Sunday, November 29, 2009

Spiritual gifts part 2: What are these spiritual gifts anyway?

Hey gang!

Last time, we began talking about spiritual gifts. In that part, we are going to define the term and then look at scripture to see what God’s Word says about it. It’s important to understand what the spiritual gifts are and why God gives them to us in the first place.

Bryan Carraway, writer of Spiritual Gifts, Their Purpose and Power, defines spiritual gifts as “supernatural endowments and abilities that are selectively given to every Christian by the Holy Spirit for the purposes of personal ministry and for the advancement of the kingdom of God.”

The term spiritual endowments shouldn’t scare you. That part of the definition tells us where they come from. In the next paragraph after the definition on page 59 of his book, Carraway tells us plainly that spiritual gifts are divinely given. So God is the giver of these gifts.

I want to immediately discern between a spiritual gift and natural ability. There are people that are good in the workplace. You’ve heard the statement, “It seems as if they were made for the job.” Keep in mind though that spiritual gifts come from God. If I go to school for four years to learn how to be a teacher, I can gain the ability to teach. With the certificate I receive, I can walk into a classroom and instruct students. Having the piece of paper does not guarantee that I am gifted to be a good teacher. The school has given me the tools, but it is how I use them that tells whether I am a good teacher or not. However, to have the spiritual gift of teaching, God has given you the ability to understand and share material. The person may not have even cracked a school book to learn how. The person is able to do this because the ability has been given by God.

The other example of this I gave in part one was being taught leadership skills by John Maxwell. Maxwell trains people to be better leaders. Again, it is what you do with these teachings that can make you a good leader or not. The best counter example to this is God gifting Moses to lead in Exodus. If you read the account, Moses tries to explain to God several times that he is not a good speaker or leader. But God helped him take the Israelites out of Egypt and to the Promised Land.

The spiritual gifts are “selectively given to every Christian by the Holy Spirit.” So do non-Christians have these gifts? The answer is no. The Holy Spirit comes to us at salvation, therefore unbelievers will not have a spiritual gift.

Finally, the definition says that these are given “for the purposes of personal ministry and for the advancement of the kingdom of God.” I think it is understood that spiritual gifts would be to advance God’s work. However, some people get a little antsy over the purposes of personal ministry. Occasionally, we do hear of people taking advantage of the gifts God has given. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, several high profiled preachers began to fall, either by greed or sexual immorality or other things as well. I’ve been asked, “Well, wouldn’t God know better than to give these gifts to those kinds of people?” My answer is simple. Yes, yes he would. Even as Christians walk with Christ, we still have free will and people do mess up. If you’ve heard the old saying, “He paved the road with good intentions,” you quickly realize that sometimes power corrupts. Eventually, people are found out and whatever they are doing wrong is stopped. I didn’t say that the gift is taken away, just that the sin is stopped. Sometimes both happen, but spiritual gifting is entirely up to God. I’ll also talk about this in a later part in the series.

OK, so now that we know that spiritual gifts are from God to advance his kingdom, what are the gifts specifically? Glad you asked. There are five primary texts that discuss spiritual gifts in the Bible. We will take a look at three of these in this segment and break them down.

Let’s begin with the first mention of spiritual gifts in the New Testament, in Romans 12. Starting in verse 4, “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”

Verse 4 tells us that we don’t all have the same function. If all of us had the gift of teaching, there would be no listeners. If all of us had the gift of administration (or leadership), everyone would want to be the top person and there would be no serving. That would leave a lot of us waiting to be served. You get the idea. If all of us did the same thing, other things wouldn’t get done. God’s kingdom wouldn’t advance very far in the entire scheme.

Verse 5 talks about the idea that the gifts are given based on the amount of grace we have and that we will use it in proportion to our faith. I’ll discuss this further after the next set of scripture.

In verses 6-8, we are given the first set of examples. The gifts talked about here are prophecy, serving, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading and mercy. One note to make here is that as Paul talks about these gifts is stating that if you have this gift, use it and do it with a positive attitude. I realize it’s not always easy to be cheery. God gives us many examples in scripture of people who weren’t happy about using their gifts.

I’ll give one example. Jonah was to go and preach to the people of Nineveh and to persuade them to repent. Jonah didn’t want to do this. Why? First, the Ninevites were not nice people. They would take over territories, keep the women as sex slaves, kill the men and place their heads on the walls of the city to show them as trophies and they would take the children and toss them off the wall to watch them splat on the ground. Not most people’s idea of a good time. Jonah tried to run. He ended up in the belly of a whale. The whale kept him for three days to adjust his attitude, then spit him out in the direction of Nineveh. Jonah went and did as he was told. The Ninevites repented. God healed and saved the people. While waiting for God to bring down fire and brimstone, Jonah took a seat outside the city on a hill and waited for the festivities. After God relented, Jonah was upset. Upset might be mild for what Jonah felt. Jonah used the gift God gave him to preach Nineveh to repentance, but he definitely wasn’t happy about it.

The next set of verses to discuss spiritual gifts is 1 Corinthians 12:1-11. In verse 1, Paul tells the Corinthians that he doesn’t want them to be ignorant about spiritual gifts. He is explaining spiritual gifts to the people for the same reason God placed this series on my heart for you. God wants you to be wise about the gifts He has for us. In verses 4-6, Paul reminds us that even though the gifts are different, they all come from the same place, God. Verse 7 explains to us that the gifts are given for the greater good (of God’s kingdom). Verses 8-10 give us another list. Notice that the gifts are not the same as in Romans. Here they are word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, tongues, and interpretation of tongues. We come to realize that Paul gives us examples in each list, but no list is all inclusive. No list given in scripture tells us that x, y, and z are the gifts and that is it.

Paul continues to discuss spiritual gifts throughout the remainder of 1 Corinthians 12. Verses 12-25 are a more elaborate explanation of Romans 12:5. This is the explanation I promised earlier.

He asks us in verses 15-16, “If the foot should say, ‘I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.” Let’s be honest though. How many people in the church today would rather have what they would deem “the cooler gifts?” What is cool to have is different to each person. If I decided that I don’t want to teach anymore and want to do what I think is cool, sing in worship like my friend Eric Hagen. Eric has an awesome voice, great stage presence, dresses well (well, that might be helped by his wife, Jen), and knows how to help an audience gain the most from their worship. I have decent stage presence as a speaker, but I do not have the gifting to sing worship for our church every Sunday. I like to sing, but in reality, we’re all better off that I am singing to an audience of One down in the congregation. He’s gifted to sing, I’m gifted to write and the Christian is better off for it!

In verses 18-20, we are told that God has arranged us as He wants us, asks us where we would be if all of us were the same (as explained earlier), and that many parts make up the body. If you need support for these verses, look no further than Hebrews 10:24-25. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Revival may begin with us, but it isn’t meant to stay as a one man show. We need each other.

Verses 21 tells us that we can’t disregard a part of the body. If we were missing part of our body, it wouldn’t look right. We can’t tell our hand to leave, it’s attached. But we do that all the time to people in the church. As the church, we pick and choose which gifts are right for us and if anyone says or does something slightly strange or what would be deemed politically incorrect, we almost attempt to run them out of town, never mind the church. I’m not defending people who bring controversy to the mix, but I am saying that God tells us to test the spirit(s) to see if they are from God, not get them a ticket on the next Greyhound for the coast.

Verses 22-24 explain another important concept. In verse 22, Paul says that parts of the body that are weaker are indispensable. My mom has ankle trouble because she fell down some stairs over 20 years ago. You wouldn’t think those tiny little bones in the ankle can hobble a person so much, but there are days that area swells up and it is downright hard for her to walk. Sure, if those bones were healthy, she’d walk a lot faster, but if they weren’t there at all, she might be in a wheelchair. In verse 23, Paul tells us that these lesser parts need to be treated with special honor. My mom can wear these special socks for support for the region and it does help her walk better. They are expensive, but that’s the price of special honor.

Verse 24 is where Paul pulls the analogy together. The same is true of the church. Several years ago, I attended a community-wide service at Light of Life in Fairmont, West Virginia. I will always remember all the different speakers and how they shared that Christians need to unify as a whole, rather than be separate because of minor disagreements. At the end of the week, there was a special foot-washing service and the pastors were washing the volunteers’ feet because they had been of great service to the conference. These were the people behind the scenes that weren’t getting the kudos for carrying it off. However, these leaders in the community wanted the people in attendance to understand how important each person is to community’s churches.

The next two verses (25-26) give us the reason that the body of the church needs each other. Paul tells us that “there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” The question we need to ask ourselves here is “Are we equally concerned with people?” Honestly, most of us would say no. I have best friends in the church. If one of them is hurt or feeling down, I try to be there for them. If I see others down that I don’t know well, sometimes I’m as far from being like the Samaritan as possible. I fail to be equal sometimes. Why? Because in a church of anything more than a group of friends, we look out and say, “Obviously this person has a friend that can help them.” Maybe not. That’s why people leave and the church never discovers it full potential. I know that sounds hard. It is. Being honest is tough sometimes, especially when I have to point the finger at myself too.

We finally come down to the third set of verses in 1 Corinthians 12:27-31. Verse 27 is basic to understand. If you’ve been saved at salvation, you are a part of the body of Christ. If you’ve asked Christ into your life, you are in the network. You may not have the Verizon gang following you around, but you have something better. You have a Holy Spirit that is there to guide you right there inside you.

Verse 28 gives us our third list. Paul lists apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, healing, helps, administration, and tongues. Again, Paul gives examples, not the entire list. Verses 29-30 ask us again if all people have one or all of them.

Verse 31 says something that causes a little division in denominations, eagerly desire the greater gifts. The reference continues in Chapter 14:1-4. First, 14:1, “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire the gift of prophecy.” So Paul sees prophecy as a greater gift. In verse 3, he explains why. “But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.” Essentially Paul is telling us that one of the greater gifts is to raise people in their faith.

Verses 2 and 4 tell us the other greater gift. In Verse 2, “For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.” I’d never looked at tongues in that way. I think when most people think about tongues, they are thinking other world languages. If I am in France, I speak in French because God enables me to speak to the people. That’s not what Paul is saying here. Paul is telling us that tongues is so that we can talk to God in His language. Many divisions of the church would say this is unnecessary because God understands us because he’s God. They would also say that since the Holy Spirit is inside of us, that the Spirit understands our language best. I might or might not disagree, but Paul makes the point here of telling us that tongues are talking to God.

In verse 4, Paul explains that tongues is for our edification with God, but prophecy edifies the church as a whole. Prophecy is not an individual gift. Paul gives his opinion that he thinks that he’d rather have the prophecy gift UNLESS a person interprets the God-language tongues, so that the church may be edified in verse 5. Paul shows us a side of God here that there is a time and place for God to edify you and that there is also a time and place to edify the church. While God wants you blessed, it’s not all about you.

Paul closes Chapter 14 with one warning note. In verse 39, he tells us to be eager for prophecy and not to forbid tongues. But he tells us in verse 40, “But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” As I said earlier, there are whole denominations that are uncomfortable with the gift of tongues. If tongues were spoken in their churches, people would come unglued. Why? Because that’s not how church is done to them. And they are right in that statement. The gift of tongues would cause disorder in those churches. In other churches, I’ve seen people pray for tongues, wanting that gift for various reasons. I’ll talk about that when we get to the section on tongues later this month.

That is a look at three of the five primary verses of spiritual gifts. We will conclude next time with the other two. For that, you can read Ephesians 4 and 1 Peter 4, if you are wanting to get ahead.

I love you guys!
Frank

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Shopping Done? Receive God's Spiritual Gifts This Month, Part 1



Hey gang!

The craziness in my house began weeks ago, but intensified this week because now was the time to trim down all the costs and decide what we would buy on Black Friday for our children and each other for Christmas. As a man, it is not expected for me to be scouring ads and looking at potential rumors to find the items we want. But I love shopping. I think it’s one of those thinking processes that comes from being raised by four women.

Anyhow, as the final versions of ads were put up on Black Friday.com and came in our local newspapers, decisions had to be made so that Black Friday didn’t turn us into poor folks by late Friday evening. The decisions are hard because you want to give your kids the best of everything. Every one of us has this childhood memory of something that could have been better and plenty of us struggle to do the best we can so that our children aren’t telling us about those type of memories from the therapist’s couch.

Eddie Murphy did a routine about his childhood and always wanting McDonald’s hamburgers. His mom would drive right by it. Eddie would always ask, “Mom, can we have McDonald’s?” His mom would always reply about how she could make a better burger at home. He goes on to tell us about using bread instead of the bun so that the ketchup would ooze through and that the bread would smoosh up and it made our burgers have imprints of our hands. What Eddie didn’t realize is that he just saved CSI units millions of dollars with imprint machines. Here, hang on to this burger for a while.

I had a friend in high school that gave me a hard time for wearing Wrangler jeans instead of Levi’s. Hey, I love Levi’s jeans, but they also cost double the Wranglers. My mom was a single parent and could not afford high dollar clothing. As a fat guy, I struggle today with finding firm-fitting clothing. I feel mom’s pain every time I go to the clothing department and that is even at Wal-Mart. I complimented the girl often because her clothes were spectacular, but I always remember her telling me one day that if she had to wear an off-brand, she would just die. Her parents made a little more money than my mom, but not much. Thinking about it today, she probably broke her family with all her demands for the best in fashion.

That got me to thinking. I am so glad that God is not like that when it comes to giving gifts to his children. God wants us to have the very best. Abba Father doesn’t buy the latest fashions, but he does have gifts for us. While God’s spiritual gifts are advantageous to have, you can’t buy them. That’s why they are called gifts. I just can’t run over to Kohl’s and get the $19.99 Christian special that will give me all the abilities of Jesus. I’m sure it costs more than that. The only person ever able to pay the price was Jesus.

Now, I could run down to my friends at Lifeline Christian Book Store and buy a John Maxwell book on how to use the gift of leadership. For those of you that are unfamiliar, Maxwell travels the country and does speaking engagements on how to be a better leader in whatever ministry you are doing. He’s written several books on how to be more effective. However, if I don’t have the leadership gifting, no amount of reading Mr. Maxwell’s books will give me Godly leadership. I could end up being very efficient and smart about being a leader and might even be able to look good in that role.

However, that looking good is like an actor playing a part in a biography. The only person that truly looks right playing themselves is that person. I can play Frank better than anyone because I was born for the part. Eminem tells us why people can’t be The Real Slim Shady. “They walk like me, talk like me, act like me, but they’re not quite me.” So truthfully, there is only one place to go if you want to be The Real Slim You. It begins in God’s Word. So please stand up! And grab your Bibles to begin this look into spiritual gifts.

Before I go into the gifts, what they are and how they are used, I want you to know that the primary text for this series is Bryan Carraway’s Spiritual Gifts: Their Purpose and Power. From the reading, he has done much research and quotes often from the other book out there that is great for finding your spiritual gifts, Discover Your Spiritual Gifts, by C. Peter Wagner. In my research above and beyond God’s Word, these two commentaries are the most thorough and explanatory of spiritual gifts. By reading these books, I even learned a few things about my own spiritual gifting and little noticeable parts of those gifts that I didn’t even realize. So if you feel like you want to follow along or want more of what both of these men say about spiritual gifts after this series, they will probably be more than happy to collect the royalties off your purchases.

I’ll start this series by saying that this series will be through the month of December. Marriage Monday and Wisdom Wednesday are being stopped during this series because there is so much information that it will take most of the month to talk about it. There are special days in December to think about if you like getting information on other authors and their books. The next paragraph will share with you special guest appearances about some authors and their works. There will probably be a couple interruptions by my own thoughts as well. One Man Revival will be celebrating one year on Blogger on December 3rd and I’ll share some special memories of the past year of the ministry on its birthday. Also, during the week of Christmas, I’ll take a couple days to talk about great Christmas memories and share the Gospels’ version of the birth of Jesus. That last part will either be a Christmas Eve or Christmas Day edition of OMR. Lastly, on New Year’s Eve, I’ll share a look back at 2009 and begin to talk about the hopes and dreams of 2010.

As I said though, some authors will be dropping by to share with us from their books. I’ll give you these dates now so you can prepare to join us those days and maybe even give some feedback to the authors or myself about the book or offer other books that people might be interested in. The list of authors, with their books, is here.

December 1-James N. Watkins, Squeezing Good Out of Bad (The Lemon Fresh Blog Tour)
December 8-Frank Ball-Eyewitness
December 10-James Pence-Terror By Night
December 11-Judith Couchman-The Mystery of the Cross
December 17-James Pence-Blind Sight
December 22-Kay Marshall Storm-The Call of Zulina
December 29-Sonya Samuel-When I Accepted Me, 52 Affirmations to Boost Your Self-Esteem!

I did not realize that we have seven dates in December so far for authors. That is just awesome! So next time, we will begin by defining spiritual gifts and looking at what God’s Word says about spiritual gifts. The five major texts we will look at will be Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 1 Corinthians 12:28, Ephesians 4:11 and 1 Peter 4:9-11.

Finally, I’d like to mention again a big thank you for taking time to read this ministry’s writings. There are now over 400 people as part of the Facebook Fan Page and almost 200 subscribing via Networked Blogs. December’s series on spiritual gifts could be the biggest series of writing since the Forgiveness series back in June. As always, thanks for your support. If you have questions or concerns, you can comment below or send email to onemanrevival@yahoo.com.

I love you guys!
Frank

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Give Our Soldiers A Jolt and Help Ben's Christmas Wish



Hey gang!

I know it is the week of Thanksgiving, but do you realize that Christmas is closing in on 30 days away. Right now, we are in the season to be thankful and I’ve seen many people talking about what they are thankful for coming into the holiday season. But I am also starting to see cool Christmas ideas. The nice thing is that all the items that I have read are not about what people are wanting. It’s not the naughty or nice list.

Today, I want to share a Christmas wish from a cool little boy I met this year. Little Ben Hinkle, age 6, is the son of my long time friend Brenda and he shared what he would like to do for Christmas with his mom and she shared it with her Facebook friends last night.

Ben has taken pride in our military men and women and saw a promotion at his local Dollar General store in West Virginia. He has seen the new packaging on Jolt Gum. For those of you that don’t know what Jolt Gum is, the gum is a highly caffeinated (double the normal amount of gum, from the website’s advertising) and high in sugar gum. Recently, the company placed the picture of a soldier on the cover of their gum and is promoting the idea of sending gum to the soldiers.

You may think that, “Oh come on, it’s just gum,” but the company has made this gum with the men and women defending our country in mind. Since the military men and women must almost always be on alert, the gum is designed with the high caffeine to help keep people awake. It’s a fantastic idea for our the hard-working soldiers who might be suffering from feeling a little sleepy at the end of long shifts.

So Ben’s Christmas wish is somewhat simple. He would love to send as much of this gum to the soldiers as his little hands can carry. His parents gave him a little money and he is using his allowance money as well as a start. When he contacted the great people at Jolt, they said that they would ship all the gum he could order for free. So how can I not ask you guys to help him? I want him to be able to get so much gum that he’ll have to have mom and dad carry it for him.

So here is how you can help. If you would like to donate, you can send your donations to Ben Hinkle at his home address. There is only one other note to worry about. He has to place the order by December 3 in order to get the gum to the troops by Christmas. So if you want to help, you have to hurry to mail it to him. Here’s the address information.

Brenda Hinkle
In Care of Ben Hinkle
48 Meadow Lane
Lost Creek, WV 26385

With all the scammers out there, I do want you to understand that this is legit. I’m not in the habit of asking for your hard earned dollar in these economic times. In truth, this ministry has never asked for your money in its year of existence. For this, it isn’t for my ministry. If you need more information, you can check the promos tab at the Jolt Gum website (http://www.joltgum.com/promos.html) about the program for soldiers. Again, to help Ben, you would need to send your donation to get to him by December 3. If you have any further questions, you can always email me at onemanrevival@yahoo.com. I check my email often and will attempt to answer any questions or concerns you might have. Let’s make a Christmas wish for this 6-year old a fun and exciting venture of servitude. Thanks very much in advance for helping the little guy out.

I love you guys!
Frank

Monday, November 23, 2009

Marriage Monday: One Truth: Our Children Belong To God

Hey gang!

It’s Monday of Thanksgiving Week 2009. Up till now from April, we have been doing Marriage Monday. This week, we finish the last of a series covering Leslie Leyland Fields’ book, “Parenting Is Your Highest Calling” And 8 Other Myths That Trap Us In Worry and Guilt. Over the last nine editions, we have covered the nine different myths of the book, but today’s edition closes with a truth. A truth that all parents are under, no matter how big or small they think they are.

Leslie titles this final section “The Holy Enterprise of Parenting.” She tells a great story of how one of her children was severally hurt and she had to get into a bush plane to get him to medical treatment. There was a part where she thought she might not make it because the plane looked as if it might crash. But in that storm of time, she came to the realization of one of the greatest truths in parenting. She calls it the greatest truth and I might have to agree. It is simply this:

MY CHILDREN BELONG TO GOD.

This truth doesn’t lead us to worry less about the decisions we make or that the children make. As parents, we will question and second guess half the decisions that we make. Truthfully, a lot of them are minor and really don’t matter in the large scheme of things. Will allowing my daughter to eat a piece of cheese after she brushes her teeth and readies for bed really hurt her? Will trying to place my kids in the right extra-curricular activities make them excel? Will allowing my son to take two toys instead of one to bed keep him awake longer? You get the idea. I will never make fun of important decisions, but sometimes it is better to take the high road and leave a tender moment alone.

But that statement is an important one. My children belong to God. There are times I never think of it. Occasionally, I leave my kids in front of the TV too long where it would be better to take them outside. But I don’t because it’s the path of least resistance. When I lay down at night, I think about the decisions I make and don’t make for a few minutes. I can beat myself to death over simple errors, but what I need to do is come clean, be honest with God and say, “Lord, let’s try again tomorrow to help my kid(s) be better or to help me be better.” God respects us when we look honestly and sincerely and then continue to strive in the future. It’s all we can do. We hand our mistakes, our glories and our children each day to the God that made them. He has made each one special and different for his purpose. That’s why I have looked at each of my children as miracles of my life.

There’s that word again, Miracles! God is the one that gifts them to think the way they do, see the world with innocent eyes and challenge us as adults to be better people too.

Yes, I’m thankful for my children. But in the attempts to have children and live with them, I have learned so much about myself and about how much God, my wife and my children love me.

I will always remember the first weekend of August 2004. I was six months removed from the painful church abandonment by ACC, but I was still taking classes at Greenville College. On this weekend, I spent time with my friends Mike Pomatto and Mike McCune, along with a few others at a monastery in Indiana to learn about the life on monks.

After two weeks of doing in-vitro fertilizations, I knew I would be coming home to find out if we were indeed pregnant on the first try. Mindy greeted me and showed me a test that was positive. I had just turned 35 in May 2004 and I think my wife was more worried about my clock running out than hers as a diabetic with a low sperm count due to lack of control of my sugar levels. If my levels remained steady, our chances were better. That summer, I did everything I could to keep the levels good.

Three weeks later, we went back to St. Louis and found out for certain that indeed we were pregnant. We found out something else. There were two. Twins. Oh my. We had talked about two total that we wanted and thought, “Wow! Here we are.” The glee was all over me. After being in teen ministry at BBC for two years, I had begun to want to have children. At 35, I was thinking that I might finally be mature enough to handle fatherhood.

The glee turned to panic on the third Wednesday of September. Mindy began to bleed. We rushed to the doctor. We were hoping for the best, but were expecting the worst. Trouble had come. One of the twins had gotten smaller and stopped growing. There was no longer a heartbeat. Most of that day was a blur. We had church that night. Mindy wanted to stay home, but I knew I needed God and the comfort of other believers. I will always remember breaking the news to the pastor that one was gone. I cried and I prayed that it would stop.

Losing one at ten weeks kept that lingering thought in my mind that now that we’d lost one that it could just as easily be both. I know that most of the time during the rest of Mindy’s pregnancy, I babied her. Maybe too much. I didn’t care.

At 21 weeks, we had another ultrasound and found out that this was going to be a girl. All the pictures of teenage girls misbehaving started running through my head. I started thinking about buying a shotgun. Thankfully, the men in my life realized that the last thing I needed was a gun and talked me down, reminding me of the good times that can be had with a girl. They also joked with me about tea parties and that I would end up wearing makeup and nail polish. I retorted that I had already done that by having Eddie Gennoy as a friend who dressed me up like Judy Tenuta during my college years. It was a funny skit.

As the day got closer, we had the normal baby showers. I had to go. I have to admit I kind of enjoyed Mindy’s and my female friends giving a fuss over me during their party time. The ladies realized how much I stayed involved in the process. I didn’t miss doctor’s appointments. I even took a baby class through the hospital because I needed to learn what to do with a baby. OK, I knew what to do, but I needed to learn how to do it properly. I knew my baby girl was not to be held like I was running to the end zone holding the Heisman Trophy.

The day came. It was 1:45am, April 4, 2005. It was opening day of baseball season. I didn’t have tickets because I knew that if I bought them, she would come. Since 2000, I had not missed being at a major league park on opening day. The string of games would end at five.

The birthing process was not as scary as I thought it would be, especially after Mindy had the epidural. Call her weak if you want, but I’m not sure I would have made it out alive if she hadn’t taken it. At 9:51am, Megan was born. Once I was given Megan to hold, I did not want to let her go. The nurses wanted to give me that momentary buzz, but then began to explain that she wasn’t breathing at full power and that they needed to take her to another room to continue to work with her. Mindy understood that better than me. I’m celebrating by calling family, but my daughter was in real danger. It wasn’t until almost an hour later, when I heard more comments from the nurses that I began to get it.

I freaked out in my mind. God wouldn’t have brought us all this way to have us lose her now. I began pacing and praying, finally driving Mindy crazy. The drugs were wearing off and I was becoming annoying. I can confess that. I can be annoying sometimes. After a few hours, the nurses let us go in and carefully hang out with her. She was still beautiful, but I was getting more scared. I never said it out loud, but I think Mindy felt it.

She told me to come home and try to relax, eat some dinner and get some sleep. Once I got home, I think I sent emails to every friend I had begging for prayer for Megan. Within a few hours, Mindy called me telling me that she was improving and found that the reason that she had been struggling was that she might have gotten a touch of the epidural. Friends kept calling me, reassuring me that it would be OK. By morning, I had gone back to the hospital and Megan was much better and was now out of the machines and being allowed to come to Mindy’s room to be with us.

If you have ever heard Sade’s “Never As Good As the First Time”, I can testify that the second time I held my little girl was so much better than the first. I knew now she would be fine. By the end of that day, I was able to go home and email much more satisfying news and uncountable thanks to my friends for actually praying.

After getting used to Megan at home for a few months, we began to think that we still wanted another child. We still wanted two. Over the next six months, we tried three times via in-vitro to negative results. There was a thought that Megan might be destined to be an only child. I admit that both Mindy and I were starting to become stressed over the disappointment. The third fail was during the heart of tax season 2006 while I was working at H & R Block.

I finally agreed to one more attempt after tax season was over. Well, the window of opportunity hit the last week of tax season in April. We tried and a couple weeks later, found success again. At the six week mark, we went in to check things out. Again, there were two. But this time, one was already noticeably smaller and its success was unlikely.

By the ten-week checkup, our fears were confirmed. We were at one again. I have to admit that the pain wasn’t as severe with me and that bothered me, a lot. Part of it was being prepared in advance that it may happen, but part of me was OK with the idea. Hey, one more, we now have two at the end. It’s fine. But it ate at me that I was some kind of horrible father for not pleading with God to miraculously spare and restore this child because I knew in advance. I wasn’t praying for its death or anything like that, but I still felt guilty.

This pregnancy was much harder, not for Mindy, but for me. I was working a lot at Block and was becoming more and more dissatisfied with their system. I stayed instead of looking for other work because I felt like I had to for financial reasons. It stressed me out and I become a hole. Yeah, that kind of hole. The one behind your back. I quit my job one month before she was due.

My wife reduced her recovery time from eight weeks to six weeks because I was struggling to find a job. On January 19, 2007, my son was born. James had a normal delivery for the most part. The cord got close to his head, but the doctor got him out on time. During the six weeks of Mindy’s recovery, I started a new job. It was a job I despised, but it was money. The bad part was that it stressed me out. It was bad enough I was doing a job I hated because I had to, but I also began to feel sick.

I was doubling over in pain. I went and had tests done for an ulcer. I didn’t have an ulcer, but I also only had one kidney. What? I learned that I was born with one kidney. I’m 38, diabetic and now realize I have one kidney. I’ll admit figuring this out then was more than I could handle. The pains continued though. What followed were more tests and more days of missing work. I finally found out I had to have surgery to remove my gall bladder and that I would need two weeks off from work. The job let me go. I had to have the surgery, but I was happy as a lark that I wouldn’t have to go back to work there.

God had two more tricks up his sleeve. He allowed me to stay unemployed for months. It killed us financially. I’ll say that I had developed an ego of how good I thought I was in the workforce. Most prospective employers saw the hole part and passed on me. I was growing desperate. It almost cost us our marriage because of the stress involved. Finally, someone told me about a job that I was already qualified for.

Even though I hadn’t activated my teaching certificate since 1994, the area of the country I live in hires substitutes even if their license lapsed previously as long as the person paid for the Illinois substitute license. So by getting my transcript and purchasing a license, I became marketable again. Thankfully, the ego had been pricked by then. It was humbling to go back into the school system 13 years after I felt that I had failed at it the first time. It turned out to be an awesome year of teaching.

But I said God had two tricks, not just one. In the midst of the storm, I actually had improved my diabetes to a point that I was under control. During the first weeks of September 2007, we kept waiting for the monthly friend that never came. Yes, without help, we were pregnant again. This time, it was only one. And it stayed that way. Six days and four years after Megan was born, Maggie entered the world. She was healthy, smiling and God’s surprise for our faithfulness.

Did Maggie save our marriage? No. That took work. We re-found New Hope and decided that we would stay. We enrolled in a marriage class a few months after she was born. As silly as the idea was originally, going to the class began making us think about our marriage and our commitment to each other. We knew we were committed to being great Godly parents, but we needed to be more than that. We needed to be great Godly partners to each other to show our kids that even though it wasn’t always easy (and still isn’t at times), mommy and daddy are committed to loving each other as much as they loved them.

That is how to complete the calling of parenthood. It isn’t just about making your kids number one and to heck with you and your spouse. As much as it pains me to say it, these children will leave us someday. Guess who that leaves. You guessed it, your spouse. So he/she will be there for the long haul, even after the days you begin to need some overhaul. That’s what God meant by marriage. One man, one woman, for life.

Kids don’t make the job of loving each other any easier because you have even less time for each other than you used to. But it is making quality time of that time together. Is it more important to be a better parent than a better spouse? The answer is no. As Mr. Miyagi told Daniel in the first Karate Kid movie almost a quarter century ago, “It is balance, Daniel-son, balance!”

I truly hope that you’ve enjoyed the book study of Leslie Leyland Fields’ “Parenting Is Your Highest Calling” And 8 Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt. If you kept reading my notes, including all the rabbit trails I jumped on, I still encourage you to get a copy of the book and read it. It is available almost everywhere books are sold.

A closing note about Marriage Monday. The series will be taking December off. I’ll give you more details about that in the coming days. However, if there are topics of marriage that you would love to talk about or even other books that you might want to talk about and potentially study, don’t hesitate to comment here with your ideas. The series will return in January as I hope to continue to encourage marriages to last, including my own. I love my wife and I know you love your spouse as well. What I pray and hope to achieve with Marriage Mondays is to bolster, strengthen, and hopefully give you a sense of humor sometimes about being married. We aren’t to get married and become miserable. We are to unite as one, grow with each other, and glorify Christ Almighty with the love and hope we share.

I love you guys!
Frank

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thanksgiving Week 2009: Looking For Your Miracles, Part 2

Hey gang!

If you haven’t read the first part of this, please go back and read it first. The reason I make this request is so that you understand my true heart in speaking on part two. This is a very emotional part and I truly want you to get it. This part tells a story of today that miracles are still here, still available and still loved and appreciated by God’s people. I also want you to understand that I may forget or not mention people that are very important in this miracle. In the comments, at MySpace, Blogspot or even on Facebook, I invite you to add your miracle witnessing, people that may still be overlooked, or other miracles that may encourage and strengthen the readership of One Man Revival. It is my pure intention to speak in a loving, kind way of the people who have been so much a part of one of the most beautiful events I have seen in my lifetime. I omit no one on purpose. I am just one voice.

OK, here we go again. We are talking about miracles. In part one, I told you that it was easy to see that miracles happened in Jesus’ time because Jesus was there, physically. I have also explained that they didn’t stop with the death and resurrection of our Savior. The disciples continued that work throughout the New Testament and Jesus told us that the ability to see, witness and perform miracles was not leaving with him. He left us His Holy Spirit and the keys to be able to change the world.

Thanks to this ministry, I’ve been very fortunate to meet people that are working around the world as missionaries and evangelists making a difference for the call of Christ. There is my brother James Solomon Mensah in Ghana, there are a few guys that are in the Eastern Rim of China, the Phillipines, and Japan. On a more local level, I’ve met my friend Joshua Sullivan, who goes all over the country evangelizing the truth of the power of Jesus.

I truly believe there is a call on my life to speak to the world and God has given me One Man Revival Ministries to do that. I am so thankful that he has taken a substitute teaching daddy of three children and given him a laptop to write about all the great things that Jesus has done and can do, if only we ask for the keys.

Like I said at the end of part one, if I could give an award for the Miracle of the Year 2009, I would have to give it to one that has happened before my eyes. It didn’t start out that way. In fact, I have to say that I thought it would be over in two days in tragedy. The thoughts still race through my mind. When I look back, it has been a long process.

The night I learned about Kim Burry being sick was Thursday, September 17. It was less than a week after we, as a country, had taken time to remember the tragedy of 9/11. Kim and her husband, Bill, had just come back from vacation in the Gulf Shore area of the country and most people return from vacation vibrant and ready to get back into the action. The stories I heard were many, but the reliable story was that Kim was feeling some pain in her neck as it had started to swell upon her return. She didn’t feel right.

On Wednesday, the 16th, she and Kathy Doty had went to the ER at St. Anthony’s probably thinking that she’d get a shot for some kind of infection and head home. Within hours, her body had begun to shut down. That night, she had to be flown to St. John’s Memorial Hospital in Springfield. She fell into a coma and the reports weren’t good. Many of the words, gossip and truth, had her looking death in the face by Friday the 18th.

While all the reports were sounding negative, Bill was refusing to take it as the Gospel. It wasn’t that Bill wasn’t listening, like “La, La, La, I am not listening, but you are still talking,” but he was refusing to give up on his wife. He was believing for total recovery, not just because he is our Executive Pastor and is supposed to, but because this was his wife, a woman that he loves. I’m a few years younger than Bill and I couldn’t fathom having to sit there with my wife at death’s door. I kept thinking, “Would I be that strong, that faithful to the woman I love?” Honestly, I probably would’ve been calling family preparing for the worst, not believing that my wife could survive an unknown cause.

What made this situation a little more stressful was that our other two pastors were out of town. They weren’t MIA, but they were working on other fronts. Tyler was in Nashville and Van was in Jacksonville. The rest of the staff stepped it up without them. The church was opened the 16th-18th all day and into the evening hours for people to be able to come and pray.

By the time I was able to go and be a part of the prayer process on Friday night, over 75 people had been there over the three nights to pray in support of the Burry family. Above that, most of the staff had gone sometime between Thursday and Friday to be there and many more church members went that Friday night to be with Bill and the boys. Springfield isn’t a jog in the park. It is over two hours away from Effingham. As I said in my commentary on that night, “People may think that it's no big deal. To me, the staff showed unity and love for their comrade's time of need. But again, it didn't end there. Another group of the church went to Springfield tonight to pray with and show their love and concern.”

This happened on what people would call non-church nights. I’m not going to say that our church was struggling in support of each other, but this time of tragedy turned into a time where the people came together. I’ve always criticized the church (in general) that when the church comes together, it is usually the same five to ten people that do all the ministries. For the first time in my church going memory, there seemed to be a calling to arms of people being together. It appeared, at this point, that it was closer to a hundred coming together and showing unity in a dark hour.

How I found out about Kim was not through a normal means. I know that many churches have a prayer chain, including ours. My number just simply wasn’t on it. I may have gone in on Monday nights to pray with a few people, but I didn’t give out my number so that anyone could call me in an emergency. Since our family has only been there less than two years, I guess you kind of assume that there are people in place who seem to have a lot better connection to the throne room than you do. That may be shameful to say as an internet minister, but at least I’m honest.

However, I found out through a place called Facebook. If you’ve been reading One Man Revival, there is a good likelihood that you found out about my writing there. I had seen a couple acquaintances, Amy Propst and Kathy Doty, mentioning what had happened without much detail. Again, there were others giving much more grim words. I won’t come down on some of these others because rumors get started and get repeated as if they are the truth. There were well meaning people putting out these words. Some of them were true. I think it shook a lot of people at their core.

By the weekend, the Burry family had come to realize that Facebook was a great way to keep people up to date on Kim. They began a Kim Burry Update page. That page is still active today with over 1,400 people signed up for it. This was the place to get the latest information on Kim’s progress, send words of encouragement and post pictures.

But by Sunday, the church hadn’t just come together by going to and fro to Springfield and by Facebook, they came ready to challenge Satan for Kim in prayer. There was a prayer service dedicated for Kim between the two services at New Hope on Sunday. I didn’t count them, but I would put the numbers of people being a part at 400-500.

I will always remember certain things about that service. I remember the encouragement of staff to speak until SURGE/Junior High minister Brooke McMahon spoke. I will never forget Brooke telling us how Bill was like a father to her and someone asking for her to pray and she just rolled into prayer. It was powerful. I’d always respected Brooke as a teacher and as a leader. I got to spend some time with her and some of the teens out at Agapefest. But to hear her pray. It was the lightning rod that took the service to another level.

We separated into groups and my wife and I had joined up with Pastor Van’s group. Truthfully, if we had the prayer service to do over, we probably would’ve encouraged smaller numbers in each group. I could barely hear Van pray and PV is not a quiet guy praying. But I think we were all struggling to hear. I kept listening and hearing nothing, so I prayed. I thought, “Let’s get the ball rolling to encourage others to pray out loud.” That was my role, nothing more. After I finished, the next three I remember were Greg Lamb, Linda Cozadd and Mrs. Balda. I’ll always remember after the service, my wife and I in the car talking and her saying to me, “Wow! That was a good prayer. I didn’t realize you were thinking about this so much.” I had been, but I still felt my prayer was lame, politically correct prayer. I looked back at my wife and was honest. “Honey, my prayers were nothing. I prayed as if God would heal Kim, one way or the other. She would get better or she would join God. Greg and Linda prayed as if God would totally heal Kim and bring her home to Effingham.”

Once the group prayer was over, Van invited everyone to stay for worship. It was the idea to thank God for doing what we prayed for. I truly wish looking back on it that we had stayed, at least for the worship part. I remember the next day (Monday) feeling an overwhelming feeling of heaviness. Me and many others had been praying for Kim for now on five days and it was beginning to burn onto us. It was a heavy burden. One of the things that I hope we, as our church, learned in this is to release that heaviness to Jesus. Jesus speaks how his burden is easy and his yoke is light. He has carried ours for all time and we need that memory.

By that Sunday, there had been a collection begun for the Burrys to help with the medical costs and there was work beginning on ideas for fundraisers. People realized that this recovery was going to happen, it was going to be long and it was going to cost money. Money that a pastor and his wife, who also worked in the church, didn’t have. An account has been set up at Crossroads Bank here in Effingham for the family. I’ll give you the address here, but it will also be at the right side of the One Man Revival under Kim Burry Update information, if you wish to donate to help them out. It is Crossroads Bank/Keller Drive Facility, Attention Bill and Kim Burry Fund, PO Box 783, Effingham, IL 62401. There is also a collection drive being done with window decals. The decal logo will also be on the right, but I hope that someone will send me the information again on where the donations for that need to go to.

Over the next six days after that, Kim continued to heal. Blood wasn’t getting to all the extremities, but she was making progress. The fever was breaking, things were starting to heal up from this mystery virus. On Saturday the 26th, she woke up. There was a lot of pain, so for a little while, they had to sedate her. I told you about the Facebook group, but I still noticed some individuals who were praying what seemed to be extra hard, a tenacity that would not quit.

I still remember waking each morning to find Amy Propst’s encouraging voice each morning with scripture. I know that Kim is Amy’s best friend, but I have to be honest. The longer the days went, you began seeing less people being bold. Amy just kept coming with scripture after scripture. Not knowing their friendship before this happened, I liken the friendship to Jonathan and David. I made the comment a week or two ago on one of my Facebook statuses that men don’t have relationships like women do. Amy and Kathy Doty have both gone up to Springfield and stayed with Kim. Guys just wouldn’t do that for each other. We’ll do it for our wives or for our parents, but we would never do that for a close friend. Kathy has shared some of the funnier stories, but both these women have gone above and beyond to be with her as Bill gets some needed rest. That’s the kind of love that as friends we should have for one another. The times are tough, the friendships are tougher.

Bill shared recently near the beginning of the month of November that it has been nine weeks in her recovery. She is awake most of the time, speaking well from what I hear, most of the tubes are being removed within a week or so. Everything is starting to sound good again. I know a couple weeks ago, there was a nervous moment as blood began forming on her brain. The doctors originally thought stroke and that would have been a devastating setback. But I found something amongst the people praying for her and even in my own prayers. Kim has come so far. She is beating the devil with all the prayers. I think there is such faith now. There was almost a non-verbal feeling of, “Devil, Kim has recovered this far. She is ours. She belongs to Jesus. You cannot have her back.”

Kim has made a comeback. In sports, she’d be receiving awards. Here, we just keep praying for her to be home and back with us in Effingham. People truly believe that she will be walking and talking. The therapy to get her strength back is hard. I understand that. But I think that most of the 1,400+ online and the people all over that aren’t, are believing that their God is stronger and more capable of helping Kim ALL THE WAY BACK!

We are inside the 12th week at this point. Prayers are going up everywhere that Kim be home before the calendar turns into 2010. We are begging God for a Christmas Miracle that will be more encouraging than any other present that can be found in the stores. God, we want Kim. We realize that Kim’s miracle recovery has been that. It has given glory to you. The doctors have been so mystified by her recovery. I enjoyed Kathy’s story on Sunday of an Indian doctor and her working on getting him to call her recovery what all of us are calling it, a Miracle.

God, I just want to thank you for allowing me and my ministry to have had the eyes to see this miracle. I thank you that you placed it on my heart to share it with my readers for this Thanksgiving season. In a time we look at our lives and realize how much good you have placed in it. We indeed are thankful and blessed. We thank you that Kim is still on the mend and that because of the faith seemingly large enough to move that mountain, that you have shown your mercy and love to us. Kim, Bill and their sons have been blessed by the prayers, love and support of our church family and beyond it. I am amazed that churches in other states and around the globe have prayed for Kim’s recovery and you are bringing that work to completion. Lord, we will not settle for anything less than her being back in Effingham, in her home, with us praising and worshipping a God that loves her and all the people that have been along for the ride. Thank you Jesus for loving Bill. Thank you for placing a love in his heart for his wife that no devil could overrun. The old saying “Love Conquers All” is so true for this man. It has given me such respect for a man I’ve barely gotten to know up close. Thank you for this church, New Hope. Lord, you have placed me in a superb body of people who continue to show me true love for the people. I have personally been so fortunate to be involved here during this time. You have blessed me many times over with loving churches, but this one has had a very special place in my heart and the hearts of my wife and kids. This church is home. Lord, thank you for the support of friends who never quit praying. You have shown and made some powerful prayer warriors through this miracle. Only you know the number of hearts that have been so moved.

Finally Lord, I pray for two more things. First, if there are names who have been so important to helping this miracle reach its fruition that I have failed to mention that you or others feel need some love, please allow people to be comfortable to say so here or at Kim’s Facebook page.

Lastly Holy One, I know there are other miracles worth noting. Some may appear minor, but to those that feel a want to comment, it is important enough that I and other readers would love for them to share. I believe in miracles, as Newsong says, I’ve been a miracle myself. You let me live in 1992 when you could have finished me. I would have been lost without you and a life of hell and The Lake of Fire would have been just for me. But you let me live, you allowed me to draw unto you in April 1994, and you have blessed me with more miracles than I can ever count since then. Thank you Lord Jesus. I love you!

And I love you guys too,
Frank

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thanksgiving Week 2009: Look For Your Miracles, Part 1



Hey gang!

I originally was looking for Newsong’s version of the song Miracles when I found this gem on YouTube from the NewSong Irvine Worship Team. I hope you enjoy the song as you read the article.

As you’re reading this, realize that it is the week of Thanksgiving 2009. It was this week one year ago that I began writing One Man Revival articles on MySpace and would soon be moving over to the preferred format of Blogspot on December 3, which I consider the true anniversary of the writing.

It has been a fun year, this year of 2009 so far. This week we’ll be giving thanks to all the blessings of our lives. Some of them may seem small, but many are minor miracles that have happened. I honestly think that we don’t give some of the blessings of our lives the credit of miracle that they are. I consider it a miracle that I have three loving children, even when their dad is not always the shining example of love that God wants him to be. They teach me so much every day being home with them. They are the Jesus’ of my life. They inspire the good in me.

I have a friend back home in West Virginia that has a car that has had everything go wrong with it. I consider it a minor miracle that this thing is still on the road only because he and my former brother-in-law are able to fix it over and over again. Yes, I still love my ex-brother-in-law not only because he has taken in my friend and his family in his time of need, but he is sincerely one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. He has a servant spirit that I wish were contagious with a lot of people I’ve met in life. He just has a great heart for people.

I’ve often asked myself why we don’t get excited and celebrate miracles in our midst. Part of it is that some of the really cool miracles happened two thousand years ago by the hand of the man named Jesus. Most of us just aren’t that good. We don’t believe that we can turn water into wine or even walk on it.

As we read the Gospels, we see Jesus over and over again perform miracles. I think one of his best was raising Lazarus from the dead in John 11. Lazarus was the brother of Martha and Mary. We meet Martha and Mary in Luke 10. Mary is preparing a meal for Jesus and his disciples and others present. Mary sat at the feet of Jesus, learning from him. Martha had gotten upset with Mary because she was not helping out, but Jesus rebuked Martha and told her that Mary was where she needed to be.

But in John, they have sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was very ill. Now Jesus said at the time that this would not end in death (John 11:4). In verse 17, we find out that Lazarus had been dead (DEAD!) for four days when he arrived on the scene. The sisters were understandably distraught. Even then, Jesus told them that he would rise again. Unless you know the story, you are thinking, “Jesus, dude’s been dead for four days. The only way he is rising is at the second coming when the saints go to heaven.” Jesus wouldn’t hear of it.

At verse 38, Jesus tells the people to roll the stone away. I know what you are thinking. Even CSI watchers know that brother man is going to stink something awful because he has been DEAD for four days. Jesus has that glimmer in his eye. It’s almost as if he is saying, “Wait for it!”

We come to verse 43, which is one of my all-time favorite verses. I always love how Jesse Duplantis explains it. “Jesus says ‘Lazarus come forth!’ You know why? Because if he had just said, ‘Come forth!’ they would have all come forth. This ain’t no zombie movie. Lazarus came forth to live again.” And he did. But right before he calls him out, Jesus reminds us in verse 40 why miracles take place in our lives. Jesus says here, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the GLORY OF GOD?”

Get that in your heart, church. Miracles happen for many reasons, but the greatest reason of these is for the glory of God. Jesus didn’t perform miracles as parlor tricks. The miracles always had the point of getting people to understand God in their lives and in the lives of others.

Do you think miracles stopped because Jesus isn’t here in the physical today? I said earlier that they happen every day. We just have to be smart enough to see them.

Do you think that Jesus was and is the only person able to perform miracles? The answer is an emphatic, NO! In Jesus’ time, he taught the disciples that they could heal and perform miracles. If you read the book of Acts, you see the disciples at work again and again doing great feats in Jesus’ name, for His glory.

But do you realize that the disciples failed too? Of course you do. Why? Because they weren’t Jesus, but it was more than that. This story was told in three separate Gospels, I think because Jesus wanted us to understand completely why the disciples, and us as well, fail. Most of the story is best explained in Mark 9:14-28.

In verse 14, there is a crowd around some of the disciples trying to heal a demon possessed boy. They were struggling. Why? Two reasons. First, Jesus was not with them yet. Secondly, since Jesus was not with them, other teachers of the law were arguing with the disciples while they were trying to do the work. How many times have you tried to do something good and have one or even a larger bunch of people being “Negative Nellies” going, “You can’t do that!” It’s hard enough to try to do good and have to take baloney while doing it. Makes the job that much harder. Military people, police officers, firefighters, you all know what I’m talking about. By the way, thank you guys for the hard work you do and the sometimes lack of appreciation you get.

So in verse 15, Jesus comes on the scene and what does the crowd do. “Hey look, it’s Jesus! We know He can get it done.” The disciples know this is true and while this is ego blowing to these guys, they step aside and let Jesus in. That’s right. They let Jesus work. I have to admit, sometimes I’d rather do the work and try to look good, only to fail, and look downright silly. Let me “Amen!” myself!

In verses 16-17, the man asks Jesus to help his son and his son goes into a fit almost immediately. In verse 18, the man even calls out the disciples and tells Jesus that he asked them to do heal him and they failed. That is a shot to a hard working man or woman. Makes you feel about an inch high. Maybe that’s just me.

Jesus gets a tad upset in verse 19 asking the people how long they think he’s going to be around to do the work. Jesus is trying to help the disciples’ confidence and the crowd is shooting that work in the foot. But Jesus relents telling them to bring the boy to him. In verse 20, the boy fell into another convulsion. Jesus asks the man how long the boy has been dealing with this demon. The man answers since childhood.

The important thing here though is the second half of verse 22. The man says to Jesus, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” Part of me shoots up here and asks, “IF? Do you know who you are talking to?” But the incredible part of Jesus is that he never takes offense. His response in verse 23 is quite soft, “If you can? Everything is possible for him who believes.” If I were Jesus, which this guy and many others are probably glad I’m not, I’d almost feel indignant, like “Fool, I’m the Savior of the Universe. Does this mean anything to you?” I’m a tad sarcastic. I’m confessing this to my brothers and sisters reading this. Help my sarcastic side, Lord.

Verse 24, the man instantly understands from Jesus’ cool response and goes, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” The man is totally honest. I believe in You, Jesus. It’s that realistic, life living side of me that says once somebody is so far gone, they stay that way. Over the next three verses, the demon gets the eviction notice. It ain’t no 30 days. It’s go, right now! And it is gone!

That Jesus sure is awesome. You know that is what everyone thought. But those disciples, they are still bumbling fools. They can’t even help this one boy. Jesus pulls his brothers aside, like a great mentor. The disciples ask why they failed. He gave them answers.

In Mark 9:29, Jesus responds that these demons are so tough that they only respond to one thing, prayer. You find out who your prayer warriors are when people are sick. These are the people in your life you look at and go, “Man, I wish could pray half as well as them. When they pray, people get (fill in the blank, whether it be healed, saved, changed, whatever).” The disciples were still learning. Like I said earlier, if you look at the book of Acts, you know the disciples got their act together and changed lives after Jesus.

I want you to see the other answer that is recorded that Jesus gave. It is in Matthew 17:20-21. Jesus says here, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

Do you hear that? Faith small as a mustard seed. Doesn’t sound like a whole lot? So why do we still fail? Truthfully, I think it’s not because our faith is small, it’s because it is none at all. We just simply don’t believe that our prayers, our requests, our work for the Kingdom makes the difference.

In part two, I want to share the inspiration for this first piece. It is the miracle that not only changed my life, but changed my home church’s life. If I had an award for 2009 Miracle of the Year done by One Man Revival, this is where it would go. I want to be honest. This isn’t my miracle, but I can promise you that it has so changed my belief in them, that I can’t contain myself on the joy of watching it come to pass, even though the miracle healing hasn’t been so much in front of me. You remember how the woman at the well went and told everybody how Jesus had changed her forever. Hearing the stories from those nearest to it has made a church stronger, more loving and dedicated, and just a super, joyous place to be. I can’t wait. Yeah, I am typing it next.

I love you guys!
Frank

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Marriage Monday: Myth 9:God Approves of Only One Family Design

Hey gang!

We’re back to look at the last of the myths from Leslie Leyland Fields’ “Parenting Is Your Highest Calling” And 8 Other Myths That Trap Us In Worry and Guilt. Leslie titles the last myth God Approves of Only One Family Design.

In the book, Leslie lists the average family having 2.08 kids and in my study of census numbers from 2000, I found anything from 2.54 to 3.14. So what is perceived as the average American family is a husband and wife plus two to three kids. If you have more or less kids, you are not average. Single parent versus the non-traditional two, not very average. Finally, if you are a man at home and not the female, definitely not average.

While the beginning of the chapter focuses on how Leslie was made to feel anything but average with her six kids, she then strolls into the next section that talks about different Biblical families. She didn’t have to go very far to find anything but normal.

The discussion begins with Adam and Eve in the Garden, then moves onto how the first child ever born murdered his little brother and then continued through Genesis showing how non-traditional our view of the family really was.

If we look back into the Israelites that came out of Egypt, we see families that were more than the single unit. If you lived with family, and you normally did at that time, you probably had brothers and sisters that had built on extensions to the house owned by your mother and father. That’s right. They all lived together. We may joke about how it may come back to that with the current economy, but it may not be far fetched.

So as we look at the family unit, all sort of strange happenings are possible. Something Leslie didn’t go into much, I’ll go ahead and tackle. In the chapter, she talks of adoption and how some people have made families of children in that fashion. She talked of a single mom, a single dad and even the two-parent man and woman model in brief. She also alluded to the fact that God has helped make the best of these families. Great kids have turned into great adults and have a solid Christian foundation.

However, what she doesn’t talk about is what she would deem as those that are attacking the traditional family. These are the gay and lesbian couples. While this discussion isn’t to get into the gay and lesbian debate, I would like to take a thought on these couples raising kids in adoption or by bringing children into the relationships.

Before I add that thought, I want to take a quote from the book on page 197. Leslie states, “We must amend our assumption that pain and sin in a family limit what God can do--with the truth of what he has done in such families (she is talking of the family of Joseph and other such Biblical families), time and time again.”

I would say that there are many proponents that would be totally against a couple that is not man-woman raising children. But taking the above statement into consideration, can we assume that if God can overcome the problems that a Biblical family had in raising children, can he not also overcome any shortcomings that a gay or lesbian couple might have. You may think that I am stretching for a point here, but in truth the only difference that a Christian couple might have in that rearing versus a homosexual couple is that the Christian couple may teach against the way of homosexuality. That might be the only given.

As parents, we teach our kids that the sky is the limit and there are few boundaries. Again, I am not fighting for or against gay or lesbian couples, but I am saying that there are gay and lesbian individuals that are as intelligent and loving, some even professing Christianity, that are ample and able to raise a child. The children will ultimately still have a choice of hearing, learning and choosing to become Christian at some point in their lives. They will hear the Gospel message. God still wants each of us. If the child of an alcoholic can make the choice, the child raised by a homosexual will also be able to make that choice.

Leslie goes into a section on how being judgmental has shaped our insecurities on raising children. She gives many examples of how people judged some parents even though they were doing the job well. People have been pulled away from because they’ve been through divorce, have a spouse with mental illness, because the male has been in the home rather than the workforce (one I’ve personally dealt with), and because some parents choose only to have one child. It is sometimes the churches’ narrow-minded attitude that cause some parents to stay out or leave.

There are parents dying for help and feel that the church is the last place they can go for it. I’ll talk a little about my own situation. When my wife and I moved here over six years ago, we were childless and not even thinking about the responsibility of children. Six years and three small children later, without family closer than three hours, it is still very hard to go out for an evening. It’s not always a lack of trusting, but a fact that many people don’t want to watch three children for six hours while we do dinner and a movie. We have just begun to make contacts here in the last six months with people that love our children and don’t mind hanging out with them for a while. So believe me when I tell you that for single mothers and others without family nearby, it is difficult, if not impossible for them to be able to take time for themselves.

Leslie takes the next two sections to talk about how God can still work through these imperfect situations to see children raised with a Godly perspective and begin a journey with Jesus. There are many families that have been less than ideal and God still does a powerful work. She tells in brief the story of Jim Daly, president and CEO of Focus on the Family and how his childhood came out of an alcoholic father almost killing his mother, the divorce of his parents, her remarrying a controlling man that cared little for him, and his mother’s death that led to him being in foster care until adulthood. You wouldn’t think that God could bring someone out of all that and make him an influence in Christian circles, but God can.

We’re not to throw away hopes of a good family, but as Leslie explains on page 203, “We have to let go of this idea that the only way God will save and sanctify our children is if we do our part EXACTLY right and create the PERFECT Christian home.” We are going to mess up, folks. Believe me, I already have a time or two. But God can cover my mistakes and yours too.

The chapter closes with a promise that will help all of us breathe easier. There is a place that it will all be right. The home is in Heaven. Once our time on earth is through, we will reunite and realize that through our mistakes, errors and sins that we will make it. We will live with God as is described Revelation 21. I normally put videos at the beginning, but saved this one for the end.



Hope you enjoyed the video and this series on the Leslie Leyland Fields’ book. But there is one more chapter and it tells us the greatest truth. Read about it next time in Marriage Monday.

I love you guys!
Frank

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Jennifer Kennedy Dean Breaks Down the Beatitudes With Her Book Set Apart







Hey gang!

A rare week here at One Man Revival to get to talk about two books in one week. However, today we are fortunate enough to have Jennifer Kennedy Dean stopping by to give us some details about her new study on the Beatitudes of Jesus of Matthew 5 in her new book Set Apart. This is one of the earliest recorded teachings of Jesus in the Bible. Enjoy the information and learn about Set Apart.

About the Book:
(Marion, Kentucky) - In a world of self-love and materialism it's reassuring to know that God's Word has a better plan for living. Renowned author and speaker, Jennifer Kennedy Dean, provides insight to the life of Christ, specifically the Sermon on the Mount, in her new book, Set Apart: A 6 Week Study of the Beatitudes.

Through careful study of the Hebrew traditions of biblical times, Dean leads participants into a deeper awareness of this early ministry sermon series by Christ.

Jennifer guides readers to a heightened understanding of each beatitude, correlating the Ten Commandments with the Sermon on the Mount to tie these Old and New Testament principles together. Dean shares how living the Set Apart Life is an exciting and life-changing spiritual journey. Participants surrendered to Christ will see a total transformation: outward actions of holiness as well as inward attitudes of joy. Believers following along in this workbook will experience the life God intends. This blessedness comes from seeking and knowing God. Anything outside the realm of Jesus Christ results in emptiness--the ultimate opposite of blessing.

Each chapter includes interactive questions for readers to answer, emphasizing God's desire to reproduce the character and attitudes of Jesus in each Christian's life. Along with the Bible study book, there is a Leader Kit that includes six DVD sessions and a CD with bonus material for small-group leaders. Jennifer's website, www.prayinglife.org, provides opportunities for previewing the Set Apart materials and extra resources for pastors and leaders.

Adapted from Set Apart by Jennifer Kennedy Dean
"I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor 12:9-10).

My weakness is my greatest asset in the Kingdom. My weakness is where God meets me. My weakness is where Christ's power is most clearly displayed in me. Only when I am confronted with my own helplessness can I experience the power of Christ in me.

"Your helplessness is your best prayer. It calls from your heart to the heart of God with greater effect than all your uttered pleas. He hears it from the very moment that you are seized with helplessness, and He becomes actively engaged at once in hearing and answering the prayer of your helplessness." (O. Hallesby, Prayer)

I recently had the tiniest glimpse of how powerfully helplessness speaks. A few years ago, I lost my husband to brain cancer. During the final months of his illness, he became utterly helpless. The man I had leaned on for 26 years, whose strength I counted on, was now dependent upon me for his every need. During those weeks, my ear was tuned to his every sigh, his every restless movement, every change in his breathing pattern. If I had to be out of his room for even a few minutes, I had a monitor with me so I could hear him if he needed me. When he was strong, I was not so attentive. His needs did not fill my waking moments, when he could meet them himself. His helplessness spoke louder than any word he might have spoken. Because of his helplessness--because I knew he could do nothing on his own--I was on watch day and night.

My experience is but a pale shadow of the reality of the Kingdom, but still it helps me understand how my weakness is the opening for His strength. The fact of my helplessness is the only prayer I need. It speaks louder than eloquence.

Let your helplessness and your weakness be the offering you bring to Him. He is not waiting for you to be strong. He is waiting for you to recognize that you are weak.

GRAND PRIZE DRAWING

Please leave a comment to be entered in a drawing to win the following items from Jennifer. If you are a leader (small groups, book club, Bible Study, Women's Ministry), please note that you are--you will automatically be entered in the contest. If you are a member of one of these groups at your church or community, mention that you are a group member.


You will be entered to win:
A Set Apart Leader's Kit (video and leader resources and a student book) retail $79.99
A copy of Fueled by Faith (retail $19.99)
Jennifer will have a live web event just for your group


THIS BLOG TOUR COORDINATED BY KATHY CARLTON WILLIS COMMUNICATIONS. A COMPLIMENTARY COPY OF THE BOOK, SET APART, WAS GIFTED TO ME IN EXCHANGE FOR RUNNING THIS TOUR ON MY BLOG.

Wisdom Wednesday: Ecclesiastes 8: Authority & Death For the Wicked

Hey gang!

We continue with our series on the book of Ecclesiastes on Wisdom Wednesday with Chapter 8. Today, we talk about wisdom in obeying authority how the wicked will end in death.

The chapter begins with one verse that actually close out chapter seven’s thoughts on wisdom. It tells us that wisdom will brighten a man’s face from a hard appearance. Does this necessarily mean that wisdom will make us happier? I don’t think so. What I think is that with the understanding of the wisdom given to us, we can walk away from whatever the situation is with a peaceful heart. This is true even if the situation isn’t a happier ever after.

Verse 2 begins the series of verses on the wisdom of obeying the king. While Solomon was speaking about kings of his time, including himself, I think we can take the wisdom learned here and apply it today. Solomon talks about obedience of leadership. When we are born, we are citizens of wherever we are born. Living under the law of that land, the oath of being obedient is mentally taken of the written law. When we join the work force as adults, we sign to work for this employer and do a good job, being obedient to management. In verse 3, we are told about the king doing what he pleases. In the work force, this is working by the company’s rules. If we question that authority, we can be disciplined or even fired. In the time of kings, that kind of questioning could have led to someone’s death.

That’s why Verse 5 becomes important. If we obey the command, no harm will come. Solomon continues this thought further though. He tells us that if we are wise, we’ll know the proper time to act. Do you ever feel like you or anyone else acts without thinking or without taking time to do things in the right way. This happens everyday in jobs and even in our churches. This is why we miss out on success. We tend to get the cart before the horse and don’t wait until the right time.

Solomon explains something in verse 6 about this. The waiting is often the hardest part because it does weigh on us. I don’t know if misery, as stated in the NIV, is the right word for it though. When most of us want change, we want that change quickly. Our society has even stressed that more lately. As Burger King used to have as a slogan, “We want it our way, right away.” It’s true. That leads us to be out of step with people and God.

Verses 7 & 8 focus on the fact that none of us can foresee the future, so it is hard to walk up to leaders and say that this is the way things can go. It’s a guess. We can have all the analytical data and still be wrong. If you don’t believe me, ask the banking and car industries. But verse 8 also adds that no one knows when the end is, either their own life or the end of time. But we learn one more item here. If you begin messing with evil, it will always have some sort of hold on you. If you’ve seen any of the gangster movies, once you are in the family, you are IN the family. The only way out is usually your demise.

In verses 9 & 10, Solomon discusses how he is disturbed by wicked people lording their leadership over others. He realizes that in the end, they end up hurting themselves an dying known as wicked people. He sees that while they were alive, they were praised. This wasn’t because their work was good, but because of fear or pressure or some other devise of the wicked.

Solomon is quick to note something important in verse 11. If wickedness appears to be going unchecked, others begin to scheme evil themselves. He says that this evil will not go well with these people in verse 13. But between these verses, he feels led to explain to us in verse 12 that life will end better for those that choose not to do evil. He wants people to understand that God really wants reverence and good done. While he feels that in the end good gets blessed by God, he adds in verse 14 that sometimes on earth, it doesn’t always end that way. He passes this off as meaningless, so he tells people to enjoy their lives in their work and by doing so, joy will be with them.

But he closes with verses 16 & 17 giving praise to God because no one can understand all that He does. We try to figure all of life out and fail. We may come away with some understanding, but nowhere close to encapsulating the whole picture.

Next Wednesday, we look at Chapter 9 and the common destiny for all of us, good or bad, and begin a contrast of wisdom and folly.

I love you guys!
Frank

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cec Murphey Drops By to Talk About Christmas Miracles




Hey gang!

If you are worried, don't be. There are still 44 shopping days until Christmas. Those of us that understand the birth of Jesus know that it really isn't about shopping, but the day chosen to celebrate the Savior of the Universe. It's like I've explained to my oldest daughter that Jesus' birthday is so special that we get to give each other presents. However, explaining to a four year-old that you can't buy for the God who made everything is still a tad difficult.

Today, my friend Cecil Murphey is back to talk with Marley Gibson about the work they've made together, Christmas Miracles. It is sure to be a delightful gift for the readers on your good list this season. Without further adieu, Marley and Cec.

Interview with Cecil “Cec” Murphey

by Marley Gibson

Co-authors of Christmas Miracles, from St. Martin’s Press

I am extremely privileged to have the opportunity today to talk to my friend and co-author, Cecil “Cec” Murphey, and to chat about our upcoming book, Christmas Miracles.

Marley: Cec, thanks for spending some time with me today.

Cec: Marley, it's great that you could take time away from important things like making a living to spend a little time with me.

Marley: I’m so jazzed about our Christmas Miracles book that’s coming out soon. I’ve had a lot of questions from folks wanting to know how we met, what brought us together, etc. So, I thought we’d do a back and forth on how it all came to be. Of course, I have to give props to our amazing agent and friend, Deidre Knight, for bringing us together. For those of you who don’t know, Cec co-authored the runaway New York Times bestselling hit 90 Minutes in Heaven with Don Piper.

Cec: I have to say thanks to Deidre Knight as well. Between Deidre and my assistant, Twila Belk, I've been able to sell quite a few books. 90 Minutes in Heaven has been my big book. I'm also proud of a book I wrote in 1990 called Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story. The book has never been out of print and has hit close to four million in sales. Early this year, Cuba Gooding Jr. starred in the made-for-TV film version.

Marley: That’s amazing! You are truly prophetic and definitely “the man behind the words.” Now, people ask how we teamed up. Sadly, there was a personal tragedy that brought Cec and me together as friends.

Cec: True. In early 2007, our house burned and our son-in-law died. Aside from the grief over Alan, we lost everything. Deidre and Jan, my-then-assistant, sent the word out of our tragedy without telling me. I'm immensely grateful for every gift people sent, but I probably wouldn't have admitted I needed help and wouldn't have asked. They taught me how much we need other people.

Marley: Deidre put out a call to other clients of The Knight Agency, to help Cec and his family out in any way in their time of need. At the time, my company was moving and we were cleaning house. We had a ton of office supplies that we were either going to throw away or give to some of the charities the company worked with. I got my boss’ permission to send a large care package to Cec…full of office supplies for him to re-stock his writer’s office. You name it…post-its, staples, paper clips, pens, pencils, markers, white out, ruler, scissors, paper, notebooks, notepads, envelopes, a laptop case, tape, glue, folders, binder clips…etc. A veritable potpourri of office delights. I was hoping that it would help Cec have a sense of getting his office back so he could keep working.

Cec: Marley's gift was the most unexpected I received. We hadn't met, although Deidre Knight had spoken of her many times and kept telling me she was wonderful. I wonder if you can imagine what it was like for me to open that box from someone I didn't know. I saw all those practical things for my office and yelled for my wife. I felt as if I were reading a first-grade book. "Look! Look and see! Oh, look!" I was overwhelmed by the gift and even more to receive it from a stranger. Those supplies were the most practical gift anyone could have given me. I'm still using black paper clips and red folders from Marley.

Marley: Awww…thanks, Cec! I didn’t have to think twice about doing it. Writing is such a solitary “sport,” but the writing community always astounds me with how they help their own. Not long after that, over plates of spinach and Gouda omelets, Deidre introduced me to Cec in person and I was thrilled to finally meet the man behind the words. Deidre knew we needed to work on a project together and thus began our brainstorming. What did you think of that first meeting, Cec, and cooking up the idea to work together?

Cec: Deidre and I had already spoken about a Christmas book and I had some idea about what it should contain, but nothing had come together. One day Deidre told me that Marley was coming to visit her and she wanted us to work together on a Christmas project. Marley and I talked before we ate and again during the meal. Everything felt right to me. I knew my strengths and Marley knew hers (and Deidre knew both of us). Everything clicked. Marley, a far better networker than I am, immediately sent out the word for submissions. Within days she had almost four times more than we could use. (She read every one of them!)

Marley: I was truly impressed with the submissions we received and it was hard narrowing it down to the ones we chose for the book. We’re fortunate to have such a go-getter agent in Deidre Knight. Cec, can you share how the whole idea of Christmas Miracles came about and what you thought of the project originally?

Cec: For me, it actually started while I was on the rapid-rail train from the Atlanta airport when I listened to teens talk about Christmas and it was mostly about gifts. I had the idea then, but nothing really came together. Months later when Deidre I and had a meeting, she brought up the idea of a compilation and mentioned my working with Marley. I've been Deidre Knight's client since 1997 and I've learned to listen carefully when she comes up with an idea. I said yes before she gave me all the information.

Marley: That’s the truth about Deidre! Getting back to those submissions, I want to say we got more than two hundred submissions for Christmas Miracles. So many wonderful stories to read through and select for the book. It was a challenge to pick and choose which ones were right for the book, but I loved every minute of it. After I chose the entries that would go into the book, Cec toiled long hours editing the works for a unified voice. What was the biggest challenge you found in the editing process, Cec?

Cec: I've been a ghostwriter and collaborator for twenty-plus years and this was a switch to give the book a unified voice—which was mine. It would have been easier to stay with each writer's voice, but the book—like many compilations—would have been uneven in tone and quality. When I discussed this via email with our delightful editor, Rose Hilliard, she was (to my surprise) familiar with my work. She told me she liked the warm tone of my writing and that I don't waste words. "That's the voice we want," she said. It still wasn't easy, but it was an exciting challenge. After Marley and I agreed on the stories and gave them that unified voice, our editor pulled six contributions. Although different, Rose felt they were too similar to other stories.

Marley: Can you give our readers a preview of the book? A favorite story perhaps…or one that moved you to tears? (I have to say the little boy who wished for nothing but to be able to read a book all the way through because of his stutter had me bawling when I read the submission.)

Cec: That's not fair! I liked them all. The one that touched me most, however, is the last story in the book, "Sean's Question." We had almost finished the book and I was teaching at a conference in Florida. I felt we needed one strong story at the end. Despite all the good ones, I didn't feel fully satisfied to conclude the book. On the last day of the conference, I met a conferee named Sara Zinn for a consultation. As we talked, I mentioned Christmas Miracles and that I still needed one more story. "I have a Christmas story," she said and told me about Sean. As I listened, tears filled my eyes—but, being the macho type I am, I was sure it was an allergy. Sara wrote the story, and it became the one I sought.

Marley: Oh yes…that one is an emotional one all right. It was meant to be in the book because of how you met at the conference. Now, you and I have both had challenges in our lives that others might have found too much to take, but we are both very strong in our faith and our relationship with God. How do you think Christmas Miracles is going to help others feel closer to God and experience His miracles in their own lives?

Cec: Awareness and appreciation are the two things I want readers to grasp. Awareness means for them to realize that they're never totally alone in life. Those unexpected, out-of-the-ordinary events remind us of that. Appreciation means to be thankful for what we already have. Too often, and especially at Christmas, we focus on what we'd like or what is supposed to make us happy. Christmas Miracles gently reminds readers of both.

Marley: In this day and age when our country is fighting two wars, unemployment is high, and a lot of people have a lack of hope and faith for their future, what do you want readers of the book to take away from Christmas Miracles and how can the stories in our book help provide comfort to those struggling?

Cec: I want readers to see that miracles do happen—sometimes simple, unexpected blessings or those that involve the supernatural (as in one of Marley's stories). I call myself a serious Christian. For me, the world's greatest miracle began with the birth of Jesus. Regardless of a person's religion, this book encourages readers to think about life during the Christmas season and see that life as more than gifts and celebrations. It's also a reminder that God loves us and hears our needy cries.

Marley: Beautifully put, Cec, and I couldn’t agree with you more. Can we share what’s next after Christmas Miracles? J

Cec: Why it's the Cec and Marley show, of course. Because of our go-getter agent and our enthusiastic editor, we've already received thumbs up for The Christmas Spirit. This will be stories of people who express the true spirit of Christmas by acts of love and kindness, for release in the fall of 2011.

Marley: And I can’t wait to start working on that project! Thank you so much for your time, Cec, and answering my questions. It was a privilege and honor to work with you and I look forward to our future projects together. You’ve helped me along during a trying time and I appreciate your friendship and support.

Cec: I liked this project because Marley had to send out the word, collect submissions, read them, and discard the weaker ones. I get to see only the better-written stories. (Don't tell her that I have the better job.) Although I mentioned only one story, all of those in the book touched me because of the poignancy of their situations and the miraculous answers. I won't say the stories increased my faith, but they increased my appreciation for the delightful mix of human need and divine intervention.

Marley: Thanks again, Cec! God Bless! And to our readers, please be sure to pick up a copy of CHRISTMAS MIRACLES, out October 13, 2009 from St. Martin’s Press. It’s a great stocking stuffer or gift basket filler. We hope you, too, will discover your own Christmas Miracles in your life.