Tag Archives: Faith

Simple Sabbath: Apostle’s Creed, Lots of “isms,” and the WHY, not the HOW

What is the Bible? What’s it for?

The Bible is God’s revelation to man. Okay, so?

What is He revealing?

To begin with, the Bible reveals how the world was made, how it was ruined, how it was rescued and how it will be made new. The Bible reveals God’s Word. Every mountain and every molecule is the word of God. He spoke and it is!

Ultimately His Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The Bible reveals Truth and the Truth is God’s glory; His glory is the redemption of man through Jesus Christ. And that’s the Truth, believe it or not.

Ooooohhh wow, deep stuff.  (sarcastic tone  for effect).  Well, yes.

From the Apostle’s Creed
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Maker of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

This history of the Apostle’s Creed is a worthy lesson. We will not cover it here, but we will contemplate the “first truth”; From Genesis 1 the Creed submits: “God, the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

Here are four musings from Genesis 1 in this Simple Sabbath post:
1.    God’s creation is good. He said so;
2.    God is one and has created from Himself;
3.    God creates everything by His word;
4.    We love His creation because we love Him and are created to enjoy Him forever.

1. A Good Creation:  The Bible reveals Spirit and matter existing with integrity and in unity (it is coordinated, so to speak). The material world is good. There is a marvelous unity in creation. Genesis teaches that the Spirit is present “moving over the surface” or hovering. View this presence as His love and care for creation.
Though Plato has the entire western world distrusting all things material, and would prefer that we ponder the next reality, we reject his posit (dualism – just say no.)  It’s a wonderful world; God created it and said, “It is good.”

Listen, that first miracle wasn’t random. That water to wine thing at Cana was appointed by the Divine. Jesus was dropping his calling card. More than a rescued social event, Jesus sets the stage for the Kingdom of God. He fills those water cisterns with joy…that’s right, joy! … right here and right now.

Continue reading Simple Sabbath: Apostle’s Creed, Lots of “isms,” and the WHY, not the HOW

Livin’ On A Prayer and the Sage Advice of Garth Brooks

When I’m old and gray (ahem, grayer, that is), I hope to look back on my life and reflect on an abundance of incredible experiences and accomplishments.  I’ve prayed my way through 33 1/2 years and God has been faithful to bless me with far more than I deserve.  However, this same life has included and will include many more prayers that go unanswered, at least in the way I desire or expect.

If you’re an Okie, you probably remember a time when Garth Brooks was on everyone’s radar.  I was never a huge country music fan, but I can sing along with a few little ditties when I hear them.  One song that I remember vividly is “Unanswered Prayers.”  If you’re not familiar with the song, Garth sings about running into his old high school flame and recalls how hard he prayed for this girl to be his forever.  While he is filled with nostalgia at seeing her again, he has gained enough perspective to know that his life worked out in the best way possible despite his one-time efforts to convince God otherwise.  He goes on to express his thankfulness for the gifts in his life, including the woman who eventually stole his heart, became his wife and showed him the importance of trusting God at all times.

By the way, when I started writing this blog, I did not remember the controversy with Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood.  So do me a favor and put that bit of information aside so I don’t have to go back to the drawing board on this post, mmmkay?  Geez, what is it with people and their inability to stay faithful?  But that’s an essay for a different day.

Where was I?  Oh yes, the inspirational song.  I was touched by the song and have always admired people who are able to easily put issues and events into perspective.  I am not one of them.  I can remember many times when I didn’t get what I was clearly the most important thing I’d ever asked for in my entire life.  Time and time again, I responded with anger and disbelief.  In not so many words I said to God, “You said ‘Ask and you shall receive,’ right?  Well?????”  I shed tears over a great many “must haves” that did not become my reality…..boys, leadership positions, jobs, etc.

Continue reading Livin’ On A Prayer and the Sage Advice of Garth Brooks

I Will Miss You, Pastor David Thomas – That’s Certain

Pastor David Thomas

I spent eight years of my professional life on staff at the Oklahoma Christian Schools (OCS) High School and administrative offices. A good part of my energy went into building a drama department from scratch, but part of that time was also spent as the lead Freshman sponsor and the Freshman Bible Teacher.

The Bible Department, from an outside view, represented quite a diversity of theological perspectives:  I was raised in an independent Christian church context, our Sophomore Bible teacher (David Thomas) was more of the charismatic persuasion having attended ORU for his education, our Junior Bible Teacher (Dan Anthony) was a Church of Christ cowboy, and our Senior Bible Teacher and Department Head (Ted Hough) had his master’s degrees both in Literature and in Divinity.  Sometimes it seemed to me that Ted’s perspective was to teach the Word of God with the finesse of only that which a liberal arts major could do.  His devotions were pure art.

But today I want to talk about David Thomas, our Sophomore Bible teacher.  David went to meet his Maker on the evening of December 4th, 2010 after a decade-long battle with a brain tumor.  I loved his spirit and his heart and am dedicating this post to he and his family.  I’m going to write only briefly about his personality, his preaching and his prayer.  However, I promise you – volumes could be written…along the lines of how John honored Jesus when he said,

25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

Continue reading I Will Miss You, Pastor David Thomas – That’s Certain

Chicken Soup for the Blogaholic’s Soul

In casual conversation, I am likely to mention treatment options for Kate, Bowen, or Jessie, or how the Stone family is doing these days.  What you won’t know, however, is that I don’t actually KNOW these people, at least in the traditional sense.  You see, I follow blogs…lots of them.

Most of my favorite blogs were created in times of tragedy or in response to a medical crisis. I often have to steel myself to click the links, as these posts certainly aren’t mindless reads.  My heart seizes at the news of an agonizing decision to be made and I regularly shed tears over the unfathomable experiences of these families.  They are desperately reaching out for help and support, and I find myself magnetically drawn to them.

Some find my hobby a bit morbid and wonder why I torture myself by actively taking on the pain and grief of strangers.  While the subject matter is indeed difficult, the rewards are many.  First, however, I have to get past being a selfish human.  Just like many children create imaginary friends who have problems – fear of the dark, aggression, etc. – as a safe way to talk about newfound issues, I think reading about the sad and tragic side of life helps me process emotions about my own worst fears.  However, in acknowledging the really hard realities of life, I sometimes develop the “I’m glad it’s them and not me” syndrome.  I have to squelch those thoughts so that I can focus on the people and their needs, and not just the fears their stories evoke.

As a result, I can attest to the tremendous beauty and inspiration that often rises from the ashes of tragedy and helplessness.  I am refreshed by the way in which I can touch and be touched by people’s hearts across so much distance.  The written word is incredibly honest, heartfelt, and the authors are completely transparent.  In a world where the truth is often buried beneath layers of you know what, reading something so raw and heartfelt is meaningful.

When I stop the whirlwind of life to catch up on these families, I feel a renewed sense of faith in humanity.  I admire the strength that resonates from their words and I deeply hope that I would have equal fortitude in their shoes.  As strong as they are, they are also at their most vulnerable, and this allows them to put on paper the thoughts that most people could never speak.  I think this is a strong connection point for me personally given that I’ve always been better at expressing myself in writing than in face-to-face conversations.

Part of that ability is simply dissociating from what the world expects me to be or say, and simply writing what I feel without the risk of immediate and sometimes awkward reactions.  I love real, but being entirely real is usually the exception and not the rule.

Finally, in addition to the gift of inspiration I receive from these blogs, they also provide me the opportunity to give back in a profound way.  I’m not a doctor, so I can’t heal the sick.  I’m not a millionaire, so I can’t offer riches to fund medical treatments.  However, as a woman of faith, I can add my voice to those interceding on behalf of precious families who need guidance, hope, and strength beyond what they can muster on their own.  I believe firmly in the power of prayer and that giving away my heart and prayers, whether to close friends or virtual strangers, simply expands my capacity to do so over and over again.

It’s only fitting that I include information on a few of my favorite blogs, and I encourage you to post a comment with additional links.  There’s nothing like a shared bowl of chicken soup to warm us all up!

http://renziandleeannestone.blogspot.com/ – Oklahoma City couple Lee Anne and Renzi Stone lost their almost one year old son to a sudden epileptic seizure.  They honor little Isaiah by sharing their daily challenges and joys.

http://www.audreycaroline.blogspot.com/ – Angie is the wife of Selah singer Todd Smith.  While expecting, Todd and Angie were told their daughter had many life threatening conditions and would not survive outside the womb.  Her book, “I Will Carry You,” details their experience and utter reliance on God to make it through to the other side.

http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/mcraekate – Kate McRae is a six-year-old Arizona girl living with a very rare form of brain cancer.  Her mother writes regularly about treatment options, highs and lows, and specific prayer requests.

http://www.carepages.com/carepages/JessicaBoone – Oklahoma teenager Jessie Boone suffered massive head trauma during a ski accident last year.  Her mother chronicles the numerous touch-and-go moments, months in hospitals and Jessie’s current journey.

http://www.kellyskornerblog.com/ – Kelly is an Arkansas gal who began writing when doctors said her newborn wasn’t expected to live.  After a difficult beginning, she now has a healthy and happy daughter and another on the way.  Having also suffered infertility for many years, she is an inspiration to those women desperately hoping for a baby.

http://bowensheart.com/ – Matt Hammett is the lead singer of the Christian band Sanctus Real.  Their son, Bowen, has a severely underdeveloped heart.  They are journaling their experience and sharing the love of God through their words and stories.

A Kairos Moment at Culp’s Hill

by Josh Bottomly

Down through the centuries, theologians and mystics have spoken of divine experiences in human time as kairos moments.  By definition, a kairos moment is an event used by God to impact one’s life.  It involves an intersection of sorts between the horizontal and vertical, the humdrum and holy, where, for a fleeting moment, one experiences God’s nearness in his life and God’s hereness in his world.

Kairos moments have happened infrequently in my life.  But none was more pivotal and life changing than the karios moment on an obscure battlefield at Gettysburg.

The months leading up to this event had been colored by deep darkness.   It had been almost two years since my wife and I first visited the fertility clinic.  Now the “I” word was not some distant and remote diagnosis.  It was a sobering reality.  By this time, my prayer life had been reduced to a whimper of faith.  The silence of despair grew firm within my chest.  On the brink of a spiritual breakdown, I prayed as a desperate man for a break through.  Little did I know how God would answer my prayer.

Culp's Hill

While attending a leadership conference at Gettysburg, one night I was approached by Marty, a conference leader.  He asked me if I wanted a personal tour of Culp’s Hill, a famous battle during the Gettysburg campaign.  I grabbed my Mountain Gear fleece;  I was definitely up for it.

After snaking our way up through hills exploding with green April foliage, we stopped at a tiny knot of cedars surrounded by large boulders and scattered tree logs.  “This was the Union army’s extreme right position,” Marty exclaimed as he pointed to a breastwork of cobbled stone covered in moss and dirt.  “It was here that the fate of the Union army largely hung in the balance.”

As Marty began to lead me around the markers that jutted up around the hill, the whole scene suddenly transformed before my eyes into a dramatic amphitheatre of war.

The main battle commenced at dusk on July 2, 1864.

As darkness moved in amongst the thick trees at Culp’s Hill, the NY 137th disbanded in a thin line from the saddle down to the lower hill.  Below the hill, gathering in a swale, and quickly filling up many trenches was a Confederate brigade led by General Steuart.

About that time, General Meade of the Union Army sent orders to Colonel David Ireland, the twenty-five-year-old commander of the NY 137th.  General Meade’s orders were short and exacting.

“Colonel Ireland, hold the line at all costs.”

Soon Steuart’s men moved into position behind the low stonewall in rear of the 137th.
They quickly unleashed a staccato of gunfire.  Before they knew it, the 137th was taking heat from front, right flank, and rear.  Their position, as Marty described it, was “like a finger, surrounded on three sides.”

At about that time the 71st Pennsylvania regiment showed up.  They were backups sent by General Hancock to assist the 137th.  But seeing Ireland’s men taking heavy musket fire from all directions, the 71st fired off a volley or two at Steuart’s men and quickly withdrew from the line.  Their position was untenable.

Union fortifications built to ward off the Confederates.

With half his infantry dead, resources depleted, and reinforcements in retreat, Ireland decided to order one final defensive tactic:  commanding his regiment to stack up granite rocks to form a stone wall.  There, entrenched on the saddle back between the hills, Ireland waited with his men.

As Marty showed me where Ireland had burrowed in with his men, I tried to put myself in the young colonel’s shoes.  I got down on my knees behind the stonewall and peered out into the thick darkness with only the silhouette of the overhanging limbs visible.  I wondered how Ireland held his men together as trees splintered from canon fire, bullets pinged off granite rocks, and hot metal tore through sinewy flesh.  I suddenly felt like I could hear the shrieks of young men as they breathed their last breath and their souls slid out of their bodies.

Effects of Union shot and shell on Culp's Hill - photo by William H. Tipton.

Somehow through the long and unrelenting night, Ireland and his men found the strength and fortitude to stymie every Confederate charge up the hill.

At around three a.m., Steuart’s men suspended their attack due to complete lack of visibility and thus an inability to determine who was who.  They feared they were shooting and killing their own men.  As their attack subsided, the 137th found renewed strength and hope as the 14th Brooklyn and the 6th Wisconsin showed up with reinforcements.

Had the Confederates known the 137th was the end of the line, they could have advanced toward the Baltimore Pike and overrun the Union army, changing the outcome of the battle at Gettysburg, probably turning the tide of the whole Civil War.

But the line never broke.

After Marty finished telling the story, I stood in complete silence, as I suddenly felt like Culp’s Hill was becoming holy ground.  I didn’t see a burning bush or hear an audible voice.  But as the wind rustled through the Pennsylvania birch trees and I stood against the cobbled traverse, I sensed somehow that God was near.

A scripture came to mind, one that I had memorized early in my life.

Let him who walks in the dark,
who has no light,
trust in the name of the Lord
and rely on his God.

~Isaiah 50:10a

For two years I had endured what St. John of the Cross called the oscura noche, the dark night of the soul.  During that time, I felt like Job—confused, doubtful, and befuddled by God’s seeming absence and deafening silence.  My prayers were punctuated by sighs and groans.  I came closest to God in my questions.  I wondered not whether God existed but if God knew I existed.  Did he know my pain?  Did he see my suffering?  Would he respond to my cry?

As I walked the hallowed grounds at Culp’s Hill, I began to pray.  Specifically, I echoed Peter’s prayer: ‘I do believe, Jesus, help me overcome my unbelief!’ (Mark 9:24).  I confessed to him that I felt like I was living within a precarious space between two parenthetical opposites: one being faith, the other being doubt.  The bitterest pill I felt I had been forced to swallow involved watching Amy suffer and hurt and not knowing how to palliate her pain in any way.

In that moment, though, as the moon rose high into the starless sky and the leaves turned silver, I felt that God was near.  For so long, God had seemed distant and remote, like a satellite.  Sensing God’s closeness now, I cupped my ear and leaned into the silence.  What I heard filled me with a renewed trust that the night would give way to the day.  And somehow, in some way, against all odds, pressed in on all sides, he would hold the line.  Like Col. Ireland and the NY 137th, Amy and I would see the first gleam of dawn burst through the darkness.  We would feel the sun on our faces again.  We would hear a new word heralded through the clouds:  a new day had arrived!

~~Note:  Josh and his wife Amy documented their journey, struggles and resolution to travel to Africa and adopt a child in their book, “From Ashes to Africa.”  This post is a revised piece from that book.  For more information visit http://fromashestoafrica.com/