Friday, March 31, 2006

Studying Prayer

Study Fails to Show the Healing Power of Prayer

Really, I’m not surprised.

In this study, 1,800 heart by-pass patients were monitored and it failed to show that prayer specifically organized for them had any impact on their recovery. Some patients who were told they were being prayed for actually got worse than other patients who were told only told they might be prayed for.

Therefore, prayer obviously doesn’t work, right?

Well, not so fast there. First of all, look at the study. 604 patients were prayed for after they were told they might or might not be. 597 were not prayed for after they might or might not be. While, 601 were told they were being prayed for and indeed were prayed for.

According the to article, the prayers were done by three different Christian groups – two Catholic and one Protestant. The people praying were given a written prayer and the first name and initial of the patient’s last name to pray for.

Again, I’m not surprised that those who were prayed for had more post-surgery complications than those who weren’t. In fact, after 30 days, all three groups had the same death rate and complication rate. So, there ya go, prayer doesn’t help…

The problem with this study is twofold. One, the study inaccurately defines prayer. The practice of prayer should not be the reciting of specific words to please God. Prayer should not be formulaic. When prayer becomes ceremonial, it is, basically, fake. You can recite the Lord’s Prayer all you want, but if the words aren’t from the heart, if they are just words, they have no meaning and no favor with God. Prayer is talking and listening to God; prayer is a relationship.

The second problem with the study is that it assumes God answers “Yes” to prayers. That is a very wrong assumption. God does indeed listen to our prayers and He does answer them. But, He knows what is best for us and He acts accordingly. He answers our prayers; we, however, don’t always like the answer He gives. And, therein lies the problem.

So, we really shouldn’t be surprised at the results of this study. However, don’t walk away surprised that God answers our prayers. But, also know that what you want and what God wants for you isn’t always the same. And really, what God wants for you is much better than what you want.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

To Fear is To Respect

I don’t know exactly why I’ve decided to read the Book of Proverbs now. As I read and learn from the Bible, I just kind of randomly pick a book to read. It’s 30 chapters long, so I’m not exactly picking it for its brevity.

Proverbs 1:1-7: Well, that’s a good reason to read it…

I imagine when a non-believer comes across a verse like Proverbs 1:7 (The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline), the words “fear of the Lord,” is probably a turn off. But, what they don’t understand, what they are understandably ignorant to is that the various writers of the Bible mean “respect.” The word, “fear” has several meanings and the meaning that should be applied is “reverential awe.”

Hopefully, it is obvious that we should not fear, that is, be afraid, of God. We have nothing to be afraid of until the final judgment, whenever that maybe. But, when we fear the Lord, we are showing him the respect and awe for the wonderful and incredible things He can do and does. So, the question is how do we show Him proper respect? I imagine that is what Solomon was writing about in Proverbs. In very simple terms, by living moral lives based on His rules.

Too often, and I was/am guilty of this, we try put God into our rules. We try to make him fit into our convenient definition - the key word being convenient. We try to define God as this or that based on what we want Him to be. We try and justify our sins and shortcomings this way. We try to make God fit our standards when it’s supposed to work exactly opposite to that.

To fear the Lord is wise. To live our lives according to his standards is wise and shows the proper respect He deserves. And, it’s not easy, for sure. And, it’s not something you can just do. You have to make a choice and you have to change your habits and thinking. Your heart has to change. Yes, that’s difficult and it takes discipline and time. But, the reality is God gives us all the time we need and the tools of wisdom, faith, hope and love to change our hearts.

Friday, March 24, 2006


This isn't the greatest of pictures. It's overexposed and the subject is out of focus. But, I took this picture with my camera phone while doing missions work for Hurricane Katrina relief in Gulfport, MS. And, it doesn't need to be perfect to tell a story. There's well over 1000 words to this picture.

The story behind this picture is one filled with God's love for his children and the hope He fills us with. To me, this picture is all the proof I need to know God exists, is real, and loves us.

On the last day we'd be working in Gulfport, we were assigned to clean up just one yard. The house was maybe 3/4 of a mile from the Gulf of Mexico and maybe a mile or so from the port in Gulfport. You could see both from the house.

When Katrina crashed the shore, the waves were strong and powerful enough to overturn a barge at the port and dump its contents in this yard. This particular barge was filled with pork bellies. Not the kind you'd find in Congress, mind you, actual bellies of pork. By the time we arrived for clean up, they had been sitting in the sun, through the elements, for nearly eight weeks. You cannot possibly imagine how rank and foul the smell was.

We were at least thankful that the pork bellies were wrapped in plastic. Some packages also contained chicken. Well, curdled and liquefied remnants of chicken. Apparently, chicken rots faster than pork bellies. Most of the plastic was in tact, so the rotten meat almost cooked itself while sitting in the sun. The plastic made the work less queasy - we just had to pick them up by the plastic. I cannot imagine being able to get through this job without the plastic. Some of the packages were solid, yet squished in your hand. Not a pleasant feeling.

Besides pork bellies, mountains of fallen trees, wood, leaves and pine needles had risen in the yard. Our job was to clean up this mess. We arrived at 8am with everyone wearing face masks to avoid the rotten stench. The masks certainly did help, but the putrid stink still made it to our nostrils.

We made good headway by lunchtime. Two piles of debris were forming: one for the wood, one for the pork bellies. The people who worked at the church we stayed at could smell the rotten pork bellies when we got back for lunch.

By 2pm, the sun had warmed the air enough to make wearing the breathing mask heavy, hot and cumbersome. By that time, we were used to the smell enough as to not really notice it. Most did away with the masks. After a job well done, we returned to the church for showers and dinner. Many people threw away their clothes. More than a few burned them.

To say the least, this yard was a horrible mess. How can you find God in such a stank, rotten area of decay? Well, that's where the picture comes in.

You see, in the middle of the yard was this one bush that was thriving, seemingly untouched and unharmed by Katrina's wraith. And, for the entire day, three of these beautiful butterflies flew around the bush. You couldn't get from the debris to the pile without passing the bush. Twenty or so people walked back and forth passing the butterflies each time. Yet, they didn't fly away. It was a beacon for the good work God was doing in Gulfport. Despite the horrendous stench and over all feeling that the literal bowels of hell were scattered throughout the yard, there was God shining through.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Sound of Music

Of all the musicals that I've ever been exposed to, I hate "the Sound of Music" the most. And, it takes a lot for me to use the word, "hate," to describe a musical. I really dig on musicals, man. It's probably why I generally stick to musicals when auditions, as opposed to straight-up plays. I enjoy a good musical. Perhaps, it's because I wish we could strike up a song in real life. Wouldn't that be cool? Sitting in your cubicle at work, then, *boom* everyone's singing and perfectly choreographed?

But, I digress. Yes, I hate "the Sound of Music." I must make sure to use quotation marks because, "the Sound of Music," and the sound of music are two completely different things. I love the sound of music. Music dances through my soul.

So, why do I hate, "the Sound of Music?" When I was a kid, I think it was NBC that would show the Julie Andrews movie around Thanksgiving, or maybe it was Easter. I'm leaning toward Easter. I dreaded seeing Julie Andrews spinning about on the mountains. It was my cue to run screaming from the living room and sequester myself to my bedroom. To this day, I have yet to see the movie.

I think, perhaps, it was my mother and sister to drove me to this hatred. The age I was exposed to musicals was not an age I could appreciate them. All I wanted to watch was, "You Can't Do That On Television," or, "Transformers," or, "The Great Space Coaster." Kid stuff. "The Sound of Music," ain't kid stuff.

Indeed, I have to thank my mother and my sister for driving me to love musicals. My sister was forever listening to tapes of Broadway Shows. "Cats," "Hair," "Jesus Christ: Superstar," are shows I remember not wanting to listen to 'cause my stoopid ole sister was loving them and little brother have to hate everything their stoopid older sister loves (nevermind that "Hair" and "JCS" are now two of my favs).

Then, one day, "Cats" was coming to town and my parent's got tickets for my sister's birthday. I'm pretty sure I kicked and screamed the whole way to the Sanger Theatre in New Orleans. That's about an hour and a half of kicking and screaming. Plus, I was dressed up. So, not only was I forced by the dictatorship... ahem... mom and dad to sit through a stoopid music, I WAS DRESSED UP! And, we HAAADDDD to listen to the Broadway recording on the way up. No way I'm gonna like this experience.

And, don't you know it, I fucking came out of that theatre kicking and screaming, only in my head I was dancing and singing. Believe or not (and I can understand the not... It is "Cats" after all), I loved the show. That's right, my love for musical theatre began with "Cats." Stop laughing...

Now, I love musical theatre. But, I still HATE, "The Sound of Music." "Annie" is a close second. Actor that I am, I've even sworn I'd never audition for either of them. Recently, I've been forced (thanks Zach, I blame you!) to sit through and watch, "The Sound of Music," not once, not twice, not three times, but now four with a fifth time tomorrow. And the last three times... were middle school kids performing. Numbers three and four were the understudy cast. I know you feel my pain, but at least, I'm well compensated for my trauma.

The worst thing about "The Sound of Music," is not that it's Rodgers and Hammerstein. It's not that there's a love story. It's not that there's the whole Nazi regime taking over Austria. It's not even close to being Julie Andrews. It's that the songs are fucking catchy! Here I am trying to learn my own parts for "Into the Woods," and I'm humming "Do-Re-Mi!" Truly, I must be cursed to have "The Sound of Music" stuck in my head. There is yodeling in my brain right now! What's worse is I've heard rumors of a theatre having "The Sound of Music" on their short list for their next season... AND I'M ALREADY THINKING I MIGHT BE ABLE TO LAND A PART! AAARRGGGGHHH!!!!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Faith, or lack thereof...

Talk about being persecuted because of your faith...

Pray for Abdul Rahman. He converted from Islam to Christianity 16 years ago. In Afghanistan, this is considered a rejection of Muslim faith and is punishable by death. A little extreme in my opinion, but this is the country that was once ruled by the Taliban. To make matters worse for Rahman, his own family turned him in to the police. That's gotta hurt...

Yet, despite the painful events transpiring in Rahman's life, there is hope and love. Matthew 5:10-12 says, "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Jesus said that and is part of the Beatitudes.

While Rahman might be in jail and staring down at death, I pray God blesses him with strength to endure this persecution. And, I pray that he continues to keep his faith in Jesus Christ. The reward of heaven is a far better treasure than anything this earth offers and well worth the insignificant and temporary pain and suffering we endure while on it.

According to the article, the prosecutor offered to drop all charges if Rahman converted back to Islam. In other words, renounce your faith or die. I applaud Rahman for sticking to his faith in Christ and refusing the prosecutor's offer. That's true faith, my friends.

We get tangled up in life so easily. Last night, I was in bed for 10:30, at least 30 minutes before my normal bedtime. I was thinking I needed to pray. But, I got lazy about it. I started talking to God about things and was asleep before long. I didn't make the time I should have taken. Heck, with thirty minutes out of bed and on my knees, I still would have been asleep earlier than usual.
Now, there's this guy facing the death penalty because of his faith, because of his devotion to Jesus. And I can't find 30 minutes to build on my own relationship with JC? Rahman could die for his beliefs and the best I had to offer is lazy prayer? How's that for perspective?

While I highly doubt I'll be in a similar situation as Mr. Rahman (thanks to a thing called Freedom), I would like to think that I would react similarly. I mean, in daily, everyday living, I struggle to pursue God. Yes, that's true. But, when it comes to putting my faith in Him, if my choices were a bullet in the skull or renounce my faith. Lord, I think the choice is easy. Then again, I'm not in, and doubt I'd ever be in, that situation - Praise be to God (and give me protection and strength, Lord, if I am).

It seems the daily, everyday living test of Faith is carving out time for God. Going to bed later or getting up earlier. Fasting during your lunch hour. Putting the Playstation controller down. Turning off American Idol. Logging off Myspace and the internet. Truly, there are countless ways to find time to spend with God. As Matthew 5:33 says, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." The daily, everyday living test is sacrificing our time to build our Faith. Carve out the time and the kingdom can be yours.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

While Fasting...

I’ve decided to start fasting on Tuesdays. From 8am to 5pm, the only thing I will consume is water when I’m thirsty. It seems like I’m just skipping my lunch meal, but the practice is much more than missing one meal.

During my lunch hour, I will take the time to read the Bible and journal (like I’m doing now). Today, I’m continuing to read the Book of Ecclesiastes, which I’ve found so far to be very eye opening. Take Ecclesiastes 10:18“If a man is lazy, the rafters sag; if his hands are idle, the house leaks.”

This verse doesn’t not just refer to man’s laziness. It symbolizes how we should pursue God. If we do no constantly pursue God, we become more susceptible to sin. We cannot be lazy in our pursuit of God. God wants a relationship with us but He wants US to pursue that relationship. He wants us to be constantly living in grace and in holiness. But, we cannot just BE holy and righteous. No, we have to get out our Bibles and learn God’s word. We have to make time, no, TAKE time to humbly pray. And, we actively have to change our hearts to submit to the will of God. We have to LIVE holy and righeous lives.

Later in Ecclesiastes 11:6, the Teacher (possibly the author of this book) says “Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle.” The Teacher reaffirms the idea of pursuing God and not being lazing in building that relationship. He seems to be saying get your work done during the day, but don’t just sit there at night. Work just as hard on your relationship with God as you do during work hours. While the work provides a paycheck, which provides food to live on, so must you provide food to your soul. In fact, your soul is probably hungrier than your stomach and needs more nourishment, which is what fasting is all about.

Fasting is more than just abstaining from food. At its essence, it is denying yourself of some pleasure – a period of self-denial. In my case, I'm denying myself food. By fasting, we allow for time to spend in prayer, in relation with God. The hunger pains I am starting to feel are a constant reminder that I need food to sustain my life. They symbolize the soul’s need for God’s nourishment.

Ecclesiastes 12:10 says, “The Teacher searched to find just the right words, and what he wrote was upright and true.” When it comes to blogging, I can think of no better level to aspire to. When it comes to writing about Christ and God’s truth, I relentlessly pray God will help me find the right words and that they will be interpreted as true. That’s all I hope for this blog to be.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Into The Woods

Just when I'm happy to have been cast in one of my favorite shows, I realize how friggin' difficult the music is. I shouldn't be surprised. "Into The Woods" is Sondheim, after all. In fact, I think I'm grateful I have a tiny part and sing in the chorus parts. That's less stressful.

Really, I didn't think learning the music to one of my most beloved musicals would be this hard. There are rounds, there are odd time signatures, there are unsyncipated rythems. And that's the just the chorus parts. ARGH! The leads have to have their timing down or the whole show is fucked. Not that I think our leads won't nail it. This is, after all, a very incredibly talented cast.

Thankfully, we are blessed to have Joe Trakimas as our vocal director. I *heart* Joe. And I've only known her for a week. She's is such a great vocal director. She's teaching us about breath control and supporting. AH... I haven't heard those words from a vocal director since college. Her vocal directing is music to my ears. And, such a southern lady she is. What with the "sugars" and the "honeys."

I just want to hug her and say "I love you, Joe." But, that would be kind of awkward since the only things I've ever said to her are, "Hello," "yes ma'am," and, "Good Night." That might be a little too weird...

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Busy, Ill, Work, Pray

Things just got busy. That means I've started rehersals for "Into The Woods" at Footlite Musicals. The cast and crew are fantastic and it'll be disappointing if it's not a phenominal show. The costumes alone should be wonderful. And I say that will very little bias seeing how I'm married to the costumer.

And, I'm getting ill again. Second time this year. UGH! I'm trying that Zicam stuff out. It's supposed to help shorten the cold. So far, I'm just a little stuffy with more of a dry than sore feeling throat. If nothing else, I hope that I'm feeling as worse this cold will get. I think it was the weather that set my allergies off. Cold, then rainy, then warming up, then rainy.

Work certainly got interesting. I'm breaking a rule about blogging about work now, but I think I'll survive. Our department head resigned... as in the GM walked him out on Wednesday afternoon. He led us since July. Not a long tenure. But, in all truth, this was the guy I learned the most from. He was the closest thing to a mentor I've had in my career. Sure, he was a bit of a hard ass and hard to get along with at times, but I could deal with that 'cause I was learning ALOT. His name was Dick, so if nothing else, we're rolling in the dick jokes. But, I think we got alot more than that out of him. So, for that I thank him.

I joined the prayer ministry team at my church. It's a group of about 30 people that pray for the church, its leaders and for special prayer requests. My reasons for joining were a bit selfish. I'm a little uncomfortable with prayer but want to get better at it. I figure if I'm exposed to more opportunities to pray and people who can reflect a good prayer life/regime, well, I'll feel more comfortable praying and get better with practice.

Which leads me to the other day. I received an email for a special prayer request. We were asked to pray for a teenager who had an possible allergic reaction or maybe an overdose and was lying unconscious in the hospital, unable to breathe on his own. And this is the power that prayer has. The next day, I got an email saying how he had woke up and was asking for a Big Mac. Praise the Lord, he will be ok. I'm amazed at the power prayer has. You'd think with what wonderful blessing a good prayer life has to offer, that we'd spend more time conversing with God...

Saturday, March 04, 2006

"Friending" Christ

(I wrote this article for The Crux's monthly newsletter.)

I don’t consider myself to be a “hip and trendy” guy. If I were eligible, I’d probably be a good candidate for Beauty and the Geek 3. And, I’m perfectly content with my “geek” status. The only time I feel ahead of the trend is when some computer or internet fad comes along. And right now, I feel pretty darn hip and trendy when I look at the body of the Crux.

For four years now, I’ve maintained a blog. I’ve also been a member of for about a half-year now. If you’re asking what’s a blog or what’s Myspace, then you maybe get an idea why I feel hip and trendy. If you’re asking what’s this internet he speaks of, well, it may be too late for you.

Basically, a blog is just an online journal with a collection of links. They can be targeted to specific subjects (politics is big) or all about someone’s life. Blogger and LiveJournal are two of the biggest (and free) blog authoring tools. allows users to network, meet people, and make friends from all over the world. It garners twice as many daily hits as Google and has eclipsed Friendster as the top social networking website. Both are great ways to get our message - God’s message of Faith, Hope and Love - out to the world.

The problem is most Cruxers I’ve talked to give me a funny look when I mention “blog” or “myspace.” I’m sure most of us have email accounts. Kendra wouldn’t bother with the Weekly Dish if we didn’t. That means most of us have internet access. So, are there any other bloggers or Myspace users at the Crux? If not, why not?

The internet can be a great, cheap easy way for Christians to spread God’s word. Back in November, Pastor Daron preached about the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) and how we need to “go and make disciples of all nations.” Can you think of an easier way to potentially reach the whole world, or at least the estimated 730 million ‘net users worldwide?

Now, I don’t mean to sound like all it takes is a few keystrokes and *boom* the job is done. No, I realize it’s a little harder than that. But, the point I’m trying to make is we could be using the internet better than we currently are.

As a blogger, you can read through my website’s archives and see what Jesus has done for me. You can read about my life before and after finding God and see the difference He has made. And as the story continues, hopefully, I’m telling it in a way that not only keeps readers interested, but also sparks a story of their own. Now, isn’t that “witnessing?” Aren’t we supposed to be telling others how God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice have helped us? Isn’t that what we’re called to do?

If our goal is to create a movement that affects this entire city, the entire state, and ultimately, the nation and the world, we need to start using the tools available to us now on mission. And right now, probably the best way to start is by letting the whole world witness our stories.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Stream of Consciousness V

I'm going stream of conscious on this. It's almost 11pm on a friggin' Friday night. What is there to talk about besides me being on a computer? *slaps the nerd alarm off*

The great thing about a portable DVD player is that, well, it's portable. I'm currently watching my favorite movie ever today, "Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle." And, I just realized David Krumholtz is in it. Who the hell is that? Mr. Universe in Serenity, the guy who does the math in CBS' Numbers, Ben (the old brother) in Slums of Beverly Hills, Bernard the Elf in The Santa Claus. Got who he is? Dude is probably the most underrated comedic character actor. I declare it now, David Krumholtz is my favorite actor. From now on when I get those forwarded email surveys that ask the same questions, under favorite actor, I will answer David Krumholtz. Of all the comedic actors working today, he is the ultimate. Like Johnny Depp, he gets lost in the character so you don't notice the actor, just the character.

Not really interested in the Oscars this year. Haven't seen a single movie that's up for something. That's not entirely true, I believe Harry Potter 4 is up for some technical award or something. Didn't see Brokeback, Didn't see Capote, Didn't see George Clooney in anything. My pick for Best Movie of the year 2005? I say this with complete and utter sincerity: Serenity. If you have to ask why, well, then we need to have movie night...

Oh! There's David again! Goldstein. I swear I've watched this movie about 100 times and never saw him in that character. Oh, to be so good in my craft to pull off the line, (when referring to Katie Holmes' boobs) "Remember the Holocaust? The exactly opposite of that." Wow!

Sometimes, the words just don't come. You try to be all genius-like and all, but occasionally, the way you string them together just plan suck. I figure if I get the sucky ones out the way, the good one will come the next time or two.

Ok, that's enough for now. I'm craving White Castle.