disciples.

The bigger question I talked about Sunday and the bigger question for you is . . . 'Is my purpose for living big enough to prepare me for dying?'

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Radical

I told you a few weeks ago that I was going to tell you about a couple of my favorite books of the Summer . . . I told you about Untamed . . . and then I disappeared!

Ok, here's the second: Radical by David Platt.

Fair Warning! He says stuff like this:

* "We are giving in to the dangerous temptation to take the Jesus of the Bible and twist Him into a version of Jesus we are more comfortable with. A nice, middle-class, American Jesus. A Jesus who doesn't mind materialism and who would never call us to give away everything we have. . . . A Jesus who is fine with nominal devotion that does not infringe on our comforts, because, after all, He loves us just the way we are . . ."

* "Based on what we have heard from Jesus in the Gospels, we would have to agree that the cost of discipleship is great. But I wonder if the cost of nondiscipleship is even greater."

* "In direct contradiction to the American dream, God actually delights in exalting our inability. He intentionally puts His people in situations where they come face to face with their need for Him."

* "The goal of the gospel is to make much of God."

* "The key word here again is sacrifice. The challenge is not just ot give away excess stuff that you really don't need anyway. That's not sacrifice. Sacrifice is giving away what it hurts to give. Sacrifice is not giving according to your ability; it's giving beyond your ability."


That's probably enough fair sampling. Platt's book is definitely not for you if you desire to stay entrenched in American consumeristic, easy-believism Christianity.
But I'll warn you that I think that is a dying tribe.

If you want to be stretched to follow Jesus in new ways - and I hope you do - then I would encourage you to get it and get it for a friend.
Both of you read and discuss it (it won't be a quiet conversation :)


Then let God do something with it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Progress!




Thanks to everyone who gave a few hours tonight to help transform the inside of our building!


Check out the progress that was made . . . .



Click below to sign up to come & be a part of painting later this week . . . or working on the floor next week . . . .


Sign Up Here

Who Believes?

It amazes me how much of life comes down to this one question: Do we really believe it?

Men & women will die by the thousands in battle if they believe in the cause and their country. (Just think about that for a minute.)

People will give their lives - 50, 60, 70 hours a week for 40 years - to their jobs if they believe that their careers or more money will better their existence.

People will sacrifice $80 a ticket and 10 hours a week to follow their favorite team because they believe it adds meaning to their lives.

Some people will go to prison because they really believe that aborting babies or trafficking human beings is wrong.

Many parents will spend unlimited dollars and time on their children's teams and training and private lessons because they believe that they will be the next Chopin, or Mariah Carey or Albert Pujols.

It always begs the question for me: What do we really believe about Jesus?

I mean, really.

God has been convicting me that if I really believe that no one can live a life of fullness without Him, then why would I ever hesitate in telling someone how they need Him. (Or, maybe worse, apologetically tell them.)

If I really believe that He is our only hope to spend eternity with God, it's unthinkable not to show people around me His love & verbally give them the opportunity to follow Him. Right? Am I missing something?


I'm not writing this to get a reaction or heap guilt. But just to make us think . . . and live.

Bottom line, we can say we believe whatever we want. The truth is that ultimately we live what we really believe.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Makeover

"A gift opens the way for the giver and ushers him into the presence of the great." (Prov 18:16)

We are giving a gift of our creativity and excellence to our friends and neighbors who don't know our God - and we want you to join in!

Over the next couple of weeks we are going to be making some aesthetic changes to our building and on our property - paint, flooring, signage, decorations. Changes designed to give a fresh, exciting look that will energize us, and speak of our God's excitement and passion to those who come!

At my house we have a saying that: Sometimes you help just because help is needed!
This is one of those times and there has been an awesome web page set up where you can volunteer to help the next couple of weeks!


Just click here: Sign Up Page and jump on for a night or two!

Let's give gifts with returns for eternity!

Missing Teenager

This is Lizzie Nogle. She is a Freshman at King High School. Her family just recently moved here from California and they visited Oso Creek a couple of weeks ago.

They have not seen her or heard from her since yesterday (Friday) morning. King HS did verify that she was at school all day Friday.

Please pray for Lizzie and her parents - Curt & Patty.

Pray for God to return Lizzie safely. Pray for God to bless and be near this family.

From Assistant to Champion

On Sunday I introduced Kacey May who is taking over for Jenny McDermott in leading the Oso Creek Admin charge!

Jenny has been our Administrative Assistant for about 3 years and done an incredible job! She has moved the ball far down the field. . .

Kacey is going to continue to run with the ball in an excellent way! She will continue to be the primary Oso Creek contact. But one change is instead of her title being Administrative Assistant, we are calling her Administrative Champion.

That's because what we want to communicate that Kacey's job isn't just to 'do' all the admin duties, but to also engage others and lead them in serving! To empower others to use their gifts & skills for the Kingdom.

This will be Kasey's email: creekadmin@gmail.com
Give her a high-5 as we welcome her to the team!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

10.10.10

Coming on 10.10.10 a fresh opportunity to invite your friends to 'Taste & see that the Lord is good.'

Be praying and watching for who around you needs to experience that God is good.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Pursuit in Colorado

Would you pray with me for my friend Alan Reed and the launching of The Pursuit Church in Fort Collins, Colorado this weekend.

Creekers should remember Alan as he filled in for me one Sunday about a year ago.

Check out the Grand Opening announcement here

Pray for God's blessing on their launch . . . that they will come alive in Jesus . . . and that they will be building relationships with many people in Fort Collins who need to be connected to God!

Are You Paying Attention?

"Think on things above and not things below."

On Sunday I talked about a second 'Value' of Oso Creek . . . Transformation!

We believe that every person has a God-Agenda on this planet and want to see their lives changed so that they come more and more ALIVE . . . . and change the world!

God is the Potter and we are the clay in the Transformation process. He molds & shapes. We Surrender.

And the part of Surrender that I talked about Sunday is what we Pay Attention To. Do we set our minds on things that will allow us to hear God? Or, are we continually distracted by the noise all around us? It's your choice. It's my choice.

We all need to discover what helps us to more fully Pay Attention to God. I would love to be a part of helping everyone I can pay attention. One of the things that I do on a 'spontaneous' basis is send texts to our leaders encouraging them with Scripture or reminding them of something God has been telling us, etc.

I want to invite you to get those texts just as an occasional 'pay attention' reminder.

If you want to be on the list just text me at 877.6461 and say 'I'm in.'

Now: What's going on above?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Show Time




A few pics from Laura's first college soccer game on Tuesday in Dallas . . .


She plays for John Brown Univ & they tied Northwood College 4-4 . . .


She's #12 in blue . . .


I'm the one in the glasses :)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Good News in a Distant Land

"Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land." (Prov 25:25)

Wanted to show you a couple of pics of the good news in a distant land that many of you were a part of last week. It will be refreshment - and warmth - for years to come.

The first pic shows some of our team, some of the students, and some of the blankets and mats that you purchased for the students at Ban Ho.

In the second pic is one of the GVI leaders, Tan, who has led us on each trip.

And then below is a story from Stacey Gaines (which she gave me permission to share), who participated in giving for the students. An awesome story about our awesome God . . . And how we're blessed when we listen to the whispers of His Spirit . . .


Hi Pastor John,
Just wanted to let you know (again!) how perfectly God provides for His children! Last week as I read your blog about the need in Ban Ho for beds, I immediately sensed in my spirit that we were to give $100. Almost instantly, my flesh chimed in wondering how we could afford to answer this need. My husband was laid off last month, and while God has provided for every need, finances are tight and I honestly didn’t know where the $100 would come from. But I knew God was asking us to help meet this need and was obedient to his calling. The next day, I was scheduled to facilitate a session with our new faculty. I had agreed to do the session as a simple service and wasn’t expecting any compensation. When I arrived that day, the person in charge of the orientation session told me that I was being paid $200 for the session! Not only did God provide for the need He had created, but provided abundantly. I am reminded of the passage in Luke where Jesus talks of giving...”Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap!” (Luke 6:38). I am incredibly thankful to have a Father who challenges me to obey Him when it makes no sense...to love Him...to trust Him.

I hope this encourages you!!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Jesus Changing Lives That Change the World

On Sunday I shared this battle cry for the next season of Oso Creek . . . (And if you weren't there Sunday I encourage you to go here and listen to the message)

Jesus Changing Lives
That Change the World


Some people call it a mission statement or purpose statement or whatever - but we want to be clear and unified as to what we are about!

We're about people's lives being transformed! We're about people moving from the old to the new, from death to life.

Like I said in a post last week, 'Jesus didn't come to make bad men good, but to make dead men alive!'

Monday, August 23, 2010

November Trip?


There is one more opportunity this year (2010) to go to Ban Ho, Vietnam and serve these beautiful people for the Kingdom.

The possibility is the first week of November and the deadline is closing quickly. I would need to know of your interest THIS week.

Let me know asap.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Widows & Orphans . . .

"Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you." (James 1:27)

My friend Tray Pruet (Who did an awesome job speaking at Oso Creek last Sunday!) let me know about a situation with a young lady who wants to give her baby up for adoption.

I want you to see the email exchange below so that you can see:

1) Tray's heart and what they are really doing at ANC
2) A real need that someone may want to fill
3) The power of loving one person, one person at a time and the difference it can make!

I've intentionally left off the personal info about the 'Young Lady' below, but if you want more info about this young lady and this baby email Tray here: tray@austinnewchurch.com



From: Tray Pruet
To: [Young Lady]
Subject: Your Baby

Hi there [Young Lady],
I was sent an email from someone in our church that got a brief history of your story. I know there is no way to understand all of it in a brief email. But I want you to know that our church has been overwhelmed with amazing stories of adoption...and many families in our church are pursuing adoption as we speak.
I understand that you are planning to terminate today and I would ask that you reconsider.
If you will let us....we will walk along side you to find someone in our church or another to adopt your baby.

Please call me as soon as you get this. Number below.

Tray Pruet | Austin New Church



[Email back to Tray]

Tray-

Well, my appointment was scheduled for 7 am today. After spending
some time with my 5 year old son, Evan; I realized that if I had
terminated that pregnancy 6 years ago, I would never have known love
like I know it now.

While I laid in bed, mentally and emotionally shutting down, numbing
myself for the coming morning's activity, a dear friend of mine came
to check on me. We talked at length and I decided I couldn't go
through with it. I just couldn't. There was something inside of me
telling me that if I did this, I wouldn't be right for a while. My
heart just broke. I called the child's father and told him that I
couldn't do it. He was upset because he wanted a quick fix. He
doesn't want to be involved. He just wants it to 'go away'.

I am open to adoption. I am only about 8 weeks along and I am in
great health. I don't drink or do any drugs. I exercise regularly,
and my current mode of transportation is my mountain bike :) I am
trying hard to find a job and might actually have one next..let's hope
so. I am going back to school in the Spring (January) at ACC,
Physical Therapist Assistant. I am college-educated with a AAS in
Medical Office Managament. I graduated from college with a 3.9 GPA.
I was an honor student in high school and served in The U.S.M.C. for 7
years, until I was pregnant with Evan. I was born and raised in the
country and I have one sister. I have never had any serious health
problems, but my mom is obese and has developed some health problems
due to her obesity. My dad died when I was 15, he drank alot, but was
otherwise very healthy. I like to think I am pretty intelligent. My
son, Evan was reading by the time he was 4 years old and reads on
about a 3rd grade level. He has Asperger's Syndrome. I don't know
much about this baby's father's medical or family history, but his mom
did die of cancer about a year ago. So, he is now an organic health
nut :)

I do believe that everything happens for a reason and that God has a
plan for everyone. This child I am carrying may not be for me, but an
answer to someone else's prayers. I am more than happy to carry this
child to term and present it to a loving family. I will most likely
be on government assistance, so no one (except all of us tax payers)
will have to pay for anything. I am also willing to pump the colostrum
after the baby is born, so that he/she will get the antibodies they
need. I know this is no accident. . . . . .

[Young Lady]

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Help End Local Poverty . . .

A few weeks ago we were blessed on Sunday morning by Chris Marlow whose mission is Help End Local Poverty . . .

As Chris presses ahead in keeping the Gospel and Justice forged together, I thought that some of you might want to stay connected with what is going on so that you can pray for him . . . and maybe God is whispering to some of you join the mission in more tangible ways . . .

Here is is Chris' latest blog . . . Chris Marlow's Blog

Thursday, August 19, 2010

From Vietnam Team

Just got email from Greg as they head home that he asked me to share with you . . .

Oso Creek!
Don't have much time before we are leaving - but have to say THANK YOU AND Praise Him! It is with mixed emtions that we prepare for the overseas portion of our travels home because we are finding this leg of our journey to be the hardest; the goodbyes.

Our goodbyes began yesterday in the village of Ban Ho and our final goodbyes will be in just a few moments when we leave for the airport and leave behind our GVI friends. We have met so many amazing people in our journey, from Hanoi to Ban Ho & back again, we have encountered many wonderful and special people.

As we travel to our final stop at our HOME (big H up above), we are confident we will see some of them again and we encourage you all to join us as we focus our thoughts on those we may not see again. Your gifts to the children were so much more than beds, blankets and mats, they were individual expressions of love that will we hope will allow the children to feel more and more at HOME (big H!).

We cannot wait to share so many of our relational stories! Please continue your awesome prayer support for out last leg!
From your humbled Vietnam team

Need in Mexico

Below is an email I received today from Ed Jump the head of the CC Baptist Association. Just felt like I needed to pass it on.

If there is a whispering of the Spirit in your life about this then contact Raul Elizondo (raul4christ@msn.com) . . . and also 'comment' at the bottom of this post so that you can connect with others who God is whispering to . . .


Brother Ed,
Alejandro Cortinas is the pastor of the church we assisted in building homes during our summer mission trip in Matamoros, Mexico with RHBC and ABC churches. He has contacted me about a church pastored by his brother, Gilberto Cortinas. Giberto's church lost their roof during Hurricane Alex. They would like to build a new roof, but a solid one not one from metal sheets, the cost is approximately $4,000.00. I verified the damage and the cost with Dwight Hendricks, our contact in Brownsville. Gilberto sent pictures of the damage made to the church as well as some of the surrounding houses. Could you please send out this information to our sister churches. The church is 2 hours south of Matamoros. If anyone feels the Lord would like them to help, they can call me and I can provide them with contact information.

Community affected by hurricane Alex:

Ejido Santa Isabel

Municipio Soto La Marina

Ejido Santa Isabel is at few hours south from Matamoros near Ciudad Victoria Tamaulipas. This is a ranch that has approx. 50 homes that live in very poor conditions and that has never had electricity, sewer system or phone lines. All they had was their homes and descent/low income jobs to support their families.

Church affected in the above mentioned community:

Iglesia Bautista Pescadores de Hombres

Pastor Gilberto Cortina

Intermediary - Pastor Alejandro Cortinas (Cell # 011 521 86 81 35 80 73)

Pastor Gilberto has no way of communication from Ejido Santa Isabel. Therefore, he has asked his brother, Pastor Alejandro Cortina from Matamoros, to assist him in getting the help they need. Pastor Alejandro will be using Moises’, his brother, email to communicate and ask for support in the reconstruction of the church in Ejido Santa Isabel. Pastor Alejandro will be sending us more pictures of the affected area via Moises’ email.



Thanks,
Raul Elizondo

Summer Reading

I had a few friends who I spent time with this Summer talking about life & leading . . . but much of my learning was through friends I've never met.

I read about 10 books this Summer and in a couple of different blogs I want to share two of them that had the great impact on me and my thinking.

The first is Untamed by Alan & Debra Hirsch. I'm asking all of our Creeker leaders to read it and would encourage everyone to.

What I love about Untamed is that Hirsch unclutters what it means to really follow Jesus.

He gets at the core of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.

And he refuses to let us relax in an ordinary, irrelevant, religious meaning of 'Christian.' It just ain't what Jesus died for.

Here are a few (of the many) great quotes from Untamed:

"If God is not the defining center of our faith, life and identity, then who or what is? This is a question that should disturb each and everyone of us."

"The fact is that you can't be a disciple without being a missionary: no mission, no discipleship. It's as simple as that."

"Worship is no less than offering our whole world back to God."

"Instead of looking at holiness as a list of 'don'ts,' see it as a list of 'do's'."

"The very language of 'getting fed' at church betrays the fact that many attendees are not disciples at all, but rather passive (and somewhat dependent) consumers."

"As followers of Jesus, we must embrace our God-given identity, for it is as we embrace the imago Dei and live out this image that we come alive to ourselves, to others, and to the world around us."

Get it and read it!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Done!

Sunrise this (tomorrow really for us) morning in Lao Cai was 5:42am (close as I could get to Ban Ho) . . .
At 5:51pm (12 hours difference) the final message of $100 was emailed to me from Colorado.

Isn't God awesome! Within 9 minutes of the sunrise we raised the $1,600 to care for children around the world who no one who contributed has ever met! They will now have beds, mats and blankets to be warm & somewhat comfortable as winter comes on. Things we take for granted.

We had people from 8 different cities in Colorado and Texas give generously to help those in need in Southeast Asia - and it all happened in less than 12-hours! Wow!

I want to share with you one message I got from Lynn Floyd. You Creekers remember that Lynn filled in for me the first Sunday of my sabbatical this Summer. Pretty cool that God would have him collide with His need in Vietnam through my blog post as I come back from sabbatical.

Check his message out . . .

John, So, I've been reading "The Hole in Our Gospel" the last week and a half. It's been a major eye opener and no doubt I have personally and led the churches I have been involved in to be guilty of the sin of omission by not being more passionate and active in bringing hope, relief, and aid to those living in abject poverty.
I have resolved for that to change in my personal life, the life of my family and the life of my church.
So as I finished up another chapter last night in the book I prayed something like: "God it seems like such an overwhelming task. The misery is overwhelming and the needs are far too great. What do I do with all of this information?" Then I remembered something Stearns said in the book: "I believed that we really can alter our world, but we can only do it one person at a time. And when enough people choose to do this, even a crisis on a global scale can change." (pg. 163)

I then got out of my bed to check my email and I saw your post about the Immediate Need in Ban Ho and helping to break the cycle of poverty in their life and how by just helping to provide beds and blankets could help meet a tremendous need......I knew it was God answering my prayer and inviting me to join Him in what he was doing over there.
So, praise God for your team. And praise God for the vision that you are spreading to take the gospel to the whole world.

Blessings,
Lynn

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Immediate Need in Ban Ho

Greg Richmond, who is leading the group from Oso Creek that is in Vietnam this week, emailed me an immediate need and another opportunity to help the students at the school in the community of Ban Ho.

By putting in the water line and giving them clean drinking water we are removing one of the biggest barriers to children being able to go to school!

But another barrier to them getting an education is having a place to sleep at night while at school. Most of the students live miles from the school and have no transportation except walking. Since it may take hours to walk there it makes it impossible for them to go to school if there is nowhere for them to stay.

I've attached a few pics of some of their 'dorms'. The buildings provide very little protection from the elements at night. And now two kids sleep in many of the beds, or on the floor, or they just don't come.

Here is the immediate need to give these students a better chance at an education and transforming the cycle of poverty:
10 new metal beds
, 40 bed mats and 50 thick blankets. The cost of of the beds are $80, the mats $2, and the blankets $15. That makes the entire cost $1,630.

The dream of the team is to be able to go and get the supplies tomorrow and then present them to the administrators, teachers & students before they leave. We just need to have the resources accounted to do so.

So what can you do to help these students and continue to build bridges to this community? Buy a bed, a blanket and 5 mats for $100. Buy 10 blankets for $150. Buy it all!

This is such a quick turnaround I would ask you to please email me by clicking here or text me 361-877-6461 and let me know what you can do so that I can tell the team what they are freed up to do before they leave.

Blessings!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Kingdom Connections


This is a great pic of the teahers at the Ban Ho school looking at the photo album that Erin Richmond (one of the January trip team members) made for them from our trip in January.
They were in awe . . .
'Go . . . [to] all nations . . . and I am with you always, even to the end of the age.'

Great Connections

Vietnam Team is doing incredible . . .

Today (remember that they are 12 hours ahead) was their first day in Ban Ho and they got to drink the first glasses of water from the new filtration system.

Greg (Richmond who is leading the trip) tells me that the teachers and administrators were so excited to see them. It makes huge impact when you REALLY do come back. It's all about relationships and pouring out the blessing of the Kingdom as eyes are opened.

One story from Greg about small supplies we left last time: ". . . says thank you so much for medical supplies and she is already out of band aids liquid skin neopsporin and headache medicine - great story about how she used medicine kit on a consulate who was hurt in Ban Ho and he asked how she got the supplies so he found out about Oso Creek and GVI."

Audie, Sam, Kacey & Hannah led the first hygiene class and they said that went awesome as well and had great participation.

Check out the videos they are sending back on the front of our web page (click here) . . . and keep going back for new ones.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Much Too Fast . . .





Yesterday we dropped our little Laura off at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. . . .

Another incredible day in the life of parenting with many different emotions






It's difficult for the mind (and heart) to comprehend that this little bundle . . .






And this little toddler . . .







Is occupying this dorm room . . .



I guess it's really harder to swallow that another season of life has come and gone . . .


Here's a couple of cool links . . .
To that article about Laura being recruited to JBU . . .

And this year's JBU Women's Soccer Roster - #12!

Travel Envy

I'm finding myself really envious today of our team that is headed to Vietnam . . . For me it's like Christmas & 4th of July all together when you get on that plane headed towards the adventure!

But when someone sent me this hilarious video by Brian Regan it helped relieve my envy by reminding me of some of my flights. Takes a little (just a little) sting out of not being on the trip . . . . :)



Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pray . . . VN

One of my primary convictions this Summer centered around prayer.

Prayer is not a program or an obligation.

Prayer is simply the core expression of our dependence on God. Period.

When we have anything in our lives that we don't pray about, what we're essentially saying is: 'I've got this one God. Don't worry about it, I can handle it myself.' 'We really don't need your help in this area, we've got it figured out.'

Really?

I'm going to be leading us and calling us to a deeper commitment in prayer.

So pray with me today for our team leaving today for Vietnam: Greg Richmond, Hannah Richmond, Corey Wigger, Audie Lawley, Samantha Hanson, Kacey May.

Really.
Pray for each one of them to have humility in every situation and love for every person they meet.
Pray that will be teachable as they encounter the Vietnamese culture and people.
Pray that they will be wise in every situation.
And pray that they will be courageous as Jesus speaks to them to act.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Gawker or Helper?

We've all experienced driving by an accident . . . and rubbernecking. Gawking.
When we lived in Dallas they had a term for the delay caused by people watching a mishap on the other side of the freeway. An 'onlookers delay.'
There's a lot of gawkers . . . but very few folks who actually stop and help.

One of the things that God has shown me in the past few months is that when there's trouble in your life there's also a lot of gawkers . . . but very few helpers.

Proverbs 17:17 says: "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity."

When life and leadership isn't going as planned, there are plenty who stare and point out what (they think) went wrong. They speculate who's at fault.
And plenty who get on their cell and tell everyone about the accident they just saw.

But there's a few who help. A few who just come by and listen. Sometimes it surprises you who generously gives out encouragement.

"A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity."

Yep, I'm thankful for friends.

Next time you pass an accident, I hope you don't just gawk. Stop and listen. And listen to the Spirit for words of encouragement.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Best Quote of the Summer

'Jesus didn't come to make bad men good, but to make dead men alive!'

I honestly can't remember where I read this during the beginning of the Summer, but I've been dwelling on it off and on for weeks.

Just think about it . . . the implications . . .

So much of what we do as Christians and as Churches revolves around people being 'good.'

It says this in Matthew 16: "Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, 'Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?' 'Why do you ask me about what is good?' Jesus replied. 'There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.'"

Jesus came so that we can live! Jesus came so that our souls wake and begin living a life that reflects His glory and transforms the world.
When dead people rise they don't just walk into town unnoticed, they freak people out, they start conversations . . . and movements!

I wonder what would happen if we quit trying to be good and instead allowed Christ to make us alive??

Monday, August 9, 2010

Moses Moments

As I began my sabbatical this Summer I was asking God lots of questions.

Questions about my life, my family as we enter a new season, about Oso Creek. And a few weeks in I realized that I was looking for a Moses moment.
You know the moment in the middle of the Midian Desert where God miraculously appeared and spoke out loud to Moses from the midst of a burning bush: 'Moses! Moses!'

Man, I wanted one of those - I didn't really care if I was awake or asleep or whatever. ["John, John" -- hear voice of Morgan Freeman -- "You are my servant . . . "] I just needed a spiritual Red Bull moment or two and I'd be good to go!

I wasn't really thinking though. Moses spent 40-years in that wilderness before the whole bush thing happened. . . . . .

God reminded me this Summer that He much more often works in the midst of a whisper than the slam of the thunder. It's in the daily habit of clearing out space for Him, that He becomes present.

I spent one week at Lebh Shomea - a Catholic Prayer Retreat near Sarita. It's silent - no talking there. Challenging (very!), but fruitful (very!). It's hard for me to hear whispers when I'm talking and everything around me is 'talking.'

God reminded me this Summer that He still speaks, when I'm willing to listen for the whispers.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Back Online!

What a Summer it's been . . . As we move into a new season

I've been offline this Summer as I've been on Sabbatical seeking God and spending time with my family . . . And I've had some great experiences with both.

In just 2 weeks from today, I'm excited that I have the privilege of being back at Oso Creek on Sunday and getting back alongside you for what is going to be an exciting next leg of the journey!

So for the next 2 weeks I want to unpack, via my blog, some of my experiences of this Summer and what God has been showing me . . .

As for today, would you pray for our family? We're in process of dropping our beautiful twin daughters off at college ---- a lot of mixed emotions going on for all of us as we realize one season of life is coming to an abrupt end, and another springtime is breaking out . . .

Thanks!

Monday, June 21, 2010

'Dad' - How Serious Do You Take It?

"This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." (Deut 3:19-20)

Happy Day after Father's Day, Dads!

Below is an article that Greg Richmond emailed me yesterday that affirms how children mimic the spiritual life of their dads. What will you choose?



Study Confirms: Fathers are Key to Their Children's Faith by S. Michael Craven

I am afraid that our culture in general (and as a result, many fathers themselves) has reduced the role of fatherhood to something nonessential or unnecessary. Many men today regard parenting as being primarily the mother's role and somehow no longer associated with masculinity or “real” manhood.

Instead, many have succumbed to modern cultural caricatures—along with radically feminist psychology—and the label of hunter-gatherer, and thus assume this is their primary contribution to the family. As a result too many men, including professing Christian men, express their role as father exclusively in terms of financial provider. The fact is children are not looking for financial provision; they are looking for love, guidance, and a role model for what it means to be a man.

During the colonial period in America men defined themselves by their level of community involvement and fatherhood. Marriage and fatherhood were seen as being among the highest aspirations in a man’s life. This is likely due to the fact that people at that time were less individualistic. Today the highest aspirations of men seem to be career success and personal leisure; and against these they seek to balance marriage and family.

The lack of actively involved fathers has produced societal conditions necessary for the intervention of government. It is a sobering fact when the government is compelled to respond to the failure of such a fundamental institution as family! In 2001 the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services under President Bush launched its Fatherhood Initiative with this statement:

The President is determined to make committed, responsible fatherhood a national priority … [T]he presence of two committed, involved parents contributes directly to better school performance, reduced substance abuse, less crime and delinquency, fewer emotional and other behavioral problems, less risk of abuse or neglect, and lower risk of teen suicide. The research is clear: fathers factor significantly in the lives of their children. There is simply no substitute for the love, involvement, and commitment of a responsible father.

While the research does indeed show that paternal absence (whether it is physical or emotional) is a significant contributing factor in almost every category of societal ill, my concern is the spiritual consequence.

A rather obscure but large and important study conducted by the Swiss government in 1994 and published in 2000 revealed some astonishing facts with regard to the generational transmission of faith and religious values. (The full title of the study can be found in the online http://www.battlefortruth.org/ArticlesDetail.asp?id=388 version of this article.)

In short, the study reveals that “It is the religious practice of the father of the family that, above all, determines the future attendance at or absence from church of the children.”

The study reported:

1. If both father and mother attend regularly, 33 percent of their children will end up as regular churchgoers, and 41 percent will end up attending irregularly. Only a quarter of their children will end up not practicing at all.

2. If the father is irregular and mother regular, only 3 percent of the children will subsequently become regulars themselves, while a further 59 percent will become irregulars. Thirty-eight percent will be lost.

3. If the father is nonpracticing and mother regular, only 2 percent of children will become regular worshippers, and 37 percent will attend irregularly. Over 60 percent of their children will be lost completely to the church!


Let us look at the figures the other way round. What happens if the father is regular but the mother irregular or nonpracticing? Extraordinarily, the percentage of children becoming regular goes up from 33 percent to 38 percent with the irregular mother and to 44 percent with the nonpracticing, as if loyalty to the father’s commitment grows in proportion to the mother’s laxity or indifference to religion.

In short, if a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions, only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular). One reason given for this distinction was that children tend to take their cues about domestic life from Mom while their conceptions of the world outside come from Dad. If Dad takes faith in God seriously then the implication for children is that God should be taken seriously.

This confirms the role of father as an essential spiritual leader, which I would argue is true fatherhood. Fathers are to love their wives as Christ loves the church, modeling the love of the Father in their most important earthly relationship. Fathers are to care for their children as our Father in heaven cares for us and finally, fathers are the ones to teach their children the truth about reality. It is the father who should instruct his children in their understanding of the world and everything in it using God’s revelation as the basis by which they analyze and respond to life’s challenges and opportunities. It is the father who is essential for sending his children forth with a biblical view of reality and a faith in Jesus Christ that is rooted in solid understanding and not merely blind tradition.

It is time for fathers to return to honorable manhood and reconsider their priorities and realign them with God’s commands, decrees, and laws, teaching these things to your children “when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:7 NKJV).

Happy Father’s Day!

© 2010 by S. Michael Craven

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sinners



Is this what we want?


Should this be what we want?





"I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent." (Luke 5:32)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

What are You Saying?

A friend of mine from high school posted this on facebook last week:

If the world is listening to “You” what are they hearing?


Great question . . . . Any thoughts?

Because I can tell you: The world is listening.

All of us are telling a story.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Bonhoeffer

Someone sent me this quote recently from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

"The church is the church only when it exists for others. It must share in the secular problems of ordinary life, and it must tell men of every calling what it means to live in Christ."

What do you think?

Bonhoeffer was a WWII era German protestant pastor who was executed by the Nazis for his resistance to their movement. He was hung just three weeks before Berlin fell.
If you have never read his book, Cost of Discipleship, it was one of the formative reads of my young spiritual life.