“but I am a man of prayer”

Psalms 109:1-4 reads:

My God, whom I praise,
    do not remain silent,
for people who are wicked and deceitful
    have opened their mouths against me;
    they have spoken against me with lying tongues.
With words of hatred they surround me;
    they attack me without cause.
In return for my friendship they accuse me,
    but I am a man of prayer.

This last line gripped my heart years ago. I still long for it. I still pray for it. I can’t shake it. In response, this is my prayer today. Will you make it yours?

I want to be a man of prayer.

One who delights in prayer.

One who relishes prayer.

One who loves to pray for others.

One who believes in the efficacy of prayer.

One who loves others in prayer.

One who grows in love for others in prayer.

One who worships through prayer.

One who supports my pastors through prayer,

One who weeps in prayer.

One who laughs in prayer.

One who gets angry in prayer.

One who receives God’s burdens in prayer.

And finally, one whose life makes my kids want to pray.

Oh Mighty Lord, my prayer life is so feeble. Make it yours. 

Your son, B.J.

 

“Take heart; get up, he is calling you.”

I have got too much on my plate right now to spend more than ten minutes writing a blog, so this will be short (and hopefully sweet). I read a passage in my Bible reading today that brought tears to my eyes. The story is found in Mark 10:46-52. If you grew up in Sunday School or something, you have heard about “Blind Bartimaeus.” But all cliches aside, one particular line struck my heart.

As Jesus was leaving Jericho, Barimaeus was on the side of the road. He heard that Jesus was nearby and he started to yell for him. People began telling him to shut up. I can hear their voices now: “Be quiet. Stop it. Don’t you know how important Jesus is?” As it says in the childrens’ book, Little Blue Truck, “I haven’t got time to pass the day with every duck along the way.” But he kept yelling. Pain, disappointment, and suffering have a way of pushing someone to the point that they no longer care about their dignity. Who cares what people think when those same people are the ones passing you by and you have a chance to get into contact with Jesus. Bartimaeus didn’t care. He yelled even louder.

All of the sudden, Jesus tells a few people who are close by to go get Bartimaeus. When they approach him, they say:

“Take heart; get up, he is calling you.”

This is the line that brought tears to my heart today. What a sweet, personal moment between Jesus and one man. Can you imagine what happened in Bartimaeus’ heart? The words, “Take heart” are so powerful.

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Translation: “There is reason to hope. There is reason to not give up. There is reason to not quit. You are not forgotten. He has heard you. He will see you. He is waiting. Things will now be differnet for you as you move forward.” Take a moment and breathe this in. This is fresh, clean air for the soul. He sees you today. He hears you today. He is willing to stop and engage you.

Bartimaeus’ response is priceless. In a wonderful, exhuberant, undignified manner, he throws off his cloak, spring to his feet, and goes to Jesus (Mark 10:50). Bartimaeus, the day has finally come. The Creator of the universe is not ignoring you. He has power, and he is willing to use it for your good and his glory. Today is your day. Cry no longer; your time of laugher and color has come.

So raise your head, fix your eyes on Jesus, and let your heart swell with hope once more. And hurry, your addiction to reason and past experience may already be at the door trying to convince you why faith and hope are silly.

Every person needs a personal, life-altering, break-your-heart-open, “Take heart” moment with God. So listen closely. The Lord is faithful.

I am a Parent: What is my ultimate purpose in raising my children?

Currently, I work for Enlightium Academy as a psychology and philosophy teacher. One of my main duties over the past two years was to write courses. In one of the Psychology courses that I created, I wrote the introductory section to an assignment about infancy and childhood. When I reread it today, it was a nice reminder for myself (and I hope others) that we have a HUGE purpose and responsibility as parents.

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Of course, this responsibility is nothing to dread; we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us who is willing to supply all of the grace we need to fulfill our God-given task. So with his help, what is our ultimate purpose as parents? Here is what I wrote in the curriculum:

In Proverbs 22:6, Solomon wrote, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (NKJV). Training happens in the home. The primary job of raising children to love God and love others does not belong to the church, a youth group, or an educational institution. Granted, all of these can play a vital role, but it is the parent’s job to train their children in the ways of God. In this verse, Solomon is saying that if parents train a child rightly, then they will walk in that same way when they are old. Part of this training involves communicating to the child that God loves them and has a significant plan for their life. In order for this message of love and purpose to find its way deep into the child’s heart, the parent must model this love. In other words, a parent can’t simply say “God loves you.” God’s love must be displayed by the parent in a multitude of ways. If love is expressed in a healthy way (physically, emotionally, in words, etc.), a healthy attachment will develop between the parent and child. This in turn will make it easier for the child to develop a health relationship with God through Christ. As you can see, the role of a parent is pivotal in a child’s mental, emotional, social, and spiritual development.

This grand task ought to drive us to our knees, sober us up a bit, and move us to cry out for God’s help and power to accomplish such a feat. A child’s early years determines SO MUCH of the foundation from which they will live later in life as an adult. So do not just raise your kids in church. Do not just model good behavior. As a parent, you are a divine messenger called to deliver the most beautiful, salvific, piercing message there ever was: God is for you, not against you (Romans 8:31). Oh, and this is usually done from one small, mundane moment to the next.

 

Our England Adventure!

Wow, I am exhausted. Friday, we drove to Stratford-upon-Avon so that Allison could attend the very first Wild-and-Free homeschool conference here in the U.K. Before visiting the town, someone from England that now lives in Edinburgh said, “Oh, that is the “chocolate box of England.” They were right. From feeding swans on the river, to the quiant shops, to the architecture of the city and homes, to the Airbnb cottage we stayed in, this place was magical. We really experienced a bit of England!

When the conference was over, we drove two hours south to see Stonehenge. Honestly, I thought that 50 GBP for seeing some rocks was a bit much before I went. What nation has ever benefited so greatly from rocks! I do not feel that way now. It was truly a wonderful experience. When you visit, you park and take a shuttle out to the rocks. You find yourself surrounded by fields and fields of grass that gently sway in the wind. It was a cloudy, which in some ways was best for taking pics. Of course, our five-year old son had to take one of his toy spinosauruses, so the creature made it into most of our pics. We even had some fun towards the end trying to make it look like the spino roamed the fields many years ago. We had to lay in on the ground it happen. OMG, it was so fun. It was worth it to hear him laugh so hard. Take a look!!!

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Needless to say, we took a few deep breaths, absorbed the experience, and snapped some photos that we will remember the rest of our lives. Seeing these rocks really makes you wonder about the people. I could not help but think, “Almost 5,000 years have passed since these rocks were moved and arranged. These were people like me; probably feeling that the days go by slow and the years fast; probably feeling that life would last a long time. But almost 5,000 years have passed since these people worked hard to build something special.” They died. Time keeps passing. It is passing quickly. Having kids, I remember this now more than ever. My question, “How can I live so that the time passes slowly?”

IMG_3649We then left Stonehenge around 2pm and drove through Oxford so that we could stop at the “Eagle and Child.” Oh my, how special it was to visit and sit in the same place where the Inklings (C.S. lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, etc.) sat for years hashing out ideas and stories that would be read and heard throughout the world. I love C.S. Lewis and read him now more than ever. I am so glad that Allison made me do it. Surprised? Do not be; I have an uncanny ability to choose efficiency over experience. It is a curse, of course, and my wife looked at me and did not give me an option. So we went, and the rest is history!

From Oxford, our plan was to drive about two hours and stay in a cost-efficient airbnb. This was not a good idea. With my family in the car, I walked to the front door to meet a man and found that a couple who had rented the property had just moved out the day before. The landlord and the tenants were in a dispute over the property. The landlord showed me around, but when I went back to the car, the tenant wanted to know how I had rented the place. I told him, and he was angry (not at me) because they had paid through midnight that night. The landlord suspected there might be trouble (though I had not issue with the guy), so he stopped his car before pulling off. They got into a back-and-forth argument that began to esculate just a bit. I walked over the landlord, handed him the keys, and said, “Can you please reinburse us? I do not want to be in the middle of this.” He assured me that he would and then the tenant apologized. I told them both that it was fine and that no one owed us an apology. We just wanted to leave. Also, I did not know what was about to happen and I did not want my son to see a horrible fight. So, we took off, and I told Allison that I was feeling “charged” with a bit of adrenaline (I sort of enjoy conflict in a twisted sort of way) and felt that I could now finish the drive if she was okay arriving in Edinburgh around midnight. It was about 6:45 pm when this happened. We pulled up to our flat at 1am.

From there we drove. And drove. And drove. Somehow, the kids were amazing that last six hours (Rhema slept for a good bit of it!). We stopped and grabbed some decent food, some snacks. and put gas in the car and air in the tires. I then put in the headphones and finished the audiobook that I had begun when we had left Friday. It was my first book to read/listen to by Frederick Buechner. Let’s just say that I will be reading more of his stuff. His new book, The Remarkable Ordinary, was good. It is difficult to summarize this book because he told stories and processed a good deal of his past through story and the action of God. But it was good for me. The book was not overly structured and definitly was not analytical. It was good for my heart. I could not put it down and more than ever, I realize the need for me personally to read books that give my PhD mind a break. To say it differently, I need books that make me feel like a human being.

All-in-all, we had a wonderful time. Lots of memories, laughs, making up stories in the car, and time together. This is the stuff that life is made of, and I want to live it in a way that it goes by slowly.

 

Trash Cans and Terrorism

M-NYMTA-station-trashcanI am on a train going north from Warwick to Edinburgh after attending the annual conference for the Society for the Study of Theology. I even got to hear N.T. Wright speak! After taking the train to Birmingham Moore Street Station and then walking to New Street Station in Birmingham, I grabbed a cup of coffee (I stopped drinking caffeine two months ago but gave in this morning!) and started toward Platform 6. After stopping at the toilet, I came out and saw a man that was doing janitorial work. I asked him if I could toss my coffee cup (at least it was paper and not plastic) in the trash bin. He said, “Sure.” I then made the light-hearted remark, “I am asking because I cannot seem to find trash cans anywhere in this station.” In a friendly tone, he responded, “Yes, you are right; you will not find many of them because of terrorism.”

Interestingly, the remark made sense and I found myself grateful for this wise decision. Yet, I walked away thinking, “What a different world we live in today.” I am 40 years old (I still can’t believe it) and let’s just say that my children are growing up in a very, very different world than what I grew up in. It can be summed up in the following manner: they are growing up in a post-9/11 world. In some sense, it is sad. My heart is grieved that terrorists have so influenced contemporary life on such a dramatic level that even the presence of trash cans has been affected. But it is what it is and safety is worth minor inconveniences, right?

You are probably reading this wondering what point I am going to eventaully make. Sorry, but I am not sure that I have one today. I am just reflecting. While looking for a trash can, I was reminded of horrendous evil that has (and still is) affected so many lives and families. Let’s be honest: this is not going to change. It is the “new” world that we inhabit though a far cry from the new creation that God has promised and has already begun to break through. We live in the time-between-the-times, the “already” but “not yet” of redemptive history.

May we have peace. May we not fear. May we be guided by the Holy Spirit when danger is present. Actually, the better prayer is, “May we be guided into obedience and faithfulness no matter the situation.” The Lord is so good to us no matter how fast the moral, social, and political forces are spiralling out of control.

The Lord is a rock. Let’s plant our feet on him so that no matter the height of the waves, we can stand firm.

Ephesians 6:13-14a

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then . . .