img_0157Saturday, February 18, at 7:02 PM Becki delivered our firstborn, Daniel James Calaway. Leading up to that and since has been an incredible journey. Right now, I am talk texting this blog entry with him snuggled in my arms as we wait for his 1 AM feeding.

We are feeding him breastmilk and apparently that makes newborns poop often and in a wide variety of colors. Our little guy poops probably every two hours. This afternoon in the middle of changing yet another poopy diaper he farted and then gave me more poop to clean up. I’m glad I had his dirty diaper under his butt to catch the addition!

With all of this poop action, Daniel developed a diaper rash. We were given some Desitin to spread on his butt from the nurses at the hospital when we were discharged on Thursday. Friday evening, we noticed that we were running low. Early Saturday morning we ran out. We scheduled a Walmart pick up to get some but would not be able to get there until late afternoon Saturday. We considered one of us running out to get it but did not want to leave the other one alone at home.

img_5499As we contemplated the situation, a mom of one of the youth who has come to our small group texted us totally out of the blue. She said she was in Walmart and wondered if we needed her to pick up anything. We texted back our need for Desitin and in about 10 minutes it was sitting on our doorstep!

Isaiah 65:24 NLT, ‘I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers!’

The same person signed up through our church to bring us food that evening. We were treated to London broil, mashed potatoes, and green beans. We received our much needed Desitin and had a yummy dinner all because God used this kind woman as His hands to provide for us.

All along this journey God has made Himself very known to us and taken care of us (‘us’ used to mean Becki and me but now it means Becki, Daniel, and me). It has been something to see Him Himself involved through His presence, peace, and favor. It has also been something to see Him use the people of His body, the church, as His hands and feet in our lives.

I am thankful to God. I am thankful to our family and friends. And, I am thankful to play my part in His body both receiving and giving.

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When I was a child, I lived in the woods of northern Michigan. I enjoyed church (gave my life to Jesus at a very early age), baseball, Mario Brothers 1, 2 & 3 (especially the coon tail), and bass fishing. Childhood was quiet and nice. Challenges included trusting God to take care of me and teach me. God came through.

When I was a teenager, I moved to Florida where I graduated high school early and went to Bible school. My inner nerd came out (Star Wars, Star Trek, Superman, etc.) and flannel shirts were donned as much as possible! Enjoyment of baseball evolved to include all the other major sports (while maintaining my allegiance to Michigan teams). Difficulties included condemnation that grappled with me, being a light in my public school, uprooting and moving to Florida to follow God’s call, working for early high school graduation, Bible school, and preliminary ministry. God came through.

When I was a young adult, I graduated from Bible school, went to Southern  India as a missionary, served as an associate pastor in Texas, and traveled to Northern India for more missions work. Harley the Golden Retriever joined our family (named after a pizza delivery guy). Nerdness continued. Good times. The challenges of childhood and difficulties of teen years grew in size and complexity. Indian ministry. Associate pastor work. Praying for a wife (a lot). Paying bills. Work. God came through.

As I have been an adult, I returned from India, settled in Pensacola, served as a youth pastor for eight years, married, became an insurance agent, and became a foster parent. Now we are expecting our first born. Geek is now chic! I’m cool with my Clark Kent glasses and plaid shirts! Pop culture is flooded with comic book and sci-fi things, HOORAY! I thought my challenges and difficulties grew when I was a young adult. They have turned into mountains, Goliath-sized giants, oceans to cross, etc. (whatever analogy you can think of)! Ministry. Providing for my family. Fostering. Expecting our newborn. God will come through.

I am 35 years old now. My wife and two foster kids depend on me to provide for them. We’re about to add a baby. Father. I’m going to be a father! The small group of teenagers that meets at our house depend on us. Our families depend on us. Mountains. Giants. Oceans. Obstacles. Challenges. Difficulties. These things all feel larger than simply trusting God to teach me how to be a good little boy. But, the same God who came through for child, teenage, young adult, and adult me will continue to come through. He will for you, too.

Psalm 37:25 (NIV): “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.”

Saturday, July 16, 2016

This past weekend the surf and tide lined up nicely for an early morning fishing trip. I met my brother-in-law and a work friend out there. Our families joined us later.
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The Lord painted a beautiful sunrise on a thunderhead west of us. Thankfully, the thunder stayed there.

Once the shrimp poles were in the water, I undertook getting the shark poles ready. Thankfully, I had some bonito fish-sicle with me from a previous weekend trolling trip, because the non-sicle fish weren’t interested in my shrimp offering.

For my big bait caster, I cut the bonitos in two, putting the smaller butt piece on a hook and the bigger head portion on the other hook. The bonitos itself was large, well over twenty inches, so I went back and forth about using the whole thing. I decide go big or go home! I used a kayak to drop the bait into the gulf one hundred and fifty yards from shore.

I returned to slow fishing. The shark poles sat quietly. The dolphins put on a show for us. We did catch one small blue runner. Eh. At least we weren’t going to be skunked.
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At 9am, the big bait caster whispered, “click, click, click”. I picked it up. Everything went silent for a few painful moments. I felt a few tugs and then the drag screamed. It felt like I had hooked into a speeding train. The line was flying and I feared the fish would spool me. I tightened the drag as tight as I could and the fish just kept going. I tried to pinch the bail with my finger but couldn’t hold it and burned my finger in the process. I put all my strength into turning the fish around. I have never seen the shark pole bend like it did then.

Eventually, it took all of my line (over 300 yards worth). I looked in the bail and saw the end of the line tied around the internal metal rod. The fish continued to pull and miraculously the line didn’t snap. With my friends’ help, I ran forward to the shoreline to try to gain some line. I got a little back. I walked backward and then ran forward to gain more. Slowly I gained the upper hand.
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After an intense 30 minute battle, there wasn’t much fight left in the fish. I felt a few head shakes but no more train runs. That made me think I had hooked into a giant stingray. About 15 minutes later the fish was close enough to shore to glimpse. I didn’t see a shark dorsal fin but did see a lot of white underbelly, so I really thought it was a stingray. It came nearer to shore and showed its true colors – a fowl hooked hammerhead shark!

We landed the worn out beast. One hook was loosely hooked through a belly fin. I think it was initially hooked correctly but the hook came lose and ended up in that fin right before it gave me the fight of my life. I would have thought it was dead on shore except for a little blink from an eye at the end of its shovel head. Then I saw the gills moving. We quickly captured a few pictures and then I escorted my catch back into the gulf.

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Landed!

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Fowl hooked

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Measuring 7’2” head to base of tail

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Picking up the beast

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Snuggling a hammerhead

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The beast, my baby and me

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Catch and release

 

 

If the Bible is all about Jesus, our lives should be, too.

For the past few months, I have been working on a course called A Study in the Book of Hebrews. Last weekend I pounded out a twelve page research paper entitled Contribution of the Book of Hebrews to our Understanding of Christ in the New Testament. Sounds technical, maybe like reading a phone book, huh? I began the paper with the following:

The Bible is a single work made up of sixty-six different books penned by at least thirty-nine authors over a period of 1500 years (Christadelphians 2015, under “A Divine Library” para. 2). Such an impressively large work could easily cover an equally impressive amount of topics. In Jesus in all the Books of the Bible, Iain Gordon and Brett Wilton (2016) explain, “The Bible is about Jesus. He is pictured or prophesied about in each of the 66 Bible books” (main chart). W.A. Criswell (2014) in his book The Scarlet Thread through the Bible takes it farther by illustrating, “There is a scarlet thread that runs throughout the Bible and it is the binding that holds the pages of the Scripture together. That great scarlet thread is redemption through Jesus Christ” (49).

I go on to say the threads of Christ that run throughout the Bible converge at a crossroad in Hebrews, where the author weaves thought threads similar and unique to other New Testament authors together to form a marvelous portrait of Christ. At this point of transition in the paper, a different, personal angle hit me. The entire Bible, cover to cover, is about Jesus either in overt ways like the Gospels or subtle ways like allusions to Him in the Pentateuch. I can picture a proud Father God crafting all of human history and infusing the Scriptures with Jesus, saying, “It’s all about my Son.” If God is our example, our benchmark, our standard, and he makes everything about His Son, shouldn’t we as believers make everything about His Son, too? Unless we are called to, I don’t mean abandoning our earthly possessions and turning to a life of monasticism in a mountain cave (monk-hood). I do mean that our lives in overt ways (our social life, events we attend, things we say, work ethic, etc.) and subtle ways (family life, how we spend our free time, our thought life, etc.) should all point to Jesus.
I can be an example of how Jesus Himself would act at my “secular” job. I can attend church and volunteer in ministry as Christ would. I can welcome foster children who need a safe and secure place to stay into our home like my Savior would. I can be a husband, brother, son, and father, like the Lord would. I can relax and have fun with my family and friends like my Best Friend did after creating the world in six days. I want my life to be Christ centered so that a total stranger could be able to follow me through a normal day with full access to my outward life and inward self and see Jesus overtly and subtly. As Christians, we are called to nothing less.

REFERENCE LIST

Christadelphians. 2015. The Miracle of the Bible. Accessed February 15, 2016. http://www.thisisyourbible.com/index.php?page=library&task=show&mediaid=149

Criswell, W. A. 2014. The Scarlet Thread Throughout The Bible. Nashville, TN: LifeWay Press.

Gordon, Ian, and Brett Wilton. 2016. Jesus in all the Books of the Bible. Accessed February 15, 2016. http://www.jesusplusnothing.com/jesus66books.htm

Weight. Age. Income. These are private issues people commonly reserve for conversations behind closed doors. My relationship with Jesus has been a fourth issue. In ministry roles or in church settings, where it’s normal and expected, I’m comfortable discussing but in everyday life it’s another story.
My uncle’s father passed away a few weeks ago. Becki and I went to Bogalusa, LA, to attend the funeral. It is a quaint town that reminded me of stepping onto a real life Andy Griffith Mayberry set. My uncle led the funeral and different family members contributed. Toward the end, he shared a brief message of anecdotes and spiritual encouragement.
I can’t remember a thing he said but I do recall how naturally and conversationally he spoke about his relationship with Jesus. Instead of being a one-time act on a Mayberry funeral stage, it lined up with the rest of his daily life that I have observed. It’s not a forced facade. It is a large and genuine part of his life that naturally outflows to his daily conversations.
It challenged me. I want my walk with Christ to be a natural conversation piece in my daily life. “We’re trusting God in this area,” “let’s pray together for that,” “this morning I read in the Bible . . .,” “Jesus led us to do … ,” etc.. I don’t want it to be a forced act but instead a natural outflow.
I do insurance customer service / sales on the phone. While helping a lady I found out she had surgery scheduled for later in the week. After taking care of her insurance needs, I told her I was a Christian and I’d be praying for her. Honestly, it felt a little awkward but right and good. She was genuinely thankful and following the call I talked to Jesus about her. Steps in the right direction.
Deuteronomy 6 NLT, “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Relationship (vs. 5) naturally flows to everyday life (vs. 7-9).

My wife attends the University of West Florida. As a student card carrier (nautilus card), she has complimentary access to the UWF Fitness Center. This is a sprawling complex, a candy store (or should I say a fruit and veggie stand) for fit and becoming fit people. Amenities include basketball courts, locker rooms, exercise machines, free weights, cardio machines (including scary stair climbers – my calves shake in fear), and climbing walls. Becki has free access because she has a student card.

Climbing Wall at UWF Fitness Center

Climbing Wall at UWF Fitness Center

Gym On at UWF Fitness Center

Gym On at UWF Fitness Center

In January, we paid for me to join (perk of being married to a very cute Argonaut).  My wallet now holds a nautilus guest card and I have access to the candy (or fruit and veggies). I take full advantage, usually visiting twice a week to get my gym on. When I approach the check-in gate a twinge of panic presents itself because I’m not a student and I don’t feel like I should be walking in with students. Then, I pull out my nautilus card, swipe it through the id scanner and sashay in. Panic passes and confidence comes. I have access because I paid for a guest card.

A place exists infinitely greater than my new fitness center. This place is not greater because of its amenities but because of its occupant. This occupant is the source of all things, ruling the cosmos with absolute authority and plenary power while being the very definition of love. This occupant is God Almighty and this great place is His throne room. An insignificant speck of dust like me has no business entertaining thoughts of seeing this great place let alone entering. Forget panic, that is pure poppycock. Jesus Chris, God’s Son, paid for me to have a card called salvation that grants me access. By accepting the gift of this card, not only am I granted access to this great place but also into this great God’s family. Every time I pray, I can confidently come in and call God Almighty my heavenly Father. I have access because Jesus paid for a son card.

Hebrews 4:16 (NASB) Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

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I like candy, normally dark chocolate but occasionally I’ll branch out and go for Skittles, especially in purple bags. When I pop them into my mouth, I struggle to know if I should chomp them up or suck them dry. If I chomp them up, my taste buds get instant gratification and my instinct to chew is pacified. If I suck them dry, the flavors are allowed to linger in my mouth and self control triumphs over instinct. The Skittles struggle is real.

Often, I approach God’s word with a similar struggle. When I open my Bible (usually my Bible app nowadays), I struggle to know if I should chomp passages up or suck them dry of meaning by taking the time to consider each concept. If I chomp them, my spiritual taste buds are tickled and my sense of ritualistic duty is satisfied. If I suck them dry, the concepts linger in my spirit and my relationship with God is strengthened. Well, I know I should suck but far too often I chomp.

Take John 3:16 for wpid-Photo-Dec-8-2012-445-PMexample. The reference can be seen in a variety of places – under Tim Tebow’s eyes, church signs, t-shirts and even in a Star Wars parody (which is awesome). When I was in Bible college, I did some street evangelism and met a man drunk as a skunk (I wonder where that expression came from) who quoted John 3:16 to me. The vast majority of Americans have chomped on John 3:16, but how many have sucked it dry?

John 3:16 is an external example, but what about you and me? Do we give in and chomp our way through scriptures or do we suck them dry? Too often I settle for chomping. With the Lord’s help, I will suck!

Matthew 5:18 ESV, For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

A few weeks back I accompanied my wife to her UWF campus (she was a PSC Pirate but now she’s a UWF ARGonaut) so she could attend a teaching meeting and I could hit up the gym. We were on time for her meeting but an hour early for the gym. So, I decided to run, well actually jog but I like to think of it as running, on the campus.

UWF Nature Trail

UWF Nature Trail

I ended up on a nature trail that snakes its way through thick forest areas of the campus. At one point I was completely submerged in forest behind and in front. I felt absolutely alone. A snake in the leaves by the path and a frolicking squirrel were the extend of the animal life I had seen, but I imagined a more ferocious creature bounding out of the forest with a fancy for some Joshua flesh (yes, a little extreme but it sounds good). That thought didn’t help the aloneness I felt.

At that moment Someone else joined me on the trail, not visible with my human eyes but certainly with my senses. I felt an ancient, confident, powerful authority surround me and at the same time a soothing, reassuring, calming peace settle me. I felt the words, “This is a son of God,” echo around me. God my Father, the creator of that UWF walking trail forest and every creature big and small in it, made himself known. I felt His loving ownership over me. I felt His authority and peace.

Then, as if waking from a dream, I snapped back to “reality”.

Psalm 139:5 NASB, “You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me”

Psalm 139:5 The Message Paraphrase, “I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there, too – your reassuring presence, coming and going”

Luke 4:41 (NIV), “Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, ‘You are the Son of God!’ But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah.”

This passage and others like it boggle my brain. Jesus was the Messiah (Savior), the Son of God. Why silence a public declaration of the truth about himself. Well, I guess if a demon said I am the greatest Crossy Road player in the world I would want to silence it since demons are notorious liars.

Okay, but because He was the Messiah, Jesus healed and yet He told some He healed not to tell anyone. At one point, a group of people wanted to make Him king but He snuck away to the mountains. It’s difficult to make someone a king if they can’t be found!

Some background is necessary to understand Jesus’ seeming madness.

The people of Jesus’ day read the Old Testament and expected the Messiah to overthrow the Roman government and become a political ruler. They longed for the days of domination and prosperity under King David and Solomon. For anyone to be called a Messiah would illicit these thoughts.

Jesus came with a much different paradigm on Messiahship. For Jesus, the Messiah would not rule over people politically but instead give Himself up for the world in selfless sacrifice. Along the way, Jesus invited others to join Him. Jesus wanted to redefine what being a Messiah truly meant His own way and He didn’t want demons or people putting Him in a box.

For the most part, the people of Jesus’ day said, “No thank you.” They wanted THEIR Messiah not THE Messiah. They wanted to accept a Messiah on their own terms not God’s. Thankfully, a small band of disciples did accept the Messiah and the movement grew from there to encompass Jews and Gentiles a like.

I think many do the same today. It’s easy to put the Messiah in a box of our own terms. We want a God who will give forgiveness without lordship and grant fancies without loyalty. This type of Messiah is often declared in today’s world. That is a far cry from the path Jesus took.

If Jesus walked the streets of today, I wonder if He would silence demons who called Him “Savior” again?

Luke 9:23, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me”.

I choose to follow Jesus as THE Messiah today. Will you join me?

Sources:

McClaflin, Mike. 2013. The Life of Christ in the Synoptic Gospels An Independent Study Textbook. Fourth Edition. Springfield, MO: Global University.

Stein, Robert H. 1996. Jesus the Messiah: A Survey of the Life of Christ. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

Last weekend my wife and I took advantage of great Pensacola fall weather by getting our surf fishing on. I thought I would share our experience in a photo blog. Are those called plogs?

Our fishing location, letter H at Johnson's Beach.

Our fishing location, letter H at Johnson’s Beach.

My lovely fishing buddy

My lovely fishing buddy

A sea turtle who has a taste for bait shrimp waving to you! We promptly put him back in the water after this picture.

A sea turtle who has a taste for bait shrimp waving to you! We promptly put him back in the water after this picture.

Two keeper size whiting

Two keeper size whiting

We were treated to one of the Lord's spectacular sunsets

We were treated to one of the Lord’s spectacular sunsets