Monday, March 28, 2011

poor, black, and fat

Before I share with you what I am getting ready to...don't over think this. These are simply reflections. I embrace it all, for it is my journey with God. It began last week when someone interviewing me for a school project asked me to identify the things that made me who I am today growing up. Three quickly came to mind. First, I grew up poor. I'm not going to break out "when I was a kid" speeches (I've used those all on my boys). Simply I remember Christmasses with one present under the tree. We had our electricity and gas and whatever shut off because we couldn't pay the bills. I went years with only one pair of pants. People from our church gave us food. I don't ever remember being bitter about this or caring too much about it. We had family and Jesus and I don't think we ever lacked for anything. I think this has taught me that I can live with or without. It is my reality. I don't worry about money or future. It can't get worse than I've already lived...and I was happy growing up. Second, I was black. This is not to make light of all of my african american friends (my friend Kevin says, "I'm from the 80's I'm black!), it's just that I grew up in an inner city school in Indianapolis that was well over 90% black. That means that I grew up black. If you knew me in 1982-83 at Arlington High School, you would either call me "REV" (everyone knew i was going to be a preacher) or "TYRONE" (my friend, Stephen told me I needed a black name, so he called me Tyrone and it stuck). I listened to Grand Master Flash, Sugar Hill Gang, Debarge and Michael Jackson on WTLC 105. If you don't know these artists...well. This experience has helped me in many formative ways. I was a minority in Jr. High and High School..that gives me a small insight into what minorities go through (I mean small insight). Also, I grew up with no prejudice. I know people don't believe this when I tell them, but I have absolutely no racial prejudice in my body. I just don't. Somehow God allowed me to have this upbringing. Finally, I was fat (I know there is probably a politically correct way to say this better...but oh well). I mean I was fat. Way overweght (as was my whole family - excepting my little brother). I became the outgoing, big personality type to compensate for how much i hated how I looked. Still people made fun of me and I dealt with that. Before marrying Sara, I lost about 65 pounds (in between Freshman and Sophomore years at college) and I've pretty much kept it off - though my wife will tell you that I still think I'm fat and struggle with that part of my self-esteem more than anything else. It's still a journey. Anyway, because of this I have a heart for those who are made fun of and ostracized by others because of how they look. Well, that was pretty heavy stuff huh? Thanks for being my's a lot cheaper this way :-)

Monday, March 21, 2011


Well, if you weren't at church here at Eastview yesterday, you might start hearing a word you're unfamiliar with. The reason is that I made up a word to describe what God is doing around here (you also may hear about an ugly monkey...go look at the video!) these days. In Acts 3, the people who witnessed the miraculous healing were filled with wonder and amazement, in Acts two (vs. 43) the early church is described as "everyone was filled with awe". When God moves in his community of faith the church, the people who make up the church should be filled with awe, wonder and amazement at all God is doing.

The word cramazing comes from a conversation I had in the staff area at church as Nicki was telling me another God story. I said "That is "crazy-amazing". We pushed the two words together and we have cramazing. That's what I think of my God and the church he is working in right now. We are experiencing some cramazing things. Here are a few of them.

Cramazing growth. Even though we were off in attendance yesterday because of spring break, we were still up 500 for the same week last year.

Cramazing giving. We are experiencing a record year for giving this year as a church, but more cramazing is the number of people participating in this giving. We are learning to take greater steps of faith by giving.

Cramazing facebook. I'm not a facebook guy, but several started asking me last night, "what is cramazing?" because so many Eastview people posted using this word. I'm cramazed at how this stuff spreads.

Cramazing preaching. We begin our third annual preaching conference tonight. Daniel Overdorf, preaching professor at Johnson Bible College is our main speaker, we have over 55 registered representing 18 churches from at least four states...more are calling today wanting to register. This is a great time of preachers encouraging preachers and their preaching. If you want to just hear some good sermons over the next few days, you're welcome to show up at Eastview tonight from 6:00-8:00 and tomorrow from 8:30 a.m.- 2:00 p.m. ish.

Cramazing how time flies. It's only four more Sundays until Easter (April 24th). It's Spring and what seemed so far away is quickly approaching. Praying for God to do miraculous things on resurrection Sunday. Bring a friend.

Cramazing healing. Yesterday we ended our service with the elders annointing people and praying over them (James 5 - like). Hundreds responded. Very emotional. Very humbling. Quite cramazing.

Monday, March 14, 2011

microphone in three days

A microphone on a stage means that something is going to be said (or sung) to communicate with a large number of people who can't hear you in your normal voice. When I walked into the Heartland Community College Cafe' for a fundraiser I had volunteered for, a single mic on a stand on a well lit stage marked the place where I would soon speak and it was the microphone that divided up my three speaking events this past weekend.

On Friday night, I was one of six amateur "comedians" slated to help raise money for the Challenger Learning Center. People ask me if it makes me nervous ...YES! It is much easier to preach and say something occasionally that might be considered funny than to stand in front of people who are expecting you to be funny for 8-10 minutes straight. I really have tried to use my sense of humor to hang out with people that I normally wouldn't come into contact with otherwise. Just trying to be a little salt and a little light in this world....and be funny. By some grace of God I won the critics award (a panel of judges decided the winner). Hopefully, I represented my Lord and my church well.

On Saturday morning, I was at church to kick off our all church prayer and fasting event with a 1/2 hour prayer time. Several hundred participated (many didn't sign up), and about 150 were able to make it for the Saturday prayer. I was really encouraged and as I knelt on the stage in the auditorium with a microphone leading our occurred to me how different the setting was from the one I was in the night before. Not trying to make people laugh, but tryhing to direct our thoughts to God. Not in front of complete strangers with an open bar, but in front of family members with an open heart.

On Sunday morning, I was preaching in two services with my usual lapel microphone and the message was different still. A sermon on the Holy Spirit and how he worked miraculously in the lives of the first believers to give them words. I was reminded as I preached (very much more aware than usual) that the words coming from my mouth were powered by the Holy Spirit. So, not my trying to be funny words, or leading in prayer words, but words from the Word of God that the Holy Spirit somehow speaks through even me. Which microphone would I rather be behind? If you know me, you know the answer is Sunday preaching. But somehow, I hope the other mics were not a complete waste of God's time.

Monday, March 7, 2011

worried about fasting

Well, this weekend our church is joining for a twenty four hour prayer and fasting time (although as I mentioned with the time's only 23 hours:-). We have almost 150 signed up and we'll meet in the auditorium at 9:00 a.m. for a half hour to kick it all off. Many have wondered outloud about fasting. Here are some of the questions and my responses. Even if you didn't sign up, you can still join us...just show up!

1. why fast?
Fasting in the Bible is done for many reasons, but in my mind they narrow down to three main things: repentance (telling God you're sorry for a specific sin and denying physical pleasure as you do), seeking God's guidance (focusing on the spiritual instead of physical), and simply to intensify your awareness of your spiritual nature (don't live on bread, but by every word from God). J.K. recommends the following examples for reading : Deut. 9:9, Ezra 10:6, Esther 4:16, Daniel 1:12, Matthew 6:16-18, Acts 13:2.
2. what if I can't medically go without food?
That's cool, although fasting in the Bible has to do with food and drink (although sex is also mentioned - see I Corinthians 7:1-3), you can deny yourself any pleasure or convenience in order to focus on the spiritual part of your being. You can give up t.v. for a day or evening (good suggestion, you'd be surprised how much time you spend watching t.v.). You can give up coffee, or your favorite beverage. You can give up red meat or something else. You can give up the computer (or video games, or movies). You can give up texting, iphone, etc... Literally anything you can sacrifice in order to focus on God.
3. what happens when you fast?
Well, it's not a formula, so often you just pray a lot and are hungry. But most of the times I fast, I sense a heightened awareness of God's presence (not because He is more present, but because I am more present to Him...less distracted). Also, if you fast for three or four days, you get a real clarity in your praying that isn't often present normally. Fasting does not make you more spiritual, but it is a practical way of denying yourself and focusing on God.
4. why pray as a church?
Because, when the community of faith seeks God's face in the same direction, he will often move us all in the same direction by His spirit of unity. We will ask him to help us grow in our faith, open up our eyes to see those whom we can love, and for direction in world-wide evangelism.

the bottom line is just try it and see what God does. We know Jesus fasted and prayed, and so did the early church along with men and women of God all throughout history. So they must know something. Don't worry about it. Don't overthink it. Just do it.