care more than some think is wise; risk more than some think is safe;
dream more than some think is practical; expect more than some think is possible

12.29.2010

O to cling...

Cling to the Mighty One, cling in thy grief
Cling to the Holy One, He gives relief
Cling to the Gracious One, cling in thy pain
Cling to the Faithful One, He will sustain

Cling to the crucified, Jesus the Lamb who died
Cling to the crucified, Jesus the King
Cling to the crucified, Jesus the Lamb who died
Cling to the crucified, Jesus the King

Cling to the Living One, cling in thy woe
Cling to the Loving One, through all below
Cling to the Pardoning One, He speaketh peace
Cling to the Healing One, anguish will cease

Cling to the crucified, Jesus the Lamb who died
Cling to the crucified, Jesus the King
Cling to the crucified, Jesus the Lamb who died
Cling to the crucified, Jesus the King

Cling to the Bleeding One, cling to His side
Cling to the Risen One, in Him abide
Cling to the Coming One, hope shall arise
Cling to the Reigning One, joy lights thine eyes

Cling to the crucified, Jesus the Lamb who died
Cling to the crucified, Jesus the King
Cling to the crucified, Jesus the Lamb who died
Cling to the crucified, Jesus the King










my prayer



12.25.2010

Breath. Run. Snow.

Today is a special day for me in many ways. Need I even mention why? Good. Cause I will anyway.

Today is a day that I love.
1 - Jesus was born, setting in motion the final phase of God's great predetermined planned for sinners to be reconciled to HImself for His ultimate glory, via Jesus' lifeblood being spilt out for sinners upon a cross of wood. I imagine, if the hay He was laid upon was in a cradle of sorts, that the cradle was wooden as well. From wood to wood. From birth to death to life, never to face death again.

2- My entire immediate family is here. Dad & Mom, Bub (Ben) & Brooke, & Mark. We laugh, we worship, we rejoice, we sing, we dance, we love, we eat, we run, we play, we are. We are the Sleepers and we are a very wonderful family. Praise the Lord for our family life.

3 - I am alive, although had I "died" 7 years ago, I would truly be alive having died to be faced to face with the Lord forever (which as Paul says is best), but to remain is good as well, for I am here for God's glory. Bt, seven years ago ... right about now I was adjusting to life with new lungs, about two hours fresh. I can't say enough to the Lord for how thankful I am to be alive, to experience life with friends, family, and to go abroad to meet Christ among the nations with my brothers and sisters and those who are not yet among the fold. Further, I wish I could say enough as well to my donor family. I do not know  who they are or where they are, but I love them with all that is within me, next to Christ. They are a family I belong to but that I know not, at least right now.

Lastly, to celebrate seven years, I was able to go and run with my family briefly today, a white Christmas! God is so good, so thoughtful of His creatures of dust.

7 year 2x lung-transplant snow day run. It was fun.

12.22.2010

Baggage


baggage&burdens

First, I don't think I have to argue that we - humans - all carry around tons and tons of baggage and burdens. We come from every walk of life - rich or poor, smart or dumb, talented or untalented, cool or awkward, haves or have nots, strong or weak, beautiful or ugly - anything and everything else and yet, despite our great diversity we all carry heaps of baggage and shoulder-breaking burdens.

Whether or not we show them, well, thats another matter. Some of us are honest enough to reveal them with semi-ease and moderate comfort, while others of us are scared what will happen if we do reveal them ... the potential rejection or ridicule ... it would just be too much to bear, again. If you need a reason to believe that we live in a broken, sin-cursed, death-defiled world just consider this fact!!! It's obvious.

The more I know people, the more I am convinced that we all carry burdens, but not just burdens, ones that are far too great for us. The more I read - books, blogs, emails, letters, news report (especially globally concerned reports) - the more I find myself in disbelief of the degree of pain that not only exists in this world, but which thrives in this world! It's frightening, if you let it be. The more life I live, the more I know from my own baggage, burdens, and pain that this is the curse of sin, its very outworking. I can smell that slithering serpent leaving his stench of death everywhere. I can hear the cries of broken hearts as he wreaks havoc the world over.

Yet, it is baggage and burdens that make us real. Without them we would be whop-sided emotionally. Some of you may say, "Boy, that would be nice!" There are times I would agree. But reality is we are made with reflections of the heart of God, and - although infinitely joyful - he is not only joyful. Thats not to say He is sad, but He has more emotions than just "happy." (Sorry thats not word well at all). It is the baggage that we lug around that keeps us grounded in reality, like spikes and sandbags holding a hot-air balloon tightly to the earth. In that sense, they are good for us.

Further, its the baggage and pains of life that make us grow the most. Make us mature the most. Reflect. Look back over your life and you will quickly testify that during the darkest of times, the dimmest of moments, the most difficult trails - these were the hours where you were stretched the most, almost but not quite beyond yourself, your limits. It is in the pain that we learn love, true love. Not the flippant kind, but deep, personal, heart-breaking & heart-binding love. The love of God. The love of God through His Bride too.

The danger of baggage and burdens is that we may seek to bear them ourselves. We are not meant to do that. This life, this world is too bad, too heavy, too much for us to bear alone. We are not lone wolves ... nor should we try to be. No one is getting any points for such attempts. God created us for relationships. First with Him, then with one another. Consider that God gave Adam a helper, Eve. He saw that none of the other created things were sufficient. If we bear up under the weight of burden alone, we loose sight of reality, and begin to be sucked into a world that revolves around only "me." It becomes a me-world. Our sights turn inward, we retreat to self. Its not healthy.

But we are indeed called to bear our burdens, just not alone. Consider James 1:2-4, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." We should expect trails, painful trials. But the above verses make my earlier point. The bad times equal the most growth, and if you are in Christ, its the trials which especially work Christ-likeness into your being! That is good news. As far as relations go among human beings, well it clear, we are meant for relationships. All types of them. Love relationships, friendships, familial relationships and so forth. Consider Paul's admonition in Galatians 6:2 "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." I think this includes sins of others as well. He states in Romans 15:1, "We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves."

Going back to being in relationship with God, first. To begin with, He deserves all our affections. Perfection demands, by its inherent nature, all admiration, affection, and love. Not cold admiration, but one that drives a person to action. Not lovey-dubby affection, but one that calls out the highest ambitions in one's soul causing him to pursue that in honor of Perfection (ie- God). And pure love, love that says, "By His grace, I will lay my life down for His name, if He calls me to."

In making our burdens known to others, life flows back where once it fully resided. What I mean is this, when we try to bear up under the weight of our life-baggage alone, we begin to die on the inside. I mean this literally. Bearing alone, we become isolated. In isolation, we find that we are slowly dying on the inside, not all at once but like a slow leak in a dam. Damn. That's right. It sucks. To the contrary, when we reveal our hurts and pains, we are able to suffer together, to live real life with each other, and eventually this leads to laughing. Sometimes this kind of laughter may seem a little twisted to outside on-lookers, but to those suffering together it is coping.

Take for example how my family and I made jokes about my needs for supplement oxygen after our Thanksgiving meal in 2003 before I had received my lung transplant. I said something to the effect, "O I ate so much, I am so full I can hardly breathe ... guess I am gonna go get my oxygen, plop down on the beanbag and sleep it all off." We laughed. Now, it certainly was not because I ate so much that I could not breathe, it was because my lungs were not working! But we still laughed at my statement. We were coping with a reality that was hard to bear up under. God is gracious. I received donor lungs on Christmas Day 2003. I am supremely healthy today. Nearly 7 years later.

Bearing with each other in the midst of burdens, and helping one another sort through the baggage of life also keeps us fresh, young, playful. If I am going through something, I become much more serious about life. If I remain that way, I remain too serious, forgetting - in some way - how to have fun, goof off, etc. Now, if my brother, who is aware of my struggle comes along side of me, to help me and walk through the fire with me, he can aid in helping me to develop a new perspective, a more light-hearted and hopeful perspective. In the midst of trials and after years and years of baggage we need a shift in perspective, one that puts Christ at the center of everything.

And ultimately, we must look to Christ, taking Proverbs 4:25 to heart, "Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you ... [on Christ]!"

end


12.20.2010

I want it to be said...

I want it to be said of me, some time down the road, during my life, "He was simple and conservative. Extras were wasted on him. A hat was for keeping the sun out of one's eyes, not a perch for a feathery flourish. A handkerchief was for blowing one's nose, not for monogramming. And a car was for driving period."

Among many other things, and more important things, I want to the above to be true of me. I think it reflects a life of simplicity, and a healthy detachment to things in this world.

12.17.2010

Odd isn't it?

Isn't it odd that when I feel most useless for the Lord He finds opportunities, stages to use me - a redeemed vessel of wrath - for His purposes, for His renown, fame and glory? I think it is odd!

Yet, even as I write this I find over the past few opportunities for sharing/speaking I have never deemed myself in a "good place" spiritually. The last two years - years in which God has placed numerous sharing engagements along my path - during those 2 years, I have not felt "good" spiritually. But He did not promise that I would feel good. But, I long to feel good. Maybe someday, maybe soon.

Then perhaps I should not be surprised at my lack of feeling "good" ... whatever that means (thus the quotes), and God giving opportunity for me to share Him. It drives me to my knees, to His Word - the Promise, to my Savior.

I can only fall back into those great big arms of grace and say, "Here I am, [use] me!"

............

But He is a God of oddities, read 1 Corinthians 1! Thanks the Lord for the promises of 2 Corinthians 12!

Lastly, I leave with this...

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!

IN this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Happy Advent.
Emmanuel is come!

12.15.2010

Put In Place

I was put in my place recently. My passion gave way and exposed my pride, and the stark revelation led to a sinking & sickening feeling of, "How many times have people felt this same way?" ... Which in some way might be pride as well.

So, I got to sharing some of my thoughts on Christian missions, which exist because Christ Jesus is not known in all the world - YET! He does not receive worship from all those He has called to be in relationship with Him. My opinions concerning missions are just that - opinions - not facts ... and although I don't like it, they are not necessarily right either. Furthermore, the actual out-working of missions can have numerous facets and variations to answering the "How?"

So, when I blurted out, "MISSIONS IS .... " followed by my adamant declaration thereof, well basically I alienated myself from the group I was hanging out with. But hey, I had made my point, and that was all that had mattered! I let them all know how much I know about missions! I totally impressed them with my grasp of such a complex subject! ... Not so much.

On the contrary, I found the true nature of the opinions had been revealed ... stemming from my on pride. One of the folks I was with commented on my statements and it hit me, like a baseball bat to the side of my face .... It doesn't hurt so much here or here, but right here. The statement was simple, truthful, and gentle, "All I know is I have lots to learn and when I think about missions I am humbled before God." BAM! Death blow.

I left the restaurant thinking, "How many times have people felt this same way?" I felt so much I took delight (pride) in had just crumpled before me, revealing a skeleton of conceitedness. I left with questions for God, with confession to God. That one statement had fleshed out so much heart searching and confession, and revealed some sickening degree of pride within my being. Not cool.

Anyway, this is a story of redemption, because as I made my way back to this person a week later, the response was one of over-flowing grace and humility. The body of Christ is indeed a glorious community!

12.13.2010

Homemade Aquaponic System

I have just finished the construction of a mini and homemade aquaponic system in my basement, and sowed seeds today (basil, cilantro, and peppers)!!! Before much more, let's break it down...

AQUAPONICS = Aquaculture + Hydroponics
(see pictures at bottom for a sample system)
  • Aquaculture = producing aquatic life forms (primarily fish, but not limited to them) in a man-made artificial system, in which some or all environmental factors are regulated and controlled
  • Hydroponics = producing horticultural crops in soilless (organic soil) conditions, being dependent upon mineral solutions for maintaining adequate plant nutrition for proper growth, development, and fruit production
That is each of these two facets of agriculture in a simplistic fashion. Aquaculture and hydroponics are made for each other. As a Christ-follower, I cannot but recognize God's divine and majestic design of what we know as the sciences! The science of agriculture has the design of God's handiwork written all over it! Its genius! For time sake, let's just consider these two. Plant require the element nitrogen (N) for proper growth and development, along with phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) as well as a whole host of other in very specific chemical forms. I believe it fair to say that of all of the nutrients plants require, N is by far the most important. Then just consider that the primary waste product from fish respiration and waste matter is NITROGEN. This N is in forms that plants may or may not be able to utilize, but in a process called nitrification, most N in made available for the plants to consume. ( Again, this is a very, very fast and simple explanation of all this.)

 So, is it by mistake that fish poop N and plants utilize it for growth, and that man has "discovered" this partnership? NO! For one, this has been around for centuries and centuries (thank you my Chinese friends and brothers!) Also, another resounding NO, because in God's perfect design of His creation, He put in place perfectly integrating biological systems! Don't miss that, it is so majestic! His design is unmistakable! 

Moving on.

My system is small and compact, purposefully. It is approximately a 50 gallons system in all. The fish production tank is 50 gallons, and I have two 8 gallon plant grow beds. The whole system is self-contained in that it is all sitting on a plastic pallet, with casters on it ... so its mobile too! I designed it with flexibility in mind, so I have no glued PVC parts, but instead have used polypipe and hose clamps to plumb everything. I have a 210 gph (gallons per hour) pump at 1' head, and my system has about 1.5ft head, so I am pumping just under 210 gph. My grow beds, for the plants, are an ebb-and-flow system, utilizing bell siphons to manage the ebbing and the flowing. Currently, the 8 gal grow beds are filling up in about 11-12 minutes and draining in about 4 minutes. The whole thing is continuously recirculating, so the water is always moving, passing through the grow bed media (pea gravel, currently), the future plant roots and filtration is occurring in those manners. 

Since I have hardly even begun to grow anything and don't have any fish in my system, this is all I am going to share for now, because their is not much more. I cannot grow tilapia - as is the goal - because the water temp is way too low - a cold 56 degrees F!!! I had a friend suggest trout, which I am going to give my hand at, but my limited knowledge of trout make me a bit weary. And I know they are much more demanding than tilapia when it comes to water quality, and I don't know that this little system will provide them with the high quality water they require. We shall see though!

Pictures and video follow!

The beginning ... a 50 gallon tub on a plastic pallet.

This is basically finished minus the grow beds. I built the frame for the tub, so it would not give out under the force of the water, and the grow beds are supported off to the side, so that they drain immediately back into the fish tank.

Thats it from the front, in its final location (at least while its winter), next to the window.
COME ON SUN LIGHT!!!

The siphon doing what it does, siphoning!

The following is a short video of the bell siphon and a quick glimpse of it working.



video

I hope you have enjoyed this, and as things progress I plan on posting updates.



12.05.2010

Bad Enough

The thought, "When its bad enough, you believe," has rooted itself in my mind and heart today. I will spare the details, but basically it comes from observing blatant sin being ramped in my heart, mind, and life. This is a scary thing. What is even scarier is when you find yourself callused to recognizing sin. And that is all that happens. You recognize it, and thats it, noting more. Not throwing yourself at the foot of a holy God seeking for Him to renew your heart, to restore unto you the joy of salvation, beseeching Him not to take His Spirit from you. Nothing. Simply a lazy and cold acknowledgement and then ....


This is how I have been lately, and honestly its terrifying. It is not a place to find yourself. Its a dangerous place and a dark place. Its a place, as Spurgeon describes it, "Can we, when we are reminded of our sins, and their exceeding sinfulness, remain stolid and stubborn? ... May we never take a dry-eyed look at sin, lest ere long we have a tongue parched in the flames of hell. ... To think that we have offended so kind and good a Lord is more than sufficient reason for being constant weepers. Lord, smite our rocky hearts, and make the waters flow!" That is terrifying.


What gets me, is that I know all the answers. I know the Bible, I know the words of Christ, the greatness of sin and its consequences, the warnings in Scripture to the believer who treads down the path of sin. I know 2 Peter 1 and 1st John. I know Christ's own words about the fruitful and fruitless tree, of the freshwater spring and saltwater springs! But, victory seems so far away. It is like a distant dream mocking me, hissing in laughter with each failed attempt to walk in righteousness.


I whole-heartedly agree with Henry as he says, "May we be led to consider sin as the cause of all our calamities..." And "so it must be with our sins - they are all doomed, not one must be preserved. Our darling sin must die. Spare it not for its much crying. Strike, though it be as dear as Isaac. Strike, for God struck at sin when it was laid upon His own Son. With stern unflinching purpose must you condemn to death that sin which was once the idol of your heart. Do you ask how you are to accomplish this? JESUS WILL BE YOUR POWER. You have grace to overcome sin given in the covenant of grace; you have strength to win the victory in the crusade against inward lusts, because CHRIST JESUS has promised to be with you even unto the end. If you would triumph over darkness, set yourself in the presence of the Sun of Righteousness. There is no place so well adapted for the discovery of sin, and recovery from its power and guilt, as the immediate presence of God" (Sprugeon).


As Henry finishes stating,"... and under trials exercise submission, repentance, faith, and prayer, with the hop of promised deliverance through God's mercy." ... O, if you could only know how deeply I long for this to be true, if you could only know how willing I am to die if only to receive this, if to experience a true, long lasting penitent heart and victory over the inward lusts!!!


As things stand now, my heart rings true with King David's words, "When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night, Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer."


How I long to truthfully say with him, "How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute inquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit! ... I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, 'I will confess my transgression tot he LORD,' and You forgave the guilt of my sin!" (Ps 32:1-5)


I guess I am left to confront the reality of God's truth. He says, "Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature he will reap destruction. The one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life." (Gal 6:7-8)


So then, back to my first statement, "When its bad enough, I believe." This thought has been a good thought all day. There are glimmers of hope in the length of this statement. I do believe. And I do thrust that Christ is my only answer! O that I will trust Him!


O Christ, come to me and renew within me a right spirit! Clean my heart, entirely! Make me steadfast, in my spirit, and in all my ways! Spirit come and reside and don't leave me! Make your joy complete in me, the joy of salvation, and thus make me willing to obey in complete submission!