#AACC World Conference: A focus on renewing faith

Today I am headed off to the American Association of Christian Counselors World Conference. The theme for the conference this year is renewing your faith. Today as prepare to head to Nashville for the conference there is a definite felt need of renewal and renewed faith. Last year went to the National Conference and felt refreshed but when returned things just stalled for me. There was a distinct reluctance to leave as the conference ended. Still do not have finger on exactly what happened but at each point where attempted to re-engage forward movement in my life it was met with quagmire. The thing is when had left in my mind there were several goals, things that wanted to focus on but each attempt at setting and meeting goals led to little follow through. This stall was seen in many areas of my life. For example, there are several blog articles that were started but never completed or published. They sit unfinished on drive. So today I will leave with a prayer of renewal of faith. There is a need to be not just refreshed but energized to move ahead in all areas of my life.

As sit here just sharing my thoughts as embark on the steps needed to take in order to leave, it occurs to me that the conference begins tomorrow, September 28th. It is the start of Rosh Hashanah, the New Year in God’s festivals. So it is a perfect day to start a conference with the focus of renewal of faith. It is a time to take a good look at what is going on in my life and what to need to change in mind, heart, and action. My thoughts will be posted during the course of the conference on this blog and occasional quick comments on my twitter account @peacebringer. Please take time to pray for me during the four days of the conference and time in Nashville.

Now before close this post it is good to begin with brief musing on renewing faith. Those two simple words have a lot of depth of thought. Renewal can be connected with revive and awakening. It is a recharging and coming alive again. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen per Hebrews 11:1. It has two components assurance and conviction. It is being confident and sure. It is knowing that he who promised is faithful. When faith needs renewal there has been a loss of confidence and surety at some level. There has been a loss of vision or a focus on the barriers of what is ahead. It may even be simply overwhelmed with the task and barriers ahead that the confidence and surety become diminished. In some way the endurance and resoluteness has become diminished by whatever barrier or battle. There is a loss of strength and loss of focus. Even a lack of mental toughness. There is something that happens that leads to a lack of finishing strong. As am writing these thoughts the collapse of the performance of the Minnesota Vikings football team the last three games enters my mind. The perseverance wanes and the result is a faltering. My mind lately has already been stirred to think more of what is an enduring faith. Well, it has to start with the basics. The basics come down to who God is, who he made me to be, and where God is leading to Impact others. At the basic level a renewal of faith will entail being refreshed in confidence and surety in those areas.

Post-birthday Personal Musing: On not shrinking back and moving ahead

On Wednesday June 1st, I turned 46.  For me, this day was one following and extended vacation and rest. Now usually the time before my birthday is spent in personal evaluation and examination.  This year it was simply just disconnecting and recharging. 

This was something definitely needed. Since last September I have been in a place of feeling stuck and trouble getting going again. There have been Blog posts about re-engaging, setting goals, and the like. Usually those efforts have been followed by a brief restart and then a sputter back into silence.

 Thinking things over there have been some key areas leading to the silence and retreat. One area is the ongoing concerns for those around me and the burdens for others.  I have faced my mother losing her vision, the death of step-mom to cancer, and the varied struggles the wife encountered including a period of intense hives. 

 The other aspect is the varied responsibilities. There are things and goals have set for professional development.  Yet, in those goals there is only so much time and energy I can put into things.  There are certainly also areas of fear and other elements that help facilitate reluctance and withdrawal. 

 Upon returning back, there is a realization that at some level all that is rationalization and an empowering self not to move ahead.  Each day is an important day to be moving toward that which God calls. Either I am being obedient in moving forward or looking after self and engaging in withdrawal.

 I know that there is a lot of responsibility ahead of me. God has specific things for me to engage in.  I can either shrink back and falter or move ahead.  These are the only choices, advancing or shrinking back which results in retreat. What is a head results in a lot of felt weight that was evident upon return.  There is also some real felt pain some of which is of self, and some in the weight of what others are going through.  My call is always to come along side and step in amidst the pain and encourage growth and change.  It all starts though with me.  And with that being said, the words God has for me is that I need to be engaged in moving forward each day in submission to God and attending to and meeting up to my responsibilities.

 A verse that kind of fits with what God is stirring in me is:

Hebrews 10: 32- 39 (ESV) 32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while,and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith,and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.

Just even know looking at those words and thinking about endurance the realization strikes me of there being at least two types on endurance. One of which is enduring the difficulties and hardships. Standing up in the midst and not giving in.  The other is that of perseverance. The moving a head in spite of weight, difficulties, or any perceived progress. Taking steps in faith to endure with what God leads until such time as God brings forth the fruit.  So it is clear God is pleased when we stand up under struggle and continue to move ahead. Pulling back, disengaging, and shrinking back does not please God.  It is response to fear and self then depending on God and acting in faith.  Sobering and challenging thoughts for me personally.

Personal Musing: Ten years ago July 17, 2010

Ten years ago today, July 17th, I married my wife. It was a small ceremony at the Chapel of Love at Mall of America. We had a big wedding in Brazil the following January. The wedding was for me an apex moment and culmination of growth and healing that occurred in the many years since. A lot has come and gone since that wonderful day ten years ago. One thing is certain, that through it all I still love my wife deeply and consider her a gift. The worst moments of the past ten years ultimately have drawn me closer to God and a deeper awareness of His love. There is no doubt in my mind that God brought us together.

Looking back on my life and not getting married until thirty-five. Not even dating. There were reasons behind my not dating. One reason was a distrust for women that stretches back to ways been treated by girls growing up and other distorted views. There was a lot of fear and anxiety and a lot of untruthful negative perspectives about women. And for what was not untrue, a recognition that for whatever hurt and pain and uncertainty that can come into play, that God has great reward for entering into the relationship.

Yet, in that anxiety there were certainly moments that could have asked a woman out and perhaps even fostered a relationship. However, there was always a part of how God created me that would just “know” that a relationship would not be right. Now perhaps it was fears talking, because I was absolutely shy and clueless. Perhaps there were things lost out because settled for unacted on infatuations and fantasies of the mind. Regardless, at some level, choices made were not just of fear, but a deep knowledge that something would not be right.

With my wife, I know God brought me and Liz together for His reasons and purposes. See there was no question upon the first phone conversation in my mind where things ultimately were headed. I just knew where the relationship would end up and followed it through to the point of taking significant risks, such has meeting her sight unseen.

One of the amazing things and difficult things is God did bring us together as complementary but opposites. She is strong in areas I am weak and vice versa. She is emotional and passionate. I am easy going. She is detail oriented, I am adaptable. No there are ways that we are alike with strong empathy and compassion for others.

So today, as July 17th has started, I am filled with love and gratitude and thank God for the blessings, for even the hard times and the pain. For in all this, God refines us and draws us closer to Him. So today I praise God for my wife and ask for her to be lifted up in prayer, as she continues to endure trials that leave me agonizing to stand in support. The trials do not present any serious long term harm, just ongoing difficulties that are difficult to endure, with no answer or end in sight.

Video Selections: The Words I Would Side- Sidewalk Prophets

The Words I Would Say
Three in the morning,
And I’m still awake,
So I picked up a pen and a page,
And I started writing,
Just what I’d say,
If we were face to face,
I’d tell you just what you mean to me,
I’d tell you these simple truths,

Be strong in the lord and,
Never give up hope,
You’re going to do great things,
I already know,
Gods got his hand on you so,
Don’t live life in fear,
Forgive and forget,
But don’t forget why your here,
Take your time and pray,
These are the words I would say,

Last time we spoke,
You said you were hurting,
And I felt your pain in my heart,
I want to tell you,
That I keep on praying,
Love will find you where you are,
I know cause I’ve already been there,
So please hear these simple truths,

Be strong in the lord and,
Never give up hope,
You’re going to do great things,
I already know,
Gods got his hand on you so,
Don’t live life in fear,
Forgive and forget,
But don’t forget why your here,
Take your time and pray,
These are the words I would say,

From one simple life to another,
I will say,
Come find peace in the father,

Be strong in the lord and,
Never give up hope,
You’re going to do great things,
I already know,
Gods got his hand on you so,
Don’t live life in fear,
Forgive and forget,
But don’t forget why your here,
Take your time and pray,
Thank God for each day,
His love will find a way,
These are the words I would say

Video Selection: Be Still MY Soul/What A Freind We Have in Jesus- Selah

Be Still My Soul/What A Friend We Have in Jesus


Be still, my soul: The Lord is on your side.

Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;

Leave to thy God to order and provide;

In every change He faithful will remain

Be still, my soul: Thy best, Thy heavenly friend

Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul:

The waves and winds still know (still know)

His voice who ruled them

While He dwelt below

Musical interlude:

Oh, what peace we often forfeit, oh, what needless pain we bear,

All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Be still my soul.

Learning from Jesus Response to the Suffering of Passion Week

After posting an article on Good Friday  about the emotional suffering Jesus encountered during Passion Week, time was spent considering how Jesus responded to the suffering.  Jesus suffered completely.  The emotional and physical suffering was immense.  He also endured spiritual suffering by the Father turning His back and Jesus facing the subsequent separation and death.  Jesus faced the totality of suffering.  Now there is no specific formula one can take from Jesus response, but certainly we can learn what can help us in times of trouble.  So first we will look at how Jesus responded and then consider what we can learn for approaching suffering in our own lives.


The first noticeable way that Jesus responded is that He prepared and taught preparation.  Jesus spent the last supper giving lessons so the disciples would know what is ahead and instructed them how to prepare.  The preparation was real basic; to seek God in prayer and engage in surrender to God’s will.  Jesus spent an agonizing night in the Garden of Gethsemane praying in preparation. Multiple times he awakened his disciples, informing them of the need to pray to prepare for what is ahead.


After praying, the next thing that Jesus did was go through the suffering and the path set before him.  He did not retreat or attack, but stayed true to God’s will and the path set before, in spite of all the suffering that was to come and during each step along the way.  He was able to keep to the path, because He knew what God’s will was and the reasons for his suffering.  He knew that the suffering was necessary but temporary.


Jesus also remained faithful. He faced every temptation to respond with anger, aggression, self-defense, or any other ways of protecting self.  Instead of self-protecting, Jesus spoke only when needed in order to speak the truth. He did not defend, simply walked the course as the events played out before him.


            The last main response of Jesus to comment on is that Jesus always loved others throughout the process. He never treated Judas or Peter with disdain. He warned Peter and gave him direction.  He forgave those participating in his humiliation, torture, and crucifixion.  He even from the cross directed John to take care of his mother.


           So the question is what can we learn from how Jesus responded?  Jesus was God after all, how can we even begin to come close to Jesus response?  Well, Jesus gives us the examples of what we need to do.  We need to continually prepare through study of God’s word and prayer.  We study God’s word in order to know His will in our life and we prayer to converse and interact with God. 


            We also need to stay on the path God sets before us, regardless of appearances.  We need not veer to the left or the right but walk in the ways God sets before us in surrender and obedience.  This involves a surrender of our will in order to follow God’s will and path.


            We need to trust God at His word and keep are eyes focused on Jesus and recognize that what is going on in our lives at any time is but temporary. Even the chronic illnesses and pains of this life are but a mere temporary blimp in light of eternity. 


            And lastly we need to be able to walk in love.  We need to forgive those that hurt us, regardless of their response to us.  We need to find ways to move beyond our selfish defensiveness and tendency to attack or retreat. Rather, we need to love in the midst of pain.


            If we follow Jesus example, we will be able to stand in the storms of life.  Storms are always momentary. The Kingdom of God is eternal.

Current Struggles: Ongoing warfare

Just need to post a quick update on things. Today is hard day for step mother with fever and diarrhea.  I have picked up an influenza with chest congestion.  It is bitter cold out, this morning on her way out to work, my wife slipped and injured her hand and left side. She has some swelling but believes nothing was fractured.  On the good side, my brother got news of court date for the finalization in the United States of the adoption of his son, Anant.  I recognize it is very hard, even in times of minor suffering to rejoice. I know I am struggling to rejoice. I find it hard to do the basic things I need to do.  It is easy to develop a mindset of the enemy is attacking and hunker down and withdrawal. This has been a long pattern. Yet, this is not what God calls us to do.  He calls us to resist the Devil.  Resistance isn’t withdrawal. When the enemy attacks we need to stand sure and strong.  We need to instead of dropping back, find ways God seeks to move forward.  Pray for quick health for me, pray for the swelling in my wife’s hand to go down and that she will be able to play her special music next weekendor on Christmas Eve.  Two keys when under felt attack are clearly rejoice and resist.  It is easier said then done.  It is easy to complain and withdraw.  And the face is, each of these sufferings are but momentary. They are hear for a time and then gone.  Yet, God’s love endures forever!