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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bekah's quote of the day

Bekah: "Daddy, do you know what my favorite food is...outside of candy?"

Daddy: "I don't know, tell me?!?!"

Bekah: "salt."

Monday, August 15, 2011

Bekah composes her first song

This weekend, Bekah composed her first song on the piano! ...a worship song! She calls it "Sing the song of Grace." She is so amazing!

She wrote the music sheet on a sheet of paper - complete with lyrics and notes! Then she memorized the song and played it for Tammy and I. When Bekah gets motivated about learning something, she doesn't back off until she has blown my mind away.

P.S. We have only had the piano for 8.5 months, and she has only been playing diligently for about 2 months!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

JesusCulture Awakening Conference Recap - Session 2

So after grabbing dinner and changing out of my work clothes (yes, I went to Session 1 in dress clothes - I stuck out like a sore thumb!), I headed back to the arena for Session 2. While waiting for Session 2 to start, the woman to my right from Session 1 comes up and sits next to me (it is assigned seating). Her name is Richelle and we start chatting. First it is typical stuff - I show her pics of the three most lovely women in the world (Tammy, Bekah and Caroline) - she tells me a little about growing up in Clearwater and where she's been since.

I ask Richelle about Moody College and she tells me how cool it is to be at this college where everyone is just deeply looking to be used by God. She talks about the wide variety of backgrounds of people - she is a Christian Jew who went to Countryside High in Clearwater, one of her schoolmates is a 17 yr old girl straight out of homeschool, and another schoolmate is from the Cogno, where he was captured as a 6 yr old boy by the rebel forces, and forced into the militia. But when the rebels ordered this boy to kill a friend, he couldn't pull the trigger. So they cut off both of his arms at the shoulders. The rebels treated him like a dog for years...forcing him to eat from the trash. Until one day he and another boy escaped to a nearby village. The village took him in and eventually they all pooled together all that they had...which was a bunch of goats...to send this boy to the US so that he could study the Bible and come back to be their pastor. So now this armless boy is at Moody Bible Institute studying God's Word in depth with Richelle and the homeschooled 17 yr. old. Seriously???

On any normal day in any normal week, that's just a crazy story about some kid from half-of-the-world away. On any normal day, I move on with my life and completely forget about it until I ride the Congo River Rapids at Busch Gardens or go to Congo River mini golf. BUT NOT THIS WEEK! This week, I've been reading this book that Ryan Rase gave me last Christmas - "The Hole in our Gospel." This book was written by the President of World Vision (the Christian organization that wants you to sponsor dying, starving kids in Africa). And this book is chuck full of similar stories as the one that Richelle told me about tonight. The book details the immense poverty in Africa through statistics and stories of individuals that bring those statistics to life. Then the author ties God's love for the poor/exploited to a call to action for Americans to reach the world for Christ through meeting their physical and spiritual needs. My spirit has been completely impacted by this book this week that Tammy and I have been actively working towards how we redirect more giving toward God's kingdom building in Africa. So Richelle's story isn't something I am going to forget - it was another "kick in the pants" from God saying, "are you getting involved with what I'm doing in Africa yet???"

...all of this before Session 2 even starts!!!!

Okay on to Session 2. In Session 2 the worship comes first, then the sermon. The place was packed again, and Hillsong rocked the place. I'm [apparently] not the biggest Hillsong groupie because I only knew half of the songs (the older ones), but it was great worship! During "From the Inside Out" the guitar player barely had to push out a couple of notes before the crowd took over for the rest of the song....nearly entirely acapella. I'm pretty sure that worship in Heaven is going to sound a lot like that! The worship was moving and Christ was clearly there - Hands raised high, tears falling, no holding back.

During a break in worship, a woman comes up to promote a charity that works in conjunction with JesusCulture. I DARE YOU to guess what kind of charity this is. Go ahead, guess... Yep, she runs a Christian organization in Kenya, Africa that takes orphans, teaches them typical school stuff, teaches them about God, gives them skills, and sends them back into their country to be nation changers for God. God is still kicking me in the pants saying, "are you getting involved with what I'm doing in Africa yet???" I'm not sure what God thought I was going to do between 7PM and 8PM to get on mission with what He's doing in Africa, but he's gone waaaaaay beyond a gentle tug at me...the Holy Spirit is beating me over the head with a hammer at this point. Time to get in the game.

After worship, they had these two girls come on stage and talk about how they had come to the JC conference a day early to participate in the "school for evangelism." In this 1-day pre-conference, JC leaders taught them how to evangelize and pray...and heal people. yep, you read that right...heal people. so these two girls go out into Lincoln Park (downtown Chicago) and try to witness and get shot down a bunch of times. they're feeling kinda down but they feel led to take the train back to the conference. So they jump on the blue line. One girl is on facebook while the other sleeps. then the train stops. One girl suggests to the other that they start a church service in the train. its not like anyone can escape, right? her friend shrugs off the idea. then, the first girl's knee starts to hurt. And she instantly remembers from the school for evangelism that if something starts to hurt, sometimes that's a sign that someone around you has an ailment that needs healing. So she jumps up and asks the train if anyone's knee hurts, because her knee hurts?!?!? This old dude speaks up and says his knee doesn't hurt, but he has major back issues. They ask if they can pray for him. He consents. They go over and lay hands on him and pray. ....and instantly - BOOM! - he's healed. The guy stands up straight as a rail, stretches his back, and instantly the pain is gone! As the girls tell the story on the stage, they can't help but run around dancing for God. Giddy as school girls. Blows their minds away - they've never prayed for anyone like that ever before. And God worked a miracle through them! ....almost too crazy to be true...and if I wasn't feeling God's presence like I had at this conference, I might doubt it....but not today. not after what I've seen and experienced.

After this testimony, Banning Liebscher (the head evangelist dude at JC) gets up and preaches. His message is around Matthew 24:14 - "Many are called but few are chosen." Banning said that this verse used to puzzle him. He wanted to be called. He wanted to be chosen. But how would you know if you were called? how would you know when you were chosen? Then he says that Jesus called everyone (Great Commission), but that Jesus' message was usually so hard to swallow, that very few people were willing to follow him. For example, in Luke 14:25-33 Jesus says "If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be a disciple of mine." Who hates their father/mother/wife/children/self???? Only those crazy enough to stick around through that were the ones who God "chooses." ...those who say "Yes, Lord. Sounds crazy, but I'm in!" But God doesn't want part of us, he wants ALL of us - total surrender. Jesus tells us to count the costs before making the decision.

Banning leads a sinners prayer and asks for all of those who either accepted Christ for the first time or who have had a major recommitment to Christ after straying FAR away to stand up. literally hundreds of people stand. HUNDREDS! There's a Heaven-style celebration that breaks out - high five-ing all around. But Banning isn't done...

He resumes his message and asks, "Who is ready to say 'Yes, Lord' to following His will for your life." total surrender. being a revivalist for the world. Not part of you...ALL of you. Who wants to be leaders in the revival? who is willing to give up their entire lives for His will? he asks this while everyone has their heads bowed and eyes closed. Then he asks for those who are "in" to stand up and raise both hands to God. EVERYONE stands up. Or if anyone didn't stand, I didn't see them. No joke - 15,000 committed people...after a really tough sermon, quite frankly. I stood too (and raised my hands too - I'm a total Pentecostal at this point - Idlewild is never going to let me back in - LOL). If there's anything that's been holding me back, I'm ready to give it up. Earlier I sang "Your will above all else; My purpose remains the art of losing myself in bringing You praise." Time to really mean it. I don't fully know what that means yet, but it sure feels like a deeper level of commitment than I've made before in my life.

JesusCulture Awakening Conference Recap - Session 1

Okay, I haven't been to many (any?) thing like this before. It is 1/3rd teaching, 2/3rd's worship. Worship is being led by Jesus Culture and Hillsong. There are multiple sessions per day over a three day period. 15,000 people gathered in a basketball stadium...with one stated purpose - revival.

I'm going to be there for three sessions between Wed and Thurs. I just happened to be in Chicago and picked up tickets on Craigslist after realizing that work in Chicago was going to be slow the next two days. I might as well take a day off and go see JC and Hillsong, right?

Session 1 starts w the leader for Jesus Culture (Banning) telling a story about why they are in Chicago and how God called them there. I can't relay the message any way close to as good as he said it, but suffice it to say that God supernaturally made it clear that thet needed to do this conference in Chicago. The goal of the conference (fully believed to be God's will) is to start a revival to bring Chicago to Christ like a tidal wave hitting the city. The opening message ends with the entire stadium embraced with each other (think "we are the boys" at a Gator game") praying - out loud - for God's presence at the conference and that we would meet him there.

Yep, this is going to be one of THOSE conferences!!!!

Next up was Kim Walker-Smith, lead female vocalist for Jesus Culture band. She gave a mini sermon on worship and what it should look like. She gave a testimony - not of how she got saved - but of some very close encounters that she has had with God and what she learned through those. I won't spoil it because I am CERTAIN that it will end up on youtube (it was THAT good), but below are the key message points:

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"Worship is not about singing, nor instruments, nor songs. Those are expressions of our vertical relationship with God. Our vertical relationship with God is worship."

"What would songs be without God's presence? Noise"

"Wouldn't it be great if everyone at church on Sunday had spent the week fighting 24x7 to maintain that vertical connection with God? We wouldn't need an intro song to "prep our mind" to worship God. Think how much deeper we could go during worship. We wouldn't need a certain formula for worship b/c we would be already connected."

"There are three keys to worship:
1) Pursue a vertical relationship with God relentlessly 24x7. Fight for the connection
2) Have no offense that stands between you and God
3) Keep pressing toward God in quiet time (even when it feels like you aren't getting a response from God) knowing that at some point in the future you will live in the fruit of that moment"

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Kim's message naturally transitioned into a JC worship set which was.....amazing, anointed ...I don't know how to describe it.

Let me describe it this way...I have been born and raised Baptist. I rarely clap in worship...much less raise my hands. My reservations in worship are a flaw...probably to the point of being a sin...but still, I am okay with that on a weekly basis. I'm not proud of it, that's just where I'm coming from, okay? Get the picture?

Now imagine this...the same guy I just described...crying and raising hands...yes both of them...to the point that my arms are so tired that I can't keep them up any more. Yeah, me and 14,999 of my closest friends doing the same thing....including the dude next to me who was wailing, or groaning to God, or speaking in tongues...I don't know what was going on over there to my left!!!

Yep, this is going to be one of THOSE conferences!!!! ...and yet God is clearly there and I'm okay with it all.

As I walk out of Session 1, I introduce myself to the woman on my right. I feel like it is the least I can do after I was instructed to hold hands w her during corporate, out loud prayer (how scary is that btw!). Come to find out that she's from Clearwater; going to Moody Bible Institute in IL. Small world. As we part ways, she tells me...
"I've NEVER been to anything like this before."

...That makes two of us!

...but if that's the opening act, I can't wait for Hillsong tonight!!!!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The girls spend the weekend @ the grandparents' ranch

John & Debbie go over-the-top (as always) by creating a water park in their backyard:

New Music Sunday (NMS) - 7/10/2011

  • Your Great Name - Natalie Grant
  • Pure - Gateway Worship (kari jobe)
  • Center - Charlie Hall
  • Search my heart - Hillsong United
  • He Has Come for us (God rest ye merry gentlemen) - Meredith Andrews (aka one of my favorite singers right now)
  • Revelation Song - Kari Jobi
Oh yeah, and Travis Doucette posted a video of his "King of Glory" song. ...the "dockside" version. This is my favorite version of this song yet:

lame month - June 2011

I just noticed that June was the first month in 2011 when I had no blog posts. what a busy month that was! The good news is that I got my [2010] taxes done in June!

I'm going to go put something in June retroactively!!! Bekah's 6th b-day was in June...let me go dig up some pics!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fourth of July weekend - 2011 edition

I had a great time with the family this past weekend. We spent a long weekend out at the Hyatt Clearwater Beach - great hotel by the way! The Cucchi's and Kristowski's joined us at the beach on Sunday afternoon, where we may very well have been the only people on the beach who were not tatted up (or some of us anyway! :) ). Note to self: traffic out to Clearwater Beach on a Sunday afternoon is ridiculous!

On Monday, we rented the "Freedom Cruiser" - a 4-person bike, and rode it to the top of the Memorial Bridge that connects downtown Clearwater to Clearwater Beach! That was a long, tough ride...but the girls were cheering Tammy and I on to the top! Our hotel patio gave us a great view of the fireworks all across Pinellas County - it was quite a sight!

On Tuesday, we checked out and headed over to Riverview to meet my newest Niece - Maci Benham. Check out her beautiful birth pics here.

One more thing...Surf Style opened a new building next to the Hyatt on Clearwater Beach. They brought in the Flowrider (indoor surfing wave) from the now-defunct Adrenalina from International Plaza. This is going to be a perfect fit - people are already in their swimsuits, why not go try the wave while you are out at Clearwater Beach!?!?