Newsletter – Volume 31

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Newsletter – Volume 31

January 29, 2024

This Week

Confessions From the Back of the Pen
Meet Austin...

I met Austin at a wedding I officiated last weekend. He was one of the groomsmen. When I met him, I was taken by his easy smile, his bright eyes, and his sincere spirit. At the rehearsal dinner I got to hear the rest of his story, which made his present disposition all the more remarkable to me. After hearing it, I asked him if he would be willing to let me share it here. He was! And if there was ever a real-world illustration of the persistence of God’s love, this is it! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

My story is one with a lot of ups and downs, and lots of darkness and light. My parents did the best they could, but there was a lot of chaos in our home. My dad was an addict, and my mom didn’t really know how to cope. My parents eventually divorced, and we ended up living with my grandparents. My grandma was a very spiritual woman. She taught me to pray. We prayed bold prayers. We prayed that my dad would be delivered from drugs and that my parents would get back together. And it happened. I saw lots of miracles happen through her prayers. So, even though there was a lot of dysfunction in our family, I knew God was real.

But, at the time, there was another scripture that defined my life. We all like sheep have gone astray, each one to his own way (Isaiah 53:6). That was me. The proverbial black sheep. My high school sweetheart became pregnant. She was 18, I was 19. I didn’t know what to do, but I knew I needed to support my family. So, I joined the military. We got married right after bootcamp. I was quickly sent into war and did 3 tours of duty in Iraq. I started drinking to keep my sanity. Crazy thing is that I saw the hand of God over that whole experience. I can’t tell you the number of times me and my unit were miraculously spared. Yet, I was drinking all the more. Over time it just became too much for my wife and we got divorced. I left the military after 10 years, depressed and broken. I added drugs to the mix and things went from bad to worse. I ended up homeless. I tried to get my life together, I walked in and out of rehab centers. I’d pray. I’d make promises. I’d stay clean for awhile, only to relapse again.

I still remember one particularly crazy week, where I went on a week-long bender. I literally thought I was going to die. I was hallucinating. I was depressed. And I had a vision of a courtroom, where my life was hanging in the balance. I heard arguing over my eternal destiny. I tried to plead my case. I promised to do better. Then it got quiet. I heard the words, “Who the son sets free is free indeed.” I was set free.

I wish I could tell you that things got better at that point. They did for a bit. But then they got worse – a lot worse. I kept making the same mistakes over and over again. I finally walked into a Christian rehab place called “Outcry in the Barrio” and I felt such love there. They wanted nothing from me, but they kept giving to me. It was amazing. Again, you would think that would have gotten to me. It did, but not completely. I still had to go through a couple rounds of rebellion before I finally found my way back.

There is so much more to the story, but I will just summarize it in this way, there is a song about the reckless love of God. “It chases me down, fights ‘til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine. I couldn’t earn it, I don’t deserve it, still You give Yourself away. It is the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God. That is the essence of my story, and I will do whatever I can to show the same to others…

Word of the Week

Dream

Noun: a cherished aspiration, ambition, or ideal

The older you get the easier it is to stop dreaming about what might be possible. 

Perhaps it’s due to the fact that over time you know yourself better. 

You know your limitations

You live with the wounds of your past failures

You are deeply aware of how much work is involved with trying something new. 

Doubt… Disbelief… Even dread

          does battle with every idea that crosses your mind. 


You have just about convinced yourself it will never work.

You’re probably right

Dream anyway…

A Book Worth Reading

Created to Dream

Review: In Created to Dream, Pastor Warren explains how God uses our goals and dreams to build our character… ~Kate

I have been in a season of reevaluation. I have a variety of projects and activities I am working on and in my pondering, I stumbled across this book. I believe it was put in front of me, because of the season I am in – and I love how God does that. This is a short/quick read. The basic point of the book is that our faith and our dreams are inextricably intertwined. He writes, “Great Faith inspires great dreams and great dreams require great faith.” However, with that, we must also understand that there is a typical process that God takes us all through in the fulfillment of that dream:

  • Discovery
  • Decision
  • Delays
  • Difficulties
  • Dead ends
  • Deliverance.

If you are in a season of rethinking where you are what God has in store for you, you might find this a helpful read as well!

A personal request

Comforting Prayer

Pocket Prayer: Lord, you are the same yesterday, today and forever!

If you know someone who you would like for me to include here for a special prayer focus, please send me their name and a bit about their situation, and I will gladly share their story and invite this crew to pray.

A new opportunity to continue

Worshipping God With Our Bodies

This past week, I gave a talk on my health/fitness journey. It’s the first time I have spoken on this subject and I believe this is something the Lord wants me to share with a broader audience. Should you know of context where this might fit, please let me know by responding to this email. The size of the group doesn’t matter.

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