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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Attacking the Helm's Deep of Your Heart

Come. Take a walk with me. We’re not traveling far, just a lap around the village that is your heart.  Grab your friends, your family…let’s get the whole band together (the marching band, that is…we’re going to want to make some noise).

I had a different idea for this week’s blog.  I was going to expand a bit on part of my Wyldlife talk from last week.  There was some more stuff there that needed to be said, but had to be cut for time.  It stayed with me, though, so I was going to let it out here.  Maybe I’ll come back to next week.  Maybe it’ll never return.  All I know is that I need to write about something different right now.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading these last couple weeks.  Not from the psychological-thriller that sits next to my bed, but from the hearts of people.  Joe’s Facebook posts…Joe’s blogs (joeringle.blogspot.com)…Facebook posts of friends and family.  Thursday night, I came across the blog of Jennifer Roth (www.jenniferroth.me).  Jenn was one of Christen’s closest and best friends, and my family has recently adopted her into our own (she has adopted us as well).  I won’t go into everything she says here, but the title was “Fort Jenn” and is a good read.  It’s also the basis of how I landed here on this topic.  See…I started to respond to her post.  It was intended to be a quick note, but the words kept coming and coming.  Soon, I realized there was even more wanting to pour out.  My response to her post was beginning to be longer than her actual post.  That’s when I realized that something bigger than me was trying to come out.

When God wants to talk, you don’t tell Him no.  You don’t say, “Sorry, God.  I wanted to talk about something else this week.”

Can the horn section give me an Amen?

Come.  Let’s keep walking.  When tragedy hits, it is common nature to shell up.  We regress into the dwellings of our homes, our hearts, and our minds—cut off from the rest of the world.  While we appreciate the well-wishers around us, we really just want them to leave so we can be alone to grieve on our own.  What’s the one thing constantly said when we grieve?  “I am so alone.”  Yet when we are surrounded by loved ones, all we want is for them to leave.

We seek solace in our seclusion.

God does not want this.  We were not intended to be alone.  God was alone, and it made Him unhappy…so He made everything, including man.  He quickly realized that man wasn’t enough.  Man needed someone as well, so He created woman.  And families.  And friends.

Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up.  But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!  Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.  But how can one keep warm alone?  Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

In other words: Strength in numbers.

And the band said, Amen!

Come.  Let’s take another lap.  We are so quick to share our joys with others, but equally quick to suffer our trials alone.  Never assume that you are alone in your pain.  Suffering isn’t some island located in the Bermuda Triangle.  Those that love you hurt WITH you…sometimes, they hurt FOR you.  Sometimes, THEY hurt too.  My sister-in-law, Christen, passed away three weeks ago.  My brother, her husband, Joe, is obviously hurting.  Think he’s the only one?  Of course not.  Her parents are hurting.  Her children are hurting.  Her friends are hurting.  Aunts…uncles…cousins…in-laws…the list is endless.

2 Corinthians 1: 3-7 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.  For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.  If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.  And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”

I don’t pretend to fully understand scripture.  I am far from a Biblical scholar.  When I read this, however, another common phrase comes to mind.  Share the load.  Yes, you are suffering, but don’t think you are alone.  Others are suffering as well.  Share the load, and the burden of our pain will lesson.  Share the load of your grief and comfort will find you.  All of you.  Share the load, and you will also share comfort and ultimately…

Healing.

Sound off, band.

Come.  Let’s continue.  This trip is a little bumpier.  Who is the cause of suffering?  Satan.  Why does he throw this emotion at us?  Because he wants us alone.  He wants us isolated.  He wants us to withdraw from our friends and family.  There, we are weak.  When we’re alone, we are more susceptible to his attacks.  Don’t fool yourself—you cannot defeat Satan one-on-one.  Alone, he will defeat you.  There’s only one who has stood toe-to-toe with Satan and walked away victorious…and last I checked, none of us were Him.

Band…an Amen?

The wall around your heart is quivering ever so slightly…can you feel it?  We will bring it down if we just keep marching, so come…let’s push forward.

If we’re alone, if we suffer in silence, then Satan can do what he does best—build a wall around our heart.  He will construct an impenetrable fortress brick-by-brick from the inside.  Once it’s finished, he will reside within the walls of our heart, replacing love with anger and resentment.

We will learn to hate our friends and family when they come to visit.  We will learn to hate them when they call.  Or text.  Or Facebook.  Then…as we ever so slowly push them away…we will learn to hate our friends and family for not coming to visit.  We will learn to hate them when they don’t call.  Or text.  Or Facebook.

We will refuse to let anyone in; our hearts will be completely closed to love.  We won’t allow anyone to even get close to us.  The way we will see it—if we allow them to get close, then we allow for the possibility of love.  If we allow for the possibility of love, then we open our doors once more for heartache.  Pain.  Suffering.  Grief.

You know what?  It’s true.  The more you are willing to love, the more you open yourself up to the possibility of pain.  Why is Joe hurting this much over Christen’s death?  Because he loved her this much.  Why are the rest of us hurting this much?  Because we loved her this much.

But what’s the alternative?  A robotic, emotionless life?  It doesn’t work like that.  We are not robots.  We have emotions.  So, if grief causes us to live without love, what emotion will fill that void?

Hate.

Satan is the lord of hate.

What does God want from us?  Love.  Read 1 John 4: 7-21.  A sample: Verses 7-8, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not love God, because God is love.”

I hear the band giving a Hallelujah here.

Come.  We’re almost there.  The walls are trembling.  We march on.

I have been trying to write this for three days.  The words have come and gone.  Ideas have come to me…then faded away.  I kept trying to deliver the message instead of letting the message deliver me.  Last night, as I was lying in bed, I prayed.  I asked God to guide me, to give me the right words.  I received an immediate answer in the form of one sentence:

“If your heart is closed to others, then your heart is closed to Me.”

The band wails away, and a light tremor shakes the ground.

Come.  This is it.  The end.  The final trek around your heart.  Let’s make it good—let’s destroy Satan’s structure once and for all.  Drums—give us a cadence.  A stomping Sousa should do the trick.  Forward!!

A few years ago, Steph and I were living in a different town. There was a huge storm.  A couple towns away, in a place called Utica, a tornado dropped down and destroyed most of their downtown.  It was really strange because it didn't follow the normal path a tornado makes. Instead, it STAYED downtown. Basically—it landed in the middle of the town and got stuck. It had nowhere to go, so it just tore the town up.

If we allow Satan to build a fortress around our heart, his storm will be trapped inside, shredding everything in its path.  Hate will consume us, and our relationships with friends and family—and God—will be wiped away.  We’ll be left to rebuild all by ourselves, a Herculean task that none of us are capable of performing.

If we tear down those walls, are we weather-proof?  Of course not.  Storms will still come, and some will even do heavy damage.  But we will not be alone.  Loved ones will be there to share the burden.  We will rebuild the village together.  We can rebuild our village brick-by-brick until we're whole again. It won't look the same...it won't feel the same...there will probably be some historical landmark to show where the pain hit...but it will be WHOLE again.  Time, sweat, tears, and love will make it whole again.

How do we do that?  Strength in numbers.  We surround ourselves with loved ones.  We share.  When we hurt—we don’t dwell in the darkest corners of our homes or hearts.  We talk.  We talk to friends…family…our pastors…church members…co-workers…anyone who will listen.  We write, and share those works with as many people as possible.

The other day, Joe told me that he’s currently averaging 750-800 hits on his blog PER DAY.  By definition, that’s a village.  Every day, there are 750-800 people desperate to help Joe rebuild his heart…and in turn, he is helping them rebuild theirs.

Horns—give me all you’ve got!!  Readers…spiritual warriors…give me a barbaric yawp!!  It’s here!!  The walls of our hearts are crumbling!!  Satan’s fortress is falling to the ground!!  Let our love for Christen…for Joe…for Jeanne…for each other…for God fill this place once more!!

Of course we’re still hurting.  This was a massive storm.  We have an enormous rebuilding project in front of us…but we will rebuild.  There will always be a place in Joe’s heart (in all our hearts) for Christen, but as long as we continue to share with each other…talk to each other…share writings with each other…healing will occur.  And you know what?  That’s okay.  That’s good.  Healing does not mean forgotten.  Healing means peace.  It means we’re open for joy again.  For grace.  For love.

Isn’t that what we want?  Isn’t that what God wants?  What Christen would want?  How happy would she be with us if we ignored the cries of others and focused on our own pain?  Alone.  Christen was about family.  And friends.  She was about closeness with each other and with God.  Shutting it down…packing it in…closing up our hearts to each other would NOT sit well with her.  C’mon…those that know her should see the stern look she’d be giving us.  Head slightly tilted…mouth in a straight line…eyes burning a hole in your conscience.  You know better, that look says.

Having received that look numerous times, it’s etched into my soul.

So, my friends and family, I reach out.  My work gloves are in my back pocket.  I’m ready to do some rebuilding.  Give me a call if you need some help.  Shoot me a note.  In return, I will need your help as well.  Answer the phone if I call.  Respond if I send you a message.  Reach out to each other.  Visit each other.  Call each other.  Share.  Keep expressing your thoughts and feelings on Facebook or your blogs.  Together, we can restore this village of Utica as the Utopia it is meant to be.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Be The Fuel

The following is the printed form of a talk I gave to a group of about 50+ junior high kids on Sunday.  The talk was a good twenty minutes long, so be prepared to read for awhile.  Meanwhile, I can safely say that these words are not mine.  Even in my best writing moments, I could not have produced this.  While I quoted Joe, Christen, and even a brief moment from my wife, Steph, what you see is the work of God.  He wants this message spread.  As it says towards the end, a spiritual wildfire is growing quickly.  Be a part of it.  If you read this, and it inspires you--ACT.  Pass it on to someone else: Maybe someone that needs to meet God...maybe someone who has strayed from God...maybe just someone who is going through a rough time.  I don't need (or even want) credit for this--they're not my words.  Omit my name and pass the MESSAGE along.  God's message.  But don't stop there.  This is not some chain-letter.  Go to church.  Return to church.  Take someone with you.  If you're asleep at your church--maybe it's time to find a different one that will wake you up.  Go to your Bible.  Return to your Bible.  Join a small group.  Find a study or book that you can do with your loved one/family.  In short--GO TO GOD.  RETURN TO GOD.

And bring as many people with you as you can...


Why are you here?  Have you ever asked yourself that question?  “Why am I here tonight?”  Is it to hang out with friends?  Get away from your parents?  Play games?  Watch skits?  To have fun?  To grow in your spiritual walk with Christ?

I know why I’m here.  I am here to share a moment when God healed in an amazing way.

What is a miracle?  In the Bible, we see Jesus perform numerous miracles.  Feats that are impossible for man to do, or even believe unless witnessed himself.  One of Jesus’s most remarkable miracles happens in John 11:1-44, when Jesus brought Lazarus back from the dead.  It starts when Lazarus was sick.  Medicine had failed him, and he was on his deathbed.  When Jesus heard of this, He said in verse 4, “’This sickness will not end in death.  No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.’”  Basically—He called His shot.  Lazarus—someone Jesus loved—was not going to die.  Jesus would save him, and the world would see this miracle and glorify God because of it.

By the time Jesus reached Lazarus, it was too late.  Lazarus was dead.  Mary—whom Jesus also loved—ran to Him in tears, and said (starting in verse 32), “’Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’”  Going on to verse 33, “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.  ‘Where have you laid him?’ He asked.  ‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied.”  Verse 35, “Jesus wept.”

I want to pause there for a second.  That verse is known most often as the shortest verse in the Bible.  Two words: Jesus wept.  Placing it in context, however, it is a powerful…POWERFUL moment.  Jesus was SO moved by his friend’s death and by the faith of those who loved him that He cried.  What happens next in verses 36 and 37?  The typical human response.

“Then the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’  But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’”

In short…if He really is God’s son, He could have performed a miracle.

So what does Jesus do?  Tells them to roll the stone away from Lazarus’s grave.  Everyone kind of looks at each other, then at Jesus.  Um…he’s been dead for four days…I don’t think seeing him is a good idea…he’ll be pretty ripe by now.  Jesus says in verse 40, “’Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’”  So they rolled the stone away.  Jesus doesn’t walk in—instead, in front of everyone, he yells, Dude!!  Quit messing around and get out here!!  Lazarus comes out and Jesus is like—SEE?!

I’m drawn to this passage because two weeks ago, I witnessed a miracle.

My brother’s name is Joe.  He’s twenty-eight.  He’s married to Christen, who is twenty-nine, and they have two children: Audrey (5) and Hudson (3).  There is nothing remarkable about them.  By society’s standards, they are invisible.  They have pretty solid musical talents…they are highly intelligent people…Christen taught for one year before becoming a stay-at-home mom, while Joe has worked a variety of jobs basically to help make ends meet.  The world has no clue who they are, however.  They don’t stand out.

In the spiritual world, however, they are superstars.  They’re both part of one of the most renown church choirs in the country (Christen sings, Joe plays bass guitar).  They both have blogs that focus on their faith.  They both read book after book about all-things related to God.  They can quote scripture like no one’s business.  They spend literally all day Sunday, every Sunday at their church—we’re talking 14-16 hours sometimes.  They spend 2-3 entire evenings at their church—for choir practice, prayer meetings, various other ministries.  The list continues in mind-numbing fashion.

Now that you have met this beautiful family, I will let Joe’s words tell our story.  This is from his blog: “Christen, my wife, has had semi-regular migraines since she was a girl. Generally, there would be one a month, maybe less.  In October, she had 6 such migraines. This was our first cause for alarm.  In November, she began to experience dizziness and periodic double-vision.  It was also at this time that the hearing in her right ear lessened, essentially hearing as though she were holding a finger in her ear at all times.  In December, she began to feel nausea in addition to the other symptoms. Fortunately, she had seen a neurologist in November who had scheduled her for an MRI.

“Christen went in for the MRI at 8:30pm on Wednesday, January 4.  When she came out, several doctors were looking over the images, and they had us immediately walk over to the ER because they saw something that concerned them.

“After some time, we were seen by a representative of the neurosurgery team. She informed us that Christen had a few 'lesions' on her brain, that we were going to be admitted overnight, and some more of her teammates would be by in the morning to talk to us in more detail.

“The next morning, we met with the neuro-oncologist to go over the images on the MRI. They showed that Christen had tumors in her brain that were sizable and of concern.

“The neurology team decided to biopsy the most concerning of the tumors, which was located in the central part of her brain, relatively deep (thus making it inoperable). The biopsy took place on Friday, January 6.

“During the biopsy, there was a small amount of bleeding that took place, and so they ran a CAT scan on Christen prior to waking her up from the anesthetic. They determined that there was no reason to do any emergency surgery and so she was sent to recovery and then the ICU for the night.

“This gave me the opportunity to do what I really needed to do: go to my car and break down.

“I have never had a panic attack, nor am I much of a crier. I do cry, but it is not that often. In the car, I sobbed and was breathing in such a way that, if I had allowed for it, I could have hyperventilated. I think it's the closest I've ever been to all out panic. I was certainly fear-stricken. And I had words with God for the first time (we had been praying all along, but by this I mean I had it out with Him). I asked Him not to take her. I told Him that I know she's precious to Him, but she is to me too. I told him I didn't want to give her to Him. This is selfish, I know, but this was the reality of where I was.

“After composing myself, I went back into the room, prayed for Christen by her bed, and then went home for the night so that I could rest and prepare for what was going to be a long, hard weekend.”

That was written at one in the morning on Saturday, January 7.  At 8:30 am the next day, I received a phone call telling my wife and I to come to Chicago immediately.  Medicine had done all it could do.  Christen was going to die.

When we reached the hospital, the waiting room was packed with friends, family, and members of their church.  Prayers were being uplifted everywhere.  Over the previous week, Joe had put out prayer requests on Facebook.  His hundreds of friends reposted his requests on their walls.  Their hundreds of friends did the same.  There were people all over the state…all over the country…all over the world praying for Christen.  Entire churches praying.  Literally hundreds of thousands of people were praying for a miracle—for some woman they had never met—to be healed.

Think about that for a second.  Christen was invisible on this earth to the majority of the public—but because she was a spiritual warrior princess—there were HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of people praying for her that week.

I return to Lazarus.  What did John 11:4 say?  “Jesus said, ‘This sickness will not end in death.  No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.’”  We clung together at that hospital.  We waited for that miracle.  Only God could save Christen at that point.  Only God could heal her.

Sometime in the early morning hours of Monday, January 9—Christen passed away.

So where’s the miracle, you ask?  You’re not alone.  Sadness hit everyone.  People thought, “But I prayed!  Where was the miracle?”  Others thought, “I am not nearly as strong a Christian as these two…why would God take her and not me?”  Some started to question their faith.  Some asked, “How can this be God’s will?”

Again—I turn to the words of someone much smarter than me, my wife: “It ISN’T God’s will.  None of this is God’s will.  It was never God’s will for us to die.  Sin brought pain and suffering into the world.”

See…here’s the thing: No one aims for the mediocre.  In sports, the cliché saying is “We have a target on our back.”  Who says that?  The best team.  The defending champion.  Whoever is in first.  The team in third place never says those words.  When assassins strike—who do they shoot at?  The cab driver?  No…they try to kill the President.  When 9/11 happened—the terrorists went after iconic symbols of America: the Twin Towers, the Pentagon…not the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois.

Why?

Because they want to strike fear in mass doses.  You kill the king, the civilians will scatter.

Who do we know that feeds on fear?

Satan is not interested in me.  Why?  Because I’m invisible in the spiritual world.  But he had all kinds of interest in Christen.  He attacked her with everything he had.  Migraines.  Dizziness.  Hearing loss.  Vision loss.  Nausea.  And finally—a TUMOR.  Then he sat back and watched the rest of us scurry around in fear.

God looked at this—He looked at the months and month of excruciating pain Christen was looking at with chemo and radiation—and He said, “No.  You don’t get to do this.  I will not let you hurt my child this way.  I’m taking her home.”

To which Satan replied, “You idiot!  That’s only going to make my job easier!  People will question you.  Christians will turn their backs on you.  Non-Christians will say—‘See!  There IS no God.  Otherwise, why wouldn’t He save such a powerful Christian woman?’”

That’s when God smirked and responded, “No.  Because I’m about to perform a miracle.”

And He did.

Miracles are hard to believe in unless you witness them for yourself.  I was there.  I was there at Christen’s funeral service when the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen took place.  We sang.  Christen’s choir sang.  There was a sermon.  You know who gave that sermon?  Joe.  You want to talk about strength?  You want to talk about a spiritual warrior?  Joe preached to over 400 people at his own wife’s funeral.  When he was finished, the pastor of their church prayed—and while he prayed, he suddenly felt moved to make an alter call.

At a funeral.

And that’s when the miracle occurred.  People who did not know Christ, found Him.  Christians who were lost, returned.  Christians who were sleeping—ME—woke up.

Do you see it yet?  Do you see the miracle?  Evil struck at a spiritual warrior princess.  Satan murdered the very BEST of us…and LOST.  People were not turned away from God…they came sprinting TO Him.  Before that service, 400+ people were crying and hugging, depressed and somber.  When that service ended, 400+ people were crying and hugging…and LAUGHING.  We were full of LIFE.  God injected LIFE—Christen’s spiritual life—into all of us…and we KNEW it.

You think it ended there?  That’s not how God performs miracles.  He wants the world to know.  Those of us who were there, spread the word.  We returned to Facebook to share what happened.  We texted friends.  We spoke to friends.  Those friends shared with their other friends.  Word spread like a spiritual wildfire…and is still spreading.  I’m here tonight, spreading that word.  At work this week, whenever someone has asked my wife how she’s doing, she’s responded with, “Do you have 15 minutes for me to share my heart?”  Others are doing the same.  Those hundreds of thousands of people who were praying for Christen are continuing to spread the word.

Christen wrote a blog.  If you want to be challenged—read it.  I dare you not to be moved.  What are her words on this subject?  Do you know your neighbors?  Are you sharing your life with them?  Do you intentionally engage people around you for the sake of loving them?  People aren't projects.  They are people created in the image of God.  He loves them and he has a plan for their lives.  We often spout that out, but do we share His heart for them?”

God had a plan for Christen.  He has a plan for me.  For you.  Want to know the dirty truth?  Sometimes—it’s going to suck.  Life is hard.  I’m not here to answer the question “Why do bad things happen to good people?”—because, news flash, we don’t know.  It’s not our JOB to know.

Another quote from Christen’s blog: “Do you believe in God?  Do you believe that He is good?  He is.  It's not easy to truly believe that He is good.  Life is such a struggle for most of humanity on this planet.  We feel the injustice that our fallen world leaves us to cope with.  It hurts.  Sickness, betrayal, slavery.  It can weigh you down in a second…(but) you have to come to a place where you ask the question, ‘Is God good?’”

Let’s say your family is about to take a long road trip for vacation.  You don’t know how to get there, but fortunately the world has provided us with GPS…and GPS knows where to go.  We trust the GPS to get us to our final destination.  We know that at the end of the trip, something awesome is waiting for us—but sometimes the trip there is rough.  We have to drive over bumpy roads or through treacherous weather.  During those tough patches, we don’t question GPS, because we trust that it knows where it’s going…and we know that that final destination is paradise.

God is our GPS.  He knows the road we’re about to travel and most importantly, He knows our final destination.  It’s not our job to know God’s plan for us.  It’s our job—this is the absolute foundation of faith—it’s our job to TRUST that His plan is good.  The POINT of faith is the belief that God knows what He's doing, even if we don't...even if we don't like it...even if it sucks...even if it hurts us or the ones we love...........and—ready for the worst part?—ACCEPTING IT.

Romans 8:28 is one of the most misquoted verses in the Bible: “And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  People read that and think that life as a Christian will be easy.  To fully understand it, you need to read clear through verse 39.  What Paul is saying in the entire passage is that even the difficult experiences of life can be used in God’s overall plan for good.

Christen’s earthly body is gone.  We miss her.  We’ll continue to miss her.  We feel pain over this loss.  Even God is sad.  If Jesus wept for Lazarus and the faith of those who loved him, you can bet Jesus cried on January 9.  But if God’s overall plan is GOOD, then we have no choice but to believe that taking such a beautiful person is part of something bigger than us.  Something AMAZING.

It’s happening right now.  I hope you can feel it.  Something stirring in your chest.  God is trying to get through.  Christen’s death has caused a stirring in the spiritual world.  Don’t believe me?  During the week she was in the hospital, her visitation, and her service, over 1000 people came to see her.  Her blog, which started in October of 2010, began with one reader…her mom.  Over time, that grew to a steady 50 people reading her words.  Now?  During the last month, over 20,000 people have visited her site.  Does that sound like the works of an unremarkable, invisible woman on this earth?

Two months before her passing, Christen wrote this: “I need You more than ever before.  Lord knows, as we begin November, I rely so heavily upon His mercy and His grace.  For since as long as I can remember, I've suffered headaches.  Now, I've stood for healing in the past.  Many people have fought this battle on their knees on my behalf.  But no.  I'm not discouraged.  God is a good God.  He is faithful.  He's all that I want.  I do desire healing.  I believe I will be completely delivered from this illness, but even if I'm not—God is good.  You know, I get really weary of saints proclaiming the goodness of the Lord only when circumstances turn out as they would like.  You know that even if nothing went ‘right’ and if I am never delivered from migraines, He is good.  He is faithful and He is worthy of all praise.

“I know His ways are higher than mine.  His thoughts are far beyond my own.  I trust in Him and allow His purposes to be fulfilled in my life.

“I desire to live a selfless faith so on that day Jesus Himself will say to me, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant.  Enter into the joy of your Master.' (Matthew 25:21)  And I want to take as many people with me as possible.”

And she is.  I’m an English teacher, so forgive my grammar lesson, but pay attention to the tense there.  She IS.  Present tense.  She IS taking as many people with her as possible.  Hundreds of thousands of people prayed for healing.  Christen’s body was unable to heal.  However, due to her love of God and Joe’s love of God, many people were brought to Christ for the first time.  Many others were reminded of their lost faith and brought back into His glory.  Healing?  I think that prayer was answered in a big, BIG way.

I’m here tonight to share this message.  I’m here because I felt that stirring in my chest and decided to ACT.  I won’t lie.  I’m terrified.  I’m terrified because I know this isn’t it for me.  God’s plan—my GPS-led road—isn’t at its end.  I don’t know what lies ahead, and that scares the crap out of me.  But I know that it’s good.  In the end, in the future I cannot see—it’s good.  So I’m on the road, and I’m trying to gather as many people with me as I can.  Road trips are always more fun with loads of people anyway.

So let me ask you again.  Why are you here?  More importantly, where are you going next?

Hello

I don't really know how to start this.  Writing a blog...posting my thoughts...has been something I've wanted to do for a long time.  A few years, in fact.  Something has always held me back.  I'm a teacher, for one...and I take that role seriously.  I often get criticized because whenever I step outside of my house, or put something out there on Facebook, I act as if my students are watching...reading...listening.  Maybe it's overkill.  Maybe it's unnecessary.  I don't care.  My students are eighth graders.  When they leave my room, they step ever closer to the edge of adulthood.  My job is more than showing them how to improve their writing skills.  My job is to show them what an adult looks like...sounds like...acts like.  Whether they admit it or not, it's at this age when they really begin observing adults AS adults.  They start forming an idea of what being an adult is based on how the adults in their lives behave.

I cannot--I will not--fail them.

At the same time, I'm a writer.  I need to write.  I need to sit down at a computer and allow my fingers to fly over the keyboard.  I will find myself sitting on the couch, watching TV, and my fingers tap uncontrollably.  They want to type.  There are so many thoughts swirling in my head, and I feel if I can just get them down, my head will clear and I can focus on bigger and better things. But...I don't always know if those are things I want my students past/present to read.  What if I say something that affects how they think of me in a negative way.  I'm not much on perceptions--but I STRIVE for their respect.  What if I say something to lose that respect?  What if I say something that offends one of them?  What if I say something that skews their vision of an adult?

The other thing that held me back was my pastor, of all people.  I had an idea a couple years ago of writing a blog for our church.  I wanted it to be challenging.  Christians can get comfortable--too comfortable sometimes--and I wanted something that pushed them.  Pushed me.  In short, I kind of got shot down.  Basically, what he told me was--no one reads blogs.

Maybe he's right.  Heck...he's probably right.  Maybe no one will read a single one of these posts.  I guess we'll see.  What I do know is that I'm stealing the notion from my brother Joe (joeringle.blogspot.com) and his wife, Christen (christenringle.blogspot.com).  As you (if there IS a you) will see...something powerful is moving right now, and I have to get it out there.

Will all of my posts be faith-based?  Probably not.  But there's a fire burning inside that is screaming to come out--and I can't fight it any longer.  With that...I present Cromulent Thoughts: