#becausehelivesican Make It Personal

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So I was driving the kids to school today and had a great time with the change of my morning routine.  It was a great time to practice what I believe and turn a change of routine into something relationally impactful, since the kids usually track with Mommy most of the time.  We were playing fun music and on time, which is another personal time management best :).  On the way, I took the circle downtown, and in the midst of the change, my autopilot self took the wheel and I took the wrong direction as if I were heading to Oakwood. When my real mind took charge, I said, “Oh No!” really loud.  Then we turned it into a fun game… guess what Dad forgot this time.  Katie was the quickest and realized we were on a little different track, and Noah shortly followed as he saw the ducks at the park.  No worries, we made a small adjustment and headed to school, thankfully making it on time.  Score one for Dad, even with the small adventure.

My thought was, how does this relate to our celebration this Easter Weekend?  Do I tell myself to seize the moment and then go into autopilot instead?  So many times, we can intentionally seize the moment and yet, our routine nature gets the best of us.  Holidays are great for the very fact that they have a sense of tradition mixed with family memories all in one moment.  I think that is the same for Easter every year.  We need the tradition of remembering and celebration of the resurrection that Easter brings, but there is also this internal fight to keep the heart in check.  The ole self check up with Jesus is good around this time.  It’s kind of like this…  “Hey Jesus, since you are resurrected again, are we cool?”  Why the internal struggle anyway? It think it is because when we truly follow Christ, he makes it personal.  This religious tradition that the world sees millions to billions of Christians participate in and flesh out in various denominations is actually an expression of a Holy God not giving up on the relationship that he started with Humanity at the beginning of creation.

That’s why I have personally been compelled to focus on Galatians 2:20 for the past few weeks.

“20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  “

Paul saw this same struggle with tradition and relationship on his own personal journey.  Being a man brought up in the tradition of Jewish Law, he was in the Passover routine every Easter.  He also had the Spiritual Wisdom to understand that most people struggled with this very tension.  That is why the axis of Galatians, and possibly Paul’s life mantra had to be more than routine.  He had to personally be crucified with Christ and then find out what true resurrection living was all about.  Because Christ lives, we can live in the same power by faith.  We can look back on this journey to the Cross and say that HE LOVED ME.  We can call this Friday “good”  because HE GAVE HIMSELF FOR ME.
When we make the Easter Holiday personal, we can easily fill in the blank with this phrase:


BECAUSE HE LIVES I CAN ___________________________.  

Where do you need to be crucified with Christ?  How do you need to sense the love of Jesus this Easter?  How does it feel to remember that Jesus gave himself for YOU, personally.  Your sin, your quirks, your talents, your wrong turns, your personal human nature.

 Lets practice the presence of Christ this Easter Holiday by making it personal in the midst of the egg hunts, television specials, family fun, and time off.  By making it personal, we might find the joy of denying ourselves and truly living in a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.

Walk MS: San Antonio, Sat March 7 @ 9am

Walk MS: San Antonio – National MS Society.

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Laura was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis August of 2013, and I found that we had to make some drastic personal changes to battle the disease as a family.  Our family was shocked to learn about Ebby Isbill and her diagnosis this past December 2014.  Through this experience, we have seen God’s hand in different ways, met new people that need His love, and learned way more about auto-immune disease and nervous system details than we have ever imagined.  The MS walk is a great place to unite with our friends, bring awareness to Multiple Sclerosis, and link arms with Laura, Ebby and Caroline as they tackle this disease in their daily lives.

If you are led to team up with us for the MS walk, click on the link below!

Join Faith NB3 Team! 

Laredo Family Mission Trip

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We had a great weekend on the Family Mission Trip to Laredo as we Intentionally Engaged the Las Lomas Colonia with Pastor Mario Garcia.

The Vaquero Church Plant is well on it’s way.  Just 18 miles East of Laredo, we discovered 1000 households needing the love of Jesus Christ.  This country-like area is 30 miles from the border.  The roads leading to the location are dirt roads, and it is not uncommon to see Vaquero Peoples riding a horse down the way.  If you are in the area on Saturday afternoon, you might even witness a PARADE of Vaqueros following a truck cranking out Tejano Music.  These people need the love of Jesus and Mario Garcia is starting a strong church basing from a Men’s Bible Study held out at a ranch in the area.

Cabrito means GOAT!
Cabrito Means Goat!

We met this Bible Study group and shared Cabritos with them!  The guys meeting on Friday for Bible Study and an occasional cookout are then invited with their families to the Vaquero Church Sunday afternoon.

LaredoFamilyMissionTripJune2014
Family Mission Trip June 2014

Oakwood families set out on the journey Thursday night for a 3 hour trip to Laredo.  We spent Friday and Saturday painting the interior of the Worship Center, updating a shower, throwing a block party/carnival, cleaning the inside and outside, and decorating the place with a Vaquero Church theme.  We also had time to add walls inside a house of one of the Vaquero Church members that is being trained for ministry.

We came with Galatians 5 on our minds and hearts.  As we are looking at the FREEDOM we have this July in the great country of America, we realize there is a GREATER FREEDOM in CHRIST.

Galatians 5:13

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.

Easter – Journey to the Cross

 

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Easter Services 5 & 6:30pm Saturday, 8, 9:15, & 10:45am Sunday.  No Fusion 9:15am Bible Study.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way;  and the  Lord  has laid on him the iniquity of us all.. Isaiah 53:6

This verse was read to me as a VERY YOUNG CHILD by my mother.  She had an ABC’s Children’s book that took each letter of the alphabet and tied in a scripture.  “A” began with “ALL WE..” and the rest of the scripture followed.  As we journey to the Cross again this Easter Season, I have come back to remember the beginning of my personal relationship with Jesus.  Simply asking the question, “What is sin?” and talking about what Jesus did for us on the Cross led my mother and I to a little brown, mushroom stool where I knelt down and asked Jesus into my heart.  Now, 30 years later, I come back to the beginning again, and remember the powerful journey to the cross that Jesus took in order to take a sheep, like me and like you, that has gone astray.  He not only found me, but he saved me from the one who would like to steal, kill, and destroy my life.  He promised me abundant life when he took my iniquity, my sins, and fully paid for the world.  He is the GOOD SHEPHERD that laid down His life for us.  He KNOWS His sheep and His sheep KNOW Him.  On top of all that, that powerful sacrifice of the GOOD SHEPHERD is trumped by the powerful authority that He has to take His life up again.  The only one that has the authority to lay down a life and take it up again is Jesus Christ.  He is all about raising dead things to life.  I am thankful this season for what Jesus did for me.  I am also reminded about the powerful NEW LIFE we have in Christ.

Do you feel like you have gone astray?  Do you feel like your life is moving toward dead things?  Is there something that you need to give to Jesus, so that, in His authority, He can bring NEW LIFE?  As we Journey to the Cross this week, remember the powerful work Jesus has done in your life.  Remember that He is GOOD.  He wants us to have ABUNDANT LIFE, and where there is evidence of sickness, pain,  a broken relationship, or destructive behavior, there is a GOOD SHEPHERD ready to move us from our OWN WAY and lead us to THE WAY, THE TRUTH, and THE LIFE.

 

FUSION IE Series

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Fusion Oakwood Middle School has been tracking with the Church during the IE series.  Beginning in the Kickstart Room last week, we had the opportunity to worship with Travis Kiers and the new High School Worship Ministry Team.  It is amazing seeing High School Students INVEST in Middle School students in a positive way.  Our challenge to the students regarding INTERCEDE was to break up in School groups, write names of friends that need to hear about Jesus, and pray for them specifically.

Colossians 1 was our guide in prayer last week:

9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

What if we spent time each day, specifically INTERCEDING with that? 

My prayer is that this generation gains knowledge of God’s will, wisdom beyond their years, learns to please God and bear fruit for the Kingdom of God.  I also pray that students begin to strategically build relational bridges in order to bear the weight of the Gospel of Jesus.  Our teenagers have so much INFLUENCE at this time in their life for the Kingdom of God.  INTERCEDE with me for this generation!

MS is AWKWARD #MSAWARENESS

This is MS awareness month.  Although I am THE HUSBAND and do not physically struggle with MS, I have found that navigating these new waters of the Multiple Sclerosis disease has been a little AWKWARD.   I recognize AWKWARDNESS easily because my occupation as the Middle School Pastor at Oakwood Church in New Braunfels, TX unleashes many moments of AWKWARDNESS in my daily life.  (That is a completely different subject in itself)  However, this AWKWARDNESS is on a whole new playing field for our family.

WHAT IS MS?

MSWalkMarch1.2014Changes ARE AWKWARD – How are you doing on those New Year’s Resolutions?  If you feel like a failure, don’t worry, ANY CHANGE IS AWKWARD.  Imagine having to stick to those resolutions in order to survive!  That’s Intense!  One term we have discovered on this new journey in life is “New NORMAL.” In order to have a good quality of life, we have to insert the “new normal” phrase into the routine now.  In the first year of the onset of this disease Laura is daily taking four to five medications that include daily shots of Copaxone.  It is awkward enough to have to take meds for a sickness that ends up going away.  (Imagine having to commit to a daily regimen that doesn’t go away and has many side effects.)  She is committed to a Gluten Free Diet by a Dr. Ordered Wholistic Approach.  Fatigue gives way to daily, spontaneous bouts with energy and crashing in the midst of our daily routine (with two kids I might add!).  With new diet comes new groceries and an overwhelming feeling at HEB for Laura (so guess who goes to the grocery store now…do you see the guy in the picture above?  Do I look like I am an ALL NATURAL GLUTEN FREE DIET LOVER?).  Many big and small changes to our daily lives can be VERY AWKWARD.

 The Subject of MS is AWKWARD – DebbieDownerDebbie Downer seems to find the perfect moments at parties to put just enough of a spin on life to kill the life of the party.  This Silent Disease is something that we deal with, battle weird side effects, and hash out as a family on a daily basis, but don’t really want to bring up all the time and be that Debbie Downer.  We know that the SUBJECT IS AWKWARD.  We also realize that God allowed this to happen at a time that could be the BEST TIME to find a cure.  One of the first thoughts relayed to us during the diagnosis was that 20 years ago would have been way different than today in terms of Medical Advances.  The subject of a Disease without a cure, but not as detrimental or even broadcasted as much as cancer and other life altering diseases can be tough to explain.  We get the “oh, you’re not going to die, so you will be okay” statement and feel dismissed.  The fact that we must realize is that this AWKWARD SUBJECT that we live with now is still a FAMILY CRISIS and STRUGGLE as we move to a “New Normal.”  We need our friends and family to talk and encourage us, now more than ever.  (So, who wants to hear about some new Nervous System terms I have learned lately?…)

Misunderstandings in the MS GAME are AWKWARD –  Living out the AWKWARD CHANGES and talking about the AWKWARD SUBJECT leads to AWKWARD MISUNDERSTANDINGS.  Many things are happening on the inside and it is hard to translate it all in a five minute or cordial 30 second conversation.

For Example:

Person 1: “Hey, you really sound like a health nut.”

Laura wants to say:  “I have MS and I am committed to a wholistic approach to battling the demyelination of the outer sheath of my Spinal Cord.  If I don’t eat right, my nervous system gets all out of whack and I feel tingling and sometimes burning on the inside.”

Laura really says: “I am on a strict diet”

Person 2: “Man, you slept through the whole dinner!”

Laura wants to say: “I have MS and my immune system is working overtime because it is fighting it’s own body and now fighting tons of drugs I just put in me today, so on top of my normal work stress, normal sickness and allergies, family kid stress and periodic husband stress, my body is naturally crashing in order to keep me alive.”

Laura really says:  “I am just really tired from the day.”

Person 3: “Wow, you look great.”

Laura wants to say: “I know I do!” Then she wants to say, “Since the diagnosis of MS, I have been on medications that don’t make me feel very well.  I have been nauseated most nights and early mornings, then I have to eat new foods with this Gluten Free diet. Sometimes I go to events that don’t offer the foods I need, so I don’t eat at my normal time and then feel sick to my stomach and miss a meal.”

Laura really says: “Thank You” (with a smile.)

Needless to say, that is just the surface of the awkwardness of misunderstandings.  In the struggle and vocalization of MS, others might MISUNDERSTAND that we are super grateful for where God has placed us.  We are in the beautiful Hill Country of Texas.  We have two amazing kids.  We get to have our parents living nearby.  On top of all that, we see Jesus do amazing things in our community through the people at Oakwood Church, and we have felt that love on a whole new level since August.

Here is something that I have written in my digital journal about how my personal faith mixes with this personal family crisis.

Personal Faith:

I believe God is Healer.  His creation of mankind is GOOD.  All disease and other physical ailments come from the direct or indirect effects of the fall of man in the Garden of Eden.  Sin separates us from God, intervenes with the Good Creation, and ultimately reminds us that we are not yet living in the New Heavens and New Earth.

With that FAITH, I believe:

  1. God in His infinite power can heal Laura instantly if He chooses to.

  2. God will use this disease to grow Laura’s faith and mine as well (not to mention our family and extended family)

  3. God can also heal, redeem, and refine on a longer than “instant” timescale.

  4. I must TRUST in God, no matter what, and seek His Wisdom and understanding in this personal struggle as a Child of God, Husband, Father, and Ministry Leader.

If anyone would like to KNOW how I KNOW JESUS and talk about that amazing Journey as well, I am always willing to have a conversation.

Christmas Behind the Scenes 2

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Have you ever broken up with someone right before the holidays just to avoid buying them a gift? If you
said yes, you’re not alone. According to data analyzed from Facebook posts, two weeks before Christmas
is one of the most popular times of the year for couples to break up. On the opposite end of the spectrum,
however, is Christmas Day. Christmas Day is the least favorite day of the year for couples to break up (if
you’re thinking about dumping someone on Christmas Day, don’t be that guy/girl!)

Whether you’re breaking up or making up this Christmas (or glad you’re not dealing with either one), one
thing can be said for sure about the holiday season: it stirs up emotions. Maybe for you it’s excitement. What
am I going to get? Will the people I bought gifts for like what I’m giving them? Maybe it’s dread. Will my
cousin brag about all the stuff he got that’s cooler than my stuff? Will my sister get that Sally-Wets-Herself
doll and get fake baby pee all over me? The holidays are an emotional time.

And the thing about emotions is that they feel so real. You can feel like your life is over because you didn’t
get those leather boots that you wanted. You can feel like everything in your life is perfect because you got
the latest gaming station that set your parents back several hundred dollars. You can feel a lot of things that
aren’t actually true. That’s why it’s important that we never make a decision based only on our emotions.

So how do you make decisions that aren’t just based on emotions?

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all
your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (NIV).

The Bible tells us not to “lean” or solely rely on our own understanding, or our own emotions or thoughts
when it comes to decision-making. The Bible says that if we trust the Lord and submit to Him (decide to
trade what you want for what He wants), that He will our paths straight.

The next time you’re about to make a big decision or even a little one, pause to ask yourself, “Is this based
on an emotion I’m feeling right now? Have I invited God into the decision-making process? Am I trusting
God for the outcome?”

Another key is getting other people involved.

Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Basically,
failing to ask for advice, specifically from wiser people, can really mess you up. Do you have a wise, older
person you can confide in when you need to make key decisions? Consider finding someone with these
characteristics:
• Someone you trust.
• Someone who makes wise decisions in their own life.
• Someone who cares about you enough to be honest with you.
What are some difficult or confusing decisions you’re facing right now?

Christmas Behind the Scenes

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One of the best-known Christmas songs is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Remember how it starts? “You
know Dasher, and Dancer, and Prancer, and Vixen…” Actually, I usually mumble the rest of the song because
I can’t remember the other names. But I still love it. Just the idea that Santa travels all over the world in a big
red sleigh pulled by eight flying reindeer—it’s incredible, right?

But did you know that Santa actually has several modes of transportation depending on which country you’re
in? Take Australia, for example. The Santa Down Under rides a kangaroo around the Outback to deliver his
gifts. In Hawaii, Santa paddles a canoe. He rides a horse in the Netherlands. And he travels by a donkey in
Switzerland. The Santa in the Czech Republic is really fancy. He actually drops from heaven on a golden cord.
(Yeah—that one wins.)

After hearing all those it makes you wonder where the idea of flying reindeer ever came from. The truth is,
no one really knows. But the history of Rudolph is a little clearer. In 1939, Robert L. May created Rudolph
as the “ugly duckling” reindeer since May himself was picked on as a child due to his small stature. No one
could have foreseen the wild success that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer would have.

Maybe you can relate the idea of being the underdog. Maybe you know how it feels to be the small one, the
not-as-smart one, the second string one, the non-popular one. Or maybe you are popular, but you still don’t
like yourself very much. Or maybe you think you’re just an average kid who isn’t too good or too bad at
anything, but you just don’t feel important. You just don’t feel irreplaceable.

But God would look at you and tell you that you’re absolutely wrong.

Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God
prepared in advance for us to do” (NIV).

Another translation of this verses calls us God’s “masterpiece.” Another says we are His “Workmanship.” In
other words, we were hand-carved by an inspired Creator on purpose. God wants to use you. If He didn’t,
He wouldn’t have created you. You exist for a specific and predetermined purpose.

This Christmas season, I want you think about why you were created.
1. What gift, talent, or skill did God give you that you can offer others?
2. What’s one way you can use it.

Spend some time praying. If you can’t think of a gift, talent, or skill, ask God to reveal one to you. Or ask God to put a passion inside of your to influence the lives of people around you.

The Valley | Lauralbest’s Blog

The Valley | Lauralbest’s Blog.

The Valley

Sniff…sniff…sniff, sniff.  Whimper, sniff.  These are the sounds I heard one evening as I was in the kitchen coming from Katie’s room.  I had just tucked her in and she seemed fine.  Katie has been clingy lately, but I’ve tried to nurture her need due to all the changes over the past few months.  They say that kids are resilient, and I think that’s true to a certain extent, but I think a child can take so much.

I put down my glass of water and walked into her room.  I brought her into my arms and asked her what was wrong.  She started to cry harder.  “Katie?  Honey?  What is it?  You can tell me anything.”  “Mommy?  Are you going to die?”

As a parent, I felt as if I’d just been soccer punched deep in the gut.  I squeezed her tightly and said, “Oh, Katie.  No.  I’m not going to die.  What made you think this?”  In between sniffles, Katie responded, “All your shots and what you can and can’t eat anymore.”  Trying to hold it together, I continued to hold her close so she couldn’t see my eyes tearing up and I said, “Katie, sweetie, I’m not going to die.  All my shots are helping me feel so much better.  The pills I take in the morning are working!  I am under the best doctors in the business.  Everything is going to be fine.  You don’t need to worry.”  Still shaken by my daughter’s fear, we prayed and thanked God for our trials and thanked Him for our fears because those are things that draw us closer to what He desires for our life.

This prayer seemed to calm her, I rubbed her back, gave her some extra cuddles and then left her room.  I left feeling awful.  Katie has had 6 surgeries in her lifetime, and with each one, we gave her the necessary information at the right time.  I think this diagnosis hit our family so fast that we were all openly talking about it and trying to figure out our way through this valley.  It never occurred to me that my 6 1/2 year old was taking every conversation captive, chewing on it and then anxiety entered into her little heart.

Although MS is a disease that a person can go on to live a healthy life with the necessary modifications, it’s daunting because all I have is a hope for a cure…there have been great strides to help MS patients live comfortable lives…but there is no cure.  There are days that pill is hard to swallow.

There are things that go on in our home that we are very private about upon hearing the news.  We are trying to navigate how each other are feeling, how we are coping, and now how to talk about it without freaking out our children.  There are some very private fears that I have personally had and then there’s getting ALL the doctors involved to help relieve those issues.  I mean, we just recently had to call my OB/GYN because some of “those” pills had to be changed to even out some of those beloved cycles!  Who knew that “those” pills, given the right dosage and the right brand, would work together with the other medicine specifically for MS!?!  It’s stuff like this we are STILL figuring out.

Another fear is the flu.  My immune system…well, I don’t have one.  My doctor, just weeks ago said anyone close to me needed to get the Flu shot and I HAD to get one.  I go in to get my Flu shot today, and I’m told because of MS, and the strand that is in this particular flu vaccine, it may undo all my progress.  So, the Pharmacist is calling the CDC? and my MS doctor to see IF I can go ahead and have this shot.  If not, I am going to be the worst germ-a-phobe EVER!

There of course are the frustrations, too!  Like, where to eat if I want to just go eat out!  The fad these days is to be “Gluten-Free.”  However, for me, it’s not a fad, and it’s not something I can just put on the shelf for a weekend, or a day and then get back on the bandwagon.  It’s a MUST, and if I screw up, I pay severely.  Brandon and I are still navigating through that valley and there have been days I’ve just wanted to crawl into a hole and weep.

Through the valleys, there has been rejoicing!  When Katie says, “I wish God didn’t give you MS” (and YES, those words have come out of her mouth!) I say, “Katie, don’t say that!  God chose me to have MS so that He could use me to help others.  Whether that be bringing awareness, or giving Him the glory through my trials, He chose me and He chose our family.  What we do with MS, and how we handle it, is up to us.  I am choosing to embrace it and find out what God wants to teach me and our family.”  I don’t know how much she really comprehended of my soap box, but I know she’s thinking about it.

The medicine IS working.  Feeling has come back in both arms and my thumbs, index fingers, and middle fingers.  Ring and pinkies still a no go.  There are days my legs tingle, I limp, I sit, I’m fine.  I still tire quickly, but I’m learning to pace myself, and with that, it may appear to others as probably selfishness.  I’ve had to let go of that fear.  People can do with what they want with perceptions.  I know the truth.

I’ve lost 15 lbs. and this is because of the medicine, but mostly from the strict diet my doctors have me on.  I’m slowly getting to the weight they want me.  I tell people I’m eating like Jesus:  no preservatives, no MSG, no gluten, ALL fresh, straight from the deli or the farm itself!

God is good through the valleys of life.  He is FAITHFUL, CONSISTENT and GOOD

I got out and attended a wedding with my man!  I crashed afterwards, but it was a great date with him and friends:)

Photo: So, the wig only lasted till 10:00, BUT, the jammie day lasted all day!!!  Red Ribbon Week 2013!!!

I’ll do anything for my students!  Red Ribbon Week 2013.  Even though I’ve got quite the expression, the 15lbs lost is beginning to show!

Photo: Naoh & his soccer face.

Praising the Lord that He worked out Noah’s soccer schedule to where his games have been at 8:00 or 9:00.  Right before the heat!  God is in the details!

Photo: Way to go this weekend Katie!

Even though this is not a clear shot, I felt good enough to cheer on my daughter and watch her kill her beam routine!  For her level, I witnessed her BEST performance on beam yet!

See, GOD is GOOD!  He’s allowing me just enough strength to keep the main thing, the main thing!