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Boots on the ground

Boots on the ground

Recently, I attended the training for the Oklahoma Disaster Relief volunteer program in Bixby. The training is a continuation of my desire to be an endorsed chaplain through the North American Mission Board and the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. I felt the calling to become a chaplain about a year ago.

I was driving home from work one evening and noticed a really bad car accident. I had an overwhelming desire to just be there and support everyone involved. The medical personnel, police and fire and the victims. I’m not an expert in any of those fields of service, but I am a Christian with a heart for people; especially those affected by disaster.

In this particular instance, I knew there was no way that I would be allowed to approach the scene of the accident, for security reasons and my own safety. Disheartened, I drove home.

The Lord has done some amazing things in my life in the year since. To Him be the glory. I completed my training for the chaplaincy program. One of the requirements in order to be an endorsed chaplain is to attend Disaster Relief training. I knew the Oklahoma DR crew was a big deal. I’ve heard their name and accomplishments come up before. I did not expect to witness the amount of passion and dedication that pours out of each member.

The servitude and pride in being a DR volunteer is infectious. Throughout the day of training I heard stories of relief efforts and salvation and redemption. Of how it didn’t matter how small or large your assistance was, it mattered. It mattered to the victims of disasters. It mattered to the state. It mattered to the church. Most of all, it mattered to the glory of Almighty God.

There was a point in our orientation that Sam Porter, state director of Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief, spoke from his heart “I truly believe there is not a disaster in the world that the Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief organization cannot respond to.”

My hair stood on end. Everyone in the room gave their “amens” and nods and fists in the air with cheer. I experienced the bond, camaraderie and historical legacy. It was clear that The Spirit’s presence filled the room as if the Father was saying “This. This is me. These gifts, strengths, hearts filled with love to serve people. This is my active glory manifested. This is not fleeting. It’s not a fad. It’s not a hobby. It’s a lifestyle. I Am here.”

As Christians we are called to do more than extensive training for a stronger spiritual relationship and life of servitude. We are called to be active. To acquire and utilize that warrior mentality. James 1:22-25:

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”

I see the volunteers of Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief and bear witness to not just prepared workers but also doers of The Word. That legacy, that proactive sense of purpose is God’s work. Mr. Porter used the term “boots on the ground” to describe the volunteers on a disaster site. I look forward to being part of the younger generation of warriors both in the DR community, as a chaplain and Christian for His glory. I pray you continue to hunger for Him.

I went camping this past weekend

I went camping this past weekend

This past weekend several of my friends, my sister and I went camping in Palo Duro State Park near Amarillo, Texas.

Camping in my family goes all the way back to as far as I can remember. Whether it was with friends from church, caravans of relatives or just our immediate family, whichever way, it was a big part of life growing up.

At least once a year we would venture to enjoy the outdoors. That being said, there are specific characteristics of camping that I consider an absolute “must.”

Good camping food, exploring/hiking, a percolator (coffee or hot chocolate), a good-size fire, and roasting marshmallows (even though I don’t like them). The memories of whittling sticks with pocketknives, fishing with my Dad and brother and seeing my mom filled with joy on a mission to relax and enjoy family plague my memories with the connection and value of family.

This one time, our cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents all met up to camp. We set up camp just before sunset and enjoyed a meal and fellowship. Out of nowhere, something small and grey glided just over the top of my aunt’s head. Immediately, both of my grandparents got out of their lawn chairs and started heading toward their camper “well, ya’ll have a good one.” The rest of us searched for the creature that attempted to take my aunt’s head off.

As it swooped down a second time we finally saw that it was a flying squirrel. You would have thought Godzilla had just made it to shore for yet another bad movie of destruction and out of sync dialogue. People were diving under tables, running for their cars, grabbing logs out of the fire and waving them above their heads in defense, screams of chaos and children crying for their mommies.

Granted I was only like 7 years old, and my imagination was already highly developed. But I’m sure it was something close to that description. Even though we all survived, for years it was something we laughed about. Memories created, all sitting around the campfire at night.

A few weeks before our Palo Duro trip, my friends and I coordinated travel plans, food, hiking trails, and camp setup, covering all the areas of strategy needed to maximize our necessities and enjoyment. As the days grew closer and anticipation swelled in each of us, we learned of some disheartening news. A burn ban was in effect.

No campfire! No roasting marshmallows! The warmth and excitement for the evenings, ruined. We continued on with our plans disputes the heartache. And I’m glad we did.

No fire, a very late night arrival, a forced relocation of our already-established camp site, even an extremely bitter cold first night could not dampen our experience. I’m sure we all had at least some expectations going into the camping weekend. Even if they weren’t met, we made the most of it and had a blast in the process.

Two things I’ve learned from this experience. One, I have really high-quality, godly friends who are able to seek the positive things in situations and laugh off the downsides.

Secondly, this exact equation applies to my relationship with Christ. I am capable of placing boundaries based on my previous experiences, when He has greater things in mind. I feel that I need to have certain things in place in order to glorify God. The right music, specific friends, accurate timing. Recently, “time” has been my biggest prerequisite. If it doesn’t fit into my “liking” then I don’t have time. Thank the Lord for His grace even when things don’t match up to my preferences. He restores joy, even in my selfish and narrow minded concepts.

I pray you will continue to hunger for Him.

Deliver us from the nowhere, Father

Deliver us from the nowhere, Father

It was for this reason that he (Brother Lawrence) carefully avoided answering those curious questions that lead nowhere and that serve only to burden the spirit and dry up the heart.”

In 2016, the Lord looked down upon me in grace; and I worship Him. As I look back, I am filled with inexplicable joy at how much He has guided my life and taught me so many things. My love to serve and desire to form deep and meaningful relationships with everyone I come in contact with is as if He has continued to rewrite and mature my DNA. My desire to worship and grow in Scripture has never been more evident than now. The Lord has lit a spark in my very being to soak up and bask in His majesty all the time.

The new year is always accompanied by great expectations. What we want, when we want it, how it is to be served to us, and how much it will be to our benefit. One of the greatest lessons I have learned this year, is profoundly exemplified in a book that my brother in Christ, Karl, gave me called The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.

At its core, the practice of the presence of God is a simple and yet paramount-soulful exercise of never leaving the presence of the Almighty. Although I didn’t agree with everything in the book, there were several documented experiences too real to ignore.

Practicing the presence of God is the continual conversation and awareness of the Lord. When you first wake up, enter with Him in prayer. When getting dressed and brushing your teeth, walking down the hall to your front door to leave for work, commune with the Eternal One. Planning out your day, working on your computer, walking to the kitchen/ break area for a cup of coffee, delight in His divine glory. His design is perfect and vast. His love overflowing. Open the safeguards of your soul, and let Him reign. He is not temporary and limited to our acknowledgements. He doesn’t toss in and about, then diminish like a breeze over a field of grass. He is not passing but pressing. Step into His love that is always and has always been around you, even before you were crafted by Him for purpose.

In Brother Lawrence’s series of letters exchanged to one of his fellow brothers in Christ, he speaks of the snares and pitfalls of the enemy. One in particular stuck out to me, “…the curious questions that lead to nowhere…”

            “If God is all-knowing, why did he allow sin to enter?”

            “Why does God harden hearts?”

            “Does the elect negate free-will?”

            “Why did God bless others to be wealthy, only to glorify themselves?”

            “Why does He take life?”

Brother Lawrence labels these types of “curious questions” as having no value. Now, we are human. The Lord has designed us with wonder and curiosity. We want to know more about our Everlasting Creator. Such a desire is natural and worshipful. But two things you must understand:

  1. The answers, or lack thereof, has no bearing on who God is in your life. Security of the believer is not affected by whether these questions are answered or not.
  2. It is adultery to be completely consumed by the need for truth in these answers.

This is what Brother Lawrence speaks of and the point I urge you to consider. If curiosity evolves into focus, if you for one second slip into a mindset that you must know the answers, if you step away from the presence of God in order to satisfy an itch you can’t scratch, you are declaring that the One Who Sees is not enough – that His sacrifice and grace of purification is saddled on convenience. You are embracing a concept of understanding, over the God Who Is. You are nowhere.

We are all guilty of this act of sin, in one form or another. Let 2017 be a year of love and worship. Of acknowledging who God is and not be distracted by the nowhere. I pray you continue to hunger for Him.

Movie Review: Star Wars saga; Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Movie Review: Star Wars saga; Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

“Save the Rebellion! Save the dream!”

A phrase cried out by one of the characters in the newest addition to the Star Wars saga; Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

The phrase accurately dictates how all of the character’s lives revolve around a hope. A hope that someday, the entire galaxy will be free of the Empire’s oppression, dictatorship, death and most of all, fear. Rogue One is a cinematic experience told much like a historical/military-war movie. The film wastes no time in setting the tone.

The plot (mild spoilers)

Through the life of Jyn Erso, we are taken on a journey deeper into the heart of both the Rebellion (good guys) and the galactic Empire (bad guys). In the opening scene, we see a young Jyn flee her home as her mother is killed and her father is taken by the Empire. Her father, an engineer, is acquired for his skills in order to build a weapon – a weapon powerful enough to destroy entire planets. Fast-forward approximately 15 years, and the story unfolds. Jyn joins the Rebellion fight in order to find the truth about the new weapon and how exactly her father is involved. A small band of rebel fighters, including Jyn, are sent on several stealth-missions to further the “cause” and to help give the Rebellion a fighting chance.

Positive elements 

It’s the story of an underdog. The few fighting an enemy that is pure evil and possesses immeasurable numbers and strength.

A story of faith that as long as hope endures, evil will fall. Sacrifice, love and loss seep out of each character as it binds each of them to press on. Even though the story has such a heavy topic, moments of comic relief are sprinkled throughout in typical Star Wars fashion. This time it’s a reprogrammed Imperial droid named K-2SO and his very-dry sense of humor.

Negative elements 

Violence. It is, as previously mentioned, a war-type movie. Death and loss of loved ones is a common element in the story’s development.

The characters never developed organically. Many times the characters emotion seamed forced (no pun intended) and were not allowed time to process anything. Mirroring pawns moving along a board, rather than people experiencing the life of Imperial occupied planets.

Spiritual content 

Many spiritual correlations can be made with “the Force”. Phrases like “…the Force willed it” are used to describe the ancient religion and lifestyle of the Jedi. In the time period that Rogue One takes place, the Jedi order is all but non-existent. Several characters grow to believe that the hope they have is coupled with the good side of the Force. That life endures because of the appreciation and sacrifice of life.

Inflicting fear and destruction leads to temporary power and strength and certain internal self-destruction.


A very enjoyable film experience, especially for fans of the series. I’ve seen the movie with friends who had never seen the other movies in the series (yes, they do exist), and they enjoyed it. It is, as titled, “A Star Wars Story.” It could very well survive outside of the Star Wars mythos if need be.

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for anyone under the age of 8-10 years old because of the violence.

For anyone debating on seeing the film altogether, I would rate it high amongst the other films in the series.


7.0 (out of a 10-point rating)

Commit Yourself to A Faithful Creator

Commit Yourself to A Faithful Creator

Recently I read a publication of a voter’s guide reviewing Oklahoma’s “State Questions.” I should make clear before continuing any further: this is not in any way an opinion on whether you should have voted “yes” or “no” on any of the state questions but simply an observation that stimmed from the voter’s guide. One of the state questions was in regard to allocating state funds for ANY religious objects promoting a religion (Ten Commandments monument on the state capitol property).

It’s no secret that in today’s American culture, Christianity is not the popular form of living. Pause for a moment and think about that statement. Following Christ is not popular. More to the point, it is no longer popular. Take a look back into the good ol’ days and what do you see? Thirty, even 45 years ago, being a Christian was culturally popular. A massive amount of the populace claimed publically that their household were indeed a Christian family.

In the “good ol’ days” being a Christian opened up many opportunities, both socially and economically. Want to be part of the “in-crowd”? Talk about the pastor or church on Sunday. It was requested from many social clubs to list which church you attended on their application/interview. If the local highbrow cigar lounge or country club were adding new members, you had better note your availability on Sunday as: afternoon or evening only, if you wanted to join. Political and non-profit organizations would more commonly schedule their events on Friday night. Never on Saturday for fear of attendees leaving early because of church in the morning.

1 Peter 4:12-19 says, Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.  If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.  If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?  And, ‘If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner? ’So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”

Christianity is no longer the popular way of life, praise God! Don’t be, therefore, surprised when you are tested. Rejoice at the approaching-joyful glory of God! When His monuments etched with scripture are torn down and no longer allowed to be “set in stone” for all to see. When the government is no longer “pro-Christianity” as our forefathers were, commit yourselves to your faithful Creator! But most of all, I refer you back to verse 16 – “…do not be ashamed, but praise God…”

Brothers and sisters, if there was one thing that might be considered the polar opposite of the Gospel, it is shame. Nonverbally, or even verbally cowering away from what our Father has done, crushes the testimony of God’s grace in your redeemed life. Peter tells us in that passage that there is a joy in suffering for Christ. That you are blessed, not shamed. I pray you continue to hunger for Him.