Friday, April 6, 2012

Unexpected Service

Sarah and I decided to go out for a bite to eat last night. We walked into the Applebee's and like usual we looked for our favorite waitress who usually works in the bar table section.

We looked intently but didn't see her.

The host saw us and asked if we were looking for someone in particular and we said “yes”.

"What's her name" he asked?

We said "umm not real sure but we believe its Cindy".

The host said "she is actually working in dining section tonight".

Unusual we thought but none the less we we're seated.

As the host walked away, I saw him whisper in the ear of a waitress and they both looked at us puzzled.

I said to Sarah, "crap that’s not our girl" as she walked over to us!

She said “you specifically asked for me but I don’t recognize you guy’s”.

We said "yeah we thought our usual waitress's name was Cindy" and explained.

She said "nope that is crystal".

"No problem" I said. We ordered and had our meal with no issues.

God of course had other ideas in mind!

He told me to invite her to church on Sunday so we proceeded to do so. Come to find out she has had others recently ask her to attend a church including her fiance who lived a similar past as I. She also said he is getting a job in the shipyard (of course that’s where I work as well)! We had a great conversation about church and how proud we are to be a part of one and listened about how she just had some bad experiences in church. She also understood that is was not coincidence we were there and she could see the writing on the wall. We gave her the time and place for this coming Easter service and she implied she would talk to her fiance and give it another try. That is when God is glorified!!

Moral of this story:

We walked in expecting to be served by a woman of familiarity and comfort. We ended up meeting a woman who needed an experience with the Most High God. The crazy thing is God planted that seed, the name of “Cindy” in our minds to set up a meeting with someone who needed hope and encouragement to come back to a place of fellowship.

Lesson learned:

Never ever forget that God is always talking to us and is ready to use us in the most unlikely scenarios. The bible says His thoughts toward us cannot be numbered (Psalm 40:5). He is always talking to us and if we would always strive to keep the mindset of Christ, the more often we would experience His need to use us to build the Kingdom.


Saturday, March 31, 2012

Not Taken for "Granite"

Felt like blogging about a pretty cool experience I had today.

My son Luke had opening day for baseball today at the Deep Creek High School football field . 
He was hanging out with his team waiting on pictures and the parade to start. I felt the need to take a tour of the stadium since after all it is my Alma Mater. So I wandered a bit.

At the far end of the stadium there is a wall constructed with individual blocks of old granite. The main one in the middle was engraved with the words "Hornet Wall of Fame". I scanned over the approximately 75 different blocks with various names and dedications such as: Nathan T. Hardee (Deep Creek High Principle),  Deon Dyer (football star), David Cox (football coach) get the picture. Basically it's a memorial of people and organizations that have somehow donated time, effort, or money to the school.

As I continued to scan this massive wall, one old block in particular stood out and caught my attention quickly. It said "Faith Alive- The place to begin.....belong....become...." I would be lying if I said this didn't hit me in the gut! Wasn't expecting this one but here I was face to face with a block from my past.

You see I gave my life to Jesus in this church in 2004 and spent about 5 or 6 years there serving and growing. During my season there I went through a divorce, lost many friends and family due to my faith choice, and financially couldn't rub to nickels together. Did I turn my back on God during certain points in my life there? Yes! I think we all do from time to time whether we realize it or not. But I did know that something was stirring me to a purpose that we beyond my understanding and unexpectedly out of my control. I had been invaded by the Holy Spirit.

I actually entered this church one early Sunday morning after leaving a party at my house on my way to take someone home in Deep Creek. I was driving by and for reasons beyond my understanding (at that time) I felt like something was calling me inside. Before I knew it, I was sitting in the back seats of the church still half drunk and carrying a small amount of pot in my jeans pocket. I'll never forget that day. Pastor Bob was talking about what I had never heard. Jesus was in love with me and gave His life so I could live. That morning I felt dead and Lord knows I needed life and God invited me to His table to eat and receive healing.

Shortly after the message, an altar call was made and there was Allen, broken and crying at the altar laying down my reckless life. I had men praying over me who did not know me from Adam but knew I was a fresh face with a real need. I truly found a place to begin again.

As I began to change my life and allow God to work in me, I learned the value of being a servant. I would show up early at church looking for anyway to help. I would stay after and clean the chairs and floor of the left behind snotty tissues and church announcements. I was desiring to give back to God everything He gave me.

I finally  found a place to belong. I had a new family and a church home and would do anything to serve and be apart of something bigger than me.

As the years past, I had moved away from my roommates and made an effort to start surrounding myself with people that built me up and pointed me to the cross. I joined the choir, became a part of the men's ministry and even had an opportunity to facilitate a bible study or two. Not to mention I met my beautiful bride Sarah there. Nobody really knew what happened to me. All they could say is "Allen is different". Even my mother and sister who I partied with often said and I quote " We just want our old Allen back"! I will never forget my reply. "Sorry guys, he is gone and a new Allen has been born. I love you both but this is who I am now".

I had become a man of God, still a sinner but eager and now equipped to fight for my salvation and that of my daughter's.

This block of granite that I encounter this morning was to remind me that regardless of what may have happened to that wonderful church, it served a purpose in my life. Still today I have encounters with past members who say they regret ever being apart of that body and hold ample bitterness and personal unforgivness toward the acts of one man. I pray for them often!

I do believe that church (Faith Alive), whether they understand it or not, played an important role in the lives of all it's members. Sure the ending wasn't pleasant but what about the people like Allen who found a home there and learned that he's wasn't alone. People like Allen that needed a second chance in life. People like Allen that needed to learn about God's love and forgiveness. People like Allen who could come through the doors and feel like it was OK to be a sinner. People like Allen who needed a chance when the world gave up on them. That is the purpose of the today church and I will never let the sin of any man or woman to rock my faith! My faith is in God and nobody else! Period!!

I don't write this to condemn by any means!! The bible is clear on that but please understand my heart my friends......

I write this to open peoples spirit to accepting a bad experience in any church and taking away the whatever growth that is gained. The truth is, it is very likely that we are going to have bad experiences in church. All I know is that my faith became alive in that church and it and everyone who played a role in growing me will always hold a special place in my heart.

~Be Blessed~

Saturday, March 10, 2012

All In The Fold

This morning I learned something really cool while reading something on the internet. If you read in the scripture John 20:7 it says "and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen, but folded together in a place by itself (NIV).

The folded handkerchief that was around Jesus’s neck has so much meaning believe it or not!

In the days that Christ walked the earth, is was a common practice for a master to fold his napkin or handkerchief in certain ways to display his intent. If a master of a home was eating, the servant was always nearby waiting at his every need.

If the master wadded up his napkin and threw it on the plate that told the servant he was done. Think about! How many of you have done the same thing in a restaurant? I know I have and usually do.

But if a master folded up his napkin on his plate, it meant he was not done and would return soon.

In this scripture I believe Christ folded that napkin purposely away from the linens which signified death and the past. Here again He separates Himself from grip of death and gave the sign of His return. Awesome! He can use something as simple as a folded handkerchief to speak to us. A handkerchief! The very symbol of a servant!

I've always thought to myself that the linens would just be laying there flat with Jesus not in them. But actually when Jesus was wrapped, he was wrapped in such a way that it would be a cocoon around his body encapsulating him. When Peter found these linens they were still in the form as if His body was still present. They only way to remove a body from one would be to cut them out. And since these were not cut by natural means, the supernatural was on display.

Out from a restrictive cocoon came forth a most beautiful gift; the release of death and the gift of new life. Don’t let the cocoons the world places on your life keep you from breaking free, spreading your wings, and walking in the fullness of Christ. You are free indeed!!



Tuesday, March 6, 2012

My Buddy Cameron

So I had the privilege to hang out with a true little soldier for God last night. My buddy Cameron Wade Hope!!
For those of you who do not know him, you’re missing out on a fantastic blessing and the chance to have a cool genuine friend. This little boy is strong, joyful, and courageous and inspires me to be more! Did I mention VERY independent? He is all about doing things for himself. The word "pity" is not in his vocabulary.
I actually met Cameron years ago and from the day I met him, he's always seemed to be in some sort of cast or splint.  Often he's riding around in a wheel chair completely unaware of the contagious joy he is spreading in those glasses with his little smirks and smiles. I remember many times arriving early to church to set-up and there he'd be rolling up next to me in his wheelchair and asking me "Mr. Allen, what can I do"? Wow!! How many people do you know who won't even sign up to be a greeter in church?? Hmmm, kind of makes you think!
The Hope family lost a family member a few days back and held a service for her last night. They needed someone to sit with Cameron while they were gone and of course I jumped at the opportunity!
So anyway, my buddy had surgery yesterday morning on both of his legs and had metal rods put in! Good God! I could not imagine! And I complain about my bad back........It amazed me to see my little buddy run shop on the 7th floor last night. He had them nurses wrapped around his little finger. He has made so many trips to CHKD that he instinctively knew what to expect and what to do. Seriously! He knew the food menu. He knew all the DVDs they offer the kids to watch. He knew the position the bendy straw for drinking lying down in a hospital bed. He knew how I needed to support his legs when I removed a pillow to make him more comfortable.  He even knew that after the charge nurse gave him pain meds, that he would need the throw up bucket and wash towel for his face. Its amazing how much I learned from watching him last night and how he has changed my life.
A few things I came to realize during my visit:
(1) I have no right to complain about my life. If I have real deal life issues then that is understandable. But if I can't figure out what to wear to work or my car doesn't start or I can't afford a new I Phone. I need to get a grip!! Who am I to be so ungrateful!! My buddy can’t even walk right now!
(2) I don't spend enough of my time with God!  You see Cameron has been doing this for so long, that he knows what to do and what to expect. It comes natural to him. It should be the same in our relationships with God. We should know enough about Him and what His promises are that we know how to react when life gets tough and what scriptures to stand on to get us through.
(3) Pain is real! Cameron has been dealing with some form of pain for a long time. Towards the end of the night, he started to show signs of pain and hurt. But not by his choice!  How many times do we deal with pain and choose to do so because it’s the way things have been or routine. His pain was not self inflected. Ours is more times than not.
(4) Laughter is good for the soul. We had a chance to watch a few DVDs and giggle together. It warmed my heart to watch him smile and share a laugh with him knowing what a rough road he had ahead.
(5) God is still in the business of healing. I took some time and somehow found my way to the hospital chapel. It’s just a small room with an altar, a few chairs, and a stand. There I found a prayer book. I read one prayer written in pen the spoke of how a baby girl was close to death on that day, but because of the love and care of the people of CHKD and healing power of God, she pulled through. At the end of that same prayer there was a side note written in pencil and in the same handwriting that said “My little girl is now ten. Thank you”! I also wrote my prayer for Cameron.
It's amazing what we can learn from a child and realize how spiritually immature we can really be if we would be honest with ourselves. God does not need a big church or tons of money to make miracles happen. He needs you and me to give our time and effort to those who need love and prayer. It's never to late to share a hug or just say thanks. It can make more of an impact than we could ever imagine.

Friday, February 24, 2012

From Heap to Hope

Psalm 51:12 (NIV)
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

So lately God has me reflecting on the past 10 or so years of my life and how extreme of a change He has made in me. I use the word extreme because if you know me or knew me, I am a different man. Not perfect but changed! My life felt just like this picture above. Pretty much not going anywhere anytime soon!!  At least not without help. It took me 27 years to be "restored" to God's original intent and purpose in this life and I know that. In short, what was temporally broke down and dislocated from God's Kingdom has now been restored and functions as a part of the whole or the body.

So what does it mean to be restored and what does that process look like?? We'll here is a "man's" point of view.......

Not sure how many of you enjoy watching the Mecum Auto Auction on television but I love it! I love seeing how cars that are sometimes 40, 50, or even 60 years old have gone from a lifeless, beat up, unrecognizable pile of metal, to a pristine, polished, functioning piece of art displayed in all its former glory. The care and love that is put into these restorations is phenomenal. The more original the car is restored, the more it is valued and desired by others. When I say valued, I mean I've seen cars go for more than a half million dollars!! That may seem nuts to you but to someone who has a special place in their heart for that car, there is no price that will not be paid. Period!  Think about it, how many times do you see a classic car rolling down the street and not take a second look? Why do you, because it's knowing that someone put hundreds of hours into making the dead into something alive. That's just cool!

During the auction they sometimes show pictures of how the car looked prior to end product you see rolling across the stage. Most cases you can't even recognize the car in the pictures due to rust, holes, dents and dirt that has claimed the appearance. But due to love and effort, life is given back to these cars for others to appreciate.

This is how I see my restoration process!

I know I was originally created in the image of God as Adam was in the begging of time. But due to my sin and fleshly desires, I ended up broke down, barely clinging to life and allowing time to consume me. I lived day to day, literally dollar to dollar, drug to drug, and had no idea God's original intent was for me to live above this brokenness.

So what......

The bible uses the word "restore or restored" at least 67 times and in many applications, Christ himself modeled this in the New Testament.

He restores the blind! He restores health! He restores hope and strength! The bible even says God restores our wealth. But I think most important at least to me, is that He restored my ability to have a relationship with the Father. Love! The same relationships these men and woman have with these unrecognizable cars. The ability to see past the surface, envisions the hope, and turns a passion into reality. That is God's desire for us my friends!! 

You see the very purpose of restoration is bringing something or someone back to the original intent. And in my case it is to be a servant for God. I never in my wildest dreams would have imagined singing praises on a worship team, or having the opportunity to teach the youth in church, or most importantly learning to lead my family to the cross where restoration is always a present tense word. A place for many years I was oblivious to.

No matter where you are or what you may have done, God is in the business of restoring His people back to a relationship of love. It may just take you pulling off that old car cover, envisioning a bright future, and allowing God to undo what man says will be. There is hope for all of us. Pray and allow God to do what He has done in my life. Taken me from superficial living to sacrificial giving. He is the Author and Perfector of our faith and since Jesus is the original intent for us and our lives should be the original intent for Him.

When you align yourself with people of the SAME passion for God, the restoration process can be quicker, smoother, and more successful. Never allow a secluded old barn, a dirty car cover, and a beat up old body keep you from living in style and class. Remember, our designer knows our potential and every working part of us. He can make beauty from ashes or in this case take you from heap to hope! 

Choose to live in abundance my friends. YOU deserve!!!


Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Battling Example

The goal of battle is to overcome the opposition by force and institute a set or in some cases a re-set of personal beliefs or principals for a people or system.   That is exactly why God sent Jesus into this world!  To do battle with an enemy who constantly overcomes his people and to re-set the original intent for a personal relationship with God as was first enjoyed by Adam.   Understand this restoration process and purpose of Christ took steps as the scriptures tell us and did not take place overnight.  It started with the birth, death, resurrection, and finally the ascension.  Too many people are going right from birth to resurrection ignoring the most difficult but possibly the most rewarding step.  Death! Only through death can one step back and examine themselves for who they are and who they were.

Christ is the clear example of what a Christ follower’s life should look like.  I often hear Christians talk about the "glorious death" of Jesus and although that may be true in some respect and great reason for rejoicing, what about the not so glorious part of His death and why forgetting about this pivotal part is directly related to why we sometimes fail to be over comers.   I'm all about living in victory or in the "glorious death mentality" like the next guy but honestly I've learned  and am still learning that there is no victory without accepting some wounds, wearing a few battle scars, and learning from my mistakes.

Let's dig a little....

The scripture tell us in 1 Peter 2:21 "To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps"(NIV).  So if suffering is a form of example left by Christ, then why is skipping this part of the process in His death so challenging and least discussed?   Why do Christians tend to invert their struggles while those who are not saved where them on their sleeves?  If Christ suffered publicly and openly in front of the world, then why shouldn't we?  Truth is, we take what I believe is one of our best qualities, failure, and turn what should be a learning experience into an excuse rock to hid under.   We spend more time crafting up ways to throw others off the scent of our failures then simply asking for help, prayer, and even a warm hug.  God forbid we become accountable to someone and have the courage to suffer out loud!  We should be proud to be an example of a suffering people to this lost and dying world.  


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Careful who you tell

I’m learning more and more that not everyone is going to be as enthused as I am when God speaks to me.  I have had some opportunities to share what I feel is great revelation and the receiving end is a road block.  I'll never forget one day sitting at my desk at work about to indulge in some Ramon noodles (yeah I'm a big spender), when I read on the side of the container "Caution Contents May Be Hot".  God spoke to me and said that everyone has a so called "spiritual temperature" and whether we like it or not, if the mercury is not on the right side of the bubble, then you better wait to proclaim your brilliant news.   Your good news and someone else's bad day is not the best spiritual recipe.

You may learn a couple of things here as I have: (1) you will find out who is really interested in your spiritual growth.  Those that take the time to see how excited you are and are willing to vest even a little time into the conversation make for great friends and (2) this awe inspiring news may just be for you and only you {God doesn't always speak to me to reveal it to us}- try flying solo sometimes..... It worked for the Wright Brothers! 

I must admit my eagerness to open my heart sometimes out weighs my ability to not take offense to the infamous silent response.  But one thing is for sure here, God said it and I get it.  That’s what really matters!  Asking God for whom and when to share it is another prayer......