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I mentioned this on Twitter a few days ago, but wanted to go ahead and formalize some of the details. A blog reader/Twitter follower contacted me with the idea of getting together briefly at VMworld 2014 for some prayer time. I thought it was a great idea (thanks David!), so here are the details.

What: A brief time of prayer
Where: Yerba Buena Gardens, behind Moscone North
When: Monday 8/25 through Wednesday 8/27 at 7:45am (this should give everyone enough time to grab breakfast before the keynotes start at 9am)
Who: All courteous attendees are welcome, but please note that this will be a distinctly Christian-focused and Christ-centric activity. (I encourage believers of other faiths/religions to organize equivalent activities.)
Why: To spend a few minutes in prayer over the day, the conference, and the attendees

There’s no need to RSVP or let me know that you’ll be there (although you are welcome to do so if you’d like, just so I have an idea of how many will be attending). This will be very informal and very casual—it’s just an opportunity for fellow followers of Christ to get together and say a few words of prayer.

I look forward to seeing you there!

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I recently purchased some new Christian music to add to my iTunes library; I had a credit with iTunes from some iTunes Gift Cards that my kids gave me for Christmas. After six months, I figured I’d better go ahead and use the iTunes credit or it would disappear.

After browsing for a while, I ended up selecting the following albums:

  • Unbreakable by Fireflight – I haven’t finished listening to the entire album, but so far my favorite track is “Forever”.
  • Addison Road by Addison Road – I really like “Hope Now,” which has been played quite a bit on the radio in my area, but haven’t had the chance to listen to the rest of the album yet.
  • The Invitation by Meredith Andrews – “You’re Not Alone” is a good song. I’m looking forward to hearing the rest of the album.

These three albums joined my last iTunes purchase of these Christian albums:

  • Over and Underneath by Tenth Avenue North
  • Learning to Lose by The Turning
  • You Alone by Echoing Angels
  • Risk by Ten Shekel Shirt

Of these four albums, I’m really enjoying “Never Again” and “In My Mind” by The Turning, and “Love is Here” by Tenth Avenue North. Of course, the hit song “You Alone” by Echoing Angel is really good, and I also like “Coming Back to Life” on the same album. From Ten Shekel Shirt, “Safest Place” is my current favorite.

Any recommendations on albums or artists I should consider for my next purchase?

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Merry Christmas!

Let us never forget the true reason behind Christmas:

1In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3And everyone went to his own town to register.
4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
(Luke 2:1-14 NIV)

I’d like to take this moment to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, and may the true reason behind this celebration live eternally in your hearts.

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Just Finished Fireproof

My wife, a couple of the kids, and I just got back home after watching Fireproof at the local movie theater. You’ll recall that I first mentioned Fireproof back in August, and today was the opening day. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. If you haven’t seen it, make plans to go see it right away! The movie is great, but the Message in the movie is even greater.

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Fireproof

A new movie from the producers of “Facing the Giants” is set to open on September 26, 2008. The movie, “Fireproof”, stars Kirk Cameron, and focuses on the story of a firefighter and his efforts to save a crumbling marriage. I absolutely love the tagline: “Never leave your partner behind.”

The movie’s web site is here, and there’s also a Fireproof blog available as well.

Marriage resources based on the movie are available at fireproofmymarriage.com.

Lord willing, I will be there opening night, paying full price for tickets to see the movie. These kinds of movies are worth supporting.

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A fellow believer contacted me recently asking if I’d listened to any recent Casting Crowns albums. He’d stumbled across the site, entirely accidentally, and saw my post about Casting Crowns’ Lifesong album. I followed that post up a couple of months later with another take, in which I took a deeper look at their music—not just their musical style, but the words and the emotions behind their music—and I realized that there was so much more to be heard.

Since that time, Casting Crowns released a third album, The Altar and The Door, and although I bought the album right away I hadn’t bothered to post my thoughts about the album here. Since I hadn’t mentioned anything about it here, the reader who contacted me wondered if I’d listened to this latest album, as he had been particularly moved by the song “Somewhere in the Middle.”

In this latest album, Casting Crowns continues to show an incredible gift for making music that directly attacks real-life issues. Their songs tackle everyday, real-world problems that Christians deal with. Take, for example, their song “East to West.” In this song, Casting Crowns reminds us that when God forgives us of our sins, they are forgotten and never brought up again. If you are being attacked by the sins of yesterday, that’s not God, for He cast your sins “as far as the east is from the west.” What a powerful reminder! This is something that I suspect many Christians deal with on a daily basis—the Enemy throwing our sins of the past back in our face again.

Similarly, “Somewhere in the Middle” and the title track “The Altar and The Door” speak to the struggles that we all face in our Christian walk. There are so many times that we strive to make a change, that we seek to move closer to Him, only to lose our resolve “somewhere between the altar and the door.” Thus, we find ourselves in the middle, stuck between “who I was and who You’re making me”.

I could go on and on. “Every Man” talks to how Christ is the hope of every man. “Slow Fade” speaks of how so many of us ignore the “small” things that can lead us astray, not noticing how far we’ve gone until it’s too late. “Familes never crumble in a day…”

If you are looking for music that hits squarely where the real world meets the Christian walk, look no further. The Altar and The Door will provide strong encouragement that Christ’s love remains constant, even if we don’t.

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A Testimony of Love

Over three years ago, I blogged about Shaohannah’s Hope, a charity founded by Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife, Mary Beth Chapman. Shaohannah’s Hope is dedicated to helping further the love of Christ through the ministry of adoption.

As most everyone knows, the Chapman family recently suffered a tragic loss. Yet, even after that tragic loss, Steven Curtis Chapman, his wife, and their family still trust in God and still believe in adoption. Most recently, he penned this commentary at CNN, in which he says:

If only 7 percent of the 2 billion Christians in the world would care for a single orphan in distress, there would effectively be no more orphans. If everybody would be willing to simply do something to care for one of these precious treasures, I think we would be amazed by just how much we could change the world.

My wife and I have often talked of adoption. Is it time now for us (not just my wife and me, but all of us), as Christians, to show our own testimony of love?

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If you don’t want to read personal and/or Christian-oriented posts, just skip this one. Otherwise, read on.

Since March of last year (almost 15 months ago), I’ve been battling a custody lawsuit over my three sons from my first marriage. There were allegations of various forms of abuse. I was deeply hurt by the accusations; my kids mean the world to me. I may not be the best dad in the world, and I may make mistakes from time to time (who doesn’t?), but I would never hurt my kids. There were other things that made this situation worse than you can probably imagine, but I’ll spare you the details. Suffice it to say that it has been difficult.

This matter first came to trial back in April of 2007 (hence the reasons behind these two posts), but for a variety of reasons it kept getting postponed (“continued” is the legal term). We didn’t understand why God didn’t work in the situation to bring the case to trial. We didn’t have a lawyer and were going up against my ex-wife’s attorney, who had a reputation for being ruthlessly effective. It was so stressful and so emotionally taxing that we just wanted it done.

We prayed about the matter, and we asked others to pray about the matter. Several times we thought that perhaps the issue was going to go away, only for it to jump right back up again.

Finally, just a couple of weeks ago, we received a letter in the mail from the ex-wife’s attorney. Our hearts sank—now what? What else could happen? Now what kind of papers were being filed with more accusations? Instead, it was a miracle that only God could have provided: my ex-wife’s attorney was withdrawing from the case!

We were stunned. We’d never seen this coming. Sure enough, when the case came to trial this past Monday, there was no attorney for the opposing side. For the next two days, we endured a parade of witnesses singing a litany of accusations against me and my wife. Along the way God gave us the openings we needed—a witness who testified that he/she was missing critical facts about some of the events that had been witnessed, and those facts changed his/her view of the situation; a witness who testified he/she had open animosity toward me and my wife and that animosity affected his/her interactions with us and the kids; a social worker who’d evaluated our house who testified that there was no signs of abuse of any kind; and the admission that things were occurring within the opposing household that themselves could be viewed as abusive. God was there every step of the way, giving me the questions to ask, the things to say, the information to present to the judge, and the courage to face my accusers and their allegations head-on.

On Wednesday, the hearing wrapped up and the judge issued the ruling. The kids would be staying with us! We were given a resounding victory, vindicated from the charges and commended by the judge for our efforts in raising the kids. It was everything we had hoped for and asked for. Truly God is good!

Looking back on it now, it’s evident why the Lord ensured the case kept getting postponed. God’s time is not our time, and in His time he was able to remove resources from the opposing side and strengthen our case by adding witnesses and testimony that we wouldn’t have had months earlier.

This trial—and I use that term both literally and figuratively—has taught my wife and I a great deal. We have seen God work in mighty and powerful ways, but not in the ways in which you might expect, and certainly not within the timeframes that we might expect. But His time is perfect, and we simply needed to trust Him. Although we may not have understood His plan, it was for our benefit. I am reminded of one of my favorite verses, Jeremiah 29:11:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

My heartfelt thanks go out to everyone who lifted up our family in prayer.

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An Answer to Prayer

So, I finally have an update to my previous need for prayer.

First, I’d like to thank everyone for their support. Your prayers, kind thoughts, and encouraging words from all over the world have been invaluable. I can’t thank everyone enough. I had so many people e-mail me to tell me that they were thinking of me, wishing me well, or lifting my family in prayer. Again, thank you.

The situation was basically this: my second-oldest son, now 15, decided he wanted to cook up a plot with his mother—my ex-wife—and run away to her house. So, last Thursday, the day before I posted my request for prayer, she picked him up from school and took him away to her house. She refused to return him, even to the police, despite the fact that our court papers clearly gave me custody. She then didn’t take him to school on Friday or today (Monday). Keep in mind that most schools are in the midst of conducting end-of-grade (EOG) testing, including my son’s school.

<aside>It turns out that in North Carolina, where I live, unless your court papers specifically give the police the ability to enforce the court order, it can’t actually be enforced. The best you can hope for is filing for the court to find the other party in contempt. Isn’t the legal system grand?</aside>

Needless to say, I wanted to be sure he got back into school. After numerous attempts with the legal system on Friday, I was no better off. An emergency motion had been denied, and it appeared there was nothing I could do. This is where I was when I posted my article, “Need Prayer.”

After praying and working on the matter this weekend, today I finally got the court to grant me an emergency custody order that empowered law enforcement officials to get my son back. Hallelujah! Upon tracking down my ex-wife and my son and getting the law enforcement officials to actually show up, I got back my son tonight. I can have him back in school tomorrow for his EOG testing! Thank the Lord!

I wish I could say that I was glad that’s behind me, but I can’t. First, I’m not glad; I wish it hadn’t happened at all. Second, I don’t know that it’s completely behind me; I suspect that my ex-wife will be filing all sorts of nasty court documents in the next few days in an effort to retaliate.

Actually, that first statement’s not entirely true. I am a bit glad this happened. Through this test, as with so many other tests in a Christian’s life, I’ve learned new things about God and about serving God. I’ve learned new things about faith, and my ability to believe. So in that respect I’m thankful to have been given the opportunity. (I still wish God would use easier ways to get this information to us!)

Once again, thanks to everyone for everything! I appreciate it all. God bless!

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Need Prayer

Something major is going on with my family right now. For any reader who is a believer, I am begging for your prayers. Please, please, please pray for me and for my family, and ask others that you know to pray as well.

For those readers that aren’t believers, any well-wishing, good thoughts, etc., you want to send my way will be fine also.

Thanks in advance to everyone.

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