Cowboy is His Name

cowboy

Today I would like to share with you a poem that I wrote on Aug. 30th, 1994.  I think this was somewhat inspired by watching the movie 8 Seconds, which I thought was an amazing movie.  I grew up on a farm and spend quite a bit of time on the back of a horse back then so rodeo was on my mind.  I think there were times when I dreamed of being a rodeo star always on the road.  It never happened, but I hope you enjoy this original poem anyway.

 

 

Cowboy is His Name

His face is all scarred and rough,

And his voice is aged and gruff.

His only true friend is his horse,

And his whole existence seems filled with remorse.

He limps when he walks,

And he very seldom talks.

He’s always on the road going from rodeo to rodeo,

To some that’s no life, but that’s all he knows.

Most nights he has no money,

But he always seems to say something funny.

He has no wife to call his own,

For the road is his eternal home.

He likes to listen to country bands,

He will always be their #1 fan.

He seldom wins, but never complains,

He just hops back on his horse and lets out the reins.

Even when he’s down he’s always still in the game.

He’s a true hero and Cowboy is his name.

 

William John Marsau

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Presidential Gun Control: Only an Illusion

gun 1

On Tuesday Jan. 5th, 2016, an emotional President Obama announced a series of executive actions to, in his words, “do something to try to prevent the next” mass shooting.  “We can,” the President told a cheering White House audience, “reduce gun violence a whole lot more” through “common-sense gun control measures.”

Among the measures outlined by the President are increased background checks for gun purchasers, additional licensing requirements for certain gun sellers, gun safety research, and funding for mental health care.

The President took specific aim at Republicans, urging Americans to “demand a Congress brave enough to stand up to the gun lobby’s lies.”

The political response was fast and furious.  Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said, the President has never respected the right to safe and legal gun ownership” and that the President “does not trump the Second Amendment.”

Other critics pointed out that the President’s actions would do little if anything to reduce gun violence or prevent another San Bernardino or Sandy Hook.

I think that response seems very expected and appropriate from a political point of view.  What I want to address in the rest of this blog is, what should we think about the President’s executive actions about gun control?  I can’t speak for you, but I will give you a few of my thoughts.

First I want to start with a couple of disclaimers.  I have never owned and probably will never own a gun.  It is not that I am against guns per say, but I have never felt the need to own one of my own.  I do not hunt and I rely on the two guns I have attached to my shoulders if trouble ever comes up (see what I did there)?  I also want to say that I respect the Second Amendment, but I also understand that no right, including this one, is absolute.  Russell Moore wrote an excellent reflection on the gun debate, “We rightly do not allow private citizens to own surface-to-air missiles, for example.”  I also want to make an assumption that we all agree that no sane person wants to make it easy for people to shoot innocent people.

I do have two major concerns with this decision.  The first is that I believe that the role of government is to promote justice and preserve order, which it can only do according to the rule of law.  The President’s actions overstepped his authority as the chief executive.  Congress’s refusal to enact gun-control laws that the President wants does not give him the legal or moral authority to legislate.  All of this legal overstepping that we are seeing going on later should be a great concern to us all.

Secondly, the President’s actions, with the one exception of increased funding for mental-health care, do nothing to address the underlying causes of gun violence.  So what are these underlying causes of gun violence?  I’m so glad you asked.

What we’ve witnessed for decades in America is the deterioration of civil society.  The result of this deterioration is increased crime.  Back in the 1990’s, Chuck Colson explained why the prison population was exploding:

“The surging moral relativism in our culture was eroding our value system.  The family was breaking down.  Sleazy television, movies, and music poisoned the minds of young people, dulling their consciences…And the schools no longer taught right from wrong – only tolerance.  Young people had no moral compass, and many of them followed their parent’s footsteps into prison.”

I would add this to that statement: as families have broken down, government has grown in size and power, and those “intermediate institutions” so critical to a healthy society (churches, civic associations, philanthropic organizations, etc.) have less and less influence on our communities.

Russell Moore puts it this way: “If one lives in a community where people know one another, trust one another, and can call a neighbor to help when needed, crime rates tend to be lower.”  In other words, more community means less crime.

I want to be very clear that more government policy does not create community.  The secularist impulse is to attempt to create a more perfect world through just the right policies and legislation, but it can’t.  It is an illusion, a political illusion.

The gun-rights/gun-control debate will certainly continue.  In the meantime, we should be getting to the heart of the problem: the human heart, and the need for strong communities.  As our communities continue to deteriorate, crime rates will continue to rise.  At least that is how I see it.

I would love for you to give me your take on this?

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Creating a Culture of Communal Prayer (Part 4)

communal 5

In Part 1 of this blog series, we talked about the importance of prayer as a means of developing your relationship with God.  I briefly discussed my private prayer life.  I also talked about the importance of not only praying privately with God, but the idea of praying to God with others.  This idea is called communal prayer.  If you have not yet read Part 1 of this blog series, you can check it out here.

In Part 2 of this blog series, we discussed the reasons for the importance of creating an environment of oneness among believers in the church and how communal prayer is a big part of that.  If you have not had a chance to read Part 2 of this blog series, you can check it out here.

In Part 3 of this blog series, we talked about some of the blessings that God reigns down on His church.  We also discussed some individual things we need to do to bring oneness and unity to our body of believers.  If you have not had a chance to read Part 3 of this blog series, you can check it out here.

We all face overwhelming circumstances at some point in our lives.  For some of us, we may be in a rut where it seems like these overwhelming circumstances are coming at us on an almost daily basis.  A good cup of strong coffee can help with sleep deprivation, but it can’t handle temptation, discouragement, and hard times.  That is where prayer comes in.

As Christians, we have God inside of us, who is there with us every single moment of our lives.  He is more than willing to help us through our daily struggles, but we have to be willing to ask for His help and guidance.  As we have learned in this blog series, it is important for us to talk to God through worship and prayer on an individual basis, but it is also important for us to do these things as a group.

Creativity and perseverance can help us connect with God and each other on a more regular basis.  Here are five ideas for how we can do this:

Just Stop

Start a weekly prayer group.  Invite fellow believers to get together once a week to take a break from their lives and get together and spend some time praying together as a group.  Seek Jesus as a group.  Make it a challenge and get together on Monday mornings before you start your week.  What a great way to get your week started.  If once a week seems to daunting then start with one day a month and work your way up.  It doesn’t have to be for a long time.  You can start with 15-30 minutes.

 

Off the Chain

Team up with other Christ-followers by sending prayer requests through texts.  Many people who have done this have seen their prayers answered before their prayer request has made it all the way through the prayer chain.  If you do this, don’t forget to add “praise God” moments as well.  Don’t just talk about bad things, but include the good things that happen to you as well and everyone on the text can share in your joy.  One word of warning about doing this: Prayer chains can quickly turn into gossip/rumor chains.  Be sure you double-check motives and the information contained in the text before you blindly pass it on to the next person.

 

Go National

There are several national prayer events going on all the time.  You can go and attend these events in person and focus on the communal prayer activities they are doing.  You can also participate in your own community and never leave home by participating in the event by joining forces with other like-minded people in your area.  It can be an awesome experience to join in God’s work across the nation by collaborating with these large group events.  You can even get your whole local church you attend involved too.  There is great power in numbers.

 

Walk it Out

Begin a culture of prayer walking.  Start as an individual by simply going for a walk around your neighborhood where you live.  As you come across people during your walk, take the time to pray for them silently.  If you see another believer you could even be bold and approach them and ask them if you can pray with them out loud.  You could ask them “How can I pray for you?”  You might be surprised by the welcoming responses you’ll get from people.

In time, you could ask others to join you and you could walk around as a group looking for people or groups to pray for or with.  Ask God to work through individuals or groups for His glory.  Praying for a stranger is a great opportunity to show the love of Christ.

 

Get Technical

Use social media to begin a prayer wall.  Create a visual space where people can post their prayer requests.  Ask a group of dedicated Christians to be administrators for the site who will pray and leave comments of encouragement for people who make posts on this space.  This would be a great way to use social media in a positive and uplifting way.

Communal prayer is an important part of our walk with God.  It creates a sense of closeness with God while creating a sense of closeness and community with other believers.  It can also be a way to bring non-believers into what you are doing and bring Christ into their lives.

For many of us, myself included, this can be very hard to do.  We can feel uncomfortable with the thought of praying as a group.  Sometimes God asks us to get outside of our comfort zone so that He can develop us as people and bring us closer to Him in the process.

I would encourage each of you to consider ways in which you could take prayer life and find ways that you could do prayer in a way that includes others.  People together are more powerful than one person alone.  We need to remember that and find ways we can maximize the potential of the culture of communal prayer.

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Creating a Culture of Communal Prayer (Part 3)

communal 4

In Part 1 of this blog series, we talked about the importance of prayer as a means of developing your relationship with God.  I briefly discussed my private prayer life.  I also talked about the importance of not only praying privately with God, but the idea of praying to God with others.  This idea is called communal prayer.  If you have not yet read Part 1 of this blog series, you can check it out here.

In Part 2 of this blog series, we discussed the reasons for the importance of creating an environment of oneness among believers in the church and how communal prayer is a big part of that.  If you have not had a chance to read Part 2 of this blog series, you can check it out here.

 

So the value of having communal oneness of believers is a really cool thing.  The early church showed a oneness that really has not been replicated since then.  So can we get back to this type of oneness in our churches?  Can God do this again?  The answer is a bold Yes!  Jesus won the right to give His church all the blessings of God.  This is clearly defined for us when we look to the book of Ephesians.

Ephesians 1:3 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

Here are some of the blessings from God-given to the Church:

Sharing Christ’s position of power and favor at the right hand of God.

Ephesians 1:15-23 (NIV)

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

Ephesians 2:4-6 (NIV)

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.

 

Sharing Christ as our Head who has power to fill our lives with His own amazing character and unite us in His love.

Ephesians 1:22-23 (NIV)

22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

 

Knowing by experience the love of Christ and being filled together unto all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:14-21 (NIV)

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

 

Helping each other perfect holiness until we each grow up spiritually and get to share in the mature fullness in Christ.

Ephesians 4:13 (NIV)

13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

 

Receiving, by faith, the fullness of the Spirit and becoming thankfully submissive to God and to one another in our body life, our home life, and in our work relationships.

Ephesians 5:18-6:9 (NIV)

18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.“Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.

And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.

All these blessing are wonderful, but they do not just automatically come.  There is effort that is required on our part.  If we really want to experience the kind of oneness and blessings that the early church experienced, we have certain things that we need to do on an individual basis.

Here are four different things that we need to do individually so that we can come together fully in oneness and receive God’s full blessings in our lives:

Repent of living any other way and believe God for the kind of life He has given His church through Christ.

 

Get at least one other person to agree with us in seeking to possess all of those blessings together in Christ.

Matthew 18:19-20 (NIV)

19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

 

Put on the whole armor of God, piece by piece, and unite with our brothers and sisters in Christ in a determined stand against Satan’s attacks on our faith.

Ephesians 6:10-20 (NIV)

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 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, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

 

Pray for all saints that we might all share these blessings together and also pray for boldness in anyone teaching the gospel message.

Ephesians 6:18 (NIV)

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Ephesians 6:19-20 (NIV)

19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

These are not new ideas.  As you can read, these ideas come straight from the Bible.  The Bible is telling us exactly what we need to do.  What we need to do is commit to learning what we need to do and then try to live it out in our own lives.  If many people do this individually, the overall group effect is unlimited.

We don’t have to wait until we get to heaven to receive God’s blessings.  God’s blessings are available to each of us now, right where we are at.  We need to learn to tap into these blessings available to us.  We need to live our lives in a way that allows us to be blessed fully by God in the manner He intended for us.

In our next and final blog of this series, I will be getting real practical with five ways we can be more communal in our prayer.  These are things I have been practicing in my own life so that I can get more comfortable with public prayer.

Posted in Attitude, Bible, Change, College, Communication, Decisions, Evangelism, God, Growth, Hope, Inspirational, Jesus, Love, Motivational, Opportunity, Prayer, Reinventing Yourself, Relationships, Serving, Thoughts/Mindset, Worship | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Creating a Culture of Communal Prayer (Part 2)

communal 3

In Part 1 of this blog series, we talked about the importance of prayer as a means of developing your relationship with God.  I briefly discussed my private prayer life.  I also talked about the importance of not only praying privately with God, but the idea of praying to God with others.  This idea is called communal prayer.  If you have not yet read Part 1 of this blog series, you can check it out here.

 

In our society today, private religion is in.  People are believers, but many are choosing to have their own relationship with God and are foregoing going to church and being around other believers.  People want to make their own decisions about God and many don’t like hearing other’s ideas about who God is and how we should be worshiping Him.

Individual worship is an aspect of having a relationship with God, but that is only part of it and was never intended to be the whole thing. This idea of individual worship of God is quite the opposite of what the early church looked like.

We see this when we look into the book of Acts and how the early church was described.

Acts 4:32 (NIV)

32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.

The people in the early church shared everything, even their possessions.  If someone was in need of something, the other people would help them out.  It was a society that never let someone drop away.  They would always be taken care of.  It is a really great idea on how to live life, but it is a much different concept of living than the one our world lives in today.

Today, we find that the spirit of the world is crowding our the Spirit of Christ in our daily lives.  To live the lives that God intends for us to live, we really need to turn that trend around.  Society’s trend towards individualism is not a pattern for the Body of Christ.  The Body of Christ is all of us as individual believers in Christ untied together to all make up a part of the Body of Christ.  A good example of the Body of Christ would be the Church.

This is not a totally new or foreign concept.  God designed each of our bodies in the same way.  We, as humans, are made up of so many individual parts.  We have different parts of the body.  We have different organs.  We have millions of cells.  Each are individual entities, but together, they all make up our own bodies.  The eye and the ear, the hand and the foot, all of the organs need each other.  When these don’t function as part of the whole of our bodies it leads to sickness.  The same is true for the Body of Christ.  If believers each have their individual relationships with God, but never come together to function together, the chaos created by the individualism can create sickness in the Body of Christ.  It leads to sickness in the church.

Every congregation in every Christian church around the world and all believers everywhere need to be united in both their faith and in prayer.  It is true that we can pray privately, but we must also come together with the church and find a common voice in prayer.  If we look again to the book of Acts in the Bible, we see that this was the case in the early church.

Acts 1:14 (NIV)

14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

Acts 2:1 (NIV)

 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.

United prayer was a top priority of the apostles and the people.  They always seemed to be together.  Being united in our prayer is necessary because of who we are as human beings.

Here are some other verses and passages from the book of Acts that supports this idea:

Acts 6:4

Acts 4:18-33

Acts 12:1-25

Acts 15:1-30

We are related to Christ and to each other like we are related to the different parts that make up our own human bodies.  Our head, and more specifically our brains, coordinates the life and action of all of the other parts of our bodies.  Just as our heads run our own human bodies, Jesus Christ is the head over all things relating to the Church.  Christ is the head over all believers.

We are all one family.  When we say the Lord’s Prayer in church, we start, “Our Father.”  If we look at any normal family, it would be very unusual for each of the children to meet with and spend time with their dad on an individual basis.  It is the natural flow for all the children to spend time with their dad together.  It is the same way with God our Father.  It is the natural flow that all of us as God’s children would come to Him together to spend time with Him.

All of our individual lives come together to form on holy living temple, which serves as a dwelling place for God on earth.  We see this idea discussed in two different places in the Bible.

1 Corinthians 3:16 (NIV)

16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?

Ephesians 2:19-22 (NIV)

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

We are not all Lone Rangers going through this world all alone.  We are all one army with one commander (God) facing a common foe (Satan), which has great power.

Matthew 16:18 (NIV)

18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

Our commander, God, give us armor to put on to defend against our common enemy and He give us strength from within to deny our enemy.  The best part is that in the end, we know that Jesus will defeat our enemy and will no longer have to fight him off.

Ephesians 6:10-20 (NIV)

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 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, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

United we stand, but divided we will fall and the enemy can snatch up individuals and claim them for his own.  That is why it is so important that we stand together as a family of believers.  There is power in numbers.

Matthew 12:25 (NIV)

25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.

The longest recorded prayer of Jesus focused on this very thing.  Jesus prayed that all believers might be one as He and the Father are one.

John 17:11 (NIV)

11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.

The relationship that Jesus has with God and the relationship we are designed to have with each other is a supernatural oneness of spirit.  We can’t achieve this by human means alone.  Human wisdom by itself only goes so far.  We must look up to God in prayer and in faith to experience this type of unity.

This oneness with God is crucial to our testimony to the rest of the world.  Jesus prayed that we would exhibit this oneness in how we live our lives so that others would notice it in us and be drawn to us and then through us be drawn to God.

John 17:21-23 (NIV)

21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

This prayer that Jesus prayed was answered in the early church we see described in the book of Acts.  They had an amazing oneness with God and with one another.  The entire church was filled with the Spirit.

Acts 2:4 (NIV)

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

They were all of one heart and one soul.

Acts 2:42-47 (NIV)

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

God and the whole church were in the most intimate communion together imaginable.  It was with great boldness and power that they spread their message about Jesus the Savior to the rest of the world.

Acts 4:31-35 (NIV)

31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

I don’t know about you, but I would like to have that kind of relationship with other believers.  Can things ever be like they were in the early church?  The answer is yes, but it won’t just happen on it’s own.  In the next blog, we will be discussing some of the blessings that God has given the church through His Son Jesus.  We will also be talking about some of the things we can do as individuals to help bring these blessings to bear.  We will discuss ways that we can create more oneness in our own communities.

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Creating a Culture of Communal Prayer (Part 1)

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As ordinary people, we can face overwhelming circumstances on a daily basis.  We can get coffee in the morning to help get us going again after a short night of sleep the night before, but coffee can’t handle the temptation, discouragement, and hard times that can come on a day after day basis at times.

That is where prayer comes in.  As believers, we have the Creator of the Universe inside of us in the form of the Holy Spirit.  We don’t have to go through this world alone.  We can have help along the way through a relationship with God.  To have a relationship with God though, it means that we need to spend time talking to Him and getting to know Him better.  The way we talk to God is through prayer.  That means that to have a growing relationship with God we should be praying on a daily basis.

There was a time in my life when the only time I prayed was in church once a week.  Then I got to the point where I learned to talk to God through prayer at least once a day.  Now I am at the point that I talk to Him multiple times each and every day.  This progression has made life so much more bearable for me.  I couldn’t even imagine trying to get through a hard day alone anymore.  Without God’s help and guidance, I think I would find life and it’s cruel circumstances almost too much to bear.

I have found that the key to regular and consistent prayer is to incorporate prayer into your daily routines.  Find things you do each and every day and find ways to pray during those times.  That way it just becomes a regular routine and does not take extra time out of your schedule.  I have had a lot of success with setting up my individual prayer time with God each day through some of my daily routines such as getting out of bed, showering, driving to work, meals, driving home from work, going to bed.  Individual time praying with God is important so we can get to know Him better and grow closer to Him on a one on one basis.

The part of prayer that I tend to struggle with is communal prayer.  I just get uncomfortable when it comes to praying as a group.  It is my least favorite part of the small groups I am a part of.  Part of the problem is that I am not real good with remembering names and if it is a large group of people praying and I don’t know everyone really well, I am afraid to pray for someone out loud because I am afraid I will forget their name.  Another problem for me is that I am much more comfortable praying silently to myself.  I am not afraid to speak in front of people, but praying in front of people is a whole other matter for me.  I am just not very comfortable with it.  I tend to be more of a private person when it comes to my faith and public/community prayer doesn’t come very naturally to me.

Praying together is a very important part of talking to God.  Even though I am not as comfortable with public prayer, it is something that I am working to get better at because I understand that it is critical for my relationship with God to continue to develop.  For that reason, I have been looking into the importance of communal prayer and why it is so important.  I will be discussing what I have learned in Part 2 of this blog series.  In Part 3 of this blog series, I will be discussing some of the blessings of God-given to the church and the things we must do as believers to receive these blessings fully.  I have also come up with some practical ways I can do a better job of incorporating communal prayer into my daily rhythms like I have done with my private prayer.  I will be discussing those ideas in Part 4 of this blog series.

Stay with me on this and we can discover how we can become better at communal praying.

Posted in Attitude, Bible, Change, College, Communication, Decisions, Evangelism, God, Growth, Hope, Inspirational, Jesus, Love, Motivational, Opportunity, Prayer, Reinventing Yourself, Relationships, Serving, Thoughts/Mindset, Worship | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s In a Name Anyway?

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Today was one of the happiest days of my life.  It is the day that my first child arrived.  I was so excited when I heard he was a boy. I have always wanted to have a boy.  Each night, when I was home, I would rub his mom’s belly and know he was in there.  I would pray for him each and every night and I will continue to do that for the rest of my life.

Today, he finally introduced himself to the whole world and I am so excited to be his dad.  I want to teach him everything I know.  I want to teach him to be a Cyclone fan, a Bears fan, a White Sox fan.  I want to teach him about what good music is.  I want to teach him about what it means to be a country boy.  I want to teach him to love and respect animals.  I want to teach him to love and respect his parents, family, and all his elders.  Most of all though, I want him to know about God and how He will love him more than either his mom or I ever could.

I am so excited for all these things.  I have been waiting my whole life to be a dad and the day is finally here.  I know I will be a great dad.  I will provide for all his needs and show him all the love that I am capable of.

All these things yet to come are great, but today, his mom and I want to pause and tell our new son, why we decided to name him what we did.  His mom and I have known for quite a while what his name would be.  In fact, I have known what his name would be for almost 18 years now.  We decided that we would keep his name a secret from the rest of the world until he was born.  Now that he is finally here, we are proud to announce the name of our new son:

Matthew William Marsau

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In the following two letters, we will be explaining to our new son, why he has the name he does.  I will be explaining, in the first letter, why his first name is Matthew.  Steph will be explaining, in the second letter, why his middle name is William.  Believe it or not, it is not because my name is William.

 

Dear Matthew,

I wanted to write you a letter so you would know why you were given the name Matthew.  Let me go back a bit.  Matthew Clark Lichty was born on Feb. 6th 1977, a couple of months before I came into the world.  I had always wished I could be the older one while growing up.  As we grew up, Matt was not only my neighbor, he lived on the next farm south of the farm I grew up on, but he was also my third cousin.  My great-grandma Dortha and his great-grandpa Clark, were brother and sister.

Matt 3Growing up as farm kids, there was always a lot of work to be done.  Taking care of the animals, bailing hay in the summers, and helping with the harvest in the fall.  There were many occasions when we worked together.  I can remember bailing hay with Matt.  I can remember it well because Randy, Matt’s dad, was known for baling some of the heaviest bales in the county.  Plus his hay racks were truck beds so they held a lot more bales than the average rack.  After a day of bailing hay with the Lichty family, you knew you had put in a full day’s work.  I can also remember one summer when the two of us took on about 10 acres of corn to detassel.  Since it was just the two of us, we spent a lot of long days in the field together.

We did not always work though.  We had a lot of fun playing too.  Since Matt and I wereIMG950359 the same age and he lived so close together, we spent a lot of time together.  We would do 4-H together, ride horses together, and raised pigs together.  We spent a lot of time in my grandma’s barn shooting hoops and playing one on one together.  We were both pretty fierce competitors so some of the games got pretty heated.  Sometimes it even resulted in blood.  We went to different schools so we were not in school together and we did not play on the same sports teams, but we did about everything else together.  It seemed like we did everything together.

Growing up, I was an only child so I never knew what it was like to have a full brother.  Matt was the closest thing to a real brother that I ever had.  We would fight like any boys will do, but at the end of the day, we loved each other.  We were best friends.

As we started to get a little bit older, we started noticing girls.  I was dating a girl named Shelby, who lived in Wellsburg, which was about a half an hour drive away from us. I got tired of driving over to see her by myself so I asked Matt if he would start going with me.  At least it gave me someone to talk to on the way over and back.

Matt 5We had lots of great adventures on our way to and from Wellsburg.  Sometime, when you are older, I will tell you about the time we buried the car on an old dirt road when it had rained a whole bunch.  The girl I was dating at the time had a friend named Tiffany.  The four of us used to hang out a lot together.  It wasn’t long before Matt and Tiffany started to really like each other and started dating themselves.  Well, Matt, Shelby, and I were all a year older than Tiffany, so when it came time go to college, the three of us headed off to Iowa State in the fall.  Tiffany still had one more year of high school.  Tiffany would often come down to Ames to see Matt and the rest of us.  Sometimes Matt would head to Wellsburg to see her.  Despite the distance, their relationship continued to grow.  It was very clear that Matt and Tiffany seemed to have something special.

Matt and I were very busy at college and there was certainly some adjustments to make.  It was so much different from the small town lives we were used to living back in Black Hawk County.  Iowa State was much larger than anything that we were used to.  I was on the football team and that took up an enormous amount of my time.  We all lived in the dorms and would see each other often, however.

Matt 4By our second year in college, both Matt and I pledged in the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity. Chris, who was Matt’s brother and a year younger than us, also pledged at the same time.   We were now living together and we loved it.  It was a great place to live and we were having a great time and learning how to become men at the same time.  It was a truly awesome time in our lives.  We had never been closer.

Then one day Matt came to me and looked as pale as a ghost.  I could really tell something was really bothering him.  He told me that Tiffany was pregnant.  This was a huge concern because they were not married.  He didn’t know what he should do and he wanted my advice.  I simply asked him if he loved her.  He said yes, very much so.  I told him that it should be pretty clear to him.  He needed to marry Tiffany because they already had a start on their family.

That is exactly what happened.  Shortly after that conversation, Matt proposed to Tiffany and she said yes.  This happened in the fall of 1996.  They were set to get married in the early winter of 1997.  During this span two very important events occurred.  The first event occurred on May 17, 1997.  Tiffany gave birth to their boy that they named Caleb.  Matt was a father and he loved Caleb so much.  Caleb looked so much like Matt.  It was the best thing that ever happened to Matt.  Despite being so young, Matt was a great father to little Caleb.

The second event is one that has always haunted me.  It is not unusual for young men to get into fights, especially when alcohol is in the mix.  Matt and I were not immune to having little fights over stupid little things, but during a house party for the fraternity, we were on a bus headed to where the party was going to be held.  We had all been drinking so obviously, our judgement was a little impaired.  A couple of days prior, Matt had confronted me with the fact that he was not happy that I had been talking to a girl who lived in the dorms since I was still dating Shelby at the time.  I told him that it was nothing and I had not been doing anything wrong.  Looking back now, I was probably being too “flirty” with this girl.  I had a girlfriend and I had no business talking to this other girl.  I did not see things that way at the time.  On the bus ride to this party, Matt brought this up again, only this time it was in front of Shelby, which I thought was way out of line.  I grew more and more agitated by the second.  By the time we reached the site of the party, I took Matt back to the men’s room and proceeded to start yelling at him about how I thought what he said was so inappropriate and how I could not believe that he had done this to me.  He started yelling back.  We were in each other’s faces just screaming at each other.  It almost turned into a physical fight, but our fraternity brothers separated us before it did.

This event had a huge impact on our relationship as friends.  If I had just gone to Matt and apologized, things could have been so different.  Instead, I choose to be stubborn and refused to talk to him.  Month after month would go by and we hardly ever talked.  When we did, we were cold and distant to each other.  This fight and my stubbornness almost completely ended our friendship that had lasted all those years.  Looking back on it now, it is so stupid.  It was a fight over a girl that I could not even tell you what her name was or what she looked like.  I had decided that my being right was more important than my friendship to my best friend.  The funny thing is that I was never right.  I was wrong the whole time.  Matt had the courage to call me on something I was doing that was not right and instead of accepting what he was saying, I fought him on it.  I was so young and stupid.

Obviously, we did not see each other a whole lot during this time.  I saw young Caleb Matt 6after he was born, but I was not there when he was born.  I should have been.  That is what best friends do, but I was not being a best friend.  Later, when Matt and Tiffany got married in that Catholic church in Waterloo, I was there, along with quite a few of the brothers from the house, but I was bitter because Matt had not asked me to be one of his groomsmen.  Why would he have asked me?  I had been a terrible friend.  I did not deserve to be in that wedding.  Not after the way I had treated him.  Despite my bitterness, we all did have a great time at the wedding.  It was a day filled with much joy among family and friends.  Matt and I were fraternity brothers and best friends, but we were also family, and family is forever.

During the week following the wedding, Matt stopped by while I was eating breakfast at the fraternity.  He asked me if he could talk to me and I told him “sure.”  He took me into the “blue room” in the basement of the fraternity.  He told me that he had a dilemma and needed my advice.  Matt needed to travel to Waterloo, Nebraska that week to line up an internship he had for the following summer.  The problem was that he told me that Tiffany didn’t want him to go.  Apparently, she had a bad feeling about it.  I thought for a minute and then I asked him if he thought the internship would be important for his career.  He said it would be so I told him that I thought he should go.  He said he would think more about it and that he appreciated the advice.

As he began to leave, I felt a strong urge to tell him I was sorry and give him a hug, but I didn’t.  I guess my unforgiveness was controlling me still at that point.  I let him walk out of the room without saying anything.  I stood there alone until, about 30 seconds later, Matt came back into the room.  He told me that he was sorry for everything and told me that he loved me and I would always be his best friend, no matter what.  I walked right over to him and with tears in my eyes, I told him that I loved him too and he would always be my best friend too.  We embraced in a giant hug that lasted a while.  When we had finished, I wished him well on his trip and told him when he returned, we would start spending more time together, like we had been before our stupid fight.  Matt then walked out the door.

I did not know it at the time, but that was the last time I would ever see Matt alive.  Matt did decide to go on that trip and on his way, he was trying to pass a semi-truck, when he hit a patch of ice and had a horrible crash that cost him his life.  He was dead by the time the paramedics arrived.  The day was Dec. 4, 1997.  That is the day that a piece of me died forever.  You can see the story from the Iowa State Daily here.

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Later that day, I was eating lunch at the fraternity, when our cook Leila Coe told me the news.  I did not believe her at first.  Then I saw so many of the brothers crying.  It didn’t seem real.  How could this be?  I can’t really remember a lot of details about what happened over those next few days.  I remember being very numb.  It was like I was functioning on some low-level zombie state, but wasn’t anywhere near my normal self.  I do remember that I did not cry.  I guess I was suppressing it and going into survival mode.  That changed on the following Tuesday, when we had to return to that same church he had been married in only a week and a half prior.  Once they had the viewing for family and close friends, I just lost it.  Seeing Matt in that casket finally made it real for me, I guess.  I could not stop crying.  I remember bits and pieces from that day.  I remember them playing “He’s My Brother,” by the Hollies during the ceremony.  I remember all the brothers from the house were there and we lined the exit of the church.  It was so impressive and moving to see all those brothers lined up in their blue blazers and suits to pay tribute to their fallen brother.  These young men of the house loved Matt so much.  He had been a part of their everyday lives for a couple of years, but Chris and I had known Matt our whole lives so it was different for us.  I also remember the funeral procession, that was about a mile long, that traveled to the Orange Township Cemetery to put Matt into his final resting place.

In those years following his death, I had a very hard time accepting how things played out.  I blamed myself for his death because I told myself that if I had not talked him into going on that trip, he might have listened to Tiffany and not gone and would still be alive.  I was so angry at myself for spending those last months of our lives together in that stupid feud that was so pointless anyway.  To help out, the other brothers at the house would have Tiffany bring young Caleb over to the house and they would help babysit him.  I couldn’t.  I couldn’t be around Caleb.  When I looked at Caleb, I saw Matt and I would just break down.  Caleb would never have any memories of his dad because he was too young and I did have those memories, but I could not bring myself to tell him.  I was very depressed over the whole deal.

The following spring, our house had a house party on Matt’s birthday, it would have been his 21st birthday.  It was a night filled with great emotion.  There was some laughs, but also a lot of tears.  It was on that night, Feb. 6, 1998, that I decided, if I ever had a son, I was going to name him Matthew, after the best friend I have ever had.

I eventually was able to forgive myself.    It was not until the spring of 2009.  I held on to that poison in my life for way too long.  The experience taught me two valuable lessons.  It taught me to forgive more freely, especially over stuff that is so insignificant in the grand scheme of things.  It also taught me to more freely tell people that I love them and appreciate them.  These lessons will stick with me the rest of my days.

I know that on this day, Matt was in heaven with a smile on his face, knowing what a great name you have.  I know that he is proud of you already.  We both are.  Your mom has asked me on several occasions if I fear death.  I told her I honestly don’t.  I think a big reason for that is that I know that on the day I leave this earth, is the day that I get to be reunited with my best friend in heaven.  That will be a great day for me indeed.  There is not a day that goes by that I do not think of Matt.  He has touched my life in a way that few others have.  I have had a lot of great friends in this life, but he is special.  He is the one.  He is still the closest thing I have ever had to a brother.  It is like a part of him is still here. It has been just over 18 years since my friend passed from this earth, but through you being born this day, his memory will live on through you. 

Of course, Matt still lives through his son Caleb.  It has taken me a very long time, but if Caleb is willing, I would love to sit down with him and tell him about his dad and what a great friend he was.  He really was the best.  I’m so sorry that it has taken me so long Caleb.

I will let your mom tell you about how you got your middle name. 

As far as your last name, the name Marsau has a long history.  There have been some pretty amazing Marsau men through the years.  One of the greatest men I have ever know, is your grandpa John.  He first saw you today and I could see his love for you in his eyes.  You will know him so well in your life.  Another is your great-grandfather Robert Marsau.  He was amazing too.  He left this world several years ago so you will never get to meet him, but I will tell you all about him when you get older.

Matthew, I want you to know how loved you are.  I have had the privilege of having some really amazing days in my life, but today was the greatest.  Seeing you born and knowing that I was going to be your dad made me so proud.  We have so many great times ahead, but I wanted you to know on this day, that you will always be special to your mom and I.

Love Your Dad,

William John Marsau

 

Now I am going to let Stephanie explain to Matt why his middle name is William:

Dear Matthew,

Your dad wanted me to write you a letter and explain why your middle name is William, which I’m more than happy to do. You’ll find though as you get older that your mom is a bit of a procrastinator, so it took a handful of times of your dad asking if I’d done the letter yet to actually get it done. You’re due exactly one month from today, so I figured I should probably get cracking. The way you’re moving about in my belly, who knows when you intend on making your appearance!

I imagine that people are going to think your middle name is William because your dad’s FIRST name is William (although he goes by Bill). That’s actually a complete coincidence, albeit a nice one.

You see, MY grandpa’s name, was William and like your dad – he also went by Bill. He passed away when I was just 11 years old, but I spent A LOT of time with him in those 11 years. Growing up it seemed like I was always at grandma and grandpa’s house and while I loved them both dearly, in those younger years, it seemed like I spent the most time with grandpa.

grandpaHe taught me how to read at an early age using the newspaper and by thinking up different word games – he did so well teaching me in fact, that I skipped kindergarten! We also watched a lot of Cubs games – grandpa LOVED the Cubs. He also taught me how to play cribbage – you don’t know what that is yet, but when you’re old enough we’ll teach you. It didn’t much matter what grandpa and I were doing though, I just wanted to be around him.

Maybe the most important thing grandpa taught me though was the importance of second chances, which wasn’t a lesson I really understood when I was younger – but I certainly do now.

Grandpa and grandma had seven kids and while most of them were younger, grandpa wasn’t around much. But when I was born, something in him changed. It was like somehow he recognized he had another shot and if a person could right their wrongs by fiercely loving another person – that’s exactly what he was going to do.

Those first 11 years of my life and the last 11 of his – he was different. He laughed more, he talked more and maybe it’s my imagination – but I feel like he loved more. I certainly know he loved me. Grandpa wasn’t perfect, nobody is – but when you love someone as much as I loved grandpa, you only see the good.

Grandpa passed away in January 1993 and grandma passed away in February 2011, just a couple of weeks after I’d met your dad. She was pretty sick and kind of in and out of it, but someone told her while she was in the hospital that I’d met someone who I liked very much and that his name was Bill. And at the sound of that name, she smiled. I have a feeling that somehow grandma knew that day that I would marry your dad, even though we wouldn’t get married for 2 ½ more years. So it only seems fitting that your middle name be the first name of the man who made her just as happy in her last moments as he did me in my first.

Love Your Mom,

Stephanie Marie Marsau

 

So what’s in a name anyway?  Well, for Stephanie and I, everything.  Through our son, we have chosen to honor two people who have had a great influence on our lives.  Even though they are not still with us here on Earth.  We know they are smiling up in heaven, knowing that this precious little boy will carry their names on for another generation.

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Matthew received a brand new Iowa State football helmet from another Matthew, new Iowa State head football coach Matt Campbell.

 

Matthew William Marsau has his whole life in front of him.  There are so many family and friends who will meet him and influence him and we are both so thankful for that, but sometimes we need to remember that the influence of those who are no longer with us can have a great influence too.  Thank you Matthew and William for being the people you were.  Your lives touched us deeply and we are forever better parents to our new son because of you.  You are missed dearly, but never forgotten.

 

Posted in Forgiveness, Friendship, God, Influence, Inspirational, Leaving a Legacy, Life Stories, Love, Mentoring, Parenting, Relationships, Remembering | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments