Take it All

On Wednesday we visited a church in York, PA with friends to see worship leader Kristian Stanfill and the Passion tour.  Passion City Church is based in Atlanta and is home to Chris Tomlin, Stanfill, David Crowder and head pastor Louis Giglio. They hold a conventions yearly for college students age 18-25 and their leaders.  These conventions include dynamic speakers and great music.  If you have a chance, buy or download any of the Passion worship albums and you will not regret it.

Stanfill’s message for the night was centered around the concept of this year’s Passion conference: Take it All. He wrote a song about it that I’ll include at the end of the post. The song contains part of the hymn, I Surrender All and a member of Stanfill’s band, also a pastor, delivered a short message about its writing.

The hymn was written by a man named Judson W. Van DeVenter.  Van DeVenter lived in western Pennsylvania.  He was an art teacher and struggled with his desire to be known for his art and an increasing pull towards evangelism.  One night, he had an experience that changed his life. He said this:

For some time, I had strug­gled be­tween de­vel­op­ing my tal­ents in the field of art and go­ing into full-time evan­gel­is­tic work. At last the pi­vot­al hour of my life came, and I sur­ren­dered all. A new day was ushered in­to my life. I became an evang­el­ist and dis­cov­ered down deep in my soul a tal­ent hi­ther­to un­known to me. God had hid­den a song in my heart, and touch­ing a ten­der chord, He caused me to sing.

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We spend our lives chasing something.  It can be money, fame, stuff, love, sex, children, anything.  We fill in our blanks, “If I just had ____, then I’d be happy.” Our nature is to search for security, for guaranteed results, for a five-year plan that happens step-by-step.

God calls us to a different path.

At the end of his ministry career, in the 1930’s, Van DeVenter taught at the Florida Bible Institute. A young student at the institute studied and worked with him.  This student went on to use I Surrender All during each one of his crusades and revivals. His name was Billy Graham.

Van DeVenter’s sacrifice led to the millions of people impacted by Billy Graham’s ministry.

There are many opportunities in this country to serve, many places that need people with talents like yours. There are open doors waiting for you to walk through.  There is hope and grace, new each morning at the foot of the Cross.

When our lives are in his hands, anything is possible.

Soundtrack Inspiration:

 

 

Filling the Hole in Your Heart

I usually spend time on Yahoo’s main page during the week to check out news items.  The internet if full of time-killers and this provides more than enough material for a lunch break.  Today, I came across a story that I had to share.

Here’s the headline from the Good Morning America article (a little wordy for my taste):

Meet the Men Having Sex With Strangers to Help Them Have Babies

Take a second and wrap your mind around it.  Meet the men, having sex with strangers, to help them have babies.

The story gives two examples of men advertising free sex to women for the sole purpose of procreation.  The first guy profiled chose to use an alias as he is married with two children and didn’t want his wife knowing.  That should be enough of a red flag right there.  He claimed to have more than a hundred sexual partners.

The other guy was a young adult, a college student who believed he had great foundational material to give a woman quality offspring.  The article even profiles a woman, in her mid 40’s, who sought out this one-time encounter because she had “waited too long” to find a husband and get pregnant.

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What have we done with sex?

I can see both sides of the debate.  Women have the right to do what they want with their bodies.  If they want to find a guy for a purely physical experience, then so be it.  “Guys do it all the time.”

We’ve taken this act and debased it down to a transaction.

Everyone has a void in their life.  We are created with a space in our hearts that draws us towards our Creator.  This void can also take you in different directions.  We, as humans, do whatever we can to fill the hole. We drink, smoke, do drugs, buy things, write, paint, draw, and find whatever is possible to fill it.

We lean on love and physical connections to feel like we are not alone.

It is time to reclaim the value of sex.

Any man willing to create a child should be willing to father that child. Women need to know they are worth it to find partners who love and respect them. Teens must understand that the babies don’t go away when they get that text message that says, guess what? I’m pregnant.

I read articles all over the place from blogs to churches and marriage coaches. They say to have sex with your spouse on a daily basis.  It will do wonders for your marriage. It will cure everything.

Your husband will love you again.

Your wife will be happy

Sex can cure it all.

They are wrong.

Remember having homework? How did it feel to have something required every night after you got home from school?  Did you appreciate the value of what you were doing? Did it get tiring? Did life get in the way?

How about a shift in focus? What if sex, even if it is one night a week, was an amazing experience of focus and effort from two people dealing with the stresses of everyday jobs and kids? It can be a divine escape. Escapes, when they are daily, become routines.

Routines create men who sleep with women to “help them get pregnant.” Routine sex is devalued sex.

We need intimacy.

There is no more intimate relationship than one with God, no more holy transaction than death on the Cross.

I believe that marriages can be fixed.  Kids can have their innocence again. Love, effort, and faith can exist together and energize relationships. A guy like the one in the article above can find the connection he wants with his wife and children, not the women he finds for hook-ups. Sex can be returned to its rightful place and the holes in our hearts can be filled.

~Matt

Soundtrack Inspiration: Kristian Stanfill covered this in concert last night.  Powerful song!

Surviving a Crisis of: Love

Val and I have been together for fifteen years now. We’ve progressed through the ups and downs of dating and marriage. During these times, we’ve both had friends and family struggle with relationships.

Love is complicated.

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We are built to find a match.  Our hearts yearn for companionship, for genuine relationship and connection with another person.  When the 1/3rd life crisis hits and you are single, the voices can creep up as your friends get married and have children. They come from different places.

The Past:

In The Artisan Soul, Erwin McManus writes that most of us are haunted by ghosts of our pasts, not intimidated by spirits of the future. Our generation was the divorce generation.  Statistically, half of our parents separated in the decades of the 1980’s and 1990’s. This has a trickle-down effect. If we look to our parents, our first model of love, and see dysfunction we take that as normal and expect it.

We devalue ourselves.

The Present:

Bad relationships are plastered all over the media. There are numerous apps and websites centered on making connections at the swipe. You can message, or call, a connection in minutes. This creates good and bad situations. It creates expectation.  It creates options. Options, if they don’t work out, can be catalysts for defeat and shame.

We devalue what we have to offer.

The Solution:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8

You probably recognize the verse. Paul sets a high bar here with his description of love. Let’s break it down:

Patience: No one is perfect. Keep that in mind as you head out to meet people.

Kindness: Throw off the fronts and be genuine. Be yourself, your complicated, genuine, funny, deep, real self. Be kind and, no matter how much you’ve been hurt, keep a sliver of your heart open. Your connected soul is out there.

No Envy, Boasting, Pride, Selfishness, Anger, Deceit: I’ve combined his list of negatives. I’m sure you can imagine people who fit each one of these descriptions. They could be a YouTube compilation of failed dates.  The point here is the opposite.  True love is selfless. Check the Cross for an example.

Protects, Trusts, Hopes, Perseveres: Love creates hope. Love lasts through the tough times, the struggles with money, with kids who don’t sleep at night, noisy neighbors, health issues, work problems, and all the other fun of the world. Love is trust. Say that again and hold it in your heart because it may be the biggest challenge you face from your past.

Love Never Fails: You may be going to bed alone tonight. You may be wondering if it is your future, if you can ever recover from the latest break up, fight, or bad date. You may wonder if your heart can heal enough to love again.  It can. It will.  You can overcome the past and make a soul connection. You are worth it. You will survive. You are beautiful and valuable and a key to the progression of this Universe.

You are never alone.

~Matt

Soundtrack Inspiration:

Picks of the Week 9/8/2014

(As a side note, any products mentioned below are not paid endorsements. Val’s Thirty-One recommendations are part of her consultant business. Everything else listed are our honest choices to improve your week!)

Scripture: 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

One of my favorite verses and a cornerstone of our journey as a family.  Jeremiah is also one of my favorite books in the Bible.  He’s one of the guys who laid it out honestly and his words speak to anyone going through a struggle in their lives.

Book: Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

I found Donald Miller’s work at a point in my life where my faith was changing.  This book details his own path of belief as a college student and his attempts to figure out this thing we call faith.  Miller is an author and speaker worth following on all forms of social media.  Check out his book and you will find yourself asking deeper questions of faith.  You can find it here.

Worship Song:

Kristian Stanfill is coming to your area as part of the Passion 2014 tour. If you are not familiar with the Passion worship albums, download them as soon as you can.  They are filled with great music that brings you closer to God.

Website: Writing.com. When I started writing, this site was a lifeline.  They provide online workshops, portfolios, critiques, and readings.  You can spend hours reading work and helping other writers improve their craft.  They have contests and daily writing prompts to help defeat writer’s block.  It is a great introduction to the world of writing.

Family Activity: Pick your own apples.

We are nearing the time of year where local orchards are letting people pick their own apples.  Most do this throughout the growing season but, in the fall, there is something special with walking down lanes of apple trees and filling a basket. Get as many as possible and pick up some fresh cider on the way out. Our boys love it and your kids will too.

Marriage Activity: Find the trails.

There is no better time of year to search out your local hiking trails.  Trees are changing and the weather is moving towards more temperate days.  If you’re in for a challenge, head to some steeper elevations.  In our times of stress, we always loved getting outside for a walk in nature and losing ourselves to the beauty of creation.

Val’s Style Pick of the Week:

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A shout-out for the guys.  You can’t beat shampoo with the name Clean Brew. Redken makes quality products for men and this is one of the more popular selections.

 

Val’s Bag of the Week:

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The Oh-Snap Bin. These are great for storage and include snaps on the side where multiple bins can be joined together.  They are only $10.00. Trust me, you can never have enough storage!  You can find them here. You can find other specials for September and the entire new catalog for the month at Val’s personal Thirty-One site.